By Ethan Siegel
15 March 2017
(Forbes) – Modeling the Earth's climate is one of the most daunting, complicated tasks out there. If only we were more like the Moon, things would be easy. The Moon has no atmosphere, no oceans, no icecaps, no seasons, and no complicated flora and fauna to get in the way of simple radiative physics. No wonder it's so challenging to model! In fact, if you google "climate models wrong", eight of the first ten results showcase failure. But headlines are never as reliable as going to the scientific source itself, and the ultimate source, in this case, is the first accurate climate model ever: by Syukuro Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald. 50 years after their groundbreaking 1967 paper, the science can be robustly evaluated, and they got almost everything exactly right.
If there were no atmosphere on Earth, calculating the climate would be easy. The Sun emits radiation, the Earth absorbs some of the incident radiation and reflects the rest, then the Earth re-radiates away that energy. Temperatures would be easily calculable based on albedo (i.e., reflectivity), the angle of the surface to the Sun, the length/duration of the day, and the efficiency of how it re-radiates that energy. If we were to strip the atmosphere away entirely, our planet’s typical temperature would be 255 Kelvin (-18 °C / 0 °F), which is most definitely colder than what we observe. In fact, it's about 33 °C (59 °F) colder than what we see, and what we need to account for that difference is an accurate climate model.
The number one contributor, by far, to this difference? The atmosphere. This "blanket-like" effect of the gases in our atmosphere was first discovered nearly two centuries ago by Joseph Fourier and worked out in detail by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. Each of the gases present has some amount of absorptive effects in the infrared portion of the spectrum, which is the portion where Earth re-radiates most of its energy. Nitrogen and oxygen are terrible absorbers, but good ones include water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and carbon dioxide. When we add (or take away) more of those gases from our planet’s atmosphere, it’s like thickening (or thinning) the blanket that the planet wears. This, too, was worked out by Arrhenius over 100 years ago.
The big advance of Manabe and Wetherald's work was to model not just the feedbacks but the interrelationships between the different components that contribute to the Earth's temperature. As the atmospheric contents change, so do both the absolute and relative humidity, which impacts cloud cover, water vapor content and cycling/convection of the atmosphere. What they found is that if you start with a stable initial state -- roughly what Earth experienced for thousands of years prior to the start of the industrial revolution -- you can tinker with one component (like CO2) and model how everything else evolves.
The title of their paper, “Thermal Equilibrium of the Atmosphere with a Given Distribution of Relative Humidity” (full download for free here), describes their big advances: they were able to quantify the interrelationships between various contributing factors to the atmosphere, including temperature/humidity variations, and how that impacts the equilibrium temperature of Earth. Their major result, from 1967?
According to our estimate, a doubling of the CO2 content in the atmosphere has the effect of raising the temperature of the atmosphere (whose relative humidity is fixed) by about 2 °C. [more]
ABSTRACT: Radiative convective equilibrium of the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity is computed as the asymptotic state of an initial value problem.
The results show that it takes almost twice as long to reach the state of radiative convective equilibrium for the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity than for the atmosphere with a given distribution of absolute humidity.
Also, the surface equilibrium temperature of the former is almost twice as sensitive to change of various factors such as solar constant, CO2 content, O3 content, and cloudiness, than that of the latter, due to the adjustment of water vapor content to the temperature variation of the atmosphere.
According to our estimate, a doubling of the CO2 content in the atmosphere has the effect of raising the temperature of the atmosphere (whose relative humidity is fixed) by about 2C. Our model does not have the extreme sensitivity of atmospheric temperature to changes of CO2 content which was adduced by Möller.
By Christopher Luu
19 March 2017
(Refinery29) – The next time that you pick up a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, you'll notice a very important thing missing. No, not the toys, they've never been in this particular cereal. Look closer. BuzzBee, the lovable bee mascot, is gone. General Mills announced that Honey Nut Cheerios boxes will be without the recognizable mascot — and it's to draw attention to a very important issue: pollinator populations.
