Annals of global warming: 2012 hits top 10 hottest years

August 6, 2013

NOAA’s article on the State of the Climate released today:

2012 was one of the 10 warmest years on record globally

The end of weak La Niña, unprecedented Arctic warmth influenced 2012 climate conditions

August 6, 2013

State of the Climate in 2012 - report cover.

The 2012 State of the Climate report is available online.
(Credit: NOAA)

Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The peer-reviewed report, with scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., serving as lead editors, was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries (highlights, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky.

“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,” said Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment.”

Conditions in the Arctic were a major story of 2012, with the region experiencing unprecedented change and breaking several records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest “summer minimum” extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981–2010 average melt extent.

Temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average.

Temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Credit: NOAA Climate.gov, based on NCDC data. See more.

The report used dozens of climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. These indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.

Highlights:

  • Warm temperature trends continue near Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record, ranking either 8th or 9th, depending upon the dataset used. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record.
  • La Niña dissipates into neutral conditions:  A weak La Niña dissipated during spring 2012 and, for the first time in several years, neither El Niño nor La Niña, which can dominate regional weather and climate conditions around the globe, prevailed for the majority of the year.
  • The Arctic continues to warm; sea ice extent reaches record low: The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June each reached new record lows. Arctic sea ice minimum extent (1.32 million square miles, September 16) was the lowest of the satellite era. This is 18 percent lower than the previous record low extent of 1.61 million square miles that occurred in 2007 and 54 percent lower than the record high minimum ice extent of 2.90 million square miles that occurred in 1980. The temperature of permafrost, or permanently frozen land, reached record-high values in northernmost Alaska. A new melt extent record occurred July 11–12 on the Greenland ice sheet when 97 percent of the ice sheet showed some form of melt, four times greater than the average melt this time of year.
  • Antarctica sea ice extent reaches record high: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.51 million square miles on September 26. This is 0.5 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.47 million square miles that occurred in 2006 and seven percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986.
  • Sea surface temperatures increase: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2012 was among the 11 warmest on record.  After a 30-year period from 1970 to 1999 of rising global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000–2012 exhibited little trend. Part of this difference is linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century, which typically lead to lower global sea surface temperatures.
  • Ocean heat content remains near record levels: Heat content in the upper 2,300 feet, or a little less than one-half mile, of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Overall increases from 2011 to 2012 occurred between depths of 2,300 to 6,600 feet and even in the deep ocean.
  • Sea level reaches record high: Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach record highs in 2012. Globally, sea level has been increasing at an average rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
  • Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the central tropical North Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the north central Indian Ocean, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.

    Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012.

    Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012. Credit: NOAA Climate.gov, based on NSIDC data. See more.

  • Tropical cyclones near average: Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms, compared with the 1981–2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity.
  • Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2012. Following a slight decline in manmade emissions associated with the global economic downturn, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached a record high in 2011 of 9.5 ± 0.5 petagrams (1,000,000,000,000,000 grams) of carbon , and a new record of 9.7 ± 0.5 petagrams of carbon  is estimated for 2012. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.1 ppm in 2012, reaching a global average of 392.6 ppm for the year. In spring 2012, for the first time, the atmospheric CO2concentration exceeded 400 ppm at several Arctic observational sites.
  • Cool temperature trends continue in Earth’s lower stratosphere: The average lower stratospheric temperature, about six to ten miles above the Earth’s surface, for 2012 was record to near-record cold, depending on the dataset. Increasing greenhouse gases and decline of stratospheric ozone tend to cool the stratosphere while warming the planet near-surface layers.

The 2012 State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This year marks the 23rd edition of the report, which is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making. The full report can be viewed online.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter and our other social media channels.

More:


Doubt climate change? Here, have a cigarette . . .

July 9, 2013

Colorado River runs dry, Peter McBried, Smithsonian

From Smithsonian Magazine: The Colorado River Runs Dry A boat casts a forlorn shadow in a dry river channel 25 miles from the river’s historical end at the Gulf of California. Photo by Peter McBride (Go see the entire slide show; spectacular and troubling images)

As John Mashey has been quietly but consistently warning us for some time . . .

From ClimateRealityProject.org:

Join us and stand up for reality. http://climaterealityproject.org – This film exposes the parallels between Big Tobacco‘s denial of smoking’s cancer-causing effects and the campaign against the science of climate change — showing that not only are the same strategies of denial at work, but often even the same strategists.

If you watched that all the way through, odds are high you’re not a denier.  If you can’t watch it, you really should think about it, hard.

More, and useful resources:


How about another cup of coffee? (Global Warming Conspiracy and Starbucks Cup #289)

June 19, 2013

Encore post from September 17, 2007, and August 2009 — maybe more appropriate today than ever before.

Found this on my coffee cup today (links added here):

The Way I See It #289

So-called “global warming” is just

a secret ploy by wacko tree-

huggers to make America energy

independent, clean our air and

water, improve the fuel efficiency

of our vehicles, kick-start

21st-century industries, and make

our cities safer and more livable.

Don’t let them get away with it!

Chip Giller
Founder of Grist.org, where
environmentally-minded people
gather online.

