Tag Archive | "greenhouse gases"

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Ozone Progress but India Pollutes China, U.S.

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Jerry

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, effective a little over 25 years ago has been labeled the most successful international agreement in history. Since the banning of substances that destroy the ozone in the upper atmosphere, we have seen concrete improvement or slight shrinkage of the Ozone Hole over the South Pole.

The agreement banned substances used in refrigeration (air conditioning, freezers, etc.) to do away with the ozone hole. Unfortunately, many of the substitutes, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), while sparing the ozone, “have a substantial global warming potential.” So says a July 31, 2015 article released by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD).

The article speaks to efforts to get the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG), the group of nations that have been meeting to monitor the original Montreal agreement, to take on the management of the elimination of the HFCs. This would put these parties directly in the middle of the climate change problem.

What gives this move its impetus in part is a working paper issued by the IGSD that says that a quick elimination by 2020 of these HFCs could prevent half a degree of world temperature rise by the year 2100. This is viewed as a significant contribution to progress of efforts to control global warming.

Once again there was disagreement over how best to tackle the issue. Whether it was best to deal with the HFCs in this group or give the issue to those organizations fighting climate change. The last few meetings of this group showed promise when several nations changed their positions. Led by India these countries put forward proposals to confront the problem. Pakistan however, blocked adoption of any one of the four different plans presented by stating that none of the substitutes for the HFCs would be an effective refrigerant against the heat in their country.

At the same time a report published in Nature magazine in its August 10, 2015 issue blamed pollution wafting across the ocean from India and China as the reason the West Coast of the U.S.A. has not made any progress in lowering the ozone pollutants in its atmosphere.  Citing the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that undertook the study, Nature reported that this Chinese pollution was the reason the Western states of the USA showed no lessening of its atmospheric pollutants after reducing its production of ozone-forming pollutants by 21 percent between 2005 and 2010.

NASAs JPL said in its release that “Scientists from the Netherlands and from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California looked at ozone in the mid-troposphere, about 10,000 to 30,000 feet (3 to 9 kilometers) above ground level….In the mid-troposphere, ozone has a measurable greenhouse effect.”

Finally, scientists have reported on the Nature Geoscience web site on February 16, 2015 that they have discovered that a very short-lived substance, less than six months, is a significant contributor to the destruction of ozone. This article says, “Halogens released from long-lived anthropogenic substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons, are the principal cause of recent depletion of stratospheric ozone, a greenhouse gas.”

Their research results, “Show atmospheric levels of dichloromethane, a short-lived chlorine substance not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, are rapidly increasing. We conclude that potential further significant increases in the atmospheric abundance of short-lived halogen substances, through changing natural processes or continued anthropogenic emissions, could be important for future climate.”

We are seeing unprecedented success to keep the benefits of our ozone depletion fighting efforts. In fact, the choices our scientists have selected are contributing to climate change and they are being pressed into service to start helping with climate change as well.

At the same time we see that our world is interdependent. Our weather and the continued effort are worldwide phenomena and our responsibility. We see that India pollutes China that in turn pollutes the West Coast of the U.S. We also understand there is another chemical that needs to be covered by the Montreal Protocol in order to continue our progress against ozone destruction.

We must not forget the ozone depletion and the danger an ozone hole represents to life on earth. We must continue our forward movement. We must also continue to support those scientists and countries that are fighting to protect our ozone.

Use the following links to access additional information or the original documents used to formulate this article.

http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/biores/news/hfc-negotiations-under-the-montreal-protocol-inch-forward

http://www.mepielan-ebulletin.gr/default.aspx?pid=18&catigoryld=12&articleld=215&article=montreal-protocol-inches-closer-to-negotiations-on-hfc-phase-down (Scroll down on right to this article)

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n9/full/ngeo2493.html

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-263

http://phys.org/news/2015-08-china-exporting-ozone-pollution.html

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n3/full/ngeo2363.html

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Faster Glacier Retreat as Court & Scientists Speak

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Jerry

Two independent reports give separate results to explain away the lack of increase in the average world temperature beginning in 2000 and lasting about a decade.   They both come to the conclusion there was no long pause in the rise of the world’s average temperature – in other words it kept rising.

