Looking Forward to What?

Week 8: Looking Ahead  The last week of the course; I have managed to get to the end even if a bit behind schedule as usual. So, the title of my first post in this blog was also the title used for one of the last parts of the course: Welcome to the Anthropocene! DSC_0111 DSC_0129Defining the Anthropocenethis site has all you need to know, courtesy of the British Geological Society.  There’s a great diagram at this part of the site.  Click on the diagram to see it properly/print it.

How will Sea Level Change Affect YOU?  

I live some 75+ m asl just to the north of Glasgow. The excellent SEPA online maps (see Sepa’s site) show flood risk at present, as I understand it, and have our area in the clear for the moment. But the disruption to livelihood and lives that has already begun, I think, will continue to impact on us hereabouts: transport disruption, increasing isolation of communities, questions about the viability of protecting everyone’s homes are already out there in open discussion. Examples would be the road links with the various peninsulas in Argyll, many at or close to sl, and the many homes alongside the lengthy coastline of these deeply indented sea lochs. More islands ahead! And the more extreme weather will exacerbate sea level impacts. Turning in the other direction, much of the city of Glasgow with its communications and industrial (yes, industry remains) infrastructure not to mention homes and livelihoods will be affected. The diversion of resources to plan for and cope with these changes as they evolve will likely impact on the use of resources elsewhere, diminishing the quality of provision of services. I think I want to talk to my local council about planning policy for sea level change.

KatrineAutmn     04082012461

Carbon Footprint

There are lots of places you can find the means to calculate your carbon footprint. This one was given in the course. Oh dear, no I’m not surprised that the figures for us are not so brilliant. Good news? Below the overall average for those with similar houses and below the national average; the average uses more C at home than we do but uses less for travel. Our house has various measures but that’s not really the point. Last year’s travel was the highest mileage ever. We walk and  bus/train a great deal now we’re retired but thinking of my former working lifestyle – 20+ miles each way into the middle reaches of Central Scotland, no public transport that takes less than 1.5 hours each way, needed to go to meetings from school c 2/3 times a week, 20 mile round trip school/ Ed HQ, at work  long hours most days – I could have had a smaller car but would have struggled to make other changes. But the hard stuff will have to be faced. We cycle a bit but the dark cool wet windy months (as against the light cool wet windy months!!) here are frightening on a bike in your 60s, so it’s hard to see cycling as other than a leisure activity for us. Looked at hybrid cars recently and still found them very costly to buy, so passed them by, again; maybe should not have. So, trying to limit flying and turning down the thermostat seem like the most effective ways to cut emissions…..  

The End

Can I just say thanks? The course team are brilliant. The feedback videos have been a highlight, it’s just great to watch Prof Tim in action (if I can keep up…). It’s been positively inspiring to ‘hear’ so many fellow students give their views and experiences. I have learned so much, and will endeavour to keep doing so.

This last couple of weeks I’ve been quite evangelical about MOOCs in general and this one in particular. It’s quite a wrench to contemplate NOT looking at the activity feed on the FutureLearn site with a cup of tea of a morning! It’s an absolute privilege. I have been inspired to try to make some changes and I hope to maintain that, little by little.

Key quotes from Prof Tim Lenton in the last video of the course – stirring stuff:

“How we live now matters.”

“Our choices will determine whether we’re all right or not. It’s up to us.”

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Towards the New World

Week 7 is about mitigating the extent of climate change and adapting our lives to the new reality – and we’ll probably need to do both.

Building design: this section asked us to explore some aspects of building design and changes being made to existing houses largely to be more energy efficient but also to some extent to adapt to the new world order e.g. ventilation and cooling.

I believe it’s OK to publicise a company based in Argyll who have built a development of “affordable” houses  near Dunoon, Tigh Na Cladach (house by the shore). Here is a link to the house builder’s site: this site – I know absolutely no-one at the company and have no interest (in the axe-to-grind sense) in the company whatever. At present, Street View shows the 10 homes, 5 blocks of  semi detached beach-hut style houses, under construction but someone has posted pictures on Google Earth at 55 deg 56′ 00.96″ N 4 deg 56′ 12.08″ W (ish). The interesting thing about these houses is that one meets the PassivHaus criteria, and others carry many features of similar high standard, in spite of some challenges including: not the best aspect, tall and thin… Info on construction at this site as well.  I am sure other builders are doing/have done similar things.

