Correspondent Philippe Cousteau explains the impact of climate change on the world’s coral reefs. – CNN
Scientists Propose Geo-engineering as a Possible Response to Climate Change
Scientists are brainstorming all sorts of ideas to combat global warming. Among these ideas is geo-engineering, a hotly debated and controversial topic in which the environment is manipulated to great extremes to quell the effects of climate change.
Rather than looking for a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, geo-engineering is a system of ideas that aims to control the carbon dioxide that is already present in the atmosphere. One of the proposed methods involves dispersing massive amounts of the mineral olivine into the ocean. This would increase the water’s alkalinity, which allows it to suck some of the carbon dioxide right out of the air.
However, laboratory tests done at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research shows that this method would be futile. Studies show that in order to effectively eliminate the majority of the carbon dioxide, 40 gigatons of olivine would be required. That is equivalent to 40 billion tons and would fill a fleet of 100 transport ships.
Even if scientists could feasibly obtain that gargantuan amount, the amount of energy needed to crush the mineral into fine powder would create a whole other set of environmental concerns. The massive amount of energy used during the grinding process would emit about a third of the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. On top of this hurdle, the mineral would also release traces of iron into the sea, which would cause ocean fertilization and lead to a huge surge in plankton.
Geo-engineering continues to remain a hotly debated subject in the scientific community. Some dismiss the idea as utter nonsense that could have unforeseen side effects and irreversible consequences. Proponents, however, see it as a viable alternative and believe that it warrants further discussion given the fact that proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions have resulted in zero progress.
Prince Charles Becomes an Activist for the Environment
Many celebrities tend to be very vocal about their beliefs and use their stardom to try to make a difference. When it comes to protecting the environment, some of the biggest activists include Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. You can now add Prince Charles to that list as he says that saving planet Earth is “a grandfather’s duty.”
During an interview at Cambridge House, Prince Charles explains that he does not want his future grandchild to be born in a world where he or she has to tackle serious climate change issues because people like his or her grandfather took a passive stance. He added that if nothing is done, his grandchild and subsequent generations could end up inheriting a world that has become a “poisoned chalice.”
Prince Charles has in fact been a strong environmental advocate for many years. In 2007, he set up the Prince’s Rainforest Group, an organization dedicated to saving the few rainforests that remain in the world. He also spoke in front of the committee at the UN international climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009. A year later, he was invited as a guest speaker at the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference.
Prince Charles also commented on his current project and added that he is in the works of creating a team of volunteers in the UK following the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
With charitable-related issues set aside, Prince Charles also indulged in his excitement about becoming a grandfather for the first time. Prince William and Kate Middleton are expecting their first child due this summer.
On more serious issues, Prince Charles also echoed concerns for his son Prince Henry, who is currently abroad in Afghanistan. Prince Charles regularly meets with the relatives of those killed in action or seriously wounded while fighting the war on terror.
Global Warming Could Spell Doom for Pasta Lovers
Sure, they may be high in carbs, but who doesn’t love their morning bagel, the pasta at dinnertime and the Mac-and-cheese they serve their kids? If you are among those who have to have a serving of rice or bread with every meal, then you might be alarmed to hear that global warming may soon make it harder to obtain the food that has become such a main staple in our diets.
Pasta and bread are derived from wheat, and scientists are in near unanimous agreement that climate change can have a drastic impact in its production especially as temperatures continue to rise and droughts become increasing severe.
Global warming is responsible for extreme and violent storms as was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Sandy. However, powerful hurricanes and flash floods are not the only worries. Rice, wheat and corn are the foods that most populations around the world rely on. These three are basically crops that grow optimally during the cool season.
Wheat production has declined by over five percent in the last 50 years. This is believed to be attributed to the one degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures. Some experts project that wheat production will decline by another 23 to 27 percent by the year 2050 if no actions are taken to curb the rise of climate change. Currently, there is action that is being taken to develop different crop systems that are able to tolerate and thrive in warmer temperatures.
This past July was the hottest recorded summer in U.S. history. This has led to a decline in soybean and corn production, which has caused massive protests all over the world over rising food costs. Unless swift action is taken, out future may be devoid of the food we take for granted today.
