Showing posts with label carbon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label carbon. Show all posts

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Gathering Climate Storm and the Media Cover-up | By Dr. Andrew Glikson

“Earth is now substantially out of energy balance. The amount of solar energy that Earth absorbs exceeds the energy radiated back to space. The principal manifestations of this energy imbalance are continued global warming on decadal time scales and continued increase in ocean heat content.” (James Hansen 2018)

“The people have no voice since they have no information” …“No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity – much less dissent.” (Gore Vidal)

With the exception of the few who comprehend the nature of a Faustian Bargain[1], some billionaires, captains of industry and their political and media mouthpieces are driving humanity toward self-destruction through the two biggest enterprises on Earth, the fossil fuel industry, which is devastating the Earth atmosphere, and the industrial-military machine leading toward nuclear war. The rest of the world is dragged subconsciously, induced by bread and circuses.

[ 1880 - Feb. 2016 temperature anomaly from 1951-1980, source ]
By close analogy with the tobacco denial syndrome[2], albeit with consequences affecting the entire Earth, the fossil fuel industry has been paying climate pseudoscientists to propagate fabricated untruths regarding the origins and consequences of global warming, widely disseminated by the media.

Despite irrefutable evidence for global warming, such fabrications are still quoted by pro-coal lobbies and compliant politicians, including:
  1. Denial of basic laws of physics, i.e. the blackbody radiation laws of Plank, Stefan-Boltzmann and Kirchhoff[3]
  2. Denial of direct observations and measurements in nature, in particular the sharp rises of temperatures, ice melt rates, sea level rise and extreme weather events.
  3. Denial of the global warming origin of extreme weather events, i.e. the closely monitored rise in storms, hurricanes, fires and droughts in several parts of the world.[4]
  4. Denial of the bulk of the peer-reviewed literature summed up in the IPCC reports.
  5. Denial of conclusions of the world’s premier climate research organizations (NASA, NOAA, NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Centre), Hadley-Met, Tindale, Potsdam, WMO (World Meteorological Organization), CSIRO, BOM and other organizations).
In view of the rapidly growing direct evidence from the increase in extreme weather events, the common tactic has changed from outright denial to a minimization of the significance and consequences of the shift in state of the climate.

READ MORE: Crimes Against the Earth

Whereas news items channeled by international news agencies regarding extreme weather events are generally reported, at least by national broadcasters, the plethora of discussion and debate programs on TV and radio stations mostly overlook the enhanced toxic effects of carbon gases[5], or relegate it behind sports and entertainment news. In most instances discussion panels focus on the inside political machinations rather than the critical issues themselves.

According to Mary Debrett[6]:
“We are now in the middle of perfect storm of miscommunication about climate change. Various factors have converged to confound rational public conversation. Public opinion polling indicates that although there is widespread acceptance of climate change resulting from human activities, the public’s preparedness to pay for action to mitigate climate change is actually declining – even as climate scientists warn of the increasing urgency for action. These results signal a serious problem in the public communication of climate change. They reflect this perfect storm – where tensions between the media, politicians and various lobby groups have made it impossible for scientists and others with appropriate expertise, to cut through.”
The major influence the media exerts on public opinion[7], and the extent to which it can be referred to as the “tail which wags the political dog”, allows it nearly as much, or more, political power as political leaders, chief bureaucrats and heads of corporation. A power accompanied with little responsibility.


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[1] To “strike a Faustian bargain” is to be willing to sacrifice anything to satisfy a limitless desire for knowledge or power.







The original source of this article is Global Research.

Andrew Glikson
by Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate science, Australian National University (ANU)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's time to 'Do the math' again

By David Spratt

Have we gone mad? A new report released today explains why contemporary climate change policy-making should be characterised as increasingly delusional.

As the deadline approaches for submissions to the Australian government's climate targets process, there is a flurry of submissions and reports from advocacy groups and the Climate Change Authority.

Most of these reports are based on the twin propositions that two degrees Celsius (2°C) of global warming is an appropriate policy target, and that there is a significant carbon budget and an amount of "burnable carbon" for this target, and hence a scientifically-based escalating ladder of emission-reduction targets stretching to mid-century and beyond.

