just posted a shiny new climate widget. check it out!
This is a true game-changer. The arctic is doomed.
The voyage highlights how China, the world’s no.2 economy, is extending its reach to the Arctic which is rich in oil and gas and is a potential commercial shipping route between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland this week after sailing the Northern Route along the coast of Russia.
Expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route at this time of year than the vessel encountered.
“To our astonishment … most part of the Northern Sea Route is open,” he told Reuters TV. The icebreaker would return to China by a route closer to the North Pole.
He said that Beijing was interested in the “monumental change” in the polar environment caused by global warming.
What I'm reading right now: reasons why ocean acidification is scary and why the US government should allocate more funds to studying it will affect us in the (near) future.
Click the link to download the paper (PDF) for free!
The study in this article “… suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.”
Adapted from The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It, by Fred Guterl (Bloomsbury USA, 2012).
The eminent British scientist James Lovelock, back in the 1970s, formulated his theory of Gaia, which held that the Earth was a kind of super organism. It had a self-regulating quality that would keep everything within that narrow band that made life possible. If things got too warm or too cold—if sunlight varied, or volcanoes caused a fall in temperatures, and so forth—Gaia would eventually compensate. This was a comforting notion. It was also wrong, as Lovelock himself later concluded. “I have to tell you, as members of the Earth’s family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilization are in grave danger,”he wrote in the Independent in 2006.
The world has warmed since those heady days of Gaia, and scientists have grown gloomier in their assessment of the state of the world’s climate. NASA climate scientist James Hanson has warned of a “Venus effect,” in which runaway warming turns Earth into an uninhabitable desert, with a surface temperature high enough to melt lead, sometime in the next few centuries. Even Hanson, though, is beginning to look downright optimistic compared to a new crop of climate scientists, who fret that things could head south as quickly as a handful of years, or even months, if we’re particularly unlucky. Ironically, some of them are intellectual offspring of Lovelock, the original optimist gone sour.
The true gloomsters are scientists who look at climate through the lens of “dynamical systems,” a mathematics that describes things that tend to change suddenly and are difficult to predict. It is the mathematics of the tipping point—the moment at which a “system” that has been changing slowly and predictably will suddenly “flip.” The colloquial example is the straw that breaks that camel’s back. Or you can also think of it as a ship that is stable until it tips too far in one direction and then capsizes. In this view, Earth’s climate is, or could soon be, ready to capsize, causing sudden, perhaps catastrophic, changes. And once it capsizes, it could be next to impossible to right it again.
The idea that climate behaves like a dynamical system addresses some of the key shortcomings of the conventional view of climate change—the view that looks at the planet as a whole, in terms of averages. A dynamical systems approach, by contrast, consider climate as a sum of many different parts, each with its own properties, all of them interdependent in ways that are hard to predict.
One of the most productive scientists in applying dynamical systems theory to climate is Tim Lenton at the University of East Anglia in England. Lenton is a Lovelockian two generations removed— his mentors were mentored by Lovelock. “We are looking quite hard at past data and observational data that can tell us something,” says Lenton. “Classical case studies in which you’ve seen abrupt changes in climate data. For example, in the Greenland ice-core records, you’re seeing climate jump. And the end of the Younger Dryas,” about fifteen thousand years ago, “you get a striking climate change.” So far, he says, nobody has found a big reason for such an abrupt change in these past events—no meteorite or volcano or other event that is an obvious cause—which suggests that perhaps something about the way these climate shifts occur simply makes them sudden.
Lenton is mainly interested in the future. He has tried to look for things that could possibly change suddenly and drastically even though nothing obvious may trigger them. He’s come up with a short list of nine tipping points—nine weather systems, regional in scope, that could make a rapid transition from one state to another.
If you’ve got about 10 minutes, read more of this excerpt that details these nine tipping points. It is an engrossing and disturbing read.
AGU Responds to Op-Ed entitled "No Need to Panic About Global Warming", published by the WSJ, 27 January 2012 | AGU News
I read the original article, tried not to lose my cool, and failed miserably.
…really, WSJ, really?
As a possible 2012 farm bill looms, the agriculture committee leaders and their industrial agriculture lobby remoras are sorting through the smoking ruins of the 2011 secret farm bill process. They hope to come up with a unified position from which to begin deliberations on a new farm bill. Sadly, one thing they’ve all agreed to cut is 7 million acres from the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and pays farmers to keep highly erodible land out of production.
While many recognize that putting land into conservation programs leads to cleaner water, healthier soil and robust wildlife habitat, few realize that CRP land also plays a major role in fighting climate change. According to the USDA, one acre of protected land sequesters 1.66 metric tons of carbon every year, carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. The 7 million acres about to be cut from the Conservation Reserve Program have been putting 11.6 million metric tons of carbon into the soil every year.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that this amount of carbon is equivalent to the annual emissions of 2 million passenger vehicles. All that stored carbon will be sent back into the atmosphere if those 7 million acres are plowed under to plant more industrial-scale corn for ethanol and livestock feed.
As NASA writes: “In mid-March 2011 MLS measured very low ozone amounts (purple and grey colors over the north polar region) at an altitude of approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers). Large amounts of chlorine monoxide - the primary agent of chemical ozone destruction in the cold polar lower stratosphere - were observed for the same day and same altitude (dark blue colors). The white line marks the area within which the chemical ozone destruction took place.”
Here’s a short (but rather technical) summary of the article:
It has been proposed that changes in global climate have been responsible for episodes of widespread violence and even the collapse of civilizations1, 2. Yet previous studies have not shown that violence can be attributed to the global climate, only that random weather events might be correlated with conflict in some cases3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Here we directly associate planetary-scale climate changes with global patterns of civil conflict by examining the dominant interannual mode of the modern climate8, 9, 10, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Historians have argued that ENSO may have driven global patterns of civil conflict in the distant past11, 12, 13, a hypothesis that we extend to the modern era and test quantitatively. Using data from 1950 to 2004, we show that the probability of new civil conflicts arising throughout the tropics doubles during El Niño years relative to La Niña years. This result, which indicates that ENSO may have had a role in 21% of all civil conflicts since 1950, is the first demonstration that the stability of modern societies relates strongly to the global climate.
Why the tattoo? Ensō also means ‘circle’ in Japanese and is an important symbol within Zen Buddhism.
Climate change-causing lunar volcanoes? Hmm.