Tag Archive | "Norway"

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Doha Climate Conference: Success or Failure?

Posted on 29 December 2012 by Jerry

Conservative pundits from the Heritage Foundation declared the 2012 U.N. Climate Conference in Doha, Qatar a failure.  Supporters point to expanded commitments at a conference that was only expected to be a planning session for a “Big Deal” in 2015.  Was Doha a success or Failure?  You decide.

Detractors cited failure to hit Kyoto Protocol defined emissions objectives, lack of international support (U.S. refusing to ratify and exceptions for developing nations such as China and India) and an unworkable Kyoto structure that placed all emissions targets on a few dozen countries.  They called for the U.S. government to “more accurately determine the severity of climate change and verify U.N. claims.”  They continued saying the U.S. should work “through informal arrangements….undertaking appropriate steps toward a cost-effective reduction in warming.”

In an expansion of the definition of “beggar-thy-neighbor” which is an economics phrase describing how one country gains advantage at the expense of other countries, they said we should not try to mitigate global warming by “going it alone”.  Their suggestion was it was “Better to remove unnecessary regulations on fossil fuels and block any attempts to implement a carbon tax.”  In other words, we should act like global warming is not yet proven, slow our efforts to informal discussions with others and drill baby drill.

Advocates of climate change declared the meeting a success citing the following agreements accomplished at the Doha conference:

  • Attending countries altered the structure of future negotiations from two tracks (one each for developed and developing countries) to just one negotiating forum ostensibly limiting future exceptions for developing nations.
  • The EU and some other countries extended the Kyoto Protocol which was set to expire at the end of 2012, until 2020 and the EU, Australia, and Norway increased their carbon cutting targets. The Kyoto Protocol is the only existing treaty that requires emission cuts.
  • Developed nations gave recognition to poor countries for the “loss and damage” they face from the ravages of climate change.  This first ever concession opens the way for developed nations which have arguably caused climate change to possibly one day compensate poor countries for efforts they must take to repair the “loss and damage” incurred.
  • Attendees at the conference set out a schedule of necessary steps to be taken between now and 2015 as a work plan to prepare for negotiation of the “Big Deal” in Paris.

In the shadow of U.S. economic stresses, political gridlock, and inaction, the world owes a debt of gratitude to the EU, Australia, Norway and other nations for continuing the fight to control global warming.  We can only hope the US finally provides leadership in 2015 (the second Obama term) for the world’s efforts to limit rising temperatures.

On a related topic, scientists are afraid the world has passed the opportunity to limit the climate change temperature rise to only + 2°.  Accordingly the World Bank sponsored a report entitled “Turn Down the Heat” which was prepared by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Climate Analytics. The report states the world is on a path to a + 4° temperature rise by the end of the century and predicts additional dire consequences.

Use the following links to obtain more information:




http://search.worldbank.org/all?qterm=turn%20down%20the%20heat  Select first entry “Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century” and read.

Scroll down farther and select 5th entry, “Turn Down the Heat Executive Summary English”, and read.


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Significant Changes in the Arctic and Greenland

Posted on 01 September 2012 by Jerry

Unfortunately two new records are being set in the Arctic.  The first is that carbon dioxide levels at the Arctic have reached a new milestone by passing 400 parts per million.  The second is that the Arctic has lost more sea ice than at any time since satellite images were begun in 1979. 

The significance of this is that these trends are synergistic and scientists fear that at some point they will create a self-reinforcing sequence of events.  The potential consequent spiral of deterioration is described as follows.  As the carbon dioxide level rises in the Arctic, which is a leading indicator of what will happen with the rest of the planet, more heat is trapped by the atmosphere which causes a temperature rise.  As the temperature rises, more Arctic ice melts exposing more open water.  Open water does not reflect heat as efficiently as ice so water temperatures rise which melts even more ice.  As the water temperature rises, frozen seabed permafrost melts releasing large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.  This in turn increases the atmosphere’s ability to trap heat, which increases the temperature of the Arctic, and so on.

Arctic sea ice grows in the winter and diminishes in the summer causing a seasonal ebb and flow.  Complicating winter replenishment is the declining thickness of “perennial” ice, which has been in place on a year-round basis for many years and is more resistant to melting.  When this ice begins to melt it makes summer ice even more vulnerable.  Diminishing the thickness and shrinking the area of the ice footprint reduces the summer ice volume to only 30% of its size in the 1980’s, as measured by submarines.

