David Shepherd

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So far David Shepherd has created 48 blog entries.

Solution or Band-Aid? Carbon capture projects move ahead

By |2022-07-04T10:35:28+01:00July 4th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Greenbiz

Long discussed but rarely used, carbon capture and storage projects — which bury waste CO2 underground — are on the rise globally. Some scientists see the technology as a necessary tool in reducing emissions, but others say it simply perpetuates the burning of fossil fuels.

Can Climate Tech Fulfill its Promise?

By |2022-07-01T22:49:24+01:00July 1st, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Greenbiz

Date/Time: August 8, 2022 (1-2PM ET / 10-11AM PT)

Climate change is simultaneously an existential threat and an unprecedented opportunity to create a more ecologically regenerative, socially just world. Can technology solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges by averting the former and unlocking the latter? What else, beyond technology, is most needed now?

Climate tech solutions enabling the transformation of energy, transportation, food and carbon removal markets are already demonstrating enormous potential to confront the climate crisis and improve peoples’ lives. But between the real-world impacts of climate change making these solutions more urgent and the headwinds of political pushback and an economic downturn, how are these technologies likely to fare in fulfilling that promise?

Join the GreenBiz analysts covering four of the most dynamic climate tech markets to share what they’re tracking and projecting. Among the things we’ll explore:

Arctic sea ice June 2022 – why the situation is so dangerous

By |2022-06-21T07:31:28+01:00June 21st, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

Arctic sea ice extent has fallen strongly in June 2022. On June 19, 2022, Arctic sea ice extent was among the lowest on record for the time of year, as illustrated by above image, adapted from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC Chartic).

The image below, from an animation by Zachary Labe, shows Arctic sea ice extent up to June 20, 2022, based on Vishop data. The yellow line is the year 2022. The white line shows extent for the year 2012, when it reached a record minimum in September. The blue line shows extent the year 2020, when the minimum in September was second lowest.

 

The image below, adapted from Vishop, shows that on June 19, 2022, global sea ice extent was close to a record low for the time of year.

[ adapted from NOAA ]

The fact that sea ice is so low for the time of the year is the more striking as we are currently in the depths of a persistent La Niña, which suppresses the temperature rise.

El Niños typically occur every 3 to 5 years, according to NOAA and as also illustrated by the NOAA image below, so the upcoming El Niño can be expected to occur soon.

The NOAA image below indicates that going from the bottom of a La Niña to the peak of an El Niño could make a difference of more than half a degree Celsius (0.5°C or 0.9°F).

Furthermore, the rise in sunspots from May 2020 to July 2025 could make a difference of some 0.15°C (0.27°F). The next El Niño looks set to line up with a high peak in sunspots, in a cataclysmic alignment that could push up the temperature enough to cause dramatic sea ice loss in the Arctic, resulting in runaway temperature rise by 2026.

The NSIDC compilation below illustrates how much multi-year sea ice has already declined over the years. The top panel shows the age of Arctic sea ice for the March 12 to 18 period in (a) 1985 and (b) 2022. The oldest ice, greater than 4 years old, is in red. Plot (c) shows the timeseries from 1985 through 2022 of percent cover of the Arctic Ocean domain (inset, purple region) by different sea ice ages during the March 12 to 18 period.

On June 18, 2022, Arctic sea ice volume was among the lowest on record for the time of year, as illustrated by the image below, adapted from Polarportal.

The Naval Research Laboratory one-month animation below shows Arctic sea ice thickness up to June 18, 2022, with 8 days of forecasts added.

The animation shows a dramatic fall in sea ice thickness over a large area, while sea ice is disappearing altogether in some places. This fall in thickness is mostly due to warm water from the Atlantic Ocean that is melting the sea ice hanging underneath the surface. This is where the sea ice constitutes the latent heat buffer, consuming incoming heat in the process of melting.
The University of Bremen image below also shows sea ice thickness, on June 19, 2022. 

Close to the coast of Siberia, where much of the sea ice has disappeared altogether, the decline is due for a large part to warm water from rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean. 

Sea ice has disappeared altogether in the Bering Strait, for a great part due to warm water from rivers in Alaska, especially the Yukon River, the Kuskokwim River and the Copper River, as illustrated by the above NOAA image, which shows sea surface temperatures as high as 15.6°C or 60.08°F.

On June 10, 2022, the sea surface temperature anomaly from 1981-2011 in the Bering Strait was as high as 15.5°C or 27.9°F (at green circle), illustrated by the above nullschool.net image. In 1981-2011, the Bering Strait was still largely frozen at this time of year.

The NOAA image below illustrates how the Gulf Stream is pushing warm water toward the Arctic, with sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic reaching as high as 32.1°C or 89.78°F on June 19, 2022. 

Heatwaves look set to continue on the Northern Hemisphere, extending heat over the Arctic Ocean and thus affecting Arctic sea ice from above, while warm water from rivers will cause more melting at the surface, and while rising ocean heat will continue to cause more melting of the ice underneath the surface. If this continues, we can expect a new record low for sea ice in September 2022 and the joint loss of the latent heat buffer and the loss of albedo will push up temperatures dramatically over the Arctic. 

But even if a lot of sea ice remains, the situation is dangerous, if not even more dangerous. The continuing La Niña could cause a lot of thin sea ice to remain at the surface of the Arctic Ocean this year. The more sea ice remains, the less ocean heat can be transferred from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean, which means that more heat remains in the Arctic Ocean. As the latent heat buffer of the sea ice underneath the surface disappears, more of this heat could then reach sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, threatening eruptions to occur of seafloor methane (from hydrates and from free gas underneath the hydrates). The methane could similarly push up temperatures dramatically over the Arctic, and globally over the next few years. 
[ The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page ]

Conclusion

In conclusion, temperatures could rise strongly in the Arctic soon, due to sea ice loss in combination with an upcoming El Niño and a peak in sunspots, with the potential to drive humans extinct as early as in 2025, while temperatures would continue to skyrocket in 2026, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026. At the same time, the right thing to do now is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.
Links

• NSIDC – Charctic
https://nsidc.org/arct…/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph

• Zachary Labe – sea ice extent and concentration
https://sites.uci.edu/zlabe/arctic-sea-ice-extentconcentration

• Vishop sea ice data
https://ads.nipr.ac.jp/vishop/#/extent

• NSIDC – Springtime in the Arctic
https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2022/05/springtime-in-the-arctic

• NOAA – ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions
https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

• Sunspots

• Cataclysmic Alignment

• Polarportal
• Naval Research Laboratory
• University of Bremen
• NOAA – sea surface temperature

https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/ocean/sst/contour/index.html

• nullschool
https://nullschool.net

• Albedo, latent heat, insolation and more

• Feedbacks in the Arctic

• Extinction
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

Cataclysmic Alignment

By |2022-06-05T11:37:14+01:00June 5th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

Record high carbon dioxide

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere just broke two records. CO₂ was 421.46 in the week starting May 22, 2022, at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, while CO₂ was 420.99 ppm in May 2022.

