The ApocaDocs 2010 Year In Review
The top 100 stories from the
1696 news items recorded by the ApocaDocs in 2010.
Sat, Jan 2, 2010 from London Daily Telegraph: We're losing the riches of the world Species are now going extinct at between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate. The consequences will be disastrous... Another year, another Year. After the official 2009 International Year of Natural Fibres -- following my favourite, the International Year of the Potato in 2008 -- we are now two days into the UN-designated International Year of Biodiversity. And though the celebrations of spuds and sisal may have happily passed you by, this one, I would suggest, is worth noticing.
For a start, it marks one of the most spectacularly broken, but least-known, of all environmental promises. In 2001, EU heads of governments said they would aim to "halt" human destruction of the world's wildlife and wild places by 2010, and the next year world leaders, meeting at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, committed themselves to "a significant reduction" in the rate of loss by the same date. ...
Tue, Jan 5, 2010 from Inter Press Service: Biodiversity: Invasive Species Multiply in U.S. Waterways The U.N. says some experts put the rate at which species are disappearing at 1,000 times the natural rate, and invasive species -- which consume the food or habitat of native species, or the native species themselves -- are one factor contributing to this acceleration. Climate change is another major factor.
"Often it will be the combination of climate change and [invasive] pests operating together that will wipe species out," says Tim Low of the Australia-based Invasive Species Council.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that 38 percent of the 44,838 species catalogued on its Red List are "threatened with extinction" -- and at least 40 percent of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known are the result of invasive species.
Why can't native species fight back? Are they wussies???
Thu, Jan 7, 2010 from BBC (UK): Methane release 'looks stronger' Scientists have uncovered what appears to be a further dramatic increase in the leakage of methane gas that is seeping from the Arctic seabed.
Methane is about 20 times more potent than CO2 in trapping solar heat.
The findings come from measurements of carbon fluxes around the north of Russia, led by Igor Semiletov from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
"Methane release from the East Siberian Shelf is underway and it looks stronger than it was supposed [to be]," he said.... According to a report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the springtime air temperature across the region in the period 2000-2007 was an average of 4C higher than during 1970-1999.
That is the fastest temperature rise on the planet, claims the university. ...
Can we call it "biogas" and start ignoring it again?
Thu, Jan 7, 2010 from Independent.co.uk, in DesdemonaDespair: Icecapped roof of world turns to desert The Chinese Academy of Sciences -- the country's top scientific body -- has announced that the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau are vanishing so fast that they will be reduced by 50 per cent every decade. Each year enough water permanently melts from them to fill the entire Yellow River.
They added that the vast environmental changes brought about by the process will increase droughts and sandstorms over the rest of the country, and devastate many of the world's greatest rivers, in what experts warn will be an "ecological catastrophe".... The glaciers have been receding over the past four decades, as the world has gradually warmed up, but the process has now accelerated alarmingly. Average temperatures in Tibet have risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years, causing the glaciers to shrink by 7 per cent a year, which means that they will halve every 10 years.... Perhaps worst of all, the melting threatens to disrupt water supplies over much of Asia. Many of the continent's greatest rivers -- including the Yangtze, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Yellow River -- rise on the plateau.
In China alone, 300 million people depend on water from the glaciers for their survival. Yet the plateau is drying up, threatening to escalate an already dire situation across the country. Already 400 cities are short of water; in 100 of them -- including Beijing -- the shortages are becoming critical. ...
I never thought of glaciers as having a half-life.
Mon, Jan 11, 2010 from Edmonton Journal: 'It's like a death watch' ...Scientists who have been studying polar bears in the region, however, believe that this event, and seven other acts of cannibalism recorded in the area this fall, are more signs that climate change is taking its toll on the bears of western Hudson Bay.
"I've been studying polar bears in this region for 35 years, and prior to this fall, I personally knew of only one cub, and two other adults that were victims of cannibalism in that time," says Ian Stirling, retired from the Canadian Wildlife Service and now an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta.
"To get eight in one year is really dramatic, especially when the bears came off the ice this year in fairly good shape. Breakup was later this year than it has been for a few years, so they had the extra time to hunt seals and put on weight before the ice went out. But it apparently wasn't enough to sustain all of them until freeze-up, which was particularly late this year." ...
Mon, Jan 11, 2010 from BBC: World's biodiversity 'crisis' needs action, says UN Eight years ago, governments pledged to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but the pledge will not be met.
The expansion of human cities, farming and infrastructure is the main reason... "The urgency of the situation demands that as a global community we not only reverse the rate of loss, but that we stop the loss altogether and begin restoring the ecological infrastructure that has been damaged and degraded over the previous century or so," [Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)] said.
The UN says that as natural systems such as forests and wetlands disappear, humanity loses the services they currently provide for free. ...
Nature should strongly consider charging for her services!
Mon, Jan 25, 2010 from NPR: New Anti-Smog Restrictions Could Warm Planet The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to tighten the ozone standard for smog will have an unfortunate side effect: Because of a quirk of atmospheric chemistry, those measures will hasten global warming.
There's no question that smog is a hazard that deserves attention. Lydia Wegman of the EPA says the new ozone limits would have significant health benefits.
Less smog means fewer asthma attacks, fewer kids in the hospital, fewer days of lost school, "and we also believe that we can reduce the risk of early death in people with heart and lung disease," she says.
Here's the tough part: The way many states and localities will reduce smog is by cracking down on the chemicals that produce ozone. And those include nitrogen oxides, or NOx. ...
Stories like this are the very definition of being between a rock and a hard place.
Tue, Jan 26, 2010 from NPR: Methane Causes Vicious Cycle In Global Warming Carbon dioxide is the gas we most associate with global warming, but methane gas also plays an important role. For reasons that are not well understood, methane gas stopped increasing in the atmosphere in the 1990s. But now it appears to be once again on the rise. Scientists are trying to understand why â€” and what to do about it.
Methane gas comes from all sorts of sources including wetlands, rice paddies, cow tummies, coal mines, garbage dumps and even termites. Drew Shindell, at NASA's Goddard Institute in New York, says, "It's gone up by 150 percent since the pre-industrial period. So that's an enormous increase. CO2, by contrast, has gone up by something like 30 percent." ...
I think I hear the Mars-bound space shuttles warming up their engines...
Wed, Jan 27, 2010 from Johann Hari, in Slate: NASA's Prophet Will Give You Nightmares Ice sheets can go fast, and when they do, sea levels rise remorselessly and do not settle for centuries. He reasons: "If ice sheets begin to disintegrate, there will not be a new stable sea level on any foreseeable time scale. We will have created a situation with continual change, with intermittent calamities at thousands of cities around the world. It will continue for as many generations as we care to think about.... Global chaos will be difficult to avoid."
So it is sobering to hear Hansen say -- based on large numbers of scientific studies -- that "a disintegration of the ice sheets has begun." Now we need to concentrate on forestalling a tipping point at which they would begin to internally collapse. Once that has happened, we will be powerless to stop a disaster. It will be too late to cut our emissions: They would still fall. ...
Sun, Jan 31, 2010 from Rolling Stone: As the World Burns How Big Oil and Big Coal mounted one of the most aggressive lobbying campaigns in history to block progress on global warming... This was supposed to be the transformative moment on global warming, the tipping point when America proved to the world that capitalism has a conscience, that we take the fate of the planet seriously.... Over the past year, the corporations and special interests most responsible for climate change waged an all-out war to prevent Congress from cracking down on carbon pollution in time for Copenhagen...."In the long term, the fossil-fuel industry is going to lose this war," says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But in the short term, they are doing everything they can to delay the revolution. For them, what this fight is really about is buying precious time to maximize profits from carbon sources. It's really no more complicated than that." ...
Our guiding light should be all our children but sadly ... these are the last days of our lives.
Sat, Feb 6, 2010 from Sydney Morning Herald: Arctic ice melt worst than 'most pessimistic' models: study Climate change is transforming the Arctic environment faster than expected and accelerating the disappearance of sea ice, scientists said on Friday in giving their early findings from the biggest-ever study of Canada's changing north.
The research project involved more than 370 scientists from 27 countries who collectively spent 15 months, starting in June 2007, aboard a research vessel above the Arctic Circle. It marked the first time a ship has stayed mobile in Canada's high Arctic for an entire winter...
Models predicted only a few years ago that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by the year 2100, but the increasing pace of climate change now suggests it could happen between 2013 and 2030... ...
So our pessimistic models were actually optimistic?
Tue, Feb 9, 2010 from London Financial Times: Melting ice alters way of life in Iqaluit ...The polar ice helps keep the earth cool, as snow and ice reflect sunlight while the permafrost traps methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
But a new report published by the Pew Environment Group says that global warming is altering the Arctic ecosystem in a way never seen before by humans.
It predicts that the Arctic, which has had sea ice for more than 800,000 years, might lose summer sea ice as soon as 2030 and estimates that the melting Arctic will lead to a 3-to-6 deg C increase in the earth's temperature over the next century. During the Ice Age, the earth's temperature changed by 4.5 deg C... "The Arctic is the planet's air conditioner, and it's starting to break down," says Eban Goodstein, a resource economist at Bard College in New York and one of the authors of the study. "Half measures to stop global warming are unlikely to succeed, and delaying action will mean future environmental costs could be overwhelmed by the massive pulse of heating from a broken air conditioner," he says. ...
Wed, Feb 10, 2010 from UC Davis, via EurekAlert: Climate 'tipping points' may arrive without warning, says top forecaster A new University of California, Davis, study by a top ecological forecaster says it is harder than experts thought to predict when sudden shifts in Earth's natural systems will occur -- a worrisome finding for scientists trying to identify the tipping points that could push climate change into an irreparable global disaster.
"Many scientists are looking for the warning signs that herald sudden changes in natural systems, in hopes of forestalling those changes, or improving our preparations for them," said UC Davis theoretical ecologist Alan Hastings. "Our new study found, unfortunately, that regime shifts with potentially large consequences can happen without warning -- systems can 'tip' precipitously. This means that some effects of global climate change on ecosystems can be seen only once the effects are dramatic. By that point returning the system to a desirable state will be difficult, if not impossible." ...
And how, pray tell, have we been doing with warnings?
Wed, Feb 17, 2010 from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Team finds subtropical waters flushing through Greenland fjord Waters from warmer latitudes -- or subtropical waters -- are reaching Greenland's glaciers, driving melting and likely triggering an acceleration of ice loss, reports a team of researchers led by Fiamma Straneo, a physical oceanographer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
"This is the first time we've seen waters this warm in any of the fjords in Greenland," says Straneo. "The subtropical waters are flowing through the fjord very quickly, so they can transport heat and drive melting at the end of the glacier."... Deep inside the Sermilik Fjord, researchers found subtropical water as warm as 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). The team also reconstructed seasonal temperatures on the shelf using data collected by 19 hooded seals tagged with satellite-linked temperature depth-recorders. The data revealed that the shelf waters warm from July to December, and that subtropical waters are present on the shelf year round.
"This is the first extensive survey of one of these fjords that shows us how these warm waters circulate and how vigorous the circulation is," says Straneo. "Changes in the large-scale ocean circulation of the North Atlantic are propagating to the glaciers very quickly -- not in a matter of years, but a matter of months. It's a very rapid communication." ...
