Archive for the tag “Barack Obama”

Animation shows dramatic disappearance of ice from the Arctic

Its hot out. Everywhere. Even at the poles of the earth. We already know that 2014 was thewarmest year on record and also that sea surface temperatures reached a record high. This has meant storms, droughts, raised sea levels and heat waves and other extreme weather events that have been caused by global warming. Among the most dramatic is the fall in sea ice in the Arctic.

Last years State of the Climate report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the Arctic had experienced its fourth-warmest year on record and among its lowest minimum sea ice extents. The numbers themselves are easiest to see when charted out.

But there is an even simpler way to understand just how much of the Arctic ice has disappeared over just the last few years, thanks in part to global warming. US President Barack Obama made reference to it earlier this month, when he unveiled his biggest plan to tackle climate change yet. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart, Obama said in his speech.

The makers of the magazine and the atlases indeed confirmed Obamas words, and then put out this handy GIF, combining National Geographic Atlases from 1999 through 2014 to show just how Arctic Ice has melted over that time.

The results are clear to ice. To the untrained eye, it looks as if almost half of Arctic sea ice has disappeared over just 15 years. In a post on its website, National Geographic admitted that the maps werent entirely accurate, but nevertheless offered the best possible way to show a dynamic environment in a static format. And indeed, no one is making the claim that Arctic ice isnt disappearing.

The US National Snow & Ice Data Centre finds that this years ice is well below average for this time of the year. The centre also says that, although the numbers are higher than 2012s, one of the worst year on records, satellite imagery suggests the ice has become rather diffuse (low ice concentrations) with many large broken ice floes surrounded by open water. How soon before the race to the north pole becomes less about sledding and more about swimming?

News update

OMG… Greenland’s ice sheets are melting fast
The Guardian UK
An urgent attempt to study the rate at which Greenland’s mighty ice sheets are melting has been launched by Nasa. The aim of the six-year project, called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG), is to understand how fast the world’s warming seas are now eroding the edges of the island’s vast icecaps. Warming air temperatures are already causing considerable glacier loss there, but the factors involving the sea that laps the bases of its great ice masses, and which is also heating up, are less well understood.

Snatching Defeat
Albert Bates, The Great Change
Last week we concluded our post on climate change with a quote from James Hansen, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations. All this year we have been leading up to our collective fin de seicle moment in December, the grand denouement of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol in Paris. At this late date, we are frankly pessimistic for the outcome there.

Undamming Rivers: A Chance For New Clean Energy Source
John Waldman & Karin Limburg, Yale Environment 360
Many hydroelectric dams produce modest amounts of power yet do enormous damage to rivers and fish populations. Why not take down these aging structures, build solar farms in the drained reservoirs, and restore the natural ecology of the rivers?

The Devil in Obama’s New Emissions Target for the US Lies in Base Year Details
Vasudevan Mukunth, The Wire
The US’s carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2005, at 5,828.63 million metric tons. This convenient choice of a base year allows the US a leeway that’s 18.64% higher than its 1990 emissions – 1990 being the year that the Kyoto Protocol uses as a base. The absence of any rules on what can or can’t constitute base years is leveraged by many countries. In Europe, for example, the base year is 1990 because that’s when emissions peaked followed by a steady decline in industrial activity as well as a growing adoption of renewable energy options.

Japan restarts first nuclear reactor since Fukushima disaster
The Guardian UK
Japan has begun a controversial return to nuclear power generation with the restart of a reactor in the country’s south-west, four and a half years after its faith in atomic energy was shattered by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi. Kyushu Electric Power, the operator of the Sendai plant, said it had restarted one of the facility’s two reactors on Tuesday morning, in defiance of strong local opposition. The move marks the first time Japan has generated nuclear power since a post-Fukushima shutdown of all its 44 operable reactors two years ago.

Space mining is closer than you think, and the prospects are great
Andrew Dempster, The Conversation
Recently, the American cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson gushed about the prospects of mining in space, and the benefits that might afford humanity. Is this really plausible? What can we mine in space? And will it really deliver world peace, or just another realm for competition and conflict? Perhaps a look at the immediate past and near future may help us answer some of these questions.

