pollution_emissions_1404207.jpg

 

NEW YORK: Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have risen by 18 per cent during the 1990-2004 period, a recent study by an advocacy group has indicated.

The state-wise study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group showed that CO2 emissions came down in only two states — Delaware and Massachusetts — and the District of Columbia, while Texas and Nevada headed the list where the emissions grew at the highest rate.

The group used data from the U.S. department of energy for the study.

While Texas headed the list of states with emissions growing by 95.8 million metric tons during the period, Nevada with a 55 per cent growth ranked first in terms of percentage growth.

The group said electric power plants and the transportation sector — particularly cars and light trucks — contributed mainly to the increase in CO2 emissions nationwide — emissions from the electric power sector rising by 28 per cent and from the transportation sector by 23 per cent.

The study finds that the electric power sector accounted for 55 per cent of the increase in emissions. Increasing demand for electricity from residential, commercial and industrial consumers led to this rapid increase in emissions.

Coal-fired power plants accounted for most of the increase — three-fourths of the emissions increase in the electric power sector and 42 per cent in the overall increase in emissions.

CO2 emissions from natural gas consumption in the electric power sector increased by almost 70 per cent, accounting for 13 per cent of the nation’s overall increase in emissions.

The transportation sector accounted for 40 per cent of the overall increase in emissions. Emissions from motor gasoline consumption increased by 22 per cent, accounting for more than half of the emissions increase in the transportation sector.

The group released the report, titled “The Carbon Boom: State and National Trends in Carbon Dioxide Emissions Since 2007,” Thursday.

The top 15 states with the largest percentage increases in energy-related emissions are:

1 Nevada 55 per cent
2 Arizona 54 per cent
3 New Hampshire 50 per cent
4 South Carolina 45 per cent
5 Colorado 39 per cent
6 Idaho 38 per cent
7 Oregon 37 per cent
8 Florida 37 per cent
9 Mississippi 36 per cent
10 North Carolina 36 per cent
11 Alaska 35 per cent
12 Missouri 34 per cent
13 Virginia 34 per cent
14 Nebraska 31 per cent
15 Vermont 29 per cent


Copyright © 2007 Respective Author

 “With the small climate change we’ve already had, 59 percent of the world’s species have shown a response – on all continents, in all major oceans, and across taxonomic groups,” says Dr. Parmesan.

 

Global warming will affect societies around the world through more prolonged droughts, more intense rains and flooding, changes in the timing of seasonal rainfall and snowmelt, and a projected increase in the spread of animal- and insect-borne diseases, scientists say.

But it will affect plant and animal species even more dramatically. A shift in climate zones could lead to extinction of some species and the spread of others, according to a report set to be released Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In turn, many of these ecological shifts will affect humans, writes Chris Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology at Stanford University, in an e-mail from the IPCC talks in Brussels. “A large fraction of the impacts of climate change on people are transmitted through ecosystems.”

If the average temperature rises by 1.8 degrees C (3.2 degrees F.) by the end of this century – the low end of the IPCC’s projected range – it would still be possible to set up preserves and maintain almost all of the planet’s major ecosystems and the species they contain, says Camille Parmesan, a biologist at the University of Texas in Austin. But if temperatures rise much higher than that, “We’re going into a realm Earth hasn’t seen for a very long time. Most of the species we have on Earth did not evolve under that warmer climate.”

Already, the global climate has warmed an average of 0.7 degrees C during the 20th century, she notes. So far, the ecological changes have been relatively benign.

What’s worrisome is if heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions continue to accumulate under the IPCC’s “business as usual” scenario, says John Williams, who studies plant dynamics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. If that happens, up to 48 percent of Earth’s land surface will lose existing climate zones, he and two colleagues recently calculated.

That loss is at the cold ends of the spectrum – largely toward the poles and at high altitudes in the tropics. At the same time, some 12 to 39 percent of the planet will see hotter – or what the team calls “novel” – climate zones.

How novel? The prolonged drought the US Southwest has experienced is probably not temporary, says an international team of scientists. Instead, it’s likely to be a manifestation of the northward expansion of a belt of subtropical, dry climate conditions. If the team’s projections are correct, the Southwest’s average climate conditions will be just as dry as the drought or the Dust Bowl. The team’s results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science’s online service.

