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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Can we achieve zero carbon emissions in the UK by 2025?

One of the demands being made by Extinction Rebellion (XR) is that the government act to reduce the use of fossil fuels, so that carbon emissions fall to zero within six years. Other XR groups across the world are also asking the same thing of their governments. But, is this achievable?

David Cameron signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, on behalf of the UK, but since then the government has approved fracking licences and agreed to extend Heathrow airport.  Both of which will add to the use of fossil fuels, not reduce it to zero.  This is why people are taking to the streets to protest.

Horizontal; Crowd; Kettle; Police; State

XR demonstration in Oxford Circus, asking the Government to “tell the truth” about the severity of the threat facing the world at the moment, as a consequence of global warming

The Observer’s Science Editor, Robin McKie, discussed whether XR’s demand is achievable in last Sunday’s Observer:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/21/long-road-to-zero-emissions-uk

Last year 6.8 tonnes of greenhouse gases were emitted into the atmosphere per head of population in the UK. To decarbonise the nation, that figure will have to be reduced to zero. It will mean massive curtailment of travel by car or plane, major changes in food production, especially red meat, and the construction of many more wind and solar plants, to replace fossil fuels as sources of energy.

The government’s climate change committee is shortly to publish a report on how, and when, Britain can achieve this status and play its part in the battle against global warming. It is expected that the committee will opt for a different target as Britain’s  decarbonisation date, 2050 rather than 2025. According to this scenario, developed nations, including Britain, would aim to achieve zero-emissions status by 2050 and then use other technologies to achieve this goal, such as hydrogen plants, carbon dioxide storage vaults and advanced renewable generators.

There has been some progress in reducing Britain’s use of fossil fuels to generate energy. In 2013, 62.5% of UK electricity was generated by oil, coal and gas stations, while renewable provided only 14.5%. In 2018, the figure for oil, coal and gas had been reduced to 44% while renewables were generating 31.7%. And, during the Easter weekend, whilst the XR demonstrations took place, it has been reported that the country was able to rely on only renewables for a short period – this was probably because we were undergoing a heat wave – the hottest Easter on record, so there was not much demand for extra heating.  Also, I suspect that when when calculations are made about the use of renewables, nuclear power generated electricity in included in the figures.  We all know the risks associated with nuclear power and the difficulties in disposing safely of nuclear waste.

We have yet to be given a date when engineers expect the last UK fossil-fuelled power plant to produce its final watts of electricity and to emit its last emissions of carbon dioxide.

The problem is that 90% of the British people use gas boilers to heat their centrally-heated homes, producing hot water and heating at the flick of a switch. Getting people to change from this will be difficult.  One solution would be to price gas out of common use, by putting increasingly heavy carbon taxes on household supplies so people can no longer afford them and are forced to change heating systems.  Would this be popular?

28.4.19

This article in the Observer generated a couple of letters published in the paper the following week.  The first from Dave Lewis, Cornwall was as follows:

“Robin McKie’s piece correctly identifies Extinction Rebellion’s demand for a zero-carbon UK by 2025 as being hugely costly and politically difficult… He provides a detailed examination of what some experts prefer as a more realistic target of 2050, though even this is difficult. The IPCC’s most recent warnings about the dangers of a temperature rise exceeding 1.5ºC abobe pre-industrial levels surely mean that avoiding this must be the key global policy objective.

The articles last two paragraphs show that at current carbon dioxide emission rates (42 bn tonnes per annum) the world will exceed the limit (420 bn tonnes) at which there is a ‘two in three chance of keeping global warming down to around  1.5ºC’ in just 10 years’ time. If the aim is to meet this target, 2050 doesn’t seem in any way ‘more realistic’ as a target for a zero-carbon Britain.  It does seem ‘more realistic’ if the aim is to avoid costly and politically difficult decisions by kicking the can further down the road. Which is how we got where we are.

No wonder people are rebellious. It looks like a bit more rebellion is still required.”

The other letter, from David Watkin, Leicester, drew attention to the spreading interest of US firms in developing space travel and space tourism. He suggests that the arguments put forward in Robin McKie’s article should include an assessment of the potential future contribution of space rockets to CO2 output.

space rocket

launch of space rocket at Kennedy space centre



Another journal reporting on the zero carbon target is the New Scientist (27th April 2019):

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2200269-climate-protesters-want-net-zero-carbon-emissions-is-it-possible/

This article has a different take from the one in the Guardian.  It talks about the changing targets for zero emissions, as the 2050 figure was set when 2º of warming was the target, rather than 1.5º, which is the new target, since the IPPC report.  It lists those countries which are trying to make the target, some earlier than 2050: Sweden, France, Norway, Portugal, Costa Rica, Marshall Islands and New Zealand.