Starbucks Coffee Cup, The Way I See It #289 (global warming)

Look! Someone found the same cup I found!

I miss those old Starbucks cups — but then, they killed the Starbucks in our town.  I don’t buy the 100 cups of Starbucks coffee I used to get in a year.

More:


Anthony Watts’s political push poll, “Gore or Obama?”

February 9, 2013

Al Gore and Barack Obama together in Detroit, June 2012, Rebecca Cook photo for Reuters, via NBC News photo

Al Gore and Barack Obama don’t appear to be on the opposite side of most issues, especially not climate change. Here they appear together in Detroit, circa June 11, 2012 – Rebecca Cook photo for Reuters, via NBC News photo

Anthony Watts strays farther and further from science with every passing day, and most of his new posts.

At the moment he’s got a doozy of a post, citing a bovine excrement question on a CFACT billboard, and offering a push-poll with three choices designed to push Watts’s preferred political answer, that ‘Obama and Gore go in different directions on global warming and climate change, and maybe they are both wrong.’   The end message Watts pushes is wrong, as you can see in the full texts below.(Morgan, here’s the link so you don’t have to flounder around with Google.)

Who do you believe?

◊  Barack Obama
◊  Neither one
◊  Al Gore

It’s based on these two quote mine products from the CFACT billboard:

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?

“Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come.”  — Al Gore, 10/30/2012

“We can’t attribute any particular weather event to global warming.”  — Barack Obama, 11/14/2012

Lying with quotes, demonstrated by CFACT

Propaganda group CFACT’s quote mining billboard, on which Anthony Watts’s push-poll is based.

Watts doesn’t offer a “both correct” choice.  That would be the accurate answer.

Gore’s comment at his blog on October 30, 2012, noted that while we can’t attribute the formation of Sandy to climate change, the effects of the storm were magnified by climate change.  Gore called that “disturbing.”

Obama, noting that while we can’t say for certain that any particular storm is caused entirely from human-created global warming, the long-term effects clearly have human causation and we need to act to stop it.

In short, Gore and Obama take the same side on this issue, the side of science and making sound public policy.  Watts works the old tobacco company strategy, suggesting that wherever studies showing health harms from tobacco differ from each other in the slightest jot or tittle, that means scientists can’t decide whether tobacco is harmful — substitute “human-caused climate change” for tobacco in that argument, and you see what Watts is trying to do.

Meanwhile, the Earth still warms:

Gore’s blog post in full:

Statement on Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 : 1:21 PM

This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage–affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations.

The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar–albeit smaller scale– event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality.

While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis. Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. Hurricane Sandy, and the Nashville flood, were reminders of just that. Other climate-related catastrophes around the world have carried the same message to hundreds of millions.

Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy’s storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse.

Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.

President Obama’s statement, excerpted from his November 14, 2012, press conference:

THE PRESIDENT:  Mark Landler.  Where’s Mark?  There he is right in front of me.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent.  Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather.  What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change?  And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?

THE PRESIDENT:  As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change.  What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago.  We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago.  We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.  And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks.  That will have an impact.  That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation.  And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.  But we haven’t done as much as we need to.

So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can — what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary — a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

I don’t know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because this is one of those issues that’s not just a partisan issue; I also think there are regional differences.  There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices.  And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going to go for that.  I won’t go for that.

If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.

So you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.

Q    Sounds like you’re saying, though, in the current environment, we’re probably still short of a consensus on some kind of attack.

THE PRESIDENT:  That I’m pretty certain of.  And, look, we’re still trying to debate whether we can just make sure that middle-class families don’t get a tax hike.  Let’s see if we can resolve that.  That should be easy.  This one is hard — but it’s important because one of the things that we don’t always factor in are the costs involved in these natural disasters; we just put them off as something that’s unconnected to our behavior right now.  And I think what — based on the evidence we’re seeing, is that what we do now is going to have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it.

In context, can you point to any points of conflict between what Al Gore said in October, and what President Obama said a couple of weeks later?  To me it looks as if they’re singing very much from the the same hymnal or songbook, and they’re in harmony, if not unison, especially in what I’ve turned into red-letter text.

Here’s the video of the entire Obama press conference (climate question comes at 42:19 in the video transcript):

More:


EU climate authority approved Britain’s plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

July 11, 2012

It’s stunning to listen to radio, or read newspaper letters-to-the-editor sections in the U.S., and see people who argue we have no need to control carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Commission (EC) Climate Change Committee (CCC) approved Britain’s plan to auction pollution rights, part of the UK plan to control and limit carbon emissions.

You’d think we don’t share the same planet.

Here’s the news, from Britain’s Department of Environment and Climate Change:

EU Emissions Trading System: European Commission approves the UK’s national auction platform

Press Notice 2012/081

11 July 2012

Today the European Commission (EC) Climate Change Committee (CCC) voted to approve the UK’s national auction platform for phase III and aviation auctions under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

Welcoming this important vote, Greg Barker said:

“This announcement is a further step towards ensuring that we can start auctioning phase III and aviation allowances as planned. The endorsement by the EU Climate Change Committee reflects the strength of the UK’s proposal and continued leading role in carbon auctioning.”