Green roofs are not uncommon in parts of Scotland as they are in other northern locations, though some that I’ve seen are high(er) end holiday rentals such as these http://www.stay-hebrides.com/#     cottages on the island of Harris (again, no connection with the company or house owner). Regret have only passed by this one! One I’ve seen a few times over the years is a green roofed house in Glen Feshie, near Auchlean or Balnascriten – can’t find picture, not sure if still as was. Also Glasgow Univ Vet School Small Animal Hospital, on Google Earth at 55 deg 54′ 14.66″N, 4 deg 19′ 18.36W.

Our house was built in 1959 in what is pure big-window-ed suburbia! We have cavity wall insulation, double glazing (not triple nor special glass), loft insulation, new-ish boiler (6 years), wood burner and solar PV panels (some plumbing challenges for solar hot water, sorry) – photo below; you are up against the legacy design issues at every turn, and in spite of government incentives we could only get this far after retirement. But why should these changes be made mostly by  people like me and not by others e.g. those less well off?


New house designs and retrofit measures  can  address issues of fuel poverty as well as of energy efficiency.  Examples of innovative energy efficient design of social housing might be harder to come by (there are so few being built?) but there are many positives: groups of houses on the island of Barra with air-source heat pumps, lots of buildings in Faifley, a 50s housing scheme in Clydebank with PV panels – see  Newspaper article.  The context for non-local readers is that Scotland has high levels of fuel poverty and has an important social housing sector. This is the positive side of the concern that energy efficiency measures are more financially than ecologically/morally motivated.

Final thought: I am envious of well designed work places, mine got to a brain stultifying 30 deg C + of a sunny Sept pm! Aarghh!

Not In My Backyard: how hard it can be to develop wind farms etc

I feel place attachment: I have a sense of identity and emotional link to the lovely places near me, among others. I find wind turbines attractive and am now accustomed to them on the skyline all round Glasgow. Marine wind farms look positive to me from many viewpoints, not least scale. Friends in Germany have turbines very close to their home and I can  sleep well there, no disturbance. But nearby are many of the Tagebaue round Leipzig where lignite is open-casted for power generation.

A village near us has a great energy saving/generating profile and had a clever way of getting its turbine. http://www.fintrydt.org.uk/the-wind-turbine/ Every little bit helps but we need the big installations – wind, tide, wave – and the research to continue on the likes of wave and tide.

People really do see what they want to see: humans have  inbuilt confirmation bias – also why it’s so hard for climate change believers and deniers (shorthand) to impact upon one another, I think!  Sometimes clear explanations of a situation don’t crack it: people may need some sort of Damascene moment, a tipping point of their own, before change can be contemplated let alone implemented. The trick might be  to find ways to communicate that reach  some centre of personal commitment or identity and light a little fire there.

People feel place attachment to their own wee spot. Earth as backyard: that was the effect of seeing the Earthrise Dec 1968 image (and hearing the words “….on the good Earth”). See it here. Everyone has to feel they can do something but the big things need to be pushed for collectively.

Community Benefits Packages

Some people think of these as bribes to a community to accept a wind turbine development. I’d like to see them operate more creatively in terms of real and ongoing value to communities. But probably money needs to be subsidiary to engagement/ownership and long term benefit when considering alternative energy sites.


Nimbys in Action: the title of this bit of the course

I chose to consider  a local group opposed to wind farm development in two specific cases and perhaps now more generally (though I’m not sure). There are real fears among those in leisure and tourism that wind farms could lead to financial loss where few other employment opportunities exist, while on a grand scale such as the landscape around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs or the Cairngorms there can be held to be a presumption against such a development – planning input from National Parks? – though not the case in adjacent areas. Having said all that, I believe visitors are more turbine tolerant than residents (especially perhaps those recently arrived? – anecdotal!), and bodies such as RSPB have policies, I think,  that advocate full  assessment including wildlife impact of each project rather than a blanket view on all wind farms.

The challenge for  groups set up to oppose such a development is that they can become lightning rods or vehicles for comments and opinions, some at best tangentially related to the original cause and a bit too ‘troll’ like for this OAP! In my utopia, planning would arrive at the best areas for development first, then invite developers, rather than having a rash of applications dealt with piecemeal. Dream on??