It also discusses what “net zero” means. Is it just about carbon dioxide or does it include all greenhouse gases? He also talks about measures introduced to absorb excess carbon dioxide, such as reforestation and carbon capture.

There is also an interesting graph, which compares total carbon emissions between the UK, Sweden and New Zealand.  The UK is currently far higher than the other two countries, so has a lot more work to do to reach net zero.

Further discussion on the 2025 XR target can be found at:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2200755-the-science-behind-extinction-rebellions-three-climate-change-demands/



 


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Met office expects surge in Carbon Dioxide levels in 2019

A report published in The Independent today (25th Jan 2019) states that scientists from the Met Office are predicting a surge this year (2019) in CO2 levels.  This is because of rising emissions due to the world’s continued use of fossil fuels will combine with reduced absorption of greenhouse gas by withering grasslands and forests, due to unprecedented heat.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/environment/co2-levels-expected-to-rise-rapidly-in-2019-met-office-scientists-warn/ar-BBSHIZM?ocid=spartandhp#image=2

A further explanation about the prediction is as follows:

CO2 levels will be at a record high once again after emissions reached unprecedented levels last year, dashing hopes the world had finally hit “peak carbon”.

Besides fossil fuels pumping out the harmful gas, natural weather fluctuations will exacerbate the problem as they hamper the ability of carbon sinks to store it.

In 2019 an upward swing in tropical Pacific Ocean temperature will make many regions warmer and drier.

As drought sets in and plants dry out, they will be less capable of sucking CO2 from the atmosphere, and massive deforestation in places like the Amazon is making this problem even worse.

The new predictions were based on monitoring at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, which has registered a 30 per cent increase in the concentration of CO2 since 1958.

“Carbon sinks have saved us from what has already happened – the future rise would have been about double if it wasn’t for the sinks. So we are lucky they exist, to be honest,” Professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre told The Independent.

“But the sinks themselves are affected by the climate, and that’s an important thing because it shows that as climate change continues in the future it may affect their strength.”If emissions continue to rise, a major concern is that the carbon sinks currently storing carbon will cease to function, potentially leading to uncontrollable warming and a scenario dubbed “hothouse Earth”.a close up of a map: Forecast CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa station for 2019 (orange), along with previous forecast concentrations and the real observed data (Met Office)
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Forecast CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa station for 2019 (orange), along with previous forecast concentrations and the real observed data (Met Office)
Last year Mauna Loa observatory recorded concentrations of over 410ppm in April, marking the highest level that had been reached in at least 800,000 years.This year CO2 levels in the atmosphere are likely to hit 411 parts per million (ppm).The Met Office forecast predicts the average increase in CO2 will be around 2.75ppm, the third largest annual rise on record, matched only by two years in which El Nino Pacific warming events took place.

CO2 is by far the biggest contributor to climate change, and global efforts to prevent environmental disaster largely focus on transitioning away from industries that pump it into the air.

Scientists welcomed the new data collected in Hawaii, describing it as “a call to innovate with rapid and radical responses” to the looming crisis.

“We need to reduce emissions from fossil fuel use, increase soil carbon sequestration to ‘lock-up’ CO2, decelerate deforestation and land conversion, and promote less polluting more sustainable agriculture,” said Professor Nick Ostle from Lancaster University, who was not involved in the Met Office research. “It’s a massive challenge but there are real opportunities to make an impact individually and globally.”

Further examples of the effects of global warming across the world are shown in a picture gallery in the original article.
An article in The Guardian on 25th January 2019 also carries this story but giving further detail and linking the predictions to an expected El Niño event in 2019:


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Does climate change trigger earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes?

