Climate Change

Exxon: What did they know and when did they know it?

Did Exxon, over 30 years ago, recognize that the burning of fossil fuels would increase atmospheric CO2 and warm the planet? Take a careful look at the graph above from an Exxon research study published in 1981 and recently posted by CleanTechnica. As you can see, Exxon scientist noted the range of global temperatures due to “natural fluctuations” would remain level beyond 2100. However, they discovered that continued release of CO2 into the atmosphere would warm the planet much above the normal historical baseline.

Instead of acting on their results and investigating alternative energy sources, Exxon began denying humans were warming the planet and obstructed corrective measures. As reported by The Guardian:

Exxon channeled about $30m to researchers and activist groups promoting disinformation about global warming over the years, according to a tally kept by the campaign group Greenpeace. But the oil company pledged to stop such funding in 2007, in response to pressure from shareholder activists.

Despite the pledge, ExxonMobile (Exxon & Mobil merged in 1999), continued their obstruction and “gave more than $2.3m to members of Congress and a corporate lobbying group that deny climate change and block efforts to fight climate change – eight years after pledging to stop its funding of climate denial.”

Pope Francis at UN: Harm to the environment is harm to humanity

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

"First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity."

Source: Full text of Pope Francis’ speech to United Nations

Geoengineering: Holding off Disaster

A new study published in Nature finds the globe will be enterring "unprecedented climates" within a few decades.  In an article in New Scientist, Michael Marshall writes on geoengineering as the means to avoid this fate: 

"THIS is how we will hold off disaster. To help us avoid dangerous climate change, we will need to create the largest industry in history: to suck greenhouse gases out of the air on a giant scale. For the first time, we can sketch out this future industry – known as geoengineering – and identify where it would operate."

Terraforming Earth: Geoengineering megaplan starts now

"Unprecedented Climates"

I am sure there is good news somewhere, but this isn’t it. According to a new study in Nature, we are heading into “unprecedented climates.”

Regarding the findings of the study, John Roach of NBC News writes:

“The world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn't far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.”

And, just in case the message has not sunk in:

“The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.”

We will need drastic measures for drastic times.

Adults Only: Ocean Health

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"We know the oceans are warming. We know they are acidifying. And now, to cap it all, it turns out they are suffocating, too."

This reality is hard to share with children. On the other hand, since adults have been ineffective in stemming ocean warming and acidification - and are just now learning about ocean suffocation - maybe it's the children who will rise up and change the oceans destinies. 

Learn more

New Scientist: The oceans are heating, acidifying and choking

Related Posts

Good News on Global Surface Temperatures

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"While the climate models are accurate at least back to 1880, we are currently experiencing global surface temperatures less than predicted. Whether this is due to “a combination of more heat going into the deep oceans and downturns in multi-decadal cycles in global temperature” is unknown. Nevertheless, it is good news."

Source:Examining the Recent Slow-Down in Global Warming

Quote: Immigration from Pacific Island nations

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There's an exodus underway from Pacific Island nations to America, one driven by multiple factors, according to island leaders and migrants. People relocating to Hawaii and other states say they've come for better jobs and health care. But there's also a less recognized but unmistakable contributor, Deeley explained: climate change.

"We can no longer find enough fish to feed our families. We're no longer able to secure enough fresh water like we were before."

As Pacific Islands Flood, A Climate-Driven Exodus Grows

Related Post

Movie Preview: Chasing Ice

Acclaimed photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world'schanging glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.

Google

Did the Roman Empire & the Han Dynasty begin the Anthropocene?

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Roman sarcophagus with battle scene, Dallas Museum of Art. Source: WikimediaThe Anthropocene, a newly defined "informal" geological era, marks the timeframe in which humankind’s planetary impact has been so intense we alter Earth’s geology. But when did Anthropocene begin?

While some favor the Industrial Revolution as the start of the Anthropocene, I side with those arguing for an onset 8,000 to 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture. Now there is new evidence that greenhouse gasses - particularly the potent greenhouse gas methane - took a jump during the Roman empire and Han Dynasty in China which pushes the onset of the Anthropocene to at least 2,000 years ago.

In a study published October 4, 2012 of Nature, C. J. Sapart and colleagues looked at the “Natural and anthropogenic variations in methane sources during the past two millennia.” According to Richard Ingham of AFP, the research found “humans were big emitters of greenhouse gases long before the Industrial Revolution.”

