Tag Archives: Arctic sea ice

Climate change and the Arctic: we should worry

In the comments thread of the post Is methane hydrate out-gassing going to kill us all? BilB linked to an article The Global Impacts of Rapidly Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice by Peter Wadhams, who is professor emeritus of ocean physics at Cambridge University, a sea ice specialist with 46 years of research on sea ice and ocean processes in the Arctic and Antarctic with more than 50 expeditions to both polar regions under his belt.

He worries about what is happening in the Arctic, and after revisiting my post Reconciling estimates of climate sensitivity, I worry too. Not so much about the extinction of the human race, or about abrupt catastrophic climate change, rather how the earth system is going to end up in the long term after we extract much of carbon sediments deposited over hundreds of millions of years and inject them back into the atmosphere within the space of about a century. Continue reading Climate change and the Arctic: we should worry

Is methane hydrate out-gassing going to kill us all?

Recently we’ve linked to a couple of scary posts, ie. The Methane Threat and Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade, both at the Arctic News blog.

This is alarming to say the least.

The first thing I did was look up the Climate Plus archives tag for Methane. Continue reading Is methane hydrate out-gassing going to kill us all?

Climate clippings 202

1. State of the Environment 2016

The government has produced the latest State of the Environment Report 2016 which happens every five years. I’ve browsed the report and can say that it has some magnificent photographs.

According to the ABS Australia’s population will be between 36.8 million and 48.3 million in 2066 as against 24 million now. The report says that the key drivers of environmental change are population growth and economic activity.

The report says that it is possible to decouple these drivers from environmental harm, but it’s a possibility only. Sue Arnold, following Ted Trainer and Sustainable Australia suggests that we have already breached our carrying capacity. Continue reading Climate clippings 202

Climate risks re-examined

Back in 2001 the IPCC devised the famous Burning embers graph to reflect a broad perspective of risks emanating from climate change. Seventeen scientists have now had another look, original paper here. The graph has been enhanced with more information, which is itself more up to date. Continue reading Climate risks re-examined

Climate clippings 194

1. Methane emissions spiking

The Global Methane Budget 2016 has been released, and the news is not good.

    CSIRO researcher Dr Pep Canadell said it was the most comprehensive modelling to date and revealed a potentially dangerous climate wildcard.

    “Methane emissions were stable for quite a few years at the end of the 2000s. But they’ve begun to grow much faster, in fact 10 times faster, since 2007,” said Dr Canadell, who is also the executive director of the Global Carbon Project.

Continue reading Climate clippings 194

Climate clippings 191

1. Tesla solar roof cheaper than regular roof, with electricity “a bonus”

    Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has again set tongues wagging, this time with his declaration last week that his newly launched integrated solar roof tiles could actually cost less to install than a regular roof – making the renewable electricity they produce “just a bonus”. Continue reading Climate clippings 191

Climate clippings 187

1. Arctic sea ice volume collapse

The collapse of the Arctic sea ice volume has been even more dramatic than the extent, as shown in this graph:

volume_1-ntec4r4n_axudzpkbhvb9q_550

It’s down from 16,855 cubic kilometres in 1979 to 4,401 in 2016, that’s an ice loss of about 74%. Continue reading Climate clippings 187

Climate clippings 170

1. Arctic ice in trouble

It’s too early to say whether the 2012 record for Arctic summer ice loss will be beaten, but it’s shaping up so that it could. The NSIDC satellite is broken, but robertscribbler has been looking at the Japanese satellite. This is what it shows: Continue reading Climate clippings 170

Climate clippings 168

1. Tesla 3 sales going gangbusters

    Demand for Tesla Motors’ new lower-priced electric car surprised even the company’s CEO Friday as 198,000 people plunked down $US1,000 ($1302) deposits to reserve their vehicles.

    The orders came from across the globe even though the car isn’t scheduled for sale until late in 2017.

Continue reading Climate clippings 168

Climate clippings 144

1. Business, investor, environment, research and social groups look for climate consensus before Paris

    Business, investor, environment, research and social groups have formed an unprecedented alliance to establish common ground on which the climate debate can be conducted, as the Abbott government finalises the position it will take to Paris climate talks later in the year.

    The Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, Investor Group on Climate Change, the Australian Aluminium Council and the Energy Supply Association of Australia have joined forces with the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to set down some basic markers on climate policy which they hope will allow for future political consensus on the issue.

