Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arctic Seas Turn to Acid, Putting Vital Food Chain at Risk

With the world's oceans absorbing six million tonnes of carbon a day, a leading oceanographer warns of eco disaster

by Robin McKie For the Guardian/UK

Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an unprecedented rate, scientists have discovered. Research carried out in the archipelago of Svalbard has shown in many regions around the north pole seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. The water will then start to dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish and cause major disruption to the food chain. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.

"This is extremely worrying," Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, told an international oceanography conference last week. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish – like mussels – to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Methane Seeps from Arctic Sea-Bed

By Judith Burns for BBC News

Scientists say they have evidence that the powerful greenhouse gas methane is escaping from the Arctic sea-bed.

Researchers say this could be evidence of a predicted positive feedback effect of climate change.

As temperatures rise, the sea-bed grows warmer and frozen water crystals in the sediment break down, allowing methane trapped inside them to escape.

The research team found that more than 250 plumes of methane bubbles are rising from the sea-bed off Norway.

The joint British and German research team detected the bubbles using a type of sonar normally used to search for shoals of fish. Once detected, the bubbles were sampled and tested for methane at a range of depths.

Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, the team says the methane was rising from an area of sea-bed off West Spitsbergen, from depths between 150m and 400m.

The gas is normally trapped as "methane hydrate" in sediment under the ocean floor

Monday, July 13, 2009

Climate Change 'Will Cause Civilisation to Collapse

By Jonathan Owen for The Independent/UK

Authoritative new study sets out a grim vision of shortages and violence – but amid all the gloom, there is some hope too

An effort on the scale of the Apollo mission that sent men to the Moon is needed if humanity is to have a fighting chance of surviving the ravages of climate change. The stakes are high, as, without sustainable growth, "billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse".

This is the stark warning from the biggest single report to look at the future of the planet - obtained by The Independent on Sunday ahead of its official publication next month. Backed by a diverse range of leading organisations such as Unesco, the World Bank, the US army and the Rockefeller Foundation, the 2009 State of the Future report runs to 6,700 pages and draws on contributions from 2,700 experts around the globe. Its findings are described by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, as providing "invaluable insights into the future for the United Nations, its member states, and civil society"

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Permafrost Melting a Growing Climate Threat

From Reuters

SINGAPORE - The amount of carbon locked away in frozen soils in the far Northern Hemisphere is double previous estimates and rapid melting could accelerate global warming, a study released on Wednesday says.

Large areas of northern Russia, Canada, Nordic countries and the U.S. state of Alaska have deep layers of frozen soil near the surface called permafrost.

Global warming has already triggered rapid melting of the permafrost in some areas, releasing powerful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

As the world gets warmer, more of these gases are predicted to be released and could trigger a tipping point in which huge amounts of the gases flood the atmosphere, rapidly driving up temperatures, scientists say.

"Massive amounts of carbon stored in frozen soils at high latitudes are increasingly vulnerable to exposure to the atmosphere," said Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project at Australia's state-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

"The research shows that the amount of carbon stored in soils surrounding the North Pole has been hugely underestimated."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Friends of the Earth Urges NO on Climate Bill

by Stacy Morford for Solve

The House climate bill took another hit this week as Rep. Henry Waxman made further concessions, this time to farm-state Democrats, to ensure the bill's safe passage on Friday. Even weakened, though, the bill continued to draw support from most of the big environmental organizations.

Except for Friends of the Earth. The organization is going it alone with an ad campaign and request to its members to demand better legislation from Congress. FOE President Brent Blackwelder is publicly urging Congress to either substantially strengthen the bill or vote no.

"This exercise in politics as usual is a wholly unacceptable response to one of the greatest challenges of our time, and it endangers the welfare of current and future generations. ... If the ‘political reality' at present cannot accommodate stronger legislation, their first task must be to expand what is politically possible-not to pass a counterproductive bill."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Water Stress, Ocean Levels to Unleash 'Climate Exodus'

From Agence France Presse

BONN, Germany - Tens of millions of people will be displaced by
climate change in coming years, posing social, political and security
problems of an unprecedented dimension, a new study said on Wednesday.

aggressive measures are taken to halt global warming, the consequences
for human migration and displacement could reach a scope and scale that
vastly exceed anything that has occurred before," its authors warned.