A survey of the relevant scientific literature by David Spratt, "Recount: It's time to 'Do the math' again", published today by Breakthrough concludes that the evidence does not support either of these propositions.

The catastrophic and irreversible consequences of 2°C of warming demand a strong risk-management approach, with a low rate of failure. We should not take risks with the climate that we would not take with civil infrastructure.

There is no carbon budget available if 2°C is considered a cap or upper boundary as per the Copenhagen Accord, rather than a hit-or-miss target which can be significantly exceeded; or if a low risk of exceeding 2°C is required; or if positive feedbacks such as permafrost and other carbon store losses are taken into account.

Effective policy making can only be based on recognising that climate change is already dangerous, and we have no carbon budget left to divide up. Big tipping-point events irreversible on human time scales such as in West Antarctica and large-scale positive feedbacks are already occurring at less than 1°C of warming. It is clear that 2°C of climate warming is not a safe cap.

In reality, 2°C is the boundary between dangerous and very dangerous climate change and 1°C warmer than human civilisation has ever experienced.

In the lead up to the forthcoming Paris talks, policy makers through their willful neglect of the evidence are in effect normalising a 2.5–3°C global warming target.

This evidence in "Recount: It's time to 'Do the math' again" demonstrates that action is necessary at a faster pace than most policy makers conceive is possible.


- It's time to 'Do the math' again

- RECOUNT - It's time to 'Do the math' again

- Two degrees of warming closer than you may think

- The real budgetary emergency and the myth of "burnable carbon"

It's time to 'Do the math' again | by David Spratt

Posted by Sam Carana on Thursday, April 23, 2015

Monday, September 22, 2014

350,000 Marchers = 50 Parts Per Million

People's Climate March, New York, September 21, 2014, photo by Cindy Snodgrass

by Nathan Currier

How big a deal was the march in Manhattan yesterday? One of the organizers was, a group started by Bill McKibben based on a paper by climate scientist James Hansen which stated that we should aim for about 350 parts per million (ppm) CO2. We are currently at about 400ppm, so we need to move "only" about 50ppm in the opposite direction from our rapid growth, which hit a frightening 3ppm clip last year.

It will take a huge effort, and few alive today will live to see it (short of large-scale engineering), but it is interesting to ponder the minute change this represents in the air -- a shift of just 5 one-thousandths of one percent (.005 percent) of the atmosphere! That is one of the fascinating things in climate science, how such a minute change in our atmosphere could potentially have such an impact on the energy balance of our whole planet.

Keep this in mind if you are trying to contemplate how big a deal it is that some 350,000 people came out into the streets of Manhattan, the capital of capitalism, the cultural heart of the nation where manufactured denial has most stymied action. That's because this happens to be exactly the same proportion of the 7 billion members of humanity, 5 one-thousandths of one percent, as that 50ppm is a shift in the composition of the air. Further, some have estimated the real number of marchers as 400,000, and if the global estimates swell equally, then globally about the same proportion were marching as the CO2 growth since industrialization is a shift in atmospheric composition. In a way, all those marching were just a trace, and as soon as we dissipated into streets and subways afterwards, quickly outnumbered by people going about their everyday lives, that seemed obvious, but in another way, how monumental the right little trace can become!

And speaking of powerful little traces, methane is even far less concentrated in the air than CO2, about 220 times less so, but there was really some methane floating around the Manhattan air yesterday! No, I don't mean all those leaky pipes in the city that have led local tests to sometimes register incredibly high ambient readings of the greenhouse gas. I mean that among the marchers anti-fracking signs often seemed to outnumber all other "sub-theme" signs. This is a fascinating phenomenon, as some of us have felt that, since we all ultimately must live in the here and now, and since one cannot impact the climate we have here and now very effectively through CO2 mitigation, yet one can only gain practical political traction by dealing with that here and now, so one of the best ways to gauge seriousness in getting movement going on climate would be to watch for meaningful action on methane. In a sense, if you want people to start climbing up a very steep ladder, you need to give them a nice low first step, and that first climate step would be methane. As Robert Watson, the previous Chair of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it succinctly, rapidly cutting methane, "would demonstrate to the world that we can do something to quickly slow climate change. We need to get moving to cool the planet's temperature. Methane is the most effective place for us to start."