"Subtropical" and "Greenland" should never appear together in a headline.
Wed, Feb 17, 2010 from SolveClimate: IBM Breakthrough Could Deliver Low-Cost Efficient Solar The process is based on a slurry (or ink) made of Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 in hydrazine, which can then be coated on any PV device. The final solution is comprised of both solid particles and liquid, both of which contain metal and chalcogen elements, which are the key to higher efficiencies. Getting these elements into both particle and liquid forms helps integrate them further into the final film, which boosts efficiency.
The other benefit is that the solution can be applied via ultra high throughput printing or coating techniques, which means high-efficiency devices could be produced for low costs at a large scale: the holy grail for solar energy. ...
Then, let's build a million specialized inkjet printers and produce a paper-sized PV substrate, and then sell us the cartridges! Slap-on solar!
Thu, Feb 25, 2010 from Oceanography: A Very Inconvenient Truth (PDF) Once atmospheric temperature reaches
equilibrium at a certain peak-overall GHG concentration, it will not drop
markedly for the next thousand years
even as GHG concentrations decline.
This irreversibility comes about because
the atmosphere's loss of heat to the ocean
is even more gradual than its loss of CO2. The thermal inertia of the ocean, which
is delaying the rate of climate warming today, will delay the rate of climate
cooling in the future. A crucial point for
policymakers and the public to recognize
is that the global GHG stabilization level
reached during the twenty-first century
will have climatic consequences for the
remainder of the millennium. ...
I think that means we still have a decade or two to party!
Fri, Feb 26, 2010 from Sydney Morning Herald: Too late for all but prayers You could not accuse Clive Hamilton of peddling false hope. In his new book, Requiem for a Species, he sees no hope at all. The Australian National University professor and public intellectual, who has written about climate change for 15 years, says the world is on a path to a very unpleasant future and it is too late to stop it.... "Even the most optimistic assessment of the possibility of taking action on climate change is nowhere near adequate to the task of trying to protect the world from dangerous climate change,'' he says. ''It's just too late now.'' ...
I think you're hinting at something... something...?
Sat, Feb 27, 2010 from New York Times: Independent Board to Review Work of Top Climate Panel An independent board of scientists will be appointed to review the workings of the world's top climate science panel, which has faced recriminations over inaccuracies in a 2007 report, a United Nations environmental spokesman said Friday.... The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been under fire since it was pointed out that the 2007 report included a prediction that Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035, although there is no scientific consensus to that effect.
That brief citation -- drawn from a magazine interview with a glaciologist who says he was misquoted -- and sporadic criticism of the panel's leader have fueled skepticism in some quarters about the science underlying climate change. The climate panel's assessments are a crucial source of guidance for policy makers addressing global warming.
But mainstream scientists and the United Nations have said repeatedly that the evidence that human activity is a major factor in global warming remains unshaken.
Mr. Nuttall said the review body would be made up of "senior scientific figures" who could perhaps produce a report by late summer for consideration at a meeting of the climate panel in October in South Korea. ...
Scientists investigating scientists? Have they no shame?
Thu, Mar 4, 2010 from Yale 360: Younger Americans Disengaged On Global Warming, Survey Finds Although they have grown up during an era when global warming has emerged as a major issue, Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are relatively apathetic about the threat, according to a new survey. And even when they do think about it, young Americans are just as divided as older Americans about whether global warming is real, according to results of the survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Adults under 35 are significantly less likely than older Americans to say they have thought about global warming, with 22 percent saying they have never thought about the issue. Only 38 percent of younger Americans say they had previously thought about global warming either "a lot" or "some," compared to 51 percent of those aged 35 to 59. And 54 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 said they were not at all worried or not very worried about global warming. Sixty-one percent of younger Americans said that most of their friends were generally not taking actions to reduce global warming. And nearly two-thirds of younger Americans are unsure whether global warming is real, with 20 percent saying they didn't know enough to make a judgment and 40 percent saying that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists on the issue.
Thu, Mar 4, 2010 from National Geographic: Arctic Sea Belching Tons of Methane Arctic seabeds are belching massive quantities of methane, according to a new study that says ocean permafrost is a huge and largely overlooked source of the powerful greenhouse gas, which has been linked to global warming.
Previous research had found methane bubbling out of melting permafrost -- frozen soil -- in Arctic wetlands and lakes.
But the permafrost lining the deep, cold seas was thought to be staying frozen solid, holding in untold amounts of trapped methane.
"It's not the case anymore," said study leader Natalia Shakhova, a biogeochemist at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska. "The permafrost is actually failing in its ability to preserve this leakage."... The scientists found that much of the seawater above the shelf is laden with methane, which in turn is being released into the atmosphere.
What's more, the team found that current atmospheric methane levels in the Arctic are three times higher than those recorded across previous climate cycles going back 400,000 years. This phenomenon most likely isn't limited to the East Siberian Sea, the researchers note. If permafrost is melting in this part of the Arctic, all shallow areas along the Arctic shelf should be similarly affected. ...
Sat, Mar 6, 2010 from Bombay Economic Times: Groundwater depleting at alarming rate: Report If current trends of acute groundwater use continue, 60 percent of all aquifers in India could run dry in 20 years or will be in a critical condition, a World Bank report launched on Friday said.
It has urged priority action through higher investment
in management of groundwater resources to reduce over exploitation, especially in view of the fact that there is major dependence by several sectors on the resources countrywide.
Groundwater resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Today, 29 percent of groundwater blocks are semi-critical, critical, or overexploited, and the situation is deteriorating rapidly. ...
Tue, Mar 9, 2010 from McClatchy, via Miami Herald: Growing low-oxygen zones in oceans worry scientists In some spots off Washington state and Oregon, the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.... "The depletion of oxygen levels in all three oceans is striking," said Gregory Johnson, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle.
In some spots, such as off the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years."The real surprise is how this has become the new norm," said Jack Barth, an oceanography professor at Oregon State University. "We are seeing it year after year." ...
Thu, Mar 18, 2010 from Guardian: Bluefin tuna fails to make UN's list of protected fish Japan, Canada and scores of developing nations opposed the measure on the grounds that ban would devastate fishing economies.... Global talks on the conservation of endangered species have rejected calls to ban international trade in bluefin tuna, raising new fears for the future of dwindling stocks.
Countries at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Qatar voted down a proposal from Monaco to grant the fish stronger protection. The plan drew little support, with developing countries joining Japan in opposing a measure they feared would hit fishing economies. ...
It's clear the long-term interests of the economy are in good hands.
Sun, Mar 28, 2010 from via ScienceDaily: Dawn of the Anthropocene Epoch? Earth Has Entered New Age of Geological Time, Experts Say Geologists from the University of Leicester are among four scientists- including a Nobel prize-winner -- who suggest that Earth has entered a new age of geological time. The Age of Aquarius? Not quite -- It's the Anthropocene Epoch, say the scientists writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
And they add that the dawning of this new epoch may include the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth's history... The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years. ...
Sun, Apr 4, 2010 from Los Angeles Times: Great Barrier Reef rammed by Chinese coal ship Australians on Sunday scrambled to ensure that a Chinese-owned bulk coal carrier that rammed into the Great Barrier Reef would not break apart and seriously damage the planet's largest coral reef.
Peter Garrett, the nation's environment protection minister, told reporters that the federal government is concerned about the impact an oil spill could have on the environmentally sensitive reef, which was selected as a World Heritage site in 1981.
Environmentalists said they were "horrified" at the possible damage the mishap might cause to the ecosystem, which is 1,800 miles long and comprised of more than 3,000 individual reefs, cays and islands -- providing a habitat for countless sea species.
Video taken late Sunday showed the 755-foot vessel stranded about nine miles outside the shipping lane, leaking what seemed to be a streak of oil into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park near Great Keppel Island off the west coast of Queensland state.... The Shen Neng 1, hauling more than 65,000 tons of coal, hit the reef at full speed late Saturday in a restricted zone of the marine park. The impact ruptured the vessel's fuel tanks, prompting Australian officials to activate a national oil spill response plan. ...
Whoops! Sorry officer, I must've taken a wrong turn back there!
Fri, Apr 16, 2010 from National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: 'Missing' Heat May Affect Future Climate Change Current observational tools cannot account for roughly half of the heat that is believed to have built up on Earth in recent years, according to a "Perspectives" article in this week's issue of Science. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) warn in the new study that satellite sensors, ocean floats, and other instruments are inadequate to track this "missing" heat, which may be building up in the deep oceans or elsewhere in the climate system. "The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later," says NCAR scientist Kevin Trenberth, the lead author...Whereas satellite instruments indicate that greenhouse gases are continuing to trap more solar energy, or heat, scientists since 2003 have been unable to determine where much of that heat is going.
Either the satellite observations are incorrect, says Trenberth, or, more likely, large amounts of heat are penetrating to regions that are not adequately measured, such as the deepest parts of the oceans. Compounding the problem, Earth's surface temperatures have largely leveled off in recent years. Yet melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice, along with rising sea levels, indicate that heat is continuing to have profound effects on the planet. ...
Perhaps that heat we can't account for is being sequestered in skeptics.
Mon, Apr 19, 2010 from NUVO Newsweekly: Bill McKibben's must-read "Eaarth" Bill McKibben, the writer who first brought the reality of global warming to the mainstream reader 20 years ago with The End of Nature, is understandably feeling a little dark. Well, not a little dark, a lot dark. And who can blame him. The past twenty years have created more carbons, more methane, and more pain. Progress is hard to find; hope even harder.
And so he intentionally misspells our planet's name to make a point: that we no longer live on the same planet. McKibben describes this old planet in this way. "For the ten thousand years that constitute human civilization, we've existed in the sweetest of sweet spots."
This "sweet spot" has turned sour, and the first half of Eaarth is a relentless, panoramic accounting of just how bad it's gotten, worldwide, from artic melt to extreme weather to the growth of dengue fever. This litany of global woe, he says, "Should come as body blows, as mortar barrages, as sickening thuds... Name a major feature of the earth's surface and you'll find massive change." ...
Tue, Apr 20, 2010 from KTVU: Climate Damage Confirmed To Be Serious, Extensive Internationally respected Mbari ocean chemist Peter Brewer says 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from automobiles and fossil fuel power plants, their output equaling a million tons of carbon dioxide every hour dissolving into the ocean.
"In the long term future, where there'll be a huge swath of ocean, that will be inhospitable to marine life," said Brewer.
Research published Friday suggested that deep oceans are hiding heat that will likely accelerate global warming, spawn repeated El Nino's and quicken ocean catastrophes.... The net effect experts say, is greenhouse gas levels are greater now and rising faster than at any time humans have been on earth
"We're putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the biosphere just can't catch up," said Baldocchi.... But scientists like Brewer and Baldocchi are pessimistic, saying climate change is happening too fast.
"I think we're going to have these changes, I wish we didn't, we better work hard to try and undo them, but right now there's not a good path for doing that," said Brewer.
"Sure we'll live, we'll survive, it just might not be a very nice world.," said Baldocchi. ...
I ain't fallin' for it. I demand a 145,322nd opinion.