"Climate change is already contributing to migration and displacement.

major estimates project that the trend will rise to tens of millions of
migrants in coming years. Within the next few decades, the consequences
of climate change for human security efforts could be devastating."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Global Warming Causes 300,000 Deaths a Year, Says Kofi Annan thinktank

By John Vidal for the Guardian/UK

Climate change is greatest humanitarian challenge facing the world as heatwaves, floods and forest fires become more severe.
Global Warming is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and
is affecting 300m people, according to the first comprehensive study of
the human impact of global warming.
[A family wades through flood waters to catch a relief boat, north-east of Patna, India. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP]A family wades through flood waters to catch a relief boat, north-east of Patna, India. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP
projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest
fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030,
making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces.

Economic losses due to climate change today amount to more than $125bn
a year - more than the all present world aid. The report comes from
former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's thinktank, the Global
Humanitarian Forum. By 2030, the report says, climate change could cost
$600bn a year.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

US Climate Bill Falls Short


WASHINGTON - A drastically weakened U.S. climate bill released
Monday favors polluting industries over truly sustainable clean energy
solutions, argues Daphne Wysham, director of a sustainable energy and
economy think tank.

What's the Story?

"Right out of
the starting gate, the [American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009]
provides a ridiculous number of giveaways to industry," writes Wysham,
Institute for Policy Studies fellow and director of the Sustainable
Energy & Economy Network.

Specifically, 85 percent or more of
pollution permits would be given free of cost to the electricity
sector, leaving low- to moderate-income families vulnerable to
inevitable energy price hikes.

The bill would also create the
largest market for carbon emissions in the world. This will enable
industries that pollute above permitted emissions levels to buy carbon
credits from companies that pollute below these levels. However, "the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) claims it's virtually impossible
to verify whether carbon offsets represent real emissions reductions,"
notes Wysham.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Climate Chaos Predicted by CO2 Study

World will have exceeded 2050 safe carbon emissions limit by 2020, scientists say

by Steve Connor for The Independent/UK

The world will overshoot its long-term target on greenhouse gasemissions within two decades. A study has found that the average global temperature will rise above the threshold that could cause dangerous climate change during that time.

[(photo: Greenpeace)](photo: Greenpeace)
Scientists have calculated that the world has already produced about a third of
the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that could be emitted between
2000 and 2050 and still keep within a C rise in global average temperatures.

At the current rate at which CO2 is emitted
globally - which is increasing by 3 per cent a year - countries will have exceeded their total limit of 1,000 billion tons within 20 years,
which would be about 20 years earlier than planned under international obligations. "If we continue burning fossil fuels as we do, we will
have exhausted the carbon budget in merely 20 years, and global warming
will go well beyond C," said Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute
for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who led the study, published in

"Substantial reductions in global emissions have to begin soon - before 2020. If we wait longer, the required phase-out of carbon emissions will involve tremendous economic costs and technological challenges. We should not forget that a C global mean warming would
take us far beyond the variations that Earth has experienced since we humans have been around."

It is the first time scientists have calculated accurately the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be released into the atmosphere between 2000 and 2050 and still have a
reasonable chance of avoiding temperature rises higher than C above pre-industrial levels - widely viewed as a "safe" threshold.

The scientists found the total amount of greenhouse gases that could be
released over this time would be equivalent to 1,000 billion tons of
CO2. This is equivalent to using up about 25 per cent of known reserves
of oil, gas and coal, said Bill Hare, a co-author of the study.

The study concluded that the world must agree on a cut in carbon dioxide
emissions of more than 50 per cent by 2050 if the probability of
exceeding a C rise in average temperatures is to be limited to a risk
of 1 in 4.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Climate Change Hitting Entire Arctic Ecosystem

By John Vidal for The Guardian/UK

Extensive climate change is now affecting every form of life in the Arctic, according to a major new assessment by international polar scientists.

In the past four years, air temperatures have increased, sea ice has
declined sharply, surface waters in the Arctic ocean have warmed and
permafrost is in some areas rapidly thawing.

In addition, says the report released today at a Norwegian government seminar, plants and trees are growing more vigorously, snow cover is decreasing 1-2% a year and glaciers are shrinking.

