Monday, July 18, 2011

Every second of every day

Greenland is losing around 9,000 tonnes of ice every second. But we're doing our best to mitigate this problem by removing 9-10,000 tonnes of fish from the ocean every hour. And, of course, by dumping 62,500 tonnes of heat-trapping emissions into the earth's atmosphere every minute. The radiative forcing of the carbon dioxide human activities have put in the atmosphere is the equivalent of adding the energy of more than ten Hiroshima bombs every second.

Climate Central: Extreme events related to climate change threaten three US nuclear facilities.

Guardian: UK oil and gas rigs creating spills at least once a week in 2009 and 2010. Remember, the UK claims to have some of the world's highest standards in regulation of off-shore drilling safety. Now take these operations into freezing Arctic waters, where microbes won't be so quick to deal with spills as there were in the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and where extreme conditions prevent the kind of response available there. Arctic drilling is doubly suicidal: It brings new risks to relatively untouched ecosystems and ensures more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere for thousands of years. And the only reason these waters are opening up to this exploitation is the decline of the sea ice caused by the combustion of fossil fuels in the first place.

Grist: In the worst drought in Texas history, 13.5 billion gallons of water used for fracking. Fracking is the controversial process used to exploit reserves of shale gas, a fossil fuel touted in some circles as a cleaner alternative and as a silver bullet solution to US energy security, but which is worse than coal or conventional oil when gas leaks are included (since natural gas is a very potent greenhouse gas and degrades over time into more carbon dioxide), has been associated with the poisoning of groundwater, and which may well prove commercially unviable much faster than expected according to a recent NYT report (while Stoneleigh offers an even bleaker outlook).

Independent: The plight of the big cats. According to Dereck and Beverly Joubert, leading big cat conservationists, "There were 450,000 lions when we were born and now there are only 20,000 worldwide. [...] Leopards have declined from 700,000 to 50,000, cheetahs from 45,000 to 12,000 and tigers are down from 50,000 to just 3,000."

CP: Food prices hover at historic highs.

IPS: Rising temperatures melting away food security. The impacts of climate change on food production are not limited to heat stress on crops (which may suppress global yields by 5-10% per degree of warming), but also include disruptions to precipitation patterns (i.e. floods and droughts), inundation (or salination) by rising sea levels, loss of glacial melt water (a critical factor, according to this article), increased erosion and shifting distribution of pests and invasive species.

Yale360: Wasting phosphate. "It takes one ton of phosphate to produce every 130 tons of grain, which is why the world mines about 170 million tons of phosphate rock every year to ship around the world and keep soils fertile. [...] We could hit “peak phosphorus” production by around 2030. [...] Presently, there simply are no substitutes for phosphorus."

Reuters: As CO2 levels rise, land becomes less able to curb warming, claims new study in Nature.

Mongabay: The unexpected effects of removing top predators. Another new Nature paper claims that "The loss of these animals may be humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature".

Energy Bulletin: Dilithium crystals and tomorrow's energy needs.
Image by CAC.

19 comments:

rustneversleeps said...

"dumping 62,500 tonnes of heat-trapping emissions into the earth's atmosphere every minute" (not second)

byron smith said...

My mistake. Now fixed. Thanks!

phillip said...

Byron,
you need to stop focusing on this friend, the problem is political and your asking people to be self-denying, a thing that 50 years of media and State education has rendered impossible, we simply aren't free to care, only to indulge our lusts, so 'resist not evil' and chill out waiting on the Lord.

byron smith said...

Another four nuclear plants shut down by one of the predicted effects of climate change: jellyfish.

Phillip - Are you serious?

byron smith said...

Mongabay: How to save the tiger: "We are losing the tiger. Two hundred years ago, Asia’s great cat numbered in the hundreds of thousands and inhabited virtually the entire continent, from Siberia to Turkey, and Afghanistan to Bali. Today there are, at best, around 3,200 wild tigers left. [...] In fact, depending on the region, humans cause up to 83% of tiger deaths, mostly to feed a massive demand for tiger body parts in China and Southeast Asia."

byron smith said...

Farm Foundation report: What's driving food prices in 2011? The answers; biofuels, extreme weather, dietary changes in China (and elsewhere), market inelasticity (there is less and less available land to be brought into production), stockpiling.

byron smith said...

DeSmogBlog: Shale gas still worse than coal for the climate.

byron smith said...

TAE: Stoneleigh continues her series on fracking, with a wide-ranging look at the many environmental hazards associated with fracking (unfortunately, she only mentions the fact that shale gas is worse than coal from a climate perspective in passing at the end).

byron smith said...

Michael Tobis: The Texan drought is not really a Texan dought at all. Ouch.

byron smith said...

DSB: Fracking the future - a summary of the many problems with fracking.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: Coal seam gas and fugitive emissions in an Australian context. (A significant amount of coal seam gas is obtained through fracking.)

byron smith said...

Monbiot: Five problems with fracking. Good summary.

byron smith said...

Stephen Leahy: Some of the costs of fracking.

byron smith said...

Stephen Leahy: More on shale gas and its contribution to climate change.

byron smith said...

From the previous link:

"Howarth and colleagues estimate that between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of all shale gas produced leaks – called “fugitive emissions” – into the atmosphere, making it worse than burning coal or oil. [...] Even if leaks are one to two percent, far less than the Howarth estimates, it would only be slightly better than continuing to burn coal, the “Coal to gas: the influence of methane leakage” study concluded."

The upshot is that shale gas is most likely worse than coal in the short term, though coal is worse in the long term since methane has a relatively short atmospheric life (at which point it degrades to CO2, much of which hangs around for a very long time), so the danger of treating fracked gas production as a transition energy is that it could well give a short-term boost to warming, potentially taking us past non-linear discontinuities (a.k.a. tipping points).

byron smith said...

Planet3.0: A useful video on phosphorus depletion.

byron smith said...

DD: 11,000 sharks killed every hour. That's three every second, or about 100 million each year. In the last twenty years, there has been something like a 90% decline in shark numbers.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Tigers and tourists in India. A complex story.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Texas - ample oil, no water.