Sunday, May 30, 2010

What would a hurricane do to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

Hurricane season is upon us next week, and the Deepwater Horizon blowout is still spewing a geyser of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. With this year's hurricane season likely to be a severe one, with much above average numbers of hurricanes and intense hurricanes, we have the unwholesome prospect of a hurricane churning through the largest accidental oil spill in history. 

A hurricane has never passed over a sizable oil spill before, so there are a lot of unknowns about what might happen. The closest call came in 1979, after the greatest accidental oil spill in history, the massive Ixtoc I blowout. That disaster dumped 3 million barrels (126 million gallons) of oil into the Southern Gulf of Mexico between June 1979 and March 1980. Category 1Hurricane Henri passed just north of the main portion of the oil spill on September 16 and 17, generating 15 foot seas and southwest winds of 15 - 25 knots over the spill region on the 16th. Interestingly, the NOAA/AOML report on the spill found that the winds did not blow long enough or strongly enough to control the direction of oil flow, as evidenced by the fact that the wind direction was often 180° to the direction of plume flow. The main impact of the wind was to dilute the oil and weather it, converting it to a thick "mousse. More >>>

Facing cold, hard truths about global warming

Bill McKibben, probably the nation’s leading environmentalist, argues in “Eaarth’’ that we have already so thoroughly altered the physical features of the planet (to an extent that he has renamed it  with an extra “a’’) that we must start preparing for a radically simplified lifestyle.

Important strands of environmental thought merge in McKibben’s new book, making for some truly scary reading and prompting urgent questions about the nature of the environmental catastrophe at hand. More >>>

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not just oil: US hit peak water in 1970 and nobody noticed

The concept of peak oil, where the inaccessibility of remaining deposits ensures that extraction rates start an irreversible decline, has been the subject of regular debate for decades

Although that argument still hasn't been settled—estimates range from the peak already having passed us to its arrival being 30 years in the future—having a better sense of when we're likely to hit it could prove invaluable when it comes to planning our energy economy. The general concept of peaking has also been valuable, as it applies to just about any finite resource. A new analysis suggests that it may be valuable to consider applying it to a renewable resource as well: the planet's water supply. More >>>

Sunday, May 23, 2010

World's water steadily warming up

LONDON (Reuters) - Thu May 20,  The top layer of the world's ocean has warmed steadily since 1993, a strong sign of global warming and a key driver of sea level rise, according to a study by an international team of  scientists.

"The ocean is the biggest reservoir for heat in the climate system, so as the planet warms, we're finding that 80 to 90 percent of the increased heat ends up in the ocean," said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Scientists from NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Britain's Met Office, the University of Hamburg in Germany and the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan analyzed different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean from 1993 to 2008 to assess the size and certainty of growing heat storage in the ocean. More >>>

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Speak out, for our planet is at stake!

I think a parephrase of Martin Niemöller 1946 statement is appropriate today in light of the ecological disaster taking place in the Gulf of Mexico.

"THEY FIRST destroyed the oceans,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an environmentalist,

THEN THEY poisoned the atmosphere,
and I didn't speak up because I did not understand the danger involved

THEN THEY decimated the forests,
and I didn't speak up because they were far away and out of sight

THEN we  started dying, the lack of food, water and  and diseases caused by pollution.
and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Nick Robson Editor

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Costs Rica's top climate change negotiator to Head UNFCCC

Costs Rica's top climate change negotiator has landed the top job with the United Nations succeeding Yvo de Boer.

Christiana Figueres, daughter of a former president of her country, is the new executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Mr de Boer stepped down shortly after the Copenhagen climate change talks in December last year, following almost universal criticism branding them as a 'disappointment'.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said he was 'grateful' to Mr de Boer for his 'dedicated service and tireless efforts' on behalf of the climate change agenda.

He said: "She is an international leader on strategies to address global climate change and brings to this position a passion for the issue, deep knowledge of the stakeholders and valuable hands-on experience with the public sector, non-profit sector and private sector." More >>>

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kyoto approach to climate change isn't working  

 In February, 14 distinguished climate scientists, economists, and policy experts came together to discuss how to tackle global warming. Last week, the London School of Economics and Oxford University published their conclusions. They are worth considering.

