Category: greenhouse gases

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

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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”

Global warming starting to rob oceans of oxygen

New research detects climate change pattern

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New climate study pinpoints ocean deoxygenation. @bberwyn photo

Staff Report

Deoxygenation caused by global warming is already detectable in some of the world’s warmest ocean areas, climate scientists said last week, announcing the results of a new study that shows how increasing global temperatures will play out.

Based on their modeling, the researchers said they could detect the influence of human-caused climate change in the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins. They expect to be able to detect similar signs in many other ocean areas between 2030 and 2040. Continue reading “Global warming starting to rob oceans of oxygen”

CO2 could take huge toll on ocean fish by mid-century

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Can the world’s oceans survive the global warming era?

Not much time left to cut greenhouse gas pollution

Staff Report

Building levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans could have a widespread and devastating effect on many fish by 2050, Australian researchers warned in a new study.

“Our results were staggering and have massive implications for global fisheries and marine ecosystems across the planet,” said Dr. Ben McNeil, a researcher at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre. “High concentrations of carbon dioxide cause fish to become intoxicated … a phenomenon known as hypercapnia. Essentially, the fish become lost at sea. The carbon dioxide affects their brains and they lose their sense of direction and ability to find their way home. They don’t even know where their predators are,” McNeil said. Continue reading “CO2 could take huge toll on ocean fish by mid-century”

Antarctic ice susceptible to climate domino effect

New study says melting of small Amundsen Basin likely to trigger a climate tipping point

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The meltdown of West Antarctica’s ice sheets is likely already under way. @berwyn photo.

Staff Report

Just a small shift in the Antarctic climate could have long-lasting consequences on a global scale, according to a new research paper that once again takes a close look at the fate of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Based on the new study, destabilization of the relatively small Amundsen Basin — triggered by a few decades of ocean warming — could trigger a massive ice loss from the West Antarctica Ice Sheet that would raise global sea level by 10 feet. Other recent studies show that this area is already losing stability, making it the first element in the climate system about to tip. Continue reading “Antarctic ice susceptible to climate domino effect”

Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

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Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said. Continue reading “Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions”