Tag Archives: greenhouse gases

Amusing Monday: Snowmen could become victims of climate change

In the video “Save Our Snowmen,” frozen creatures are migrating to cooler regions of the Earth on a mission that could affect their very survival. This amusing video instills an unusual sympathy for snowmen while raising a legitimate concern about climate change in a humorous way.

Various locations, such as Puget Sound, are likely to see some species displaced while others find a new niche as the climate undergoes a continuing change. Mass migration is less likely than population shifts due to predator-prey and disease pressures. I’ve covered some outstanding reports on this topic from the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. See Water Ways, Dec. 1, 2015.

The video also draws attention to the producer of this video, Cool Effect, which was founded by Dee and Richard Lawrence on the idea that small actions can mushroom and result in significant declines in greenhouse gases. The group’s motto: “Changing the world, one small step at a time.”

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Computer model shows colorful swirls as winds blow carbon dioxide

An ultra-high-resolution computer model ties weather into greenhouse gas emissions, and the resulting animation shows whirling and shifting plumes of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Ultimately, the greenhouse gases disperse into the atmosphere, increasing concentrations across the globe and contributing to global warming. It’s almost too complex to comprehend, but it is a fascinating process.

As you can see from the video, carbon dioxide levels are more significant in the Northern Hemisphere, where the emissions are out of phase with the Southern Hemisphere. That’s because the seasons are opposite, with the maximum growth of vegetation taking place at different times.

The reds and purples are the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide. The dark grays denote the highest levels of carbon monoxide, caused mainly by large forest fires.

Bill Putman, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said it a prepared statement:

“While the presence of carbon dioxide has dramatic global consequences, it’s fascinating to see how local emission sources and weather systems produce gradients of its concentration on a very regional scale. Simulations like this, combined with data from observations, will help improve our understanding of both human emissions of carbon dioxide and natural fluxes across the globe.”

The animation was produced with data from measurements of atmospheric conditions plus the emission of greenhouse gases, both natural and man-made. The simulation, called “Nature Run,” covers a period May 2005 to June 2007. Engineers can use the model, called GEOS-5, to test satellite observations.

In July, NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite to make global, space-based carbon observations. The additional data will add to Earth-based measurements. See also OCO-2 Mission Overview.

According to studies, last spring was the first time in modern history that carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million across most of the Northern Hemisphere. Concentrations are continuing to rise, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. Levels were about 270 ppm before the Industrial Revolution.

The GEOS-5 computer model is being used in tests known as Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSE), which can help satellite observations tie into weather and climate forecasts.

Said Putnam:

“While researchers working on OSSEs have had to rely on regional models to provide such high-resolution Nature Run simulations in the past, this global simulation now provides a new source of experimentation in a comprehensive global context. This will provide critical value for the design of Earth-orbiting satellite instruments.”

For more detailed views involving various parts of the world, see “A Closer Look at Carbon Dioxide” on NASA’s website for “Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2.” For information about modeling, visit the website of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

U.S. Navy becomes serious about climate change

If the world’s leaders were to learn that all civilizations on Earth were going to be attacked by alien beings from outer space, and if they knew they had only a few years to respond, what do you think they would do?

Would they search for evidence to show that aliens could not possibly exist, declare the idea a hoax and insist that any defense of our planet would not be worth the cost? Or would they study ALL the evidence, analyze the risks and look for the best way to address the uncertain crisis?

I keep thinking about this hypothetical alien scenario when I hear certain members of Congress ignoring climate change and essentially spitting in the face of climate scientists by calling their best research a “hoax.”

Greenhouse warming may seem like an alien concept to some people, but here’s my point: If you run and hide until the aliens have landed, you face a much greater peril than if you face the problem in a practical way.

Now I’m all for discussing the many uncertainties — such as how high ocean waters may rise under various assumptions. But please don’t tell me that some basement scientist has disproved the idea that temperatures are rising or has shown that humans could not possibly affect the Earth’s climate.

Here’s what I’m wondering: Would those who turn their backs on climate change act the same way if the entire Earth were under attack from a common enemy? Maybe our nation’s leaders would be better able to deal with a direct attack, uncomplicated by the uncertainties of science.

That’s more than I wanted to say about people who choose to ignore climate change. What I really wanted to write about is the U.S. Navy’s serious approach to the topic, which can provide an example for the rest of us.

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EPA brandishes power on chemical and climate fronts

Over the past two days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made rather historic decisions on two fronts: a new process for reviewing potentially toxic chemicals and a precision attack on greenhouse gases.

FIRST ISSUE: On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a regulatory change for dealing with chemical safety. View her remarks made at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where she said:

“A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation in our history… Our kids are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before we even give them solid food.

“Now, some chemicals may be risk-free at the levels we are seeing. I repeat: some chemical may be risk-free. But as more and more chemicals are found in our bodies and the environment, the public is understandably anxious and confused. Many are turning to government for assurance that chemicals have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks haven’t been ignored.

“Right now, we are failing to get this job done. Our oversight of the 21st century chemical industry is based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. It was an important step forward at the time… But over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it’s supposed to regulate – it’s been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects.”

Some of the proposed changes will require legislation, others will not. But here’s an outline of the “Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation”:

  • Chemicals should be reviewed against risk-based safety standards based on sound science and protective of human health and the environment.
  • Manufacturers should provide EPA with the necessary information to conclude that new and existing chemicals are safe and do not endanger public health or the environment.
  • EPA should have clear authority to take risk management actions when chemicals do not meet the safety standard…
  • Manufacturers and EPA should assess and act on priority chemicals, both existing and new, in a timely manner.
  • Green Chemistry should be encouraged and provisions assuring transparency and public access to Information should be strengthened.
  • EPA should be given a sustained source of funding for implementation.

As we have discussed, EPA has never before tried to regulate greenhouse gases.

To read more:

EPA news release: “EPA Administrator Jackson Unveils New Administration Framework for Chemical Management Reform in the United States”
OMB Watch: “Transparency Provisions Wanting in New Chemical Management ‘Principles'”
San Francisco Chronicle: “EPA wants more oversight on chemicals”
Environmental Health News: “EPA unveils plan to review 6 controversial chemicals, reform US toxics policy”

SECOND ISSUE: Yesterday, at the California Governor’s Global Climate Summit, Jackson announced that large industrial facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of green house gases a year would need permits to ensure that best available control technologies are being used.

Among her comments at the summit was this statement:

“This rule allows us to do what the Clean Air Act does best – reduce emissions for better health, drive technology innovation for a better economy, and protect the environment for a better future – all without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.”

Jackson’s comments came only hours after U.S. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., rolled out a new climate bill. Kerry, quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “We’re geared to move this and hopefully get it to the floor before (the Copenhagen summit.) I think we’re going to make it.”

Reaction:

The New York Times: “EPA Moves to Curtail Greenhouse Gas Emissions”
Dallas Morning News: “EPA moves to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from major polluters”
National Petrochemical & Refiners Association: “NPRA Believes EPA Lacks Legal Authority to Raise GHG Permitting Threshold”