Not all effects will be harmful, many experts agree. High latitudes would experience a longer growing season. And increased carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have stimulated plant growth worldwide – at least for now.

But such effects have their limits. Researchers have found that if water and soil nutrients available to trees, shrubs, and grasses don’t keep pace with rising CO2, plant growth will stall as plants get too much of a usually good thing.

Even when plants take up lots of CO2 in the spring, they throttle back in the summer if conditions heat up and dry out. Such conditions are expected to cover broad swaths of Earth’s landscape. This essentially cancels the effects of the spring uptake.

There may be other, more subtle effects. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire, for example, have found that trees, which emit hydrocarbons naturally, give off more hydrocarbons as CO2 levels rise. Scientists already have shown that these hydrocarbons, when mixed with nitrogen-based gases from coal-fired power plants, can contribute smog and tiny aerosol particles to already polluted urban air. The New Hampshire group is now trying to see what impact these additional hydrocarbons may have on air quality.

In general, “With the small climate change we’ve already had, 59 percent of the world’s species have shown a response – on all continents, in all major oceans, and across taxonomic groups,” says Dr. Parmesan. Some 70 species have become extinct, largely at the poles or on mountaintops, where cold-adapted organisms have no place left to go as warmth creeps into higher latitudes and altitudes. Others, such as polar bears, are threatened. In other cases, rising CO2 levels are forcing organisms into a new regime where they have to compete for resources. In California, for example, researchers have found that higher CO2 levels have delayed flowering in some wild grasses but accelerated it in wild herbs that share the same turf. This is forcing the plants to compete directly for nutrients – ultimately changing the character of the ecosystem.

In the oceans, researchers are noting shifts in fish migration patterns. Coral-reef bleaching remains a concern, but its connection to global warming is still somewhat contentious, notes Chris Langdon, a marine scientist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Measurements don’t go back far enough in time to see if bleaching events are any more frequent than in the past.

But ocean acidification, a byproduct of rising CO2 levels in the air, is far more straightforward. It threatens a range of organisms – from tiny shell-forming plankton to reefs themselves. Some researchers say the changes in ocean chemistry from human CO2 emissions are expected to last from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years, until natural buffering can take hold.

With some care and feeding, however, some ecosystems may be able to retain their resilience in the face of changes expected from global warming. Researchers at Duke University have found, for example, that if rates of sea-level rise remain relatively low, tidal marshes build themselves to keep pace, continuing to provide a buffer against storm surge and serving as a nursery for marine life.

“Marshes are not necessarily doomed,” says Matt Kirwan, who led the study.

The Arctic sea-ice extent, which is the area of ocean covered by at least 15 percent ice, was 5.7 million square miles in March 2007, slightly higher than the record low of 5.6 million square miles measured in March 2006. The declining sea ice has been blamed on higher winter temperatures in the Arctic, a result of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and strong natural variability in the ice, said researcher Walt Meier of CU-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.
“This year’s wintertime low extent is another milestone in a strong downward trend,” said Meier. “We’re still seeing near-record lows (in sea ice) and higher-than-normal temperatures, and we expect this downward trend to continue in future years.”
While researchers monitor Arctic sea ice year round, they pay special attention to the months of March and September because they generally mark the annual maximum and minimum sea-ice extents respectively for the year, Meier said. Sea ice usually stops growing, or recovering, from the summer melt each March.

A review study led by CU-Boulder research scientist Mark Serreze of NSIDC and published in Science last month indicated Arctic sea-ice extent trends have been negative for every month since 1979, when reliable satellite record-keeping efforts began. The September minimum measurements indicate the Arctic has been losing about 38,000 square miles of ice annually.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Published: 05 April 2007

 arcticseaice.jpg

 

Winter sea ice in the Arctic has failed to reform fully for the third year in a row. Scientists said yesterday that the area of ocean covered by Arctic ice at the end of the winter months was lower only in March 2006.

Researchers fear that the floating sea ice is now on a downward spiral of shrinkage that cannot recover fully even during winter because of warmer temperatures.

Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, which released the satellite data yesterday, said: “We’re seeing near-record lows and higher-than-normal temperatures. We expect the downward trend to continue in future years.”

The maximum area of the northern hemisphere covered by sea ice in March 2007 was 5.7 million square miles, compared to the 5.6 million square miles recorded in March 2006.