Wind farms, solar farms, tidal and wave energy operations should be a positive choice and not only for a developer. We should expect people to want low carbon energy – as I believe many people actually do – and manage it to avoid disrupting local economies at the very least. I realise that planning blight is a potential cost/result of advance planning and is tough on many people.

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The Human Touch

Week 6: Impacts of climate change on human health and food security 

The Urban Heat Island:   radiation of heat stored within and around often dark, densely packed buildings and infrastructure in cities, with added heat escaping from vehicles, factories and homes.  The effect is added to by some blocking of wind and consequent loss of convection cooling. The Heat Island can adversely affect human health when extremes of heat arise.  Excess deaths are reported in such circumstances, often of vulnerable people in  higher buildings at night following a very hot day.

Meissen  NiceNight

How might the severity of urban heat islands increase to constitute a significant threat to human health during heat wave events?   As extreme weather events are set to become more frequent, so will the impacts of heat waves in cities. As more people move to bigger cities and bigger buildings crowd more densely together – I see photos of cities in China in my head here – heat island effects will grow.  See thermal satellite images of Paris in the 2003 heatwave  on p 12 of this presentation: 


Thermal imagery related to built density and  land use is on p 13. The severity of such events could increase further if more air con is deployed to deal with heat stress. I understand the excess deaths especially affect older people, and people living alone – both growing groups in western society. The good news? page 15, impact of vegetation, I think.  There’s a cartoon on page 17 – not sure how well received it would have been in France at the time…..  Paris plage, anyone?

Totara   OliveTree

How do you think the land use planning in urban heat islands could be used to reduce the scale of such islands?   We can’t all live in the best designed homes and I imagine it’s hard/costly to retrofit ventilation/passiv systems and so on – it’s expensive enough to retrofit some wiring! But of course standards should prevail in building new homes to take account of climate change in their energy profile overall.  Cheaper ideas, able to impact on existing settlements? Parks, green roofs, hanging/vertical gardens, less use of impervious pavement and road surfaces (that may also speed run off and contribute to flooding), water features, new high tech glass. Planning regs to limit density and/or define or restrict building materials might work in the post-industrial west provided the government is not free market driven, but it would be a harder sell in countries currently developing.  

CricketMillau   RootsExpsedFood Security:  This section held me up: I don’t know enough about it and have tried to get reading. The World Food Summit of 2009 declaration: “Climate change poses additional severe risks to food security and the agriculture sector. Its expected impact is particularly fraught with danger for smallholder farmers in developing countries, notably the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and for already vulnerable populations.” 

The interdependent issues in food security take in so much: gender equality, changing demand for cash crops, financial crises, war, water availability, growing biofuels (the modern landgrabs?), loss of land to urban growth, loss of land to soil erosion and desertification, failure of traditional crops as temperatures change ……

And so to task 6.5: With a growing population and improving diets there is a need to double our food supply by 2050. Identify three measures you would take meet this demand. Identify one of your measures from your list and post your solution into the discussion – be prepared to defend your choice!

(1)Support the growth of sustainable agriculture. It is food production in the less developed countries that will probably largely determine whether or not we can feed all the hungry mouths over the coming years. “Ownership” of  development is important: the idea of food sovereignty shares much with agroecology. When local networks support the spread of ideas rather than having change imposed politically or economically, probably that’s better. Farmers in relatively less developed countries can be researchers and spreaders of knowledge as well as consumers of it. But infrastructure needs to be in place to support developing agriculture  – access to markets, to credit, to information ie infrastructure defined as more than the road to the new mine. Sustained (!!) commitment to invest in sustainable agriculture or agroecology is needed on the part of donors. Agroecology prioritises diversity and supports resilience. See report of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food: pdf  here  Examples:

  • producing own fertiliser (green or animal based) to avoid the costs of synthetic fertiliser which tend to reflect oil prices rather than the price of foodstuffs grown;
  • developing more labour intensive (rather than input intensive) ways to bring abandoned/degraded land back into production;
  • limiting dependence on any one crop or strain of crop, to build in resilience.

Perhaps the benefits to agri-business might be a bit less – you can’t patent a network of practitioners, and bioprotection may not encourage long term use of pesticides! In the UN report linked above, at least one example given sounds similar to the strategy of bioprotection described by Prof Gurr.  This is all about  FAIRNESS OF DISTRIBUTION of things. This is how I want aid that I help pay for to be invested.