Wed, Apr 21, 2010 from Scientific American (per DesdemonaDespair): Antarctica ice sheets: 'Our models may be dramatically underestimating' danger Withered by summer heat, Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record low coverage several times since 2005, only to rebound to within 95 percent of its long-term average extent this winter. By comparison, Antarctica, with some 90 percent of the world's glacial reserves, has generally shed ice in more stately fashion.
However, emerging evidence from an Antarctic geological research drilling program known as ANDRILL suggests that the southernmost continent has had a much more dynamic history than previously suspected--one that could signal an abrupt shrinkage of its ice sheets at some unknown greenhouse gas threshold, possibly starting in this century. Especially troubling, scientists see evidence in the geological data that could mean the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds at least four-fifths of the continent's ice, is less resistant to melting than previously thought.... According to the simulation, the East ice sheet melts only when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at least eight times higher than preindustrial levels. The ice sheet's so-called hysteresis, or resistance to change, is now in doubt.
Modeler and geologist Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says the policy implications are grim. "Our models may be dramatically underestimating how much worse it's going to get," he says, noting that many population centers worldwide are within a few meters of sea level. Looking at signs of meltwater in the early Miocene, DeConto says, "we're seeing ice retreat faster and more dramatically than any model predicts." ...
Fri, Apr 23, 2010 from McClatchy Newspapers: Report: Ocean acidification rising at unprecedented rate With the oceans absorbing more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide an hour, a National Research Council study released Thursday found that the level of acid in the oceans is increasing at an unprecedented rate and threatening to change marine ecosystems.
The council said the oceans were 30 percent more acidic than they were before the Industrial Revolution started roughly 200 years ago, and the oceans absorb one-third of today's carbon dioxide emissions.
Unless emissions are reined in, ocean acidity could increase by 200 percent by the end of the century and even more in the next century, said James Barry, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California and one of the study's authors... Also testifying was actress Sigourney Weaver, who made passing references to her roles in "Alien" and "Avatar" while urging Congress to pass global climate change legislation. ...
She did not, however, make any reference to her role in Tadpole.
Mon, Apr 26, 2010 from Agence France-Press: BP struggles to cap leak as US oil slick spreads British oil giant BP used robotic underwater vehicles Sunday to try to cap a leaking well and prevent a growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico from developing into an environmental disaster.
Satellite images showed the slick had spread by 50 percent in a day to cover an area of 600 square miles (1,550 square kilometers), although officials said some 97 percent of the pollution was just a thin veneer on the sea's surface.
BP has dispatched skimming vessels to mop up the oil leaking from the debris of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which sank on Thursday, still blazing almost two days after a massive explosion that left 11 workers missing presumed dead. ...
Use of fossil fuels is ALREADY an environmental disaster.
Tue, Apr 27, 2010 from Nashville Public Radio: Bat-Killing Fungus Spreading Faster Than Expected, Could Affect Agriculture A fungus that kills bats by the thousand is spreading faster than expected through Tennessee's caves. White-nose syndrome first turned up a few years ago in a cave in New York, and has since rippled out from one cave to the next, wiping out millions of bats. And in this last few months it's begun to show up in caves in Middle Tennessee.... The fungus has wiped out millions of bats in New England and can devastate populations in just a few years' time. And that's bad news for farmers, who depend on the bats to keep many flying insects in check. "Bats are the number-one predator of night-flying insects. You think about the night-flying insects we have in the southeast in Tennessee and it's mosquitoes, it's moths, beetles - things that can be large crop pests and agricultural pests." ...
I'll just spray-mist Moth-B-Gone and Beetle-B-Dead hourly, all night long. Problem solved!
Wed, Apr 28, 2010 from Reuters, via DesdemonaDespair: Arctic explorers get nasty surprise: rain In what looks to be another sign the Arctic is heating up quickly, British explorers in Canada's Far North reported on Tuesday that they had been hit by a three-minute rain shower over the weekend.
The rain fell on the team's ice base off Ellef Rignes island, about 3,900 km (2,420 miles) north of the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
"It's definitely a shocker ... the general feeling within the polar community is that rainfall in the high Canadian Arctic in April is a freak event," said Pen Hadow, the team's expedition director. ...
The Arctic is heating up three times more quickly than the rest of the Earth. Scientists link the higher temperatures to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.... Experts say the thick multiyear ice covering the Arctic Ocean has effectively vanished, which could make it easier to open up polar shipping routes. U.S. data shows the 2009 ice cover was the third-lowest on record, after 2007 and 2008. ...
Raindrops keep falling on my head/ that doesn't mean my world will soon be seeing red....
Fri, Apr 30, 2010 from MNN: So long, shellfish: Oysters falling victim to ocean acidification Could seafood fans be saying goodbye to shellfish sometime soon? Millions of oyster larvae have been dying in Northwest farms due to increasingly acidic ocean waters, which robs them of their ability to grow their shells, according to ABC News. The world's oceans are absorbing more carbon dioxide than ever as greenhouse gas emissions increase on land. "The chemistry is very simple. It is 101. Carbon dioxide makes the water more acidic, that is irrefutable," said Oregon State University professor of oceanography Burke Hales.
Oyster farmers Mark Wiegardt and Sue Cudd of Tilamook, Oregon's Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery called in Hales and his team when their larvae suddenly started dying. The hatchery's 8,000 gallon tanks were pumping in water from the Pacific Ocean, which turned out to be increasingly acidic. But the oysters aren't alone. Clams, mussels, lobsters, shrimp and smaller-shelled sea creatures are all forming weaker shells due to the increased ocean pH dissolving calcium carbonate, the material that allows shells to harden or calcify.
"At first, scientists thought, oh, isn't this great, the ocean's taking up carbon dioxide that's resulting in less greenhouse warming. And it's only later that scientists realize this carbon dioxide in the oceans forms carbonic acid, and that attacks the shells of marine organisms," explains Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institute at Stanford University. ...
Heck, it's just the ocean. Besides, we're diluting it with melting icecaps. That'll take care of the problem, right?
Sun, May 2, 2010 from The ApocaDocs: From the ApocaDesk: The 'Docs are in We've been hearing from you. You're calling, you're emailing (ApocadocsATgmail.com), you're hurting. This oil of river pouring from the wound in the Gulf of Mexico is just beginning.
Your hearts are breaking, and so are ours, but we are Doctors of the Apocalypse and we are here to help with some advice.
First: Keep an eye on it. Take breaks, but stay with the horror. Look it square in the face.
Second: Realize that, despite how terrible this seems, it is happening, more or less, all over the planet. Just read our site -- Biology Breach is a clarifying scenario for this. Climate Chaos, too. People everywhere are already in the grips of habitat collapse, whether due to toxins like oil or ewaste or plastic -- or by climate change itself. Ask the Inuits, the Indians, the Australians, the Tanzanians.
Third: Do something, today. Commit to some change in your consumer or energy-use behavior. Stop driving your car. One day a week. Then make it two. Stop using plastic, whether in packaging or, worst of all, water bottles. Let this be the beginning of your stewardship of the earth.
Fourth: Speaking of stewardship, start something. Go to our Recovery scenario, then read the amazing feats that humans can do. Just yesterday, we found the story of an 82 year old woman who convinced her town of Concord, Massachusetts, to outlaw plastic water bottles.
Fifth: Hold the criminals accountable, whether they are politicians who do nothing to address climate change, or CEOs who don't change their corporate cultures to care for the planet. The rights of nature MUST BECOME transcendent.
Sixth: Download our book. This is not self-promotion. The book is free. You can read it in one afternoon (if you have the stomach). We want you to see what we are learning, what we are witnessing.
Let the horror of what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico be the awakening we need.
Mon, May 3, 2010 from GlobalPost: 10 worst man-made environmental disasters As oil threatens the Gulf Coast, a list of 10 other disasters both forgotten and infamous, from the Dust Bowl to Bhopal... The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is now about the size of Puerto Rico. It's already reached the marshes of Louisiana. Oil-covered wildlife are starting to show up along the shores. Shrimp, fish and oyster harvest areas have been closed. Residents of Mississippi and Alabama are just waiting for the oil to hit.
As environmental calamity for the Gulf Coast appears imminent, GlobalPost looks at 10 other man-made environmental disasters -- both forgotten and infamous -- that could have been prevented. ...
Strangely, nowhere on the list is Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."
Tue, May 4, 2010 from Guardian: Fears for crops as shock figures from America show scale of bee catastrophe Disturbing evidence that honeybees are in terminal decline has emerged from the United States where, for the fourth year in a row, more than a third of colonies have failed to survive the winter.
The decline of the country's estimated 2.4 million beehives began in 2006, when a phenomenon dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD) led to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of colonies. Since then more than three million colonies in the US and billions of honeybees worldwide have died and scientists are no nearer to knowing what is causing the catastrophic fall in numbers.
The number of managed honeybee colonies in the US fell by 33.8 percent last winter, according to the annual survey by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the US government's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
The collapse in the global honeybee population is a major threat to crops. It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination, which means that bees contribute some £26 billion to the global economy.... The disappearance of so many colonies has also been dubbed "Mary Celeste syndrome" due to the absence of dead bees in many of the empty hives. ...
Thu, May 6, 2010 from Associated Press: Deep beneath the Gulf, oil may already be wreaking havoc on sea life, contaminating food chain The oil you can't see could be as bad as the oil you can.
While people anxiously wait for the slick in the Gulf of Mexico to wash up along the coast, globules of oil are already falling to the bottom of the sea, where they threaten virtually every link in the ocean food chain, from plankton to fish that are on dinner tables everywhere... Oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of at least 200,000 gallons a day since an offshore drilling rig exploded last month and killed 11 people. On Wednesday, workers loaded a 100-ton, concrete-and-steel box the size of a four-story building onto a boat and hope to lower it to the bottom of the sea by week's end to capture some of the oil.
Scientists say bacteria, plankton and other tiny, bottom-feeding creatures will consume oil, and will then be eaten by small fish, crabs and shrimp. They, in turn, will be eaten by bigger fish, such as red snapper, and marine mammals like sea turtles. ...
Fri, May 7, 2010 from Channel 4 News: Concern over impact of rising ocean acidity Five yeas ago, no one outside a very small group of ocean scientists had heard of ocean acidification.
Now, it's one of the most worrying phenomena confronting those who care about the radical changes that seem to be happening on our planet. Worrying enough to compel a team of three UK scientists to camp on the sea ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean for 35 days in conditions as tough as anywhere on the planet.... Their initial findings may suggest this pristine ocean is already more acidic than others, and that the chemical balance of the ocean may already be becoming unfavourable for the tiny plankton that live there.... Acidified oceans become worse at soaking up planet warming carbon dioxide. And that's a big deal-- like giant liquid rainforests-- they currently mop up half of the carbon dioxide we churn out. When it comes to the Arctic, it couldn't happen in a worse place.
Because it's so cold, the Arctic Ocean absorbs more than its fair share of carbon dioxide. Even though it's a small ocean compared to many, this makes it disproportionally important in cooling our planet. If you want to get a picture of how grave the problem of ocean acidification may be -- the Arctic is a smart place to start. ...
See? More proof that the scientific establishment is anti-progress!