Scientists from Norway, Canada, Russia and the US contributed to the Arctic monitoring and assessment programme (Amap) study, which says new factors such as "black carbon" - soot -
ozone and methane may now be contributing to global and arctic warming as much as carbon dioxide.

"Black carbon and ozone in particular have a strong seasonal pattern that makes their impacts particularly important in the Arctic," it says.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Experts say meeting Global warming goals is unlikely

From Reuters

OSLO/BONN - Global warming is likely to overshoot a 2 degrees

Celsius (3.6 F) rise seen by the European Union and many developing
nations as a trigger for "dangerous" change, a Reuters poll of
scientists showed on Tuesday.

[A mountain is reflected in a bay that used to be covered by the Sheldon glacier on the Antarctic peninsula, January 14, 2009, file photo. The glacier has shrunk by about 2 km since 1989, probably because of global warming. (REUTERS/Alister Doyle)]A
mountain is reflected in a bay that used to be covered by the Sheldon
glacier on the Antarctic peninsula, January 14, 2009, file photo. The
glacier has shrunk by about 2 km since 1989, probably because of global
warming. (REUTERS/Alister Doyle)
Nine of 11 experts, who were
among authors of the final summary by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change in 2007 (IPCC), also said the evidence that
mankind was to blame for climate change had grown stronger in the past
two years.

Giving personal views of recent research, most
projected on average a faster melt of summer ice in the Arctic and a
quicker rise in sea levels than estimated in the 2007 report, the most
authoritative overview to date drawing on work by 2,500 experts.

lot of the impacts we're seeing are running ahead of our expectations,"
said William Hare of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

of 11 experts said it was at best "unlikely" -- or less than a
one-third chance -- that the world would manage to limit warming to a 2
degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) rise above pre-industrial levels.

it can be done. But it's unlikely given the level of political will,"
said Salemeel Huq at the International Institute for Environment and
Development in London.

And David Karoly, of the University of Melbourne, said the world was "very unlikely" to reach the goal.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Latest Climate Science Underscores Urgent Need to Reduce Heat-trapping Emissions

From Union of Concerned Scientists

There's a downloadable pdf version on the site.

publication of the comprehensive 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Recent publications indicate that the consequences of climate change
are already occurring at a faster pace and are of greater magnitude
than the climate models used by the IPCC projected. A few of the most
compelling findings are summarized below.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stern attacks politicians over climate 'devastation'

By David Adam for the Guardian

Politicians have failed to take on board the severe consequences of failing to cut world carbon emissions, according to Nicholas Stern, the economist commissioned by Gordon Brown to analyse the impact of climate change.

His stark warning about the potentially "devastating" consequences of
global warming came as scientists issued a desperate plea last night
for world leaders to curb greenhouse gas emissions or face an
ecological and social disaster.

More than 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries at an emergency summit in Copenhagen said there is now "no excuse" for failing to act on global warming. A failure to
agree strong carbon reduction targets at political negotiations this
year could bring "abrupt or irreversible" shifts in climate that "will
be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Carbon Emissions Creating Acidic Oceans Not Seen Since Dinosaurs

By David Abram for The Guardian/UK

Chemical change placing 'unprecedented' pressure on marine life and could cause widespread extinctions, warn scientists

Human pollution is turning the seas into acid so quickly that the
coming decades will recreate conditions not seen on Earth since the
time of the dinosaurs, scientists will warn today.
[A gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) at the Ojo de Liebre in the Baja California peninsula (Photograph: ALEJANDRO ZEPEDA/EPA)]A gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) at the Ojo de Liebre in the Baja California peninsula (Photograph: ALEJANDRO ZEPEDA/EPA)

The rapid acidification is caused by the massive amounts of carbon dioxide
belched from chimneys and exhausts that dissolve in the ocean. The chemical change is placing "unprecedented" pressure on marine life such as shellfish and lobsters and could cause widespread extinctions, the experts say.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scientists Find Bigger than Expected Polar Ice Melt

From Agence France Presse

GENEVA - Icecaps around the North and South Poles are melting faster and in a more widespread manner than expected, raising sea levels and fuelling climate change, a major scientific survey showed Wednesday.