An article published in The Guardian two years ago by Bill McGuire discusses this and concludes that individual catastrophic events are unlikely to be triggered by climate change.  However, there does appear to be a cumulative effect, with extreme events being more powerful rather than more common.  In 2016, there was considerable difference of opinion between climatologists.  See:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/16/climate-change-triggers-earthquakes-tsunamis-volcanoes

McGuire states that,

“The atmosphere is far from isolated and interacts with other elements of the so-called “Earth system”, such as the oceans, ice caps and even the ground beneath our feet, in complex and often unexpected ways capable of making our world more dangerous. We are pretty familiar with the idea that the oceans swell as a consequence of the plunging atmospheric pressure at the heart of powerful storms, building surges driven onshore by high winds that can be massively destructive. Similarly, it does not stretch the imagination to appreciate that a warmer atmosphere promotes greater melting of the polar ice caps, thereby raising sea levels and increasing the risk of coastal flooding. But, more extraordinarily, the thin layer of gases that hosts the weather and fosters global warming really does interact with the solid Earth – the so-called geosphere — in such a way as to make climate change an even bigger threat.

This relationship is marvellously illustrated by a piece of research published in the journal Nature in 2009 by Chi-Ching Liu of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Taipei’s Academia Sinica. In the paper, Liu and his colleagues provided convincing evidence for a link between typhoons barrelling across Taiwan and the timing of small earthquakes beneath the island. Their take on the connection is that the reduced atmospheric pressure that characterises these powerful Pacific equivalents of hurricanes is sufficient to allow earthquake faults deep within the crust to move more easily and release accumulated strain. This may sound far fetched, but an earthquake fault that is primed and ready to go is like a coiled spring, and as geophysicist John McCloskey of the University of Ulster is fond of pointing out, all that is needed to set it off is – quite literally – “the pressure of a handshake”.

Perhaps even more astonishingly, Liu and his team proposed that storms might act as safety valves, repeatedly short-circuiting the buildup of dangerous levels of strain that otherwise could eventually instigate large, destructive earthquakes. This might explain, the researchers say, why the contact between the Eurasian and Philippine Sea tectonic plates, in the vicinity of Taiwan, has far less in the way of major quakes than further north where the plate boundary swings past Japan.

In a similar vein, it seems that the huge volume of rain dumped by tropical cyclones, leading to severe flooding, may also be linked to earthquakes. The University of Miami’s Shimon Wdowinski has noticed that in some parts of the tropics – Taiwan included – large earthquakes have a tendency to follow exceptionally wet hurricanes or typhoons, most notably the devastating quake that took up to 220,000 lives in Haiti in 2010. It is possible that floodwaters are lubricating fault planes, but Wdowinski has another explanation. He thinks that the erosion of landslides caused by the torrential rains acts to reduce the weight on any fault below, allowing it to move more easily.

It has been known for some time that rainfall also influences the pattern of earthquake activity in the Himalayas, where the 2015 Nepal earthquake took close to 9,000 lives, and where the threat of future devastating quakes is very high. During the summer monsoon season, prodigious quantities of rain soak into the lowlands of the Indo-Gangetic plain, immediately to the south of the mountain range, which then slowly drains away over the next few months. This annual rainwater loading and unloading of the crust is mirrored by the level of earthquake activity, which is significantly lower during the summer months than during the winter.

And it isn’t only earthquake faults that today’s storms and torrential rains are capable of shaking up. Volcanoes seem to be susceptible too. On the Caribbean island of Montserrat, heavy rains have been implicated in triggering eruptions of the active lava dome that dominates the Soufrière Hills volcano. Stranger still, Alaska’s Pavlof volcano appears to respond not to wind or rain, but to tiny seasonal changes in sea level. The volcano seems to prefer to erupt in the late autumn and winter, when weather patterns are such that water levels adjacent to this coastal volcano climb by a few tens of centimetres. This is enough to bend the crust beneath the volcano, allowing magma to be squeezed out, according to geophysicist Steve McNutt of the University of South Florida, “like toothpaste out of a tube”.

volcano

If today’s weather can bring forth earthquakes and magma from the Earth’s crust, it doesn’t take much to imagine how the solid Earth is likely to respond to the large-scale environmental adjustments that accompany rapid climate change. In fact, we don’t have to imagine at all. The last time our world experienced serious warming was at the end of the last ice age when, between about 20,000 and 10,000 years ago, temperatures rose by six degrees centigrade, melting the great continental ice sheets and pushing up sea levels by more than 120m.

These huge changes triggered geological mayhem. As the kilometres-thick Scandinavian ice sheet vanished, the faults beneath released the accumulated strain of tens of millennia, spawning massive magnitude eight earthquakes. Quakes of this scale are taken for granted today around the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire”, but they are completely out of place in Santa’s Lapland. Across the Norwegian Sea, in Iceland, the volcanoes long buried beneath a kilometre of ice were also rejuvenated as the suffocating ice load melted away, prompting a “volcano storm” about 12,000 years ago that saw the level of activity increase by up to 50 times.