For 1,800 years before industrialisation took off in the 19th century, emissions of methane rose in line with expanding populations, human conquest and agricultural techniques.

Big early increases coincided with the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and the Roman empire (27 BC to the last western emperor in 476 AD), which along with an advanced Indian civilisation at the time chopped down millions of trees to heat homes and power their metal-working industries, often to provide weapons.

Humankind added approximately 28 billion tonnes of methane to the atmosphere per year between 100 BC and 1600 AD through fires, deforestation, and rice paddies. And, according to the study:

Based on archaeological metal production estimates, we calculate that the charcoal used for metal production at the peak of the Roman empire alone could have produced 0.65 teragrams (650 million tonnes) per year of methane. 

More on the Anthropocene:

Skiing in a Warming Climate

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Greater increase in winter temperatures in Northeast, Midwest and down to Texas, and parts of the Mountain West. Source: NRDC

This year’s skiing season has gotten off to a worrisome start. According to Bob Berwyn of the Summit County Voice:

With the state’s major ski resorts struggling to open just minimal amounts of terrain in time for the busy Christmas holiday season, two University of New Hampshire researchers estimate that the $12.2 billion industry has already suffered a $1 billion loss and dropped up to 27,000 jobs due to diminished snow fall patterns and the resulting changes in the outdoor habits of Americans.

Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times reports that ski centers at “the lower elevations and latitudes” will likely close as the climate warms:

Whether this winter turns out to be warm or cold, scientists say that climate change means the long-term outlook for skiers everywhere is bleak. The threat of global warming hangs over almost every resort, from Sugarloaf in Maine to Squaw Valley in California. As temperatures rise, analysts predict that scores of the nation’s ski centers, especially those at lower elevations and latitudes, will eventually vanish.

Under certain warming forecasts, more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will not be able to maintain a 100-day season by 2039, according to a study to be published next year by Daniel Scott, director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

The percentage of ski resorts in the Northeast predicted to be viable by 2039:

  • Connecticut – 0%
  • Massachusetts – 0%
  • New York - 25%
  • New Hampshire - 39%
  • Maine - 57%

What about the Rockies? According to Seelye's article, “Park City, Utah, could lose all of its snowpack” by end of the century and the snowpack in Aspen, Colorado  “could be confined to the top quarter of the mountain." 

Will artificial snow rescue the ski mountains? In view of the predicted water shortages in the West, this is of doubtful economic feasibility.  Seelye writes: “After last year’s dry winter and a parched, sweltering summer, reservoirs are depleted, streams are low, and snowpack levels stand at 41 percent of their historical average.”

"Skiing Sunday was grand." However, this skiing season is not over. John Meyer, of The Denver Post, had a "grand" experience at Winter Park last Sunday when:

Colorado ski areas were blessed with a nice storm — 14 inches at Winter Park, for example. So I went back to Jones Pass on Sunday, hoping conditions were adequate at last. It was more than adequate. I was blessed with one of my most enjoyable backcountry experiences ever.

Trees on the edge

Seventy percent of the 226 tree species in forests around the world routinely function near the point where a serious drought would stop water transport from their roots to their leaves, says plant physiologist Brendan Choat of the University of Western Sydney in Richmond, Australia. Trees even in moist, lush places operate with only a slim safety margin between them and a thirsty death.

Trees worldwide a sip away from dehydration
ScienceNews 

3 Takes on the changing climate

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Last month’s “weather event” should have taught us that. Whether in 50 or 100 or 200 years, there’s a good chance that New York City will sink beneath the sea. But if there are no patterns, it means that nothing is inevitable either. History offers less dire scenarios: the city could move to another island, the way Torcello was moved to Venice, stone by stone, after the lagoon turned into a swamp and its citizens succumbed to a plague of malaria. The city managed to survive, if not where it had begun. Perhaps the day will come when skyscrapers rise out of downtown Scarsdale.

Is This the End?

The New York Times 

Arctic Sea Ice: Who is right about the Northwest Passage?

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You’ve probably seen the recent headlines announcing that Arctic sea ice reached a record low this September and the fabled Northwest Passage has been opened to shipping the past five summers. According to Climate Progress:

And, for the fifth consecutive year–and fifth time in recorded history — ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route.)