The first study that was conducted by researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology said the apparent period of no growth was caused by a decade long shift of ocean heat collection to another area.  Their study found a heating of the top layer of water in the Indian Ocean with some residual heating still in the Pacific Ocean.  This heating offset a corresponding temperature stability or change in the rest of the Pacific Ocean.

This study shows the shifting heat from one region to another as cooler ocean water absorbed more heat to bring its heat into balance with the other oceans.  The research shows this phenomenon started in 2003 and lasted some ten years or so.  As a result you should conclude there was no pause in the rise of the world’s heat.  It was absorbed by another region of the ocean.

Researchers from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and LMI in McLean, Virginia conducted the second study.  It re-examined data and estimates used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It finds that the data trends used by the IPCC were less than was justified by what the data actually showed.  This was especially true for recent decades where “the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century.”  This data does not support the notion of any slowdown at all in the rate of global warming.

In related activities a top court has ruled that a country must increase its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.  The government of the Netherlands was ordered by a court in The Hague to increase its commitment to cut at least 25% of its greenhouse-gas emissions by the year 2020 from levels in the year 1990.  The upcoming European Union (EU) obligations would require the government of the Netherlands to target a 17% reduction.  The Court has ruled this level is not enough in response to a lawsuit brought by an environmental group named Urgenda.

Two more studies of glaciers have not given us any good news.  One study conducted by scientists at the World Glacier Monitoring Service completed an analysis of more than 47,000 separate observations dating back to the 1600’s.  They conclude that glaciers are shrinking almost twice as fast as they were during the late twentieth century.

A second study offers an explanation at least for glaciers in Greenland that explains their rapid rate of disappearance.  It appears these glaciers are more susceptible to global warming than was thought.  This is because the use of sonar under the surface of the ocean has shown that the glaciers go hundreds of meters farther down under the water than previously thought or reflected on maps.  This allows their ice to come into greater contact with the warmer layers of water in the Atlantic Ocean.  This produces more melting of the glaciers than previously thought.

All of this shrinkage does not bode well for coastal areas around the world that are concerned about rising ocean levels.  They were hoping for at least some refuge from global warming and its negative effects.  This does not appear to be the case and will prompt continued monitoring of melting ice and the resulting sea levels around the world.

Of course the solution to this problem is to decrease temperature rise by putting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  In other words we must slow the rate of global climate change.

Use the following links to access additional information or look at the original documents used to prepare this article.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6247/532.abstract?sid=8561f70d-3348-4558-9014-aaf361a2fb57

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6242/1469.abstract?sid=d0f4aa33-6a47-45a9-ad7e-9cfc12a808f9

http://www.nature.com/news/landmark-court-ruling-tells-dutch-government-to-do-more-on-climate-change-1.17841

http://www.nature.com/news/the-week-in-science-7-13-august-2015-1.18155 (scroll down to Trend Watch)

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v524/n7563/full/524009a.html

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Waiting Means Being Too Late

Posted on 10 June 2015 by Jerry

We have a few researchers talking about how to put something in our atmosphere to protect us from the sun’s warmth and rising temperatures and/or how to remove carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and sequester it safely somewhere.  These are the main two areas of emphasis of ‘climate engineering’.

Most scientists believe that climate engineering, or intentionally manipulating the global climate, is not desirable and would be our last option.  While they completely discount removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequestering it underground as ineffective given the size of the effort involved, they are concerned that putting something in the atmosphere to increase reflectivity will be tried and be very dangerous.

