The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
Climate deniers like to point to the so-called global warming “hiatus” as evidence that humans aren’t changing the climate. But according a new study, exactly the opposite is true: The recent slowdown in global temperature increases is partially the result of one of the few successful international crackdowns on greenhouse gases.
Back in 1988, more than 40 countries, including the US, signed the Montreal Protocol, an agreement to phase out the use of ozone-depleting gases like chlorofluorocarbons (today the Protocol has nearly 200 signatories). According to the EPA, CFC emissions are down 90 percent since the Protocol, a drop that the agency calls “one of the largest reductions to date in global greenhouse gas emissions.” That’s a blessing for the ozone layer, but also for the climate. CFCs are a potent heat-trapping gas, and a new analysis published today in Nature Geoscience finds that slashing them has been a major driver of the much-discussed slowdown in global warming.
UPDATE (Nov. 12, 2013 at 20:30 UTC): The conclusion I draw below — that the signature of global warming is too weak to see in current cyclone development — is not correct. It turns out a 2008 paper shows that the strongest cyclones have an increased maximum wind speed over the past few decades due to warming waters. The issue is important enough and detailed enough that I decided it warrants its own article, so I wrote an update to all this. You can read what’s here first, but then please go read the followup. We’re seeing the affects of global warming now.]
The Philippines government has firmly connected the super typhoon Haiyan with climate change, and urged governments meeting in Poland on Monday to take emergency action to resolve the deadlocked climate talks.
“We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway,” said Yeb Sano, head of the government’s delegation to the UN climate talks, in an article for the Guardian, in which he challenged climate sceptics to “get off their ivory towers” to see the impacts of climate change firsthand.
With the price of photovoltaic panels at all-time lows, what’s a solar power plant operator to do to cuts costs and squeeze more electricity out of a multi billion-dollar investment?
One word: Robots.
Yesterday, SunPower, the Silicon Valley solar giant, announced that it has acquired Greenbotics, a California company that makes a solar-panel-cleaning robot called CleanFleet. Solar panels tend to get dirty. Dust and grime that builds up on a solar panel blocks sunlight, which interferes with electricity production. A big photovoltaic farm built in a remote sun-rich desert can have hundreds of thousands of solar panels sprawling over thousands of acres. For instance, the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch project SunPower built on 12,000 acres has 749,088 panels. Cleaning them two to three times a year is a labor-and-water intensive job.
A few months ago, a big warehouse in New Jersey was destroyed by fire. It’s not the kind of story that normally makes national news, but it did.
That’s because the local fire chief partly blamed solar panels for the failure to contain the blaze. Four-alarm headlines followed: “Death Panels: Why Firefighters are Scared of Solar Rooftops.”
The largest lake in Britain and Ireland, Lough Neagh, has lost more than three quarters of its overwintering water birds according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast. The study by Quercus, Northern Ireland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, found the number of diving ducks migrating to the lake for the winter months has dropped from 100,000 to less than 21,000 in the space of a decade.
The research, published in the journal Freshwater Biology, found the ecosystem of the lake has dramatically changed since 2000/01 leading to a huge decline in the numbers of insects and snails living at the bottom of the lake. This combined with the effects of global climate change dramatically affected the numbers of migratory and overwintering water birds, a feature for which the lake is designated a Special Protection Area.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers say they have found ‘missing heat’ in the climate system, casting doubt on suggestions that global warming has slowed or stopped over the past decade. Observational data on which climate records are based cover only 84 per cent of the planet — with Polar regions and parts of Africa largely excluded.
Now Dr Kevin Cowtan, a computational scientist at the University of York, and Robert Way, a cryosphere specialist and PhD student at the University of Ottawa, have reconstructed the ‘missing’ global temperatures using a combination of observations from satellites and surface data from weather stations and ships on the peripheries of the unsampled regions.
In a major new international report, experts conclude that the acidity of the world’s ocean may increase by around 170% by the end of the century bringing significant economic losses. People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services — often in developing countries — are especially vulnerable. A group of experts have agreed on ‘levels of confidence’ in relation to ocean acidification statements summarising the state of knowledge. The summary was led by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and results from the world’s largest gathering of experts on ocean acidification ever convened. The Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World was held in Monterey, California (September 2012), and attended by 540 experts from 37 countries. The summary will be launched at the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Warsaw, 18 November, for the benefit of policymakers.
Experts conclude that marine ecosystems and biodiversity are likely to change as a result of ocean acidification, with far-reaching consequences for society. Economic losses from declines in shellfish aquaculture and the degradation of tropical coral reefs may be substantial owing to the sensitivity of molluscs and corals to ocean acidification.
At BPI Campus our Progressive Agenda is:
1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.
Reader Comments Welcome. Share Eco News stories you have seen here…please be sure to attribute them. Comments with violations of Fair Use guidelines may be edited.