Population World Population: CO2 ppm World Carbon: 390 ppm

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

10 Indicators of a Human Fingerprint on Climate Change

The NOAA State of the Climate 2009 report is an excellent summary of the many lines of evidence that global warming is happening. Acknowledging the fact that the planet is warming leads to the all important question - what's causing global warming? To answer this, here is a summary of the empirical evidence that answer this question. Many different observations find a distinct human fingerprint on climate change:

10 Indicators of a Human Fingerprint on Climate Change
To get a closer look, click on the pic above to get a high-rez 1024x768 version (you're all welcome to use this graphic in your Powerpoint presentations). Or to dig even deeper, here's more info on each indicator (including links to the original data or peer-reviewed research):
  1. Humans are currently emitting around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (CDIAC). Of course, it could be coincidence that CO2 levels are rising so sharply at the same time so let's look at more evidence that we're responsible for the rise in CO2 levels.
  2. When we measure the type of carbon accumulating in the atmosphere, we observe more of the type of carbon that comes from fossil fuels (Manning 2006).
  3. This is corroborated by measurements of oxygen in the atmosphere. Oxygen levels are falling in line with the amount of carbon dioxide rising, just as you'd expect from fossil fuel burning which takes oxygen out of the air to create carbon dioxide (Manning 2006).
  4. Further independent evidence that humans are raising CO2 levels comes from measurements of carbon found in coral records going back several centuries. These find a recent sharp rise in the type of carbon that comes from fossil fuels (Pelejero 2005).
  5. So we know humans are raising CO2 levels. What's the effect? Satellites measure less heat escaping out to space, at the particular wavelengths that CO2 absorbs heat, thus finding "direct experimental evidence for a significant increase in the Earth's greenhouse effect". (Harries 2001Griggs 2004Chen 2007).
  6. If less heat is escaping to space, where is it going? Back to the Earth's surface. Surface measurements confirm this, observing more downward infrared radiation (Philipona 2004,Wang 2009). A closer look at the downward radiation finds more heat returning at CO2 wavelengths, leading to the conclusion that "this experimental data should effectively end the argument by skeptics that no experimental evidence exists for the connection between greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere and global warming." (Evans 2006).
  7. If an increased greenhouse effect is causing global warming, we should see certain patterns in the warming. For example, the planet should warm faster at night than during the day. This is indeed being observed (Braganza 2004Alexander 2006).
  8. Another distinctive pattern of greenhouse warming is cooling in the upper atmosphere, otherwise known as the stratosphere. This is exactly what's happening (Jones 2003).
  9. With the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) warming and the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) cooling, another consequence is the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere, otherwise known as the tropopause, should rise as a consequence of greenhouse warming. This has been observed (Santer 2003).
  10. An even higher layer of the atmosphere, the ionosphere, is expected to cool and contract in response to greenhouse warming. This has been observed by satellites (Laštovi?ka 2006).
Science isn't a house of cards, ready to topple if you remove one line of evidence. Instead, it's like a jigsaw puzzle. As the body of evidence builds, we get a clearer picture of what's driving our climate. We now have many lines of evidence all pointing to a single, consistent answer - the main driver of global warming is rising carbon dioxide levels from our fossil fuel burning.

What does past climate change tell us about global warming?

Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.