A broad range of options have been suggested as to how we can modify our atmosphere to increase its reflectivity where sunlight is directed back into space.  These include injecting sulphate particles into the stratosphere mimicing the natural cooling effects of volcanic ash and/or spraying seawater into the air to brighten clouds and reflect more sunlight back into space.  Thoughts have gone so far as even to suggest placing giant mirrors into orbit to reflect sunlight before it reaches Earth.

One of the first suggestions was from Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize for his work to understand the stratospheric chemistry to which our ozone is subject.  He suggested we inject tiny particles of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to shield Earth from solar radiation that would warm our planet.

The problem is that while Crutzen’s suggestion has spawned much talk of research, according to Anders Levermann (see article below), a Berlin-based climate scientist and Physics Professor, while it might cool the planet on average, it would do nothing to reverse the effect of greenhouse gases.  In a Huffington Post article published on May 8, 2015 entitled “Why Climate Engineering Won’t Work” he outlines the problem as he sees it.

He states, “The reason is as simple as fundamental: The extra abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere does not change our climate in a uniform manner.  The Arctic, for example, is warming almost twice as much as the tropics.  This has to do with a well-known effect called polar amplification.  The main reason for this is that warming enhances the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, which then snows-off in the dry and cold polar region where it releases energy and warms the atmosphere.  Now if this sounds too complicated, one just has to hold up a thermometer in the Arctic and another one in the tropics:  They show that temperature up North rises faster than at the equator.”

He continued, “Now reflecting sunlight back into space would have the exact opposite pattern.  It would do a lot in the tropics where sunlight is strong, and less in the Arctic and Antarctic.  This is fundamentally true and cannot be fixed.  So, reflecting radiation back into space could cool the planet on average, but it cannot reverse the effect of the greenhouse gases – not even remotely.”

A recent New York Times article quotes Newt Gingrich, our former House speaker, in 2008 as saying “Instead of penalizing ordinary Americans, we would have an option to address global warming by rewarding scientific invention.”  He later added it would “Bring on American ingenuity.”  No matter how uninformed his observation, it is attractive for all since it removes the burden of changing anything, instead replacing it with a false hope.

A concern is that the political forces will rally around climate engineering or putting something in the atmosphere because it is “new business” for someone as opposed to reducing existing greenhouse gas emissions through changes in energy sources or usage that is costly for existing industries.  Existing industries are powerful lobbying sources that will use their political influence to focus efforts on others or push for climate engineering.  Companies small and large, researchers far and wide and entrepreneurs will vie for money and opportunity.

In February of 2015 a committee of the National Academy of Science (NAS) called for study of geoengineering options including federal funding for demonstration projects to test assumptions.  This does not mean however that the NAS views geoengineering positively.

In fact, the committee chairwoman, Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science Magazine and a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, is quoted as telling The Associated Press on an Opinion Page of the New York Times “The public should read this report and say ‘This is downright scary.’  And they should say, ‘If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.’ ”

Ms. McNutt’s concern echoes that of futurist Jamais Cascio.   He suggested, “Global delays in reducing carbon emissions will likely force the human race to embark upon a set of geoengineering-based responses, not as the complete solution, but simply as a disaster-avoidance measure.”

Both have undoubtedly read a February 25, 2014 study published in Nature magazine that showed that geoengineering would not work.  They used an Earth system model and looked at the effectiveness of afforestation, artificial ocean upwelling, ocean iron fertilization, ocean alkalinization and solar radiation management during a high carbon dioxide-emission scenario.

The study team stated, “We find that even when applied continuously and at scales as large as currently deemed possible, all methods are, individually, either relatively ineffective with limited (<8%) warming reductions, or they have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change.  Our simulations suggest that the potential for these types of climate engineering to make up for failed mitigation may be very limited.”

The evidence is in, existing geoengineering approaches will not work because the costs are too high, the approaches have been proven to be insufficient or with the complexity of the world atmosphere, we will certainly exchange one group of problems for another.  This only serves to delay the inevitable until it is too late.