Now, global average temperatures are shooting up again and are already more than one degree centigrade higher than during preindustrial times. It should come as no surprise that the solid Earth is starting to respond once more. In southern Alaska, which has in places lost a vertical kilometre of ice cover, the reduced load on the crust is already increasing the level of seismic activity. In high mountain ranges across the world from the Caucasus in the north to New Zealand’s southern Alps, longer and more intense heatwaves are melting the ice and thawing the permafrost that keeps mountain faces intact, leading to a rise in major landslides.”

McGuire goes on to discuss individual events, such as volcanic eruptions in Iceland, landslides in the Alps, melting of ice in Greenland and other mountainous areas, as well as the melting of the permafrost in Siberia.

""

Bill McGuire is professor emeritus in geophysical and climate hazards at UCL. His current book is Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate TriggersEarthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes.


The subject has also been discussed more recently by Josh Babbatiss in The Independent:


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Met Office Report: UK heatwaves are lasting twice as long as they did 50 years ago

The first study of climate extremes in the UK by the Met Office shows the longer-term trend behind this summer’s prolonged spell of high temperatures and the weakening of winter frosts.

In line with numerous other research papers on the rise in global temperatures, it also highlights how weather patterns are being pushed off a normal path as a result of human emissions of carbon  dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

A warm spell is a run of at least six days for which daily maximum temperatures are sufficiently above average for the time of year.

See: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/02/uk-heatwaves-lasting-twice-as-long-as-50-years-ago-met-office?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTgxMTAy&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

heatwaveUK2018

The full Met Office report can be found at: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/collaboration/ukcp

but is copied from their website, with included links, below:



The UK Climate Projections provides the most up-to-date assessment of how the climate of the UK may change over the 21st century. Find information to help with your climate change risk assessments and adaptation plans.

The UK Climate Projections is a climate analysis tool that forms part of the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme which is supported by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Last updated: 


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New 2018 UN Report shows that climate change is worse than predicted

A new report, published by an international panel of climate scientists, describes the impact of global warming at 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels and compares the impact of global warming at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Basically, it is saying that 1.5ºC is the better target.  Indeed, a representative of the Marshall Islands is said to have reported that allowing global warming to reach 2º is genocide. But the report also points out how difficult it will be to keep warming below 1.5 degrees because of actions that have already been taken, so that too much carbon is already in the atmosphere.

There is now increasing use of the word anthropogenic, which means relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings, on nature”.

A summary of the report, which was commissioned by the United Nations IPCC, can be found at:

http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

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Chair of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee (centre), speaks during a press conference on Oct 8 2018

Basically, the IPCC is now saying that the 1.5 ºC goal is technically and economically feasible, but it depends on political leadership to become reality.

The panel says capping global warming at 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already gone up about one degree, which has been enough to unleash a surge of deadly extreme weather – but it is on track to rise another two or three degrees unless there is a sharp and sustained reduction in carbon pollution.  This is demonstrated by the graphic below:

Capture

 



Below is part of the summary document.


A. Understanding Global Warming of 1.5°C
A1. Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence) {1.2, Figure SPM.1}
A1.1. Reflecting the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) for the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C (likely between 0.75°C and 0.99°C) higher than the average over the 1850–1900 period (very high confidence). Estimated anthropogenic global warming matches the level of observed warming to within ±20% (likely range). Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions (high confidence). {1.2.1, Table 1.1, 1.2.4}
A1.2. Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic. Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean. (high confidence) {1.2.1, 1.2.2, Figure 1.1, Figure 1.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2}
A1.3. Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected over time spans during which about 0.5°C of global warming occurred (medium confidence). This assessment is based on several lines of evidence, including attribution studies for changes in extremes since 1950. {3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3}
A.2. Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence), but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence) {1.2, 3.3, Figure 1.5, Figure SPM.1}
A2.1. Anthropogenic emissions (including greenhouse gases, aerosols and their precursors) up to the present are unlikely to cause further warming of more than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades (high confidence) or on a century time scale (medium confidence). {1.2.4, Figure 1.5}                                                                                                    A2.2. Reaching and sustaining net-zero global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and declining net nonCO2 radiative forcing would halt anthropogenic global warming on multi-decadal timescales (high confidence). The maximum temperature reached is then determined by cumulative net global anthropogenic CO2 emissions up to the time of net zero CO2 emissions (high confidence) and the level of non-CO2 radiative forcing in the decades prior to the time that maximum temperatures are reached (medium confidence). On longer timescales, sustained net negative global anthropogenic
CO2 emissions and/or further reductions in non-CO2 radiative forcing may still be required to prevent further warming due to Earth system feedbacks and reverse ocean acidification (medium confidence) and will be required to minimise sea level rise (high confidence). {Cross-Chapter Box 2 in Chapter 1, 1.2.3, 1.2.4, Figure 1.4, 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 3.4.4.8, 3.4.5.1, 3.6.3.2}