Mon, May 10, 2010 from PNAS: Importance of carbon dioxide physiological forcing to future climate change An increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration influences climate both directly through its radiative effect (i.e., trapping longwave radiation) and indirectly through its physiological effect (i.e., reducing transpiration of land plants).... [R]elative humidity remains roughly constant in response to CO2-radiative forcing, whereas relative humidity over land decreases in response to CO2-physiological forcing as a result of reduced plant transpiration. Our study points to an emerging consensus that the physiological effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on land plants will increase global warming beyond that caused by the radiative effects of CO2. ...
Thu, May 20, 2010 from BBC: Methane hydrates rear their ugly head: Did they cause the BP Gulf explosion? The vast deepwater methane hydrate deposits of the Gulf of Mexico are an open secret in big energy circles. They represent the most tantalizing new frontier of unconventional energy -- a potential source of hydrocarbon fuel thought to be twice as large as all the petroleum deposits ever known.
For the oil and gas industry, the substances are also known to be the primary hazard when drilling for deepwater oil.
Methane hydrates are volatile compounds -- natural gas compressed into molecular cages of ice. They are stable in the extreme cold and crushing weight of deepwater, but are extremely dangerous when they build up inside the drill column of a well. If destabilized by heat or a decrease in pressure, methane hydrates can quickly expand to 164 times their volume... something that would render a man six feet six inches tall suddenly the height of the Eiffel Tower.... Professor Sum said geologists know much less about these hydrate-bearing sediments than conventional ocean sediments, and that there is "little knowledge of the risks" of drilling into them.... [T]estifying before the Senate last week, a Halliburton executive made no mention of methane hydrate hazards associated with cementing in deepwater.... Japan has joined the US and Canada in pursuit of this energy bonanza, motivated by the $23 billion it spends annually to import liquefied natural gas.
According to a Bloomberg News article called "Japan Mines Flammable Ice, Flirts with Environmental Disaster," the Japanese trade ministry is targeting 2016 to start commercial production, even as a Tokyo University scientist warned against causing a massive undersea landslide that could suddenly trigger a massive methane hydrate release. ...
Which part of "methane is 20 times worse than CO2" don't you understand?
Wed, May 26, 2010 from Reuters: Global CO2 Emissions To Rise 43 Percent By 2035: EIA The world's emissions of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil, and natural gas should rise 43 percent by 2035 barring global agreements to reduce output of the gases blamed for warming the planet, the top U.S. energy forecaster said on Tuesday.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the fossil fuel sources should rise from 29.7 billion tonnes in 2007 to 42.4 billion tonnes in 2035, the Energy Information Administration said in its annual long-term energy outlook.
Fri, May 28, 2010 from NOAA: April 2010 warmest ever April 2010 was characterized by very warm conditions across much of the world. Warmer-than-average conditions during April 2010 were present across much of the world's land areas. The warmest anomalies occurred in southern Asia, northern Africa, the north central and northeastern U.S., Canada, Europe, and parts of northern Russia. Although much of the world's land area was engulfed by warmer-than-average temperatures, cooler-than-average conditions prevailed across Argentina, Mongolia, eastern and southern Russia, and most of China.... Sea surface temperatures (SST) during April 2010 were the warmest on record, with an anomaly of 0.57°C (1.03°F) above the 20th century average. ... Overall, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature anomaly for April 2010 was the warmest April on record since records began in 1880. The previous record was set in 1998. The combined global land and ocean temperature anomaly was 0.76°C (1.37°F) above the 20th century average. ...
Fri, May 28, 2010 from Science (AAAS): Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf Remobilization to the atmosphere of only a small fraction of the methane held in East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) sediments could trigger abrupt climate warming, yet it is believed that sub-sea permafrost acts as a lid to keep this shallow methane reservoir in place. Here, we show that more than 5000 at-sea observations of dissolved methane demonstrates that greater than 80 percent of ESAS bottom waters and greater than 50 percent of surface waters are supersaturated with methane regarding to the atmosphere. The current atmospheric venting flux, which is composed of a diffusive component and a gradual ebullition component, is on par with previous estimates of methane venting from the entire World Ocean. Leakage of methane through shallow ESAS waters needs to be considered in interactions between the biogeosphere and a warming Arctic climate. ...
Sat, Jun 5, 2010 from PhysOrg: Some Iowa cicadas make unexpected appearance four years ahead of schedule The 17-year cicadas found in central and southeast Iowa aren't supposed to come out until 2014, but a small percentage are emerging now, four years ahead of schedule. "These cicadas appeared in 1963, 1980, and 1997," said Donald Lewis, professor of entomology at Iowa State University. "They should not have appeared until 2014."... Lewis started getting reports of these early-risers two weeks ago. The insects are found in much of the state from Boone County south to the Missouri border and east to the Mississippi River.
Periodical cicadas live underground for 17 years then transform to the adult stage to appear above ground for a brief period. They are known for their mass emergences of tens of thousands per tree. The adults mate, lay eggs and die. The 17-year cycle is by far the longest of any insect in Iowa.... "There's a whole lot of mystery to what the cicada is counting and what happened in (some) winters that made it count it twice," he said. "We do know we've got to enjoy it while we've got it.... "The alarming part is, what has changed so much in our lifetime that the cicadas would change a fundamental part of their lifecycle and make this mistake?" he asks. "Climate change is one possibility." ...
Sat, Jun 12, 2010 from AFP: World still heading for 3 degree Celsius by 2100: study The world is careering towards three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100 despite headline-making promises to curb carbon emissions, a study released at UN talks here said on Thursday.
"The current pledges and loopholes give us a virtual certainty of exceeding 1.5 C (2.7 F), with global warming very likely exceeding 2 C (3.6 F) and a more than 50-percent chance of exceeding 3 C (5.4 F) by 2100," said Bill Hare of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Around 120 countries have signed up to voluntary action on greenhouse gases under last December's Copenhagen Accord, which aims to limit warming since pre-industrial times to 2.0 C.... Scientists caution there is no consensus on what is a safe level for warming, and some say a rise of even 2.0 C could still have far-reaching risks for ice and snow cover and rainfall patterns.... Temperatures have already risen by around 0.8 C (1.4 F) since the start of the Industrial Revolution, causing worrying glacier melt, snow loss and retreating permafrost and an accelerating rise in ocean levels, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ...
Something tells me more than twice as much change as we've seen in less time may have some untoward consequences.
Hard to believe that we do this every day,
You can too! Make a New Year's Resolution to
pay attention and make some noise. We're doing this to
ourselves. We can mitigate it.
More, daily, at ApocaDocs.com
Mon, Jun 14, 2010 from Science News: Operation Icewatch 2010 gears up ...June is the time when polar scientists start to scrutinize in earnest how much ice will be left atop the Arctic Ocean after this year's summer melt season. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., reported this week that ice extent -- a measure of total ice-covered area, including some gaps in the ice -- was, at the end of May, close to the lowest ever recorded for that time of year...there's no denying the remarkable overall decline of Arctic ice cover since satellite observations began in 1979. ...
It may be melting because we're paying attention to it!.
Wed, Jun 23, 2010 from PhysOrg: Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist Eminent Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner, who helped to wipe out smallpox, predicts humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change.... [He] said homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and "unbridled consumption," and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species.... Fenner told The Australian he tries not to express his pessimism because people are trying to do something, but keep putting it off. He said he believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialization (a period now known to scientists unofficially as the Anthropocene) rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts. ...
Fri, Jun 25, 2010 from Discovery: Scientists Find Hints at Coming Antarctic Garbage Patch You've heard about the Pacific garbage patch and the Atlantic garbage patch, each a sobering sign of how when we throw things away, they don't go "away" -- they often go into the sea, where they remain for a long, long time.
Much of the global ocean remains uncharted in terms of pollution, but unfortunately the more we look, the more we find. And now even the most remote, pristine waters on the planet -- the coastal seas of Antarctica -- are being invaded by plastic debris.
In a series of surveys conducted during the austral summer of 2007-2008, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace trawled the region, skimming surface waters and digging into the seabed. Even in the exceedingly remote Davis and Durmont D'Urville seas they found errant fishing buoys and a plastic cup. Plastic packaging was found floating in the Amundsen Sea.
It doesn't sound like much, but finding trash in the far corners of the planet is a worrying sign. The research team, led by David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey, believe the debris they found represents the leading edge of a tide of man-made refuse that is just now starting to make its way into the most secluded parts of our oceans.... "The seabeds immediately surrounding continental Antarctica are probably the last environments on the planet yet to be reached by plastics, but with pieces floating into the surface of the Amundsen Sea this seems likely to change soon. Our knowledge now touches every sea but so does our legacy of lost and discarded plastic." ...
It's just our little attempt to keep the planet fresh -- with SaranWrap!
Fri, Jun 25, 2010 from NASA: Global Temperature Anomalies for May 2010 released
In May 2010, temperature records assembled by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) showed wide expanses of slightly above- and slightly below-normal temperatures over most of the globe, but also dramatic warmth near the North Pole.... Especially warm temperatures--close to five degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average--occur over most of the Arctic, including the northernmost reaches of North America, northwestern Greenland, and most of the northern coast of Eurasia. Unusually warm conditions also extend southward into Eastern Europe and Siberia.... "Ongoing temperature anomalies like these are strong evidence of the Arctic amplification of global climate change," says Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The Arctic environment is very vulnerable to warming because of feedbacks that amplify the initial change. Sea ice retreat and snow melt reduce Earth's albedo, which can lead to increased warmth and further melting. Scambos explains that, although the Northern Hemisphere experienced significant snowfall in early 2010, spring melt was rapid, exposing land surfaces to sunlight sooner than usual. ...
Tue, Jun 29, 2010 from DiscoveryNews: Arctic Overreacts to Climate Change Whether it's 5 million years ago or June 2010, it's becoming very clear that whenever the Earth's climate warms up a few degrees -- for whatever reason -- the Arctic multiplies that warming by a factor of about three.
Two new studies of past warming and cooling periods going back millions of years have found that the Arctic reliably amplifies whatever global climate is doing. If the world drops 3 degrees colder, the Arctic will see 9 to 12 degrees of cooling. If Earth warmed up 3 degrees, the Arctic steams up 9 to 12 degrees.... This year, that could mean the Arctic could be the warmest ever recorded since data from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies show that global temperatures in 2010 have reached record levels.... "You'll find since about 2000 every month you have positive temperature anomalies," Stroeve said. Translation: The Arctic is doing exactly what it has done for 5 million years: amplifying the global climate change signal. ...
If it's been doing it for 5 million years, why should I worry?
Mon, Jul 5, 2010 from Science, via McClatchy: World ocean: 'overwhelming evidence' that it's 'a lot worse than the public thinks.' A sobering new report warns that the oceans face a "fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation" not seen in millions of years as greenhouse gases and climate change already have affected temperature, acidity, sea and oxygen levels, the food chain and possibly major currents that could alter global weather.... "We are becoming increasingly certain that the world's marine ecosystems are reaching tipping points," Bruno said, adding, "We really have no power or model to foresee" the impact.
"It's a lot worse than the public thinks," said Nate Mantua, an associate research professor at the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group.
Mantua, who's read the report, said it was clear what was causing the oceans' problems: greenhouse gases. "It is not a mystery," he said.
