Tag Archives: global warming

What I think I know about the campaign so far

  • After Nigel Wright and then Ben Perrin’s testimony at the Mike Duffy trial, I am pretty confident that Stephen Harper was lying about not knowing about the payment.  The plausible deniability seems less plausible every day.  Or as Andrew Coyne sarcastically suggests, maybe Stephen Harper is a victim in all of this.
  • Far more Liberal lawn signs visible in Saskatoon since 1993 when Jean Chretien swept to power.  In many ways the shift to the Liberals has to be really good for the Conservatives as I think this comes from historic NDP vote.  That being said, I still think Saskatoon West goes to the NDP. 
  • The interesting race may be Saskatoon Grasswoods and Saskatoon University.  Kevin Waugh has been really quiet so far while everyone is asking where Brad Trost is.   Trost doesn’t even have a website (although he has a web domain that goes nowhere).  It’s early but the Conservatives could go 0-3 in the city.
  • I also found it weird that Jason Kenney was in town last night for a fundraiser for Donauer and Block only and not for the east side candidates.
  • I watched Antarctic Edge: Beyond the Ice last night which is on the rapid global warming that is happening in Antarctica right now.  Winter sea ice has declined by three months and temperatures have increased by 11 degrees Fahrenheit, six times greater than the global average.  Yet the NDP and the Liberals seem nervous about talking about it.  Maybe it is an acknowledgement that Canada is indeed what most of the world is calling us, a petro-state (or to throw it back to the 80s; PetroCanada).  Our entire country has become tied to oil and gas revenue.  To tackle climate change in a serious way, it would cause a serious disruption to the Canadian economy and throw hundreds of thousands out of work.  In a day and age where the “middle class” is king politically, no one wants to take a stand that would hurt them, even if it hurts the globe.
  • Interesting interview on The Current with John Ibbitson.  It’s worth the 20 minutes to listen to it.  You may even want to listen to it again.
  • In some way I feel sorry for the political staffers who have to create election material and use stock photos.  They have no budget and are under time constraints and it never turns out wellNever ever turns out well
  • This won’t come up in the election but I tend to give Stephen Harper a pass for messed up military procurement, especially when the Americans who do it better than we do, also have their struggles.
  • Whoever wins, is going to have a tougher go with the Canadian economy.  Oil prices are to stay depressed for another two years.
  • The NDP minimum wage hike makes claims that it can’t back up.  Hey, a NDP populist economic policy that makes no sense, what a surprise.
  • Of course neither leader has the courage to wade into Saskatchewan’s most pressing issue, what’s wrong with the Roughriders?

Sea Levels To Rise More Than Expected Due To Warming-Driven Surge In Greenland Ice Loss

Sea levels rise as ice is lost in Greenland due to climate change

Greenland’s contribution to global sea level has soared in the past two decades. An important new study finds that the massive northeastern part of the ice sheet, previously thought to be stable, has begun shedding ice. If this trend continues — and researchers say “a self-perpetuating feedback process may have been triggered” — actual sea level rise this century will likely be higher than many current models had projected.

Covering 660,000 square miles — roughly 80 percent of the country — Greenland’s ice sheet is second only in size to Antarctica’s. Scientists estimate that melting from the ice sheet as a whole has accounted for about 16 percent of sea level rise every year for the last two decades.

Research had also long suggested the northeastern portion of the ice sheet was stable. As a result, it was largely left out of the models used to anticipate future sea level rise.
But the new study, “Sustained mass loss of the northeast Greenland ice sheet triggered by regional warming,” published in Nature Climate Change (subs. req’d), suggests the northeastern portion began melting rapidly around 2003. And after first jumping from an ice loss rate of zero to about 10 billion metric tons per year, it’s now approaching 15 or 20 billion metric tons per year and may well keep accelerating.

“Most projections of the future behaviour of the ice sheet have no, or little, contribution from this part of Greenland,” said Professor Jeremy Bamber of Bristol University, a co-author of the study. “But these new results suggest that this region is sensitive to changes in climate and has the potential to contribute significantly now and in the future.”

The team arrived at their conclusion using a combination of surface elevation data from airplanes and four different satellites, along with a GPS-linked network of 50 stations located along the coast of Greenland’s ice sheet. The overall collection of data spanned 1978 to 2012 and was used to essentially weigh the ice sheet’s mass.

Specifically, the study suggests a series of particularly warm summers leading up to 2003 — bringing higher temperatures in both the atmosphere and the surrounding ocean — triggered the speed up in melting.

North

Svalbard is an archipelago high within the Arctic Circle. The largest of its islands is called Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” In 1920 a treaty known as the Svalbard Act was signed by several nations recognizing Norwegian sovereignty over the islands, and declaring the whole region a demilitarized zone. This is a short film about how Svalbard, over the course of recent history, became increasingly linked to developments in climate science, and climate change.

The Colorado River Runs Dry

The United States and Mexico are trying to fix that

Until 1998 the Colorado regularly flowed south along the Arizona-California border into a Mexican delta, irrigating farmlands and enriching a wealth of wildlife and flora before emptying into the Gulf of California.