It is obviously a very technical document so it may be best to direct the reader to other summaries of its text.  The first is very alarmist:

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/amp/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html?__twitter_impression=true



The Fossil Free News has the following statement:

“A month on from the mass #RiseforClimate mobilizations around the world, we’re seeing public discourse turn back to climate change this week. A new United Nations report, detailing the dangers of a world above 1.5˚C of warming, has just been published – and it’s a tough wake up call. 

All over, people are speaking out about what the new report on 1.5 means – that science itself necessitates an end to fossil fuels as fast as we possibly can. 

This has the potential to be a turning point. People everywhere are waking up to the fact that a livable world is a Fossil Free world. Wherever you are, you can help deliver this urgent message to local leaders this weekend and encourage them to go Fossil Free.”

They also post this piece of video:


 


Friends of the Earth sent out the following statement:

“Today, the world’s leading panel of climate change experts released its latest report [1]. And it doesn’t make for cheerful reading.

The report lays bare how crucial it is that we keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. If we don’t stop burning coal, oil and gas, the damage to wildlife, ecosystems, and vulnerable communities around the globe will be almost unimaginable.  

But the UK government seems determined to do the opposite. As you know, it actually wants to make it easier for fracking companies to drill in search of gas. And thanks to its narrow-minded pursuit of fracking, later this week we could see the first fracking in this country since 2011 – when Cuadrilla’s operations near Blackpool were halted due to earth tremors.”  



The Guardian says the following:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/world-leaders-have-moral-obligation-to-act-after-un-climate-report?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTgxMDEy&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

The headline states the following:

World leaders ‘have moral obligation to act’ after UN climate report

Even half degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals and intensify heat extremes, report shows

The article goes on to state:

“But the muted response by Britain, Australia and other governments highlights the immense political challenges facing adoption of pathways to the relatively safe limit of 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures outlined on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

With the report set to be presented at a major climate summit in Poland in December, known as COP24, there is little time for squabbles. The report noted that emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030 in order to keep warming within 1.5C. That means decisions have to be taken in the next two years to decommission coal power plants and replace them with renewables, because major investments usually have a lifecycle of at least a decade.”

 



Martin Wolf writing for the Financial Times on 23rd October 2018, in an article entitled “Inaction over climate change is shameful: we need to shift the world onto a different investment and growth path immediately”.  He starts his article with the words:

It is five minutes to midnight on climate change. We will have to alter our trajectory very quickly if we wish to have a good chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. That was a goal of the Paris agreement of 2015. Achieving it means drastic reductions in emissions from now. This is very unlikely to happen. That is no longer because it is technically impossible. It is because it is politically painful. We are instead set on running an irreversible bet on our ability to manage the consequences of a far bigger rise even than 2C. Our progeny will see this as a crime.”

He goes onto to provide graphical data demonstrating the reality of climate change, as well as suggestions for implementing a radical reduction in climate emissions. See:

https://www.ft.com/content/b1c35f36-d5fd-11e8-ab8e-6be0dcf18713?accessToken=zwAAAWalWQ5okdOxw1821f0R6NOrjmvg3PGHEw.MEQCIHrSnzLknveTTsC_gpNj8MSfIAypDMWaqbPtXV1e1jyWAiBhn-zEUulScTd0cRx3rzhLa_aSSb6WujzjV3YvfDzGQg&sharetype=gift

On the same page is an advertisement offering information about “Climate Change Investment”.

https://blogs.cfainstitute.org/marketintegrity/2018/03/16/esg-qa-principles-for-climate-conscious-investment/?s_cid=dsp_BRAND18_Smartology_FT_EMEA_300x600



Following on from Martin Wolf’s excellent Financial Times article, a reader sent in the following letter:

Climate change must be part of the FT’s reporting From Claire James, London, UK.  “Martin Wolf’s excellent article “The shameful inaction over climate change” (October 24) about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report sets out with brutal clarity what is at stake if we delay action on climate change. Will the Financial Times now move to acknowledge this in its wider news and business coverage, in particular for high-carbon sectors such as fossil fuel extraction or aviation? The climate impact of particular projects should be included as standard information for your readers. Unfortunately, investment in these industries’ continued expansion, rather than in sustainable alternatives, is precisely why a safe climate for future generations is now almost unachievable. Claire James London W5, UK.”



