While they sleepwalk in Warsaw: icebergs calve, emissions climb, “pause” disappears

PIG B31

Warsaw has seen a deluge of important climate-related information released — so much that it’s been difficult to keep up — but still not enough to steel negotiators to reach an equitable arrangement that gives us all a chance at a reasonable future climate. And at the same time, the planet has been sending signals that it’s not happy. The Pine Island glacier has finally calved the giant iceberg that first started to shown signs of cracking away from the ice stream a couple of years ago. Iceberg B-31 has been described as being the size of Singapore (about 700 km2), but isn’t likely to move far from Pine Island Bay in the near future. NASA Earth Observatory coverage here and here; see also Telegraph (UK) and Antarctic Sun.

The Global Carbon Project announced earlier this week that greenhouse gas emissions are projected to reach the highest level in human history this year — 36 billion tonnes. There are some encouraging signs that the rate of growth may be slowing, but nowhere near enough to enable the planet to avoid hitting a two degree rise in the first half of this century. There’s an excellent visualisation of national emissions at the Global Carbon Atlas (and at the Guardian). See also The Age, Think Progress. Continue reading “While they sleepwalk in Warsaw: icebergs calve, emissions climb, “pause” disappears”

Something (early) for the weekend: grim forecast for oceans and the roots of denial

Something of a miscellany today, coupled with an open thread, to keep you going during a brief pause in posting. First up: a study published this week in PLOS Biology looks at changes in ocean chemistry, temperature and primary productivity over the next century under two emissions scenarios, and finds that no corner of the ocean escapes untouched. From Science Daily:

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”

It’s been a productive few weeks for Mora: he was lead author on a recent study1 published in Nature that estimated when climate in different parts of the world would move beyond anything experienced in the last 150 years — have a play with this interactive map to find out when your part of the world will move into the unknown. See also Climate Central, Science Daily, and a huge amount of press coverage.

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New Zealand’s changing climate and oceans: new Gluckman report out today

The Prime Minister’s science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, today released a new report looking at the probable impacts of climate change in New Zealand over the next 40 years. The report, New Zealand’s Changing Climate and Oceans: The impact of human activity
and implications for the future
(pdf) is:

… intended to update the public on current scientific understandings of climate change and ocean acidification. In particular, it focuses on how these changes are likely to affect New Zealand’s climate and industries at a regional level over coming years.

The timing of the report — which appears at first glance to offer a reasonable overview of our current understanding of likely local climate changes — seems a trifle odd. In a matter of months the IPCC will release the first part of its Fifth Report, covering the underlying science, and while we’ll have to wait until March next year for the Working Group 2 report on regional impacts, Gluckman and his team would have had a firmer foundation for their report with only a modest delay.

I’ll be reading the report carefully over the next few days, and will have more to say in due course. I’m particularly interested in exploring how Gluckman approaches the risks associated with local climate changes, and his take on how the wider international context will impact New Zealand.

See also: Peter Griffin, NZ Herald.

The God Species

It’s an arresting title, The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans. For author Mark Lynas the Holocene, the 10,000 year post-ice age era during which human civilisation evolved and flourished, has given way in industrial times to the Anthropocene, an age in which the human population has undergone extraordinary growth, and become totally dominant on the planet. In the process we have interfered in the planet’s great bio-geochemical processes to the extent that we are threatening to endanger the Earth system itself and our own survival. Things are badly askew and we must help Earth to regain stability. It cannot do so alone. “Nature no longer runs the Earth. We do. It is our choice what happens from here.”

Not that Lynas proposes to shoulder nature aside. Far from it. It’s a question of restoring nature’s balance and working within its limits. His book is about the planetary boundaries which must be respected if we are to avoid very serious environmental damage. He aims to communicate to a wide audience the findings of a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists who a couple of years ago identified nine such boundaries and wrote about them in a notable feature in Nature. Along the way he has his own suggestions for tackling the challenges involved and takes issue with other environmentalists over what he considers wrong-headed stances on many issues, including nuclear power and genetic engineering. This aspect of the book is often argumentative, but the central exposition of the planetary boundaries is straight science, set out with the lucidity apparent in his earlier book Six Degrees.

Continue reading “The God Species”

The Climate Show #16: Keith Hunter on oceans, acids and the carbon cycle

We learned a lot this week, as Professor Keith Hunter of the University of Otago, one of the world’s leading ocean chemists, gave us a masterclass on ocean acidification and what it means for the future of the oceans. Plus we discuss Australia’s new carbon tax, green growth campaigns in New Zealand, why China’s aerosols may have been doing us a favour and why cleaning them up might unleash more warming, and climate models having trouble with rapid climate events. On the solutions front we look at a tiny electric aeroplane setting a new speed record and a solar initiative in NZ. No John Cook in this show, but he’ll be back soon.

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