Friday, 13 November 2015

Are we already geoengineering our planet?

So here I am again, sitting in the same library as in my last post and all my mind seems to do in this place in wander! Looking out the window at the massive storm which just went over our heads got me really thinking about how we can help intervene in climate change through a process called geoengineering.

Now I recently had a seminar at University discussing this topic in a great amount of depth and one question which has really stuck with me is 'Are we already geoengineering our planet?'. Obviously my first thought was no. We don't have any sci-fi type giant mirrors in space reflecting the suns light, we aren't putting chemicals into our atmosphere to reflect the suns radiation.....or are we?

The matter of the fact that with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that we are currently producing, we are ultimately obliviously undergoing geoengineering of our climate system. We are putting chemicals into our earth system which is having a knock on effect to the rest of the Earth's climate dynamics and changing the environment around us. The largest changes are arguably being seen around ice masses, especially with Northern Sea Ice retreat and the rapid decline in the extent of worldwide mountain glaciers.

So before you ask if we need to start geoengineering our planet to help prevent climate change, we already are, and it is arguably the cause of all of our problems we face right now.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

COP21: What is the significance? - Part III

As I am writing this, I'm sitting inside one of the biggest libraries in the UK, completely oblivious to what's going on in the world outside me at this very minute. All I currently have on my mind is what is going through the minds of the members attending COP21 and how are they going to help reduce climate change? Well I guess we will just have to wait and see because in just under a month, COP21 will be over, and a possible binding agreement may be in place for the leading nations to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions....finally!

If you want to know more about COP21 and their plans, please look at part I and II of this blog post.

So with potential to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions to a safe and manageable level, it could be expected that global warming rates will begin to slow in the future and the overall damage to this planet can be mitigated.

So what happens to the ice if global rates of warming are reduced?

Well its safe to say that no one actually knows. One fact is for sure though, the carbon we have emitted through the burning of fossil fuels is already in our system and, safe to say, its difficult to remove it. The damaging gases which have already been emitted have cemented their position within the earth system and it will be thousands of years until the CO2 levels will eventually fall back to safe levels. Carbon is now stuck in our system forever unless we remove it.. So unfortunately for the ice, its fighting a losing battle. Realistically, we are still going to lose a large amount of our global ice cover in the next 100 years.

An excellent simulation by National Geographic on what the world would look like if all the ice melts.

COP21 is only attempting to mitigate future negative impacts further greenhouse gas emissions will produce and yes, maybe in thousands of years time when we have finally reduced the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, we may see sea and land ice formation again. However, who knows, we may have already destroyed our planet by then, have we left it too late?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

COP21: What is the significance? - Part II

With it looking hopeful that nations will create a binding agreement for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at COP21 is Paris this December, this could be very good news for the Earth in general.

With a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it could be projected that the long term rates of global warming may significantly be reduced and "buy us more time". However, I do say the rates of global warming may be reduced and not that this will help stop climate change.

A reduction is greenhouse gas emissions to a safe level is theoretically 'Earth management'. By this I'm implying that we will see the consequences of our actions (through increased global temperatures), but this so called 'Earth management' is making the best of a bad situation and making sure that the temperature increase does not reach that of unprecedented levels and the increase remains as low as it possibly can. Put simply, a reduction in greenhouse gases to safe levels is only really undergoing the process of damage limitation, and making sure the effects don't get worse.

We will still notice global warming due to the delay in effects noticed by the damage we have already done to our planet, but COP21 plans on attempting to make sure we don't make any more mistakes regarding polluting our atmosphere.

Now I did promise I would get onto talking about the positives COP21 will bring about to "the melting world", but I wanted to convey this idea that COP21 will not fix global warming, but it has the potential to reduce the long term impacts on this planet, hence the term 'damage limitation'. Part III will go into the benefits COP21 can bring to cold environments both short and long term.

COP21: What is the significance? - Part I

We are slowly approaching what could be one of the most influential and important climate conferences ever held. COP21 is being held is Paris this December.

For those of you who currently do not know about the purpose of these COP events (this being the 21st one) this post will attempt to answer the question, along with the benefits to aiding in the reduction of melting ice masses (which can be found in the second part to this blog post).

COP21 in Paris Logo

The purpose of these COP events is to monitor the world's progress in coping with climate change, and to propose new methods of attempting to reduce individual nations greenhouse gas emissions to lessen the effects of global warming.

COP21 has been much anticipated and there appears to be a large amount of "hype" surrounding the conference. This is because the impact greenhouse gas emissions are having on rates of global warming seemed to have been acknowledged by many sovereign states. The cause of this is due to the large body of empirical evidence which now surrounds the subject, provided by scientists such as Thomas Karl to name just one of thousands.