Global Warming may Lead to Depletion in Fish Growth
It has been long suspected that global warming has contributed to rising temperatures. However, not very many scientists have really studied the impact that global warming will have on the ocean and its billions of inhabitants.
A team of ichthyologists from the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia have published studies suggesting that drastic changes in oceanographic conditions could lead to the rapid depletion of fish populations.
The study surmised that if global warming continues at the current rate over the next 40 years, the marine environment could be altered to the extent that most fish species and water invertebrates will no longer be capable of maintaining the energy needed for sustainable growth.
The primary problem is the reduction of oxygen content in the ocean. Rising temperatures decreases the water’s ability to hold onto oxygen. Oxygen is critical for a fish’s metabolic and respiratory functions. Less oxygen also impairs a fish’s behavioral and biochemical processes and impedes its ability to swim and even to lay eggs.
Aside from a decrease in population, the size and weight of fish may also gradually begin to decrease by up to 10 percent within the next 40 years. Scientists project that tropical areas and particularly the Indian Ocean will suffer the gravest consequences. Additional factors such as pollution and overfishing can further exacerbate the problem.
Global Warming continues to be a heated debate. Skeptics claim it is a myth caused by hysteria and the liberal media and has no scientific basis. Believer, on the other hand, have cautioned that climate change is directly responsible for severe droughts and variations in weather patterns.
If global warming is as serious as some scientists contend it is, then our scaly friends in the ocean will suffer the dire consequences just as much as we will.
The Effects of Climate Change becoming a Reality
This year has been marred by unusually hot weather. Scientists are attributing this to climate change that has been brought on by man-made conditions.
The assessment was partly headed by James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard for Space Studies. Hansen was present for a U.S. senate meeting in 1988 where he gave a grim prediction for the environment if changes are not made. Now, more than 20 years later, he is saying that the current condition is worse than his 1988 prediction.
Hansen went on to say that he miscalculated how rapidly the rise of global temperatures would lead to extreme weather. Further studies also show that temperatures have risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years.
The assessment supports the findings from a separate research that rising greenhouse gas emissions increased the occurrence of severe heat waves, floods and droughts. Texas and Oklahoma have suffered from extreme droughts in 2011. Similarly, Europe underwent a series of heat waves in 2010 with Russia going through the same back in 2003. This is all due to the effects of climate change, according to Hansen.
Even Richard Muller, a scientist and once die-hard skeptic of global warming, has now completely switched on his position, saying that the new data has convinced him that there is a serious problem being brought on by climate change.
Both Hansen and Muller are in agreement and certain that the climate change is completely man-made and brought on by pollution and the the gargantuan consumption of fossil fuels. They say that natural causes can most certainly be eliminated as the culprit
The findings are disturbing to say the least. Unless drastic measures are taken, one can only imagine how much worse the environment will be by the time we reach the generation of our children and grandchildren.
Countries in Disagreement at Rio+20 Summit Conference
Back when the first Rio Earth Summit conference was held back in 1992, all participating leaders were in agreement that something had to be done to prevent factors like overpopulation and climate change from causing catastrophic damage on a global scale.
Now, 20 years later, world leaders have convened once again for the Rio+20 meeting. So far, it is clear that nations are at odds over how to address major issues concerning the depletion of natural resources.
The draft agreed to is called “The Future We Want.” Thus far, the provisions of this draft has gone through countless additions, deletions and last minute changes – most of which has been instigated by the U.S. and China. Japan, Russia and European nations also found clauses within the draft that they would not agree to.
Green economy and poverty issues were at the forefront of the meetings. The talks included ideas on how a greener economy and sustainable living can be achieved and how the government, consumers, companies and investors can all play a role to make it happen.
Some believed the bill was far too lenient on major corporations and banking institutions and should be imposing higher limitations on company practices that contribute to pollution and consumption of vital resources. There were also talks over how to improve the general health of the population and ways to relieve poverty.
The U.S., in particular, held firm on its ground and refused any change in policy that may be of economic benefit to competing countries like China.
