Thursday, January 31, 2008
The snowstorms in China are creating major disruptions in the global car business. Workers can't get to factories, goods can't be transported to harbors, plants have been shut down for lack of power. Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse has the story: Fierce, driving snow storms in China disrupted global automakers' production at their joint venture factories owing to a lack of workers, parts and energy, the companies said Wednesday. Ford Motor shut its Ford and Mazda assembly, engine and research plants in Nanjing from Monday as the eastern city was forced to close icy roads and bridges after being pounded by the worst snow storm in five decades.
"It would be very dangerous to ask the employees to come to the plant," said Lynn Ouyang, a spokeswoman for the Detroit, Michigan carmaker, adding she did not know when production would resume. Freezing temperatures and unrelenting snow has left Nanjing buried under a blanket of heavy snow, prompting the government to call on energy-guzzling factories to curtail production to help ease home-use natural gas shortages. "We use gas for air conditioning of the factory and also for drying paint on our products," said a Mazda spokeswoman.
Snowflake image by NOAA (from Wikimedia Commons). Trillions of these things are falling in China
Photo of green giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota by greefus groinks (from Wikimedia Commons)
90 billion tonnes of carbon a year is absorbed from the atmosphere by the oceans, and almost as much is released; microbes play a key role in both. On land, a combination of primary production, respiration and microbial decomposition leads to the uptake of 120 billion tonnes of carbon every year and the release of 119 billion tonnes.
"The impact of these microbially-controlled cycles on future climate warming is potentially huge," says Dr Reay [of the University of Edinburgh]. By better understanding these processes we could take more carbon out of the atmosphere using microbes on land and in the sea. Methane-eating bacteria can be used to catch methane that is released from landfill, Cyanobacteria could provide hydrogen fuel, and plankton have already become a feedstock for some biofuels.
"Microbes will continue as climate engineers long after humans have burned that final barrel of oil. Whether they help us to avoid dangerous climate change in the 21st century or push us even faster towards it depends on just how well we understand them."
Photo of a microbe (Paracoccus dentrificans, if you must know) by Richard Evans-Gowing, University of East Anglia (Wikimedia Commons)
Real Climate reports that these swell guys are holding a pseudo-scientific conference to generate PR for climate change denial. The Real Climate poster does an amusing job of explaining the difference between a genuine scientific conference and Heartland's festival of shills, scheduled to take place in New York March 2-4. He urges his readers to accept the all-expenses invitation that Heartland is dangling in front of real scientists and skip the tobacco-science lectures.
As usual, much work remains to better understand all the interconnections, and the work is much harder when denialists are busily making noise and doing their utmost to confuse everyone.
The stakes are high, since the insurance industry depends on this body of work to help them price risk correctly. Owners of coastal property might well be hovering at the boundaries of insurability, if they're not over the line already.
Hurricane structure graphic by NOAA
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Science Daily reports on an article called "Treating Sewage For Drinking Water," which should appear in the January 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News: C&EN Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley notes in the article that some communities have used recycled wastewater for decades to replenish their drinking water supplies and wastewater often finds agricultural use for irrigation. Droughts, environmental concerns, and population growth now are forcing water utilities to consider adapting or expanding the practice, Kemsley explains.
Earlier in January, for instance,
A simple measure, but the effect has been marked, according to this municipal official. People are sparing with water, and take care to avoid waste far more than before. The meters also have devices to shut down automatically if left on by accident, and also when they are tampered with. As a result, water levels at reservoirs and dams has been rising, which means that Capetown has been able to avoid water rationing methods. Residents of the parched American southwest and southeast, take note.
Photo of a water meter by Andre Karwath, or Aka (from Wikimedia Commons)
The credit is for Bob Swanson, Jeff Dionise and Sam Ward, USA today.
Photo of surveillance cameras perched high on a post, keeping their ankles dry, by Quevaal.
Topographic map of China from Wikimedia Commons.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
As well as drawing attention to the rising cost of invasive species on a global scale –estimated at US$1.4 trillion in damage – Global Invasive Species Program (GISP) stresses that too much emphasis has been placed on the problems faced by the agricultural sector in developed countries rather than in developing countries and on the “full range of environmental, social and economic costs.” The report also emphasises that due to the lack of knowledge and research available on the severity of individual pests and the options for best controlling them, policy makers are being left in the dark.
Dennis Rangi, Chair of GISP says: “With the increase in global trade, invasive species are gaining more and more prominence around the world. However the level of awareness amongst decision-makers, and in particular those in developing countries is still relatively low.”
