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Thread: The Carbon Thread

  1. #31
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  2. #32
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3869753.stm

    Sunspots reaching 1,000-year high
    By Dr David Whitehouse
    BBC News Online science editor

    A new analysis shows that the Sun is more active now than it has been at anytime in the previous 1,000 years. scientists based at the Institute for Astronomy in Zurich used ice cores from Greenland to construct a picture of our star's activity in the past. They say that over the last century the number of sunspots rose at the same time that the Earth's climate became steadily warmer. This trend is being amplified by gases from fossil fuel burning, they argue.

    'Little Ice Age'

    Sunspots have been monitored on the Sun since 1610, shortly after the invention of the telescope. They provide the longest-running direct measurement of our star's activity. The variation in sunspot numbers has revealed the Sun's 11-year cycle of activity as well as other, longer-term changes. In particular, it has been noted that between about 1645 and 1715, few sunspots were seen on the Sun's surface. This period is called the Maunder Minimum after the English astronomer who studied it. It coincided with a spell of prolonged cold weather often referred to as the "Little Ice Age". Solar scientists strongly suspect there is a link between the two events - but the exact mechanism remains elusive.

    Over the past few thousand years there is evidence of earlier Maunder-like coolings in the Earth's climate - indicated by tree-ring measurements that show slow growth due to prolonged cold. In an attempt to determine what happened to sunspots during these other cold periods, Dr Sami Solanki and colleagues have looked at concentrations of a form, or isotope, of beryllium in ice cores from Greenland. The isotope is created by cosmic rays - high-energy particles from the depths of the galaxy. The flux of cosmic rays reaching the Earth's surface is modulated by the strength of the solar wind, the charged particles that stream away from the Sun's surface. And since the strength of the solar wind varies over the sunspot cycle, the amount of beryllium in the ice at a time in the past can therefore be used to infer the state of the Sun and, roughly, the number of sunspots.

    Latest warming

    Dr Solanki is presenting a paper on the reconstruction of past solar activity at Cool Stars, Stellar Systems And The Sun, a conference in Hamburg, Germany. He says that the reconstruction shows the Maunder Minimum and the other minima that are known in the past thousand years. But the most striking feature, he says, is that looking at the past 1,150 years the Sun has never been as active as it has been during the past 60 years. Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots, a trend that has accelerated in the past century, just at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer. The data suggests that changing solar activity is influencing in some way the global climate causing the world to get warmer.

    Over the past 20 years, however, the number of sunspots has remained roughly constant, yet the average temperature of the Earth has continued to increase. This is put down to a human-produced greenhouse effect caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. This latest analysis shows that the Sun has had a considerable indirect influence on the global climate in the past, causing the Earth to warm or chill, and that mankind is amplifying the Sun's latest attempt to warm the Earth.
    Last edited by HMGovt; 10-04-2007 at 08:48 PM.

  3. #33
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    Unusually thick pack ice this year is trapping vessels off Newfoundland

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...041902426.html

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl...418.wships0418

    Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, said the amount of ice was unprecedented.

    “Ice conditions are some of the most severe we've seen in 25 to 30 years,” Mr. Pinhorn said.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by MATT MAson View Post
    This documentary has been heavily criticized, a lot of the people involved in it have since come out against it.

    Full story here:

    http://news.independent.co.uk/enviro...cle2347526.ece
    my girlfriend's a geology grad student at a pretty damn reputable uni, and her tutors wouldn't even sanction the idea of their students watching it, not even on a 'know your enemy' kind of tip. pure contrarian bullshit.

    i saw 'an inconvenient truth' finally last week. is this a good place to bring it up, or should it be in a separate thread..? *goes off to look*

  5. #35

  6. #36
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    it's very alarming how little critical discourse there is around biofuels, such is the desire for a magic bullet that requires no sacrifice or change in habits. suddenly we have great numbers of "environmentalists" arguing in favour of industrial scale, biotechnologized monoculture which will, in fact, do us in just as readily as carbon, given that we'll need as much plant diversity as we can hold onto if we hope to adapt to globally-warmed mutant ecosystems.

  7. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by nomos View Post
    it's very alarming how little critical discourse there is around biofuels, such is the desire for a magic bullet that requires no sacrifice or change in habits. suddenly we have great numbers of "environmentalists" arguing in favour of industrial scale, biotechnologized monoculture which will, in fact, do us in just as readily as carbon, given that we'll need as much plant diversity as we can hold onto if we hope to adapt to globally-warmed mutant ecosystems.
    Yeah, its a - green - variation on "we'll do anything rather than change the capitalist status quo " - even Greenpeace members are now seriously arguing in favour of nuclear power plants, as other "environmentalists" defend Clean Coal while China opens a new coal-fired power plant every week...

