Climate clippings 4

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

Electric aircraft

Cessna is developing an electric version of the four-seat, single-engine 172 Skyhawk. A ‘proof of concept’ prototype is due to fly by the end of this year.

Boeing has produced concept designs for a hybrid subsonic and a high fuel efficiency supersonic plane for NASA’s N+3 program, which sought concepts for greener, higher performance commercial planes.

Anglo-Chinese joint venture Yuneec is building a 4-hectare factory in Shanghai to mass-produce four new electric aircraft.

These are some of the developments in hybrid electric aircraft, according to an article in the New Scientist.

The idea seems to be to reduce fuel consumption to 30%.

Cities are greener

People living in cities emit less carbon than their country cousins. For example:

The average Londoner, the report found, produces around half the emissions of the average Briton, while each New Yorker produces just 30 per cent of the emissions of the average US resident. Citizens of São Paolo, Brazil, are responsible for just 18 per cent of the average for their country

The comparison is between the city and the national average carbon emissions.

It seems Shanghai and Beijing are exceptions.

But living in the country is better for your health.

Country-dwellers miss out on the bustle and bright lights – but getting back to nature is good for everything from diabetes to depression

For example, a Dutch study found that there were 32 cases of depression per thousand in the city against 24 in the country. That’s a third more if you live in the city.

The contention is that contact with nature, whether in city or country, is good for you.

40 per cent decline in phytoplankton since 1950

This could represent the single most important finding of the year in climate science.

According to Alanna Mitchell in 2008 there can be 860,000 of these critters in a level teaspoon of sea water. What they do is simply immense.

They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.

They “account for approximately half the production of organic matter on Earth.”

In Mitchell this issue is linked with ocean acidification (same scientists). Here it is linked with temperature. But see the next item below. Of course, increased CO2 causes both temperature increase and ocean acidification.

This item also made it as one of ten major issues in climate science in the last year.

The westerlies are moving south

Robyn Williams: Professor Joellen Russell who is a geoscientist at the University of Arizona, and she is talking about forces four times more powerful than the Gulf Stream. It’s affecting both rains and temperature in southern Australia in ways not seen in recent times.

That in general terms is what this item on The Science Show is about. The Southern Ocean is the place above all others where deep mixing occurs.


We’ve seen in both the northern and southern hemispheres the westerlies retreating towards the poles. So we have these winds that wrap around and around the mid-latitudes, and basically those belts of winds have been moving like shrinking doughnuts towards the poles of both hemispheres. And in the Southern Hemisphere it’s been even more dramatic. In the north it’s been about four degrees of latitude, in the south it’s been six degrees of latitude. And since the westerlies carry most of our water in the winter onto land, when those westerlies move south they take those storms with them and therefore it is both drier and warmer in Australia.

But catch this phrase:

the ozone hole has not healed, and as it is not healing

I think we’ll hear more about that. Also this:

our prediction is that by 2037 we anticipate basically three-quarters of the large penguin colonies will be wiped out.

Deep mixing means warmer water in contact with ice. No ice, no penguins.

Also the deep water is more acid, so the coccoliths (phytoplankton) can’t make their shells.

Energy security in the US armed forces

Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looks at energy security from the point of view of US military operations. At present the biggest import into Afghanistan is fossil fuels.

He talks of each of the services bringing several bases up to a net-zero energy standard within the next few years. Some 20 bases have been identified as at risk from sea level change. Research into decarbonising military operations should have benefits for civilian applications.

Five mining projects to sink the planet

While we’ve just approved (well here in Qld) the largest coal mine in the country at Wandoan, with worries about the Great Barrier Reef, there are five mining projects that could devastate the planet.

    Oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas
    Oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
    Coal in the Utukok River Upland, Arctic Alaska
    Tar Sands and Shale Oil in Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains
    Coal in Appalachia

That’s just the US, of course. Look at how lucky they are getting in Poland.