There is a lot of talk about climate change and a lot of delay between discussion and action.  We all know we can control climate change by changing the way we live.  There is a serious question of whether we will.  The big questions are when will we act and what option will we choose.

We must follow our best scientific advice.  The scientists have said that “mitigation” or reducing the carbon dioxide modern society puts into the atmosphere is our best option.  It unfortunately requires a large change in how various industries conduct their business and in how we live.  But we must choose this option and we must do it now.  We cannot wait any longer.

Use the following links to access additional information or the source documents for this article.

http://www.ce-conference.org/what-climate-engineering

http://www.ce-conference.org/conference-blog/assessing-geoengineering-technical-fix-too-far

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/12/opinion/the-risks-of-climate-engineering.html?_r=0

http://www.nature.com/news/climate-tinkerers-thrash-out-a-plan-1.16470

http://legal-planet.org/2015/02/13/climate-engineering-national-academy-committee-recommends-starting-research-with-limits/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anders-levermann/why-climate-engineering-wont-work_b_7239816.html

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140225/ncomms4304/full/ncomms4304.html

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/02/climate-engineering-in-from-the-cold/

http://faculty.engr.utexas.edu/bickel/Papers/AP_Climate%20Engineering_Bickel_Lane_v%205%200.pdf

 

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Full Carbon Capture at Boundary Dam

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Jerry

Canada has just fired up the world’s first full carbon-capture-and-storage (CC&S) coal fired power plant.  Congratulations to Canada and SaskPower!  They have taken one large step against climate change.  SaskPower has turned on a refurbished Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan Canada.  SaskPower opened the plant after spending $1.3 billion on the upgrade.

If you consider that we have been talking about carbon-capture-and-storage plants for decades.  Every developed country that has coal-fired plants has spent many hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to trial these technologies.  You wonder why it took so long to have the first working CC&S power plant?

There are an estimated 7000 coal-fired units worldwide with over 1200 new power plants planned for the next few years.  The International Energy Agency estimates that CO2 emissions linked to the burning of fossil fuels was 33 gigatons in 2011.  Some 42% or 13 gigatons was from the generation of electricity and heat.  This CO2 pollution was mainly from coal fired power plants.

We are not going to replace all the coal-fired power plants anytime soon.  The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) however, stresses the need to make fundamental changes in how we burn coal to make it a much cleaner energy source.  Turning coal-fired plants into clean or nearly clean sources of energy is absolutely essential if we are to make progress against climate change.

The Boundary Dam Plant is using an acid-base reaction or amine scrubbing.  Using this methodology a recent article in the September 6, 2014 issue of Science News states, “The gas produced in burning coal – usually a mix of oxygen, water vapor, nitrogen, CO2 and other trace pollutants such as sulfur dioxide – is blasted through a 15-meter-tall, 30-meter-wide cylinder packed with layers of eggcrate-shaped material.  The gas blows in at the bottom, while an amine solution – an alkaline liquid – pours down from the top.  The solution trickles over the large surface area created by the grooves and ridges in the material packing the cylinder.  The exhaust, now scrubbed of any CO2, vents out the top.  Meanwhile, the CO2-bearing solution pools at the cylinder’s bottom before being sucked into another giant tower” where the mixture is boiled and releases a pure CO2 stream for capture.  This CO2 can be captured, sold or transported underground for storage.

This is one of three major types of technology.  This technology is called a postcombustion method where exhaust created by burning fuel is sent through silos to chemically scrub it of CO2 that is generally sent for storage in the ground.  This technology has long been used in other industrial applications.  Other methods include oxygen fuel combustion and precombustion.

Oxygen fuel combustion burns the fuel in pure oxygen, not normal air.   This produces a CO2 and water vapor exhaust that are easy to separate.  This technology unfortunately must use a considerable amount of energy in the initial air separation step.