The CCC endorsement is the latest step in the UK’s preparations for auctioning phase III and aviation allowances. Under EU rules, the Commission and Member States in the form of the CCC must first approve the platform. This will be followed by a three month scrutiny period by the European Council and Parliament. The UK expects auctioning to start in November 2012, subject to successful completion of this scrutiny process.

Following a decision by the CCC last year, Member States are due to start auctioning some 120m phase III emissions allowances early before the end of this year. The UK’s share of these allowances is 12m. Subject to EU approval, it is expected that these allowances will be auctioned in November and December this year. In addition, the UK is expected to auction approximately 7m aviation allowances by the end of 2012.

Auctions of these allowances will be held separately during the same period.

Further detailed information on the UK’s phase III and aviation auctions, including the proposed auction calendar and how to access the auctions, will follow in due course.


Notes to editors

  • The European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS) is at the heart of UK Government policy to tackle climate change
  • The rules governing the system are set out in the EU ETS Directive; it covers sectors responsible for around half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions
  • In 2008, the EU ETS Directive was revised to make auctioning the main method for allocating emissions allowances in Phase III of the EU ETS (2013-2020). In Phase III, at least 50% of general emissions allowances will be auctioned across the EU. In addition, EU member states will auction 15% of aviation allowances
  • Under the rules set out in the EU Auctioning Regulation, Member States have the option to either auction via a common EU platform, or set up their own, national platform. The UK, Germany and Poland have opted to set up national auction platforms.
  • In April DECC announced that ICE Futures Europe was its preferred supplier for the contract to conduct auctions of phase III and aviation EU ETS. This followed an EU-wide competitive tender process that launched in December 2011.
  • Before auctions can begin on the UK platform, the platform must first be approved by the Climate Change Committee and then be subject to a 3 month scrutiny period by the European Parliament and Council. These requirements are set out in the EU Auctioning Regulation.
  • Both Germany and the European Commission (auctioning on behalf of 24 Member States) have announced their intention to start auctioning after the summer.

Further information can be found on:


EU charges airlines for carbon emissions on flights to Europe; airlines, other nations rankled

January 10, 2012

Been to court once, looks like it’s going again.  The Economist reported this week:

AS OF January 1st, American, Chinese and all the world’s airlines are being billed for the carbon emissions of their flights into and out of the European Union. About time, too: airlines contribute 2-3% of global emissions, yet they were hitherto free to pollute. The European initiative, which brings airlines into the EU’s existing cap-and-trade regime, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), is a modest corrective. The hope is that it will speed the creation of a long-promised, more ambitious successor, governing all the world’s airspace.

Foreign airlines, needless to say, are unhappy. So are their governments. Because flights into the EU have been included in their entirety, not just the portion within European airspace, they detect an infringement of their sovereignty. Last month, in response to a suit from an American industry body, Airlines for America (A4A), the European Court of Justice dismissed that concern. A4A, which claims, improbably, that the scheme will cost its members more than $3 billion by 2020, may file a fresh suit in the High Court in London.

Especially hopping mad are warming denialists, who fear that charges for carbon emissions will cause emitters to reduce emissions, which might have an effect on global warming, thereby making the denialists out to be wrong.

Better not to be proven wrong than to have a cleaner planet, they reckon.


Mercury Poisoning Prevention (video from AOL.com)

December 28, 2011

Video – Some fish have levels of mercury so high that it may be harmful, especially for pregnant women and young children. Find out if you may have been exposed to mercury.

AOL.com Video – Mercury Poisoning Prevention, posted with vodpod

Remember these prevention tips.

Ask yourself:  If mercury poisoning is not a problem worthy of EPA’s new standards to prevent mercury pollution, why are health officials warning us to restrict our intake of fish that soak up the mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants?

 

[No, I can't figure out why the video doesn't show here.  Look at the VodPod widget in the right column, a bit lower, and look at the video there.  Or, click on the link, and go to the site with the video.]


Why you should be concerned about mercury pollution

December 28, 2011

Mercury poisoning marches through our culture with a 400-year-old trail, at least.  “Mad as a hatter” refers to the nerve damage hatmakers in Europe demonstrated, nerve damage we now know came from mercury poisoning.

In the 20th century annals of pollution control, the Minimata disaster stands as a monument to unintended grotesque consequences of pollution, of mercury poisoning.

A key Japanese documentary on the disaster is now available from Zakka Films on DVD, with English subtitles.

Anyone who scoffs at EPA’s four-decades of work to reduce mercury pollution should watch this film before bellyaching about damage to industry if we don’t allow industry to kill babies and kittens in blind, immoral pursuit of profit at public expense.

American Elephants, for example, is both shameless and reckless  in concocting lies about mercury pollution regulation (that site will not allow comments that do not sing in harmony with the pro-pollution campaign (I’d love for someone to prove me wrong)).  Almost every claim made at that post is false.  Mercury is not harmless; mercury from broken CFL bulbs cannot begin to compare to mercury in fish and other animals; mercury pollution is not minuscule (mercury warnings stand in all 48 contiguous states, warning against consumption of certain fish).  President Obama has never urged anything but support for the coal-fired power industry — although he has expressed concerns about pollution, as any sane human would.