Sustainable development is failing but there are alternatives to capitalism
Ashish Kothari, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta, The Guardian UK
In the face of worsening ecological and economic crises and continuing social deprivation, the last two decades have seen two broad trends emerge among those seeking sustainability, equality and justice. First there are the green economy and sustainable development approaches that dominate the upcoming Paris climate summit and the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs). To date, such measures have failed to deliver a harmonisation of economic growth, social welfare and environmental protection. Political ecology paradigms, on the other hand, call for more fundamental changes, challenging the predominance of growth-oriented development based on fossil fuels, neoliberal capitalism and related forms of so-called representative democracy.

News update

The Cause Is Us: World on Verge of Sixth Extinction
By Andrea Germanos,
A new study published in the journal Science has shown that human activity has driven current rates of species extinction to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate. This important study confirms that species are going extinct at a pace not seen in tens of millions of years, and unlike past extinction events, the cause is us, stated Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

UN: Time running out to stop rising CO2 levels 
Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have topped 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout the northern hemisphere, the United Nations weather agency confirmed, warning that time is running out to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions. “This threshold is of symbolic and scientific significance and reinforces evidence that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are responsible for the continuing increase in heat-trapping greenhouse gases warming our planet,” the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported.

US shale boom is over, energy revolution needed to avert blackouts
By Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian
In 2012, the global energy watchdog International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that the US would outpace Saudi Arabia in oil production thanks to the shale boom by 2020, becoming a net exporter by 2030. The forecast was seen by many as decisive evidence of the renewal of the oil age. But the IEAs  World Energy Investment Outlook released this week confirms that the partys over it has lowered US production projections, demands urgent investment. [Note: A contrary view on the above article can be found here]

Peak Oil Revisited…
By Brian Davey,
Conventional “legacy” oil production peaked in 2005 and has not increased since. All the increase in oil production since that date has been from unconventional sources like shale oil or natural gas liquids that are a by-product of shale gas production. This is despite a massive increase in investment by the oil industry that has not yielded any increase in ‘conventional oil’ production but has merely served to slow what would otherwise have been a faster decline.

Is Peak Car the metric for us too?
V. Sumantran, The Hindu
Total global vehicle sales climbed from a level of 66 million units in 2009 to a level of about 82 million units in 2013. India contributed about 3 million to that total. Their postulation is that by the next decade, global vehicle sales will breach 100 million units and by then will face several factors that will cause this figure to have peaked.

Can the Modi sarkar chart a green road to growth?
By Jay Mazoomdar,
Two decades of blinkered double-digit growth has made China an environmental disaster and necessitated such desperate efforts at recovery. There is an obvious lesson in the Chinese experience for India’s new government keen to emulate and overshadow the big neighbour’s growth story while facing the same environmental challenges.

Obama unveils historic rules to reduce coal pollution by 30%
From The Guardian
The Obama administration unveiled historic environment rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants by 30%. The new rules, formally announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, represent the first time Barack Obama, or any other president, has moved to regulate carbon pollution from power plants – the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change.

U.S. Wars In The Middle East: A New Age Of Hydro-Imperialism
By Garikai Chengu, Harvard University
Water is to the twenty-first century what oil was to the twentieth century: the commodity that determines the wealth and stability of nations. People who think that the West’s interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria are only about oil are mistaken. Broadly speaking, Western interest in the Middle East is becoming increasingly about a commodity more precious than oil, namely water.

New Environmentalists Are Taking Bold Actions and Its Working
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.
No longer dominated by the traditional “Big Green” groups that were taking big donations from corporate polluters, the new environmental movement is broader, more assertive and more creative. With extreme energy extraction and climate change bearing down on the world, environmental justice advocates are taking bold actions to stop extreme energy extraction and create new solutions to save the planet. These ‘fresh greens often work locally, but also connect through national and international actions.

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