 


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The Truth about Heatwaves: 2

In the first of my blogs about heatwaves, I focused on the heatwaves that are occurring on land more and more often and the effects these are having on terrestrial life forms, including humans.

In this blog, I will describe the effects of heatwaves on the oceans, which have doubled in the last 30 years. Up till now, perhaps we have been unaware that heatwaves do affect the oceans and the life that in them. In other blogs, and in my book, I have talked about the destruction of coral as the seas warm, causing coral bleaching.  It is also known that, after the 2016 heatwave in Australia, one third of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef died.  Many of the beautiful fish who live in coral reefs, and are dependent on them, will be affected by the death of corals.

2_3_X_PacificReefFishesExh (2)

Fish in a coral reef

In yet another blog, I have referred to how global warming is affecting the gender of sea turtle eggs, developing in the hot sands where they have been laid, so that now the majority (99%) of the hatchlings born in Northern Australia are female.

Swiss scientists have been recording sea water temperatures over the period 1982-2016 and have found that the number of ocean heatwaves has doubled.  Marine heatwaves can last for several days, and even weeks, as water absorbs heat more readily than air and releases it more slowly.  Dr Thomas Frölicher, of the University of Bern in Switzerland, is the climate scientist who has conducted this study. He believes that the trend of increasing ocean heatwaves will only accelerate with time. Prolonged periods of extreme heat in the oceans can damage kelp forests as well as coral reefs, and harm fish and other marine life. Some sea creatures have evolved to survive in a very narrow band of temperatures compared to creatures on land.  Some free swimming fish can move to other places when the sea becomes too hot for them but, with fixed organisms like coral and kelp forests, there is no opportunity to move.

kelpforest

Kelp forest

If the plankton in the sea, as well as kelp forests, are affected by warming temperatures, many marine creatures will lose their main source of food.

Further details of the study, published in Nature, can be found on the following websites:

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/heatwaves-in-the-ocean-have-doubled-in-the-last-30-years_uk_5b75529fe4b02b415d75cf93

http://www.itv.com/news/2018-08-15/marine-heatwaves-on-the-increase-in-worlds-oceans/



 


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How long will Donald Trump’s ice-carved face last in the Arctic melt?

According to a report in the Independent, a Finnish environmental group, Melting Ice, plan to carve Donald Trump’s face into an iceberg in the arctic region.  They are raising money in order to do this.

The Project Trumpmore sculpture will be 115 ft high.  On their website (http://projecttrumpmore.com/#s1), the group ask the question, “Will it melt or last a thousand years?” They are building it to demonstrate that climate change is real. A statement from the chairman of the group is quoted as saying, “Often people only believe something when they see it with their own eyes.”

It is well known that Mr Trump often questions whether climate change exists, or has blamed the Chinese for inventing it “in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

The following statement is on the group’s website:

What are we trying to achieve?                                                                                                         Global warming is a huge, abstract concept. It’s been a topic of discussion among environmental specialists for a long time, and you see it mentioned in the news every day. Many wonderful organisations do great work in acting against it as do politicians and people all over the world. We think that in its intangibility, global warming lacks a concrete symbol. One that would prove it exists, or not. That’s what we are setting out to do: a scientific art project. We understand that our plan is ambitious, but the fact that you are reading this means that we have already succeeded, even if just a bit.

People don’t follow politicians, politicians follow people. We hope that the more conversation takes place around our monument and global warming, the better possibilities politicians have to make concrete fact based decisions.

A Crowdfunding enterprise is aiming to raise 400k Euros and the plan is to build the sculpture to match the size of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture will be carried out by a world-leading team of Finnish and Mongolian ice sculptors. Estimated building will take four weeks and the process will be documented and broadcast via a live feed.  The team are currently searching for a location for the project. The monument will be carved on the melting Arctic glacier, where the effect of global warming is said to be its most concrete.

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The Independent provided an image of what the sculpture may look like.