Hell & High Water
Climate Change cause of falling plankton levels?
Research published in “Nature” last year shows a 40% fall in phytoplankton levels since 1950. While plankton levels are known to fluctuate wildly the authors claim that their study, an analysis over half a million records running back to the 1890's and modern satellite measurements, allows for short term variations. The work found a correlation between falling plankton levels and warmer seas.
Microscopic plankton is vital to the marine food chain - its also responsible for producing half of the world's oxygen and responsible for absorbing large quantities of the world's carbon dioxide. If the results of the study are confirmed this could be the single most disturbing finding of the year.
The world's oceans are also the world's biggest carbon sink – and have played an important role slowing the increase in concentration of man made greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Plunging phytoplankton levels would affect the sea's ability to absorb carbon, destroy marine food chains and cut the amount of oxygen being fed back into the atmosphere.
Permafrost is not as permanent as we thought.
Evidence that vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores are destabilizing and venting is growing. One of the biggest fears is that global warming may cause “amplifying feedbacks” (by raising the temperature, carbon previously locked away in the form of peat bogs, drought induced dieback of trees and plants bushfires and warming seas will raise carbon dioxide levels still higher, creating a malign spiral of higher concentrations of greenhouses gasses, higher temperatures and even more emissions from biological sources)
Another “Science” paper shows that the “lid” capping a large area of permafrost in Eastern Siberia has been perforated and that methane, is being released. Methane is 25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 100 year life cycle but 70 times more potent over 20 years. It's estimated 1.5 trillion tons of methane are locked away in the tundra freezer – even a fraction of this methane has the potential to cause runaway warming, most of it is locked away in the areas of the planet that are warming most rapidly.
No current climate change model factors in feedback from methane locked up by tundra ice. A National Science Foundation press release commenting on the research (March 2010) describe concentrations of methane in seawater 250 times higher than background levels in the summer and 1,400 times higher in the winter.
Dust Bowl Europe
Extreme drought could become commonplace by the mid 21 century according to a study published by the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). It uses uses a common measure, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, (PDSI) negative numbers show drier than average conditions and positive numbers wetter than average. The PDSI during the dust bowl era spiked at -6 but averaged at -3 over the decade. The the NCAR study predicts far severe drought conditions over large areas of of the USA, Africa, China and the Mediterranean Basin, supporting earlier predictions of “global drought”. Last years droughts in Russia had a severe impact on world grain prices and this years drought in the USA and Northern Europe looks set to affect grain yields again. These are effects of climate change that are happening now – not in 10 or 20 or a hundred years time
Acidifying Seas "could cause mass extinction event"
Carbon pollution isn't just a global warming issue. The world's oceans are acidifying more quickly than at any time in the last 65 million years Every year the world’s oceans absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide – if it weren't for this massive carbon sink sea the planet would already be far warmer than it is now. The price we pay for increasing the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the sea is increased oceanic acidity. A Nature Geoscience study concludes that today, oceans are acidifying 10 times faster than 55 million years ago, an era of mass marine extinctions.
Other studies suggest that, because the rate of change is so much more rapid than those experienced at the end of the Cretaceous era 65 million years ago the current changes may have even more powerful impacts. As the sea becomes more acid less calcium carbonate is available to form the shells of marine life, ranging from tiny planktons to corals and crustaceans. These are the lifeforms at the bottom of the food chain. A population collapse here will have a catastrophic effect on the rest of the marine eco-system – risking dead seas and depriving future generations of the sea's food resources.
Sea levels could be 7 feet higher by the end of the century
New research suggests sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated and could be 6 to 7 feet by 2100. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimated worst case scenario for 2100 sea level rises may be tripled.
Numerous studies are suggesting that sea level rises could be between 1.4 and 1.9 metres as Arctic and Antarctic ice melts far more rapidly than predicted - The impacts of sea level rises of this magnitude would be immense, most of the worlds great cities, ports, many power stations, oil refineries and best agricultural land is at or close to sea level. Adopting a sustainable economic model isn't just vital for the environment – cost is often cited as a reason for sticking to the status quo – but the cost of building a sustainable infrastructure is tiny compared to the cost of allowing runaway climate change.
All the links to the research supporting this item can be found at Climate Progress