Though the meetings are supposed to provide solutions for a greener Earth, it appears that each nation is clearly putting its own interest above the issues that the summit meetings are created for. Instead of arriving to solutions, the conferences serve as a grim reminder of the current condition of the world.
Durban Climate Conference
Later on in 2011, international climate change negotiators will meet in Africa to look back on the famine which is now sweeping the eastern parts of that continent, and make predictions that climate change will be largely injurious to Africa’s future food production.
The World Bank’s special envoy on climate change, Andrew Steer, told The Associated Press:
“The challenges are overwhelming… Africa needs to triple food production by 2050…At the same time, you’ve got climate change lowering average yields …. So, of course, we need something different.”
He hopes for a refocused look at agriculture to take place at the talks that are to be held in South Africa’s eastern city of Durban, the first talks in Africa since Nairobi hosted a round in 2006. South Africa says that as chair of the Durban conference, it will alert the industrializing nations to deliver money and technology to help developing countries in Africa to create clean industries and cope with the droughts and floods.
Africa is hard hit by the effects of climate change and needs more money for managing water and creating seeds for food crops which can withstand droughts and floods.
Researchers with the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that global agriculture accounts for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than transportation’s 13 percent and almost at the industry’s 19 percent. Farming’s contribution to global warming possibly might offset techniques to store and sequester more and more carbon in soil and trees.
Sequestering carbon is good for the environment and has even yielded increases.
“You invest in things that are good for yields, good for resilience and also sequester more carbon…You can have it both ways if you get carbon back in soils.”
Steer says it is hard to determine exactly how much money is needed, and cautioned that while agreements on helping poor countries and a focus on agriculture could emerge at Durban.
Durban isn’t “a pledging session”, mind you, said Mr. Steer on the sidelines of a climate change conference on farming which attracted agriculture ministers from across Africa to Johannesburg.
In a speech which opened the Johannesburg conference, South African agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said that “Food security, poverty and climate are closely linked and should not be considered separately.”
Introducing: The Conversation
A group of Australian scientists recently began a new online effort to correlate the body of science and the rising human influence on the climate system.
Their initial piece, “Climate change is real: an open letter from the scientific community,” covers The Conversation, an academic Web site that aims to provide a credible source of analysis and information on important issues as traditional journalism shrinks.
The letter is in the style of recent American-fronted efforts to counter individuals and groups who have mastered the use of the Web as a means of disseminating and aggregating all kinds of information be it fact or fiction so long as it casts doubt on climate science.
In contrast to Skeptical Science and RealClimate, tightly focused on science questions, this initiative appears to be trying to both clarify the state of the science on global warming and the same breath encourage policies that might possibly curb greenhouse gas emissions.
This excerpt manages to do a justice to the overall style:
“Like all great challenges, climate change has brought out the best and the worst in people. A vast number of scientists, engineers, and visionary businessmen are boldly designing a future that is based on low-impact energy pathways and living within safe planetary boundaries; a future in which substantial health gains can be achieved by eliminating fossil-fuel pollution; and a future in which we strive to hand over a liveable planet to posterity.”
“On the other extreme, economic instability and fear of radical change have been exploited by ideologues and other interests vested to whip up ill-informed, climate scientists and populist rage have become the punching bag of shock jocks and tabloid scribes.”
Arctic Warming Conference
At an Arctic warming conference in Copenhagen, scientists were told to use plain language to explain the dramatic melt in the region to a world reluctant to take action against climate change.
An authoritative report released at the meeting of 400 scientists showed melting ice in the Arctic might help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet this century.
The Arctic has been warming twice the pace of the global average in recent decades, and the latest five-year period is the warmest since measurements began in the 19th century.
The report stressed “the need for greater urgency” in combating global warming. However, nations remain bogged down in their two-decade-long talks on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The World Bank’s special envoy for climate change, Andrew Steer, insisted that the new findings “are a cause for great concern.” The sea rise will affect millions of people in both poor and rich countries, though, would particularly affect the poor.
Steer said bank studies portrayed the costs of major flooding events on infrastructure and the economy could run into billions of dollars.