Alright! If it's not a mystery, then we can do something about it!
Tue, Jul 6, 2010 from Science News: Methane releases in arctic seas could wreak devastation Massive releases of methane from arctic seafloors could create oxygen-poor dead zones, acidify the seas and disrupt ecosystems in broad parts of the northern oceans, new preliminary analyses suggest.
Such a cascade of geochemical and ecological ills could result if global warming triggers a widespread release of methane from deep below the Arctic seas, scientists propose in the June 28 Geophysical Research Letters.
Worldwide, particularly in deeply buried permafrost and in high-latitude ocean sediments where pressures are high and temperatures are below freezing, icy deposits called hydrates hold immense amounts of methane... ...
Sun, Jul 11, 2010 from Associated Press: BP claims progress on new cap as oil spews freely Oil was spewing freely into the Gulf of Mexico as BP crews claimed progress Sunday in the first stages of replacing a leaky cap with a new containment system they hope will finally catch all the crude from the busted well.
There's no guarantee for such a delicate operation nearly a mile below the water's surface, officials said, and the permanent fix of plugging the well from the bottom remains slated for mid-August.
"It's not just going to be, you put the cap on, it's done. It's not like putting a cap on a tube of toothpaste," Coast Guard spokesman Capt. James McPherson said. ...
Hell, I can't even get my kids to do that at home.
Tue, Jul 13, 2010 from Reuters: Climate-related farmer suicides surging in eastern Kenya Eastern Kenya is seeing a surge in suicides after farmers hit by unusual weather and unable to repay loans are taking their lives, police say.
As many as 2,000 people in Kenya's Eastern Province, many of them farmers, have committed suicide in the past year, up from a normal suicide rate of 300 per year in the area, Kenyan police records show.
The deaths come as eastern Kenya has experienced extremely poor crop harvests as result of prolonged drought and unusual rainfall at harvest time, which has led to contamination of maize harvests with aflatoxins, produced by fungus that grows in wet grain. ...
As our habitat deteriorates, voluntary exit will become all the rage.
Fri, Jul 16, 2010 from The Daily Climate: Locking in our future Welcome to the Anthropocene. Decisions made today about planet-warming emissions will influence climate impacts not just for decades but for centuries and perhaps even millennia, a panel from the National Academy of Sciences warned Friday. Given the longevity of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, these scientists said, these decisions effectively lock humanity in for a range of impacts, some of which can be "very severe."
"Emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have ushered in a new epoch where human activities will largely determine the evolution of Earth's climate," the scientists wrote. ...
Wed, Jul 28, 2010 from Dalhousie University via ScienceDaily: Marine Phytoplankton Declining: Striking Global Changes at the Base of the Marine Food Web Linked to Rising Ocean Temperatures A new article published in the 29 July issue of the journal Nature reveals for the first time that microscopic marine algae known as "phytoplankton" have been declining globally over the 20th century. Phytoplankton forms the basis of the marine food chain and sustains diverse assemblages of species ranging from tiny zooplankton to large marine mammals, seabirds, and fish. Says lead author Daniel Boyce, "Phytoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems run. A decline of phytoplankton affects everything up the food chain, including humans."... documented phytoplankton declines of about 1 percent of the global average per year. This trend is particularly well documented in the Northern Hemisphere and after 1950, and would translate into a decline of approximately 40 percent since 1950.The scientists found that long-term phytoplankton declines were negatively correlated with rising sea surface temperatures and changing oceanographic conditions. ...
Does this mean I won't be able to get my Phytoplankton Krispies?
Mon, Aug 2, 2010 from The Economist: Cod, phytoplankton, and shifting baselines As another biologist, Ted Ames, subsequently established, the memories of fishermen in their 80s and 90s weren't just tall tales: 100 years ago, cod thrived close to New England's shores in sizes and numbers that beggar the imagination of today's commercial and sport fishermen. Mr Pauly's insight was that the memory of this abundance has disappeared generation by generation. "This is not nostalgia on the part of the old or lack of empathy on the part of the young," Mr Greenberg writes. "It is almost a willful forgetting--the means by which our species, generation by generation, finds reasonableness amid the destruction of the greatest natural food system on earth."... Just as the global economy would probably largely adjust to global warming, abandoning desertified or flooded zones like Arizona and Florida, giving up on snow-skiing in favor of water-skiing, and so forth, future populations would probably adjust psychologically to the extinction of bluefin tuna, coral, killer whales, sea turtles, and hundreds of other species, and would be reasonably happy on a seafood diet of catfish and mussels. You don't miss what you never had. ...
That's even sadder than "you don't know what you got till it's gone."
Tue, Aug 3, 2010 from University of Cambridge, via PhysOrg: Trawl fishing surviving through sale of previously discarded fish Although good for the fishermen, scientists warn that the prolonged trawl fishing along certain areas will lead to an 'ecological catastrophe' and the 'permanent loss of livelihoods for fishers' as well as other individuals who work in the industry.... A paper published in the current issue of the journal Conservation Letters by researchers from the University of Cambridge shows that the drivers for the use of this once discarded resource are twofold: declining shrimp stocks and profits, and the development of alternative markets, which include the rapidly growing poultry-feed industry.
Trawl fishing is a technique employed the world over in which a fishing vessel drags a gaping net along the ocean floor. Unfortunately, though trawlers target a limited number of species such as shrimp and some fish, trawl nets capture anything in their path and seriously damage the seafloor as well. It's been estimated that trawlers in the tropics capture an average of 10 kilos of bycatch for every kilo of shrimp.... Looking to the policy implications of the study, Lobo says: "If appropriate measures are not taken immediately to limit overfishing then the outcomes could be catastrophic for the ecosystem and result in the permanent loss of livelihoods for the fishers in the region." ...
I don't think of it as "scraping the bottom of the barrel." I think of it as "stirring the pot."
Mon, Aug 9, 2010 from Yale360: A Looming Oxygen Crisis and Its Impact on World's Oceans As serious as these dead zones are, however, they may be just a foreshadowing of a much more severe crisis to come. Agricultural runoff can only strip oxygen from the ocean around the mouths of fertilizer-rich rivers. But global warming has the potential to reduce the ocean's oxygen content across the entire planet. Combined with acidification -- another global impact of our carbon emissions -- the loss of oxygen could have a major impact on marine life.
Scientists point to two reasons to expect a worldwide drop in ocean oxygen. One is the simple fact that as water gets warmer, it can hold less dissolved oxygen. The other reason is subtler. The entire ocean gets its oxygen from the surface -- either from the atmosphere, or from photosynthesizing algae floating at the top of the sea. The oxygen then spreads to the deep ocean as the surface waters slowly sink.
Global warming is expected to reduce the mixing of the ocean by making surface seawater lighter.... more of the oxygen will linger near the surface, where it will be used up by oxygen-breathing organisms. ...
First it's CO2. Now it's O2. C'mon, science, make up your mind.
Thu, Aug 12, 2010 from Associated Press: Long hot summer of fire and floods fit predictions Floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan and the High Arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It's not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.
The weather-related cataclysms of July and August fit patterns predicted by climate scientists, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization says -- although those scientists always shy from tying individual disasters directly to global warming.
The experts now see an urgent need for better ways to forecast extreme events like Russia's heat wave and wildfires and the record deluge devastating Pakistan. They'll discuss such tools in meetings this month and next in Europe and America, under United Nations, U.S. and British government sponsorship.
"There is no time to waste," because societies must be equipped to deal with global warming, says British government climatologist Peter Stott. ...
Sat, Aug 14, 2010 from Anchorage Arctic Sounder: Borehole network confirms, permafrost is thawing worldwide An expanded network of boreholes across the northern hemisphere has confirmed that permafrost throughout polar and sub-polar regions is thawing, say scientists who studied the topic during International Polar Year... Using information collected from 575 boreholes located throughout North America, Russia and the Nordic region, researchers found that permafrost temperatures during the International Polar Year were as much as 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than they were 20 or 30 years ago. ...
Tue, Aug 17, 2010 from Telegraph, via DesdemonaDespair: Ice sheet in Greenland melting at record rate The Greenland ice sheet is melting at a record rate due to global warming, according to a British-led expedition currently taking measurements from the treacherous glaciers.... The finding immediately raises fears about the long term effect on rising sea levels and ultimately 'positive feedbacks' as water absorbs more heat than ice, therefore speeding up the warming effect.... "It is not a freak event and is certainly a manifestation of warming. This year marks yet another record breaking melt year in Greenland; temperatures and melt across the entire ice sheet have exceeded those in 2007 and of historical records."... The new research comes as scientists from Pennsylvania State University warned that temperature rise of between 2C and 7C would cause the entire ice mass of Greenland to melt, resulting in 23ft rise in sea level. ...
Maybe I can get my beachfront property by just stayin' home!
Wed, Aug 18, 2010 from Telegraph.co.uk: Mankind is using up global resources faster than ever Think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) look at how much food, fuel and other resources are consumed by humans every year. They then compare it to how much the world can provide without threatening the ability of important ecosystems like oceans and rainforests to recover.
This year the moment we start eating into nature's capital or 'Earth Overshoot Day' will fall on 21st August, a full month earlier than last year, when resources were used up by 23rd September.... He said people in developing countries like China are consuming more meat and demanding cars and other energy-intensive goods. Even with green developments and energy efficiency, rich countries are also consuming more as individuals demand the latest technology, food fad or car.... "The banking crisis taught us the danger of a system that goads us to live beyond our means financially," he said. "A greater danger comes from a consumer culture and economic policy that pushes us to live beyond our means ecologically." ...
You're challenging consumer culture? But what about the economy?
Thu, Aug 19, 2010 from Guardian: Rising temperatures reducing ability of plants to absorb carbon, study warns Rising temperatures in the past decade have reduced the ability of the world's plants to soak up carbon from the atmosphere, scientists said today.
Large-scale droughts have wiped out plants that would have otherwise absorbed an amount of carbon equivalent to Britain's annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists measure the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by plants and turned into biomass as a quantity known as the net primary production. NPP increased from 1982 to 1999 as temperatures rose and there was more solar radiation.
But the period from 2000 to 2009 reverses that trend - surprising some scientists.... Reduced plant matter not only reduces the world's natural ability to manage CO2 in the atmosphere but could also lead to problems with growing more crops to feed rising populations or make sustainable biofuels.
"Under a changing climate, severe regional droughts have become more frequent, a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future," said the researchers. ...
Mon, Aug 30, 2010 from University of Copenhagen, via EurekAlert: Dramatic climate change is unpredictable By analysing the ice cores that are drilled through the more than three kilometer thick ice sheet in Greenland, scientists can obtain information about the temperature and climate going back around 140,000 years.
The most pronounced climate shifts besides the end of the ice age is a series of climate changes during the ice age where the temperature suddenly rose 10-15 degrees in less than 10 years. The climate change lasted perhaps 1000 years, then - bang - the temperature fell drastically and the climate changed again.... "We have made a theoretical modelling of two different scenarios that might trigger climate change. We wanted to investigate if it could be determined whether there was an external factor which caused the climate change or whether the shift was due to an accumulation of small, chaotic fluctuations", explains Peter Ditlevsen, a climate researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute.