See also ***“Recalibrating Food Production in the Developing World…” , October 2012 pdf here:  this link.   I think I can forgive (!!!) this document its use in the title of “Developing World” and “Global Warming” – both terms a wee bit outmoded? A good read.

Also (2) Decarbonise food and cut down on waste at all levels of the food chain and that includes the waste of overeating…by improving the carbon footprint of one’s diet for example, less meat, fewer food miles.  Unfettered demand for faster, cheaper, non seasonal food at lower cost has on its other side, health, social and financial costs for producers, and a big carbon cost.

(3)Encourage research into low carbon and safe solutions for the availability of, access to and stability of food production and supply – “favour resilience over efficiency” quote from Olivier de Schutter, UN Spec Rapporteur on Right to Food.   Smarter use of the resources we have, mix the levels of technology.  A bit of repetition among (1), (2) and (3), I am afraid!

Remembering the “Green Revolution” raises a wry smile: the word ‘green’ did not mean then what it means now, and the increased yields did indeed bring benefits. But I have read over the intervening years that the benefits have tended to accrue more to the larger landholders and the better off. And we need high quality calories as well as grain, the main beneficiaries of the Green Rev as far as I understand.

TreeGoats GoatsMaroc

Not all land is suited to crops:  The by-products of animal husbandry can fertilise the land and cook the meal. Overgrazing is a hazard, especially in dry zones but then there are precious few crops viable in some of these areas without either smart agroecology solutions ( see document “Recalibrating…” linked above ***) or large quantities of water – and that one’s a whole other can of worms!

I’ve been moved this week to respond to co-learners about population trends. My understanding, aided by Mssrs Dorling and Rosling over the years,  is that birth rates have lately done in most less developed countries  what they did a century or so ago in more developed ones – declined in response to lower infant mortality and changing economic conditions. We still face the issue of feeding the numbers we have now/we will have in future, but there is not much wiggle room to actually change those numbers. Those relatively few communities which remain at a different point on the birth rate curve need  support to overcome challenges and make the transition in the conditions of the 21st century.

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Of Ice and Acidity

Week 5 of the course looked at impacts of climate change on natural systems

First, Impact of Climate Change on the Cryosphere

BlueIce   SnowConsThis short NASA video is a good introduction to some cryosphere issues.

Most of the current sea level rise is attributable to thermal expansion of oceans plus melt from mountain glaciers and small ice caps. The contribution of Greenland’s and Antarctica’s ice caps is growing.

Greenland has responded fast to warming in the last twenty years, with glaciers moving faster and retreating, and thinning of the ice.  Half of the loss is due to surface melt but about half is due to calving at the seaward edge – and  calving is a normal process. But calving of ice streams/glaciers can speed up to give net ice loss/instability with consequent impact on sea levels.

Why do ice streams/glaciers speed up? Rising surface temperatures lead to ice thinning and more surface meltwater, allowing heat transport to the interior and base; friction on the ice bed will diminish with meltwater lubrication; warm softer ice will move more readily. Albedo feedback is seen – surface meltwater warms further as it reflects less. More melting will happen at lower elevations – more lower thinner ice, more melt, faster flow, another feedback amplifying the process.

“Buttressing” can also control ice flow. Loss of a buttress which limited ice spreading at its seaward end can result in faster land-ice flow. The buttress might be an ice shelf attached to land which breaks up because of surface and/or sea warming, or a check in the shape of land or ice bed which an ice tongue retreats beyond, losing the constraining effect, as in Jacobshavns Isbrae’s speeding up and increased contribution to sea level rise (Greenland).

Other factors contributing to more calving: changes in air and ocean circulation, and less of the possibly protective sea ice around.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS): with much of its bed below sea level and much of the bed sloping down away from the ocean, WAIS is vulnerable to instability from air and sea temperature rises as the ice retreats.


Glacial Retreat

Great visuals on this site:  Glacierworks Everest  I saw an Imax film a while ago which I think Dave  Breashears made of one his Everest ascents, brilliant in spite of Imax camera looking like a fridge on someone’s back….   Dave Breashears talks about water supply in his Everest material, he has strong connections to the interlinked systems of these amazing places.

Visual communicators can help spread the word: see photographer James Balog ‘s organisation at this site and his film:  Chasing Ice – brilliant! The film is about 90 mins. UK screenings (see site) include a showing in Exeter Univ on 4th March, MOOC team! (Maybe you’re organising it.) JB’s 21 minute TED talk is here:

The Impact of Climate Change: Ocean Acidification

Oceans have much of our global biodiversity and are really important to the food chain!  Ocean Acidification (OA) refers to the changing pH of ocean water caused by increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.  The CO2 is absorbed into ocean water where carbonate buffering as it’s known ‘mops up’ the extra hydrogen ions that are created by taking up atmospheric CO2. The carbonate ions that do the buffering  reach the ocean as a result of weathering and also from the shells of dead marine organisms. But we are putting CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate that is outstripping the supply of carbonate ions in the ocean and so we are lowering the pH of the water. This is already affecting marine life eg  damage to coral reefs. 

OA is happening fast and more OA is  ahead, so what effects will develop in marine animals? The shells and skeletons of marine invertebrates are vulnerable once the water around them becomes under-saturated with carbonate ions – their shelly structures dissolve. Already this under-saturation is seen in cold polar waters where more CO2 dissolves into the ocean.  Animals with slower metabolisms find it harder to regulate their own CO2 levels and may suffer more from OA.  The process of OA adversely affects marine invertebrates’ reproduction processes, with larvae also known to be sensitive to changes in their oceanic environment.

I liked the way the different sources we were directed to on OA converged, especially in the need for a less polluted and more protected marine environment to increase its resilience in the face of OA .

SprmWhlFlke  WandAlbatross

Will marine organisms be able to adapt to OA? Uncertain – some will and some won’t? There may well be life forms that can adapt but the web of dependency will be disrupted with serious consequences for the different levels in the food chain. Perhaps there will be refugia as in the Snowball Earth/Slushball Earth scenario where I think mid ocean ridges/undersea volcanic vents could have sheltered life forms from the ice and cold above. Most importantly, the effects of the damage to marine invertebrates felt further up the food chain will be clarified bit by bit by researchers. But the ocean acidification changes are happening so fast that it doesn’t look good….. even to this optimist.

Are rising sea levels more of a threat to humanity than ocean acidification? So, no straight answer from me! Both of these will lead to disruption, unrest and possibly worse as scarce (**NO – ill-distributed!) resources – food, farmland, shelter and so on – and environmental degradation create (more) refugee and other crises e.g. Bangladesh with low lying land and fish as food. There could possibly be enough to go round – but those with most will have to manage with less in order to achieve that since the presently aspired-to model of economic growth and development appears unsustainable, especially if feedbacks give more rapid rates of change. But we can improve things/limit the damage with individual and governmental responsibility and commitment, along with some ingenuity…..


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Past and Future Casting

PerthFloodGtes      04082012461Modelling the past and future climate

So climate modelling is much the same as weather modelling – but bigger!  Slower components of the climate system like heat transport in the ocean and carbon storage in vegetation as well as more processes  need to be taken into account, and the model is run for much longer.

Models are tested against past observations.  Temperatures since 1970 can’t be simulated using natural factors alone; but when human factors are put in, esp CO2 emissions, then the warming can be reproduced.  Modellers can work out how much temperature change is natural and how much human-made.

What about modelling the future?  Different scenarios are constructed depending on our response to climate change. No response – ‘business as usual’ – is at one end of the scale and serious effort to limit emissions gives a scenario at the other end of the scale. Running the models points to rises in global mean surface temp of between 2 and 6 C degrees by the end of the century – the lowest of which is a very big change for the world. There are uncertainties of course – the role of clouds and the amount of CO2 that oceans and vegetation can absorb in future for example.  Feedbacks are a concern: these can amplify or moderate the warming of the planet. Climate scientists conclude that the effect of losing ice cover, the effect of more water vapour in the warmer atmosphere, the effect of clouds, the likely falling absorption rates of CO2 by oceans and vegetation are all likely to amplify  warming. We know climate is warming, we know we are highly likely to be responsible, we know we have already committed to a warmer world by our actions in the past and present.

