Friday, April 13, 2012

The Other Arab Spring, and other stories

Tom Friedman (NYT): The Other Arab Spring: "All these tensions over land, water and food are telling us something: The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well."

SMH: Coal seam gas is no climate saviour. On the contrary, exploiting alternative fossil fuels only increases the total available pool of carbon that can be transferred from safely underground into the atmosphere and oceans. Indeed, the benefits of gas over coal are frequently overstated. Natural gas is a bridge to nowhere, in the absence of major improvements to leaking. Leaks throughout the supply chain mean that, from a climate perspective, natural gas is at best only slight better than coal (and may actually be worse) over a twenty year timeframe, since methane, while relatively short-lived, is far more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide. According to another new study, the benefits of even a massive switch from coal to gas would be relatively minor and would not be seen until late this century.

The Conversation: Medium density is the future.

Yahoo: Beyond 2ºC. Former UNFCCC chief admits we're not going to hold warming to two degrees, long agreed as an international target. Anyone reading the literature would have known this for some time (we're on track for four degrees. Or more), but that someone with so much invested in the international negotiations to admit this publicly is a big step, largely ignored in the media. H/T Lou.

TAE: The nature of tipping points. Some clarity on a commonly misunderstood and misused phrase. Some of the final comments about CO2 are a little overstated, but it's a useful summary.

The Atlantic: Physiological limits of adapting to warming. A summary of this 2010 PNAS paper by Sherwood and Huber, in which they point out that there are certain climatic conditions above which humans simply cannot survive.

CC: Fascinating new study on the effect of a melting Arctic on northern hemisphere weather. The basic idea is that as the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the globe, the temperature difference between the Arctic and the equator drops, which results in a slowing down of the jet stream, which in turn results in slower-moving weather patterns, which exacerbates extreme weather by making dry or wet, hot or cold spells all longer and so more intense. This is yet another study contributing to the growing body of evidence that the extreme cold UK winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 may well have been linked to changes in the Arctic. More of these studies are linked in the comments back here.

Bill McKibben: How we subsidise our own destruction. McKibben offers five pieces of simple and straightforward advice on distinguishing good from bad subsidies.

Guardian: Lloyd's of London warns against Arctic drilling. No one really knows how we would clean up an oil spill in the Arctic, which in icy waters would not break down at anything like the pace of the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster. But even if all the oil is safely delivered from under the Arctic to the atmosphere, via a brief sojourn in our cars, it will still spell the end for Arctic ecosystems. And much else besides.


byron smith said...

CP: US abandons 2ºC.

byron smith said...

Grist: The energy playing field has never been level. Government subsidies and support have been the norm for every energy industry in US history.