This is an interesting moving graphic complements of Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. All the data is from NASA.
This is an interesting moving graphic complements of Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. All the data is from NASA.
Knew or should have known, a standard often applied in a myriad of legal context, could soon be the one applied to attorneys who ignore the risks associated with communicating with clients using modern technologies (i.e., text messaging, emails, telephone calls, and voice-mail) without appreciating the risk. “Ignorance is Bliss,” is a dangerous proposition in the practice of law when it comes to ignoring current technologies. What obligations require attorneys to protect their client communications, and what practical steps can be taken to meet statutory and ethical obligations related to confidentiality? Is there a real risk, or is the risk limited to action movies?
Want to read more? For Part 1, go to: http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/litigation/b/litigation-blog/archive/2013/07/23/ignorance-is-risk-impact-of-nsa-monitoring-technologies-on-attorney-client-communications-part-1.aspx
For Part 2 go to: http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/litigation/b/litigation-blog/archive/2013/07/24/ignorance-is-risk-response-options-to-nsa-monitoring-of-attorney-client-communications-part-2.aspx
Prior posts have noted the adverse health impacts from small particles, often referred to generally as PM10 and/or PM2.5. Prior posts have also noted the adverse impact of soot on global warming, which because it is black and absorbs heat warms up the atmosphere and whatever it is coating (e.g., glaciers). Yet addressing this problem can both improve public health and decrease global warming.
To date, strategies to address global warming have focused on gases that stay in the atmosphere from medium- to long-term (e.g., methane [half life, 7 years] and carbon dioxide [half life, 19 to 49 years, without getting into the complexities of the CO2 cycling between atmosphere, ocean, plants etc., which could drive the half-life to a 5-100 year "bracket"]). [Regarding impacts of methane, see http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html. Regarding impacts of CO2, see http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html.]
In contrast, soot stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time. A recent study suggests a serious re-think may be needed because soot is the second most damaging greehouse agent after CO2 and twice as bad as previously believed.
The study found that the soot that is currently present has a warming effect of 1.1 watts per square meter of the Earth's surface. This is greater than methane (a greenhouse gas that I have noted in prior posts is often ignored or downplayed in the discussion of strategy to address global warming) and second only to CO2 at 1.7 watts per square meter. The prior UNEP estimate for soot was 0.3-0.6.
The study argues that the warming from soot will be especially significant in the Northern latitudes (e.g., glaciers, snowpacks). Also, it sees a potential threat to regional precipitation patterns, such as the Asian monsoons. Now, let's turn to the other side of soot. The UNEP attributes 2.4 million deaths per year due to the adverse effect of such particulates on lungs, an issue noted in numerous prior posts. [See http://www.unep.org/ccac/ShortLivedClimatePollutants/tabid/101650/Default.aspx.]
As noted, CO2 lasts a long time in the atmosphere. In contrast, soot drops out within weeks. Controlling soot means that it goes away relatively quickly. In Europe and America, 70% of soot comes fro diesel engines, which may be the more harmful form of such airborne particulates (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21810552). Better exhaust controls and the scrapping of old, high pollution cars would have a major beneficial effect. In the LDC's, the problem also includes inefficient stoves and dirty fuel; these are problems that should be easy to address if well understood and simple technologies are provided to replace the current processes.
The benefits of reducing soot is that it has immediate, local health benefits and is cheaper than addressing CO2 emissions. No global treaty is needed, and there are no free rides; benefits are local with improved health. Such controls may reduce by half a degree the temperature rise projected for global warming, buying politicans and world leaders roughly two additional decades to address controls on methane and CO2.
The study can be found at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrd.50171/abstract.
Climate change has, on average, raised the surface of the world’s oceans in recent decades by melting glaciers and causing seawater to expand as it warms. But the rise has not been uniform, just like the increase in ocean temperature. As noted in prior posts, both temperature increases and rising sea levels have happened at different speeds in different places, due to (among other things) wind patterns, ocean currents, and other regional factors that influence oceanic surfaces.
Researchers studied the East Coast using 60 years of data collected by sensors floating in the Atlantic Ocean. From 1980 to 2009, sea levels along about 1,000 kilometers (roughly 620 miles) of coast rose faster than during the time period from 1950 to 1979, gaining about 2 millimeters (0.08 inches) per year, or about three to four times the average global acceleration.
If this acceleration continues at its current rate, New York City would be on track for up to 29 centimeters (about 11.5 inches) of sea level rise by 2100, an increase in line with previous predictions from a simulation based on probable climate change scenarios. (See prior posts regarding variability in predictions by climate models and solar factors that may be influencing global warming rates.)
Long-term climate trends may have created this hot spot by changing ocean currents. With the atmosphere heating, parts of the North Atlantic have warmed. Computer simulations suggest the decreasing density of these waters could weaken the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current which carry warm waters and salt northward and keep Europe relatively warm. (See prior posts on the water temperature hot spots found in oceans about Antartica, which conforms to some climate model predictions.)
Critics note that this theory lacks the support of actual measurements that show a waning of ocean circulation. Some scientists credit the sea level speedup to weather patterns that could soon reverse. (As noted in prior posts, this contrasts with the Antartic hot spots for which there are actual measurements over time.) Critics note that the recent trend may reflect fluctuations in pressure or temperature that oscillate over decades; critics note that sea levels along the East Coast fell before 1960, and may very well do so again.
As they say, we shall see. The paper can be found at: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n4/full/ngeo462.html.
Ironically, shortly before this paper was published, the North Carolina Senate proposed legislation to ban predictions of sea level increases. God forbid that science should have any First Amendment rights. See http://www.nature.com/news/us-northeast-coast-is-hotspot-for-rising-sea-levels-1.10880.
A number of adverse environmental impacts are projected to occur from global warming. Although several atmospherically located substances will drive temperature increases, significant levels of CO2 may acidify the oceans. Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH) of the Earth's oceans, which will be caused by the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere. About a quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes into the oceans, where it forms carbonic acid, which will drive down pH levels. If global warming from CO2 proceeds apace, what will the impact be on marine ecosystems? Will acidification affect sea life? Some unique marine sites provide insight to what the future might look like.
Some unique marine sites provide a clue about what these effects may be. Researchers have been collecting data from marine sites off Italy, Baja California, and Papua New Guinea, where high concentrations of CO2 percolate out of the seabed from volcanic activity below. Directly above these CO2 seeps, pH plummets to at least 7.8, a value that is projected to occur widely by 2100 and that is substantially lower than the normal level for the area, 8.1. These sites may offer a preview of what may happen to seafloor ecosystems as CO2 levels continue to rise, causing ocean water pH to drop.
Compared with nearby "normal-pH" sites, species richness in low-pH zones was diminished by 30%. Coral and some algae, as well as sea urchins, were gone. Fish may be present, but unlike in areas with a normal pH, they did not deposit their eggs in the low pH areas. Although seagrasses appear to survive unaffected in the low-pH seawater, close inspection showed that fish had nibbled the fronds. One possible explanation for this behavior: At low pH, these grasses no longer produced the phenolic compounds (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_phenolic) that deter grazing animals from eating the plants.
Researchers also transferred a host of healthy marine species to these areas to gauge the effect of these naturally acidic regions. Although many survived, once seasonal temperature increases occurred, many of the transplanted corals and mollusks died. Researchers concluded the impact of acidification plus temperature was a "double whammy." Laboratory experiments showed also that coral larvae exposed to low pH environments had their metabolism slow to 65% of normal; their ability to make energy from nutrients in the water also decreased. In essence, the coral larvae were slowly starving. Turf algae also had a decrease in the production of two key pigments that communicated to the larvae to settle on a particular spot; this impairment was confirmed in the natural sites.