Geo- or climate engineering

Geo- or climate engineering is controversial. Some think it should not be discussed for fear of making people believe there is a get-out-of-jail-free card.  These methods focus on either reducing the impact of solar input (solar radiation management or SRM) or carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and none is an easy option, much less a cheap one. BBC website links are useful:       Tackling climate change with technology  and Geoengineering: Risks and benefits   The course pointed us to these articles from the Guardian:  Why we’d be mad to rule out climate engineering and Why has geoengineering been legitimised by the IPCC?

This is my view on the using geoengineering or not:  We can’t afford not to explore all possibilities, it’s too late to pin our hopes on reducing emissions alone, although we must do that. Limiting an area of research seems unwise. Scientists doing science (about energy, geology, biology et al) will come up with some solutions, economists doing economics will be able to help too – energy price/incentives structuring, for example. Individuals in their own lives and as voters will make the best choices when informed and supported.

OK, so I’m an optimist….. but we need to engage this struggle on many fronts if we are to have any success. So, geoengineering is one tool in the toolkit. It looks high risk, agreed, but then climate change is high risk and we have the climate change refugees of N Alaska and the Indian Ocean etc to answer to, even though at present these are generally people with little political power. Limit emissions, explore different energy solutions, develop adaptations, develop and evaluate tech fixes – but consider alternative, fairer, more sustainable economic models. Climate change: opportunity as well as challenge?

Ruins     OctMamoresReflections on week 4

Most interesting of all this week has been my contemplation of the task of journalism in regard to climate change. It’s quite a responsibility to communicate science in the newspapers/on websites and as internet sites proliferate it can be hard for this casual observer to identify quickly which are reputable and which are flat earthers. The contributions of other students on the MOOC site are brilliant, they often point to something really good – but to so many that I can get lost in them!

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Urgent Action

ArrchrAlps  KnockanWeek 3 continued… 3.5 Urgent Action: we read a short paper (sorry, can’t make link work) and then responded.  Not entirely happy with my responses here:

The largest threat to where I live?

Not easy to separate the intertwined effects of climate change;  where I live I suppose I most identify with ‘increased extremes of…precipitation and coastal high water’.   This is not in jest: the impact of our weather on our psyche here in the west of Scotland is not to be dismissed, some of us can be a miserable lot, and the effect of a few sunny days can be amazing, not to mention the welcome pulse of Vitamin D it brings.  However, loss of biodiversity and of course the pain that comes with disruption to and relocation of communities will be significant.  Perhaps the biggest threat though comes with increased extremes: events that take lives and livelihoods and that could be set to take place more frequently.  All of it will affect and threaten us all and we’ll need much ingenuity to avoid making it worse, mitigate the effects and adjust to new realities.

3.6: Changing Carbon Cycle: Our addition of much CO2 to the atmosphere creates an imbalance.

We currently pump out large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere (how much? changes? See: https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/related_file/file/1461/31e6cadc3980b3ae3ef88efc3e95a422-MonaLua-Wang-et-al.pdf)  with 90% from burning fossil fuels and 10% from deforestation.  But only about half of what we pump out stays in the atmosphere. The rest goes into the carbon sinks – the land and the ocean.

More carbon flux in the shallow seas (in response to more CO2 in the atmosphere) and then more exported through the deep ocean, which is a larger store than either atmosphere or land. 

Land: more CO2 means more photosynthesis, more biomass and more CO2 in this ‘sink’.

Will these reservoirs continue to help us out in this way? (Hope so.)

Oceans become more acidic with more CO2 and the sink function is expected to decline. Warmer ocean will take up less CO2 than when cooler. Land sink? Future more uncertain. Warming tends to reduce carbon storage by speeding up respiration. Possibly the land could become a net carbon source rather than a net sink: more fires, thawing permafost…. (Afforestation/deforestation: new plantings less influential on CO2 than deforestation; also it is thought older trees take up more carbon than younger ones.  Some types of vegetation cover are more effective at sequestering CO2 than others.)

3.7: Carbon Emissions: how much from which countries?