The group was brought together by Gwyn Prins, a well-regarded expert in security policy and international relations who heads LSE's Mackinder Program for the Study of Long Wave Events. Participants included climate scientist Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia, climate-policy expert Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, and climate economist Christopher Green of McGill University.

The group's report, The Hartwell Paper, outlines a new direction for climate policy after the collapse of last year's attempts to negotiate a global climate deal. The authors note that 18 years of the Kyoto Protocol approach to international climate policy have failed to produce any discernable real-world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Hartwell group proposes that we adopt three basic climate-related goals: ensuring secure, affordable energy supplies for everyone (which means developing alternatives to fossil fuels); ensuring that economic development doesn't wreak environmental havoc (which means not just reducing CO2 emissions, but also cutting pollution from burning biomass, reducing ozone, and protecting tropical forests); and making sure that we are prepared to cope with whatever climate changes might occur, man-made or natural (which means recognizing, at last, the importance of adapting to climate change). More >>>

Saturday, May 15, 2010

'Climate dice' now dangerously loaded: leading scientist

Evidence for global warming has mounted but public awareness of the threat has shrunk, due to a cold northern winter and finger-pointing at the UN's climate experts, a top scientist warned Wednesday.

James Hansen, a leading NASA scientist whose testimony to the US Congress in 1988 was a landmark in the history of climate change, said he was worried by "the large gap" in knowledge between specialists and the public, including politicians.

"That gap has increased substantially in the last year," Hansen told a press conference during a visit to Paris.

"While the science was becoming clearer, the public's perception became less clear, in part because of the unusually cold winter in both North America and Europe, and in part because of the inappropriate over-emphasis on small minor errors in IPCC documents and because of the so-called Climategate."

The IPCC - the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - is under fire for several errors that appeared in a key 2007 report. More >>>

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Report: Climate change could render much of planet uninhabitable

A worst-case scenario of global warming, in which temperatures would soar some 21 degrees, is that much of the world may simply become too hot for humans to live in, according to new research published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We found that … a 21-degree warming would put half of the world's population in an uninhabitable environment,"says study co-author Matthew Huber of Purdue University. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the result of business-as-usual warming would be 7 degrees by 2100, eventual warming over several centuries of 25 degrees is feasible, says Huber. More >>>

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Climate scientists decry 'political assaults'

May 8th. 2010 SAN FRANCISCO -- In an unusually strong attack on politically powerful deniers of global warming, 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences, including 32 from Northern California, have charged that opponents are using "McCarthy-like tactics" against legitimate climate scientists.

The letter condemning "political assaults" on climate researchers was published Friday in the journal Science, and was sent earlier to the White House Office of Science and Technology, where John Holdren, its director, is President Obama's science adviser. More >>>

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is it time to think small on climate change? asks David King

Copenhagen's failure to deliver a legally binding deal has created an opportunity for individuals to fill the void left by politicians, says Sir David King. In this week's Green Room, he explains how small-scale projects can move the world towards a low carbon future. Copenhagen didn't get us the legally binding global carbon emission reduction agreement we so wanted.

To many it was a disappointment, a vindication of their fears that world leaders would fail to seize the moment and rise above national self-interest to secure an historic climate treaty.
But I see it more as an opportunity for others to step in and fill the leadership void left by politicians; a chance for businesses, local communities and individuals to drive forward the low carbon agenda despite the lack of international political consensus More >>>

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Europe should cut CO2 output by 30%: German minister

(AFP) – 13 hours ago - BONN — The European Union should raise its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 20 to 30 percent by 2020, German's environment minister said Sunday.

"The EU has good reasons, including economic ones, to rethink its current reduction offer," Norbert Rottgen said in a statement ahead of a climate meeting of some three dozen environment ministers outside Bonn.

"I will strongly advocate that the EU raise its target from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020," measured against a 1990 benchmark, he said, adding that such a step would make Europe "a pioneer in the transformation towards a low-emission economy."

Germany had already committed to slashing its own emissions by 40 percent over the same period, he said. More >>>