    "Al Gore, self-appointed alpha Earth savior, and most of the environmental mainstream, are on record as talking about the future promise of clean coal and forest biofuel technologies; just another reminder of the extent to which the mainstream environmental movement has neither diagnosed the seriousness of the global biosphere's condition nor presented solutions adequate to sufficiently address ecocide in a timely manner without making things worse. Energy and climate solutions that increase pressures upon the biosphere are no help at all."

    It seems, though, that Gore has - just last week, speaking in Argentina - begun questioning his former assumptions: “Every potential solution much be handled carefully and the danger with biofuels is that extremely valuable forests will be destroyed unnecessarily ... Another danger is that, if it is not pursued carefully, it will drive food prices up.” The problem, of course, is that it's no longer a case of "will be" - its all already happening.

    The history of global heating has largely been written by coal and forest loss, now wrongly hailed as climate change solutions

    Two of the biggest, most dangerous lies being promoted in response to global warming are that clean coal exists and the world's forests are adequate to provide biofuel. Dirty coal and industrial forest harvest for energy only accelerates the root causes of looming Doomsday for the Earth - that is destruction of the biosphere's atmospheric and terrestrial ecosystems.

    Coal burning and forest loss have been the leading culprit in climate change to date, and should their continued use at any scale be pursued as the solution to climate change and energy security, it will prove the death-knell for the Planet. We need less fossil fuel use and more forest regeneration, not the reverse.

    The myth of "Clean Coal" is pernicious nonsense, as promised carbon sequestration technologies remain unproven, are not likely to be pursued at any scale anytime soon and are primarily used to put off limits on burning coal. Coal is cheap, plentiful and dirty. Carbon emissions from burning coal have been the leading cause of global warming. The world's coal reserves hold some 3500 gigatonne of carbon, compared to the atmosphere currently holding around 800 gigatonne (600 gigatonne before the industrial revolution). If this coal is burnt and carbon vented into the atmosphere the planet will be several times past the concentration of carbon dioxide considered able to be adapted to safely.

    China is opening another coal plant every 7 to 10 days. The U.S. coal industry is rushing to build some 150 new plants before mandatory carbon caps, carbon taxes or carbon sequestration are put in place. Each of these new dirty coal plants uses the oldest of technologies, locking the world's two greatest polluters into dirty coal for at least 50 more years. I know of no plans to make carbon sequestration mandatory any time soon for new coal plants. It will be at least 10 years before we know if geosequestration even works. Carbon capture and storage is expensive, increasing the costs of power generation by 40 to 80%. Despite all the promises of coal gasification and carbon sequestration, it may never be possible to produce energy from coal without atmospheric carbon emissions.

    Could it be that carbon sequestration like the hydrogen automobile is a red-herring to allow the fossil fuel industries to squeeze every last drop of profit from the Planet before being forced to stop? In the world of nine billion consumers to come, with the condition of the atmosphere in such tatters, the majority of the world's filthy coal reserves must be left in the ground as we transition exclusively to clean renewable energy alternatives.

    Many herald the promise of converting woody biomass - primarily forest "waste" such as sawdust, forest thinning, and agriculture residues such as straw - into cellulosic ethanol as a source of biofuel. Cellulosic ethanol technology uses enzymes to break down the woody bits of plant cellulose. The fact that woody materials may provide for more energy than corn or soy based ethanol does not in itself justify large-scale establishment of such an industry. Just as hasty efforts to promote corn ethanol have lead to sharp price increases for corn worldwide, production of biofuel from forest and agricultural "waste" will have grave unintended consequences.

    The world's forests have been hammered for millennia; and are barely able to continue providing ecosystem services of cycling of nutrients, energy and water while providing for traditional wood products. Removal of forest biomass and agricultural residues from natural ecosystems and human agro-ecosystems at the industrial scale envisioned will be yet one more massive drain upon the Earth's net primary productivity. The woody forest "waste" materials to be used; including forest slash, thinning, bark and sawdust are the nutrient materials that new forests depend upon.

    Surely woody biomass requirements will be met by vast plantations of genetically modified fiber bearing plants and/or by encroaching into regenerating forests and land used to grow food. A large biofuel industry based upon ethanol from cellulose will lead to greater deforestation, forest diminishment and degradation of agricultural lands. Ancient forests will replaced to grow genetically modified crops in plantations, regenerating secondary forests will be logged into further decline, and land use will shift from food to fiber even as soils become more degraded. One must only look at oil palm in Asia, sugar cane and soya in Brazil and corn in the U.S. to see this is true. To presume that the massive energy needs of the world can be met by already overworked and still diminishing forest and agricultural ecosystems is true folly.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by tryptych View Post
    Actually, some recent research has shown plants themselves (along with animals) produce a lot of "greenhouse" emissions - so simply re-foresting may not make things any better...