According to Greenpeace's Save The Bees campaign, "two thirds of the crops used to feed people, accounting for 90% of the world's nutrition, are pollinated by bees." But as important as they are, the environmental organization reports that bees and pollinators — like BuzzBee — are disappearing. That's why the special #BringBackTheBees Honey Nut Cheerios box will hit shelves without its famous mascot. [more]
MINNEAPOLIS, 9 March 2017 (PRNewswire) – Shoppers may notice something unusual about the boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios on grocery store shelves this spring -- "BuzzBee," the brand's iconic spokesbee, is missing and there's a very important reason why. Buzz disappeared from boxes because there's something serious going on with the world's pollinators.
Pollinators are critical to our environment. More than two thirds of the crops used to feed people, accounting for 90 percent of the world's nutrition, are pollinated by bees1. With deteriorating colony health, pollinators everywhere have been disappearing by the millions1.
Pollinators need wildflower pollen and nectar to stay happy and healthy. Planting wildflowers is recommended by conservationists as one of the best ways to support pollinators, and is a fun, simple way to help. Honey Nut Cheerios wants to create a more bee-friendly world by encouraging consumers to plant over 100 million wildflowers this year. To join #BringBackTheBees, families are invited to order and plant free wildflower seeds from Vesey's Seeds by visiting www.cheerios.com/bringbackthebees.
Bees have experienced an unprecedented scale of habitat loss, with more than 9 million acres of grass and prairie land converted to crop land since 2008.2 Although, BuzzBee and his honey bee friends may not be in danger of extinction like some other pollinators, in the interest of protecting our food supply, General Mills is committed to helping all pollinators thrive through the planting of these habitats.
"As a General Mills cereal built around nutrition, helping pollinators get the key nutrition they need through fun, family-friendly activities like planting wildflowers is a natural fit," said Susanne Prucha, director of marketing for Cheerios. "Our commitment to increasing the habitat for pollinators is one way we are continuously striving to be a company that not only makes products people love, but a company that pursues creative solutions to make our world a better place for all families."
Approximately 30 percent of all ingredients in General Mills' products rely on pollination. Since 2011, General Mills has invested more than $4 million with the Xerces Society –the world's oldest and largest pollinator conservation group – to support pollinator and biodiversity efforts. Large-scale habitat projects have already been planted or are underway with farms supplying ingredients to Cheerios, Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, LÄRABAR and Annie's.
Last spring, Honey Nut Cheerios announced that by the end of 2020, farms that grow oats for Cheerios will house approximately 3,300 total acres of dedicated pollinator habitat on 60,000 acres of land. Previous pollinator habitat plantings on General Mills' supplier farms indicate that each pollinator habitat is expected to double the amount of bees in the area.
Throughout the spring, Honey Nut Cheerios will continue its efforts to help conserve pollinator populations in the U.S. Visit www.cheerios.com/bringbackthebees for more information on how to help #BringBackTheBees.
About General Mills
General Mills is a leading global food company that serves the world by making food people love. Its brands include Cheerios, Annie's, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Fiber One, Haagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, General Mills generated fiscal 2016 consolidated net sales of US $16.6 billion, as well as another US $1.0 billion from its proportionate share of joint-venture net sales.
2 USDA Farm Service Agency
By Lucy EJ Woods
17 March 2017
(Climate Home) – Chinese investments are speeding up new coal developments in the Thar region of Pakistan, despite local water scarcity and pollution and an abundance of solar energy potential.
The CEO of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECM), Shamsuddin Ahmad Shaikh, said on Thursday that with government and investor support – particularly from China – its coal developments in Thar are running quicker than expected.
SECM is developing a 1,320MW coal power plant in Thar which is expected to be completed by June 2019.
Also under development is the Sino-Sindh Resources Limited (SSRL)’s open pit mine, which is expected to produce 6.5m metric tonnes a year. It will reach commercial operation as early as 2018. Coal from this pit will power a 1,320MW plant, expected to be operational by 2019.
Addressing a seminar in Karachi, Shaikh said that SECM can “considerably” reduce electricity costs to 6¢ per unit once its Thar coal production reaches a capacity of 4,000MW.
Thar’s provincial chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, said the coal projects will “change the face” of Pakistan’s biggest city Karachi and Sindh, the province in which Thar is located. […]
Thar is home to one of the largest coal deposits in the world, with 175 billion tons of coal over 9,000 square kilometres. However, Aware is campaigning for Thar coal reserves to remain in the ground.