Republicans have lost their moral compass, and that loss is demonstrated in the unholy campaign for pollution, the campaign against reducing mercury emissions.  It’s tragic.  Action will be required in November to stop the tragedy from spreading.  Will Americans respond as they should at the ballot boxes?

Can you watch “Minimata:  The Victims and Their World,” and not urge stronger controls on mercury emissions?  Can you support the murder of children and workers, for profit?


Save the babies. Oh, and fight global warming, too

December 3, 2011

I wonder exactly how the “warming skeptics” will complain about this?

Just a reminder, cleaning the air to fight global warming also has immediate health benefits.

From the American Lung Association:

You know they will  complain about, for some trumped up reason.

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Kaliway at Everything Wrong with Today’s Youth.  He’s got more to say at his blog.


What were scientists saying about global warming in 1971?

November 3, 2011

What did scientists know and say about climate change and global warming in the 1970s?  I keep running into claims by modern climate change denialists that scientists in the 1970s firmly predicted a pending ice age.  This is usually posited to establish that scientists are fools, and that concerns about warming now are probably displaced because the same scientists were in error 40  years ago.

I worked in air pollution studies way back then.  That’s not how I remember it at all.  I remember great, good-natured debates between Ph.Ds in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah, and other scientists from other institutions passing through and working in the field with us.  Greenhouse effect was very well understood even back then, and the discussions were on the nature of just how much human pollution would affect climate, and in which way.

Savvy scientists then well understood that there were two competing trends in air pollution:  Greenhouse gases and particulates and aerosols.  Greenhouse gases would warm the climate, but they were offset by particulates and aerosols that reflect solar radiation back into space before warming can occur.  At least, back then, the particulates and aerosols counteracted the greenhouse gases.

Not fresh air - EPA photo

Not fresh air - EPA photo

Looking for something else I took off my shelf a book we used as a text in air pollution courses in the 1970s, Whatever Happened to Fresh Air? by Michael Treshow.  Treshow taught at Utah.  He was deeply involved in several research projects on air pollution.  He was also a great conversationalist and competitive tennis player.  His book was a good text, but he intended it to be read by lay people, especially policy makers, also.  It’s easy to fathom, intentionally.

Here, below, is what Treshow wrote in the early pages about carbon dioxide as an air pollutant, in sketching the global problems of air pollution.  Notice that, while he makes note of the predictions of what would happen with uncontrolled particulate and aerosol pollution, he gives the science straight up, telling what pollution can do, depending on local circumstances and global circumstances.  Treshow notes the research that the denialists cite now, but he explains enough of the science so that any reasonable person should be able to see that, if one form of pollution is controlled and another is not, the effects might be different.

Michael Treshow:

Over the past several million years, the earth’s animal and plant life have reached a workable equilibrium in sharing this atmosphere and keeping the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in balance.  But man, by burning fossil fuels (particularly coal) at an accelerated rate and by removing vegetation at the prodigious rate of 11 acres per second in the U.S., may be upsetting this equilibrium.  Many scientists believe this carbon dioxide build-up is one of the major threats to man’s environment.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is occasionally regarded as an air pollutant for this reason, even though it is a natural and essential component of the atmosphere.  Certainly the present concentrations are not dangerous; but what would happen if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should increase appreciably?  What hazards would be imposed?

An increase in carbon dioxide would benefit the green plants since they need it for photosynthesis.  But what effect would it have on man and animals?  Or on the physical environment?  The main hazard lies in the effect that carbon dioxide has in absorbing the infrared radiation which normally radiates from the earth back to the atmosphere.  If the carbon dioxide content of the lower atmosphere were to increase, it would prevent the infrared heat absorbed by the earth from the sun from reradiating into the atmosphere.  Heat energy would accumulate and cause a general increase in the earth’s temperature.  Such an increase in temperature, often called the “greenhouse effect,” could cause the ice caps to melt, raising the level of the oceans and flooding most of the world’s major cities.

It is awesome to realize that sea level is actually rising.  It is now 300 feet above what it was 18,000 years ago, and is reportedly rising nearly nine inches higher each century.  Beaches are being wasted away and tides lap ever closer to the steps of coastal homes.  But is the displacement of our beaches more closely related to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations or to the normal warming process between ice ages?

Not everyone agrees that carbon dioxide is to blame.  Concentrations vary greatly around the world.  Near urban areas, where fossil fuels are burned, concentrations are high; over forested areas, where plants are rapidly removing the gas, they are low.  Concentrations also vary with the height above the ground, the latitude, whether over the ocean or land and even with the time of day and season of the year.  All of these variables make it difficult to agree on a reasonable average carbon dioxide concentration.