Protesters at COP20 who believe nations are not doing enough

Diana Liverman has gone to the extent that the idea we are undergoing climatic changes has gone "From Uncertain to Unequivocal".

Now the summit aims to create a binding agreement between nations. This agreement will aid in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions so that the 2 degrees Celsius global temperature increase which is predicted is not breached. Above this, it is thought that the health of the planet can be severely altered and damaged.

So COP21 appears to be the turning point in nations attitudes to climate change and the impacts we are having on our planet, but realistically, will anything truly happen? Or will it just be another policy nations don't listen to? I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Secondary impacts of melting Arctic sea ice: Did you know all 7 of them?

In my view, TEDx videos are such a great way to spread the word of scientific research to the global community for free. Here is a perfect example which is applicable to the last blog and counter arguments to it. David Barber is a professor at the University of Manitoba and produces some information not many people actual know about the Arctic sea.

He provides secondary impacts of the melting sea ice including the opening of shipping lanes and polar bear population depletion, but, there are 5 other facts and implications (not mentioned in my blogs) many people didn't know about the consequences of shrinking Arctic sea ice.

Give this a watch and tell me what you think!

Is it all Doom and Gloom?

As many of you are aware, the recent interest in the "Melting North" has seen both positive and negative press. In this blog I'm going to focus on the very controversial positives this issue has seen in recent decades. I don't plan to give a full in-depth analysis on the topic at hand but give you a slight insight into this much debated topic.

As some of us know, putting aside all the humanitarian and wildlife issues which surround this topic, benefits are already being seen from the retreating annual northern sea ice. Not only have governmental bodies highlighted the economic benefits of the melting ice, but scientific authors have also built upon this knowledge in the benefits of the Northwest Passage opening.

We are currently living in a ever more capitalist world, where growth is a focal point for many sovereign states. The opening of the Northwest Passage comes to the joy of these nations due to the reduction in cutting shipping costs, as travel time is nearly halved between Europe and Asia. Having said this, you cannot ignore the fact that the problems this has caused regarding the questionable extent of a nations borders into the Arctic sea, but I will go into further depth on this topic in a blog in the near future.

A company handout photograph shows the oil production platform at the Sakhalin-I field in Russia, partly owned by ONGC Videsh Ltd., Rosneft Oil Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Japan's Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Co.

With the retreat of the Arctic sea ice extent, it means greater areas of under-sea land are available to access on an annual basis. Global companies such as Exxon have invested billions of US$ into mineral exploration in the increasingly ice free Beaufort Sea. Further more, Shell have invested near on $7 billion in the hunt for oil in the Arctic and Alaskan seas. I think its key to remember that I have only mentioned two companies with an interest in mineral exploration in the Arctic sea and there will be hundreds with a great interest if mineral extraction in the Arctic sea becomes the norm.

Only recently, Obama blocked proposals for further exploitation in the Alaskan coastal Arctic oceans in an attempt to slow the negative impacts of mineral exploitation.

I have only mentioned two positives of the retreating Arctic sea ice but there are a handful of others. Yes there is controversy around them and no I don't necessarily agree that they are both positive to the global community, but this blog just highlights that there are some positives to what is a global crisis in my eyes.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Where are the "Pole-ice" when you need them!

Where’s the "Pole-ice" when you need them!

Polar bears .... are in danger!!
Photo and fact provided by Green Peace

This was a striking post made by a member of Green Peace and it really got me thinking if this fact was correct. I have always been concerned about human impacts on the Arctic, whether it’s for mineral exploitation, removal of indigenous tribes from their land or the stresses the melting icecaps are having on the daily lives of Arctic creatures. Yet with all these issues climate change and human activity is having on the Arctic, little seems to be being done to help slow down the impacts. I mean, after all, the only reason we are seeing these increased rates of Arctic change is arguably down to human impacts on the global system, but why is nothing being done about it?

This is why we need the “Pole-ice” to get involved, in which I’m referring to leading governing bodies and industries to take immediate action on a global scale to retard the production of harmful emissions and human activity in the Arctic which is inherently destroying these pristine habitats. Not only is the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases good for the Arctic biome, but for the global population themselves. Putting aside all the secondary effects of climate change, one primary issue which impacts everyone is the health issues associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions. It is predicted that if we don’t reduce our carbon emissions, 3,000,000 premature deaths may occur due to health issues by 2100.

So it’s not only the fluffy things which look like candy floss that are being affected, millions of people are affected every year by the changing climate. So I say again, where are the “Pole-ice” when you need them?