He explains that in one scenario the climate is like a seesaw that has tipped to one side. If sufficient weight is placed on the other side the seesaw will tip - the climate will change from one state to another. This could be, for example, an increase in the atmospheric content of CO2 triggering a shift in the climate.... [I]t was the chaos-dynamical fluctuations that were the triggering cause of the dramatic climate changes during the ice age. This means that they are very difficult to predict. ...
Thu, Sep 2, 2010 from Jeffrey Sachs, in Scientific American: The Deepening Crisis: When Will We Face the Planet's Environmental Problems? During the four years of this column, the world's inability to face up to the reality of the growing environmental crisis has become even more palpable. Every major goal that international bodies have established for global environmental policy as of 2010 has been postponed, ignored or defeated. Sadly, this year will quite possibly become the warmest on record, yet another testimony to human-induced environmental catastrophes running out of control.
This was to be the year of biodiversity. In 2002 nations pledged, under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to slow significantly the planetary loss of biodiversity by 2010. This goal was not even remotely achieved. Indeed, it was barely even noticed by Americans: the U.S. signed the convention in 1992 but never ratified it. Ratification fell victim to the uniquely American delusion that virtually all of nature should be subdivided into parcels of private property, within which owners should have their way.... The Senate, true to form, sustained its 18th year of inaction on global warming since ratifying the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.... Fifth, vested corporate interests have mastered the dark arts of propaganda, and they can use their deep pockets to purchase a sea of deliberate misinformation to deceive the public.
The free market of corporate politics is my friend! They told me so!
Thu, Sep 2, 2010 from Scientific American: Eternal Fascinations with the End: Why We're Suckers for Apocalyptic Endings You might think that the enterprise of science, with its method and its facts, would inoculate us against the most extravagant doomsday obsessions. But it doesn't. If anything, it just gives us more to worry about.
Some of the most fervent and convincing doomsayers, after all, are scientists. Bill Joy, co-founder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, has warned that of out-of-control nanobots could consume everything on earth. Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has publicly offered a bet that a biological catastrophe--accidental or intentional--will kill at least one million people by 2020 (so far, no takers). Numerous climatologists sound the alarm about the possibility of runaway global warming. They all stand on the shoulders of giants: British economist Thomas Malthus predicted in the 19th century that the rise in population would lead to widespread famine and catastrophe. It never happened, but that didn't stop Stanford biologist Paul R. Ehrlich from renewing the warning in his 1968 book The Population Bomb when he predicted that global famine was less than two decades away. Catastrophe didn't arrive then, either, but does that mean it never will? Not necessarily. Still, people often worry disproportionately about disasters that are unlikely to occur.... Some researchers think that apocalyptic dread feeds off our collective anxiety about events that lie outside our individual control.... The desire to treat terrible events as the harbinger of the end of civilization itself also has roots in another human trait: vanity.... Our fears of the apocalypse may in the end mirror the most fundamental fear of all: fear of our own mortality. ...
Fri, Sep 3, 2010 from PhysOrg: Rolling the dice with evolution: Massive extinction will have unpredictable consequences New research by Macquarie University palaeobiologist, Dr John Alroy, predicts major changes to the rules of evolution as we understand them now. Those changes will have serious consequences for future biodiversity because no one can predict which groups will come to dominate after the current mass extinction..... Thus, a group's average rate of diversification or branching into new species in the past is not a good predictor of how well it will fare after a mass extinction event.... Organisms that might have adapted in the past may not be able to this time, he said.
"You may end up with a dramatically altered sea floor because of changes in the dominance of major groups. That is, the extinction occurring now will overturn the balance of the marine groups."
When there is a major mass extinction, it's not just a temporary drop in richness of species, he said.
Alroy likens what is happening now to rolling the dice with evolution.
"What's worrisome is that some groups permanently become dominant that otherwise wouldn't have. So by causing this extinction, we are taking a big gamble on what kind of species will be around in the future. We don't know how it will turn out. People don't realise that there will be very unpredictable consequences." ...
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 from EnvironmentalResearchWeb: A sea of troubles This year has been a tough one for the world's oceans. Sea-surface temperatures have continued to rise, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused serious pollution, as did numerous smaller leaks, and over-fishing and acidification continue apace.
So it's no surprise that ocean life, from the smallest plankton to the largest whale, is showing signs of damage. Only this week the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration designated the eastern North Pacific basking shark a "species of concern" because of the dramatic drop in its numbers despite years of protection from fishing.... And earlier this summer researchers in Canada found that the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean has decreased by 40 percent since 1950 in 8 out of 10 large ocean regions. They ascribed this decline to rising sea-surface temperatures, but added that there may be other factors that they haven't yet discovered. ...
You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy): Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than three years! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Wed, Sep 15, 2010 from ClimateProgress: Serreze: Arctic is "continuing down in a death spiral." National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) director Mark Serreze slammed the anti-science disinformers yesterday:
"There are claims coming from some communities that the Arctic sea ice is recovering, is getting thicker again. That's simply not the case. It's continuing down in a death spiral.
Every bit of evidence we have says the ice is thinning. That means there's less energy needed to melt it out than there used to be."... Arctic sea ice volume, extent, and area continue to shrink apace as we approach the dramatic end to this year's melt season. The NSIDC tells me extent dropped to 4.76 million square kilometers today -- which is below the majority of even the most recent expert predictions logged with the Study of Environmental Arctic Change... ...
Pretty soon there'll be nothing to get in the way of oil exploration!
Thu, Sep 16, 2010 from Guardian: An alternative to the new wave of ecofascism It is time to acknowledge that mainstream environmentalism has failed to prevent climate catastrophe. Its refusal to call for an immediate consumption reduction has backfired and its demise has opened the way for a wave of fascist environmentalists who reject democratic freedom.
One well-known example of the authoritarian turn in environmentalism is James Lovelock, the first scientist to discover the presence of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Earlier this year he told the Guardian that democracies are incapable of adequately addressing climate change. "I have a feeling," Lovelock said, "that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while." His words may be disturbing, but other ecologists have gone much further. Take for example Pentti Linkola, a Finnish fisherman and ecological philosopher. Whereas Lovelock puts his faith in advanced technology, Linkola proposes a turn to fascistic primitivism. Their only point of agreement is on the need to suspend democracy.... Humanity can avert climate catastrophe without accepting ecological tyranny. However, this will take an immediate, drastic reduction of our consumption. ... Only by silencing the consumerist forces will both climate catastrophe and ecological tyranny be averted. Yes, western consumption will be substantially reduced. But it will be done voluntarily and joyously. ...
Fri, Sep 17, 2010 from PLOS-One, through DesdemonaDespair: Bottom trawling more damaging to sea floor than all other human activities combined Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings published in the journal PLoS ONE reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered.... Using available data for the year 2005, they mapped and estimated the spatial extent of intentional human activities occurring directly on the seafloor as well as structures and artefacts present on the seafloor resulting from past activities.... Even on the lowest estimates, the spatial extent of bottom trawling is at least ten times that for the other activities assessed, with a physical footprint greater than that of all the others combined. ...
You're implying that something I can't see is more important than things I ignore?
Tue, Sep 21, 2010 from CBC: Northwest Passage traffic up in 2010 The number of ships travelling through the Northwest Passage has doubled this year, prompting at least one Arctic sovereignty expert to call for more enforcement in the increasingly ice-free Arctic waterway.
The Canada Border Services Agency says 18 ships have cleared customs in Inuvik, N.W.T. -- at the western end of the Northwest Passage -- so far this year, and the navigation season is not even over yet. By comparison, only seven ships cleared customs there in 2009, according to the agency.
"It is a little bit tricky -- lots of fog and ice," Börje Ivarsson, a Swedish adventurer who just finished a two-year journey from Russia to Inuvik on a 30-foot boat, told CBC News.
"It's quite a shortcut if you're living in the north of Europe to get over to Alaska," Ivarsson said of the Northwest Passage. "It's a good adventure, too."
The increase in marine traffic is largely a result of climate change opening up the passage, said Rob Huebert, the associate director for the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.
Huebert said many people have talked about the Northwest Passage's potential for years, and now it's starting to happen.
"I think that we'll often go back to 2010 and say that was the turning point, that was the time when it turned from theory to actuality," he said.
I wonder what we'll call the point that was once the North Pole, when we're sailing through it.
Thu, Sep 23, 2010 from New York Times: The 'Hockey Stick' Lives Yet while the attacks continue, the "hockey stick" graph's basic premise -- that the planet's recent warming is unprecedented over at least the last millennium -- continues to draw support from a growing number of independent studies.
Two new studies bolstering the "hockey stick" hypothesis were published just recently. One that appeared this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters analyzed seashell deposits on the North Atlantic seafloor and determined that 20th-century warming in the region "had no equivalent during the last thousand years."
Another study, in The Journal of Geophysical Research, analyzed ice cores from glaciers in the eastern Bolivian Andes dating back to 400 A.D.
"The last decades of the past millennium are characterized again by warm temperatures that seem to be unprecedented in the context of the last 1,600 years," the researchers concluded.
A study published in September 2009 in the journal Science, meanwhile, found that temperatures in the Arctic in the last decade were likely warmer than any time since the birth of Christ. ...
Sun, Sep 26, 2010 from Anthony Doerr, in The Morning News, via OnlyInItForTheGold: Planet Zoo and the Cliff During my sophomore year, 1992, 1,500 scientists, including more than half the living Nobel laureates, admonished in their Warning to Humanity: "A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated."
So what have we done? Not much. From 1992 to 2007, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels rose 38 percent. Emissions in 2008 rose a full 2 percent despite a global economic slump. Honeybees are dying by the billions, amphibians by the millions, and shallow Caribbean reefs are mostly dead already. Our soil is disappearing faster than ever before, half of all mammals are in decline, and a recent climate change model predicts that the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2013. Unchecked, carbon emissions from China alone will probably match the current global level by 2030.... Sure, it's socially acceptable nowadays to compost your coffee grounds and turn off your thermostat and grow strawberries on the porch, but it's still considered uncool to suggest that the American capitalist system is untenable.... Maybe even more astounding, they've found antibiotic-resistant E. coli in French Guiana, in the intestines of Wayampi Indians--people who have never taken antibiotics.... Eventually the ice caps will resolidify; new species will arise, the forests will teem once more. It's Homo sapiens we need to worry about. Some geologists have taken to calling the past 8,000 years or so the Anthropocene Period -- a time when we've burned coal, impounded rivers, and reconfigured ecosystems. And now, in our lifetimes, we're learning that perhaps this period is untenable, and like billions of species before us, we are not immune to extinction. ...
In zoos, primates fling their shit everywhere. We try telling them not to, but it doesn't do much good.
Thu, Sep 30, 2010 from NUVO Newsweekly: A ringside seat at the end of the world: Get your hands dirty For those of you have seen a couple of my columns, you might get the impression I'm just sitting around in my ringside seat, passively consuming news stories and grousing about the end of the world (as we know it).
This year, I volunteered as head of the Trash Committee for my annual neighborhood festival that benefits our community association. It's a big deal for my sweet little neighborhood: hundreds of people show up, thousands of bucks are generated.
