Several scientists and environmentalists have recently published pictures of the future which, under “normal” circumstances would provoke some kind of dramatic response.
“Greenland ice sheet reflectivity at record low, particularly at high elevations”
Ice sheet reflectivity is crucial in that the opposite means greater heat absorbtion, which, in an area covered in ice and snow, becomes an irreversable loop. The system collapse has been caused by a mere 0.8 degree C global increase in temperatures, current trajectory is for a 4 – 6C average warming by 2100. Artic air temperatures have risen 4C since 1980 but this a minor factor. The chief culprit in “calving” events such as the glaciers shed from the Peterman Glacier in NW Greenland in 2010 and again this week in 2012 is WATER TEMPERATURE.
Peterman glacier ‘calving’ in 2010.
and below last week.
These events are a prime indicator of irrevrsible ice loss as NASA’s website indicates, caused by the 22,000,000,000 tonnes of CO2 human beings ‘force’ into the atmoshere. “Even if the ice declined a large amount in one year, it should bounce back,” says Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, research shows a permanent alteration. According to data from the past five years, the Arctic sea ice has not recovered from the 2007 extreme low. “The system has passed a tipping point,” he says.
Perhaps the most staggering image from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre (below) is this years ‘ice cover total’ and it’s departure (mostly on the Atlantic side) from the 1979 – 2000 average ice cover.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD, the same WATER TEMPERATURE INCREASE has even more dramatic effects ;
“A World Without Coral Reefs” was a New York Times op-ed last week by Roger Bradbury, expressing the very reasonable fear that Pacific Coral reef systems would collapse within a generation. Given the thin precarious temperature range under which pacific reefs survive, other oceanographers such as Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, have been long time outspoken advocates of a reduction of carbon emissions which is the root cause of ocean acidification. Other issues such as overfishing and shoreline pollution from land based uses and waste play destructive roles
Bill McKibben published a stunning article inviting readers to analyse 3 simple numbers which combine to provide “Global warming’s terrifying New Math”
2 degrees celsius.
The only significant agreement from the Copenhagen Climate Conference was to limit temperature increases to 2 degree or less. This provides a “carbon budget” to apply between 2009 and 2050.
The Second Number: 565 Gigatons
The “carbon budget” means humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The 565-gigaton figure was derived from one of the most sophisticated computer-simulation models that have been built by climate scientists around the world over the past few decades. And the number is being further confirmed by the latest climate-simulation models currently being finalized in advance of the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. CO2 emissions last year (2011) over 32 gigatones, at that rate, we’ll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years,
The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons
This number is the scariest of all, highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher
We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically aboveground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value.
CO2 emissions by fossil fuels [1 ppm CO2 ~ 2.12 GtC, where ppm is parts per million of CO2 in air and GtC isgigatons of carbon] via Hansen. Significantly exceeding 450 ppm risks several severe and irreversible warming impacts. [Estimated reserves and potentially recoverable resources are from U.S. EIA (2011) and German Advisory Council on Global Change (2011). We are headed toward 800 to 1,000+ ppm, which represents the near-certain destruction of modern civilization as we know it — as the recent scientific literature makes chillingly clear]