Climate Change and #Wildfires Link in Scientific Studies

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Here are links to some articles and scientific papers that link climate change to the increased size and severity of wildfires.

  1. A study showing that climate change has caused a 50% increase in wildfires since 1984
  2. Article on the bigger, badder, wildfires in the West caused by climate change, with links to other articles
  3. Latest government report on climate change
  4. Increasing drought due to climate change
  5. UCS graphics on increased wildfires due to climate change.
  6. Scientific American on wildfires in CA and climate change

 

Pruitt Cancels Industry Reporting on Methane Natural Gas and Public Policy – True #Methane Threat Must Be Understood

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Why We Must Stop Using Natural Gas

Methane emissions, the main component of natural gas and whose emissions EPA head Pruitt just eliminated from industry reporting requirements, may constitute the biggest GHG climate threat the planet faces.

Previous estimates have underestimated the severity of the green house gas threat posed by methane, the principal component of natural gas (around 85%). Methane emissions from natural gas leakage during oil and gas exploration and distribution, as well as emissions from animal feed lots and public waste facilities, threaten to help push global warming past the “tipping point” where unstoppable melting of frozen arctic soils could lead to catastrophic releases of naturally produced methane. To avoid this outcome, several steps should be taken. In particular, public policies that tout natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy should be understood as completely misguided.

Electric utility companies (load serving entities) should move quickly to help their customers switch their home heating fuels from fossil fuels (natural gas, heating oil, propane) to electricity. New high efficiency heat pump water heaters plus ducted or ductless heat pump systems are readily available that can replace natural gas water heaters, furnaces, and boilers . Moreover, such systems are easy to install, offer improved living environments, and are rapidly coming down in price. They combine with rooftop or community supplied solar energy to create ultra-low emission homes and commercial buildings.

Background of the Problem

Because methane, CO2, water vapor and other green house gases (GHGs) remain in the atmosphere for different lengths of time, scientists calculate their combined effects over an arbitrary time frame, usually 100 years. This allows, for example, the effects of the gas HFC-134, a refrigerant used in automobile air conditioning systems (13 year atmospheric life), to be summed up with the effects of other gases like carbon tetraflouride (atmospheric life 50,000 years). Scientists have used the term “global warming potential” (GWP) to describe the characteristics of each gas individually. The GWP compares each gas to carbon dioxide (CO2). The result is a number that indicates the climate changing effect of the gas when compared to CO2 over a 100 year span. Nitrous oxide, for example, has a GWP of 298, meaning it has 298 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide over 100 years.

The serious flaw in this approach comes from the short term effects of common gases that remain in the atmosphere for only a few days or a few years, and represent a danger not considered in the arbitrary 100 year time frame used to measure combined GHG effects. Methane, the other big GHG besides carbon dioxide, remains in the atmosphere for about 10 years, so combining it with CO2 and other gases into a 100 year time frame effectively smears out methane’s actual short term effects. Methane is second only to CO2 as a man made contributor to warming, but it is increasingly the focus of scientific attention because of its short term threat to push the planet past a tipping point, where global warming may increase rapidly due to natural positive feedback loops. Two such feedback loops cause considerable concern. One is the vast amount of natural methane that will be released into the atmosphere as arctic soils warm, methane that will be created from long frozen biological carbon in the ground (mainly frozen plant matter). Another feedback comes from a warming atmosphere that can hold more water vapor, itself an extremely potent green house gas. As air warms its ability to hold more water vapor (more humidity) drives more warming.

Given these short term dangers, policy makers should take methane’s effect over its 10 year atmospheric presence into consideration, not simply the 100 year time frame that is still widely applied. In a 10 year time frame, methane is known to be about 100 times as powerful as CO2 as a green house gas, not the 28 to 36 times figure that is still used to guide public policies.

It is important to note that since the industrial revolution worldwide oil and gas development, large scale agriculture, and other factors have caused the absolute amount of methane in the atmosphere to not only go up about 250% (Figure 1), but to continue to increase even though its atmospheric life is only ten years. This strongly indicates that the sustained increase over the last three centuries has been caused by human activities, and thus can be reversed.

It is important to note that since the industrial revolution worldwide oil and gas development, large scale agriculture, and other factors have caused the absolute amount of methane in the atmosphere to not only go up about 250% (Figure 1), but to continue to increase even though its atmospheric life is only ten years. This strongly indicates that the sustained increase over the last few centuries has been caused by human activities, and thus can be reversed.