Continue reading Climate clippings 144

Climate clippings 133

1. Mt Everest’s poo problem

Every year climbers of Mt Everest leave behind 26,500 pounds of poo. I make that about 12 tonnes.

Sherpas pick it up, bring it down in blue barrels, dig a hole and dump it. Now the proposal is to build an anaerobic digester in a small village near Everest’s base to create biogas to produce power. Apparently human poo is not the best, but it works.

2. Arctic sea ice record

I think it’s time to call it. The Arctic sea ice winter maximum is the lowest on record. This graph shows 2015 ice against the previous record of 2011 and the 1981-2010 average:

sea ice_Feb 25_cropped_600

Also the maximum extent was reached on February 25, the second earliest on record.

According to a recent survey, thinning has been quite dramatic:

… annual mean ice thickness has decreased from 3.59 meters [11.8 feet] in 1975 to 1.25 m [4.1 feet] in 2012, a 65% reduction. This is nearly double the 36% decline reported by an earlier study….

In September the mean ice thickness has declined from 3.01 to 0.44 m [from 9.9 to 1.4 feet!], an 85 % decline.

Climate Central has a graphic showing the loss of ‘old’ ice. In 1987 it used to be 26% of the ice pack, now it’s down to 10%.

Polar bears will struggle to adapt.

3. Shell looks to drill in Arctic

Shell hopes to drill in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic this summer. It looks as though Obama’s Department of the Interior will allow it, even though an Environmental Impact Report released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) noted a 75% chance of one or more large spills occurring under the current plan. In 1989 the Exxon Valdez disaster spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Alaskan Gulf, polluting over 1300 miles of coastline. It is estimated that only 14% of the oil was cleaned up.

By comparison BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig spilled 168 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

Yet Obama himself stresses the need to move early on climate change. More than half of Republican politicians deny or question the science. Voter pressue will change that eventually.

A recent Stanford University poll found that two-thirds of voters were more likely to vote for a candidate that campaigned on a platform of fighting climate change, and were less likely to vote for a candidate that outright denies climate change.

4. Land, ocean carbon sinks are weakening

We are destroying nature’s ability to help us stave off catastrophic climate change. That’s the bombshell conclusion of an under-reported 2014 study, “The declining uptake rate of atmospheric CO2 by land and ocean sinks,”…

Based on actual observations and measurements, the world’s top carbon-cycle experts have determined that the land and ocean are becoming steadily less effective at removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This makes it more urgent for us to start cutting carbon pollution ASAP, since it will become progressively harder and harder for us to do so effectively in the coming decades.

Joe Romm calls the study “one of the most consequential recent findings by climatologists”

More than half of emissions are currently absorbed by land and ocean-based carbon sinks. Increasingly these emissions will stay in the air.

5. Reasons the Australian solar market is so interesting

Clean Technica has found 7 reasons the Australian solar market is so interesting republished at RenewEconomy.

One reason is that we have so much sunlight, as shown below:

solar-australia

However, most of us live in the more cloudy parts in big cities and along the south-east edge. A commenter pointed out that for insolation Ney York lies between Melbourne and Sydney.

A second reason is that we are enthusiastic about roof-top solar, with over 20% of houses now with panels installed.

A third is that, along with Germany, Italy and The Netherlands, we reached socket (aka grid) parity in 2013.

Climate clippings 130

1. Manicured lawns produce more greenhouse gases than they soak up

Grass_cropped_550

Researchers found:

that a hectare of lawn in Nashville, Tennessee, produced greenhouse gases equivalent to 697 to 2,443kg of carbon dioxide a year. The higher figure is equivalent to a flight more than halfway around the world.

If you use a mulching mower, don’t fertilise, limit cutting and watering, you might tip the balance in favour of the planet. But then your lawn might not be as lush.

2. Risk of extreme climate outcomes

Across the ditch Hot Topic takes a look at a new book by economists Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman called Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet. They start with the notion that climate stabilisation forecasts regularly show that there is a 10% chance of warming reaching 6°C or more. Although not talked about much, this is standard fare and can be read off this graph I have posted multiple times:

Stabilisation probabilities_cropped_600

The 10% chance of reaching 6°C comes with greenhouse gases (CO2e) at around 580 ppm. We are currently at 480 ppm.

The whole insurance industry is predicated on probabilities of considerably less than 10%. The authors are suggesting that low probability extreme events should be taken seriously by governments. A 10% chance of climate Armageddon is not particularly low.