The long-term average for March sea ice, as determined by Nasa measurements from 1979 to 2000, is 6.1 million square miles, according to the centre.

Sea ice in the Arctic oscillates naturally during the seasons, with the area of ocean covered by ice shrinking to its peak minimum extent during September and expanding to its annual maximum during March.

Since 1979, when satellite measurements began, summer sea ice had declined significantly. In September 2005 it reached an all-time record low, with September 2006 the second-lowest.

Scientists fear that the winter failure of the ice to recover fully will mean there is less ice to start with at the beginning of the summer melting period, leading to more rapid shrinkage with each subsequent year.

This is bad news for polar bears, which rely on floating sea ice to hunt for seals. With little ice, polar bears have to swim further in open water, burning much-needed body fat in the process.

One of the greatest concerns is that the melting sea ice will lead to greater areas of open, darker ocean being exposed to sunlight during the summer. Instead of 90 per cent of the heat of the sun being reflected by a cap of sea ice, the heat will be absorbed by the open water, which will exacerbate the trend towards regional warming.

“Low winter recovery means that the ice is freezing up later in the fall [autumn] and growing at a slower pace in the winter,” said a spokesman for the centre.

“September usually marks the end of the summer melting season. Low summer extent means that ice is melting faster during the summer and leaving less ice to build on during the winter recovery,” he said.

Computer models predict that the summer sea ice will be totally gone by the end of the century. Some scientists, however, believe that this could occur as early as 2040.

If the sea ice of the Arctic disappears completely in summer, regional temperatures could increase faster than in the past. Some scientists also believe that the change in the regional climate could have far-reaching impacts on other parts of the northern hemisphere, perhaps by altering ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream.

 Mike Tidwell comments– It’s impossible to anticipate the full range of problems climate change will bring to our lives. I am always impressed at how tightly orchestrated our society is with climate. So many things we take for granted.

Snowy invaders point to Arctic thaw

IN FEBRUARY, birders from across Washington state flocked to the town of Stanwood, population 5068, for the area’s second annual Snow Goose Festival. Set up to boost the local economy, events this year included a pancake breakfast, birdwatching tours, wine tasting and live music from a local bluegrass band.

For festival organiser Laura Byers, the big attraction is the sheer number of geese that come to call at Stanwood – a number that has skyrocketed in recent years. “The fields are white with them,” she says. But the booming population is not universally welcome, and may in fact be a stark warning of trouble brewing elsewhere: global warming.

The invasion has prompted local farmers to declare war on the birds. “They’re like locusts,” says Ted Oien, whose dairy farm located just 3 kilometres from the festival grounds has been ravaged by thousands of geese. Oien reckons the birds ate $10,000 worth of grass off his fields last winter. “They keep everything mowed down to nothing,” he says. “It’s hard to run a dairy operation when you don’t have grass to feed your cows.”

While the lesser snow goose (Chen caerulescens) is a familiar sight in Washington, the number of birds visiting each winter has doubled to 83,000 in just 10 years. Mike Davison, a biologist with the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the culprit is climate change on a distant, windswept island in the Arctic Ocean. “Whether you call it global warming or a moderation in temperatures in a specific geographic area, it has caused them to be very successful in nesting,” he says.

The subpopulation of snow geese that calls on Stanwood each year breeds exclusively on Wrangel Island off the north-east coast of Siberia. The birds can only breed in large numbers if Wrangel’s winter snowpack melts early enough, which historically occurred about once every four years. “Now they have been getting access consecutively for five years,” says Davison.

According to John Walsh, a climate scientist with the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, Wrangel is indeed warming up, especially during the breeding season. Using data collected by NASA satellites, Walsh says there has been an average increase of 2 °C on Wrangel for the months of March, April and May since 1977.

The figures are consistent with changes in the Arctic as a whole, which has been warming much faster than the global average. “Based on what’s been going on across the sea in Alaska, all signs point to a week or two advance in the spring snowmelt,” says Walsh.

Oien and other local farmers don’t care what has caused the boom; they just want the geese to stop invading. Despite firing noisemakers called “goose bombs” and inviting local hunters to bag as many birds as they can, their efforts have barely made a dint in the gathering flocks.

