Search Results for Tag: Climate
Are we taking too big a risk?
A few more facts about the iron fertilization idea. Why am I talking about this now? It’s not new, but the increasing concern about the urgency of combatting climate change and the fact that this large-scale experiment is underway in nature, with as yet unresearched possible consequences, make this a good time to take a closer look.
First a bit more background:
Scientists believe “fertilizing” the ocean surface with trace amounts of iron will lead to blooms of phytoplankton, which soak up carbon dioxide in the marine plants. When the phytoplankton die, they sink to the depths of the ocean, with the carbon safely “locked” inside their cells, potentially storing it for decades or centuries in sediments on the ocean floor.
The trouble is we don’t know exactly how much carbon can be captured and stored this way, for how long, or, more crucially, what it means for the ecosystems of the ocean. This is being referred to as “geo-engineering” and sometimes seems to be taking us into the realms of science fiction stories. What does it mean for the species in the ocean, ocean acidity or the level of oxygen in the water?
Some scientists even fear it could lead to the release of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas.
Interest in ocean fertilization is not driven by purely scientific or altruistic considerations. There is a commercial interest. Private companies have been working on the idea, because carbon credits can be sold.
It’s interesting that there is not a lot of big media coverage of it. The British Mail on Sunday did have a full page on it earlier this month. It outlines the questions – how much algae will sink to the bottom of the ocean, “safely” trapping Co2, and how long will it stay there? It also draws attention to the findings of a British scientist team that tiny particles of iron are released naturally into the sea, in the Southern Ocean, when icebergs melt. This proof that iron is occurring naturally in the region is, according to the paper, what led to the UN giving permission to move ahead with the experiment.
“Will green algae save the world from global warming?”
Nevertheless, the planned experiment is relatively large in scale and expected to produce a green algae bloom visible from space. Sceptical scientists say the negative effects may not become obvious until it’s too late to do anything about it.
More background on the Treehugger website
DateJanuary 13, 2009 | 9:47 am
Tagsalgae, Arctic, AWI, Biodiversity, Carbon, Climate, geoengineering, India, ocean, Treehugger
New Deal for the climate?
I’ve just been reading an interview with the UK premier Gordon Brown in the Observer. Like Barack Obama, he’s planning to “do a Roosevelt” with a “new deal” programme to tackle the ecomomic crisis.And Brown too is planning to include alternative energies and other climate-related projects.He is proclaiming a “historic opportunity” to reach a new international agreement on climate change. I’m sure the opportunity is there. The question is whether the industrialised countries can grasp it and come up with solutions to get India and China on board by the end of the year to come up with an effective post-Kyoto.I’m also sure Brown and Obama are right when they say fighting the recession will not come at the cost of the climate, but that the environment is part of the solution.
Every crisis also opens up some opportunities. Perversely, the economic crisis could help solve the climate one. There’s plenty of scope for investing in – and ultimately making profit from- climate-saving measures. And at the risk of encouraging the old cliche about the “canny” Scots, I have to agree with my countryman GB (great initials for a British pm) that money is probably the key here.(As with most issues in our society, I fear). Financial incentives tend to motivate more people than the urge to save the planet for future generations. High petrol prices made people think about driving less or changing their cars, not saving the environment. So more power (preferably renewable) to the “green deals”.
DateJanuary 5, 2009 | 7:40 am
Heading for 2009 – one of the warmest years ever?
British climate scientists are predicting 2009 will be one of the five warmest years on record. Exactly what that means is a complicated business and, of course, all part of some longer-term calculations. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s a worrying forecast and the climate data available does not make me optimistic at the end of this 2008.
Reuters summary of the forecast
In the part of Germany where I live, it has actually turned very cold over the past few days, with temperatures down to minus 10C at night. Where does that leave us with global warming, asks Christopher B. in his comment. Indeed I have heard some sceptical neighbours say “so much for global warming”. The trouble is we would like to be able to understand everything instantly and draw immediate conclusions from what we experience. And with global climate patterns, that is just not possible and we need a really long-term view. Yes, it can be colder locally and still getting warmer overall. And as a planet, we are not doing anything like enough to avert potentially catastrophic warming.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend on a winter hike in the “Eifel” region, about a prediction on the radio the other day that the Arctic was melting much faster than expected, and a reminder that if the Greenland ice sheet melts, sea levels will rise by up to 7 metres. (I’d like to give you a link to the report we heard, but am having trouble locating it on the websites where I’d expect to find it. Strange how some worrying reports just come on a couple of time then seem to disappear.)
Anyway, I was surprised when “Siggi”, who is normally quite critical of industry, said at least the German car-makers were putting an effort into developing smaller cars that use less fuel. Now this is not what German cars are generally known for, and it seems to me they have a long way to go. But compared to the US car market, we are exemplary, Siggi pointed out. Well, everything is relative. Normally, I am more inclined to the glass being “half-full” than “half-empty” approach.
But just because another country, continent, region, sector, is even worse than we are – that doesn’t make us good. Does it?
DateDecember 31, 2008 | 2:06 pm
A PS to that White Christmas bit…
I just came across a story by Reuters that quotes scientists who say the odds of a “white Christmas” in temperate parts of the northern hemisphere have diminished in the last century because of climate change and will likely decline further by 2100.
It seems the probability of snow on the ground for Christmas is already lower than it was just 50 years ago.
Even a northern city like Oslo in Norway will rarely have a Bing-Crosby-style “White Christmas” in the decades ahead.
But Reuters also quoes a climatologist from the German Weather Service,Gerhard Mueller-Westermeier,as pointing out that there are some areas in temperate zones that will have snow, for instance higher areas like the Alps. And it seems Munich is the city to go for a fair chance of a white Christmas – even in a warming world.
DateDecember 23, 2008 | 1:02 pm
White Christmas Musings
I took this photo in the Black Forest just under two weeks ago. There has been a fair bit of snow on higher ground in some areas of Germany.
But right now, Christmas is right around the corner and it’s grey and very mild here in Bonn on the banks of the Rhine. Yesterday, the days started to get longer again. But I can’t say it’s noticeable in this kind of weather. I have a Danish colleague, and her joke this morning was that climate change was making Germany feel like it was north of the polar circle – as far as the lack of light in winter is concerned! Temperature-wise, it seems to be doing the opposite. There’s far too much fresh green in the garden for December in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, my friend in Seattle enjoyed an unusual fall of snow.I wonder if all the people in those parts of the US struggling against extreme cold and heavy snowfall still play “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”? Somehow I doubt it. If any of you are reading this, drop me a mail or put in a comment with your views. Somehow people are reluctant to enter public comments on weblogs, but I’m glad you still send mails.
Helen in Perth, Australia, has asked when the Ice Blogger will be out on the trail again. Still working on the travel plans, Helen, but as our IPY project is still running, there will be more blog entries from icy areas in the course of 2009.
There will be an important Arctic conference in Tromsö, Norway in January: Arctic Frontiers. The organisation has an interesting website:
Website for the Arctic Frontiers network
All eyes will be turned to the USA in the New Year with Barack Obama taking office. It looks as if there’s reason to hope for a major turnaround in US climate policy.
IPS Earth Alert on Scientists in new US administration
If you have time to listen to a half-hour of radio feature over the festive period, you can hear the long version of this year’s original Ice Blog trip to Arctic Alaska with the Climate Change College.
Unbaking Alaska on Deutsche Welle’s Living Planet
Happy Christmas when it comes!
DateDecember 23, 2008 | 9:30 am
TagsAlaska, Climate, Living Planet, USA, weather