He goes on to say that to enable informed policy making on the prevention, eradication and control of invasive species, it is critical that studies are expanded to show the extent of the problem and in particular the impact that these weeds, pests and diseases have on people’s lives. He says “numbers are not enough; decision makers need to know the tangible effects invasive species are having on the individual farmers and their crops.”…
…The report ”Economic Impacts of Invasive Alien Species: A Global Problem with Local Consequences" is authored by the Global Invasives Species Programme.Photo of kudzu, the invasive plant that engulfs the southern U.S., by Jan Kronzell
In other insurance news, Tony Blair has taken a job with Zurich Insurance, advising the company about climate change.
Photo of the staircase at Lloyds of London by Andrew Dunn Photo
Yahia translates talk of thermal expansion and the Greenland ice into consequences for
Satellite photo of the Nile Delta by NASA
It's important to note that disruptions from severe weather aren't "caused" by climate change. Disasters will always be with us, to our great misfortune. But if climate instability makes the disaster even slightly more frequent or severe, the change can make the impacts on societies dramatically worse.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Recent research by the Universite de Montreal (Canada) and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (Millbrook, New York) has revealed an important, but seldom accounted for, withdrawal in the global nitrogen cycle: commercial fisheries. Results, published as the cover story in the February issue of Nature Geoscience, highlight the role that fisheries play in removing nitrogen from coastal oceans....
It is small communities - typically found along the coast in countries such as Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean - which are expected to be worst affected by a changing climate. Climate change is, in turn, expected to herald sea level rise, more severe storms/hurricanes and warmer global temperatures. Along with that is expected lost livelihoods in such sectors as agriculture and tourism, which are highly susceptible to changing weather patterns.
Meanwhile, the local programme, to be launched formally on February 15, is being financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
"The idea behind next Tuesday's training (session at the Pegasus) is to present the background objectives and requirements for participation in the programme so that by February 15 when we have the launch, we can move smoothly into implementation," said Dale Rankine, national coordinator for the GEF Small Grants Programme.
Rankine was speaking with the Observer at the greenhouse gas inventory workshop at the Pegasus Hotel last Thursday. To benefit from the programme, community groups and NGOS will be required to formulate projects that address needs in the coastal and agriculture sectors. The projects are to be globally relevant, while ensuring that the benefits of their implementation are resilient to climate change.
In addition, projects must address biodiversity conservation or the prevention of land degradation. Beyond that, agencies selected for participation must be prepared to leverage a percentage of the costs of implementing the project. Rankine said the programme - which will run from 2008 to 2012 - is looking to finance between eight and 20 projects at US$20,000 to US$50,000.
Satellite photo of Jamaica by NASA.
Her visit forms part of a thematic tour to gather ideas and discuss how African countries, including Tanzania can be better involved in the global cooperation to find solutions to the effects of climate change, Danish Embassy in Tanzania said. She is due to hold discussions with Tanzanian authorities on climate and sustainable development challenges facing the East African country.
She will also visit areas affected by climate change, including an unplanned settlement in Dar es Salaam in Jangwani, a low lying and poorer area of the city which suffers from flooding, over housing and over use of wood burning fuels. Tomaes will visit drought prone areas in the Arusha region, including Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro as well as inspect Danish funded development activities geared towards improving the capacity of local authorities to manage effects of climate change....
Map of Tanzania by Rei-artur, wikimedia.org.
While a British group Bring Climate Criminals to Justice (BCCJ) focuses on the growing global warming threat to Bangladesh (see: HERE ), the world in general simply ignores the Anglo-Celtic and First World threat to Bengal – as indeed it has for 250 years since the Battle of Plassey (June 23, 1757) in which the British under Clive defeated the treason-compromised Bengalis under their Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah...
Flag of the British Raj from Barryob, Wikimedia.org.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The article tartly points out that this undermines the American line that business will lead the way in addressing climate instability, just in time for the Bush administration's meeting in Hawaii. Everyone is waiting for governments to to establish the rules. And that means waiting for the U.S.
Image from the Royal Natural History, volume 4, by R. Lydeker.
Photo of Tongass National Forest by Henry Hartley.
“In theory there might be enough land available around the globe to feed an ever-increasing world population and produce sufficient biomass feedstock simultaneously,” the [OECD] report said and added “but it is more likely that land-use constraints will limit the amount of new land that can be brought into production leading to a ‘food-versus-fuel’ debate.” Since land use is driven largely by profit motives, it says, diversions of cropland from food production will lead to food price increases over the next decade, the OECD report said.
Biomass production will likely put increased environmental pressure on tropical regions, whose land is most suitable for such crops, the report said. “When such impacts as soil acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and bio-diesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel,” it said. Moreover, the report questions whether developed nations have dramatically overestimated the extent to which bio-fuels can displace fossil fuels and warns that many of the more optimistic scenarios are highly unlikely to come to fruition....
Photo of an Indian tea plantation by Rightee.