Notice how worldwide atmospheric methane appears to have leveled out around the year 2000 and then started increasing again around 2008. A great deal of scientific debate has centered on this development. Some scientists argue that the new increase is primarily due to increases in emissions from the tropics, from wetlands, or from agricultural sources. However, recent research points to natural gas recovery and distribution as the main source of increased emissions. This research points to shale fracturing, which expanded rapidly around the year 2008, as a primary driver of newly rising methane levels worldwide

Underestimating the global warming effect of methane is common when setting public policy. Below a chart indicates the estimated sources of green house gas emissions in Sonoma County, California (Source: Action Plan 2020 by the Regional Climate Protection Authority, Sonoma County). Notice that the amount of GHG emissions from the “Building Energy” sector is estimated at 33% of total emissions.

Building emissions in this chart are derived almost entirely from natural gas consumption. Moreover, solid waste emissions and a substantial portion of livestock emissions are methane as well, leading to a total of at least 40 percent of reported emissions to be methane. In this report the multiplier used for calculating building emissions was considered to be 28 times that of CO2. Clearly, if the true short term methane to CO2 GWP ratio is closer to 100 in the short term, then the effect of natural gas emissions should occupy a much larger fraction of the pie chart. Whether relatively more resources should be spent on reducing transportation CO2 emissions, as opposed to methane emissions, rests largely on the reliability of such assessments.

It should be clear why some scientists have argued that total methane emissions, including agricultural emissions, may represent as big or bigger a green house gas threat in the short term as do CO2 emissions from all other sources, including the transportation sector.

These facts point to the need to rapidly move away from natural gas as a fuel used for heating buildings and water, and the adoption of renewable energy for those purposes. Public agencies and utility companies must recognize the imperative of this clean energy transition away from natural gas to newer, cleaning technologies powered by renewable energy.

 

 

Congress’s Rescinding of Methane Emission Controls Will Be Huge Setback in Fight Against Climate Change #COP22

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Republicans in Congress are rushing to provide the oil and gas industry with nearly unrestricted freedom to vent fugitive methane emissions into the atmosphere in what may be one of the most catastrophic environment related measures to emerge from the new Trump directed Congress. The method will be by using an arcane rule that will repeal restrictions on methane emissions put in place by the Obama Administration. According to climate scientists, methane emissions from the use of natural gas is a critical part of the  threat to life on earth resulting from climate change. Thus, natural gas development is not a bridge to a cleaner fuel future, but a bridge to nowhere, according to this view.  A letter by leading climate scientists to the Obama Administration explained the little understood nature of this threat, leading to recent enactment of restrictions on methane fugitive natural gas emissions (natural gas is composed of about 86% methane). Now Republicans intend to rescind those regulations.

Also see these  links:
Sierra Club
Ecowatch

 

Out of Sight but not Out of Mind? – Nano Scale Vehicle Pollution Underlies Damaged Brains? #EV #COP21 #Solar

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Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK have determined that large amounts of nano-sized vehicle pollution, composed largely of iron “magnetite’ particles, can accumulate in the human brain and are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have known for decades that magnetites and other nano sized metallic particles can give rise to cascading free radicals linked to neurological degeneration. But researchers expressed shock at the “abundant” quantities of magnetite particles in the brain that apparently enter the brain through the olfactory bulb (the sinuses).

All actions have consequences, and it appears that the consequences of burning fossil fuels are particularly horrific not just for ecosystems and for human societies, but for human health, on a variety of levels, as well. At one of the smallest such levels, the level of nano sized particles, the consequences of burning fossil fuels may be particularly worrisome.

The rise of various neurological disorders in recent decades, especially the incidence of Alzheimers Disease, has gone largely unexplained. The evidence uncovered by Lancaster University researchers opens the door to understanding that fossil fuel combustion, previously little considered, may be a major factor.

Link to Guardian Newspaper Report on Lancaster University research.

The Case Against Further Use of Natural Gas (Methane)

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Recent scientific research indicates that using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” is causing far more harm than good. Peer reviewed scientific studies (links to them below) indicate we should drop natural gas in favor of the immediate adoption of rooftop solar, new electric heat pump home heating and cooling, and “Tier 3” heat pump water heaters (all readily available as attractive investments for homeowners). Using natural gas, as a leading article headlines, is a “bridge to nowhere.” Indeed, it is in all likelihood a fast track to greater ecological destruction.