On 18 April, state and federal biologists will hold a public meeting to discuss other options. But if Davison is right, an unexpected consequence of climate change has now come home to roost.

 

 3ct-penguin636_rel.jpg

We are used to hearing about the effects of climate change in terms of unusual animal behaviour, such as altering patterns of fish and bird migration. However, scientists at the University of Birmingham are trying out an alternative bio-indicator – the king penguin – to investigate whether they can be used to monitor the effects of climate change. “If penguins are travelling further or diving deeper for food, that tells us something about the availability of particular fish in regions of the Antarctic. We may be able to assess the pressure exerted by king penguins on this ecosystem, and look at the effects of both climate change and overfishing in this region of the world”, says Dr Lewis Halsey who will present his results on Wednesday 4th April at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Glasgow.

A new way of using animals as bio-indicators is to ascertain their energy requirements. Dr Halsey and co-workers measured the heart rate and energy expenditure of king penguins whilst walking on a treadmill and whilst swimming in a long water channel, and obtained relationships between these two variables. They then implanted heart rate loggers in penguins going to sea such that they could infer the energy expended by these birds from the recorded heart rate. Researchers were then able to find out if there was a correlation between the energetic costs of foraging at sea and the levels of fish available to the penguins i.e. did penguins have to work harder when food was scarce.

King penguins are good candidates as bio-indicators for several reasons. Firstly, while at sea foraging, they cover hundreds of kilometres and are able to dive to depths of several hundred metres, so they explore a relatively large portion of the expansive Southern Oceans. Secondly, the diets of several populations of king penguins are well known. Thirdly, while foraging for food is done at sea the penguins also come ashore to breed and moult, making them accessible to researchers.

Mike Tidwell comments-  Notice how quickly we take action when there is money to be made. Notice also how quickly people get on board with melting ice and opening trade routes, but how little heed is paid to rising sea level, which will also accompany the same warming that is opening these passages up. Judging from the topography of this island, it would appear that much of it will soon be underwater. Notice also how people are still rushing to mine hydrocarbons, even though they know the climate is changing rapidly. Hellooo, is anybody home? It’s sad to see a grand ecosystem such as the Arctic entering chaos.

 capt5d.jpg

 AP Photo: The crew of Danish warship Vedderen perform a flag raising ceremony on the uninhabitated Hans Island

HAMMERFEST, Norway – Barren and uninhabited, Hans Island is very hard to find on a map. Yet these days the Frisbee-shaped rock in the Arctic is much in demand — so much so that Canada and Denmark have both staked their claim to it with flags and warships.

The reason: an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, accelerated by the impact of global warming on Earth’s frozen north.

The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the ice cap is warming faster than the rest of the planet and ice is receding, partly due to greenhouse gases. It’s a catastrophic scenario for the Arctic ecosystem, for polar bears and other wildlife, and for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters.

But some see a lucrative silver lining of riches waiting to be snatched from the deep, and the prospect of timesaving sea lanes that could transform the shipping industry the way the Suez Canal did in the 19th century.

The

U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic has as much as 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. Russia reportedly sees the potential of minerals in its slice of the Arctic sector approaching $2 trillion.

All this has pushed governments and businesses into a scramble for sovereignty over these suddenly priceless seas.

Regardless of climate change, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is moving full speed ahead. State-controlled Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA plans to start tapping gas from its offshore Snoehvit field in December, the first in the Barents Sea. It uses advanced equipment on the ocean floor, remote-controlled from the Norwegian oil boom town of Hammerfest through a 90-mile undersea cable.

Alan Murray, an analyst with the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said most petroleum companies are now focusing research and exploration on the far north. Russia is developing the vast Shkotman natural gas field off its Arctic coast, and Norwegians hope their advanced technology will find a place there.

“Oil will bring a big geopolitical focus. It is a driving force in the Arctic,” said Arvid Jensen, a consultant in Hammerfest who advises companies that hope to hitch their economic wagons to the northern rush.

It could open the North Pole region to easy navigation for five months a year, according to the latest Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, an intergovernmental group. That could cut sailing time from Germany to Alaska by 60 percent, going through Russia’s Arctic instead of the Panama Canal.

Or the Northwest Passage could open through the channels of Canada’s Arctic islands and shorten the voyage from Europe to the Far East. And that’s where Hans Island, at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, starts to matter.