Earlier, very high daily and hourly measurements were recorded at Mauna Loa, as illustrated by the image below, showing one hourly measurement of 424 ppm (on May 28, 2022), as well as sequences of daily measurements in the green insets.

The image below shows carbon dioxide concentration rising over the past few years, with surface flask measurements well above 422 ppm at Mauna Loa recently.

Carbon dioxide concentration is even higher over the Arctic. The image below shows carbon dioxide approaching 430 ppm at Barrow, Alaska.

To get an idea how much greenhouse gases have risen, a 2021 study points at concentrations of 190 ppm for CO₂, 370-375 ppb for CH₄ and 200-245 ppb for N₂O some 18 ka to 21 ka. By comparison, the MetOp image below shows a global mean methane level that is more than five times as high, i.e. 1945 ppb at 293 mb on May 25, 2022 am.  

The MetOp image below shows methane on May 30, 2022 pm, at 742 mb, which is much closer to sea level. 

The NOAA 20 image below shows high nitrous oxide levels over the Arctic on June 3, 2022 pm at 1000 mb.

Greenhouse gas levels are very high and there are many further indications that a huge temperature rise could take place over the next few years. 
Cataclysmic alignment of El Niño and sunspots 

The trigger for such a huge rise could be a cataclysmic alignment of the upcoming El Niño with a high number of sunspots, which look set to reach maximum impact around July 2025.

We are currently in the depths of a persistent La Niña, as illustrated by the image on the right, adapted from NOAA. This suppresses the temperature rise.

El Niños typically occur every 3 to 5 years, according to NOAA and as also illustrated by the NOAA image below, so the upcoming El Niño can be expected to occur soon.

The above NOAA image shows that the difference in temperature between the bottom of a La Niña and the peak of an El Niño can be more than half a degree Celsius (0.5°C or 0.9°F).

A huge temperature rise looks set to unfold soon, first of all in the Arctic, triggered by the combined impact of an upcoming El Niño and a peak in sunspots.

 
Sunspots are currently well above what NOAA predicted, as illustrated by the image on the right, adapted from NOAA. The more sunspot, the more the temperature goes up. The rise in sunspots from May 2020 to July 2025 could make a difference of some 0.15°C (0.27°F).

The next El Niño looks set to line up with a high peak in sunspots, in a cataclysmic alignment that could could push up the temperature enough to cause dramatic sea ice loss in the Arctic, resulting in runaway temperature rise by 2026.

A huge temperature rise in the Arctic

There are many further indications that we’re on the brink of a huge temperature rise in the Arctic.

Ocean heat that enters the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean keeps rising.

As a result, several tipping points threaten to be crossed in the Arctic soon, as described in an earlier post, including the latent heat tipping point and a Blue Ocean Event, starting when Arctic sea ice extent will fall below 1 million km².

[ from the Extinction page ]

As temperatures keep rising in the Arctic, changes to the Jet Stream look set to intensify, resulting in loss of terrestrial albedo in the Arctic that could equal the albedo loss resulting from sea ice decline.

Further feedbacks include permafrost degradation, both terrestrial and on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, which looks set to cause huge releases of greenhouse gases (particularly CO₂, CH₄ and N₂O).
Global temperature rise

This would in turn also cause more water vapor to enter the atmosphere, further speeding up the temperature rise, especially in the Arctic, where vast amounts of methane are contained in sediments at the seafloor and where there is very little hydroxyl in the air to break down the methane.

Temperatures looks set to rise further, due to falling away of sulfate aerosols, while there could be a further temperature rise due to releases of other aerosols that have a net warming impact, such as black and brown carbon, which can increase dramatically as more wood burning and forest fires take place.

As the temperature keeps rising, further self-reinforcing feedbacks will kick in with more ferocity such as an increase in water vapor globally combined with a decrease in lower clouds decks, further increasing the temperature, as described at the clouds feedback page.

Altogether, the global temperature could rise by more than 18°C above pre-industrial, as illustrated by the image on the right from the Extinction page.

Conclusion

In conclusion, temperatures could rise strongly soon, driving humans extinct by 2026, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026. At the same time, the right thing to do is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.

Links

• NOAA – Global Monitoring Laboratory, Recent Daily Average CO₂ at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, U.S.
https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends

• NOAA – Global Monitoring Laboratory, at Barrow, Alaska, U.S.
https://gml.noaa.gov/dv/iadv/graph.php?code=BRW&program=ccgg&type=ts

• Globally resolved surface temperatures since the Last Glacial Maximum – by Matthew Osman et al. (2021)
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03984-4

• Arctic Hit By Ten Tipping Points
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2020/04/arctic-hit-by-ten-tipping-points.html

• NOAA – ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions
https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

• NOAA – El Niño
https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/weather-atmosphere/el-nino#:~:text=An%20El%20Ni%C3%B1o%20condition%20occurs,every%203%20to%205%20years.

• NOAA – Monthly Temperature Anomalies Versus El Niño
https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/global/202204/supplemental/page-4

• MetOp satellite
https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/soundings/iasi

• NOAA 20 satellite
https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/soundings/nucaps/NUCAPS_composite.html

• Sunspots
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/sunspots.html

• NOAA – sunspots
https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression

• Latent heat
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/latent-heat.html

• Blue Ocean Event
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/blue-ocean-event.html

• Feedbacks
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html

• Aerosols
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/aerosols.html

• Clouds feedback and tipping point
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/clouds-feedback.html

• Jet Stream
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/jet-stream.html

• The Importance of Methane
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/the-importance-of-methane-in-climate.html

• When Will We Die?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2019/06/when-will-we-die.html

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

Carbon dioxide reaches another record high

By |2022-05-16T10:30:48+01:00May 16th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

NOAA data show a carbon dioxide level of 421.13 parts per million (ppm) for the week starting May 8, 2022, a new record high since measurements started at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. As the image below also shows, very high daily levels were reached recently, as high as 422.04 ppm. 

Greenhouse gas levels are even higher further north. Very high carbon dioxide levels were recorded recently at Barrow, Alaska, approaching 430 ppm. 

Furthermore, very high methane levels were recorded recently at Barrow, Alaska, including many at levels well over 2000 parts per billion (ppb).

The trigger: El Niño and sunspots
El Niños typically occur every 3 to 5 years, according to NOAA and as illustrated by the NOAA image below, so the upcoming El Niños can be expected to occur within the next few years. 
As also illustrated by the NOAA image on the right, we are currently in the depths of a persistent La Niña and this suppresses current temperatures.
A huge temperature rise in the Arctic looks set to unfold soon, triggered by the combined impact of an upcoming El Niño and a peak in sunspots. 
Sunspots are currently well above expected levels, as illustrated by the image below on the right.
Huge temperature rise in Arctic

Additionally, greenhouse gas levels are very high over the Arctic, while the ocean heat that enters the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean keeps rising.  

