Monday, May 28, 2012

Reduce methane to buy time on reducing CO2 argues climate scientist

Tackling reduction of carbon dioxide pollution is proving difficult to do, although much of this is political intransigence. Peter Cox Professor of Climate System Dynamics and leader of the inter-disciplinary "Climate Change and Sustainable Futures" activity at the University of Exeter, suggests we should come at the problem from a different angle - focusing at first in reducing methane emissions which would allow a greater CO2 budget to keep within. Buying us some time.

"It looks extremely unlikely that we can stop global warming at 2 °C just by reducing CO2 emissions," he told New Scientist in March 2012. "That probably requires peaking emissions by 2020. But drastic action on methane would make the task much more feasible."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Global CO2 emissions reach record high for 2011 Warns IEA

'Switch off coal' - Replace Hazelwood Coal Power StationThe International Energy Agency (IEA) has just reported another increase in CO2 emissions for 2011 to a new record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt), an increase of 1.0 Gt on 2010, or 3.2%. Last year the IEA reported a record high of 30.6 Gigatonnes during 2010, with Greenhouse gases increasing 6 per cent, one of the largest annual increases on record.

According to the IEA, global energy-related emissions in 2020 must not be greater than 32.6 Gt to be consistent in limiting warming to 2ÂșC. We are traveling very close to global greenhouse gas pollution limits. "The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close," said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. According to the IEA coal accounted for 45% of emissions, oil 35% and natural gas 20%.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Waking the giant: Global Warming in the Weddell Sea, West Antarctic Ice Sheet and sea level rise

Warm ocean currents are projected to melt the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea area of Antarctica opening instabilities in the West Antarctic Ice sheet (WAIS) which will impact global sea level rise. Climate change is waking up the sleeping giant of Antarctica.

Significant scientific research has been published in recent weeks on the impact of global warming on changing wind patterns and southern ocean currents and the flow-on impact on Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers. The most recent studies reveal the potential instability of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea area. But the real questions to be asked concern the long term stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and how rapidly it could collapse raising global sea levels by up to 6 metres.

I highlighted in November 2011 that the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers accelerating, West Antarctic Ice Sheet losing mass in the Amundsen Sea area. Now climate researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association studying the opposite side of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) in the Weddell Sea area have discovered a mechanism which will drive warm ocean water towards the coast in the later decades of this century, allowing a higher rate of basal melting - the melting from underneath of ice shelves and glaciers by warmer ocean currents - leading to greater discharge of ice from the icesheet.

Another research team has found a large deep basin, about 20,000 square kilometres in size and up to 2 kilometres deep, underneath the ice sheet in the Weddell Sea area, which makes the ice sheet inherently unstable if pinion points for the ice shelf retreat and warmer water enters the basin.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seagrass meadows are key carbon sinks for combatting climate change

May 22 is UNESCO's
 International Day for Biological Diversity which focussed strongly on conserving our marine diversity. One of the important marine ecosystems are the seagrass meadows around the coasts of the world. A new global scientific research study just released has shown that seagrass meadows store significantly more carbon than any land based forest. They are very important as carbon sinks. But they are also suffering a major decline due to pollution from agricultural and mining development and chemical runoff, coastal development changing water turbidity upsetting photosynthesis in seagrass, and increasing sea surface temperatures affecting seagrass growth due to global warming.

The new global study of seagrass meadow ecosystems has found that coastal seagrass beds store much more carbon than can be stored in even the most carbon dense forests, such as the temperate native forests of Victoria. Seagrass meadows can store up to 83,000 metric tons of carbon per square kilometre, mostly in the soils below them. In comparison, a typical land forest stores around 30,000 metric tons per square kilometre mostly as wood. It is the first global study to analyze the carbon storage capacity in seagrasses.

Seagrass meadows support a highly level of biodiversity with many fish species using the seagrass during their juvenile period, as well as providing homes for crabs, sea urchin, seahorses shrimp and prawns. Sea tutles, dugongs and manatees depend on seagrass meadows as a primary food source. As Professor Carlos Duarte points out in an article on The Conversation website, Indigenous cultures new the significance and value of seagrass meadows. Conservation and restoration of seagrass ecosystems provides a unique Submarine Carbon Tax Opportunity! Seagrass meadows are intense, but fragile carbon sinks.

More Information: Seagrass Watch | Global Seagrass Monitoring Network