Suggestions that global warming has stalled are a “diversionary tactic” from “deniers” who want the public to be confused over climate change, according to the world’s best-known climate scientist. The Guardian reports Prof James Hansen, who first alerted the world to climate change in 1988, said on Friday: “It is not true that the temperature has not changed in the two decades.”
Since 1998, when the Niño climate phenomenon caused global temperatures to soar, the rate of increase in warming has slowed, causing some sceptics to suggest climate change has stopped or that the effect of rising carbon dioxide levels on climate is not as great as previously thought.
Prof Hansen, speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, rejected both arguments. “In the last decade it has warmed only a tenth of a degree compared to two-tenths of a degree in the preceeding decade, but that’s just natural variability. There is no reason to be surprised by that at all,” he said. “If you look over a 30-40 year period the expected warming is two-tenths of a degree per decade, but that doesn’t mean each decade is going to warm two-tenths of a degree: there is too much natural variability.”
Prof Hansen said the focus by some on “details” was a smokescreen. “This is a diversionary tactic. Our understanding of global warming and human-made climate change has not been affected at all,” he said. “It’s because the deniers [of the science] want the public to be confused. They raise these minor issues and then we forget about what the main story is. The main story is carbon dioxide is going up and it is going to produce a climate which is going to have dramatic changes if we don’t begin to reduce our emissions.” In 2008, scientists anticipated an upcoming slowing in temperature rises.
Prof Hansen, who recently stepped down from his Nasa post after almost 50 years to focus on communication, said the forecast impact of climate change was little affected by the recent slowdown in the rate of rising temperatures.
“Climate is a complicated system but there is no change at all in our understanding of climate sensitivity [to carbon dioxide] and where the climate is headed,” he said. “Our understanding of sensitivity is based on the Earth’s history, not on climate models, and we have good data on how the Earth responded in the past when carbon dioxide changed. So there is no reason to change the forecast for the long term.” On 9 May, a new study of lake sediments from a remote meteorite crater in Siberia showed temperatures in the region were 8C higher the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today. Last week, atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached the milestone 400 parts per million, for the first time in millions of years.
Prof Hansen has caused controversy in the past with statements including “CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature” and the assertion that “coal-fired power plants are factories of death“.
- Tom Zeller Jr.: Scientists Agree (Again): Climate Change Is Real (huffingtonpost.com)
- Study consensus for global warming (bigpondnews.com)
- Hansen Says Tar-Sands Oil Makes Climate Change Unsolvable – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- AUDIO: Has global warming stalled? (bbc.co.uk)
Despite sweeping protections put in place near the end of George W. Bush’s presidency for large swaths of marine ecosystems around the Hawaiian Islands, things are not looking good for Hawaii’s coral reefs. ENN reports
Poisonous run-off, rising ocean levels, increasingly acidic waters and overfishing are taking their toll on the reefs and the marine life they support. Biologists are trying to remain optimistic that there is still time to turn things around, but new threats to Hawaii’s corals are only aggravating the situation.
To wit, a previously undocumented cyanobacterial fungus that grows through photosynthesis is spreading by as much as three inches per week on corals along the otherwise pristine North Shore of Kauai. “There is nowhere we know of in the entire world where an entire reef system for 60 miles has been compromised in one fell swoop,” biologist Terry Lilley told The Los Angeles Times. “This bacteria has been killing some of these 50- to 100-year-old corals in less than eight weeks.” He adds that the strange green fungus affects upwards of five percent of the corals in famed Hanalei Bay and up to 40 percent of the coral in nearby Anini Bay, with neighboring areas “just as bad, if not worse.” Lilly worries that the entire reef system surrounding Kauai may be losing its ability to fend off pathogens.
Meanwhile, some 60 miles to the east across the blue Pacific, an invasive algae introduced for aquaculture three decades ago in Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay is also spreading quickly. Biologists are concerned because it forms thick tangled mats that soak up oxygen in the water needed by other plants and animals, in turn converting coral reefs there into smothering wastelands.
“This and other invasive algal species … don’t belong in Hawai’i,” says Eric Conklin, Hawaii director of marine services for The Nature Conservancy, which works to protect ecologically important lands and waters worldwide. He adds that there are not enough plant-eating fish to keep them under control.
Biologists are working hard to battle the algae in and around Kaneohe Bay. Conklin and his colleagues from the Conservancy have joined forces with researchers from the state of Hawaii to develop an inexpensive new technology, dubbed the Super Sucker, which uses barge-based hoses and pumps to vacuum the invasive algae away without disturbing the underlying coral.