As a result, several tipping points threaten to be crossed in the Arctic soon, as described in an earlier post, including the latent heat tipping point and a Blue Ocean Event, starting when Arctic sea ice extent will fall below 1 million km²

As temperatures keep rising in the Arctic, changes to the Jet Stream look set to intensify, while loss of terrestrial albedo in the Arctic could equal the albedo loss resulting from sea ice decline.

[ from the Extinction page ]

Further feedbacks include permafrost degradation, both terrestrial and on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, which looks set to cause huge releases of greenhouse gases (particularly CO₂, CH₄ and N₂O).

Global temperature rise
This would in turn also cause more water vapor to enter the atmosphere, further speeding up the temperature rise, especially in the Arctic, where vast amounts of methane are contained in sediments at the seafloor and where there is very little hydroxyl in the air to break down the methane.

Temperatures looks set to rise further due to the falling away of sulfate aerosols, while there could be a further temperature rise due to releases of other aerosols that have a net warming impact, such as black and brown carbon, which can increase dramatically as more wood burning and forest fires take place.

As the temperature keeps rising, further self-reinforcing feedbacks will kick in with more ferocity such as an increase in water vapor globally combined with a decrease in lower clouds decks, further increasing the temperature, as described at the clouds feedback page.

Altogether, the global temperature could rise by more than 18°C above pre-industrial, as illustrated by the image on the right from the Extinction page.

Conclusion

In conclusion, temperatures could rise strongly by 2026, resulting in humans going extinct, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026.

At the same time, the right thing to do is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.

Links

• NOAA – Global Monitoring Laboratory, Recent Daily

 Average CO₂ at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, U.S.
https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends

• NOAA – Global Monitoring Laboratory, at Barrow, Alaska, U.S.
https://gml.noaa.gov/dv/iadv/graph.php?code=BRW&program=ccgg&type=ts

• Arctic Hit By Ten Tipping Points
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2020/04/arctic-hit-by-ten-tipping-points.html

• NOAA – El Niño
https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/weather-atmosphere/el-nino#:~:text=An%20El%20Ni%C3%B1o%20condition%20occurs,every%203%20to%205%20years.

• NOAA – Monthly Temperature Anomalies Versus El Niño

• NOAA – sunspots

Carbon dioxide crosses 422 ppm

By |2022-04-28T07:39:02+01:00April 28th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) reached an average daily concentration of 422.06 ppm on April 26, 2022, at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Furthermore, very high methane levels were recorded recently at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, with surface flask readings appearing to be as high as 1955 ppb.  

This daily average CO₂ concentration of 422.06 ppm together with a methane level of 1955 ppb (which at a GWP of 200 corresponds with 391 ppm CO₂e), adds up to a joint CO₂e of 813.06 ppm, i.e. less than 387 ppm away from the clouds tipping point that on its own could raise the global temperature by 8°C.

Such a 387 ppm CO₂e could be added almost immediately by a burst of seafloor methane less than the size of the methane that is currently in the atmosphere (about 5 Gt). There is plenty of potential for such an abrupt release, given the rising ocean heat and the vast amounts of methane present in vulnerable sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in posts such as this one.

[ images and joint CO₂e earlier discussed at this post, click on images to enlarge ]

The 1200 ppm CO₂e clouds tipping point could be crossed even without such an abrupt methane release. Carbon dioxide and methane levels are rising rapidly. The above combination image illustrates how, by the year 2029, carbon dioxide could reach 450 ppm and methane could reach 3840 ppb, which would yield a joint CO₂e of 1218 ppm and thus raise the global temperature by 8°C due to the clouds feedback alone, in addition to the rise caused by nitrous oxide and the many further forcers, as discussed at the Extinction page

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.

Links

• NOAA – Global Monitoring Laboratory, Recent Daily Average CO₂ at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, U.S. 

• NOAA – Global Monitoring Laboratory, Methane (surface flasks) at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, U.S. 

• The Importance of Methane
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/the-importance-of-methane-in-climate.html

• Clouds feedback 

Runaway temperature rise by 2026?

By |2022-04-16T13:37:04+01:00April 16th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

March 2022 temperature anomaly

The NASA image below shows the March 2021 temperature anomaly. The Arctic is heating up strongly. 

The above image shows a temperature rise for March 2022 of 1.06°C, which is the rise from 1951-1980. The image below shows a temperature rise from 1900 for March 2022 of 1.36°C. 

The box on above image shows that, when including further adjustment, the temperature rise from pre-industrial to March 2022 could be as much as 2.35°C. Details of the adjustment are described at the pre-industrial page. A 2.35°C rise is only 0.65°C away from a 3°C rise and, as described before, a 3°C rise will likely drive humans (and many other species) into extinction. 

Note that the March 2022 temperature is suppressed, as we’re currently in the depth of a persistent La Niña, as illustrated by the NOAA image on the right. 
The above NOAA image shows that the difference between the top of El Niño and the bottom of La Niña could be more than half a degree Celsius. The next El Niño may well go hand in hand with a high number of sunspots (NOAA image right). 
The image below features two trends. The black trend is based on adjusted 1880-March 2022 NASA data and shows how 3°C could be crossed by 2029. The blue trend is based on adjusted 2012-March 2022 NASA data and better reflects short-term variables such as sunspots and El Niño. The blue trend shows how 3°C could be crossed by 2027, triggered by an emerging El Niño and high sunspots. 

Not only could the combination of strong a strong El Niño with high sunspots suffice to cause the temperature rise to cross 3°C by 2025, it could trigger a runaway temperature rise by 2026. 

Runaway temperature rise

The potential temperature rise is illustrated by the bar on the right.

As temperatures rise, loss of Arctic sea ice and of its latent heat buffer will cause more heating of the atmosphere, while changes to the Jet Stream will cause more extreme weather. 
As humans go extinct, transport and industrial activities will stop that currently co-emit sulfur that masks the full extent of the temperature rise. 
In addition, as also discussed at the aerosols page, worldwide forest fires and trash fires could cause huge amounts of black carbon to be emitted. 
Rising temperatures will result in more water vapor in the atmosphere (7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming), further amplifying the temperature rise, since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. 
As the IPCC warns (see above image), for each additional 1°C of warming, the global volume of perennially frozen ground to 3 m below the surface is projected to decrease by about 25% relative to the present volume, and the IPCC adds that these decreases may be underestimates. As permafrost declines, huge amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide get released. 
As the ocean heats up, a huge temperature rise could be caused by releases of seafloor methane, further contributing to the clouds tipping point (at 1200 ppm CO₂e) to get crossed, causing a further rise of 8°C. Altogether, the temperature rise could exceed 18°C.
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.