Vandana Shiva accepts the Sydney Peace Prize for 2010

In her acceptance speech Vandana Shiva said:

When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits – limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.


people can be affluent in material terms, even without the money economy, if they have access to land, their soils are fertile, their rivers flow clean, their cultures are rich and carry traditions of producing beautiful homes and clothing and delicious food, and there is social cohesion, solidarity and spirit of community.

Problem is, she’s fingering capitalism.

Global temperature to rise 3.5 degrees C. by 2035

That’s according to the IEA.

Surely not. capitalism rules OK.

That’s probably enough to go on with. Must look for positive news next time. Trouble is this one was filed under positive news in a feed I got. Still that item about electric aeroplanes was positive.

15 thoughts on “Climate clippings 4”

  1. The second extract from Vandana Shiva’s speech demonstrates how impossible is the task confronting the world. The idea that contemporary urban communities could ever aspire to such a low-tech existence, or even tolerate it, is preposterous. Once the genies of mobile phones and cars and overseas travel and iPods and home theatres and all the rest have been let out of the bottle, you can’t realistically hope to put them back in again.

  2. Jesus Christ, this honestly makes me so scared for my inchoate children. When I express this fear and uncertainty, most people look at me like I’m some kind of loon with a bunker in the hills, a rifle, and 2 tonnes of canned food spouting about the “end times”. It makes me feel lonely and even more afraid. Especially since I have no homestead and live in a small apartment in Sydney.

  3. Ken, I’d have to agree. Shiva’s prime focus perhaps is the push to move 500 million peasants in India into industrial agriculture.

  4. Well, patrickg, at least in an apartment in Sydney your carbon footprint is bound to be smaller than most.

  5. “For example, a Dutch study found that there were 32 cases of depression per thousand in the city against 24 in the country. That’s a third more if you live in the city.

    The contention is that contact with nature, whether in city or country, is good for you.”

    Pretty wild conjecture, I’d have thought, and obviously in Australia with our rural suicide rate unlikely to apply here.

    Perhaps less contact with psychologists is the better explanation? [or Brian’s climate posts?] 😉

    “that item about electric aeroplanes was positive”

    I’m not convinced. Won’t it just mean more flying?

  6. I would have thought more mixing in the upper layers may actually increase nutrients for plankton. On the other hand a warming of surface water should reduce north/south circulation. Predicting all the implications of predicted changes is a challenge.

  7. our prediction is that by 2037 we anticipate basically three-quarters of the large penguin colonies will be wiped out.

    Aw, a world without penguins is not worth living in.

  8. Never mind TAK, #8.
    If the gloomier climate scientists are right, there won’t be too many tears shed over our raucous, feathered, fish eating friend’s demises, because we won’t be here, either..

  9. Amazing Kim it’s not all penguins, just Emperor and Adelie penguins:

    Alexandra de Blas: And why will they be wiped out?

    Joellen Russell: Because their ice will melt. We’re talking specifically here about Emperor and Adelie penguins, but they have particular ice needs during their life cycle basically to either nest on or feed from, and if that ice isn’t there then their colonies won’t be able to support themselves.

    Also whales will be swimming further for less food.

  10. Ah, fuck. No penguins, scrawny whales, fuck!

    We won’t talk about the imminent catastrophic collapse of phytoplankton, upon which we all depend.

    Earlier this evening, I watched Last Chance to See, about white rhinos. They’ve just released four of them (extracted from zoos) into the wild. (whistles softly.) I read one of Hugh Possingham’s papers some years ago about the required base population of a species to avoid long term extinction – four individuals (even for a large mammal like a rhino) just doesn’t cut it.

    I weep for the rhinoceros.

  11. Yes Brian,
    Lets all live in cities, that will reduce our carbon footprint. However the other major effect of impact on the local and regional climate is just ignored (aerosols, particulates, and the absorbed and reflected heat)!! Our cities are not Green,anybody stating that they are, has lost the plot.

  12. Yeah, I think there is a southern one as well, Brian. I suspect it’s in trouble as well, but not the 8 individuals world-wide, half in the wild and the other half in random zoos, kind of trouble.

    I understand why they did it, but they’re pissing up a rope.

Comments are closed.