Despite some disagreement, it is generally conceded that carbon dioxide has been added to the atmosphere at an alarming rate during the past century.  Actual measurements show that between 1857 and 1956, carbon dioxide concentrations increased from an average of 0.0293 to 0.0319 percent; 360 X [10 to the 9th] tons of carbon dioxide have been added to the atmosphere by man during this period.  Upwards of a trillion tons will be added by the year 2000.  Such  a tremendous release of carbon dioxide would increase the atmospheric concentrations appreciably unless some mechanism is available to absorb the surplus and to maintain equilibrium.

Extensive measurements suggest that carbon dioxide concentrations near the earth’s surface have increased about 10 percent since 1900.  During this same time, fossil fuel consumption increased about 15 percent.  This is a remarkably, close, meaningful relationship.  The 5 percent difference is readily accounted for, since this much would be absorbed by the ocean or by rocks and living organisms, particularly plants, which absorb much of the surplus carbon dioxide.  In fact, green plants probably have the capacity to absorb and utilize far more carbon dioxide than man is likely to release.

Calculations presented by Gordon MacDonald of the University of California at Santa Barbara show that a 10 percent increase in the total carbon dioxide content theoretically should cause an increase of 0.4° F in the average temperature of the earth.  Although the carbon dioxide content is being increased about 0.06 percent each year by the combustion of fossil fuels, no temperature increase has been demonstrated.  Rather, the average temperature appears to be decreasing.  During the past 25 years, when the addition of carbon dioxide has been most rapid, the average temperature has dropped half a degree.

This temperature drop has been thought to result from the increase in the amount of submicron sized particulates which remain suspended in the atmosphere. These aerosols obstruct the entrance of the sun’s heat and light rays, thereby disrupting the earth’s energy balance.  The effect is one of less heat and lower temperatures.  Dr. William E. Cobb of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency predicts the possibility of another ice age.

Whatever Happened to Fresh Air, Michael Treshow, University of Utah Press, 1971, pp. 3-6.

What changed since then?  The Clean Air Act provided the legal drive to clean particulates and aerosols out of the air.  Alas, we did not then have good controls for greenhouse gases.  The success of the Clean Air Act, and similar laws worldwide, rather left the pollution field open for greenhouse gases.  Without pollution to offset the effects of GHG, warming became the stronger trend.

I think Treshow was quite prescient back then.  His work is still accurate, when we adjust for the events of history that came after he wrote the book.


Good news? One denialist non-think-tank shuttered

June 24, 2011

Britain’s Independent reported on June 21 that the London version of the International Policy Network closed its doors.  The group was known for its anti-environmental protection, anti-science, pro-rapacious development stands.

Alas, the U.S. version clings on.

The International Policy Network, once the most persuasive and active think tanks campaigning against climate change science, has disbanded in the UK after what appears to be a spilt between its leading members.

A document released following a Freedom of Information request shows that the charity’ s chairwoman Linda Whetstone and her brother Michael Fisher held a private meeting in which they agreed to abandon the name of IPN UK after more than a decade. The meeting, held by telephone in November 2010, was perfectly within the charity’s rules.

The minutes of the meeting, which cover a single side of an A4 sheet of paper, were obtained by The Independent this week and reveal that Whetstone also resigned from the board of the International Policy Network in the United States, despite being a leading member of the organisation.

This newspaper has also confirmed that Professor Julian Morris, the founding director of the IPN in the UK and then president, is no longer working for the sister organisation in the US where he was earning $137,000. He is now vice president for research at a rival think tank, the Reason Foundation.

Professor Morris, after speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, June 15 being held by a new think tank called the Legatum Institute, said: “The IPN is scaling down. There were two organisations, the IPN US Inc and IPN UK and now the two organisations are pursuing independent paths.”

Asked whether the IPN had split over climate change, he added: “It is a long and complex story. It is what it is. I can see where you’re going with this.”

I wish I were so omniscient.  I wonder where Morris thought that line of questioning was going?

The Independent  summarized some of the less savory parts of the funding issues for the organization (John Mashey surely knows all this):

The closure of the free market IPN follows years of controversy about Exxon funding, alleged links to the tobacco industry and contested claims about AIDs and the pesticide DDT.

It is possible, however, that the closure may be linked to family connections involving David Cameron that meant IPN could no longer exist as a major force of climate denial.

Whetstone is the mother-in-law of Steve Hilton, who is the director of strategy for the prime minister and was godfather to his son Ivan. Hilton is the man who persuaded the Conservative leader to adopt a robust stance on climate change and hug Huskies on the Norwegian glacier to illustrate his commitment.

Hilton’s wife, Rachel Whetstone, is a vice president at Google for communications, which has donated millions to climate change causes, including creating 21 Google Science Communication Fellows.

Linda Whetstone and her brother Michael, the trustees present at the private meeting, are the children of Sir Anthony Fisher who was an ideological disciple and former student of the father of neoliberalism, Friedrich Hayek. Fisher senior masterminded the global network of neoliberal think tanks, including setting up more than 150 organisations himself.

IPN was home to unlikely and highly-questionable science claims, and a refuge for cranks like Roger Bate, whom readers of this blog will recognize from the DDT and Rachel Carson hoax propaganda.

The launch of the International Policy Network’s first publication Adapt or Die was reported in November 2004. The charity claimed climate change was a myth, that sea levels were not rising and that global warming would benefit humans by increasing fish stocks.