Links

• NASA Gistemp
https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

• Pre-industrial
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/pre-industrial.html

• When Will We Die?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2019/06/when-will-we-die.html

• NOAA – Monthly Temperature Anomalies Versus El Niño
https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/global/202203/supplemental/page-4

• NOAA – ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions
https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

• NOAA – Solar cycle sunspots progression
https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression

• Sunspots
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/sunspots.html

• Extinction
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

• Aerosols
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/aerosols.html

• IPCC – FAQ on water vapor
https://wg1.ipcc.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/faq/wg1_faq-3.2.html

• IPCC – AR6 WG1 TS on permafrost
https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_TS.pdf

• Clouds feedback
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/clouds-feedback.html

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

Global Warming and the Fermi Paradox

By |2022-04-09T06:28:36+01:00April 9th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

by Andrew Glikson

Enrico Fermi, Physicist, 1901-1953

According to the Fermi’s Paradox, the failure to date to achieve radio communication between Earth and extraterrestrial civilizations can be attributed to their inevitable short-term self-destruction, a consequence of uncontrolled dispersion of toxic substances, contamination of air, water and land, and construction of deadly weapons. On Earth this includes saturation of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases and production of nuclear weapons. 

The most extensive mass extinction event in the history of Earth, represented by the Permian-Triassic boundary 251 million years-ago, involved warming, acidification and oxygen depletion of the oceans, with consequent emanations of toxic H₂S and CH₄, leading to a loss of some 57% of biological families, 83% of genera and 81% of marine species.

If the history of the 21st century is ever written it would report that, while large parts of the planet were becoming uninhabitable, the extreme rate and scale of global warming and the migration of climate zones (~100 km per decade), the extent of polar ice melting, ocean warming and acidification, and methane release from permafrost, threatened to develop into one of the most extensive mass extinction events in the geological history of planet Earth.

As concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases exceed 500 ppm CO₂-equivalents, consistent with global warming of more than >4°C (image above right), driving temperatures to well above 4°C (image below) and threatening to rise at a higher rate than those of the great mass extinctions. 

The accelerating destruction of the liveable Earth atmosphere and oceans (after Wil Steffen, 2012)
Climate scientists have been either silenced or replaced by an army of economists and politicians mostly ignorant of the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, but quantifying the cost-benefit economies of mitigation like corner shop grocers.

James Hansen giving testimony
before the U.S. Congress (1988)

Proposed mitigation action were mostly focused on reduction of emissions, neglecting the amplifying feedbacks and tipping points projected by leading climate scientists such as James Hansen (image right).

But climate change was not the only threat hanging over the head of humanity and nature. As nations kept proliferating atomic weapons, with time the probability of a nuclear war increased exponentially. 

At the root of the MAD (mutual assured destruction) policy, or omnicide, resides the deep tribalism and herd mentality of the species, hinging on race, religion, ideology, territorial claims and the concept of an “enemy” perpetrated by demagogues and warmongers, leading to an Orwellian 1984 world where “Oceania has always been at war with East-Asia”, as in the current “forever wars“. Prior to World War I two social forces collided, fascism and socialism. While the former has changed appearances, the latter weakened. At the core of superpower conflict between the Anglo-Saxon world and the Slavic or Chinese worlds are claims of moral superiority, but in reality naked grabs for power.

At the centre of human conscience is its mythological nature, a mindset closely related to the mastery of fire where, for longer than one million years, Homo erectus, perched at campfire, watching the flickering flames, has grown its insights and imagination, developing a fear of death, dreaming of omniscience and omnipotence, aspiring for eternal life.

As civilization developed in the Neolithic these sentiments drove humans to construct pyramids to enshrine immortality, undertake human sacrifice, to perpetrate death to appease the gods, expressed in modern times through world wars, as stated by Albert Einstein: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything bar man’s way of thinking and thus we drift into unparalleled catastrophes”.

For an intelligent species to be able to explore the solar system planets but fail to protect its own home planet defies explanation. For a species to magnify its entropic effect on nature by orders of magnitude, developing cerebral powers which allow it to become the intelligent eyes through which the Universe explores itself, hints at yet unknown natural laws which underlie life, consciousness and complexity.

We have entered the age of consequences, masked by the 24 hours news cycle that can only portray transient events but rarely exposes the Orwellian misconceptions which underlie the complicity of the powers-that-be. For, just as individuals can be plagued by insanity, so can groups of people, as in the Jonestown massacre, or in Nazi Germany, where a nation or a species slide blindly into mass suicide, creating systems that saturate the atmosphere with carbon gases and proliferate nuclear weapons in a terrestrial confirmation of Fermi’s Paradox.

Andrew Glikson

A/Prof. Andrew Glikson

Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
The University of New South Wales,
Kensington NSW 2052 Australia



Books:
The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789400763272
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319079073
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319225111
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319572369
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789400773318
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783030106027
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia
https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319745442
The Event Horizon: Homo Prometheus and the Climate Catastrophe
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030547332
The Fatal Species: From Warlike Primates to Planetary Mass Extinction
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030754679

Shortcomings of IPCC AR6 WGIII – Mitigation of Climate Change

By |2022-04-06T06:48:43+01:00April 6th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

In the video below, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres comments on the launch of the IPCC AR6 WGIII SPM Mitigation report. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres

The report has severe shortcomings, including: 

The IPCC makes it look as if the temperature rise could be restricted to 1.5°C above pre-industrial and insists there was a carbon budget left, to be divided by using monetary analysis. 

This narrative results in a failure to highlight in the SPM some key drivers of change (such as heat pumps in buildings and air taxis in transport) and in inappropriately referring to such key drivers of change as ‘options’, while failing to mention the best policies to achieve the necessary changes, i.e. through local feebates.

The image below, from the report’s SPM, shows options by sector with the length of each bar indicating their potential for emissions reduction by 2030, while the color inside the bar gives a cost estimate. 
[ from IPCC AR6 WGIII SPM, click images to enlarge ]

These are not genuinely options, since the dire situation leaves little choice and instead makes it imperative to act most urgently, comprehensively and effectively on climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement does instruct the IPCC to describe the best pathways to achieve this and the IPCC has until now refused to do so. As Arctic-news blog has pointed out for more than a decade, mitigation is most effectively achieved by offering people a range of options, preferably through local feebates, which will also make such policies more popular, as a 2019 analysis (above) concludes.
[ from earlier post ]

Options are more appropriately included in feebates, as they can offer a range of options, with the more polluting options attracting fees and with the revenues used to fund rebates on the cleaner options. 
An example of a wider set of local feebates is depicted in the above analysis of EV policy, which could include not only fees on fuel and fuel-powered vehicles, but also on facilities that sell or process fuel, vehicle registration, parking, toll roads, etc.
It’s important to act comprehensively, along several lines of action, e.g. to redesign cities and plan for air taxis
Given the urgency to act, such lines of action are all best implemented as soon as possible, yet at the same time many lines of action are best kept separate, as illustrated by the above image. 
The image on the right illustrates the difference between using a Gobal Warming Potential (GWP) for methane of 171 over a few years, vs the IPCC’s use of a GWP of 28 over 100 years. 