Weitzman was on the case back in 2008, when I did a post on him at LP, unfortunately in a gap in the archive. Peter Wood did a submission to the Garnaut Report on the subject. Garnaut, it must be said, looked the other way.

3. Arctic sea ice excitement

There has been some excitement over Arctic sea ice extent. As of now, unless there is a peak in late March, which is possible, the winter maximum is looking like a record low. This picture simplifies the story:

Sea ice Mr 15_cropped_600

It shows 2012 and 2015 ice extent against the 1981-2010 average. In the short term ice can be compacted by storms, or flushed out through Fram Strait. A cold snap can extend the ice with a thin cover. Also, as we see in 2012, winter maximums tell you nothing about summer minimums.

That’s the short story. You can read more here, here, here and here.

4. Greenland melting speeds up

As scientists upgrade their models of ice sheet decay, Greenland has a habit of exceeding their expectations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Greenland ice loss has increased a phenomenal 632 percent since 2001. (14) This increase is coming from melt, sublimation (ice evaporating directly without melting first), melt penetrating to the bottom of the ice sheet through crevasses and moulins, and from rapidly warming Arctic Ocean waters penetrating beneath floating outlet glaciers, destabilizing these glaciers and increasing their flow.

Massive gorges have been found beneath the ice where rapidly warming seawater has the chance to circulate deep beneath the ice sheet.

A large aquifer has been found under the ice above sea level.

Soot forms on the ice from as far away as Siberia. As the ice sublimates, that is evaporates directly into the air, the soot remains to further decrease reflectivity.

2015_0305greenland1_550

The knowns and the known unknowns add up to a pretty grim picture.

5. EU progress on renewables

Commendable progress is being made on renewable energy in Europe.

Renewables contribute 26% of EU electricity, 17% of heating and cooling and 5% of transport, … It’s generally thought to be easier to decarbonise the electricity sector than heating or transport, where oil and gas continue to dominate.

This chart refers to electricity:

EU_renewables-electricity-production-2013_599x393

Apart from hydro, wind (light blue) easily eclipses solar (yellow).

When heating and transport are included, renewables comprise 20% of all energy, and the composition changes dramatically:

EU_renewables-primary-production-2013_599x393

An old technology, renewable wood, easily dominates through selective forestry.

In recent times energy usage has fallen, with the EU now using as much energy as it did in 1990.

The UK is the biggest laggard in meeting individual country targets. Four countries, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, are ahead of target.

Wind has the momentum in the US with forecasts that it could supply 35% of electricity by 2050, or even as much as 41%. Within 10 years wind could be cheaper than existing coal.

6. 90% of Australian coal plants ‘at risk’ of being stranded assets

Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment has compiled a Stranded Assets Programme report.

It is food for thought for Australia, then, that the Oxford report has declared it owner of “by far” the most carbon-intensive sub-critical fleet in the world (followed by India and Indonesia), with a whopping 90 per cent of its total 29GW of coal-fired generation capacity coming from 23 subcritical plants.

From The Guardian:

Coal currently provides 40% of the world’s electricity and three-quarters of this is produced by the most-polluting, least-efficient and oldest “sub-critical” coal-fired power stations. The International Energy Agency calculates that one in four of these sub-critical plants must close within five years, if the world’s governments are to keep their pledge to limit global warming to 2C.

Help is at hand, according to a group of Queensland engineers.

The Callide Oxyfuel Project is one of just a few low-emission coal projects in the world, and demonstrates how carbon capture technology can be retrofitted to existing power stations.

The technique has been on trial at CS Energy’s Callide A coal-fired power station at Biloela, in a project worth $245 million.

They reckon they’ve done it on a 30-megawatt plant and now need to scale it up. Predictably, not everyone agrees it’s worthwhile.

7. CO2 emissions flat in 2014

Global energy-related CO2 emissions flatlined last year, according to the IEA.

Following an announcement earlier this week that China’s CO2 emissions fell 2 percent in 2014, the IEA is crediting 2014’s progress to China using more solar, wind and hydropower while burning less coal. Western Europe’s focus on sustainable growth, energy efficiency and renewables has shown that emissions from energy consumption can fall even as economies grow globally, according to the IEA.

Global CO2 emissions stalled or fell in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009, each time correlating with a faltering global economy. In 2014, the economy grew 3 percent worldwide.

The story is about energy efficiency as well as growth of renewables. Cheaper fossil fuels could lead to a resumption of fossil fuel growth in 2015, however.