At that time Dr Roger Bate was also a director of the IPN. Morris and Bate were both named in a letter asking the tobacco company RJ Reynolds for £50,000 in funding for a book about the “myth of scientific risk assessment” which would deny the effects of passive smoking.

Morris denied involvement, but a book titled What Risk? edited by Bate was later produced in which Bate acknowledged Morris for his support.

The IPN name soon became associated with ExxonMobil after the American oil giant revealed in its own publications that it granted almost £250,000 ($400,000) to the IPN in the US between 2003 and 2006. An examination of IPN UK accounts registered at Companies House revealed that from 2003 to 2005 the US think tank in turn granted £204,379 to the IPN in London.

Exxon stopped funding the IPN following a letter in 2006 from Bob Ward who was then at the Royal Society calling on the world’ s largest seller of fossil fuel to stop funding organisations that were actively spreading misinformation about the science of human forced climate change. Ward is now at the Grantham Institute at the LSE in London.

An IPN statement at the time said: “The implication that IPN is somehow being funded by Exxon to promote ‘climate change denial’ (per the Guardian’s salacious headline) is preposterous nonsense. IPN’s founder and executive director, Julian Morris, has personally been involved in the climate change debate since writing his undergraduate thesis on the subject in 1992 and neither his views nor those of IPN have ever been influenced by any financial contributor.”

It is nothing but good news when such a cloud over the bright sunshine of good science, good information, and good policy, goes out of business.  One may wish there were more good news in store, or that more of the denialist groups would follow the example.

The good a non-profit may do oft dies with its disincorporation papers and is buried in some musty, dusty archive.  The evil such groups do lives on long after — sometimes propogated, zombie-like, in other organizations.

Until its dissolution the IPN has been central to the climate change denial machine. While receiving funding from Exxon, the organisation launched Adapt or Die in Washington in 2004 and published two further climate change books in time for the COP-10 meeting held that year in Argentina.

The IPN also attended the inquiry into the economics of climate change held by the House of Lords economic affairs committee, which was attended by Lord Lawson. Lawson claims in his book, Memoirs of a Tory Radical, that he began to question the science of climate change during the hearings. He would then go on to form the sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The think tank also established and launched the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change which, it claims, included 40 other organisations around the world. The IPN then “ coordinated participation of CSCCC members” at the UN climate meeting in Bali in 2008, distributing hundreds of copies of its report to delegates, participants and journalists for free.

The IPN was launched when the UK charity Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which was founded in July 1971, became part of the international network. During its existence the London office of the think tank raised more than £2.5million from donors. The organisation will continue in some form under the name Network for a Free Society.

Despite repeated attempts to contact her Linda Whetstone was unavailable for comment.

Against damaging climate change, we needed to start major pollution clean-up efforts two or three years ago.  IPN’s legacy may yet lie in the destruction yet to be done to to the human race by the harmful effects of uncontrolled, and perhaps, now uncontrollable climate change.  IPN shares some of the blame for the lack of anti-pollution action at the Copenhagen conference at the end of 2009, and for the lack of other coordinated international work to control pollution since then.


Annals of global warming: Records from Mauna Loa show continuing rise in atmospheric CO2

March 26, 2011

NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory, NOAA photo, 1982, Cmdr. John Bortniak

NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory, from NOAA At the Ends of the Earth Collection, 1982 NOAA photo by Commander John Bortniak

John Adams observed, and Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting, “Facts are stubborn things . . .”

Here are the facts on atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2):

 

Monthly CO2 levels since 1960, Mauna Loa Observatory (Scripps Inst of Oceanography)

Mauna Loa Observatory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD (University of Calfornia-San Diego); CO2 concentrations in parts per million (ppm)

As described at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography site:

Description:
Monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration versus time at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (20°N, 156°W) where CO2 concentration is in parts per million in the mole fraction (p.p.m.). The curve is a fit to the data based on a stiff spline plus a 4 harmonic fit to the seasonal cycle with a linear gain factor.

Data from Scripps CO2 Program.

For perspective, here’s a chart from Scripps that shows why there is concern over current levels of CO2:

CO2 over the past 420,000 years - Scripps Institution of Oceanography

CO2 over the past 420,000 years - Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Resources, More:


What’s the radiation level right now?

March 19, 2011

Concerned about radiation from Japan?

It’s highly improbable that dangerous levels of radiation would drift more than a few miles from the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, but maybe seeing some actual readings might convince people there’s not much to worry about — other than our sympathy for Japan, the Japanese people and especially those workers who have stayed on the site of the power plant to work to secure the reactors so they do not become hazards to the population at large.  Those workers may be exposed to significant, harmful radiation, and they deserve all the thanks you can give them.

Below is a map of the contiguous 48 states of the U.S., showing live readings from about a dozen sampling sites across the nation.  The map should update about every minute (if it doesn’t, and  you want to see updates, click through to the Radiation Network site).