The half-square-mile rock, just one-seventh the size of New York’s Central Park, is wedged between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland, and for more than 20 years has been a subject of unusually bitter exchanges between the two

NATO allies.

In 1984, Denmark’s minister for Greenland affairs, Tom Hoeyem, caused a stir when he flew in on a chartered helicopter, raised a Danish flag on the island, buried a bottle of brandy at the base of the flagpole and left a note saying: “Welcome to the Danish island.”

The dispute erupted again two years ago when Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham set foot on the rock while Canadian troops hoisted the Maple Leaf flag.

Denmark sent a letter of protest to Ottawa, while Canadians and Danes took out competing Google ads, each proclaiming sovereignty over the rock 680 miles south of the North Pole.

Some Canadians even called for a boycott of Danish pastries.

Although both countries have repeatedly sent warships to the island to make their presence felt, there’s no risk of a shooting war — both sides are resolved to settle the problem peacefully. But the prospect of a warmer planet opening up the icy waters has helped push the issue up the agenda.

“We all realize that because of global warming it will suddenly be an area that will become more accessible,” said Peter Taksoe-Jensen, head of the Danish Foreign Ministry’s legal department.

Shortcuts through Arctic waters are no longer the stuff of science fiction.

In August 2005, the Akademik Fyodorov of Russia was the first ship to reach the North Pole without icebreaker help. The Norwegian shipyard Aker Yards is building innovative vessels that sail forward in clear waters, and then turn around to plow with their sterns through heavier ice.

Global warming is also bringing an unexpected bonus to American transportation company OmniTrax Inc., which a decade ago bought the small underutilized Northwest Passage port of Churchill, Manitoba, for a token fee of 10 Canadian dollars (about $8).

The company, which is private, won’t say how much money it is making in Churchill, but it was estimated to have moved more than 500,000 tons of grain through the port in 2007.

Managing director Michael Ogborn said climate change was not something the company thought about in 1997.

“But over the last 10 years we saw a lengthening of the season, which appears to be related to global warming,” Ogborn said. “We see the trend continuing.”

Just a few years ago, reports said it would take 100 years for the ice to melt, but recent studies say it could happen in 10-15 years, and the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway have been rushing to stake their claims in the Arctic.

Norway and Russia have issues in the Barents Sea; the U.S. and Russia in Beaufort Sea; the U.S. and Canada over rights to the Northwest Passage; and even Alaska and Canada’s Yukon province over their offshore boundary.

Canada, Russia and Denmark are seeking to claim waters all the way up to the North Pole, saying the seabed is part of their continental shelf under the 1982

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Norway wants to extend its claims on the same basis, although not all the way to the pole.

Canada says the Northwest Passage is its territory, a claim the United States hotly disputes, insisting the waters are neutral. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to put military icebreakers in the frigid waters “to assert our sovereignty and take action to protect our territorial integrity.”

Politics aside, there are environmental concerns. Apart from the risk of oil spills, more vessels could carry alien organisms into the Northwest Passage, posing a risk to indigenous life forms.

The Arctic melt has also been intensifying competition over dwindling fishing stocks.

Fish stocks essential to some regions appear to be moving to colder waters, and thus into another country’s fishing grounds. Russian and Norwegian fishermen already report catching salmon much farther north than is normal.

“It is potentially very dramatic for fish stocks. They could move toward the North Pole, which would make sovereignty very unclear,” said Dag Vongraven, an environmental expert at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Russia contests Norway’s claims to fish-rich waters around the Arctic Svalbard Islands, and has even sent warships there to underscore its discontent with the Norwegian Coast Guard boarding Russian trawlers there.

“Even though they say it is about fish, it is really about oil,” said Jensen, the consultant in Hammerfest.

In 2004, Russian President

Vladimir Putin called the sovereignty issue “a serious, competitive battle” that “will unfold more and more fiercely.”

With all the squabbling over ownership, Tristan Pearce, a research associate at the University of Guelph’s Global Environmental Change Group in Canada, reminded Arctic nations of who got there first: indigenous peoples like the Inuits and the Sami.

“Everybody is talking about the potential for minerals, diamonds, oil and gas, but we mustn’t forget that people live there, all the way across the Arctic,” he said. “They’ve always been there and they have a major role to play.”