Archive for global warming

Climate Change – Penguin Colonies

Climate impact illustrationPenguins! These adorable flightless birds are cherished by adults and kids alike for their funny ways and their tuxedo-like outfits. The penguin lifestyle is fascinating and their behavior is extraordinary.

A group of these amazing creatures is called a penguin colony, unless the group is floating in the ocean – then it’s known as a “raft.” Penguins mainly feed on krill and fish. They can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes, and dive as deep as 500 meters.

A colony of penguins may look (and sound) like it’s utter chaos, yet parents and chicks can find each other amongst thousands despite the noise. It’s not done visually. Penguins find each other because of an incredible ability to recognize the individual calls of their mates and their babies.

Seventeen distinct penguin species exist in the world. Not all of these penguin species live in the Antarctic, but that’s the area most people associate with these unique birds. Due to several recent events, some experts are asking a troubling question: Could the Antarctic region lose most of their penguins?

There’s a good reason this question is weighing on the minds of many researchers and environmentalists. It’s because of the disturbing decline of colonies within three specific penguin species – Emperor penguins, King penguins, and Adélie penguins. It’s serious enough that the losses have made international headlines.

Naturally, these three separate examples of penguin colony decline raise questions about the effects of climate change on the species. Are we definitely losing penguins to climate change? Could there be other reasons the penguin habitat is disappearing? Is intervention by humans on the fate of penguin colonies, climate change aside, a feasible solution?

Here are the backstories:

“Drawdown” – Global Warming’s New Math

by Joel Makower at GreenBiz Group

An ambitious new book was recently published with the audacious goal of showing how to reverse the warming of the planet through a myriad of innovations, many of them led by business for profit.

“Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” (Penguin Books), was edited by the author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken along with a self-described “coalition” of research fellows, writers and advisors. (Full disclosure: I played a very small unpaid role in reviewing parts of the manuscript, and am included among the 120 or so advisors listed in the book.)

The book contains 80 solutions — “techniques and practices” — that are ready today, and 20 additional “coming attractions” — innovations just over the horizon — that collectively can draw down atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to solve, not just slow, climate change by avoiding emissions or sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.

Hawken is quick to point out that the book’s seemingly brash subtitle is a bit tongue in cheek: this is the only “comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming,” he said. But the larger point is not lost. The book, along with an accompanying website, may be the first to provide the insight and inspiration, backed by empirical research and data, that could enable companies, governments and citizens to attack the climate problem in a holistic and aggressive way. Moreover, many, if not most, of the solutions can be undertaken with little or no new laws or policy, and can be financed profitably by companies and capital markets.

At minimum, “Drawdown” is likely the most hopeful thing you’ll ever read about our ability to take on global warming.

Read more…

How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold…Eek!

Last year will go down in history as the year when the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record: 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The last time the planet’s air was so rich in CO2 was millions of years ago, back before early predecessors to humans were likely wielding stone tools; the world was a few degrees hotter back then, and melted ice put sea levels tens of meters higher.

“We’re in a new era,” says Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Program in San Diego. “And it’s going fast. We’re going to touch up against 410 pretty soon.”

There’s nothing particularly magic about the number 400. But for environmental scientists and advocates grappling with the invisible, intangible threat of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, this symbolic target has served as a clear red line into a danger zone of climate change.

When scientists (specifically, Ralph Keeling’s father) first started measuring atmospheric CO2 consistently in 1958, at the pristine Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory in Hawaii, the CO2 level stood at 316 parts per million (ppm), just a little higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. 400 was simply the next big, round number looming in our future.

But as humans kept digging up carbon out of the ground and burning it for fuel, CO2 levels sped faster and faster toward that target. In May 2013, at the time of the usual annual maximum of CO2, the air briefly tipped over the 400 ppm mark for the first time in several million years. In 2014, it stayed above 400 ppm for the whole month of April. By 2015, the annual average was above 400 ppm. And in September 2016, the usual annual low skimmed above 400 ppm for the first time, keeping air concentrations above that symbolic red line all year.

Read more here…