Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Global warming’ Category

How dead is the Great Barrier Reef?

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Written by LeisureGuy

25 May 2017 at 12:58 pm

An example of how a hidden agenda becomes obvious: IEA projections of growth of solar photovoltaic output each year

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I saw that via Kevin Drum’s good post, which includes the graph below, in which the solid line is what has transpired in the past and the dotted line is what the IEA figures the future will be:

Drum comments:

That looks…odd, doesn’t it? Solar PV has grown at a pretty fast clip over the past decade, but the IEA assumes the growth rate will suddenly level out starting this year and then start to decline. And this is their optimistic scenario that takes into account pledges made in Paris.

Read the whole thing.

 

 

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2017 at 10:13 am

Climate change denials is a losing strategy: Look at what’s happening to the Antarctic ice shelf

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The NY Times is running a series of three dispatches from the Antarctic on the dangers to our coastal cities from climate change leading to a significant rise in ocean levels. The first begins with some striking graphics that show how the Ross ice shelf is speeding up and breaking down.

THE ACCELERATION is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration.

Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically, the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities — Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more — is tied to Antarctica’s fate.

Four New York Times journalists joined a Columbia University team in Antarctica late last year to fly across the world’s largest chunk of floating ice in an American military cargo plane loaded with the latest scientific gear.

Inside the cargo hold, an engineer with a shock of white hair directed younger scientists as they threw switches. Gravity meters jumped to life. Radar pulses and laser beams fired toward the ice below.

On computer screens inside the plane, in ghostly traces of data, the broad white surface of the Ross Ice Shelf began to yield the secrets hiding beneath.

“We are 9,000 miles from New York,” said the white-haired engineer, Nicholas Frearson of Columbia. “But we are connected by the ocean.”

A rapid disintegration of Antarctica might, in the worst case, cause the sea to rise so fast that tens of millions of coastal refugees would have to flee inland, potentially straining societies to the breaking point. Climate scientists used to regard that scenario as fit only for Hollywood disaster scripts. But these days, they cannot rule it out with any great confidence.

Yet as they try to determine how serious the situation is, the scientists confront a frustrating lack of information.

Recent computer forecasts suggest that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high level, parts of Antarctica could break up rapidly, causing the ocean to rise six feet or more by the end of this century. That is double the maximum increase that an international climate panel projected only four years ago.

But those computer forecasts were described as crude even by the researchers who created them. “We could be decades too fast, or decades too slow,” said one of them, Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “There are still some really big question marks about the trajectory of future climate around Antarctica.”

Alarmed by the warning signs that parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet are becoming unstable, American and British scientific agencies are joining forces to get better measurements in the main trouble spots. The effort could cost more than $25 million and might not produce clearer answers about the fate of the ice until the early 2020s.

For scientists working in Antarctica, the situation has become a race against time.

Even as the threat from global warming comes into sharper focus, these scientists understand that political leaders — and cities already feeling the effects of a rising sea — need clearer forecasts about the consequences of emissions. That urgent need for insight has led scientists from Columbia to spend the past two Antarctic summers flying over the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating chunk of ice larger than California.

The Ross shelf helps to slow the flow of land ice from Antarctica into the ocean. Compared with other parts of Antarctica, the shelf seems stable now, but computer forecasts suggest that it might be vulnerable to rapid collapse in the next few decades.

The project to map the structure and depth of the ice shelf in detail, funded by American taxpayers through the National Science Foundation, puts Columbia and its partner institutions on the front lines of one of the world’s most urgent scientific and political problems.

“Our goal is to understand how to predict what’s going to happen to the ice sheets,” said Robin E. Bell, the lead Columbia scientist in charge of the effort. “We really don’t know right now.”

Remote as Antarctica may seem, every person in the world who gets into a car, eats a steak or boards an airplane is contributing to the emissions that put the frozen continent at risk. If those emissions continue unchecked and the world is allowed to heat up enough, scientists have no doubt that large parts of Antarctica will melt into the sea.

But they do not know exactly what the trigger temperature might be, or whether the recent acceleration of the ice means that Earth has already reached it. The question confronting society, said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, is easier to ask than to answer:

“How hot is too hot?” . . .

Continue reading. Extremely cool interactive immersive video at the link.

From the second dispatch (emphasis added):

Over tens of millions of years, thin layers of snow falling on the continent [Antarctica – LG] — in many places, just a light dusting every year — were pressed into ice, burying mountain ranges and building an ice sheet more than two miles thick. Under its own weight, that ice flows downhill in slow-moving streams that eventually drop icebergs into the sea.

If that ice sheet were to disintegrate, it could raise the level of the sea by more than 160 feet — a potential apocalypse, depending on exactly how fast it happened. Recent research suggests that if society burns all the fossil fuels known to exist, the collapse of the ice sheet will become inevitable.