The Manhattan climate march also provided a fitting example of how getting the big slow march of change rolling can be frustrating: for those in the back it took two hours to start any movement at all, and then another two hours to reach Columbus Circle, its ostensible starting point. Similarly inevitable drags on climate mitigation are making rapid methane action all the more important. And uncertainties in near-term climate change, with a rising potential for high-impact lower-probability events to cause abrupt heating (like non-human methane emissions in the arctic taking off more quickly than models predict), means that ignoring the near-term climate for too long could ultimately prove fatal to all our best intentions. So it's fascinating to see an interest in methane growing from the grass roots, even if it is still largely (and erroneously) confined to the fracking issue at this point. Let's hope that the interest in this merest little trace gas of our air -- since industrialization it has risen by about 1.1 ppm, a shift of about 1.1 ten-thousandth of 1 percent of the atmosphere! -- sparks soon. The group 1250 was initially intended to provide a kind of autonomous offshoot to McKibben's 350, in order to help generate that spark, but McKibben himself soon said that he "had his hands full with CO2" and did not at the time send along to his followers the group's initial petition drive, which then quickly languished. But if methane interest does reach that critical concentration, and that spark is provided, you know what happens next: that's when climate action goes boom.

Above text was earlier posted by Nathan Currier at the HuffingtonPost 

Below follow further photos by Cindy Snowgrass of the People's Climate March.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The real budgetary emergency and the myth of "burnable carbon"

by David Spratt

How fast and how profoundly we act to stop climate change caused by human actions, and work to return to a safe climate, is perhaps the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, but are we facing up to what really needs to be done?

We have to come to terms with two key facts: practically speaking, there is no longer a "carbon budget" for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.

No Carbon Budget Left - David Spratt from Breakthrough  -  "We have no carbon budget left
for burning of fossils fuels - emergency action is now the only viable path"  - 
David Spratt

For the last two decades, climate policy-making has focused on 2°C of global warming impacts as being manageable, and a target achievable by binding international treaties and incremental, non-disruptive, adjustments to economic incentives and regulations (1).

But former UK government advisor Professor Sir Robert Watson says the idea of a 2°C target "is largely out of the window”, International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol calls it "a nice Utopia", and international negotiations chief Christiana Figueres says we need "a miracle". This is because, in their opinions, emissions will not be reduced sufficiently to keep to the necessary "carbon budget" (2).

The carbon budget has come to public prominence in recent years, including in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, as being the difference between the total allowable greenhouse gas emissions for 2°C of warming, and the amount already emitted or spent. The budget varies according to the likelihood of overshooting the target: the higher the risk, the bigger the budget. In the IPCC report, no carbon budget is given for less than a one-in-three chance of failure.

At that one-in-three risk of failure, the IPCC says the total budget is 790 GtC (gigatons, or one billion tons, of carbon), less emissions to 2011 of 515 GtC, leaving a budget of 275 GtC in 2011, or ~245 GtC in 2014 (3).

What is less well understood is that if the risk is low, there is no carbon budget left (4).

Breakthrough National  Climate Restoration
Forum 21-22 June,  Melbourne
Climate change with its non-linear events, tipping points and irreversible events – such as mass extinctions, destruction of ecosystems, the loss of large ice sheets and the triggering of large-scale releases of greenhouse gases from carbon stores such as permafrost and methane clathrates – contains many possibilities for catastrophic failure.

Ian Dunlop, a former senior risk manager and oil and coal industry executive, says the management of catastrophic risk has to be very different from current processes. As serious, irreversible outcomes are likely, this demands very low probabilities of failure: management of catastrophic risk "must centre around contingency planning for high-impact and what were regarded as low-probability events, which unfortunately are now becoming more probable… Major, high-risk industrial operations, such as offshore oil exploration, provide a model, with detailed contingency planning and sequential barriers being put in place to prevent worst-case outcomes" (5).