Though we have our political and cultural disagreements, we come together for the larger benefit of the community, which is the way life should be.
So. First thing I did as head of the Trash Committee was to change the name to the Waste Committee. It's a slight but significant shift in nomenclature.
Trash is one thing. Waste is another. ...
This is my new column... and you can save the planet by reading it!
Fri, Oct 1, 2010 from Reuters: Analysis: Soaring Chinese Economy At Odds With Climate Goals Just last year experts at the International Energy Agency proposed a target for China's carbon emissions to peak in 2020 before declining if the world were to be saved from devastating climate change. Too late now.
Figures from energy firm BP showed earlier this year that Chinese emissions will steamroll through the Paris-based IEA's 2020 peak target next year, nearly a decade early, with no sign of slowing down.
China, which hosts U.N. climate talks next week for the first time, is promoting what it calls ambitious plans to boost energy efficiency and curb emissions. But its supercharged growth means even with rapid efficiency gains it cancels out other global efforts to combat climate change.
China already emits a quarter of the world's CO2, the main gas contributing to global warming, making it the world's top emitter ahead of the United States. Its emissions have more than doubled since 2000. ...
There is no stopping this bull in the china shop called earth.
Mon, Oct 4, 2010 from EnvironmentalResearchWeb: Greenhouse amplification: gases may have hidden kick Emissions of methane and nitrous oxide (N2O) will cause temperature rises one-fifth higher than previously believed, because of the effects of carbon-climate feedbacks. So say researchers from Canada who have carried out a modelling study.
"The mechanism is that emission of other greenhouse gases leads to warming, which in turn leads to emissions of carbon dioxide from soil and from the ocean," Nathan Gillett of Environment Canada told environmentalresearchweb. "This additional carbon dioxide leads to additional warming, thereby amplifying the effect of the non-carbon-dioxide greenhouse gases over and above the warming that would have occurred without this carbon-cycle feedback."... Greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide are estimated to have caused about 37 percent of the total greenhouse-gas forcing. And mitigation strategies that include a range of gases are likely to be 30-40 percent cheaper than those focusing on carbon dioxide alone. ...
Wed, Oct 6, 2010 from GreenProphet.com: Lebanon's Mediterranean Apocalypse: Scuba Diving In Waters Devoid Of Life Jacques Cousteau brought the wonders of the ocean depths to the general public in two ways: he helped create the first French underwater film called "18 Meters Deep," and with Émile Gagnan, the precursor to modern scuba diving equipment, the aqua-lung. Had he foreseen how such an introduction would lead to a near-absolute destruction of the silent color and diversity that lives below the surface, the intrepid explorer may never have shared his secrets.
But he did, and though he can't be blamed, we have subsequently ruined many coral reefs and other marine ecosystems around the world. The Red Sea is in danger, the Gulf States continue to pressure their waters with blind expansionism, and the Eastern Mediterranean's ecosystem is so disfigured that, sans the distraction of beauty, it has become the perfect place to learn how to dive.... But the real benefit according to Philipp Breu, who interviewed several scuba divers in Beirut, is that the lack of underwater beauty helps beginner divers focus on technique instead.
"Situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, the marine life is poor, with some sites best described as "moonscapes" rather than landscapes. On some days, divers should avoid inspecting the detritus floating in the shallows too closely," wrote Breu.... Perhaps it was Andy Revkin with the New York Times who wrote that our capacity to destroy is far less remarkable than our ability to adjust to the apocalypse we thereby create. Will we really allow our future to be so bland and so brown, or will we fight to live in color? ...
Mon, Oct 18, 2010 from AP, via PhysOrg: UN meeting on saving species opens in Japan Delegates from more than 190 nations kicked off a U.N. conference Monday aimed at ensuring the survival of diverse species and ecosystems threatened by pollution, exploitation and habitat encroachment.
But the two-week marathon talks of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity face some of the same divisions between rich and poor nations over what actions to take that have bogged down global climate negotiations.
Scientists warn that unless we start doing more to protect species, extinctions will spike and the intricately interconnected natural world will be damaged with devastating consequences.
"We're on the verge on the major extinction spasm," said Russ Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and a field biologist who has spent decades studying primates. "Healthy ecosystems are the underpinnings of human development."... Scientists estimate that the Earth is losing species 100 to 1,000 times the historical average. They warn that's pushing the Earth toward its sixth big extinction phase, the greatest since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. ...
If we can cause the Sixth Extinction, why can't we kill off bedbugs?
Tue, Oct 19, 2010 from National Geographic: Winds Slowing Around the World, Study Suggests Around the world, surface winds are slowing down, a new study says. Strangely enough, the alleged culprits aren't new buildings but new trees.
The easing breezes--if also detected higher up--could affect movements of air pollution but may not necessarily give the wind power industry a case of the doldrums, experts say.
For the new study, published Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists analyzed nearly 30 years' worth of wind speed data collected from more than 800 land-based weather stations, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, where long-term wind-data collection has been most reliable.
The average annual surface wind speed in countries in mid-northern latitudes--including the United States, China, and Russia--had dropped by as much as 15 percent, from about 10.3 miles (17 kilometers) an hour to about 9 miles (14 kilometers) an hour, the study found.... But reforestation can explain only about 60 percent of the wind speed reductions, the study says. Changes in air circulation due to global warming may be responsible for the rest, but more studies are needed to be sure, according to Vautard. ...
Fri, Oct 22, 2010 from The Washington Post: Sea ice melting as Arctic temperature rises The temperature is rising again in the Arctic, with the sea ice extent dropping to one of the lowest levels on record, climate scientists reported Thursday.... Atmospheric scientists concerned about global warming focus on the Arctic because that is a region where the effects are expected to be felt first, and that has been the case in recent years.
There was a slowdown in Arctic warming in 2009, but in the first half of 2010 warming has been near a record pace, with monthly readings over 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) above normal in northern Canada, according to the report card released Thursday. ...
Earth's canary -- the Arctic -- is flying on a wing and a prayer.
Wed, Oct 27, 2010 from University of Delaware via ScienceDaily: As Arctic Warms, Increased Shipping Likely to Accelerate Climate Change As the ice-capped Arctic Ocean warms, ship traffic will increase at the top of the world. And if the sea ice continues to decline, a new route connecting international trading partners may emerge -- but not without significant repercussions to climate, according to a U.S. and Canadian research team that includes a University of Delaware scientist. Growing Arctic ship traffic will bring with it air pollution that has the potential to accelerate climate change in the world's northern reaches. And it's more than a greenhouse gas problem -- engine exhaust particles could increase warming by some 17-78 percent, the researchers say. ...
Thu, Nov 4, 2010 from Telegraph.co.uk, from DesdemonaDespair: Earth would take 100,000 years to recover from global warming say geologists Professor Jim Zachos, of the University of California, said that 55 million years ago volcanic activity caused around 4,500 gigatons of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere over thousands of years.
This caused the planet to warm by 6C (10.8F), forcing whole ecosystems, including early mammals, to adapt, migrate or die out in certain areas.
Prof Zachos said that if the world continues to pump out greenhouse gases at the current rate, around 5,000 gigatons of greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere over a few hundred years.
He said this will cause a more rapid temperature rise that at any other time in history and could cause "mass extinction of species".
"The impacts will be pretty severe compared to 55 million years ago in terms of evolution of this planet," he said.
The Geological Society warned that it could take the Earth 100,000 years to recover....
"The geological evidence from the 55 million year event and from earlier warming episodes suggests that such an addition [a massive increase in greenhouse gases caused by the activities of mankind] is likely to raise average global temperatures by at least 5 to 6C, and possibly more, and that recovery of the Earth's climate in the absence of mitigation measures could take 100,000 years or more. Numerical models of the climate system support such an interpretation. In the light of the evidence presented here it is reasonable to conclude that emitting further large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over time is likely to be unwise, uncomfortable though that fact may be." ...
Sat, Nov 20, 2010 from TheEnergyCollective: Oil industry insider exposé: what it took to wake some of them up on climate. I've just read Challenged by Carbon: The Oil Industry and Climate Change, which was written by Dr. Bryan Lovell, a former senior executive at British Petroleum.... Lovell writes about how it came to be that the senior European oil executives backed Kyoto while Exxon-Mobil continued on with its denial campaign. In the process, he also shows us what he and his European counterparts believe about how dangerous climate change is. I was astonished.... The oil execs understand and believe that the amount of carbon that is being moved into the atmosphere as civilization accelerates its use of fossil fuels is going in at such a rate that the only comparable event in Earth's history is the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum). They believe a recurrence of this event is not only possible but likely. They can't face being held responsible by history. The European senior oil execs, unlike their American counterparts, and perhaps only briefly, lost their nerve about the denial policy, backed Kyoto, and confronted the Americans. The science described by Lovell is why BP started its "Beyond Petroleum" campaign. The science hasn't changed. Obviously, BP has. ...
Hey, you think there'll even be any historians left? Ha! I'm safe.
Sun, Nov 21, 2010 from AFP, via DesdemonaDespair: Fading fish stocks driving Asian sea rivalries Maritime incidents in the East and South China Seas, such as the one that sparked a major row between China and Japan, could intensify in a fight over dwindling fish stocks, experts say. Past incidents have been sparked by regional competition for strategic sea routes and the search for oil, but fishermen from Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam are increasingly heading outside their own territorial waters -- and into disputed areas -- to earn a living.... "Fish stocks are depleting very rapidly in eastern Asia and there is a scramble for fish," Jonathan Holslag, a researcher at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies, told AFP.... Fish has become "a kind of new gold in Asia", he said.... "China is consuming more and more fish, and global fish stocks are down, especially in that region -- it makes perfect sense that Chinese boats are going to go farther and farther" and into disputed waters, he added. ...
It's strangely as if the more we overfish, the more reason there is for overfishing.
Sun, Nov 21, 2010 from AP, via PhysOrg: That 'other' climate problem Gas locked inside Siberia's frozen soil and under its lakes has been seeping out since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. But in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane - a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide - at a perilous rate.
Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.... Yet awareness of methane leaks from permafrost is so new that it was not even mentioned in the seminal 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned of rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall disrupting agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.... As the Earth warms, the summer thaw bites a bit deeper, awakening ice-age microbes that attack organic matter - vegetation and animal remains - buried where oxygen cannot reach, producing methane that gurgles to the surface and into the air.
The newly released methane adds to the greenhouse effect, trapping yet more heat which deepens the next thaw, in a spiraling cycle of increasing warmth. ...
Apocaiku: The ice-age microbes / reawaken. Can we wake / all the sleepwalkers?
Mon, Nov 22, 2010 from Scientific American: Fear-Based Messaging May Drive Skepticism of Global Warming Earlier this year a Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believe that global warming concerns are exaggerated. Back in 1997 31 percent of Americans thought the concerns were overrated. Why the increase?
Well it might have to do with the framing of the issue.... Those who received more positive messaging trusted the science. On the other hand those subjects who read the "doomsday" messaging were skeptical of global warming, and for those who think the world is generally a fair place had even stronger doubts about global warming after reading the negative messaging. The study is published in the January issue of Psychological Science.
