Category: greenhouse gases

It was a bad year for Austria’s glaciers

Not much time left for Alpine ice

Glacier remnants are visible in the Hohe Tauern Range of Austria in areas where there were thick ice caps just a few decades ago. The IPCC estimates that about 80 percent of the glaciers in the Alps will be gone by 2100 at the current rate of melting. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Austrian climate scientists aren’t mincing words when it comes to the continued alpine meltdown caused by global warming.

“It was a bad year for Austria’s glaciers,” scientists with the ZAMG said last week, announcing that the Pasterze Glacier, below the country’s highest peak, thinned by 2 meters in just one year. At the current melt rate, the Pasterze glacier’s tongue is likely to disappear altogether in another 40 years.

“The ice-mass loss was particularly high this year,” said glacier expert Berhard Hynek. The winter snow cover melted early and the ice was exposed to sun and warm temperatures for a very long time,” he said, adding that other glaciers monitored by the agency also thinned by an average of about 2 meters – equal to the losses measured during the record melt years of 2003 and 2012. Continue reading “It was a bad year for Austria’s glaciers”

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EPA removes web pages with climate change information

Will updates reflect real science, or ideology?

Many of the previously existing pages on climate science, greenhouse gases and global warming impacts are no longer available at the current EPA website.

By Bob Berwyn

Continuing its Orwellian policies of trying to create an alternative, fact-free reality, the Trump administration has started to remove climate-related information from the EPA website. As of Friday, April 28, a Google search for EPA climate information leads to a page-update notice, including a statement from a politically appointed spokesperson saying,” “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.” Continue reading “EPA removes web pages with climate change information”

West Coast states, cities, challenge Trump on climate policies

Leaders vow to fight effort to roll back Clean Power Plan

Mercury, heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the Craig Station power plant in northwest Colorado have global impacts. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The Trump administration will reportedly soon unveil an executive order to try and undo climate policies developed under Obama, but West Coast states say they have intention of going along with that half-baked proposal. Continue reading “West Coast states, cities, challenge Trump on climate policies”

Sunday set: Forests

Trees are our friends

Last week the UN celebrated the International Day of Forests as a way to acknowledge how important forests are to the world. To cynics, it may seem trite lip service by faceless bureaucrats. But in reality, it’s critical that everyone understands how important forests are for the planet. They cover about a  third of the Earth’s land mass and provide livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter for about 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80 percent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They may also be one of our last, best hopes for slowing climate change. Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at the rate of about 32 million acres per year, equivalent to 10-20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. Check out my article and photo essay for Pacific Standard to learn more about forests, especially for ways you can get involved in helping to protect and restore them.

Climate connections

Fish die-offs spread, winter retreats and ocean currents are changing

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The meltdown of glaciers and ice shelves around both poles is starting to affect the circulation of the oceans. @bbberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

My recent reporting for InsideClimate News includes coverage of the massive Yellowstone fish kill, something that anglers and fisheries managers in Colorado also should probably be prepared for as rivers warm to a level that is conducive to the spread of parasites. Read the details here: Fish Deaths in Montana’s Yellowstone River Tied to Warming Waters.

I also explored how Austria is preparing for climate change. The mountainous country has seen its average temperature increase at nearly twice the global average in the past century, with huge implications for water supplies, agriculture, urban heatwaves and tourism. But rather than argue about the causes, Austrians are actively trying to figure out how to make their society and ecosystems more resilient to the changes ahead. Read here: Austria Braces for Winter’s Retreat.

There’s other research showing a significant shift in most key ocean currents that run along the edges of continents. Those currents are key drivers of weather systems and the changes documented by scientists suggest that the currents are strengthening and transporting more heat, which is affecting weather in densely populated areas. China and Japan, in particular, can expect more devastating storms and typhoons in the future: In Warming Oceans, Stronger Currents Releasing Heat in Bigger Storms.

It seems pretty clear that we have to try and prevent runaway climate change and the way to do that is to stop spewing heat-trapping pollution into the sky. We need to bite the bullet and figure out how to decarbonize our energy systems and economy in the most rational way, which means making plans and decisions now, not in 20 years. Every additional dollar used to subsidize fossil fuels, or to build fossil fuel infrastructure, is another nail in our own coffin. Offshore wind power is still grossly under-utilized in the U.S. but that is starting to change.

Offshore wind makes so much sense because the power sources can developed near the large coastal cities that are the largest consumers of power from the grid. Here’s how Hawaii is approaching the issue: Hawaii Eyes Offshore Wind to Reach its Clean Energy Goal.

New guidance requires closer look at climate impacts from activities on public lands

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.
New guidance for federal agencies will require closer scrutiny of climate impacts of developments on public land. Photo courtesy BLM.

CEQ updates NEPA rules with an eye toward greenhouse gases

Staff Report

Public land managers and other federal agency decision-makers will no longer be able to shy away from considering climate change as they consider new projects.

Saying that emissions from any given proposal are only a small fraction of global emissions “is not an appropriate basis for deciding whether or to what extent to consider climate change impacts under NEPA,” the White House Council on Environmental Quality wrote in new guidance that directs agencies to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and to choose alternatives for projects that minimize climate impacts. Continue reading “New guidance requires closer look at climate impacts from activities on public lands”

Ocean acidification puts Dungeness crab fishery at risk

Study shows how changing ocean chemistry slows life cycle

Dungeness crab
Ocean acidification will slow the reproductive cycle of Dungeness crabs, according to a new study. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

Ocean acidification could take a bite out of the economically important Dungeness crab fishery along the Pacific Northwest coast. As the oceans absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, the increasingly corrosive water is likely slow development and reduce survival of the crab’s larval stages, according to new research by  the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

Ocean acidification is one of the most serious effects of increasing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Based on what we know about emissions trends, the average pH of surface waters off the Pacific Northwest Coast is expected to drop to about 7.8, and even more when periodic upwelling carries deep water to the surface. Acidification has already been found to slow coral growth, impair shark feeding, and speed the spread of invasive species, among other impacts.

The study, recently published in the journal Marine Biology, shows that the crab larvae hatched at the same rate regardless of pH, but those that hatched at lower levels showed signs of slowed development. The researchers suggested that the lower pH may reduce the metabolic rate of embryos. That could extend their vulnerable larval period, or could jeopardize the timing of their development in relation to key food sources, the scientists said. Continue reading “Ocean acidification puts Dungeness crab fishery at risk”