Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tropical fish in Tasmania, and other stories

Australian waters: Climate change is measurably affecting marine ecosystems in Australian waters, including tropical fish being seen near Tasmania.

Ocean health index: The health of the global oceans has been rated, and given a 60/100. That's (still) a pass, but not very impressive, and most of the indicators are heading south. I'm not persuaded by every aspect of this study (the tourism section, for instance, just seems daft), but mainly it is about trying to set a baseline against which future ocean health can be measured. So the absolute score is probably less important than whether it rises or falls in future.

Carbon and farming: Australian farmers leading the way? I admit I still don't have much of a handle on the details of agricultural practices and carbon sequestration. Yet my impression is that it can only ever be a sideshow, since any carbon sequestered remains in the active carbon cycle, albeit in a phase of slightly reduced activity when compared with the carbon in the upper oceans and atmosphere. Whatever the place of agricultural practices, the centrepiece of any carbon strategy has to be leaving the vast majority of fossil hydrocarbons buried deep underground. This is the only place where excess carbon can be safely stored more or less permanently.

Food crisis: Letter from Jeremy Grantham, a fund manager with his finger on the pulse of where the real threats to the global system lie. Hint: they converge in the stomach.

Flooding: 750 million to be vulnerable to flooding by 2025 in rapidly developing Asian cities, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Hot water: Thermal power stations need cooling water to operate, yet they return that water to its source at a higher temperature than they take it. This means that when rivers and lakes get too warm for marine creatures to live, plant operators and regulators face a choice between power cuts and dead fish (and potentially ruined ecosystems). Even plants using ocean water are not immune. This is a growing problem in a warming world. Solutions include moving away from thermal power plants (thermal plants are those that rely on a source of energy being used to boil water in order to drive turbines and so include coal, gas, oil, nuclear and solar thermal) or building air cooling towers so that the heated water is not returned to the waterway.

Economist vs physicist: A dinner conversation. I linked to this piece in a recent post on growth, but it's worth mentioning again on its own.

Overfishing: Plenty more fish in the sea? The NEF has calculated that the UK has just exhausted the annual productivity of its domestic fisheries and effectively relies on imports of cod and haddock for the rest of the year...

Overconsuming: ...on almost the same day that humanity exhausted its annual budget of global resources.
H/T Donna.


byron smith said...

Grist: Buying "sustainable" fish will not save the oceans. At least, not in the absence of serious CO2 mitigation. There are many threats to the oceans, but winning most of the battles and losing on ocean acidification might well still mean losing.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Food crisis could force world into vegetarianism. Food and water. Food and water. Food and water. Food is water, since 70% of our available fresh water goes to food production. Disruptions to the hydrological cycle mean disruptions to the food supply, which means somewhat higher prices for rich countries, spending a tiny fraction of their incomes on food, but means starvation or malnutrition for the billions living closer to the edge, and loss of legitimacy for their leaders.

byron smith said...

Guardian: It's not just in the Southern Hemisphere. Warm water fish increasing around Britain.