The Arctic is not the only region experiencing significant ice melt.  The scientific community is alarmed by Greenland’s extremely rapid ice melt in July of 2012.  In just four days the thawed ice area of Greenland jumped from 40% to 97%.  Up until now the highest melting as seen by satellites in the last 30 years has been about 55% of Greenland’s total area.  Mary Albert, an ice expert at Dartmouth College indicated this was the first significant melt at the site since 1889.  Ice core samples point to  a similar rapid ice melt in 1946, although to a much lesser degree.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the planet has been steadily rising since the beginning of the industrial age when it stood at 275 parts per million.  The planet’s carbon dioxide level now stands at 395 parts per million.  With the Arctic passing the level of 400 parts per million it means that in a few short years the rest of the world will follow.  Beyond the Arctic, these high readings have already been recorded in Greenland, Alaska, Norway, Iceland and Mongolia. 

Climate change deniers point out that carbon dioxide levels have changed over the millennia with CO2 having been above 400 parts per million about 800,000 years ago.  Today’s climate scientists point out that historically there were a number of factors that existed to produce those high concentrations.  Those factors are missing today.  Present concentrations can only be explained by acknowledging the contribution that human beings make to carbon dioxide levels as a result of industrialization.

Use the following links to obtain more information on this topic:




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Bright Idea

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Climate Change Creativity

Posted on 14 August 2012 by Jerry

While there is still no clear roadmap for dealing with climate change, we should have optimism about all the effort being invested in ways to reverse or adapt to it.  Proposed solutions include technologies that range from how to remove and store CO2 from the environment and from emissions at conventional power plants, to chemical or material alterations of the atmosphere, to changing the soft technologies of how and where we live and farm.

Examples of experimental technologies currently being trialed are efforts underway at The Technology Centre at Mongstad (TCM) Norway.  A collaboration between the Norwegian government, the state owned oil company Gassnova, Statoil, Shell and the South African company, Sasol, the TCM will test CO2 capture on two types of common power plant and refinery emissions.  The plant’s description states that it will test the technologies on emissions from “the existing catalytic cracker facility at the Mongstad Refinery and the other is emissions from the gas-fired combined heat and power plant (CHP), which is under construction.”

The plant will test an amine technology from Aker Solutions and a chilled ammonia technology from Alstom.  Both technologies focus on taking exhaust emissions and filtering them through a chemical solvent that separates the CO2 and provides for future storage.  Both processes work on emissions from a variety of existing plants and energy sources such as coal, gas, etc.  Both technologies are explained in more depth at sites that are linked below.

The planning, which was begun in 2006, has finally culminated in actual construction of the facility.  A link below leads to a film that depicts what is being built.  The Norwegian government has opened the facility to the world and invited all companies to use it to test their alternative technologies to clean up emissions of existing refineries and power plants.  While initial results of both technologies are positive, the question will be whether either or both are proven to be economic as well.  If these technologies work and are economic, they will significantly extend the useful life of conventional plants.

In another development reported in Nature Materials on June 3, 2012, scientists in the UK announced creation of an “interpenetrated metal-organic framework” which represents “a new class of dynamic material that undergoes pronounced framework phase transition on desolvation.” The material, referred to as NOTT-202, works like a sponge which absorbs gases when under high pressure.   Essentially, “These complex molecules (of NOTT-202) can be made to join together in frameworks that leave gaps suitable for capturing gases.”  As the pressure is reduced, CO2 remains captured while other gases are released.  The breakthrough of this new material is its selectivity for CO2 and its potential suitability for long term storage.

This approach of seeking technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere or emissions is, in the opinion of many scientists, the best way to immediately fight climate change.  It is one of seven ideas (Air Capture of CO2) which were described in a 2009 report to the UK’s Royal Society and which have been cited in reports by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2010 and by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center in 2011.

The report included other ideas such as Cloud Seeding (seeding clouds with a spray of salty ocean water or a water attracting powder) to create small micro-droplets of moisture that reflect sunlight away from the planet’s surface, Aerosols in the Atmosphere which involves releasing tiny particles in the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, and a proposal to create Sun Space Shields which reflect the sun’s radiation away from Earth.  Speeding up Weathering suggests we try to take advantage of silicate rocks which degrade in the weather leaving their silicate free to react chemically with CO2, storing it as carbonate rock.   Making the Desert Shiny is a plan to cover deserts with reflective polyethylene-aluminum sheets to boost the Earth’s reflection of radiation.  The final proposal was for Ocean Fertilization or seeding ocean waters with nutrients to encourage the growth of algae which represents a natural sponge to soak up CO2.  As the algae dies its dead organic matter sinks to the ocean bottom, effectively storing more carbon dioxide in the ocean.