Fees on sales of livestock products can raise revenue for pyrolysis of biowaste, with the resulting biochar added to the soil.  That would also support the transition toward a vegan-organic diet more strongly, in line with the conclusion of an earlier IPCC report that a vegan diet ranks highest regarding mitigation (image right, from an earlier post). 

The Climate Plan prefers local feebates. Where necessary, fees can be set high enough to effectively ban specific alternatives. 

[ Image from the 2014 post Biochar Builds Real Assets ]

Furthermore, instead of using money, local councils could add extra fees to rates for land where soil carbon falls, while using all the revenues for rebates on rates for land where soil carbon rises.

That way, biochar effectively becomes a tool to lower rates, while it will also help improve the soil’s fertility, its ability to retain water and to support more vegetation. That way, real assets are built.
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.

Links

• Secretary-General Warns of Climate Emergency, Calling Intergovernmental Panel’s Report ‘a File of Shame’, While Saying Leaders ‘Are Lying’, Fuelling Flames
https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sgsm21228.doc.htm

• Mitigation of Climate Change Report 2022: “Litany of broken climate promises” – UN Chief
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8rlLaT8v4Q

• IPCC Climate Change 2022 – Mitigation of Climate Change – Summary for Policymakers
https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg3/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_SummaryForPolicymakers.pdf

• IPCC special report Climate Change and Land
https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl

• IPCC Report Climate Change and Land

• Confirm Methane’s Importance

From a Miocene-like CO2 level of ~420 ppm to irreversible climate change

By |2022-03-24T00:32:14+00:00March 24th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

by Andrew Glikson

As terrestrial adversaries keep pushing the Earth and its inhabitants to within seconds of a nuclear catastrophe, looming through heat waves, extreme fires and flood events is the huge calamity of irreversible global warming.

[ from earlier post ]

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) reached levels well above 420 parts per million (ppm) at Mauna Lao, Hawaii, on February 13 and 14, 2022, as illustrated by the image, from an earlier post.

The image below, adapted from NOAA, shows CO₂ and other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂O) rising from 280 ppm CO₂e in 1700 to 504 ppm CO₂e in 2021. This figure of 504 ppm CO₂e could be much higher when applying a short horizon to calculate methane’s Global Warming Potential. 
CO₂ levels have been rising from ~315 ppm in 1950 to ~419 ppm in 2022, at an average growth rate of some 1.44 ppm/year accelerating to about 2.5 ppm/year recently. 
The rate of this CO₂ rise is unprecedented in the Cenozoic (since 65 Ma) record, with perhaps the closest parallel being the aftermath of the K-T dinosaur mass extinction event, when the temperature rose by as much as ~7.5°C. According to Beerling et al. (2002) CO₂ level rose from 350–500 ppm to at least 2,300 ppm within 10,000 years following the K-T impact, at an average rate of ~0.2 ppm/year, significantly less than today’s rate.
Above image shows CO₂ on track to reach 575 ppm by 2061, a level commensurate with atmospheric conditions during parts of the Miocene, when the temperatures in central Europe was 20°C higher than today, as also illustrated by the image below, adapted from a 2020 study by Methner et al
The image below further illustrates that to find CO₂ levels as high as 575 ppm, we have to go back in time millions of year, into the Miocene. 
What makes current conditions even more dire is that it’s not just carbon dioxide that is rising at a speed unprecedented in history, methane is rising at an even faster pace, as illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post. 

Can the current climate trend be arrested, or even reversed?

The current global greenhouse gas trend is leading to one of the largest mass extinctions of species in the geological record, one of the victims being human civilization. The current focus on emission reduction overlooks a major factor, namely the amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans (Steffen et al., 2018). There is a desperate need, in addition to emission reduction, for urgent large-scale sequestration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, and for further action to combat the temperature rise.

The role of amplifying GHG feedbacks from land and oceans, leading to enhanced heating, appears to be neglected in climate negotiationsAmplifying feedbacks include:

  • an increase in evaporation, raising atmospheric water vapor levels, which enhances the greenhouse gas effect;
  • a decline in the polar albedo (reflection) due to large-scale lateral and vertical melting of ice;
  • release of methane from degrading permafrost and from polar sediments;
  • reduced CO₂ intake by warming oceans. Currently the oceans absorb between 35-42% of all CO₂ and around 90% of the excess heat;
  • warming, desiccation, deforestation and fires over land areas.

Numerous species have been unable to survive the accelerated global heating following the K-T impact event, nor are many species likely to survive the even higher rate of the of the Anthropocene catastrophe. A connection between climate change and human wars is evident from the accelerated global warming in the wake of the industrial-scale world wars I and II and subsequent industrial developments. It is possible that climate change could have been arrested in the 1960s had global efforts been directed at the time for abrupt cuts in emissions, transformation of agricultural and land clearing practices, and effort at CO₂ drawdown/sequestration. By the onset of the 21st century however, such efforts have hardly been undertaken and could yet turn out to be too late. The repetitions of humanity’s old warlike habits, investing resources in industries of death, genocidal wars associated with intensive carbon emissions, forecasted in “The Fate of the Earth”, yield little promise for a change of direction.

Andrew Glikson

A/Prof. Andrew Glikson

Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
The University of New South Wales,
Kensington NSW 2052 Australia

Books:
The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789400763272
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319079073
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319225111
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319572369
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789400773318
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783030106027
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia
https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319745442
The Event Horizon: Homo Prometheus and the Climate Catastrophe
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030547332
The Fatal Species: From Warlike Primates to Planetary Mass Extinction
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030754679

Signs of the rise to come

By |2022-03-18T12:31:17+00:00March 18th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

Following the record low Antarctic sea ice extent reached last month, Arctic sea ice extent now looks to be beyond its maximum for the year and looks set to keep falling rapidly over the next few months. 

Ocean heat is at record levels, as illustrated by the image below and as discussed in an earlier post

The image below shows the temperature at the North Pole reaching 0.7°C or 33.3°F (at 1000 hPa, at the green circle) on March 16, 2022, with ocean currents depicted at the background.

How could the temperature at the North Pole get this high, in March? 

As said, ocean heat is at record levels. This is heating up the air over the Atlantic Ocean. At times, huge amounts of heat are getting pushed into the Arctic due to a distorted Jet Stream. The image on the right shows the Jet Stream on the Northern Hemisphere on March 16, 2022, with strong winds at 250 hPa pushing heat from the Atlantic Ocean into the Arctic.