Improbable as such a large rise might sound, something similar may have already happened, and recently enough that it is still lodged in collective memory.

In the 19th century, ethnographers realized that virtually every old civilization had some kind of flood myth in its literature.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 May 2017 at 4:06 pm

Which Saves More Gasoline? Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt?

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 May 2017 at 2:55 pm

Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon

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Phil Torres writes in Salon:

While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.

Perhaps the most prominent figure with an anxious outlook on humanity’s future is Stephen Hawking. Last year, he wrote the following in a Guardian article:

Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.

There is not a single point here that is inaccurate or hyperbolic. For example, consider that the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000, with a single exception (namely, 1998), and with 2016 being the hottest ever. Although 2017 probably won’t break last year’s record, the UK’s Met Office projects that it “will still rank among the hottest years on record.” Studies also emphasize that there is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change. As the authors of one peer-reviewed paper put it:

The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far. Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.

Furthermore, studies suggest that civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch. This is partly due to the ongoing problem of overpopulation, where Pew projects approximately 9.3 billion people living on spaceship Earth by 2050. According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.

Along these lines, scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth. This appears to be the case even on the most optimistic assumptions about current rates of species extinctions, which may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction. . .

Continue reading.

Trump is dismantling the EPA. Corporations in general and the fossil fuel industry and going to ride this all the way down. The goal is to set profit records and make enough money to find a safe haven, wherever that may be.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2017 at 1:47 pm

Politics of climate change, a video by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2017 at 6:41 pm

Earth Day in the age of Trump

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Elizabeth Kolbert reports in the New Yorker:

Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Earth Day, even though, three months into Donald Trump’s Presidency, there sure isn’t much to celebrate. A White House characterized by flaming incompetence has nevertheless managed to do one thing effectively: it has trashed years’ worth of work to protect the planet. As David Horsey put it recently, in the Los Angeles Times, “Donald Trump’s foreign policy and legislative agenda may be a confused mess,” but “his administration’s attack on the environment is operating with the focus and zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.”

The list of steps that the Trump Administration has already taken to make America polluted again is so long that fully cataloguing them in this space would be impossible. Here’s a sample:
In February, the Department of Energy delayed putting into effect new energy-efficiency standards for, among other things, walk-in freezers, central air-conditioners, and ceiling fans. The new standards, according to the department’s own estimates, would prevent the emission of nearly three hundred million tons of carbon dioxide while saving consumers almost twenty-four billion dollars over the next three decades. (Ten states, led by New York, have sued the Administration over the delay.)
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department announced their intention to roll back fuel-economy standards for cars that were set to go into effect in 2022.
Earlier this month, the E.P.A. announced its plans to review—and presumably revoke—President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a set of regulations aimed at reducing pollution from power plants. The Clean Power Plan would not only have cut carbon emissions by almost nine hundred million tons a year but also, according to E.P.A. figures, prevented more than thirty-five hundred premature deaths and ninety thousand asthma attacks annually. The plan is central to the commitments that the United States made under the Paris climate accord, which the Administration may or may not formally abrogate, but which it has apparently already informally abandoned.
Meanwhile, the Administration has proposed slashing the E.P.A.’s budget by thirty-one per cent, which is even more than it has proposed chopping the State Department’s budget (twenty-nine per cent) or the Labor Department’s (twenty-one per cent). The proposed cuts would entail firing a quarter of the agency’s workforce and eliminating many programs entirely, including the radiation-protection program, which does what its name suggests, and the Energy Star program, which establishes voluntary efficiency standards for electronics and appliances.
The zeal with which the Administration has attacked the environment recently prompted the comedian Bob Vulfov to imagine a set of National Geographicheadlines from the year 2030. “These Striking Photographs Show the Best On-Fire Lakes from Around the World,” one read. “Five Ways the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Should Use Its $400 Budget” was another.
How is it that a group as disorganized as the Trump Administration has been so methodical when it comes to the (anti) environment? The simplest answer is that money focusses the mind. Lots of corporations stand to profit from Trump’s regulatory rollback, even as American consumers suffer. Auto manufacturers, for example, had argued that the 2022 fuel-efficiency standards were too expensive to meet. (This is the case even though, when they accepted a federal bailout, during the Obama Administration, the car companies said that the standards were achievable.) Similarly, utilities have argued that the power-plant rules are too costly to comply with. Coal companies will probably benefit from the rollbacks. So, too, will oil companies, and perhaps also ceiling-fan manufacturers, though, in the case of the appliance standards, the affected manufacturers were at the table when the proposed regulations were drafted.
But, while money is clearly key, it doesn’t seem entirely sufficient as an explanation. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 April 2017 at 2:36 pm

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