If there's one thing that all sides of the climate debate can agree on, it's that climate has changed naturally in the past. Long before industrial times, the planet underwent many warming and cooling periods. This has led some to conclude that if global temperatures changed naturally in the past, long before SUVs and plasma TVs, nature must be the cause of current global warming. This conclusion is the opposite of peer-reviewed science has found.
Our climate is governed by the following principle: when you add more heat to our climate, global temperatures rise. Conversely, when the climate loses heat, temperatures fall. Say the planet is in positive energy imbalance. More energy is coming in than radiating back out to space. This is known as radiative forcing, the change in net energy flow at the top of the atmosphere. When the Earth experiences positive radiative forcing, our climate accumulates heat and global temperature rises (not monotonically, of course, internal variability will add noise to the signal).
How much does temperature change for a given radiative forcing? This is determined by the planet's climate sensitivity. The more sensitive our climate, the greater the change in temperature. The most common way of describing climate sensitivity is the change in global temperature if atmospheric CO2 is doubled. What does this mean? The amount of energy absorbed by CO2 can be calculated using line-by-line radiative transfer codes. These results have been experimentally confirmed by satellite and surface measurements. The radiative forcing from a doubling of CO2 is 3.7 Watts per square metre (W/m2) (IPCC AR4 Section 2.3.1).
So when we talk about climate sensitivity to doubled CO2, we're talking about the change in global temperatures from a radiative forcing of 3.7 Wm-2. This forcing doesn't necessarily have to come from CO2. It can come from any factor that causes an energy imbalance.
How much does it warm if CO2 is doubled? If we lived in a climate with no feedbacks, global temperatures would rise 1.2°C (Lorius 1990). However, our climate has feedbacks, both positive and negative. The strongest positive feedback is water vapour. As temperature rises, so too does the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. However, water vapour is a greenhouse gas which causes more warming which leads to more water vapour and so on. There are also negative feedbacks - more water vapour causes more clouds which can have both a cooling and warming effect.
What is the net feedback? Climate sensitivity can be calculated from empirical observations. One needs to find a period where we have temperature records and measurements of the various forcings that drove the climate change. Once you have the change in temperature and radiative forcing, climate sensitivity can be calculated. Figure 1 shows a summary of the peer-reviewed studies that have determined climate sensitivity from past periods (Knutti & Hegerl 2008).
Figure 1: Distributions and ranges for climate sensitivity from different lines of evidence. The circle indicates the most likely value. The thick coloured bars indicate likely value (more than 66% probability). The thin coloured bars indicate most likely values (more than 90% probability). Dashed lines indicate no robust constraint on an upper bound. The IPCC likely range (2 to 4.5°C) and most likely value (3°C) are indicated by the vertical grey bar and black line, respectively.
There have been many estimates of climate sensitivity based on the instrumental record (the past 150 years). Several studies used the observed surface and ocean warming over the twentieth century and an estimate of the radiative forcing. A variety of methods have been employed - simple or intermediate-complexity models, statistical models or energy balance calculations. Satellite data for the radiation budget have also been analyzed to infer climate sensitivity.
Some recent analyses used the well-observed forcing and response to major volcanic eruptions during the twentieth century. A few studies examined palaeoclimate reconstructions from the past millennium or the period around 12,000 years ago when the planet came out of a global ice age (Last Glacial Maximum).
What can we conclude from this? We have a number of independent studies covering a range of periods, studying different aspects of climate and employing various methods of analysis. They all yield a broadly consistent range of climate sensitivity with a most likely value of 3°C for a doubling of CO2.
The combined evidence indicates that the net feedback to radiative forcing is significantly positive. There is no credible line of evidence that yields very high or very low climate sensitivity as a best estimate.
CO2 has caused an accumulation of heat in our climate. The radiative forcing from CO2 is known with high understanding and confirmed by empirical observations. The climate response to this heat build-up is determined by climate sensitivity.
Ironically, when skeptics cite past climate change, they're in fact invoking evidence for strong climate sensitivity and net positive feedback. Higher climate sensitivity means a larger climate response to CO2 forcing. Past climate change actually provides evidence that humans can affect climate now.
written by John Cook. Last updated on 9 August 2010.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Walrus become latest indicators of Climate Change

Looking more like a crowded summer beach than a frosty Alaskan coastline, walruses cram the sand in this recent shot from Point Lay in the northwest corner of the state. A contractor spotted a total of 8000 walruses in two sections of beach during an aerial survey of the Chukchi Sea Wednesday.
While female walruses and their young usually camp out on sea ice each summer, warmer waters forced the families into becoming beach bums. As the animals' icy home receded to deeper waters, food from the ocean floor was put out of reach. The walruses have packed the shores in four of the last five summers in what has become a seasonal display of climate change. Last year they came in record numbers with as many as 20,000 walruses jamming the shores of Point Lay. The dense conditions increase the risk for deadly stampedes.