Furthermore, the Gulf Stream is pushing huge amounts of ocean heat toward the Arctic. 

The image below shows that sea surface temperatures were as much as 14.1°C or 25.3°F higher than 1981-2011 off the North American coast (green circle) on March 5, 2022.

The image below shows that, on March 16, 2022, the temperature in the Arctic was 3.5°C higher than 1979-2000. 

The above events could be seen as signs of the strength and the speed of the rise to come.  

The rise to come

The image below indicates that the global temperature difference between the top of an El Niño and the bottom of a La Niña period could be more than half a degree Celsius.

Temperature anomalies of up to 4.1°C (versus 1951-1980) show up over the years at the highest latitudes north, as illustrated by the image on the right, created with a NASA image. These high anomalies show up in particular during El Niño periods. 

We’re currently in the depth of a persistent La Niña, as the next image on the right shows. This will keep suppressing the temperature, until the start of the next El Niño. 

The next El Niño could push temperatures up even more strongly than the average El Niño, for a number of reasons. As the temperature keeps rising, ever more frequent strong El Niño events are likely to occur, as discussed in an earlier post. A 2019 study analyzes how tipping the ENSO into a permanent El Niño can trigger state transitions in global terrestrial ecosystems.

Currently, the temperature rise is additionally suppressed by low sunspots. Within a few years time, sunspots can be expected to reach the peak of their current cycle and observed sunspots are looking stronger than predicted, as described at the sunspots page.

Furthermore, temperatures look set to rise as sulfate aerosols are falling away, while there could be a further rise in temperature as a result of releases of other aerosols with a net warming impact, such as black and brown carbon, which can increase dramatically as more wood burning and forest fires take place. As the temperature of the atmosphere rises, this could increase water vapor while reducing lower clouds decks and further increase the temperature, as described at the clouds feedback page

What could further push up temperatures a lot over the next few years is the compound impact of feedbacks in the Arctic, including decline of the snow and ice cover, releases of greenhouse gases from degrading subsea and terrestrial permafrost, and further distortion of the Jet Stream causing more extreme weather events. 

Conclusion

The situation is dire and calls for the most comprehensive and effective action, as described at the Climate Plan.

Links

• NOAA – ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions
• Clouds feedback
• Feedbacks in the Arctic

Methane rise is accelerating

By |2022-03-12T10:36:49+00:00March 12th, 2022|

Originally published on

by at Arctic News

NOAA’s globally averaged marine surface monthly mean methane reading for November 2021 of 1909.3 parts per billion (ppb) is 17.6 ppb higher than the reading for November 2020. By comparison, NOAA’s annual global mean methane increase of 15.57 ppb for 2020 was at the time the highest on record.

Keep in mind that this 1909.3 ppb reading is for November 2021; it now is March 2022. Furthermore, NOAA’s data are for marine surface measurements; more methane tends to accumulate at higher altitudes.

The image below shows that the MetOp-B satellite recorded a mean methane level of 1936 ppb at 321 mb on March 7, 2022 pm.

Carbon dioxide levels are currently very high over the Arctic, as illustrated by the image below that shows carbon dioxide levels approaching 430 parts per million (ppm) recently at Barrow, Alaska. 

The danger is that high greenhouse gas levels could combine to push the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e) level over the 1200 ppm clouds tipping point in one spot, causing low-altitude clouds in various neighboring areas to break up, propagating break-up of clouds in further areas, as discussed at the clouds feedback page.

The MetOp-B satellite recorded a mean methane level of 1958 ppb on October 25, 2021 am at 295 mb. When using a 1-year GWP of 200, this translates into 391.6 ppm CO₂e. Together with a global mean CO₂ level of 420 ppm, that’s 811.6 ppm CO₂e, i.e. only 388.4 ppm CO₂e away from the 1200 ppm CO₂e clouds tipping point. 

An additional 5 Gt of methane from an abrupt eruption of the seafloor could raise the global mean methane concentration by almost 2000 ppb which, at a 1-year GWP of 200, would translate into an extra 400 ppm CO₂e, thus pushing the joint impact of just two greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) above the 1200 ppm CO₂e clouds tipping point. 

The situation is dire and calls for the most comprehensive and effective action, as described at the Climate Plan.

Links

• NOAA – globally averaged marine surface monthly mean methane data
https://gml.noaa.gov/webdata/ccgg/trends/ch4/ch4_mm_gl.txt

• NOAA – globally averaged marine surface annual mean methane growth rates
https://gml.noaa.gov/webdata/ccgg/trends/ch4/ch4_gr_gl.txt

• NOAA – Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) Sounding Products (MetOp-B)
https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/soundings/iasi

• NOAA – Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/gl_trend.html

• NOAA – Carbon Cycle Gases, Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, United States
https://gml.noaa.gov/dv/iadv/graph.php?code=BRW

• NOAA – Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Mauna Loa, Hawaii
https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/graph.html

• Clouds feedback page
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/clouds-feedback.html

• Human Extinction by 2022?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2021/11/human-extinction-by-2022.html

• Terrifying Arctic methane levels
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2021/12/terrifying-arctic-methane-levels.html

• Terrifying Arctic methane levels continue
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2022/01/terrifying-arctic-greenhouse-gas-levels-continue.html

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

US rejoins coalition to achieve 1.5C goal at UN climate talks

By |2021-11-02T13:20:51+00:00November 2nd, 2021|

From The Guardian, 2nd November 2021:

The US has rejoined the High Ambition Coalition at the UN climate talks, the group of developed and developing countries that ensured the 1.5C goal was a key plank of the Paris agreement.

The decision by the world’s biggest economy and second biggest emitter, after China, to return to the High Ambition Coalition group of countries marks a significant boost to attempts to focus the Cop26 summit on limiting temperature rises to 1.5C, the tougher of the two goals of the Paris agreement.

A firefighter extinguishes a forest fire near the town of Manavgat, east of the resort city of Antalya, Turkey

A firefighter extinguishes a forest fire near the town of Manavgat, east of the resort city of Antalya, Turkey

The coalition, which numbered scores of countries at the 2015 Paris talks, will on Tuesday call on governments to step up their efforts on greenhouse gas emissions and phasing out coal, consistent with a 1.5C limit, and urge rich nations to double the amount of climate finance they make available for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. They also want to bring an end to subsidies for fossil fuels.

A senior US official said: “The High Ambition Coalition was instrumental in Paris in making sure that high ambition was written into the Paris agreementand will be instrumental in Glasgow in making sure it’s delivered.”

Tina Stege, the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, said: “The High Ambition Coalition has set the bar for what needs to happen at this Cop: getting on track to limiting temperature rise to 1.5C with enhanced [nationally determined contributions] and with real, actual actions, like phasing out coal; a sea-change on adaptation, with at least a doubling of current levels of adaptation financing; and making sure that we all have the resources we need to face this crisis, including the loss and damage we’re already experiencing today.