    I will dig up the ref.
    Interestingly enough, this was in the science news again last week. The original study a year or so ago showed that a staggering 30% of world methane emmissions seemed to be coming from plants themselves, prompting re-thinks about the strategy of planting more trees.

    However, new results have just been published which seem to show that this methane gas was in fact somehow trapped within the plant matter, not being produced by the plants themselves and thus being no net generation of methane.

    New Scientist editorial here - subsc only, and my subscription has lapsed otherwise I would post it in full:

    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/...oduce-gas.html

    (Those of you reading the "Critiques of Science" thread may enjoy the rather self-congratulatory anti-inductionist strapline - "As two teams produce different results, it's a reminder that a single study does not provide scientific proof")

    And first report back in 2006 from Science News (free):

    http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060114/fob1.asp
    Last edited by tryptych; 20-05-2007 at 04:01 AM.

  9. #39
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    even Greenpeace members are now seriously arguing in favour of nuclear power plants
    Is this the case? I thought just last year they staged a rather stroppy 'demonstration' at (i.e. completely disrupted) a big debate on nuclear energy, with the express intention of stopping even dialogue about it, let alone allowing more power stations to be built.

  10. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    Is this the case? I thought just last year they staged a rather stroppy 'demonstration' at (i.e. completely disrupted) a big debate on nuclear energy, with the express intention of stopping even dialogue about it, let alone allowing more power stations to be built.
    Greenpeace, like Friends of the Earth and other lobby groups, is of course anti-nuclear. I should perhaps have been clearer by stating that "many former members" now favour nuclear energy.

    "When I helped found Greenpeace in the 1970s, my colleagues and I were firmly opposed to nuclear energy. But times have changed. I now realize nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy growing demand for energy."

    ===>Patrick Moore. An advisor to government and industry, Dr. Patrick Moore is a co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace, and chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada. He and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman are co-chairs of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which supports increased use of nuclear energy.

  11. #41
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    Patrick Moore is an amusing right-wing mentalist. However that doesn't stop him being right, IMO, about nuclear energy. I think it's our only hope for a worthwhile non-greenhouse-gas-emitting energy source in the near future.

  12. #42

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    it's very alarming how little critical discourse there is around biofuels, such is the desire for a magic bullet that requires no sacrifice or change in habits. suddenly we have great numbers of "environmentalists" arguing in favour of industrial scale, biotechnologized monoculture which will, in fact, do us in just as readily as carbon, given that we'll need as much plant diversity as we can hold onto if we hope to adapt to globally-warmed mutant ecosystems.
    Our kid told me that there isn't even enough land on the planet to grow the crops necessary to make bio-fuels a global, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

  13. #43

    Default Albedo Flips, Feminine Physics, and Imminent Dread

    As SF-Capital futurists imagine the moon's estimated - but prohibitively irrecoverable - reserves of Helium-3 as the vital-ingredient, the fusion-powered nuclear saviour of the world's future energy needs, climatologists again enter the frey [as Catastrophy Theory supplants Chaos Theory] ...

    Dr Hansen said we have about 10 years to put into effect the draconian measures needed to curb CO2 emissions quickly enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperature. Otherwise, the extra heat could trigger the rapid melting of polar ice sheets, made far worse by the "albedo flip" - when the sunlight reflected by white ice is suddenly absorbed as ice melts to become the dark surface of open water.

    The glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland in the northern hemisphere, and the western Antarctic ice sheet in the south, both show signs of the rapid changes predicted with rising temperatures. "

    The albedo flip property of ice/water provides a trigger mechanism. If the trigger mechanism is engaged long enough, multiple dynamical feedbacks will cause ice sheet collapse," the scientists say. "We argue that the required persistence for this trigger mechanism is at most a century, probably less."


    The Earth today stands in imminent peril

    ...and nothing short of a planetary rescue will save it from the environmental cataclysm of dangerous climate change. Those are not the words of eco-warriors but the considered opinion of a group of eminent scientists writing in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

    By Steve Connor, Science Editor

    Published: 19 June 2007

    Six scientists from some of the leading scientific institutions in the United States have issued what amounts to an unambiguous warning to the world: civilisation itself is threatened by global warming.

    They also implicitly criticise the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for underestimating the scale of sea-level rises this century as a result of melting glaciers and polar ice sheets.

    Instead of sea levels rising by about 40 centimetres, as the IPCC predicts in one of its computer forecasts, the true rise might be as great as several metres by 2100. That is why, they say, planet Earth today is in "imminent peril".

    In a densely referenced scientific paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, some of the world's leading climate researchers describe in detail why they believe that humanity can no longer afford to ignore the "gravest threat" of climate change.

    "Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures," the scientists say. Only intense efforts to curb man-made emissions of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases can keep the climate within or near the range of the past one million years, they add.