So the authors note that while many tend to use fear-based messaging, in the case of global warming our reaction to a negative consequence may indeed overpower any logic. ...
Sun, Nov 28, 2010 from London Observer: A billion people will lose their homes due to climate change, says report Devastating changes to sea levels, rainfall, water supplies, weather systems and crop yields are increasingly likely before the end of the century, scientists will warn tomorrow.
A special report, to be released at the start of climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, will reveal that up to a billion people face losing their homes in the next 90 years because of failures to agree curbs on carbon emissions.
Up to three billion people could lose access to clean water supplies because global temperatures cannot now be stopped from rising by 4C. ...
Cancun is going to be even more fun than Copenhagen!
Mon, Nov 29, 2010 from Scientific American: Worst case study: global temp up 7.2F degrees by 2060s World temperatures could soar by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the 2060s in the worst case of global climate change and require an annual investment of $270 billion just to contain rising sea levels, studies suggested on Sunday.
Such a rapid rise, within the lifetimes of many young people today, is double the 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) ceiling set by 140 governments at a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen last year and would disrupt food and water supplies in many parts of the globe.
Rising greenhouse gas emissions this decade meant the 2 degree goal was "extremely difficult, arguably impossible, raising the likelihood of global temperature rises of 3 or 4 degrees C within this century," an international team wrote.... One of the papers gave what it called a "pragmatic estimate" that sea levels might rise by between 0.5 and 2 meters (1.64 to 6.56 feet) by 2100 if temperatures rose 4 degrees Celsius.
Containing a sea level rise of 2 meters, mostly building Dutch-style sea walls, would require annual investments of up to $270 billion a year by 2100. ...
Good news, since our worst case scenarios are much worser.
Fri, Dec 3, 2010 from TalkingPointsMemo: US House Republicans kill climate change committee US President Barack Obama's Republican foes in the House of Representatives said Wednesday they were disbanding the chamber's committee on battling global warming, calling it a waste of money. Democrats immediately assailed what they branded the "very disappointing" decision to dismantle the Select Committee on Global Warming, which did not have the power to approve legislation.
"We have pledged to save taxpayers' money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress," said a spokesman for Republican House speaker-designate John Boehner, Michael Steel.
The committee "was a clear example, and it will not continue in the 112th Congress," he told AFP by email.
A spokesman for outgoing Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, set to hand Boehner her gavel when a new US Congress convenes in January, said the panel had played an important role in the debate on climate change and energy. ...
Sun, Dec 5, 2010 from Los Angeles Times: At climate summit, they're feeling like deserted islands ...As the 12-day [Cancun] summit moves into high gear this week, small island nations may be the noisiest critics, but they are hardly alone in their frustration that a legally binding agreement to reduce planet-heating pollutants has no chance to be concluded here.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that the Cancun talks "won't result in anything" because no major leaders are attending.
Climate negotiations in Copenhagen ended in acrimony last year, with 120 heads of state, including President Obama, in attendance. This year, except for a few leaders of smaller nations, ministers and diplomats are doing the talking.
So... leaders showing up doesn't work, and leaders NOT showing up doesn't work. What on earth will work?
Mon, Dec 6, 2010 from University of Guelph, via EurekAlert: Northern wildfires threaten runaway climate change, study reveals Climate change is causing wildfires to burn more fiercely, pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than previously thought, according to a new study to be published in Nature Geosciences this week.
This is the first study to reveal that fires in the Alaskan interior - an area spanning 18.5 million hectares - have become more severe in the past 10 years, and have released much more carbon into the atmosphere than was stored by the region's forests over the same period.
"When most people think of wildfires, they think about trees burning, but most of what fuels a boreal fire is plant litter, moss and organic matter in surface soils," said University of Guelph professor Merritt Turetsky, lead author of the study.
"These findings are worrisome because about half the world's soil carbon is locked in northern permafrost and peatland soils. This is carbon that has accumulated in ecosystems a little bit at a time for thousands of years, but is being released very rapidly through increased burning."... "This includes longer snow-free seasons, changes in vegetation, loss of ice and permafrost, and now fire, which is shifting these systems from a global carbon sink toward a carbon source."... "Over the past 10 years, burned area has doubled in interior Alaska, mostly because of increased burning late in the fire season," said co-author Eric Kasischke, a University of Maryland professor. ...
Mon, Dec 6, 2010 from Yale360: Is the End in Sight for The World's Coral Reefs? You may well feel that dire predictions about anything almost always turn out to be exaggerations. You may think there may be something in it to worry about, but it won't be as bad as doomsayers like me are predicting. This view is understandable given that only a few decades ago I, myself, would have thought it ridiculous to imagine that reefs might have a limited lifespan on Earth as a consequence of human actions. It would have seemed preposterous that, for example, the Great Barrier Reef -- the biggest structure ever made by life on Earth -- could be mortally threatened by any present or foreseeable environmental change.
Yet here I am today, humbled to have spent the most productive scientific years of my life around the rich wonders of the underwater world, and utterly convinced that they will not be there for our children's children to enjoy unless we drastically change our priorities and the way we live.... In a long period of deep personal anguish, I turned to specialists in many different fields of science to find anything that might suggest a fault in my own conclusions. But in this quest I was depressingly unsuccessful.... The early stages of acidification have now been detected in the Southern Ocean and, surprisingly perhaps, in tropical corals. On our current trajectory of increasing atmospheric CO2, we can expect that by 2030 to 2050 the acidification process will be affecting all the oceans of the world to some degree.... The atmospheric levels of CO2 we are already committed to reach, no matter what mitigation is now implemented, have no equal over the entire longevity of the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps 25 million years. And most significantly, the rate of CO2 increase we are now experiencing has no precedent in all known geological history. ...
Sounds like you're expecting us to believe you, just because you've spent a lifetime studying marine science.
Thu, Dec 9, 2010 from Ohio State, from DesdemonaDespair: Eminent Climate Scientist: Widespread Suffering If Climate Change Not Forestalled One of the world's foremost experts on climate change is warning that if humans don't moderate their use of fossil fuels, there is a real possibility that we will face the environmental, societal and economic consequences of climate change faster than we can adapt to them.... It is the first time in a published paper that he has recommended specific action to forestall the growing effects of climate change. During the last three decades, Thompson has led 57 expeditions to some of the world's most remote high altitude regions to retrieve cores from glaciers and ice caps that preserve a record of ancient climate.... "Unless large numbers of people take appropriate steps, including supporting governmental regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our only options will be adaptation and suffering," he wrote in the concluding paragraph.
"And the longer we delay, the more unpleasant the adaptations and the greater the suffering will be."
Lucky for us we have experts whose lived experience, combined with scientific expertise, means they're listened to as wise elders by those with less knowledge.
Thu, Dec 9, 2010 from The ApocaDocs: 2010 Year in Review from the ApocaDocs The shocking truth ripped from the headlines! An appalling sense of humor in full display! The TOP 100 STORIES selected from the 1600+ news items archived and bequipped by the ApocaDocs in 2010, our The Year in Review displays not just the most holy shit, death-spiral-ish stories of the year, but also many of our favorite quips ("holy shit" stories tend to bring out the quipsters in both of us). All displayed in staggering CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER to help recap the year. You'll find yourself asking "What, all this, and it's only June!?!" Groans, grimaces, and guffaws abound in this rollercoaster reprise of a most eventful year. ...
Thu, Dec 23, 2010 from Los Angeles Times: Polar bear status pits environmentalists vs. administration A dispute about how much the government should protect polar bears has turned into a battleground for environmentalists and some of the country's most powerful business organizations over the larger question of global warming.
On Wednesday, the Interior Department filed arguments in federal court defending its decision to classify polar bears as "threatened" rather than "endangered" despite widespread shrinkage of the sea ice that forms the bears' natural habitat.
What makes the issue so sensitive is that, if polar bears received the stricter endangered classification, the Obama administration would be pressured to attack the problem at its source: the petroleum, coal and manufacturing companies that emit the greenhouse gases scientists say are a major factor in climate change. ...
I propose a third category for polar bears: screwed.
Fri, Dec 24, 2010 from New York Times: Climate Change and 'Balanced' Coverage In an article this week on the relentless rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, I outlined one of the canonical projections of climate science: if the amount of carbon dioxide doubles, the average surface temperature of the earth is likely to increase by 5 or 6 degrees Fahrenheit, a whopping change. I contrasted that with a prediction from skeptics of climate change who contend that the increase is likely to be less than 2 degrees.
One major voice on climate science, Richard B. Alley of the Pennsylvania State University, told me he gets annoyed by the way this contrast is often presented in news accounts. The higher estimate is often put forward as a worst case, he pointed out, while the skeptic number is presented as the best case... The true worst case from doubled carbon dioxide is closer to 18 or 20 degrees of warming, Dr. Alley said -- an addition of heat so radical that it would render the planet unrecognizable to its present-day inhabitants. ...
Just when you thought it was safe to slip back into denial.
Thu, Dec 30, 2010 from Guardian: China's green gift to the world In a mostly dismal year for US and international climate policy, China's coal imports are skyrocketing to record levels. The environmental community and policy pundits have rushed to decry this new development, arguing that China's expanding imports undermine global climate efforts, and even that countries should block coal exports to China.
But the conventional wisdom has it backwards. In reality, record Chinese coal imports are better for global CO2 emissions than any climate policy to come out of Washington or the United Nations this year - because they strengthen incentives for the rest of the world to switch to less polluting fuels.... As a result, the entire globe is now rushing to figure out how to sell more coal to China. Environmentalists have balked, suggesting that coal sales to China should be blocked and that China's imports are evidence that it isn't taking real steps to fight global warming.... Because burning natural gas emits roughly half the CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity compared to coal, the possibility of switching to natural gas generation when coal becomes expensive is one of the most significant opportunities to reduce emissions globally. ...
The economics of supply and demand have worked out great for the world so far!
Fri, Dec 31, 2010 from PNAS, via EnvironmentalResearchWeb: Ocean acidification changes nitrogen cycling in world seas Increasing acidity in the sea's waters may fundamentally change how nitrogen is cycled in them, say marine scientists who published their findings in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients in the oceans. All organisms, from tiny microbes to blue whales, use nitrogen to make proteins and other important compounds.
Some microbes can also use different chemical forms of nitrogen as a source of energy.
One of these groups, the ammonia oxidizers, plays a pivotal role in determining which forms of nitrogen are present in the ocean. In turn, they affect the lives of many other marine organisms.... In six experiments spread across two oceans, Beman and colleagues looked at the response of ammonia oxidation rates to ocean acidification.
In every case where the researchers experimentally increased the amount of acidity in ocean waters, ammonia oxidation rates decreased.
These declines were remarkably similar in different regions of the ocean indicating that nitrification rates may decrease globally as the oceans acidify in coming decades, says David Hutchins of the University of Southern California, a co-author of the paper.... As human-derived carbon dioxide permeates the sea, ammonia-oxidizing organisms will be at a significant disadvantage in competing for ammonia.... "What makes ocean acidification such a challenging scientific and societal issue is that we're engaged in a global, unreplicated experiment," says Beman, "one that's difficult to study--and has many unknown consequences." ...
It's not like Neptune would allow this to continue. Nor would Aquaman. Atlantis would rise up!