Posts Tagged ‘climate change

08
Apr
14

Texas, Syria und Indonesia and the cap-and-trade-system

A film about climate change on three spots:

Texas: Here, people believe intensively in God and that mankind cannot change big things like the climate, and that the drought, thats ruining texan agriculture is God-given. A female climate scientist, who manages to be a trusting christian at the same time, travels about and teaches the reality of climate change.

Syria: It is the former farmers, whose living has been destroyed by the long drought before the civil war, and who did get nothing from the regime, who joined the rebels first (see last blog post).

Indonesia: Here, the government is so corrupt, that it doesn’t even protect a national park from beeing converted into oil palm plantations.

40 % of world wide CO2 – emissions come from deforestation, not from human energy use!

(This is why the use of wood pellets for heating has to be scrutinized, wether the pellets come from over-exploitation. Hard to find out for imports. Generally, the motto should be “Don’t heat, insulate!”.)

Indonesia is in absolute numbers as well as per capita one of the larger emitters of GHGs in the world – only because of the astronomical emissions caused by slash-and-burn (look up here).

 

yearsoflivingdangerously_indonesiannationalpark_3 Image: Oil palm seedling in a slash-and-burned Indonesian national park.

There are several attempts to stop the palm oil frenzy. The EU has after long years of discussion implemented an obligation to label ingredients of food, but not before end of 2014 and with no hint of wether the palm oil comes from proper cultivation.

Emission certificates: A general emission certificate system including imports would help in this case. The importer would be obliged to buy certificates according to the emissions related to his goods. This would mean for him to give proof as to where his palm oil comes from exactly. Palm oil from slash-and-burned areas would be more expensive and less sought after.

Basically, the same arguments hold for an emission tax, if it is applied to imported goods, too.

It could be so simple… All this is far from our daily life. Still.

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24
Jan
14

Syria – the first climate war?

This is certainly an exaggeration.

But there is at least some truth in it.

What few know is, that Syria suffered a heavy drought between 2006 and 2011. The NYT writes (here), that it forced a million peasants into the cities, adding up to another million refugees from Iraq, all left on their own, more or less empoverished without proper education and jobs.

With all the surrounding powers financing one ore the other insurgent group to fight their proxy war, the connection from drought to instability in this case is not one-to-one (and will probably never be), but it is definitely there.

An NCAR analysis (look here) predicted, that the mediterranean area will have very severe drought problems in 2060. Recent statistics (look here) show, that this prediction is corroborated by an already measurable increase in drought in the mediterranean area (NOAA):

Microsoft Word - JCLID1100296_CoverSheet.doc

Update: There appeared a balanced article in the Guardian – here.

04
Jun
13

waiting for the next ipcc report – a report of the world bank

As known to the public, we are in a 4-degrees-scenario. That means, that with emissions rising as in the last ten years, a global temperature rise of 4 k in 2100 is probable. (Graphics from here.)

The most complete compilation of research about climate change are the IPCC reports, which appear in larger time intervals – the next is to be expected in 2014. Those who can’t wait can take the world bank report “Turn down the heat” (, written by a team from Potsdam Institiute for Climate Impact Research). Here they find the most important results from the following areas:

  • expected global and regional temperature change
  • sea level rise
  • sea water acidification
  • loss of sea – and land ice
  • heat waves and droughts
  • intensive rainfall events
  • Storms
  • agricultural yields
  • immigration of germs and germ carrying insects
  • interaction of effects and events

For many of these points, knowledge is of course still incomplete.

IMO the most important point is food production. Some predictions and problem there are:

  • A considerable reduction in cropland, especially in the tropics and subtropics.
  • A considerable change of natural ecosystems because of habitat shift of many plants – even habitat loss.
  • From temperature rise alone – without taking droughts and floods into account – a per hectar yield reduction ist to be expected in the hotter areas of the planet, in the order of magnitude of 10 to 20 %.
  • Add to this a sizeable increase in prevalence and length of droughts and floods.

Summarizing, the ability to feed themselves of people in hot areas will be put into question.

This said, we can expect a considerable improvement of education and organization, as well as agricultural intelligence, which can already be seen. Political stability will also probably grow in the long term, with setbacks though.

It is a twisted game we embark on: we win the prize while our descendants make the bets.