The summary for policymakers notes, among other things, that, "the overall data quality and availability is alarmingly poor. The absence of broadly-collected and methodologically-consistent indicators for even the most basic concerns such as water quality–and the complete lack of time-series data for most countries–hampers efforts to shift pollution control and natural resource management onto more empirical foundations. To address these gaps, policymakers should (1) invest environmental data monitoring, indicators, and reporting; (2)set clear policy targets on the full range of important issues; and (3) undergird environmental protection efforts with performance metrics at the global, regional, national, state/provincial, local, and corporate scales."
They also supply a spreadsheet with their data, making it easy for everyone to sift through the numbers. Well worth a look.
Photo by Tomomarusan.
At the same time, Cuba has been engaging in a massive reforestation campaign, and has invested massively in alternative energy production, particularly solar and biofuels. When the World Wildlife Fund released their Living Planet report in 2007, only one country — Cuba — managed to meet the criteria set for sustainable development, by “improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems”...
Saturday, January 26, 2008
What does it mean to abandon the past to the consequences of our actions? There's even a question as to whether we should heed the past that much at all. Years ago, an Egyptian economist pointed out that if his government simply took the most basic efforts to identify and do a few simple protections for all the ancient sites they new about, the effort would cost many times the gross national project of Egypt. In England, the National Trust and others are considering similar issues for the Giant's Causeway, Lindisfarne Castle, and other sites exposed to intensified winds and waves.
Photo of Lindisfarne Castle by Monkeyatlarge.
Four horsemen of the apocalypse by Durer.
Food and water worries are top priorities, say Davos speakers · Food/Cooking
DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) — Warnings of a water and food crisis seemed incongruous among the lavish hospitality of Davos this year, but the danger was ...
Food supplies too scarce to meet relief needs
Financial Times, UK -
The debate on food spilt into discussions about water sustainability and rising energy prices in Davos yesterday. Delegates highlighted agriculture's role ...
Ban warns business on looming water crisis
Financial Times, UK -
By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in Davos Businesses are doing too little to tackle a looming water crisis, Ban Ki-Moon warned the World Economic Forum on ...
Water scarcity needs to be put high on global agenda: UN
UN Calls Water Top Priority
UN Secretary-General: World must address looming water crisis
Reuters South Africa, South Africa -
Holmes said that about 250000 people had been displaced by the violence, and double that number needed help such as basic food, clean water, and healthcare. ...
Initial funding for the scheme has come from a US$164.5m grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and US$15m from the Rockefeller Foundation. "AGRA's Soil Health Program will breathe new life into soils where rapid nutrient loss is sapping the ability of farmlands to sustain crops," said Dr Namanga Ngongi, president of AGRA.
"This will improve the sustainability of small-scale farms, raise the yield and income of poor farmers - most of whom are women - and help protect the natural resource base of soil and water." The programme will run alongside existing AGRA initiatives, including its Seeds Program, to help small-scale farmers use new high-yielding varieties of Africa's staple food crops. AGRA bosses said the investment will help African governments achieve a target of 6% annual growth rates in agriculture....
"It just makes dollars and sense right now," said Bruce Rolen, a third-generation farmer who grows rice, wheat and other crops in Northern California's....
Map of California water canals from the U.S Congressional Budget Office.
Friday, January 25, 2008
...At Shell, we think the world will take one of two possible routes. The first, a scenario we call Scramble, resembles a race through a mountainous desert. Like an off-road rally, it promises excitement and fierce competition. However, the unintended consequence of "more haste" will often be "less speed" and many will crash along the way.
The alternative scenario, called Blueprints, has some false starts and develops like a cautious ride on a road that is still under construction. Whether we arrive safely at our destination depends on the discipline of the drivers and the ingenuity of all those involved in the construction effort. Technical innovation provides for excitement.
Regardless of which route we choose, the world's current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand. As a result, society has no choice but to add other sources of energy - renewables , yes, but also more nuclear power and unconventional fossil fuels such as oil sands. Using more energy inevitably means emitting more CO2 at a time when climate change has become a critical global issue.
Flathead Beacon, MT -
Today, they protect human health and offer models that will help us confront the challenges of climate change. And for tens of millions of us, ...
DuPont Chief Science & Technology Officer Offers Perspectives on ...
Web Services Journal, NJ -
The discussion addressed aging societies, climate change, disease eradication, nuclear non- proliferation and environmental degradation, and the important ...
Climate change will have massive impact on human health
Earthtimes, UK -
The threat posed by climate change to human health is far greater than the predicted economic impact, according to a paper by Australian researcher Tony ...
Doctors can no longer ignore climate change, says RCP president
Politics.co.uk, UK -
There is no greater threat to human health and survival than climate change. For those of us working as doctors, its imminent and severe threat dwarfs any ...