Reviewing World Bank data and creating some graphs: The big hitters of total emissions– China & USA.  In terms of emissions per capita, the Gulf states dominate, with oil rich Brunei and one or two others.  But their populations are small.  Picking out a variety of countries by development level but keeping US and China in the picture: I included Germany, and picked out two of the so-called BRIC countries and two of the (recently christened) MINT nations  – Brazil, India, Indonesia and Turkey. For total emissions: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.KT/countries/CN-US-DE-ID-TR-BR-IN?display=graph

Using the same countries’ per capita emissions:


For people to seek to improve their lot is expected, and for nations to seek growth is the norm.  The recession has shown us the human cost of low economic growth within our system and caused (?) decline in CO2 output. De-industrialisation has exported emissions of nations like the UK to the countries who make goods we buy eg China. Alternative models for sustainable development are out there but the likelihood is that countries with lower emissions per capita will raise them in the course of their development. BTW: France and Iceland –European nations with different models for energy and similarly low emissions per capita.

The danger with playing with these figures is that it could make you blame someone else.  We do need this data, up to date and publicised so we know where we stand.  On the other hand, we don’t keep our CO2 emissions to ourselves. If we are able to do so, each of us should of course take action and encourage others to find actions they can take– whether at a micro or macro level, insulate your house as well as vote for sustainable development policies.  

Reflections on Week 3

This week the carbon cycle has been at the heart of things. I found getting through the week’s tasks the hardest bit! Pushed for time…. Found it most interesting to explore the interactive predicted climate change map: changing the datasets, looking at different parts of the world. Nothing in particular prompted me towards more research, although I did look up lots of sources for this week’s tasks, hence the time problem!

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Unbalancing the books

GneissStones!! KatrineAutmnMore on week 3 of the course.

3.3 Extreme Events: we examined an interactive map:http://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/state-climate-extreme-events

The nearest event on the map to my location was the UK having its second wettest year on record, taken for the 12 months as a whole of course. Events at a regional scale may be more sensitive to natural fluctuations. Anyway, single events are not sufficient to declare a climate change impact. So do lots of events all over the globe add up to climate change? My perception is that extreme events are more frequent. Fast communications are in place, we know what’s going on provided of course the media we use convey that news equitably.

Droughts as well as rain/floods were shown on the site we visited.  While warming suggests more moisture in the atmosphere, whether that means more rain in a particular place depends on other factors. Viewing different events and years on the map emphasised the importance of taking a long view.

IPCC  Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (Jan 2014) – WG1AR5 Summary for Policy Makers:    “Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions.”   and   “Extreme precipitation events over most of the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of this century, as global mean surface temperature increases.” 

But why  a “Record” Antarctic sea ice extent in a warming world?  See http://nsidc.org/news/press/20121002_MinimumPR.html for explanation.

3.4 The Warming World

We examined modelled future climate change via an interactive map: http://regclim.coas.oregonstate.edu/visualization/gccv/cmip5-global-climate-change-viewer/index.html

Where I live: Taking the models together and using default dataset, for the UK a rise in temperatures is predicted for 2050 +, reasonably consistently all year (c+2 degrees) though a bit more of a rise in summer than in other seasons. UK precipitation is expected to be a little more variable across the seasons, with overall an increase of less than 1.0 mm/day, but this sort of prediction naturally cannot include the intensity and frequency of rain events which determine how we experience our rainfall.

What places are expected to experience greatest warming? The northern NH is predicted to be heading for greatest warming, with the exception of the N Atlantic south of Iceland. However, temp predictions are overall for greater temperature rise in the NH winter, and less rise in the summer.  This would lead to a further feedback effect with the loss of Arctic ice.  And then maybe more blanket gas emissions from large expanses of formerly frozen soils ie ex-permafrost?   Selecting a different dataset can lead to a picture of the future more or less severely changed.

Are the areas that are predicted to experience the most warming also showing the largest variability in temperature and or precipitation? Taking Arctic Europe as an example, Finland has a predicted mean annual temperature rise of not far off 2 x that for UK, with Svalbard’s even greater. Looking at seasons, both these more northern places are predicted to have less of an increase in temp in summer than in winter.  In terms of annual predicted change to precip, both these northern places are expected to have less than 1 mm/day more in the year, with a greater increase expected in winter than summer, perhaps because of predicted seasonal temp rise.  Does this look more like our Pliocene scenario?? Looking quickly at a couple of examples of predicted overall lower (though not uniform within country) temp rises, Argentina and NZ, little difference in temperature change is expected between summer and winter. Blue and black lines at variance in respect of some examples used: does this mean predictions less secure?  Greatest increases in precip predicted to be in equatorial areas, though not always on land, while decrease expected in tropics and sub tropics eg Med, with strong effects over oceans.

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