Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Effect of Soils on Global Warming Greatly Underestimated Say Finnish Researchers

Climate models may have to be revised to account for greater release of carbon dioxide by soils as the temperature increases. According to an article from AFP, Finnish researchers using radiocarbon measurements found that slowly decomposing compounds in soil are more sensitive to increasing temperature than more rapidly decomposing compounds. The scientists, who published their study in the journal Ecology, noted that if global temperatures increase by 5C above preindustial levels soils would release 50% more carbon dioxide than predicted from the usual methods that are used, which rely on short-term measurements.

The Finnish Environment Institute released a statement saying “The climatic warming will increase the carbon dioxide emissions from soil more than previously estimated. This is a mechanism that will significantly accelerate the climate change. Already now the carbon dioxide emissions from soil are ten times higher than the emissions of fossil carbon. A Finnish research group has proved that the present standard measurements underestimate the effect of climate warming on emissions from the soil. The error is serious enough to require revisions in climate change estimates. In all climate models, the estimates of emissions from soil are based on measurements made using this erroneous method. Climate models must be revised so that the largest carbon storage of the land ecosystems will be estimated correctly.”

If this research is confirmed we may be reaching catastrophic climate change even soon than thought. Revision of climate models based on this research could produce even more alarming results than they have already.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Research Ship Data Indicates Arctic Could Be Ice-Free by 2013

Once again changes are happening faster than climate models have predicted. This time it is the rate that ice is disappearing in the Arctic. According to an article in The Vancouver Sun scientists from Canada who studied the Arctic ice from a research ship last winter found much more melting than expected. In fact the melting was so profound that is was the first time a research ship was able to remain in open water during the winter. The leader of the research team, Professor David Barber from the University of Manitoba, said that the melting was occurring “much faster than our most pessimistic models suggested” and estimated that the Arctic would be ice-free during the summer between 2013 and 2030 (the article incorrectly says winter). Although the rate of melting surpasses the models Barber refers to other scientists have predicted the Arctic being ice-free by 2013 before. A BBC article from 2007 describes this prediction by Professor Wieslaw Maslowski from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

The findings by the Canadian scientists appear to confirm the possibility that sooner rather than later instead of ice reflecting sunlight in the Arctic during the summer months the darker ocean will be absorbing the sunlight, thereby creating more warming which in turn could speed up the thawing of Arctic tundra which could release the greenhouse gas methane which would produce more warming and so on. It seems hard to believe but according to the latest scientific research in only a little more than 1,000 days we may reach this ominous situation.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Will CO2 Catchers Start Catching On?

With hopes of avoiding catastrophic climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions rapidly fading it is getting time to look at what to do as a last resort. If there is any feasible last resort it may be employing millions of CO2 catchers to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and then probably store it underground. One major obstacle is that successful working models of these devices do not yet exist. The big problem is that while capturing CO2 is not difficult it tends to take a lot of energy to release it once it has been captured, which basically makes such a device impractical. However, there are reports that this major hurdle may be close to being solved. A Columbia University research team led by Klaus Lackner has been working with a synthetic resin which according to Lackner in an article posted on Spiegel Online International “attracts CO2 strongly when dry, but releases it again easily when wet.” and “the process produces only about a fifth as much CO2 as the device collects.” He estimates that to offset between 10 and 15 percent of annual emissions would require 10 million CO2 catchers. A blog on Grist reports that researchers in the Netherlands have developed a copper-based catalyst that can capture CO2 and then release it in a different form using relatively little energy. News of this discovery was reported in the January 15th issue of the journal Science. So if a landscape filled with wind turbines and solar panels isn’t enough to save us from global warming perhaps adding millions of CO2 catchers will do the trick.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Don’t Blame Me Says IPCC Head Pajendra Pachauri

Apparently, Dr. Pajendra Pachauri, chief of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, doesn’t believe that when mistakes are made by the organization he heads that the buck stop with him. In an interview with The Guardian Pachauri refused to accept any blame for the erroneous claim in the IPCC’s 2007 report that the Himalayan glaciers could be completed melted by 2035. Pachauri says “You can’t expect me to be personally responsible for every word in a 3,000 page report.” Clearly, Pachauri is no Harry Truman. It is not very comforting that the head of the IPCC won’t accept any responsibility for an important error. With the climate skeptics trying to take full advantage of any mistake that comes to light it would be desirable to have the IPCC led by someone who can accept blame for what happens on their watch. Instead there is Pachauri.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Copenhagen Accord Pledges Add Up to Climate Catastrophe

If anyone believed that the leading global warming polluters would have an epiphany and pledge greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would save us from climate catastrophe they must be sorely disappointed. Fifty-five countries met the deadline of January 31 to pledge for the hastily drawn up Copenhagen Accord and did exactly what they said they would do, which is nowhere near enough to avoid having the global temperature soar beyond the ominous 2C mark above preindustrial levels. An Associated Press article reports that the US stuck to its miserly pledge of 17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020 and the biggest global warming polluter of all, China, will not pledge to reduce emissions but only to reduce emissions growth. Of course, these pledges are not legally binding so not only are they insufficient but may never be adhered to. So it looks like just about everyone is resigned to go over the climate cliff together. What does that say about human intelligence? Somehow it doesn’t translate into sane actions on a national level. It looks like mass stupidity has triumphed after all. Who would have guessed that millions of years of evolution would lead to that?