“These heads of state have given their marching orders for ambition.”

Nature’s truly brilliant camouflage

By |2021-11-02T13:10:08+00:00November 2nd, 2021|

The beautiful Spiny Flower Mantis

Margaret Neville was amazed by a beautiful creature that she saw during a stroll on her farm in South Africa. It is most remarkable for appearing to be covered in lots of tiny flowers, coloured green and white. Also, it complements these with a number of white or lilac protrusions to make them blend in with surrounding plants – a truly brilliant camouflage. They are small, being approximately 1.5 to 2 inches long and when threatened, will stand upright and spread their wings which reveal two “eyes” to scare off predators.

Celebrating Earth Day 2021 !

By |2021-04-23T14:27:06+01:00April 21st, 2021|

The theme for Earth Day 2021 is ‘Restore Our Earth’, urging everyone to focus on how we can both reduce our impact on the planet and actively repair ecosystems.

EARTHDAY.ORG™ works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our planet across:

  • Food & Environment: Simply put, the event’s organisers want you to combat climate change by changing your diet – better known as reducing your “foodprint.” While we should all be working to reduce our foodprints, there are several factors to consider, such as access, availability, health, and sustainability.

  • Climate Literacy: Climate and environmental awareness, when combined with civic education, is expected to create jobs, develop a green consumer market, and enable people to meaningfully engage with their governments in the fight against climate change, according to Earth Day organisers. They believe that climate and environmental education should be mandatory, measured, and include a strong civic participation aspect in every school around the world.
  • The Canopy Project: By planting trees all over the world, this initiative aims to enhance our common climate. Since 2010, Earth Day organisers have worked with global partners to plant tens of millions of trees with The Canopy Project, reforesting areas in desperate need of rehabilitation.

  • The Great Global Clean Up: Did you know that unregulated burning of household waste causes 270,000 premature deaths per year, and that 2 billion people lack access to waste collection services? It’s also reported that 79 percent of all plastics ever made have ended up in landfills or the natural environment.

  • Global Earth Challenge: Begun in April 2020 and aims to involve millions of people by incorporating billions of data points from new and ongoing citizen science initiatives. Essentially, the Global Earth Challenge aims to become the world’s largest organised citizen science initiative by creating a new mobile app that allows public volunteers to contribute to scientific research.

This year’s focus is on assisting local communities, with a particular emphasis on areas that are disproportionately impacted by environmental concerns. Many who live on the front lines of environmental disasters don’t always have the money to repair the damage.

DONATE TO EARTHDAY.ORG™ HERE ! DONATE

 

Nine-year-old is first UK person to have air pollution listed on death certificate

By |2021-04-21T21:41:01+01:00April 21st, 2021|

The Government has been urged to set much tougher legally binding pollution targets by the coroner in an inquest into a nine-year-old girl who died of a fatal asthma attack after being exposed to toxic air.

Philip Barlow, assistant coroner for Inner South London, ruled in a landmark second inquest last year that air pollution contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah from an asthma attack.

In a report to prevent future deaths, he said legally binding targets for particulate matter in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK and the Government should take action to address the issue.

The WHO limit is 10 micrograms of tiny “particulate” matter per cubic metre – and if the UK were to introduce such a limit about 15 million people would be living in areas with illegally high levels of pollution.The current UK – and EU – limit is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, which far exceeds the level of air pollution any part of the country, yet air pollution is responsible for an estimated 36,000 early deaths a year.

Mr Barlow also said greater public awareness of air pollution information would help individuals reduce their personal exposure.

And he warned the adverse effects of pollutants were not being sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical staff

Responding to the report, Ella’s mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah called on the Government to act on the recommendations in the coroner’s report, warning “children are dying unnecessarily because the Government is not doing enough to combat air pollution”.

Ella was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of death on their death certificate, following the inquest ruling by Mr Barlow last December.

She lived 25 metres from the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south-east London – one of the capital’s busiest roads.

Ella Kissi-Debra named as the first person to die of air pollution in the UK

Ella Kissi-Debrah

She died in February 2013, having endured numerous seizures and made almost 30 hospital visits over the previous three years.

A previous inquest ruling from 2014, which concluded Ella died of acute respiratory failure, was quashed by the High Court following new evidence about the dangerous levels of air pollution close to her home.

In his report following the second inquest, published this morning, Mr Barlow said national limits for particulate matter – a dangerous form of air pollutant – were set far higher than WHO guidelines.

“The evidence at the inquest was that there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements.

“Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK,” the report said.

He said Government departments for environment, health and transport should address the issue, while local and national governments should address the lack of public awareness about pollution information.

Health bodies and professional organisations needed to tackle the failure by doctors and nurses to communicate the adverse effects of air pollution on health to patients, he said.

Ms Kissi-Debrah said she would be contacting Environment Secretary George Eustice to urge him to put the WHO pollution guidelines into law in the Environment Bill and achieve them in the shortest possible time.

She also said there needed to be improved public information about the levels of pollution that people are exposed to and the health risks.

“As the parent of a child suffering from severe asthma, I should have been given this information but this did not happen.

“Because of a lack of information I did not take the steps to reduce Ella’s exposure to air pollution that might have saved her life. I will always live with this regret.

“But it is not too late for other children.”

And she said: “I invite the Government to act now to reduce air pollution. Immediately. Not in eighteen months, not in five years – that’s not fast enough.

“People are dying from air pollution each year. Action needs to be taken now or more people will simply continue to die.”

A Government spokesman said: “Our thoughts continue to be with Ella’s family and friends.”

The spokesman added that the Government is delivering a £3.8bn plan to clean up transport and tackle nitrogen pollution, and going further in protecting communities from air pollution, particularly particulate matter known as PM2.5.

“Through our landmark Environment Bill, we are also setting ambitious new air quality targets, with a focus on reducing public health impacts.

“We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and respond in due course.”

As reported by By Tom Bawden, Science & Environment Correspondent, inews.co.uk

April 21, 2021 11:24 am

Super-enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in ‘a matter of days’

By |2021-04-23T14:32:49+01:00September 29th, 2020|

From BBC Science Focus Magazine:

Professor John McGeehan, director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth

Professor John McGeehan at work

The enhanced protein is made up of two enzymes produced by a type of bacteria that feeds on plastic bottles.

A so-called “super-enzyme” that eats plastic could be “a significant leap forward” in finding solutions to tackle the pollution crisis, scientists hope.

The enhanced protein is made up of two enzymes produced by a type of bacteria that feeds on plastic bottles, known as Ideonella sakaiensis.

Professor John McGeehan, director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, said that unlike natural degradation, which can take hundreds of years, the super-enzyme is able to convert the plastic back to its original materials, or building blocks, in just a few days.