Akbar says people are already feeling the effects of water scarcity and coal dust pollution due to mining activities. Gaining water in Thar is “a very difficult practice,” said Akbar. Animals are used to pull a rope, tied to a bucket. Sometimes the water that is left is 300ft deep, says Akbar.
By Emily Flitter; Editing by Howard Goller, Bill Trott, and Lisa Shumaker
15 March 2017
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Seventeen congressional Republicans signed a resolution on Wednesday vowing to seek "economically viable" ways to stave off global warming, challenging the stated views of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax.
Republicans Elise Stefanik of New York, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania introduced the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, pledging to "study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates" and seek ways to "balance human activities" that contribute.
Several Republicans who signed the resolution, which is non-binding, represent parts of the country most affected. Curbelo hails from Miami, where streets regularly flood at high tide due to rising sea levels.
"This issue was regrettably politicized some 20 or so years ago and we are in the process of taking some of the politics out, reducing the noise and focusing on the challenge and on the potential solutions," Curbelo said in a call with journalists on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the White House declined to comment.
Jay Butera, a congressional liaison for the non-partisan group the Citizens Climate Lobby, called the resolution "an important step toward getting both parties focused on finding solutions." [more]
Coal lobbyist Trump attorney seeks to bypass U.S. kids’ climate lawsuit – “Their political goal is to put oil and gas profits over the future of our country’s posterity”0 comments Posted by Jim at Friday, March 17, 2017
By Karl Mathiesen
9 March 2017
(Climate Change News) – The U.S. administration is seeking a fast-track appeal against a climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young people.
Jeffrey Wood, a temporary Trump appointee at the Justice Department and recently a fossil fuel lobbyist,3 called on the federal court in Oregon to send the case to appeal before evidence was submitted and a ruling made in the initial trial.
A lobbyist for fossil fuel interests until January, Wood said the move would “avoid litigation that is unprecedented in its scope and in its potential to be protracted, expensive, and disruptive to the continuing operation of the United States Government”.
The youths claim that government inaction on climate change has breached their constitutional rights. They are seeking immediate steps to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the air to 350 parts per million. […]
Lawyers working on behalf of the group of youths, who range in age from 9 to 20-years-old, said the “plaintiffs maintain that their requests are limited, reasonable, and aimed at getting to trial this fall”.
As reported in The Intercept, lobbying disclosure forms show Wood was acting for fossil fuel interests before being appointed as acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department environment division. As recently as January, he worked for Southern Company – which mostly runs gas and coal power stations.
A lawyer representing the youths, Philip Gregory from the law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, said science, not politics should form the basis of the court’s decision.
“We have always viewed this case as the kids versus the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. Now that the fossil fuel industry has placed its former senior officers and paid consultants in positions of political power, the interests of both the government and the fossil fuel industry are completely aligned. Their political goal is to put oil and gas profits over the future of our country’s posterity,” said Gregory. [more]
Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year in 2016 – “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age”2 comments Posted by Jim at Friday, March 17, 2017
10 March 2017 (NOAA) – Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.
Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.
Theo Stein, 303-497-6288
Australia State of the Environment report highlights threat of coal mining, urban growth, invasive species, and global warming0 comments Posted by Jim at Wednesday, March 15, 2017
By Henry Belot
7 March 2017
(ABC News) – The Government has no comprehensive national plan to protect Australia's landscape to the year 2050, according to a report, which also warns of the potentially irreversible impact of climate change and the threats of coal mining, invasive species, rubbish, urban growth and habitat destruction.
The State of the Environment 2016 report — commissioned by the Federal Government and written by independent experts — found while the main environmental challenges remained climate change and land use, Australia had made good progress in managing marine environments.
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the report also showed improvements in the ozone layer above the Antarctic, although further improvements were necessary. […]
"We've seen a bleaching event last year in the Barrier Reef and we're concerned about further bleaching events.
"We're also seeing some real challenges with invasive species and particularly feral cats that prey on marsupials and birds and reptiles, many of which are on the endangered list."
Invasive species were listed as one of "the most potent, persistent and widespread threats" to the Australian environment.
"Invasive species have a major impact on Australia's environment, threatening biodiversity by, for example, reducing overall species abundance and diversity," the report said.
The report said climate change was a pervasive pressure on all aspects of Australian environment as was altering the structure and function of the natural ecosystem.