Studies addressing these issues can be found at: http://phys.org/news/2012-02-british-scientist-aaas-threat-posed.html; http://www.ucar.edu/communications/Final_acidification.pdf; http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1533.html; & http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n3/full/nclimate1122.html.
It was not that long ago that those who believe (on faith, not scientific fact) that there is no global warming, celebrated the snowfall in the Eastern U.S. as though it showed that global warming was not happening. Prior posts have reviewed a number of reasons why global warming is not preceding as rapidly as many hypothecated; they have also reviewed the evidence of global warming as reflected in changing patterns of animal migration, droughts in various parts of the country, etc. Ironically, the increased snowfall may support the models of global warming, even though (as noted in prior posts) they are often flawed predictive tools.
Most models have indicated that global warmings first temperature increases would occur in the far North and far South. As noted in prior posts, this is in fact happening; the measurements provide hard evidence that global warming is occurring. Like all things global, such increases are not uniform across a region, but as noted in prior posts there are some amazingly large increases in North and South polar regions that support the global warming models. Another irony of the ignorance of those who deny global warming is that polar warming may actually mean more snow in the Northern Hemisphere. But, how can that be? Were their celebrations an act of ignorance? Possibly so.
Despite rising global temperatures, extreme winters have blasted much of the Northern Hemisphere during the last decade. Unusually large snowstorms have pummeled the United States’ east coast during the winters of 2009 to 2010 and 2010 to 2011. Parts of Japan saw record levels of snow this winter (2011-2012), while in Europe both the Danube and Venice's canals froze over, a rare sight. To explain this bitter cold and snow, some scientists have not unreasonably turned to natural climate fluctuations, including El Niño, a periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean thought to portend warmer and drier winter conditions; but since some severe winters coincided with El Niño years, this explanation made no sense. Researchers thus looked instead to sea ice floating in the Arctic, a region that has been warming twice as quickly as the average rate for the Northern Hemisphere (a fact reflective of a number of climate models, those flawed engines of prediction that have been criticized frequently in prior posts).
Satellite observations show that the amount of sea ice during autumn months, after the summer melt, declined by 27.3% between 1979 and 2010. In its worst year, 2007, sea ice covered 4.13 million square kilometers in September, down 1.19 million square kilometers from the previous record low in 2005. Years with less autumn ice tended to be followed by more winter snow in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The researchers’ computer simulations suggest that losing 1 million square kilometers of ice can increase snowfall by 3 to 12% in some places, including parts of the United States, Europe and China. So, an association has been established. But, what is the causal connection?
Researchers have been studying the atmosphere to work out how changes in sea ice could chill faraway places. When the reflective ice disappears, the darker ocean that remains absorbs more of the sun's energy. Both the surface of the water and the air above it heat up, changing the way that winds circulate through the atmosphere and forming a high-pressure system. Computer simulations published in 2009 found that such a pressure system can push cold air out of the Arctic and into Eurasia. A case study of Europe’s 2005-2006 winter, reported in 2010, suggested that cold air blowing in from the Arctic increases by threefold the chance of cold winter extremes in Europe.
Disappearing sea ice may also provide more moisture for forming snow. In further simulations, open water no longer covered by ice released vapor that traveled to parts of Europe and Asia. But, other researchers have expressed doubt that this humidity plays much of a role. Most of the United States would have abnormally low humidity during the winter, in precisely the areas where lots of snow falls. Critics argue that whether there is enough moisture to cause heavy snowfall during a cold interval is probably controlled by other factors. They note that disappearing sea ice is not the only thing driving the cold and the snow. The United States had a particularly warm and snowless winter this year, probably thanks to a periodic flip in Arctic winds that trumped the effects of sea ice loss.
Still, if sea ice melts further, the supporters of the association believe that big snowstorms may be in the forecast more often than not. If this pattern of reduced sea ice continues, in the short term there will be more cold, snowy conditions, believe those who support the sea ice-snow model.