When these proposals are rated against their impact, affordability, timeliness, and safety, Air Capture of CO2 received lower marks on affordability and timeliness than putting Aerosols in the Atmosphere but was given the highest rating as a safe option.  Atmospheric Aerosols was given the most risky rating.  Presumably, it is on this basis that Air Capture of CO2 has received the most attention.

Finally, from those looking at the softer technologies of how and where we live and farm come suggestions of inevitable steps we must anticipate over the next several decades.  These thoughts include building new “Waterworld” Homes that are floating structures, constructing Underground Cities to shelter populations from the harsher extremes of climate, and creating Floating Farms to help feed the world’s burgeoning population.  Other thoughts are of Smart Energy power grids that are flexible enough to juggle the mix of old and new energy sources but still capable of sending energy where it is needed.  Some have considered the creation of Vertical Farms with many levels of planted crops reaching skyward or even underground.  Finally, there is much interest in Climate Adapted Crops or genetically engineering crops that can resist droughts, floods, heat, cold, and salt.  This is an area that big chemical companies see for future profit and where they are seeking patent protection (a reported 1,633 patents as of 2010 as reported by the ETC Group).

All of these efforts reinforce our underlying optimism that humanity will react to that which threatens us, will respond and adapt.  Our only hope is that our efforts are soon enough and comprehensive enough to avoid the more wrenching changes and threats many fear as a result of runaway climate change.

Use the following links to access more information:

For a video on the Mongstad facility use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBnvd_omYXM









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Your Intervention to Protect the Arctic

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Jerry

Ice is melting in the Arctic and as a result it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe.  Sea lanes are opening up for longer periods in the year prompting attention from nations seeking to exploit the Arctic’s underwater oil, gas, and mineral resources.  Unlike Antarctica, which is protected by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, the only protection for the North Pole is that it is defined in international treaties as the high seas.  Unfortunately several countries are attempting to enforce territorial boundaries and actively lay claim to the seabed.  This includes Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the United States, all of which lay claim to various parts of the Arctic.

Examples of the attention the Arctic is receiving include recent military war games, Exercise Cold Response, hosted by Norway involving 16,300 troops from 14 countries.  The exercise involved “training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats…. The U.S., Canada and Denmark held their own major exercises and hosted a meeting of the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers – Canada, the U.S., Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.” 

A June 2, 2012 Reuters article reports on a recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating, “Clinton boarded a research ship in Tromso, a Norwegian town north of the Arctic Circle, to illustrate U.S. interests in a once inaccessible region where resources are up for grabs and new sea routes between Europe and Asia are opening up.  ‘A lot of countries are looking at what will be the potential for exploration and extraction of natural resources as well as new sea lanes,’ Clinton told reporters after taking a two-hour boat tour of the local fjord.”

Recognizing that this type of attention and development can only accelerate the melting of the sea ice and further contribute to global warming, Greenpeace has marshaled celebrities and citizens from around the world calling for the Arctic to be designated a drill free reserve where all plant and animal species are protected.  This would put it on a similar footing as Antarctica.

Greenpeace has launched an effort to get 1,000,000 signatures on-line on a petition to be circulated around the world and planted at the North Pole to encourage nations to step up and protect the Arctic.  You can participate, if you hurry, by adding your name to the petition at www.savethearctic.org

You will be in good company joining other signers who include Sir Paul McCartney, Jack White, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Edward Norton, Sir Richard Branson, and Lucy Lawless.  Other signers include Radiohead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Emily Blunt, Baaba Maal, Javier Bardem, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, and a group of China’s most famous musicians.  You can be amongst the nine Oscar winners, ten Golden Globe winners and five Grammy Award winners who are signers of the petition.

This kind of direct action, while symbolic, represents your desire to keep countries and companies from exploiting and accelerating the very global warming they have created.  Adding your name to this petition is a small step to slow an accelerating problem.

Use the following links to find more information on these issues:







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