Normal background levels are about 25 to 75; a low-level warning might be given if readings are sustained at 100.  These numbers are Counts Per Minute (CPM), a very crude measure from a Geiger counter showing how many radioactive particles or rays hit the sensor in a minute.  It does not distinguish alpha, beta or gamma, and it may be dependent on the design of the Geiger counter, especially the size of the sensor — differently designed machines give different readings even right next to each other.

So it’s a crude count, but it’s a map of counts.

Radiation Network map of radiation in the U.S.  Read legend, use with caution

Radiation Network map of radiation in the U.S. Read legend, use with caution. Click map to go to Radiation Network site.

Here is legend information for the map:

Legend for Radiation Network map

Sampling station symbols, Radiation Network

Nuclear site, calculated by the Radiation Network

At left is a symbol used on the map to mark “nuclear sites” by the Radiation Network.  Note that a nuclear “site” is not necessarily a nuclear power station.  For example, there are nuclear sites designated near Moab, Utah; there are a couple of ore refining facilities or tailing ponds there, but no nuclear power station.  The map shows a nuclear site in the Texas Panhandle.  There is no nuclear power station there.

Instructions on how to read the map, from RadNet:

How to Read the Map:

Referring to the Map Legend at the bottom left corner of the map, locate Monitoring Stations around the country that are contributing radiation data to this map as you read this, and watch the numbers on those monitoring stations update as frequently as every minute (your browser will automatically refresh).  The numbers represent radiation Counts per Minute, abbreviated CPM, and under normal conditions, quantify the level of background radiation, i.e. environmental radiation from outer space as well as from the earth’s crust and air.  Depending on your location within the US, your elevation or altitude, and your model of Geiger counter, this background radiation level might average anywhere from 5 to 60 CPM, and while background radiation levels are random, it would be unusual for those levels to exceed 100 CPM.  Thus, the “Alert Level” for the National Radiation Map is 100 CPM, so if you see any Monitoring Stations with CPM value above 100, further indicated by an Alert symbol over those stations, it probably means that some radioactive source above and beyond background radiation is responsible.

Notice the Time and Date Stamp at the bottom center of the Map.  That is Arizona Time, from where we service the Network, and your indication of how recently the Radiation Levels have been updated to the Map.

(Please note: Any White circles on the map represent Monitoring Stations that are running Simulations, instead of using a real Geiger counter, so any Alert levels that may occur over those stations are to be ignored since they represent only momentary testing.)

Remember, “alert level” is sustained count above 100. But again, be alert that this is only counts per minute, and may be difficult to translate to an accurate radiation reading.

The Radiation Network is an all volunteer operation, no government funding or other involvement.  In fact, the network is seeking volunteers to get a Geiger counter and hook it up to the internet to provide even more real-time readings.  See “How to Participate in the Nationwide Radiation Network.”

If you’re a denier of global warming/climate change, you should use your usual denial tool, claiming that because radiation at background levels is “normal,” no level of radiation can be harmful.  In fact, if you’d make that claim and volunteer to go staff the crews trying to cool the reactors, the entire world would salute you.

Should you be concerned? MIT’s Technology Review explains that the levels of radiation at the plant site itself are quite low, though higher than normal (article by Courtney Humphries).  The article also explains that radiation levels rapidly drop the farther from the plant one is; while we may be able to detect increases in radiation attributable to the radiation from Fukushima site, it is highly unlikely that radiation will exceed safety standards:

In terms of potential health dangers from radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, “the people who are in the most immediate danger from acute and severe radiation doses are those people who are on site at the moment and who are desperately trying to keep the reactors under control,” says Jacqueline Williams, a radiation oncologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Moving away from the immediate vicinity of the plant, radiation levels drop very rapidly. James Thrall, radiologist-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that radiation levels are inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source: The level at two miles from the source are one-quarter what they are at one mile, and “at 10 miles away, it’s almost an infinitesimal fraction,” he says. Individual exposure also varies widely depending on whether a person is outside or indoors, or shielded with protective clothing. Japanese authorities have evacuated the population living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, and have warned those living within 30 kilometers to stay indoors. Some experts say that people living beyond this range have no cause for concern at this time. “This has nothing to do with the general population,” McBride says.

The trickier question is whether lower doses of radiation—well below the threshold of acute illness—could lead to long-term health consequences for those in that area. Thrall says that epidemiological studies on survivors of nuclear attacks on Japan have found that those receiving 50 millisieverts or more had a slightly elevated cancer risk—about 5 percent higher than expected—and that risk seemed to rise with higher exposures. But scientists still vigorously debate whether that risk can be extrapolated down to even lower exposures.

After the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the population experienced a surge in thyroid cancers in children. However, scientists found that the culprit was not radiation in the air but radioactive contamination of the ground, which eventually found its way into cow’s milk. Thrall points out that in Japan, this is highly unlikely because the authorities are carefully monitoring the water and food supplies and keeping the public informed, which did not happen at Chernobyl.

More, resources:


Carbon-cutting schemes work, in Great Britain

August 11, 2010

Another press release that will have the climate change critics pulling their hair, from Great Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change about the Carbon Reduction Commitment plan (CRC):

50 days for businesses to register for carbon cutting scheme (Press Release)

With just 50 days to go until the end of registration for the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC), Greg Barker is calling on the remaining organisations to register now.