- Coral Reefs (livescience.com)
- Coral Reef Collapse Not Inevitable: Ecosystem in Danger, Not Doomed (scienceworldreport.com)
- Coral Reefs (rkarryel.wordpress.com)
CLIMATE CHANGE : Floods could overwhelm London as sea levels rise – unless Thames Barrier is upgraded
Having previous lived on London‘s outskirts for some years, this news is disturbing!
There is significant risk of London being hit by a devastating storm surge in the Thames estuary by 2100 that could breach existing flood defences and cause immense damage to the capital, a study of global sea-level rise has found. The Independent reports
Melting of polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers could increase sea levels significantly over the coming decades leading to a 1 in 20 risk that the existing Thames Barrier would be unable to cope with an extreme storm surge, the study concluded.
Extreme storm surges that can breach the barrier would in the past have occurred with a frequency of about 1 in 1,000 years, but in a warmer world they could occur as frequently as 1 in every 10 years, scientists said.
The increased threat posed by rising sea levels is one of the reasons why flood defences around the Thames estuary and the barrier itself will be strengthened.
An international panel of glaciologists and climate scientists said there is still huge uncertainty about how sea levels will change in the coming century as a result of climate change and its effect on polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers.
Their best estimate is that the melting ice on its own will contribute between 3.5cm and 36.8cm to mean sea levels, which would come on top of the rise in sea level due to other factors such as the thermal expansion of the warmer oceans.
However, there is a 1 in 20 risk of this being a wild underestimate and that melting polar ice and mountain glaciers alone would contribute more than 84cm to global sea level, which would lead to rises of about a metre around Britain if other factors are taken into account, they said.
“The Thames Barrier was built to provide London with a level of protection that would only be exceeded in about 1 in every 1,000 years. So in any one year the likelihood of exceeding this is about 0.1 per cent,” said Professor David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey.
“With 50cm of sea level rise we would expect that level of protection to go down from 1 in 1,000 years to about 1 in 100 years, so under that scenario in every year there would be a 1 per cent chance of flooding. If you have a metre rise you go down from 1 in 1,000 years to 1 in 10 years,” Professor Vaughan said.
These estimates are based on existing “business as usual” emissions of carbon dioxide, leading to about a 3.5C rise in mean global temperature by 2100. Greater emissions would lead to higher temperatures and faster melting, the scientists said.
How sea-level rise and polar ice sheets will respond to rising temperatures is one of the greatest uncertainties in climate science. The research programme, called Ice 2 Sea, was established by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to estimate the future contribution to sea level from melting ice.
“There is still extra uncertainty that arises because our models are not complete. There are still processes that we think are important but we haven’t been able to include in our models,” said Professor Vaughan, the coordinator of the programme.
The scientists carried out “expert elicitation” among themselves to take into account the unknowns that their computer models were unable to include, Professor Vaughan said.
“That has come up with this number: there is less than a 1 in 20 risk of ice sheets and glaciers contributing more than 84cms to sea level rise by 2100. That is trying to capture those climate processes that we suspect are important yet are not fully included in existing models,” he said.
Sea levels would rise by varying degrees around the world due to melting ice, and would even decline in areas around Greenland and Antarctica due to the diminished gravitational pull of the dwindling ice sheets. The British coastline would see sea level rises that are slightly below the global average, Professor Vaughan said.
“It is likely that some future ice loss and sea level rise is now unavoidable. But nevertheless, understanding why changes are occurring today and how they could increase in the future is the first step in maintaining the security of our coastal regions for future generations,” he said.
- ‘Best estimate’ of melting ice caps (bbc.co.uk)
- Floods could ‘overwhelm Thames Barrier by end of century’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Risk to London from rising seas ‘worse than feared’ (thetimes.co.uk)
- Claim: Sea levels in Europe could rise up to 1m by 2100 (junkscience.com)
- Experts say rapidly melting glaciers are raising the UK flood risk (itv.com)
- The beginning of the end: warmists in retreat on sea level rise, climate sensitivity (wattsupwiththat.com)
From China Daily : China‘s high economic growth has had an adverse impact in terms of access, volume and quality of water as well as equity, management and investment requirements. While the magnitude of the water quality problem has steadily widened, planning, management and institutional capacities have not improved commensurately, and thus complicated matters further.