    The researchers were led by James Hansen, the director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was the first scientist to warn the US Congress about global warming.

    The other scientists were Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha and Gary Russell, also of the Goddard Institute, David Lea of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mark Siddall of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York.

    In their 29-page paper, "Climate Change and trace gases", the scientists frequently stray from the non-emotional language of science to emphasise the scale of the problems and dangers posed by climate change.

    In an email to The Independent, Dr Hansen said: "In my opinion, among our papers this one probably does the best job of making clear that the Earth is getting perilously close to climate changes that could run out of our control."

    The unnatural "forcing" of the climate as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases threatens to generate a "flip" in the climate that could "spark a cataclysm" in the massive ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, the scientists write.

    Dramatic flips in the climate have occurred in the past but none has happened since the development of complex human societies and civilisation, which are unlikely to survive the same sort of environmental changes if they occurred now.

    "Civilisation developed, and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end," the scientists warn. Humanity cannot afford to burn the Earth's remaining underground reserves of fossil fuel. "To do so would guarantee dramatic climate change, yielding a different planet from the one on which civilisation developed and for which extensive physical infrastructure has been built," they say.

    Dr Hansen said we have about 10 years to put into effect the draconian measures needed to curb CO2 emissions quickly enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperature. Otherwise, the extra heat could trigger the rapid melting of polar ice sheets, made far worse by the "albedo flip" - when the sunlight reflected by white ice is suddenly absorbed as ice melts to become the dark surface of open water.

    The glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland in the northern hemisphere, and the western Antarctic ice sheet in the south, both show signs of the rapid changes predicted with rising temperatures. "

    The albedo flip property of ice/water provides a trigger mechanism. If the trigger mechanism is engaged long enough, multiple dynamical feedbacks will cause ice sheet collapse," the scientists say. "We argue that the required persistence for this trigger mechanism is at most a century, probably less."

    The latest assessment of the IPCC published earlier this year predicts little or no contribution to 21st century sea level from Greenland or Antarctica, but the six scientists dispute this interpretation. "The IPCC analyses and projections do not well account for the nonlinear physics of wet ice sheet disintegration, ice streams and eroding ice shelves, nor are they consistent with the palaeoclimate evidence we have presented for the absence of discernible lag between ice sheet forcing and sea-level rise," the scientists say.

    Their study looked back over more than 400,000 years of climate records from deep ice cores and found evidence to suggest that rapid climate change over a period of centuries, or even decades, have in the past occurred once the world began to heat up and ice sheets started melting. It is not possible to assess the dangerous level of man-made greenhouse gases.

    "However, it is much lower than has commonly been assumed. If we have not already passed the dangerous level, the energy infrastructure in place ensures that we will pass it within several decades," the scientists say in their findings.

    "We conclude that a feasible strategy for planetary rescue almost surely requires a means of extracting [greenhouse gases] from the air."

    Further evidence emerges from Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Center in Colorado, who claims that the absence of ice on the Arctic Ocean during summer months would be a major contributor to global warming. Published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, Scambos and his co-authors drew on satellite data and visual evidence of Arctic ice to reach their conclusions, radically at variance to those that obtained from computer models used by the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The Arctic ice cap is melting much faster than expected and is now about 30 years ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.S. ice expert said Tuesday. This means the ocean at the top of the world could be free or nearly free of summer ice by 2020, three decades sooner than the global panel's gloomiest forecast of 2050.

    The world's refugees: " I feel humiliated": Christian Aid predicts that by 2050 there will be 1 billion people around the world displaced by global warming, dwarfing the number of those now fleeing conflicts and persecution -- nearly 10 million refugees and almost 25 million internally displaced people.

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by MATT MAson View Post
    This documentary has been heavily criticized, a lot of the people involved in it have since come out against it.

    Full story here:

    http://news.independent.co.uk/enviro...cle2347526.ece
    another nail in the coffin

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by elgato View Post
    This is pretty unambiguous:

    "Even though there is almost no argument among scientific circles about the role of human activities as the main driver of climate change, a recent poll suggested that the public still believes there is significant scientific uncertainty. Despite the efforts of government and campaigns such as Live Earth to educate the public, the Ipsos Mori poll of over 2,031 people, released this month, found 56% of people thought there was an active scientific debate into the causes of global warming.

    A spokesman for the Royal Society, the UK's leading scientific academy, said: "This is an important contribution to the scientific debate on climate change. At present there is a small minority which is seeking to deliberately confuse the public on the causes of climate change. They are often misrepresenting the science, when the reality is that the evidence is getting stronger every day. We have reached a point where a failure to take action to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions would be irresponsible and dangerous."

    Channel 4 and Martin Durkin, producer of The Great Global Warming Swindle, declined to comment."

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