The International Polar Year survey found that warming in the Antarctic is "much more widespread than was thought," while Arctic sea ice is diminishing and the melting of Greenland's ice cover is accelerating.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mass Migrations and War: Dire Climate Scenario

by Charles J. Hanley for AP

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - If we don't deal with climate changedecisively, "what we're talking about then is extended world war," theeminent economist said.

His audience Saturday, small and elite,had been stranded here by bad weather and were talking climate. Theycouldn't do much about the one, but the other was squarely in their hands. And so, Lord Nicholas Stern was telling them, was the potential for mass migrations setting off mass conflict.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Global warming seen worse than predicted

By Julie Steenhuysen for Reuters

(CHICAGO (Reuters) - The climate is heating up far faster than scientists had predicted, spurred by sharp increases in greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries like China and India, a top climate scientist said on Saturday.

"The consequence of that is we are basically looking now at a future climate that is beyond anything that we've considered seriously," Chris Field, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Field said "the actual trajectory of climate change is more serious" than any of the climate predictions in the IPCC's fourth assessment report called "Climate Change 2007."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Parched: Australia Faces Collapse as Climate Change Kicks In

by Geoffrey Lean and Kathy Marks for The Independent/UK

Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave.

On Friday, Melbourne thermometers topped 43C (109.4F) on a third successive day for the first time on record, while even normally mild Tasmania suffered its second-hottest day in a row, as temperatures reached 42.2C. Two days before, Adelaide hit a staggering 45.6C. After a weekend respite, more records are expected to be broken this week.

Ministers are blaming the heat - which follows a record drought - on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change.

At times last week it seemed as if that was happening already. Chaos ruled in Melbourne on Friday after an electricity substation exploded, shutting down the city's entire train service, trapping people in lifts, and blocking roads as traffic lights failed. Half a million homes and businesses were blacked out, and patients were turned away from hospitals.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Climate Change Killing America's Trees at Ever Faster Rates

By Michael Wald for Wired

Trees in western North America are dying at faster and faster rates, and climate change is likely to blame.

The mounting deaths could fundamentally transform Western forests because tree reproduction hasn’t increased to offset losses, according to a new study published Thursday in Science. And new seedlings aren’t rising quickly enough to fill the gaps.

“If current trends continue, forests will become sparser over time,” co-author Philip van Mantgem, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a press conference call. This would be a setback in the fight against global warming because thinner forests with small, young trees store less carbon, so more heat-trapping carbon dioxide would cycle into the atmosphere.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

International Energy Agency 'Blocking Global Switch to Renewables'

By David Adam for the Guardian/UK

The international body that advises most major governments across the world on energy policy is obstructing a global switch to renewable power because of its ties to the oil, gas and nuclear sectors, a group of politicians and scientists claims today.

The experts, from the Energy Watch group, say the International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes misleading data on renewables, and that it has consistently underestimated the amount of electricity generated by wind power in its advice to governments. They say the IEA shows "ignorance and contempt" towards wind energy, while promoting oil, coal and nuclear as "irreplaceable" technologies.

In a report to be published today, the Energy Watch experts say wind-power capacity has rocketed since the early 90s and that if current trends continue, wind and solar power-generation combined are on track to match conventional generation by 2025.

Rudolf Rechsteiner, a member of the Swiss parliament who sits on its energy and environment committee, and wrote today's report, said the IEA suffered from "institutional blindness" on renewable energy. He said: "They are delaying the change to a renewable world. They continue touting nuclear and carbon-capture-and-storage, classical central solutions, instead of a more neutral approach, which would favour new solutions."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Climate Change Policies Failing, NASA Scientist Warns Obama

by James Randerson
Published on Thursday, January 1, 2009 by the Guardian/UK

Current approaches to deal with climate change are ineffectual, one of the world's top climate scientists said today in a personal new year appeal to Barack Obama and his wife Michelle on the urgent need to tackle global warming.

With less than three weeks to go until Obama's inauguration, Prof James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, asked the recently appointed White House science adviser Prof John Holdren to pass the missive directly to the president-elect.

James Hansen sent an open letter to Barack Obama's science adviser.
Obama spoke repeatedly during his campaign about the need to tackle climate change, and environmentalists fervently hope he will live up to his promises to pursue green policies.