Climate clippings 155

1. Climate change affects the brain

    In a landmark public health finding, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making. These impacts have been observed at CO2 levels that most Americans — and their children — are routinely exposed to today inside classrooms, offices, homes, planes, and cars.

Cognitive scores dropped 21% with a 400 ppm increase in CO2, that is from a base level of 600 ppm to 1000 ppm.

CO2 levels inside are often higher than outside. From a 2012 study:

    “In surveys of elementary school classrooms in California and Texas, average CO2 concentrations were above 1,000 ppm, a substantial proportion exceeded 2,000 ppm, and in 21% of Texas classrooms peak CO2 concentration exceeded 3,000 ppm.”

No-one knows the threshold at which CO2 becomes problematic. It could be as low as 600 ppm.

This is where we are heading, given the pledges made for the Paris conference:


2. Paris commitments come up short

UN’s climate body (UNFCCC) has aggregated the 146 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) received by 1 October for the Paris climate conference in December. The pledges cover 86% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC has deemed that the cheapest path to a 2°C outcome would see emissions in 2030 at around 41.6Gt of CO2e. What we are going to get with the pledges is 56.7Gt instead of 60.3Gt under business as usual. Moreover emissions will still be rising in 2030.

I’d say “fail” but

    UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres said the pledges, if implemented, would reduce expected warming of 4-5C to around 2.7C. While the ambition is too low to avoid 2C, she added that current pledges are a “foundation on which even higher ambition can be built”.

At the ABC we learn:

    The UN Environment Programme has previously estimated that emissions must fall to about 32-44 GtCO2e by 2030 if we are to have a better-than-even chance at hitting the 2 degrees Celsius goal.

Furthermore, by 2030 we will have used up 75% of our remaining carbon budget. Emissions thereafter would have to drop like a stone.

Of interest, half the countries plan to use market based mechanisms. Also:

    The report finds renewables, energy efficiency and transport to be priority areas for at least half of parties. In contrast, carbon capture and storage is listed by only a handful of nations. Nuclear power, not shown in the chart, was listed as a priority in seven INDCs, Figueres told journalists.

3. Antarctic ice sheet growing

A study from NASA has found that the Antarctic ice sheet is growing every year rather than shrinking. While it is losing ice around the edges, increased snow is thickening the main sheet by a little over 1.5cm per year. So the net result is that Antarctica is growing.

The bad news is that the sea level rise overall is unaffected by the new research. There will have to be a new look, however, as to the composition of the increase. The best guess is that thermal expansion of the ocean may be greater than previously thought.

Again the best guess is that Antartica will continue to grow for a few decades, then dip the other way.

4. Indonesian fires out of control

It’s illegal to burn peat lands in Indonesia to grow palm oil. Nevertheless the practice continues unabated. This year was particularly bad because of the later and weaker monsoon.

    The rapidly-spreading fires are threatening wildlife, including the iconic orangutan. Smoke from the fires has closed schools, caused flight cancellations and affected an estimated half a million people with respiratory illnesses. Ten people are reported to have died as a result of the fires.

The fires have bumped Indonesia up the list to become the world’s fourth largest greenhouse emitter, after China, the US and India. On some days Indonesia tops the whole US economy in emissions.

12 thoughts on “Climate clippings 155”

  1. 4. The full wording is, as I heard it, that it is illegal to “burn peat lands in Indonesia to grow food and palm oil”.

    2. I take Christiana Figueres’ opinion on the pledges. These will not be the last worx on this by ang means, I believe.

  2. BiB, the bottom line is that the fires are mostly started by humans and the activity is illegal. Here is a fuller account.

      The Indonesian government has deployed more than 22,000 soldiers, policemen and fire personnel to fight the fires, with aircraft conducting water-bombing and cloud-seeding operations. Another 6,000 soldiers are expected to be deployed soon.

      But peatland fires are very difficult to extinguish and the only permanent solution is to restore and protect rainforests and peatlands. Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, has pleaded for the patience, saying the haze is “not a problem that you can solve quickly.” He said: “You will see results soon, and in three years, we will have solved this.”

  3. It is pretty aweful. Joko Widodo’s wording there implies to me that he acquieced the land clearing and is attempting to “handle” the un anticipated haze problem.

    But have a look at the population land share figures. Indonesians have .76 hectares per personand that includes West Papua. This is one country that has few options no matter how you look at it. The scream is a appropriate look when you think about the problems here. 150% population growth since 1963. This is the best negative example for population growth to support an aging population.

  4. One of the worst cases is Haiti with just .27 hectares per person.

    To visualise that, within 100 meters by 100 meters there are 3 people living over every hectare of the country, if they are evenly dispersed. In Indonesia there are 1.3 people per 100 m x 100m.

  5. Interesting effects on cognition of working or studying indoors. Suspected it but now have at least one study asserting it. Maybe there should be compulsory monitoring of Carbon Dioxide – and of Carbon Monoxide – levels inside the chambers of all our Parliaments as well as in the boardrooms of all major corporations.

  6. Graham, the NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre being under threat from sea level rise is a good example of the difficulties likely within this century. The place covers 170 square kilometres.

    BilB, interesting information on population density. Thanks.

  7. This link indicates that the relief from Antarctic melting could be brief.

    A study has found:

    that the destabilisation of the entire ice sheet would be irreversible if current conditions do not change by 2075.

    Meaning the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

  8. Bilb: There is 1037 m2 per person in Bangladesh. I have seen claims that it takes about 8 m2 of land to feed one person.
    Bangladesh has a lot of good delta land. Suspect they will be OK until sea level rises cripple the country.

Comments are closed.