As I frequently say, stay tuned. There is only one conclusion that can be drawn so far. Major snowfalls in the Winter in the Eastern U.S. do not mean that global warming is a flawed theory.
Studies of this issue can be found at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/17/1114910109; http://www.tellusa.net/index.php/tellusa/article/view/11595/html; http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009JD013568.shtml; & http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008GL037079.shtml.
Is it possible to efficiently harness the often dim and indirect light found inside a room (e.g., from incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs, and light emitting diodes). The answer would now appear to be "yes."
A Walsh firm claims to have taken the efficiency of dye-based cells from 15% to 26%, which if correct would allow its economically efficient deployment indoors. Dye-based cells were invented at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, Switzerland, in the 1990's. Tinker with the composition of the dye, and the frequency of light that can be captured can be adjusted to make dye-based cells more flexible than silicon cells.
The dye molecules are bound to titanium dioxide, a less expensive semiconductor than silicon. The assembly is immersed in an electrolyte and sandwiched between two electrodes. When a photon of light is absorbed by a dye molecule, an electron is knocked into the titanium dioxide. Thereafter the electron travels to one of the two electrodes and a current is generated. Another advantage of dye-based cells is that they are literally flexible; some are already being woven into clothing to power cell phones, IPods etc.
Another potential market is to provide photovoltaics in regions in which silicon cells are not that well suited, such as areas frequently overcast or foggy.
Further information on dye-based cells can be found at: http://www.g24i.com/news,dye-sensitized-solar-to-go,179.html; http://www.g24i.com/news,dye-sensitized-cells-break-new-record,215.html; http://www.theengineer.co.uk/sectors/energy-and-environment/news/dye-based-organic-pvs-could-remove-need-for-batteries/1012299.article; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dye-sensitized_solar_cell; and, http://www.greenmanufacturer.net/news/power-sources/2012/04/12/new-record-set-for-recycling-indoor-light-to-electricity.
The Amazon has long been conceived of as a CO2 sink because of its mass of vegetation. Researchers are now concerned that drought and deforestation may make it a net emitter.
Because of regular measurements of about 100,000 trees, researchers estimate that the Amazon was absorbing about 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually at the turn of the century. Plants absorb the gas during photosynthesis, storing the carbon component as leaves, wood, and roots, and injecting it into the soil. The entire rain forest is thought to contain about 100 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to 10 years of global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. However, mass tree deaths brought about by recent droughts and deforestation may be pushing the region to a point at which it will give off more of the greenhouse gas than it absorbs. That effect is seen currently at the Amazon’s southern and eastern edges in places where forests have been cleared by loggers or burned to make room for cattle and crops.
These bald patches have two adverse impacts. First, they store little carbon. Second, they threaten remaining trees by reducing the amount of moisture that is released into the air and by pulling rain away from the surrounding forest. Dry seasons in the southern and eastern fringes of the Amazon have gotten longer. When the rains do come, precipitation that would have been captured by forest runs off into rivers instead. A 2003 study found that water flowing through the Tocantins River in southeastern Amazonia increased by nearly 25% as croplands spread to encompass almost half of the land providing drainage for the river.
For now, the impact of this deforestation will probably remain confined to these peripheral parts of the Amazon. However, one computer simulation suggested that a surge in deforestation that cleared 40 percent of the Amazon basin could trigger a tipping point, a runaway conversion of forest to savanna. Critics note that the uncertainties are sufficiently large as to make such predictions of questionable merit.
Climate change, rather than direct deforestation, may ultimately be the factor that threatens the Amazon as a whole. Rising global temperatures are predicted to warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean and stimulate the El Nino weather patterns that influence how much rain falls on the Amazon, making droughts more frequent and more severe. [The same weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean influence rainfall in the Western U.S.] Trees in the Amazon’s interior are resilient against drought since their roots reach far below the surface, tapping deep water sources that provide sustenance during lean times. There are limits. In a study reported in 2010, researchers channeled away up to half of the rain falling on small plots of land in eastern Amazonia for seven years. By the third year, tree growth had slowed substantially and tree death had nearly doubled.