“Currently, we get those building blocks from fossil resources such as oil and gas, which is really unsustainable,” he said. “But if we can add enzymes to the waste plastic, we can start to break it down in a matter of days.”

He said the process would also allow plastics to be “made and reused endlessly, reducing our reliance on fossil resources”.

In 2018, Prof McGeehan and his team accidentally discovered that an engineered version of one of the enzymes, known as PETase, was able to break down plastic in a matter of days.

As part of their current study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team mixed PETase with the second enzyme, called MHETase, and found “the digestion of the plastic bottles literally doubled”. The researchers then connected the two enzymes together in the lab, like “two Pac-men joined by a piece of string”, using genetic engineering.

The super enzyme, which is two proteins joined together © Aaron McGeehan/Knott et al

“This allowed us to create a super-enzyme six times faster than the original PETase enzyme alone. This is quite a significant leap forward because the plastic that ends up in our oceans today is going to take hundreds of years to break down naturally,” Prof McGeehan said.

“[Eventually] through sunlight and wave action, it will start to break down into smaller and smaller pieces – and we will end up with microplastics, which is a serious problem for the organisms that live in the environment.”

Tests showed that this super-enzyme was able to break down a type of plastic used in soft drinks and fruit juice packaging, known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Although it is said to be highly recyclable, discarded PET persists for hundreds of years in the environment before it degrades.

Aside from PET, the super-enzyme also works on PEF (polyethylene furanoate), a sugar-based bioplastic used in beer bottles. However, Prof McGeehan said it is unable to break down other types of plastic.

Working with US colleagues, Prof McGeehan used intense X-ray beams at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility in Harwell, Oxfordshire, to map 3D structures of the enzymes. These molecular blueprints allowed the researchers to create the super-enzyme with an enhanced ability to attack plastic.

As part of the next steps, the researchers are looking at ways to even further speed up the break-down process, so the technology can be used for commercial purposes.

“The faster we can make the enzymes, the quicker we can break down the plastic, and the more commercially viable it will be,” Prof McGeehan said. “Oil is very cheap so we need to compete with that by having a very cheap recycling process.”

Reader Q&A: Why are some plastics recyclable and others are not?

Most of the plastics we use are either thermoplastic or thermosetting.

Thermoplastics include acrylics, nylon and polyethylene (polythene). As you heat them up they get soft, so they can be shaped into any form you like, which also makes them easy to recycle. Milk containers can be melted and reformed into furniture, plastic water bottles become fleece jackets, and hard bottle tops can get a new lease of life as storage boxes.

Thermosetting plastics, like Bakelite or polyurethane, are different because they harden as you heat them. Once they have set, you can’t melt them. This makes thermosetting plastics almost impossible to recycle.

Global climate goals ‘virtually impossible’ without carbon capture – IEA

By |2021-04-23T14:39:07+01:00September 28th, 2020|

capturing CO2 cartoon

Up to $160 billion needs to be invested in the technology by 2030, a ten-fold increase from the previous decade, it added. “Without it, our energy and climate goals will become virtually impossible to reach,” the IEA head Fatih Birol said in a statement.

A sharp rise in the deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology is needed globally if countries are to meet net-zero emissions targets designed to slow climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.A growing number of countries and companies are targeting net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around the middle of the century in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

To reach that, the amount of CO2 captured must rocket to 800 million tonnes in 2030 from around 40 million tonnes today, the IEA, which advises industrialised nations on energy policies, said in a report.

Up to $160 billion needs to be invested in the technology by 2030, a ten-fold increase from the previous decade, it added.

“Without it, our energy and climate goals will become virtually impossible to reach,” the IEA head Fatih Birol said in a statement.

The global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic risks delaying or cancelling projects dependent on public support, the IEA said.

An oil price slide had also reduced revenues for existing CCUS facilities selling CO2 for so-called enhanced oil recovery (EOR). However, the IEA added: “Economic recovery packages are a unique window of opportunity for governments to support CCUS alongside other clean energy technologies.”

Referring to a major investment to build two carbon capture plants and an offshore CO2 storage facility, Birol said: “Norway showed its leadership in Europe by making a major funding commitment to the Longship project.” Nonetheless, the story of CCUS has largely been “one of unmet expectations”, marred by lack of commercial incentives, large capital costs and public opposition to storage, especially onshore, the IEA said.

In 2009, the IEA called for 100 large-scale CCUS projects to be built by 2020 to store around 300 million tonnes of CO2 per year. To date, just 20 commercial projects are in operation, capturing around 40 million tonnes per year.

Greenpeace petitions UK Government to ban supertrawlers catching 7,000 tons of fish

By |2020-08-28T15:37:27+01:00August 28th, 2020|

A YouGov poll, commissioned by Greenpeace, has shown that more than 4 in 5 members of the British public believe supertrawlers, factory trawlers over 100m long, should be banned from fishing in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas. 81% said supertrawlers should be banned from fishing in protected areas, with just 4% saying they should be permitted to fish in them.

This comes after an investigation revealed that supertrawlers spent almost 3000 hours fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas in 2019, more than double the number of hours they spent fishing in UK protected areas in 2018. Marine Protected Areas exist to protect vulnerable ecosystems and marine life, like porpoises and reefs.

The Dutch-owned Annelies Ilena supertrawler in UK waters

The Dutch-owned Annelies Ilena supertrawler in UK waters

A Greenpeace petition calls on the government to ban supertrawlers from protected areas, and has already gathered 125,000 signatures, including those of Sir Michael Palin, Joanna Lumley, Gillian Anderson Green MP Caroline Lucas, Alison Steadman and the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Philip Evans, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said “This polling makes absolutely clear that the public is united behind our call for a ban on supertrawlers fishing in protected areas. After a decade of political division, our call cutting across the political divide should send a firm message to the government that enough is enough. Supertrawlers must be banned from our protected areas.

“Britain’s departure from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy is the perfect opportunity to do this. Our government should listen to its constituents, and commit to banning supertrawlers from protected areas as a first step towards designating a network of fully or highly protected MPAs off-limits to all destructive activity across 30% of the UK’s waters.”Britain’s departure from the Common Fisheries Policy will allow the UK government to implement stronger fishing regulations in offshore waters, those beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast. Currently few restrictions are in place in offshore MPAs, which is why supertrawler operations in offshore protected areas are currently legal.

Supertrawler activity in UK waters has increased since 2017. Greenpeace data shows that the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone was the worst affected by EU supertrawler activity of any on earth in 2018 and 2019, and that the time supertrawlers spent fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas had more than doubled from 1388 hours in 2018 to 2963 hours in 2019.

A Defra spokesman said the UK is a global leader in the fight to protect British seas with the Blue Belt of protected waters that are nearly twice the size of England.

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