09
Jan
13

Feedbacks, Feedbacks, awful, awful

There is this well known ice albedo feedback. Albedo is another name for the percentage of sunlight, which is reflected back into space. The albedo of ice is considerably bigger than that of the sea surface. When (not if) the summer sea ice vanishes, which is in full swing, the polar sea absorbs more sunlight. Result: climate change will be sped up generally and disproportionally in the arctic .

Lately, another important feedback mechanism has come to public attention: the spring and summer snow cover on land. In the course of the polar warming, it has shrunk, naturally, as can be seen in this graph (source):

june snow cover

It is interesting to compare the areas affected:

1980 ca.

2012 ca.

Minimum Sea Ice Area (Mio km²) ca.

5.5

2.5

June Snow Cover Area (Mio. km²) ca.

10

5

As You can see, the area drop of summer snow is a little bit less than the double of summer sea ice.

As often, things are more complex than they appear at first sight:

  • The snow data are “extent” – data which means, that they contain 10 – 15 % snow free area.
  • The albedo of land is bigger than that of water (ca. 0.2 vs. ca. 0.1, source).
  • Contrary to intuition, the mean solar irradiation in mid summer in those areas, where the main snow melting difference occurs (around the 60° N) is lower than on the polar sea around the north pole!
  • The data for other months than June are not given in my source, probably in the paywalled original paper, so they might look less crassy.

On the other hand, the capacity of heat absorbtion of land is smaller than that of sea surface, which will direct the absorbed energy earlier into atmosphere instead of the water body. Also, the speed of recent summer snow loss seems to be higher than that of sea ice (source).

What is the bottom line of all this discussion?

It is safe to say, that the climate feedback effects of sea ice – and land snow cover decline are of comparable size and that the latter should definitely be reckoned with.

Is that something new?

For science –  not, besides that the rate of snow area loss is (AFAIK) as unforeseen as that of ice loss. For the public – yes, this aspect has scarcely been covered by media.

Are there effects other than general climate warming?

Yes, as with sea ice loss, the weather system is beeing changed, i.e. strength, position and movement of lows and highs. But knowledge about that aspect is still not quite settled. (How could it?) And don’t forget the perils of arctic methane release, which is still low compared to tropical release rates, but could be considerably accelerated by permafrost thaw.

Does this have any significance for our daily life?

No, besides the feeling of urgency becomes stronger to tap on the brake pedal with emissions.

What would be a nice thing concerning this?

Put a price on GHGs emission, be it by a comprehensive, working cap and trade system or tax.

07
Aug
10

arctic sea without ice in7 years

This is of course a lurid title, a striking statement, which no responsible scientist would make, because it lacks some explanation.

I am going to give it herewith.

Strictly, the sentence should go like this:

If one extrapolates into the future the trend visible in the arctic ice volume data compiled since 1979, one comes to the conclusion, that the arctic sea will very probably be completely ice-free for the first time in september, the month of smallest ice volume, between 2015 and 2020.

After that, it it will possibly show some year ice cover in september but only for a short period of time.

The point of total ice-freeness lies  – extrapolating the present trend – somewhere around 2035, a datum, which has as things are a pretty high uncertainty on it.

To come to that I interpreted the data of the Polar Science Center of Washington University by calculating the somewhat enigmatic plot here back into absolute ice volume values:

plot_arct_sea_ice_volume_537_384

The seasonal changes are beautifully depicted and also the decrease of the mean value. If one continues the lower touching line by finger, one gets to region around 2017. You won’t get a more reliable value with mathematical methods. Crucial is whether you take the slight but clearly perceptible bending downward into account or not. In the latter case, you would land on the zero line 10 years later.

If you continue the upper touching line, you get to the above mentioned 2035, but of course in this longer time span the process may as well accelerate as slow down.

What does this mean?

Ice has a higher coefficient of reflection than water. Hence in polar summer, more sunlight will be absorbed. On the other hand ice emits during night and winter less thermal radiation into space than water. Both statements are valid only without the sky being cloud covered. So it is not a priori clear, whether the energy balance over the year of the ice-freeness is positive or negative. Anyway it will depend very much on the cloud cover pattern.

What is clear, is that the weather system of the northern hemisphere will change, because the air over the arctic region will no longer be cooled as much as hitherto.




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