If a risk-averse (pro-safety) approach is applied – say, of less than 10% probability of exceeding the 2°C target – to carbon budgeting, there is simply no budget available, because it has already been used up. A study from The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research shows that "the combination of a 2°C warming target with high probability of success is now unreachable" using the current suite of policy measures, because the budget has expired (6).

This is illustrated in Figure 1 where, as we move to the right (greater probability of meeting target) along the blue line which is the 2°C carbon budget, we reach a point around 90% probability (blue circle) where the total budget intersects with what we have already emitted.

As well, on-going greenhouse emissions associated with food production and deforestation are often conveniently pushed to one side in discussing carbon budgets. UK scientists have shown that if some reasonably optimistic assumptions are made about deforestation and food-related emissions for the rest of the century, then most emission reduction scenarios are incompatible with holding warming to +2ºC, even with a high 50% probability of exceeding the target. In other words, food and deforestation has taken up the remaining budget, leaving no space for fossil fuel emissions (7).

In addition, the carbon budget analysis makes optimistic and risky assumptions about the stability of Arctic, and of polar and other carbon stores such as permafrost. As one example, the modelling discussed in the IPCC report projects an area of summer Arctic sea-ice cover in the year 2100 higher that actually exists at the moment, yet there is a great deal more warming and sea-ice loss to come this century! In fact, many Arctic specialists think the Arctic will be sea-ice free in summer within the next decade, with consequences for global warming that the carbon budget calculations have significantly underestimated. (8)

Australian Climate Council member Prof. Will Steffen says the IPCC carbon budget may "be rather generous". The IPCC report says the modelling used does not include explicit representation of permafrost soil carbon decomposition in response to future warming, and does not consider slow feedbacks associated associated with vegetation changes and ice sheets. Recent research suggests these events could happen well below 2°C of warming, so they should be taken into account, but they are not.

Accounting for the possible release of methane from melting permafrost and ocean sediment implies a substantially lower budget (9). This reinforces the need to take a pro-safety, risk-averse approach to the carbon budget, especially since some research suggests that Arctic permafrost may be vulnerable at less than 2°C or warming (10).

For all these reasons – that is, prudent catastrophic risk management, accounting for food production and deforestation emissions, and for Arctic sea ice and carbon store instability – the idea of "burnable carbon" – that is, how much more coal, gas and oil we can burn and still keep under 2°C – is a dangerous illusion, based on unrealistic, high-risk, assumptions.

A second consideration is that 2°C of warming is not a safe target. Instead, it's the boundary between dangerous and very dangerous (11), and 1°C higher than experienced during the whole period of human civilisation (12), illustrated in Figure 2. The last time greenhouse gas levels were as high as they are today, modern humans did not exist (13), so we are conducting an experiment for which we have no direct observable evidence from our own history, and for which we do not know the full result.

However, we do understand that many major ecosystems will be lost, a 2°C sea-level rise will eventually be measured in the tens of metres (14), and much of human civilisation and large, productive river delta systems will be swamped. There is now evidence to suggest that the current conditions affecting the West Antarctic ice sheet are sufficient to drive between 1.2 and 4 metres of sea rise (15), and evidence that Greenland will contribute more quickly (16), and they are just two contributors to rising sea levels.

It is now clear that the incremental-adjustment 2°C strategy has run out of time, if for no other reason than the "budget" for burning more fossil fuels is now zero, yet the global economy is still deeply committed to their continuing widespread use.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Turning forest waste into biochar

Too much biomass waste in tundra and boreal forests makes them prone to wildfires, especially when heatwaves strike. Furthermore, leaving biomass waste in the forest can cause a lot of methane emisions from decomposition.

In order to reduce such methane emissions and the risk of wildfires, it makes sense to reduce excess biomass waste in fields and forests. Until now, this was typically done by controlled burning of biomass, which also causes emissions, but far less than wildfires do. Avoiding wildfires is particularly important for the Arctic, which is vulnerable to soot deposits originating from wildfires in tundra and boreal forest. Such soot deposits cause more sunlight to be absorbed, accelerating the decline of snow and ice in the Arctic.