But decades of population growth, climate change and damming in the American Southwest have now desiccated the river in its lowest reaches, turning a once-lush Mexican delta into a desert. The river’s demise began with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, a deal by seven western states to divide up its water. Eventually, Mexico was allotted just 10 percent of the flow.

Officials from Mexico and the United States are now talking about ways to increase the flow into the delta. With luck, someday it may reach the sea again.

It is paradoxical that the Colorado stopped running consistently through the delta at the end of the 20th century, which — according to tree-ring records — was one of the basin’s wettest centuries in 1,200 years. Now dozens of animal species are endangered; the culture of the native Cocopah (the People of the River) has been devastated; the fishing industry, once sustained by shrimp and other creatures that depend on a mixture of seawater and freshwater, has withered. In place of delta tourism, the economy of the upper Gulf of California hinges on drug smuggling operations that run opposite to the dying river.

Record Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent for January

Record Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent for January

From NASA

During the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2010–2011, unusually cold temperatures and heavy snowstorms plagued North America and Europe, while conditions were unusually warm farther north. Now the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent ever recorded for January (since satellite records began).

Why is it like this?

NSIDC offered two possible explanations. One reason is the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a seesaw pattern of differences in atmospheric pressure. In “positive” mode, the AO includes high pressure over the mid-latitudes and low pressure over the Arctic, setting up wind patterns that trap cold air in the far North. In “negative” mode, air pressure isn’t quite as low over the Arctic and isn’t quite as high over the mid-latitudes. This enables cold air to creep south and relatively warm air to move north.

The AO was in negative mode in December 2010 and January 2011,according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At mid-latitudes, the negative mode resulted in extremely cold temperatures and heavy snow in Europe and North America. At the same time, warm air over the Arctic impeded sea ice growth. NOAA has forecast that the AO should return to positive mode in February 2011, but for how long was unclear.

Another factor in the low Arctic sea ice extent, NSIDC explained, could be that the areas of open ocean were still releasing heat to the atmosphere. Due to its bright appearance, sea ice reflects most of the Sun’s light and heat back into space. Dark ocean water, by contrast, absorbs most of that energy and reinforces the melting process.

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Green jobs to combat poverty

Using federal stimulus money, they are using it to winterize houses, cut down on carbon emissions, and helping people find jobs while doing it.  While I really like the idea, the problem is that it is linked to ongoing federal funding, the kind that gets cut when you run massive deficits.  Of course at the same time, without federal intervention and funding, would these upgrades ever get done?

White rooftops could slow global warming

From the Sustainablog

The news broke yesterday at California’s Climate Change Research Conference. Hashem Akbari, attending the conference from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, announced that replacing dark shingles on an average-sized household rooftop with a lighter color would offset 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide—comparable to taking two mid-sized cars off the road for a year.

Speaking of roadways, they’re part of the problem too. Because of its cheap nature, most roads are paved with black asphalt instead of light grey concrete, which causes roads to absorb an inordinate amount of heat. Repaving roads with lighter-colored materials would have a similar impact to painting rooftops.

California already mandates that newly-built large buildings have light-colored rooftops, but the law was intended to decrease air conditioning costs. Akbari hopes to enlist the United Nations in an effort to convince major cities to make their roadways and rooftops more pale.

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The 100 month countdown

Andrew Simms writes in the Guardian that earth may have less then 100 months until it hits the environmental tipping point.

If you shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, when there is none, you understand that you might be arrested for irresponsible behaviour and breach of the peace. But from today, I smell smoke, I see flames and I think it is time to shout. I don’t want you to panic, but I do think it would be a good idea to form an orderly queue to leave the building.

Because in just 100 months’ time, if we are lucky, and based on a quite conservative estimate, we could reach a tipping point for the beginnings of runaway climate change. That said, among people working on global warming, there are countless models, scenarios, and different iterations of all those models and scenarios. So, let us be clear from the outset about exactly what we mean.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, is the highest it has been for the past 650,000 years. In the space of just 250 years, as a result of the coal-fired Industrial Revolution, and changes to land use such as the growth of cities and the felling of forests, we have released, cumulatively, more than 1,800bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 are released into the Earth’s atmosphere every second, due to human activity. Greenhouse gases trap incoming solar radiation, warming the atmosphere. When these gases accumulate beyond a certain level – often termed a "tipping point" – global warming will accelerate, potentially beyond control.

Faced with circumstances that clearly threaten human civilisation, scientists at least have the sense of humour to term what drives this process as "positive feedback". But if translated into an office workplace environment, it’s the sort of "positive feedback" from a manager that would run along the lines of: "You’re fired, you were rubbish anyway, you have no future, your home has been demolished and I’ve killed your dog."

Also, can Earth be hacked to deal with climate change?  On a more discouraging note, it appears we don’t have nearly as much coal as people have been saying we do.  First peak oil, now peak coal.