So, when was the last time the Northwest Passage was open? On this there are divergent views. Meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder the Weather Underground, writes inClimate Progress:

We can be confident that the Arctic did not see the kind of melting observed in 2012 going back over a century, as we have detailed ice edge records from ships (Walsh and Chapman, 2001). It is very unlikely the Northwest Passage was open between 1497 and 1900, since this spanned a cold period in the northern latitudes known as “The Little Ice Age”. Ships periodically attempted the Passage and were foiled during this period. Research by Kinnard et al. (2011) shows that the Arctic ice melt in the past few decades is unprecedented for at least the past 1,450 years. (emphasis added)

It is interesting the timeframe is cut off at 1900. According to Larry Bell, founder and director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and author of Climate of Corruption, just 3 years later, historical records suggest the Passage may have been open. Writing about Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen:

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In diary entries he wrote in 1903, sailor Ronald Amundsen reported his experience on board a ship in those waters: “The Northwest Passage was done [had opened]. My boyhood dream – at the moment it was accomplished. A strange feeling welled up in my throat; I was somewhat over-strained and worn – it was a weakness in me – but I felt tears in my eyes. Vessel in sight . . . Vessel in sight.”

Then, around mid-century:

During the early 1940’s a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) schooner assigned to Arctic patrol made regular trips through the Northwest Passage. And in 2000, that is to say, 7 years before the first-ever satellite records), another RCMP patrol vessel was renamed the St. Roch II and recreated the voyage, making the crossing in only three weeks. The crew reported seeing very little ice except for the occasional icebergs they passed. 

In view of the recent dramatic reduction in Arctic ice this summer, Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, is likely correct: “We are now in uncharted territory.” However, leaving out references to the times in when the Northwest Passage may have been, or was open, you avoid the appearance of presenting only information that supports one point of view.

There is also a discrepancy regarding the year satellite records of Arctic sea ice became available. Here Bell seems to be significantly off on his dates.

If you have additional information or thoughts on issues above and the recent reduction in Arctic sea ice, please submit your comments. 

Extreme weather: Climate on steroids

"Picture a baseball player on steroids," Meehl goes on. "This baseball player steps up to the plates and hits a home run. It's impossible to say if he hit that home run because of the steroids, or whether he would have hit it anyway. The drugs just made it more likely."

It's the same with the weather, Meehl says. Greenhouse gasses are the steroids of the climate system. "By adding just a little bit more carbon dioxide to the climate, it makes things a little bit warmer and shifts the odds toward these more extreme events," he says. "What was once a rare event will become less rare.

Peter Miller
 quoting Gerald Meehl from the National Center for Atmospheric Research
Weather Gone Wild 

National Geographic, September 2012, print edition 

PaperKarma smartphone app decreases junk mail

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The record number of wildfires and heatwaves so far this summer makes one consider the actions we can take in our daily lives to mitigate these events in the long-term. Readers of this blog know that part of the solution is reducing our carbon footprint. Just a little reduction by each of us can go a long way.  One small, yet collectively powerful method is getting rid of junk paper - the kind of paper frequently found in the snail mailbox called "junk mail'.

The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, according to Yahoo Answers, performed

... a life-cycle analysis of the paper that goes into a couple of magazines and found that 0.30 to 0.32 tons of carbon (1.11 to 1.17 tons of CO2) are emitted for every ton of paper produced. That includes emissions during the tree harvesting, transportation, printing, binding, and everything. (emphasis added)

Well, now there is a way to easily reduce our "paper footprint"? Yes, there is an app for that. Reviewed by Katherine Duncan in the July 2012 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, the new app is called PaperKarma:

Available on Apple, Android, and Windows Phone platforms, the free mobile app enables users to automatically unsubscribe from mailing lists by taking photos of unwanted mail - essentially turning the smartphone into a filter for paper mail.

Duncan quotes PaperKarma CEO Sean Mortazavi:

For every piece of mail you want, you get an average of about 18 you don't want. 

Download PaperKarma to your smartphone through their site. And don't worry about the companies producing "junk mail" such as catalogs. PaperKarma has plans to enhance the system so you can request electronic versions of catalogs you do want. Businesses benefit by reaching interested customers at a lower cost and you've just lowered the stress on the environment.