A team of scientists at University of Washington, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, has developed a way to remove woody biomass waste from forests without burning it in the traditional way. The team has developed a portable kiln that can be assembled around a heap of waste wood and convert it to biochar on the spot, while the biochar can also be burried in the soil on the spot.

Demonstration in Kerby, Oregon,
Nov. 6, 2012, 
 by Carbon Cultures
Marcus Kauffman at Flickr
The team initially started testing the effectiveness of a heat-resistant blanket thrown over woody debris.  The team then developed portable panels that are assembled in a kiln around a slash pile.

Students have set up a company, Carbon Cultures, to promote the technology and to sell biochar. CEO of Carbon Cultures is Jenny Knoth, also a Ph.D. candidate in environmental and forest sciences.

The kiln restricts the amount of oxygen that can reach the biomass, which is transformed by pyrolysis into biochar. The woody waste is heated up to temperatures of about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (600 Celsius), as the kiln transforms some 800 pounds of wood into 200 pounds of biochar in less than two hours. “We also extinguish with water because it helps keep oxygen out and also activates the charcoal [making it more fertile in soil].”

Currently, the total costs of disposing of forest slash heaps (the collections of wood waste) approximate a billion dollars a year in the United States, according to Knoth.

And of course, adding biochar to the soil is a great way to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. “Biochar is proven to fix carbon for hundreds of thousands of years,” Knoth said.
Demonstration in Kerby, Oregon, November 6, 2012, organized by Carbon Cultures Credit: Marcus Kauffman at Flickr

As said, when biomass waste is left in the open air, methane emissions are produced during its decomposition. Moreover, such waste will fuel wildfires, which produce huge amounts of emissions. The traditional response therefore is to burn such waste. Pyrolyzing biomass produces even less greenhouse gases and less soot, compared to such controlled burning.

Biochar is produced in the process, which can be added to the soil on the spot. This will help soil retain moisture, nutrients and soil microbes, making forests more healthy, preventing erosion and thus reduces the risk of wildfires even further, in addition to the reduction already achieved by removal of surplus waste.

A healthy forest will retain more moist in its soil, in the air under its canopy, and in the air above the forest through expiration, resulting in more clouds that act as sunshades to keep the forest cool and return the moist to the forest through rainfall. Forests reinforce patterns of air pressure and humidity that result in long-distance air currents that bring moist air from the sea inland to be deposited onto the forest in the form of rain. Finally, clouds can reflect more sunlight back into space, thus reducing the chance of heatwaves.


Recycling wood waste - The Daily of the University of Washington
Helping Landowners with Waste Wood While Improving Agribusiness and Energy - National Science Foundation


- Biochar
- CU-Boulder gets into biochar

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How much methane is located in the Arctic?

Arctic sources of carbon have been studied by a team of researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California, United States, led by Joshuah Stolaroff. Their estimates are illustrated in the image below, showing the potential total release, next to their characteristic annual release of methane and the geographic extent for each source.
Stolaroff et al., 2012, DOI: 10.1021/es204686w 
Note: Numbers in brackets behind the figures in above table relate to references below. If you cannot view these references, click here

For comparison, the NOAA image below shows the world's carbon dioxide emissions for each year in PgC (i.e. GtC or billions of tonnes of carbon).

Annual total emissions. The bars in this figure represent carbon dioxide emissions for each year in PgC yr-1 from the specified region. The final bar, labeled 'Mean', represents the 2001-2010 average. CarbonTracker models four types of surface-to-amosphere exchange of CO2, each of which is shown in a different color: fossil fuel emissions (tan), terrestrial biosphere flux excluding fires (green), direct emissions from fires (red), and air-sea gas exchange (blue). Negative emissions indicate that the flux removes CO2 from the atmosphere, and such sinks have bars that extend below zero. The net surface exchange, computed as the sum of these four components, is shown as a thick black line. 

Clearly, if merely a fraction of the sources at the top would end up in the atmosphere, we'd be in big trouble. Some of the carbon may be released gradually in the form of carbon dioxide, but it's much worse if large amounts of methane escape abruptly into the atmosphere, given factors such as methane's high Global Warming Potential. Anyway, it should be clear that the huge size of some of these sources poses a terrifying threat.