Climate health warning sounded
InTheNews.co.uk, UK -
The impact of climate change upon global health levels will be "huge" unless world governments take steps to address the problem, an expert has warned. ...
The gathered scientists discussed number of gadgets with a high cool factor, such as Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR). The story is acronym-riddled and a little technical, and the science is similar to the radar guns that cops use to check car speeds. But don't let that deter you.
ASAR image of a 2002 oil spill off the coast of Spain by Envisat
In tiny Benin, the erosion on its narrow stretch of coastline was first recorded a century ago. The phenomenon has been exacerbated by the rise in seawater levels, attributed to global warming, and by massive construction projects such as the Nangbeto dam in Benin and the Akossombo dam in Ghana, as well as the development of deep-water ports at Cotonou and Lome, according to experts....
Map of Benin from the U.S. State Department's World Factbook
But the AGU's summary is still worth having: ...With climate change, as with ozone depletion, the human footprint on Earth is apparent. The cause of disruptive climate change, unlike ozone depletion, is tied to energy use and runs through modern society. Solutions will necessarily involve all aspects of society. Mitigation strategies and adaptation responses will call for collaborations across science, technology, industry, and government. Members of the AGU, as part of the scientific community, collectively have special responsibilities: to pursue research needed to understand it; to educate the public on the causes, risks, and hazards; and to communicate clearly and objectively with those who can implement policies to shape future climate.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Photo of bleached coral by US Geological Survey.
The pro-nuke mantra becomes less plausible when you consider the huge volume of carbon involved in mining uranium, processing the ore, transporting fuel to and fro, and disposal. And let's not even worry that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository is dead, and that proliferation worries remain every bit as pressing as in the past.
Americans seem hardwired to love nuclear power plants, and give them major subsidies. Apologists name a price of $5-$7 per kilowatt hour, but that seems like a fairy tale. If the actual cost of nuclear power plants were visible to the market, the option would become even less attractive. If we subsidized wind and solar to similar degree, we'd be living in a Jetsons alternative energy fantasy, with solar air cars and off-the-grid houses hovering above pretty green lakes.
Every time a major objection appears, the pro-nuclear claque assures us that we'll engineer our way out of the problem. "We'll build better plants in the next round -- more money, please!" But the cooling issue is one area where the green pretensions of nuclear power stand revealed. A story in USA Today shows how the drought-parched southeastern U.S. states are having a harder time cooling their reactors: ...An Associated Press analysis of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants' turbines.
Because of the year-long dry spell gripping the region, the water levels on those lakes and rivers are getting close to the minimums set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Over the next several months, the water could drop below the intake pipes altogether. Or the shallow water could become too hot under the sun to use as coolant.
"If water levels get to a certain point, we'll have to power it down or go off line," said Robert Yanity, a spokesman for South Carolina Electric & Gas, which operates the Summer nuclear plant outside Columbia, S.C....
It implies that in order to mitigate the effects of the Mwanza flash floods, for example, residents should embark on proper planning of settlements on the slopes and hilltops. Moreover, settlements should be built in a discernible order providing room for the construction of drainage systems including storm drains so that water is directed through a defined ``route`` down the slopes and thus save houses from being washed away. It is all within the concept of managing water and land related resources to improve the social welfare of the residents and at the same time sustain the ecosystem. ...
This week sees the tenth anniversary of an important event in the American environmental movement, although few people know it (even some who were there had forgotten the date). In late January, 1998, a group of 32 environmental scientists, activists and scholars sat down together at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin to hash out a consensus statement on The Precautionary Principle. After a grueling three days, the statement was put into final form on January 25 (just in time to see my beloved Green Bay Packers lose the Superbowl. Is history repeating itself? Aargh!).In the ten years since Wingspread, the Precautionary Principle has itself spread its wings. It has developed into a nuanced and flexible paradigm that has affected the thinking of both the public and the scientific community.
Image of precautionary-based decision model from the Massachussetts Precautionary Principle Project, via the Science and Environmental Health Network.
Forecasters Debate Hurricanes, Warming
The Associated Press -
The venue for the 88th annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society could not have been more conducive to the discussion: The Ernest N. Morial ...
Climate change and hurricanes stir debate among weather experts
Comment by Dr. Kevin Trenberth Head of the Climate Analysis Section, NCAR
Unmanned aircraft could boost hurricane-monitoring
At an American Meteorological Society meeting in New Orleans, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists announced a three-year program ...
Robot planes to take on "dangerous, dull, or dirty" missions
Send in the drones
Weathering the Storm
Canadian Underwriter, Canada -
A computer simulation in the late 1990s, presented at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, suggested hurricane losses could be in the ...
Science Daily (press release) -
... present their latest findings at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society. NCAR researchers will discuss connections between hurricanes ...