"Evidence shows that the impacts of climate change are increasing, and some of these impacts may be irreversible," the report said. [more]
In the past 5 years (2011–16), environmental policies and management practices in Australia have achieved improvements in the state and trends of parts of the Australian environment. Australia’s built environment, natural and cultural heritage, and marine and Antarctic environments are generally in good condition.
There are, however, areas where the condition of the environment is poor and/or deteriorating. These include the more populated coastal areas and some of the growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest (particularly in south-eastern Australia); and the extensive land-use zone of Australia, where grazing is considered a major threat to biodiversity.
In Australia, the key drivers of environmental change are population growth and economic activity. The extent to which these drivers lead to environmental impacts depends on a range of factors, including:
- how many of us there are
- where and how we live
- the goods and services we produce (for both domestic and export markets) and consume
- the technologies we use to produce our energy, food, materials and transport
- how we manage the waste we produce.
Keeping impacts within limits is one key to a sustainable future.
If not managed well, drivers can generate pressures that have immediate and long-term negative consequences for the environment. If managed well, however, drivers can be harnessed to achieve environmental benefits.
The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land-use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species. In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.
Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.
During the same time, however, other pressures have increased—for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.
For some parts of the Australian environment, at least, effective policy and management have contributed to improved outcomes for the environment and for people. For example, early indications are that environmental watering in the Murray–Darling Basin driven by the 2012 Murray–Darling Basin Plan, along with the effects of natural floods, have contributed to ecological benefits for stream functioning and biodiversity. In the marine environment, the formation of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority in 2012 has increased scrutiny of offshore petroleum environmental management. This has resulted in better understanding of activity impacts, greater focus on industry compliance and increased levels of preparedness for unplanned events.
However, a number of key challenges to the effective management of the Australian environment remain:
- An overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050 is lacking. Such a program needs to be supported by
- specific action programs and policy to preserve and, where necessary, restore natural capital and our unique environments, taking into account the need to adapt to climate change
- complementary policy and strengthened legislative frameworks at the national, state and territory levels
- efficient, collaborative and complementary planning and decision-making processes across all levels of government, with clear lines of accountability.
- Poor collaboration and coordination of policies, decisions and management arrangements exists across sectors and between different managers (public and private).
- Follow-through from policy to action is lacking.
- Data and long-term monitoring are inadequate.
- Resources for environmental management and restoration are insufficient.
- The understanding of, and capacity to identify and measure, cumulative impacts is inadequate, which reduces the potential for coordinated approaches to their management.
Meeting these challenges requires:
- integrated policies and adaptive management actions that address drivers of environmental change and the associated pressures
- national leadership
- improved support for decision-making
- a more strategic focus on planning for a sustainable future
- new, reliable sources of financing.
Soils could release much more carbon than expected as climate warms – “By 2100, the warming of deeper soil layers could cause a release of carbon perhaps as high as 30 percent of today’s human-caused annual carbon emissions”0 comments Posted by Jim at Wednesday, March 15, 2017
By Dan Krotz
9 March 2017
(Berkeley Lab) – Soils could release much more CO2 than expected into the atmosphere as the climate warms, according to new research by scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).
Their findings are based on a field experiment that, for the first time, explored what happens to organic carbon trapped in soil when all soil layers are warmed, which in this case extend to a depth of 100 centimeters. The scientists discovered that warming both the surface and deeper soil layers at three experimental plots increased the plots’ annual release of CO2 by 34 to 37 percent over non-warmed soil. Much of the CO2 originated from deeper layers, indicating that deeper stores of carbon are more sensitive to warming than previously thought.
They report their work online March 9 in the journal Science.
The results shed light on what is potentially a big source of uncertainty in climate projections. Soil organic carbon harbors three times as much carbon as Earth’s atmosphere. In addition, warming is expected to increase the rate at which microbes break down soil organic carbon, releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
But, until now, the majority of field-based soil warming experiments only focused on the top five to 20 centimeters of soil—which leaves a lot of carbon unaccounted for. Experts estimate soils below 20 centimeters in depth contain more than 50 percent of the planet’s stock of soil organic carbon. The big questions have been: to what extent do the deeper soil layers respond to warming? And what does this mean for the release of CO2 into the atmosphere?
