“I am aware that my arrival last week helped re-elect President Obama.
Superstorms like me don’t play politics but it should be clear by now that your refusal to tackle global warming has serious consequences. Higher sea levels and amped-up hurricanes like me are just two of them. There is an awful price to pay for burning coal, oil, and natural gas I’m sorry to say.
Putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is trapping more of the sun’s heat energy. CO2 is the planet’s natural heating blanket but those extra hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 has made that blanket thicker. And it is getting thicker every year.
Nearly 200 people were killed in the 10 days I traveled from Jamaica to Canada. Most of the deaths were American. The US remains by far the largest emitter of CO2. With a fraction of the world population, the US is responsible for nearly 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from 1860 to 2009. On a person by person basis, Americans have one of the biggest CO2 ‘footprints’.”
Killing nearly 200 people in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean and crippling much of New York City and surrounding areas earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy was the kind of extreme weather event scientists have long predicted will occur with global warming.
“Climate change is a reality,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after Sandy swept through his state.
Sandy was twice the size of an average hurricane, and it hit the eastern coast of the United States, where sea levels have been rising the fastest, said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Researchin Boulder, Colorado.
“All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be,” Trenberth, an expert on extreme events, told IPS.
Whether climate change caused Hurricane Sandy is the wrong question to ask, added Trenberth. He explained that climate change helped make Hurricane Sandy more destructive than it otherwise would have been.
“This is the new normal,” Trenberth said. “It doesn’t make sense to rebuild in some regions – they’ll just be swept away again.”
Earlier I called myself a hybrid storm: part nature, part human. That’s not quite right. Humans and Hurricanes are part of nature. We both thrive on this planet thanks to sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Hurricanes and tropical storms have been around for millions of years. In the last 50 years things have changed. The oceans are warmer. This week the waters off the US east coast were 3 degrees C warmer than normal.
Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.
Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.
In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.
Riebesell added that it was also possible “phytoplankton could adapt”.
Researchers were surprised to discover that diatoms, one of the most important and abundant types of phytoplankton, fared very badly during shipboard experiments conducted by co-author Kunshan Gao, from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, Xiamen China.
Previous experiments in labs like Riebesell’s found that diatoms actually did better in high-acid seawater, unlike most other shell- forming plankton. Burning fossil fuels has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic researchers discovered less than 10 years ago. Oceans absorb one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from using fossil fuels.
The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry. Continue reading →
As the last of my winds and rains ebb I wish you a complete and climate-wise recovery. Our planet is not as it once was. You have seen some of the changes in your lifetime: the superstorms, floods, drought, heat waves, and the melting of the Arctic.
Other changes are invisible such as the30 percent increase in the acidity of the oceans. This rising acidity is harming coral reefs, fish and many other inhabitants of the oceans. One third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it makes them more acidic.
All of these changes and far more with only 0.8C (1F) rise in global temperature. You want to believe all of this is natural. It is true I am part of nature but I have felt and fed off the extra heat energy in the oceans and additional moisture in the air you have unintentionally put there. The air, oceans, landscape have changed. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.
Mexico and Central America look like they are covered in dried blood on maps projecting future soil moisture conditions.
The results from 19 different state-of-the-art climate models project extreme and persistent drought conditions (colored dark red-brown on the maps) for almost all of Mexico, the midwestern United States and most of Central America.
If climate change pushes the global average temperature to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels, as many experts now expect, these regions will be under severe and permanent drought conditions.
Future conditions are projected to be worse than Mexico’s current drought or the U.S. Dust Bowl era of the 1930s that forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate.
“Drought conditions will prevail no matter what precipitation rates are in the future,” said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. government research centre in California.
“Even in regions where rainfall increases, the soils will get drier. This is a very robust finding,” Wehner told Tierramérica.
Without major reductions in carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, global temperatures will increase to at least 2.5 degrees of warming between 2050 and 2090, depending on rates of emissions of greenhouse gases, climate sensitivity and feedbacks. Continue reading →