Showing posts with label acidification. Show all posts
Showing posts with label acidification. Show all posts

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! That's the rallying call for the Dillon Panthers.

Last night we watched the much awarded Friday Night Lights on DVD. We're up to Season 3.

Landry dumped his cute little blonde girlfriend to take up with Tyra again. On again, off again, what will happen next?

And Smash got dumped from TMU, just a couple of episodes after all the drama about whether he would get attractive offers and whether he'd make wise choices. On again, off again, where will he end up now?

We don't know, we just follow along from episode to episode. But somebody does know. Somebody has a pretty fair idea about the overall story arc.

The writer, producer and actors have a general idea about the long narrative arc for the series and for its characters. Actor Jon Hamm knows that Mad Men is intended to run for another three seasons and knows how it will end. Of course, he's not saying.

In life, we go along day by day, episode by episode, writing the script as we go along.

Weather happens day by day too, and we get the impression that we can't know what lies ahead, other than assuming more of the same.

But that's not quite true. Climate scientists who study the long term patterns (the larger story arc) have a pretty fair idea of what is coming in the longer term. They can read the signs.

They are saying things like,
Oceans are now 30% more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution. The last time the oceans were as acidic as this was 65 million years ago. The acidity caused mass extinctions at the bottom of the food chain and the dinosaurs died out.  
The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.

Given their insider knowledge, and the future they are staring at, it is little wonder that climate scientists are taking a more active role in communicating the facts to policy makers and the general public.

We need our policy makers to have clear eyes – they need to look unflinchingly at the best scientific evidence. 

They need to have full hearts – passion and commitment.

Then, indeed, we can't lose

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! Go Panthers!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair

Picture us in our separate towers, or bubbles, or bunkers, facing off against those with different views. The longer we stay in our tower, the more isolated we become and the less we are able to communicate with people outside our tower.

Unfortunately, we're not likely to get broad support for the rapid decarbonisation of the economy if we stay in our towers throwing missiles at those with other views. 
When climate scientists come out of their towers and communicate widely, or invite contrarians into their domain, Leo Hickman calls them Rapunzel scientists. He notes that Professor Richard Betts, a climate scientist who is head of the climate impacts research team at the Met Office Hadley Centre, has reached out to communicate with contrarians.

The climate debate has been so acrimonious at times that I'm sure Richard Betts feels like Kofi Annan in a meeting with Syria's Assad. Kofi Annan knows that if diplomacy is to be effective, Rapunzel has to reach out to the witch and be nice to her.

Of course, something is required from the witch as well. If she waltzes in and trashes the place, it's not very constructive. The trouble is – being unconstructive is an effective strategy for some vested interests. 

Industries with big investments in fossil fuels don't want economies to decarbonise. They prefer that society is divided into separate camps that are busy arguing, persuading, negotiating.

In the same way, it seems to suit Assad to host yet another visit from Kofi Annan, to prolong negotiations, agree to a cease fire, and then to carry on killing his citizens. Why does Kofi Annan keep doing it? Because until someone intervenes with firepower, diplomacy is the only game in town.

With climate change, the different towers will continue to play out their game until the evidence before our eyes causes contrarian towers to crumble. A good section of the Heartland Institute tower crumbled away this month. No Rapunzels were involved, just a stealth attack and a Unabomber own goal.


One of the most compelling pieces of evidence of damage caused by CO2 emissions is the acidification of the ocean.   

A recent report from EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification) observes that ocean acidification is as high as it has been in 800,000 years. This is because the oceans have absorbed 30% of the CO2 humans have pumped into the atmosphere over the past 150 years.

In absorbing those emissions, the oceans have buffered humanity from the worst effects of a warming planet. This protection has come at a price as oceans become increasingly hostile for many of the little creatures at the bottom of the marine food web. In more acidic oceans critters relying on calcium carbonate for a home  – from corals to mollusks to the sea snail – have a harder time manufacturing their shells.

If snails, corals and mollusks collapse, entire ecosystems threaten to literally crumble away. Coral reefs support about 25% of all marine life, while sea snails account for more than 45% of the diet of fish like pink salmon.

Here's a 6-minute video that shows how all marine life depends on the pH value of oceans. Who'd have thought that oysters are not just for eating?