“We found the response is quite significant,” says Caitlin Hicks Pries, a postdoctoral researcher in Berkeley Lab’s Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division. She conducted the research with co-corresponding author Margaret Torn, and Christina Castahna and Rachel Porras, who are also Berkeley Lab scientists.
“If our findings are applied to soils around the globe that are similar to what we studied, meaning soils that are not frozen or saturated, our calculations suggest that by 2100 the warming of deeper soil layers could cause a release of carbon to the atmosphere at a rate that is significantly higher than today, perhaps even as high as 30 percent of today’s human-caused annual carbon emissions depending on the assumptions on which the estimate is based,” adds Hicks Pries.
The need to better understand the response of all soil depths to warming is underscored by projections that, over the next century, deeper soils will warm at roughly the same rate as surface soils and the air. In addition, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change simulations of global average soil temperature, using a “business-as-usual” scenario in which carbon emissions rise in the decades ahead, predict that soil will warm 4° Celsius by 2100.
To study the potential impacts of this scenario, the Berkeley Lab scientists pioneered an innovative experimental setup at the University of California’s Blodgett Forest Research Station, which is located in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The soil at the research station is representative of temperate forest soils, that in turn account for about 13.5 percent of soil area worldwide.
The scientists built their experiment around six soil plots that measure three meters in diameter. The perimeter of each plot was ringed with 22 heating cables that were vertically sunk more than two meters underground. They warmed three of the plots 4° Celsius for more than two years, leaving the other three plots unheated to serve as controls.
They monitored soil respiration three different ways over the course of the experiment. Each plot had an automated chamber that measured the flux of carbon at the surface every half hour. In addition, one day each month, Hicks Pries and the team measured surface carbon fluxes at seven different locations at each plot.
A third method probed the all-important underground realm. A set of stainless steel “straws” was installed below the surface at each plot. The scientists used the straws to measure CO2concentrations once a month at five depths between 15 and 90 centimeters. By knowing these CO2 concentrations and other soil properties, they could model the extent to which each depth contributed to the amount of CO2 released at the surface.
They discovered that, of the 34 to 37 percent increase in CO2 released at the three warmed plots, 40 percent of this increase was due to CO2 that came from below 15 centimeters. They also found the sensitivity of soil to warming was similar across the five depths.
The scientists say these findings suggest the degree to which soil organic carbon influences climate change may be currently underestimated.
“There’s an assumption that carbon in the subsoil is more stable and not as responsive to warming as in the topsoil, but we’ve learned that’s not the case,” says Torn. “Deeper soil layers contain a lot of carbon, and our work indicates it’s a key missing component in our understanding of the potential feedback of soils to the planet’s climate.”
The research was supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
ABSTRACT: Soil organic carbon harbors three times as much carbon as Earth’s atmosphere, and its decomposition is a potentially large climate change feedback and major source of uncertainty in climate projections. The response of whole-soil profiles to warming has not been tested in situ. In this deep warming experiment in mineral soil, CO2 production from all soil depths increased significantly with 4°C warming—annual soil respiration increased by 34-37%. All depths responded to warming with similar temperature sensitivities, driven by decomposition of decadal-aged carbon. Whole-soil warming reveals a larger soil respiration response than many in situ experiments, most of which only warm the surface soil, and models.
11 March 2017 (White Wolf Pack) – Thousands of Native American demonstrators and their supporters marched to the White House to voice outrage at the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
The protest follows months of demonstrations in a remote part of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe demonstrated in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing upstream from their reservation.
That pipeline is being installed now, after Trump signed an executive order last month smoothing the path for construction. He also cleared the way for the Keystone XL project that would pipe Canadian crude into the United States.
The protesters, some wearing traditional tribal garb, carried signs reading "Native Lives Matter", "Water is Life", and "Protect the Water" while marching.
The Native Nations March, organized by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Indigenous Environmental Network, comes a month after the Army greenlighted completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline without an environmental study.
“There’s not a chance he’s going to go to a reservation,” Phillips said. “There’s not a chance he’s going to go to the people to find out what’s going on.”
So, they brought their message to him.
Tribes from around the county have been gathering in Washington, D.C., for days, erecting teepees on the National Mall near the White House. [more]