Water scarcity and pollution of water sources are two of the most serious problems for China. Pollution has now spread from the coastal region to inland water bodies, affecting both surface water and groundwater. More than 53 billion tons of (untreated or inadequately treated) wastewater is discharged into China’s water bodies every year. And as early as 2006, water in a stretch of more than 25,000 km of rivers failed to meet the quality standards for aquatic life and about 90 percent sections of rivers in and around urban areas were seriously polluted. The World Bank estimates that water scarcity and pollution are costing China about 2.3 percent of GDP – 1.3 percent due to water scarcity and the rest as a direct impact of water pollution.
Water quality is a bigger problem in North China, where shortage of water prevents pollutant discharges from being diluted. In the northern region, about 40 percent of the rivers have the two worst water quality standards: grades V and VI. This means water is so highly polluted that it is not only unsafe to drink (a serious health issue in itself), but also very difficult and expensive to treat.
Pollution is a serious problem in rural areas, too. Ministry of Water Resources data show that more than 300 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water. While in terms of money the cost is a staggering 66 billion yuan ($10.72 billlion), the main cost is in terms of human life as diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and cancer continue to afflict people.
Although the impact of water pollution on health is very serious, it cannot be quantified because of lack of reliable data both on the pollutants and the households that use poor quality water.
Water pollution is also harming China’s south-to-north water transfer project. Along the “East Route”, for example, industrial pollution has affected many of the poorer areas of northern Jiangsu and western Shandong provinces, delaying the construction of the project. Speaking at a forum in September 2000, Zhu Rongji, then premier, said the initial stage of the project should follow the principle, “first save water, then transfer it; first clean up pollution, then let the water flow; first protect the environment, then use water”. Unfortunately, more than a decade later, pollution problems along the East Route have still not been fully solved.
In addition, industrial accidents and illegal dumping of wastes often worsen the quality of water in rivers and lakes. Such incidents include the Songhua River toxic chemical spill in 2005, the algae bloom in Taihu Lake which polluted the source of drinking water for people of the surrounding areas in 2007 and the dumping of more than 13,000 pig carcasses in the Huangpu River earlier this year.
The government is aware of the challenges and the public is worried about the associated health and environmental costs of water pollution. Water pollution is a monumental problem today because relevant officials ignored it over the years. And it will not be easy to solve it in the short term.
Pollution, aggravated by urbanization and industrialization, has intensified water scarcity in China, and relevant governments have failed to properly implement the existing policies to protect water sources and fight pollution.
But new and more stringent standards on treatment of drinking water represent a good example of how to fight water pollution. According to new regulations, from July 2012, drinking water treatment plants in China have to measure up to 106 quality parameters compared with only 15 previously. If properly implemented, this could significantly improve the quality of drinking in the country.
But the success of the new regulations will depend on multiple issues, which include unifying the fragmented monitoring system; ensuring that there are enough personnel and laboratory facilities to properly test all the 106 parameters; guaranteeing reliable collection, analysis and interpretation of data; making sure a well-oiled infrastructure is in place to supply safe drinking water; and ascertaining that officials in charge of plants not complying with all the norms are punished.
China and its people deserve the fruits of fast economic growth. But water, air and other environmental problems, if not solved, could undermine their future course of development.
Cecilia Tortajada is the co-founder and president of the Third World Centre for Water Management and former president of the International Water Resources Association. Asit K. Biswas is distinguished visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and co-founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management.
- Data for China’s groundwater pollution seven years out of date (wantchinatimes.com)
- Heathcote: Record water pollution in Raccoon reminds us of urgent need for clean water action (iaenvironment.wordpress.com)
- Week 14: Trail of Waste (janiceboswell36.wordpress.com)
- Humanity’s Thirsty Future: Searching for Solutions. ~ Maria Ivanova (elephantjournal.com)
- Sewage mixes with drinking water (thehindu.com)
Today is Mother’s Day in the US and is a chance to honor and give thanks to mothers, both human and those of the animal variety!
In nature, mothers come in all shapes and sizes and are equipped with a wide range of different parenting styles. We’ve selected a handful of moms with unique and fascinating methods for raising their babies from keeping little ones close for years to kicking them right out of the nest before they can even fly!
Furry and ginormous, American bison mothers live with their young in hierarchical herds led by one dominant female. Within three hours of being born, the newborn calves are able to run about but are guarded closely by many of the herds’ mothers who will charge any intruders. Talk about safety in numbers!
Our fine, feather mom, the long-eared owl, takes on the more ‘distant’ parenting approach. In a behavior known as ‘branching’, chicks leave the nest before they are able to fly and reside in surrounding vegetation, roosting separately, and thereby potentially reducing predation. While the young are capable of flight at around 35 days, both parents continue to provide food for several weeks after fledging.
Read more at ENN Affiliate, ARKive.