Thursday, 31 December 2015

Are we going to save the worlds "ice-cubes" according to COP21?

Well after a stressful month of both work, family and of course Christmas, I have been writing blogs but not yet posted them, but don't worry climate enthusiasts, they will be coming over the next few days!

To start with, I want to continue on fro my last blog post, is COP21 really going to help the cryosphere? For those that are unsure of what COP21 aimed to achieve, check my previous blogs OR you can watch this simple video of the overview of COP21.

Obviously, attempting to come to a global binding agreement with nearly 200 nations, with lets be honest, some people who really don't like each other is difficult by any means, but the overall outcome is that it appears we have taken a step in the right direction in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in aim or reducing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

However, will COP21 really help in saving the remaining ice on this planet? In my opinion, I simply feel its too little too late for the alpine glaciers and Arctic sea ice due to their volatility to slight increases in temperature. It was only in early 2000's that no Swiss glaciers were recorded to be advancing and only 5% of glaciers in Italy were growing. Even a 2 degree increase in global temperatures has been proposed to impact higher altitudes greater than previously expected. From my dissertation research in Switzerland, it was clear that glaciers are extremely sensitive to any warming as increased melt water increases the rate of glacial ablation. Because of this, I believe that COP21 will not help alpine glaciers as the warming is still going to occur. If we want to save the worlds alpine glaciers, warming needs to stop sooner rather than later.

The Arctic sea in my opinion faces the same fate. Arctic sea ice has undergone dramatic changes in recent year, including thinning of the ice pack, reduction in ice area coverage, and record minimum September ice cover. It is suggested by Holland et al. (2006) and Lindsay and Zhang, (2005) that we have reached a "tipping point" where positive feedback's lead to a continuous reduction in Arctic sea ice extent. Even if we managed to miraculously reduce warming to the 2 degree level, the Arctic Ice will still retreat until eventually gone due to these positive feedback loops including albedo.

So with it clear that Alpine and Arctic sea ice is still likely to disappear over the next century, warming reductions cannot save these ice masses, and the melting world just worsens with each passing day.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

COP21: The outcome

COP21 has finally ended. After two weeks of global negotiations between nearly 200 nations, a final agreement has been finalised and signed. This may sound all well and good, but how effective was COP21? and where do we need to improve?

So, the aim of COP21 was to reduce global emissions to a safe and manageable level, in order that the mean global temperature doesn't exceed a 2 degrees centigrade increase by the end of the century. I have some bad and good news for you. If the nations abide by their promises, the predicted global increase in temperature will decrease by only 0.9 degrees centigrade to 2.7 degrees centigrade. This can be seen as a monumental step towards the right direction, and is crucially a historic step to dealing with an issue which could have been much worse.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Hollande (Image: Reuters)
Celebrations between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and French President Hollande after the deal was made. Source: BBC News

Some countries who attended COP21 debated that a stricter target should be in place of 1.5 degrees centigrade, however, to what extent this is achievable is questionable as we have already reached the 1 degree increase boundary.

From what it seems, politicians appear to be extremely happy with the agreement with Obama stating " Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one”, "What matters is today we can be confident that this planet will be in better shape for the next generation and that is what I care about". However, this is not in agreement with environmentalist such as the WWF who believe action should be taken quicker.

But how much of the agreement is binding? And how much funding is proposed to be raised?

Now the agreement is not what people first though it would be. Unfortunately, it is not all legally binding. Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now boldly stated that "Nothing is binding". In my opinion, he's not far wrong. The targets set by the nations are not binding under COP21 but submitting an emissions reduction target and regular reviews of that goal will be binding. Observers of COP21 said that what happened this year was one of the reasons why Copenhagen failed in 2009.

However, I believe that the media presence and with the global eye on COP21, this agreement has shown solidarity between nations to overcome an issue which is ultimately effecting us all.

In part II, I will go into detail about the money raised and where it will go, and fundamentally, how will it help in slowing the melting world?

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Sea Level Rise: Time to learn how to swim!

With COP21 now fully under way, hopefully a global plan in the reduction in CO2 emissions to a safe and manageable level is currently being made. However, what if COP21 doesn't reach the necessary cuts to emissions? What will happen to the melting world if these cuts aren't made and can we adapt? 

It is well understood that the scientific community acknowledges that anthropogenic emissions are speeding up the processes of global warming. But what I didn't know until a recent piece of coursework I undertook is the vast extent of literature which backs up this idea. I could give you links to all the academic research which proves this but the list is endless, the two links above show the most relevant papers in my eyes which provide compelling cases to prove that humans are a large cause of global warming through the increased carbon emissions. 

GCMs Showing the future potential seal level rise by NASA

Behind increasing global temperatures, the next biggest consequence of anthropogenic warming is increased ea level rise. Stefan Rahmstorf  predicts that sea level rise could reach 1.4m by 2100, but to give you an idea of the damage this will cause this global sea level rise map shows dramatic impacts to coastal and estuarine environments globally, with a large proportion of the north west coast of continental Europe underwater. 

You may be thinking that 1.4m sea level rise isn't bad at all, but if all the land and sea ice melts, it is predicted global seas will rise by 70m. This is what we are heading towards if we don't stop the current rates of global warming on our planet, and this will impact more than just coastal and estuarine environments. Most of the southern states of North America would be under water, Half of Europe would be flooded, the UK would be mostly underwater, and those pacific islands everyone likes to honeymoon to? well they will by a scuba diving relic at 220 feet deep. I have already used this but National Geographic produced a shocking interactive sea level rise map showing the regions which would be inundated if the global ice melted. It really is shocking. 

So all I want to say to the leaders at COP21, please try and sort out an agreement to stop this future drastic impact of sea level rise or it will be all of us paying the price.