Precombustion converts the fuel to a gassy mixture of CO2 and hydrogen.  The two gasses are separated with the hydrogen moving a turbine and the CO2 sent underground for storage.  This technology is very familiar since it is used in fertilizer, chemical and gaseous fuel and power production.

Other major projects that have cost a lot of money include the Jänschwalde, an aging power plant in Germany.  In 2011 after having spent some $2 billion, local politics, public fears, and policy battles caused the program to close down before it even broke ground.  Two billion dollars before even breaking ground!!  This has been the ongoing history of expensive projects that have been cancelled.  It is almost as if, after having spent literally billions of dollars, the powers that be are canceling a plant before any opportunity to trial something.

Power companies have been strong opponents of any requirement for new technologies.  They have been successful in pressuring the U. S. government to postpone further requirements for major reductions in CO2 emissions due to adoption of these new technologies.

These interests pressured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year to forego its requirement that new power plants come equipped with these carbon capture and storage technologies.  This requirement was dropped from new rules that the EPA announced in June of this year.

Finally we have a demonstration, at scale, of one of the technologies the coal industry has been resisting.  We still have an uphill battle to convince the governments of the world, that have been funding countless trials, to require their respective coal energy operators to embrace and adopt this technology.  Only in this way can we begin to seriously combat climate change.  We must thank Canada and the local power company, SaskPower, for completing its power plant conversion and providing an actual test of one of the technologies.

Use the following links to gain more information or see the source documents for this article.

http://www.sciencenews.org/article/carbon-capture-and-storage-finally-approaching-debut

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/01/canada-switches-on-worlds-first-carbon-capture-power-plant

http://globalenergyobservatory.org/list.php?db=powerplants&type=coal

http://globalenergyobservatory.org/countrysummary.php

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The Oceans are Taking the Heat

Posted on 11 September 2014 by Jerry

It’s the oceans.  They have absorbed the additional planetary heat generated since 2000.  Scientists and others have observed how the annual mean temperature of the world has not changed since the beginning of the new century.  The believers in a continuation of climate change have narrowed to two principal causes for keeping the same annual mean temperature, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

According to new data, “The latter part of the 20th century saw rapid global warming as more heat stayed near the surface.  In the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans.  In situ and reanalyzed data are used to trace the pathways of ocean heat uptake.” The researchers of this study identified the Atlantic Ocean as having absorbed the world’s heat.  This conclusion was released in a Science magazine study reported in the August 22, 2014 issue.

While another research report reaches the same conclusion it cites a different ocean, the Pacific, as acting as the primary cause for the rising ocean temperatures.  It does identify what is happening in the Pacific Ocean as the main reason for the effect on the Atlantic.

Kevin Trenberth argues that climate change has not stopped but rather is simply “manifested in different ways.”  An article that appeared in June of 2013, in climatescience.com states that the “El Nino caused a large loss of heat from the deep ocean to the sea surface that resulted in a cooling of the oceans.  Since then the deep ocean has been absorbing heat back from the upper ocean and so cooling the atmosphere.”  He continues, “the centre of action is the Pacific Ocean but the main places where heat goes deep into the ocean are the Atlantic and Southern Oceans rather than the Pacific.”

Those of us who hoped this stability in the annual mean world temperature meant there was some slowing of the pace of climate change are disappointed.  These findings are conclusive even though there is some “chicken and egg” argument around which ocean has the greatest responsibility for the Atlantic Ocean acting as a heat sink and taking on more of the world’s heat.

There is no break in the inevitable escalation of the world’s heat even as its manifestation is not what was expected.  We need to redouble our efforts to weather the changes (no pun intended) that are coming as a result of climate change.  At this point many of us have given up on trying to stop climate change and are now focused on slowing its progress and figuring out what humanity is going to do in each local environment to survive its effects.

Use the following links to access additional information or see the source documents for this article.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6199/860.summary

http://www.reportingclimatescience.com/news-stories/article/global-warming-pause-due-to-pacific-says-trenberth.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6199/897

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6199/897.figures-only

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