Dearth of the Oceans

An incomplete recording of the BBC Horizon programme “The Death of the Oceans ?” narrated by David Attenborough is below.

It’s about Global Warming, of course (and overfishing, and sonar making whales deaf – which is the bit that’s missing at the end). But it’s also about Global Warming’s evil twin – Ocean Acidification.

Believe what you will about the Anthropogenic component of Global Warming, and I know some of you resist the Science as if it were a hairy, sweaty, alcoholic dentist threatening to pull your teeth without Novocaine, but there’s no way you can deny that the increasing concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, most of it a direct result of humankind’s burning of Fossil Fuels, is turning the Oceans into a giant bucket of fizzy soda, and is threatening marine life, which is a huge risk to the whole of Life on Earth.

The only solution is to stop burning so much Coal, Oil and Gas. Really, that’s the only way.

Oh, you can fight this inevitability with every brain circuit you have, trying to force others to believe that everything’s still OK, that the Earth is not dangerously heating up, that Life on Land and in the Oceans is not on the cusp of mass extinction, and that Progress is just fine, and Economic Recovery, or Shiny New Technology, or Geoengineering will save us, but one day you will understand. You will accept. The global systems of production, transport and agriculture have to change. The Carbon-based Industrial Age will be gone in only a few decades, only a couple of hundred years after it started.

You can relax. Everything will be fine – eventually. When we have Wind Farms on every ridge top, Solar Power plants in every desert, Geothermal stations in our Town Halls, Combined Heat and Power running on Biomass in every street, Marine Power-gathering machines, Organic food, small electric cars, useful 24 hours-in-a-day networks of electricity-powered public transportation. The time is coming for the new human world to be born – and it will be green, clean and less energy-hungry than before.

It’s going to be a bit of a traumatic birth and the Climate Medics are working hard in the delivery suite, but soon, very soon, Green Investment will see the light of day – those who are wealthy will, as one, put their finances towards Renewable Energy and Energy-efficient machines and Energy Demand Management, real assets, with real returns on investment, and the future will be secured.

Part 1/4

See at top for video.

Part 2/4

Part 3/4

Part 4/4

Michaelmas Gracie

Welcome to little Gracie, born at Michaelmas.

By the time this child is five years old, the world should have agreed to control Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Net greenhouse gas emissions to air should have peaked, and be on the decline by the time this child starts school.

It’s up to us to care for our children.

If we don’t take steps to stop the ocean becoming increasingly acidic, we will have destroyed part of the food chain, and people will go hungry in greater numbers than they do now :-

“August 2010 : Scientific American Magazine : Threatening Ocean Life from the Inside Out; August 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Marah J. Hardt and Carl Safina : …As researchers, we were concerned about the underappreciated effects of changing ocean chemistry on the cells, tissues and organs of marine species. In laboratory experiments at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Havenhand had demonstrated that such changes could seriously impede the most fundamental strategy of survival: sex. Ocean acidification—a result of too much carbon dioxide reacting with seawater to form carbonic acid—has been dubbed “the other CO2 problem.” As the water becomes more acidic, corals and animals such as clams and mussels have trouble building their skeletons and shells. But even more sinister, the acidity can interfere with basic bodily functions for all marine animals, shelled or not. By disrupting processes as fundamental as growth and reproduction, ocean acidification threatens the animals’ health and even the survival of species. Time is running out to limit acidification before it irreparably harms the food chain on which the world’s oceans—and people—depend.”

And global warming will only make the problem worse :-

Letter : Nature Geoscience 2, 105 – 109 (2009)
Published online: 25 January 2009 : doi:10.1038/ngeo420

“Long-term ocean oxygen depletion in response to carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels”

Gary Shaffer, Steffen Malskær Olsen & Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen

“Abstract : Ongoing global warming could persist far into the future, because natural processes require decades to hundreds of thousands of years to remove carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning from the atmosphere. Future warming may have large global impacts including ocean oxygen depletion and associated adverse effects on marine life, such as more frequent mortality events, but long, comprehensive simulations of these impacts are currently not available. Here we project global change over the next 100,000 years using a low-resolution Earth system model, and find severe, long-term ocean oxygen depletion, as well as a great expansion of ocean oxygen-minimum zones for scenarios with high emissions or high climate sensitivity. We find that climate feedbacks within the Earth system amplify the strength and duration of global warming, ocean heating and oxygen depletion. Decreased oxygen solubility from surface-layer warming accounts for most of the enhanced oxygen depletion in the upper 500 m of the ocean. Possible weakening of ocean overturning and convection lead to further oxygen depletion, also in the deep ocean. We conclude that substantial reductions in fossil-fuel use over the next few generations are needed if extensive ocean oxygen depletion for thousands of years is to be avoided.”

Unpicking Kyoto (5)

Unpicking Kyoto
Jo Abbess
20 June 2010


CONTINUED FROM : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Linking Climate Change to other Environmental Problems

The Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from humankind’s activities is accumulating very rapidly in the Atmosphere, and this is why the international Climate Change negotiations and Climate Change Science focus on it so heavily.

The warming response of the Earth’s surface correlates strongly with the rise in Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere, so Global Warming can be treated almost entirely as the Earth system’s reaction to rising levels of this one gas.

Other Greenhouse Gases, such as Methane (CH4) and high level water vapour (H2O), are increasing in line with the rise in Carbon Dioxide.

Logic and experiment dictates that they are doing this in response to the rise in Carbon Dioxide, so their rise is a feedback effect in the Earth system – a reaction to rising temperatures – caused by the warming due to increasing airborne Carbon Dioxide.

However, Carbon Dioxide is not the only Greenhouse Gas that humankind is pumping into the Atmosphere in excess of natural levels – a rather famous example being that growing numbers of livestock are belching Methane that is adding to the up-tick on concentrations of Methane in the Atmosphere.

There are still high levels of various gaseous industrial pollution, some of which is in the form of Greenhouse Gases.

In addition, Global Warming is not the only environmental problem, although it is exacerbating other environmental problems.

Climate Change is an added stressor on natural habitats that are being degraded by pollution, bad land management and deforestation.

It seems obvious to take a step back to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and mesh together once more the environmental threads of the United Nations conventions : on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification.

Continue reading Unpicking Kyoto (5)

Vote For Your Favourite 2050 Beach

Use the power of your imagination to envision your favourite 2050 beach. South-facing, sunny, tropical hot, with crystal-clear waters, because all the fish have long since died.

I think Three Cliffs Bay in South Wales might be absolutely ideal :-

See the satellite image on : Google Maps

Oh, hang on. I’ve just checked with, and if there is anything like a metre’s sea level rise by then, most of the sandy beach will be under water :-

Oh well. Guess that’s the end of my fantasy future beach competition. All the best beaches will be washed away.

Little Green Critter News

It seems that anthropogenic interference with the atmosphere has undermined two important things :-

(a) The ability of phytoplankton to reproduce because of the heat and the acidity of the oceans – thereby compromising the base of the entire global food chain and, more seriously,

(b) By reducing the conditions for phytoplankton success, cutting off one of the “Carbon sinks” on the planet that we really need to soak up a proportion of the excess Carbon Dioxide that we are pumping into the air.

Currently, the world’s biomass processes somewhere between 40% and 50% of all humankind’s excess Carbon Dioxide emissions, the CO2 we have made by taking Fossil Fuels out of the ground and burning them.

If this Carbon sink becomes less effective, Global Warming will become much stronger, as there will be a faster build-up of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere.

Continue reading Little Green Critter News