A severe dry spell in 2005 had a significant impact. Rainfall decreased over a third of the Amazon, by as much as 75 percent in some places. At the time, scientists estimated that the forest released more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon as trees died off, and labeled the devastation a once-in-a-century event. Then an even worse drought hit in 2010, when an even larger area lost even more carbon. An analysis of satellite images reported last April showed significant signs of adverse effects. These events may be a statistical fluke. It is also important to try to bear in mind the impacts of normal variability in contrast to longterm trends.
Prudence would suggest that deforestation should be minimized as much as possible.
Reports on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v481/n7381/abs/nature10717.html; http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011GL046824.shtml; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03309.x/abstract; & http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022169403002671.
First, some good news. Prior posts have noted repeatedly the key role that methane plays in global warming (the longterm trend in temperature, not seasonal or annual variations). Prior posts have also noted the role that particulates-aerosols play in global warming, and their adverse effect on human health.
Cutting the amounts of methane and "soot" that are poured into the atmospher would diminish warming by half a degree Celsius by 2050, researchers allege. That might buy time for the world to act, by slowing sea level rise, glacial melting, and other problems caused by rising temperatures. Targeting these agents of climate change would also improve air quality, potentially preventing up to 4.7 million premature deaths every year, the researchers believe. Compared to controlling CO2, these strategies are relatively inexpensive.
The researchers found that methane control was a key tool to slow global warming. Implementing controls already being used in various parts of the world would prevent atmospheric loading of methane from coal mines, livestock manure, landfills, and other sources noted in prior posts. Putting filters on cars that burn diesel, for example, could trap the soot which absorbs sunlight and heat the atmosphere. Soot also, as noted previously, darkens snow and glaciers, which hasten their melting. Critics of the latter aspect to the strategy note that some sources of soot also give off particles that reflect sunlight, cooling the planet. Clearly some critical assessment needs to be done.
The report can be found at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6065/183.abstract.
Now the bad news. The increasing use of coal for power generation in China and India, and for that matter across Asia, is likely to lead to a large increase in CO2 emissions. Unfortunately neither solar nor wind will offer affordable electricity on a large enough scale to slow this expansion of coal-fired generation, even with the potential significant increases in efficiency noted in prior posts. It is also unlikely that natural gas will supplant coal in this region.
The International Energy Agency has compared the likely result of this massive increase in coal-fired generation with the goal often put forth of holding global warming to below 2 degrees C this century. Given the plants "in the pipeline" it is likely that enough generating capacity will be online by 2017, believes the IEA, that this goal will not be met.
A discussion of this issue can be found at http://www.economist.com/node/21548237.
In Nov. 2010 the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) filed suit against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) CEQA Guidelines re GHG emissions. Among other requirements, environmental evaluations were required if a project was to be built within 1,000 feet of a freeway, oil refinery,or other air pollution source. Developments producing 1,100 metric tons of GHG emissions per year would have to draft environmental reports as part of the approval process. [In California, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is substantive law, not merely procedural law, unlike NEPA.] The Guidelines had been expected to be a model for other air quality management districts in California.
On Jan. 16, 2012, the Alameda County Superior Court struck down the Guidelines on the grounds that the Guidelines themselves must first undergo a CEQA review. Although the Court has not yet issued a written order, it is expected to set aside the Guidelines unless and until BAAQMD conducts CEQA review. The Court noted that the BAAQMD should have reviewed the environmental impact of the Guidelines, including their impact on future growth and transportation patterns. The CIBA had, among other bases, claimed that the Guidelines would exacerbate urban sprawl, thus hindering compliance with AB 32, California's law to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The BAAQMD has not yet announced if it will appeal. [Expect an appeal.]
The case is California Building Industry Assoc. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Alameda County Superior Court, Docket No. RG10548693.