New Scientist
Michael Marshall : Marine Life shifts as temperatures rise

Climate Change, are you concerned but don't know what to do : STEP 1

STEP 1 :  Fully understand what the causes are AND  the effects.

This may seem too simplistic, it isn't; these are the building blocks upon which you can then move towards taking real and effective action.

Start here, watch the video sequence then sign up using the link in the top right of the site  http://www.carbonfix.it


Thawing Permafrost Could Release Vast Amounts of Carbon and Accelerate Climate Change beyond the Control of Mankind

Could immense quantities of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane (20 time more destructive) spell disaster for climate change and global warming  which could run out of control rendering any action taken by mankind to reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) pointless. In the words of Nobel Prize Physicist and US Secretary of State for Energy Stepehn Chu "we cannot go there".

Opinions differ, what is agreed though is that the Arctic permafrost contains immense amounts of carbon currently held in suspended animation; as temperatures rise the permafrost melts and micro-organisms drive decomposition resulting in release of  the GHG. As the GHG,s are released then temperatures rise further increasing the melt rate and acting as a catalyst for enhanced emissions in a negative feedback loop. At stake is an estimated 2,167 petagrams of carbon in all layers of high latitude soil which is more than two trillion US tons.

Research recently published by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that their model found that the increased in carbon uptake by biomass production associated with higher temperatures will be overshadowed by a much larger amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. 

As usual further research is recommended; however, while this is advisable the fact remains that temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet, the permafrost is melting and vast quantities of carbon are already being released into the atmosphere and the rate is increasing.

Paul Thompson

1. Dan Krotz 510-486-4019  dakrotz@lbl.gov

Lose the fight to save Rainforests and we lose the fight against Climate Change

The need for urgent action

The Prince’s Rainforests Project believes that emergency funding is needed to help protect rainforests and to encourage rainforest nations to continue to develop without the need for deforestation.
If we don’t take action, we could lose another 100 million hectares of tropical forests over the next 10 years – that’s an area the size of Egypt.
Saving the rainforests will give the world a better chance to achieve its goals of stabilising climate change, while also preserving important ecosystem benefits, not to mention the fact that over one billion of the poorest people on Earth depend on the rainforests for their livelihoods.
The need for action is urgent. Recent research shows that it will be impossible to avoid catastrophic climate change without it [1].
1 McKinsey & Company, ‘Global GHG Abatement Cost Curve v2′ (2009); ClimateWorks Foundation / McKinsey & Company ‘Project Catalyst’
2.  http://www.rainforestsos.org/about-rainforests/

Welcome to The CarbonFix Foundation

The CarbonFix Foundation is a Science based charity which works with Business, Educational Institutions and individuals helping them understand climate change then introduces effective action to reduce their impact.

Why Now  It is very likely that most of the observed impacts of climate change are caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the usual cause of warming, solar activity and other natural factors have been insignificant. Man-made change of the earth’s climate threatens the very core of our civilisation now; do nothing and our children will never forgive us

Charity:   The CarbonFix Foundation charity was established in September 2011, we are regulated by the Charity Commission and all funds go towards meeting the mission of the charity and are not wasted in dividends, profits or other pressures associated with none charitable organisations.

Mission:   The CarbonFix Foundation is a Science based charity which works with Business, Educational Institutions and individuals helping them understand climate change then introduces effective action to reduce their impact. The Charity implements carbon reduction projects around the world which aims to provide sustainable and audited benefits for local communities, biodiversity and greenhouse gas reduction