Currently 1229 of the organisations required to register have done so.

Launched in April 2010 the CRC requires large public and private sector organisations to register with the Environment Agency by 30th September 2010.

Greg Barker, Energy and Climate Change Minister, said;

“This new Coalition Government wants to boost energy efficiency in business because we know that saving energy saves money. The CRC will encourage significant savings through greater energy efficiency and importantly will make carbon a boardroom issue for many large organisations.

My message to businesses today is to register now. I understand the original complexity of the scheme may have deterred some organisations and I want to hear suggestions as to how we can make the scheme simpler in the future.”

GB Energy Minister Greg Barker and Westminster Fire Station

With just 50 days to go until the end of registration for the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC), Greg Barker is calling on the remaining organisations to register now. The Minister visited Westminster Fire Station this month to meet fire fighters and see some of the measures recently installed to improve the station’s energy efficiency.

The London Fire Brigade is one organisation that has registered for the CRC. Energy efficiency projects put in place by the Brigade have led to savings of £260,000 in 2009/10 and over £1 million since the Brigade started focusing on the need to be greener. Despite the organisation growing overall carbon emissions on their buildings are down by over 18% on 1990s levels.

Greg Barker visited Westminster Fire Station this month to meet fire fighters and see some of the measures recently installed to improve the station’s energy efficiency. Chairman and Leader of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Councillor Brian Coleman AM, FRSA, said:

“This isn’t just about protecting the environment, it makes excellent business sense. Last year we saved the taxpayer over a quarter of a million pounds by making our fire stations greener and reducing our energy bills.”

The CRC will help to ensure that organisations play their full role in contributing to the UK’s emissions reductions of at least 34% on 1990 levels by 2020 through improved energy efficiency.

  • Find out more about CRC on the DECC website
  • Imagine that: Saving energy both reduces carbon emissions and saves money.

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    EPA posts greenhouse gas reporting requirements

    June 29, 2010

    What’s that racket, that squealing, that ‘stuck’ pig noise?

    Orbitals model of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) - Wikimedia image

    Space-filling model of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) - Wikimedia image. Sulfur hexafluoride is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases known, with "global warming potential" 22,800 times that of CO2. EPA proposes to measure SF6 emissions as a first step toward reducing emissions. Warming deniers propose to stop the regulations.

    EPA published regulations for measuring greenhouse gases as part of its CO2 emission regulatory program — and the noise is the reaction of the anti-warmists.

    Here’s EPA’s press release — notice the links to longer explanations, and note especially that the regulations are not final yet, but are instead open for public comment.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    June 29, 2010

    EPA Issues Greenhouse Gas Reporting Requirements for Four Emissions Sources

    Agency also to consider data confidentiality

    WASHINGTON The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing requirements under its national mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting program for underground coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems, industrial waste landfills and magnesium production facilities. The data from these sectors will provide a better understanding of GHG emissions and will help EPA and businesses develop effective policies and programs to reduce them.

    Methane is the primary GHG emitted from coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems and industrial landfills and is more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere.  The main fluorinated GHG emitted from magnesium production is sulfur hexafluoride, which has an even greater warming potential than methane, and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

    These source categories will begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011, with the first annual reports submitted to EPA on March 31, 2012.

    In a separate proposed rule, EPA is requesting public comment on which industry related GHG information would be made publicly available and which would be considered confidential. Under the Clean Air Act, all emission data are public. Some non-emission data, however, may be considered confidential, because it relates to specific information which, if made public, could harm a business’s competitiveness. Examples of data considered confidential under this proposal include certain information reported by fossil fuel and industrial gas suppliers related to production quantities and raw materials. EPA is committed to providing the public with as much information as possible while following the law.

    The GHG reporting program requires suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial GHGs and large direct emitters of greenhouse gases to report to EPA.  Collecting this data will allow businesses to track emissions and identify cost effective ways to reduce emissions.  EPA is preparing to provide data to the public after the first annual GHG reports are submitted in March 2011.

    There will be a 60-day public comment period on the proposed rules that will begin upon publication in the federal register.

    More information on the final rule to add reporting requirements for four source categories:

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/remaining-source-categories.html

    More information on the proposal on data confidentiality:

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/CBI.html

    R227

    These regulations are those complained about and proposed to be stopped by critics of the campaign to stop global warming.  Alaska’s pro-warming Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a resolution to stop these regulations, with the support of junk science lobbyists including the National Center for Policy Research.  Fortunately, on June 10 the Senate voted 47-53 to reject a motion to consider the resolution, S. J. Res. 26, “A joint resolution disapproving a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.”

    Both of Texas’s senators were suckered by the junk science.  Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison both co-sponsored the losing resolution.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit to stop the regulations.  Abbott’s opponent in the 2010 elections, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, probably the only one of these Texans who might understand sulfur hexafluoride’s role as a pollutant, criticized the suit and urged Abbott to spend his time protecting Texas oil fields from oil company sabotage.

    Help control emissions from climate “skeptics,” and spread the good word:

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