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Archive for the ‘Climate Research’ Category

“Next year, when my youngest daughter goes to college, I wouldn’t mind spending more time in Hawaii” I mused over dinner with my friends Tom and Betsy. And quickly added that I felt conflicted about the idea. Given the climate situation, I told them, it felt irresponsible to engage in such gratuitous behavior. Both of my friends looked at me as if I was some crazy woman. Why wouldn’t I want to fly to Hawaii? No way would they change their habit of flying to Europe three of four times a year.  Tom started ranting about not subscribing to moralistic attitudes towards climate change. No, the solution lied in new technologies. What about all the predictions that keep getting worse and worse? I asked. Tom, an engineer with an interest in data visualization, expressed skepticism. There is a lot we don’t know. All those data are to be taken with a grain of salt. No, both he and Betsy were adamant they were not about to change their lifestyle, one bit. I was shocked. And changed subject.

This morning came this alarming news from the Associated Press:

The world pumped up its pollution of the chief man-made global warming gas last year, setting a course that could push beyond leading scientists’ projected worst-case scenario, international researchers said Thursday.

The new numbers, called “scary” by some, were a surprise because scientists thought an economic downturn would slow energy use. Instead, carbon dioxide output jumped 3 percent from 2006 to 2007.

That’s an amount that exceeds the most dire outlook for emissions from burning coal and oil and related activities as projected by a Nobel Prize-winning group of international scientists in 2007.

Meanwhile, forests and oceans, which suck up carbon dioxide, are doing so at lower rates than in the 20th century, scientists said. If those trends continue, it puts the world on track for the highest predicted rises in temperature and sea level.

The pollution leader was China, followed by the United States, which past data show is the leader in emissions per person in carbon dioxide output. And while several developed countries slightly cut their CO2 output in 2007, the United States churned out more.

Still, it was large increases in China, India and other developing countries that spurred the growth of carbon dioxide pollution to a record high of 9.34 billion tons of carbon (8.47 billion metric tons). Figures released by science agencies in the United States, Great Britain and Australia show that China’s added emissions accounted for more than half of the worldwide increase. China passed the United States as the No. 1 carbon dioxide polluter in 2006.

Emissions in the United States rose nearly 2 percent in 2007, after declining the previous year. The U.S. produced 1.75 billion tons of carbon (1.58 billion metric tons).

“Things are happening very, very fast,” said Corinne Le Quere, professor of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey. “It’s scary.”

Gregg Marland, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said he was surprised at the results because he thought world emissions would drop because of the economic downturn. That didn’t happen.

“If we’re going to do something (about reducing emissions), it’s got to be different than what we’re doing,” he said.

The emissions are based on data from oil giant BP PLC, which show that China has become the major driver of world trends. China emitted 2 billion tons of carbon (1.8 billion metric tons) last year, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

“We’re shipping jobs offshore from the U.S., but we’re also shipping carbon dioxide emissions with them,” Marland said. “China is making fertilizer and cement and steel and all of those are heavy energy-intensive industries.”

Developing countries not asked to reduce greenhouse gases by the 1997 Kyoto treaty – and China and India are among them – now account for 53 percent of carbon dioxide pollution. That group of nations surpassed industrialized ones in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, a new analysis of older figures shows.

India is in position to beat Russia for the No. 3 carbon dioxide polluter behind the United States, Marland said. Indonesia levels are increasing rapidly.

Denmark’s emissions dropped 8 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany reduced carbon dioxide pollution by 3 percent, while France and Australia cut it by 2 percent.

Nature can’t keep up with the carbon dioxide from man, Le Quere said. She said from 1955 to 2000, the forests and oceans absorbed about 57 percent of the excess carbon dioxide, but now it’s 54 percent.

What is “kind of scary” is that the worldwide emissions growth is beyond the highest growth in fossil fuel predicted just two years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Ben Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Under the panel’s scenario then, temperatures would increase by somewhere between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 to 6.3 degrees Celsius) by the year 2100.

If this trend continues for the century, “you’d have to be luckier than hell for it just to be bad, as opposed to catastrophic,” said Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider.

I read this, and I think about my conversation with Tom and Betsy. And I wonder, what is it going to take, for the reality to sink in, with people like them. The message is not getting through.

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Friday, I joined 4 billion people to watch the China’s Olympic Games opening ceremony. And stayed glued to my TV for the whole four hours of the show. How could I not be dazzled?

(Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)
(Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

China’s awesome PR move still cannot hide the grim environmental reality behind the spectacle:

  • 16 of the world’s most polluted cities are in China
  • 2 million pollution-related cancer deaths in China each year
  • 500 million Chinese who lack access to safe drinking water
  • 1 percent of China’s 560 million urbanites who breathe air considered safe by European standards

Of course, as the world’s largest importer of China goods, we the American consumers are playing a huge role in the Chinese mess. And we are being paid back in rising world emissions and unhealthy air over our coastlines.

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The Olduvai theory and catastrophic consequences‘, a paper by James Leigh in Energy Bulletin, paints a very scary picture of what awaits us if we do nothing to prepare for the times ahead.

Will be wise enough and follow James Leigh‘s recommendation?  

. . . to cooperatively take urgent steps to ameliorate this looming situation and prepare for how we will live in a post-energy world and its civilization. A whole new sustainable, localized and agricultural based civilization is needed; with a new mindset of cooperation and care, and harmonious social behavior, along with alternative fuels for a less fuel-hungry society.

Thanks to Gary Peters for tipping me on this paper.

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Better four years late than never, . . . The White House finally issued a comprehensive climate report, confirming the man-made origin of global warming, and validating earlier U.S. specific predictions from the IPCC.

Nothing that we did not know already, but still, it is a step towards more transparency from the top. Bad news have never sounded so good.

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What should be good news about global warming, is getting environmentalists very worried. Nature magazine just released a study by German climate scientists, stating:

Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.

The danger is that such short-term trends will be taken out of context and perceived as license to ease up on the climate fight. According to Noel Keenlyside, climate researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences who led the study:

“The natural variations change climate on this timescale and policymakers may either think mitigation is working or that there is no global warming at all. . . Natural changes as opposed to human causes may play a bigger role in the short term . . . This is important because policies are made in the short term. Our results show we might not have as much change in climate over the next 10 years.”

Back in January, Real Climate had a great article explaining the difference between short term and long term temperature trends, and why we should never lose sight of the reality of global warming as a long term problem. The following chart from the NASA website tells the story:

Next time a climate skeptic gives you a hard time, show him – or her – the facts . . .

 

 

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Just published by Reuters, the following update from Lord Stern, the author of the now famous 2006 Stern Report. I am reproducing the Reuters interview in its entirety, as this is critical information in my opinion:

Climate change expert Nicholas Stern says he under-estimated the threat from global warming in a major report 18 months ago when he compared the economic risk to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Latest climate science showed global emissions of planet-heating gases were rising faster and upsetting the climate more than previously thought, Stern said in a Reuters interview on Wednesday.

For example, evidence was growing that the planet’s oceans — an important “sink” — were increasingly saturated and couldn’t absorb as much as previously of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), he said.

Emissions are growing much faster than we’d thought, the absorptive capacity of the planet is less than we’d thought, the risks of greenhouse gases are potentially bigger than more cautious estimates, and the speed of climate change seems to be faster,” he told Reuters at a conference in London.

Stern said that increasing commitments from some countries such as the European Union to curb greenhouse gases now needed to be translated into action. Policymakers, businesses and environmental pressure groups frequently cite the Stern Review as a blueprint for urgent climate action.

The report predicted that, on current trends, average global temperatures will rise by 2-3 degrees centigrade in the next 50 years or so and could reduce global consumption per head by up to 20 percent, with the poorest nations feeling the most pain.

Some academics said he had over-played the costs of potential future damage from global warming at up to twenty times the cost of fighting the problem now, such as by replacing fossil fuels with more costly renewable power.

Stern said on Wednesday that increasing evidence of the threat from climate change had vindicated his report, published in October 2006.

People who said I was scaremongering were profoundly wrong,” he told the climate change conference organized by industry information provider IHS.

A U.N. panel of scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), writes regular summaries on climate science and last year shared the Nobel Peace prize with former U.S. vice president Al Gore for raising awareness.

Its latest report in 2007 had not taken detailed account of some dangerous threats, including the falling ability of the world’s oceans to absorb CO2, because scientists had to be cautious and that evidence was just emerging, the former World Bank chief economist added.

“The IPCC has done a tremendous job but things are moving on,” he told Reuters.

“The IPCC’s (cautious) approach to this is entirely understandable and sensible, but if you’re looking ahead and asking about the risk then you do have to go beyond.”

Stern said that to minimize the risks of dangerous climate change global greenhouse gas emissions should halve by mid-century. He said the United States should cut its emissions by up to 90 percent by then.

Will world leaders listen, and take action, quick?

 

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In the scary global warming video category, here is one more, just released today on Youtube, to announce ‘Six Degrees Could Change the World‘, an upcoming show on National Geographic Channel:

You mean, 6 degrees, that’s all it will, would take, to wipe out the planet? This is probably one of the scariest numbers I have heard about global warming. From a non scientist, average citizen perspective.

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