Within a few years of the rapid expansion of shale gas extraction (using fracking) that started about decade ago, researchers began tracking its true effects on green house gas (GHG) emissions. A 2011 landmark paper authored by Robert W. Horwarth, Renee Santoro, and Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University warned that natural gas extraction was creating far more fugitive emissions than facile estimates by the EPA indicated. Following its publication, other researchers followed suit. To sum up this research, the problem is that if more than 3.2 percent of the natural gas extracted escapes to the atmosphere during development and production, then using natural in your home or at your power plant is worse than burning coal due to its high global warming potential (GWP). In the past few years researchers have shown, using satellite imagery and other reliable measurements, that USA natural gas fields are emitting as much as several times the levels of emissions that they must for natural gas to fulfill its role as a “bridge fuel.” In other words, using natural gas to reduce GHGs has been counterproductive. The EPA has belatedly started to acknowledged that natural gas emissions are greater than previously acknowledged, and this fact featured prominently in the environmental agreement recently reached between POTUS and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.

At the American Geophysical Union’s 2014 annual meeting in San Francisco, several separate research groups presented evidence that fugitive emissions from USA shale gas fields far exceed EPA estimates. Researchers have pointed out that EPA estimates are industry supplied and are derived from established production facilities. Emissions occurring during exploration and well development, and the consistent seven percent of new wells that suffer leaks have been excluded from the EPA’s calculations.

Another major flaw in the oil and gas influenced EPA’s conclusions arises from the presumed global warming potential of the leaking natural gas. Natural gas released as methane into the atmosphere has a warming potential around 100 times greater than an equal amount of CO2. Natural gas only remains in the atmosphere for around 12 years or so, but oil and gas industry supported studies attribute its GWP effect over a hundred year period. This statistically dilutes natural gas’s large negative impact during the next decade or two, shifting it to a much longer time frame. The problem is that we face the immediate danger of reaching a critical tipping point in the fight against green house gases. The upshot is that studies supporting the use of natural gas have made erroneous and very dangerous assumptions about its short term effects.

Investing in home rooftop solar, mini-split heat pump heating and cooling, new Tier 3 heat pump water heaters, and an EV drastically reduces household carbon footprints and returns 10 percent or more per year to homeowners as an investment. Given this financially attractive return, it’s hard to imagine why households don’t get rid of the natural gas furnaces and appliances and get on with the conversion to becoming zero net carbon with clean rooftop solar and other renewable energy.

Related scientific articles can be downloaded here:

Methane_and_GHG_from_shale_Howarth

Alverez et al 2012

Brandt et al 2014 methane leaks

Howarth_2014_ESE_methane_emissions

Methane_and_GHG_from_shale_Howarth

Schneising et al on methane remote sensing

By Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4025872

By Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4025872

New “meth” crisis – #fracking leaks: install a heat pump water heater to stop using nat gas or propane.

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Alarm bells are sounding over new research that shows that methane leaks from natural gas and oil fracking is spewing more greenhouse gases, mainly as methane (CH4), into the atmosphere than previously believed.

CH4 has 86 times the greenhouse gas effect as does CO2 over a 20 year period. The result of these fracking leaks is a catastrophic increase in GHGs that undercuts previous forecasts on GHG emissions and the pace of climate change. Moreover, they show that the EPA and the oil and gas industry have repeatedly played fast and loose with the climate threat caused by fracking (the EPA, finally recognizing this disastrous mistake, are now trying to make amends). Many scientists have been yelling about the methane leakage problem for years now but Big Media has largely ignored their warnings, while propagating the idiotic pretense that no-nothing climate change deniers and the petroleum industry’s paid hacks and purchased politicians deserve equal time to dispute with the genuine scientific community.

In 2014, I attended the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meeting, the biggest gathering of earth scientists in the world, which takes place early each December in San Francisco. There, the research of more than 20,000 earth and space scientists (and their non-attending colleagues) is shared with other scientists and the public. When the total number of scientific contributors to the this event is taken into account, the number of expert participants stretches into the many tens of thousands – the biggest such communication event between earth scientists in the world (none of whom, so far as I could tell at innumerable meetings, thinks that man-made global warming isn’t an existential threat and massive crisis).

At the AGU I attended several talks where scientists revealed their measurements, tracked with instruments on airplanes and other ways, of methane emissions from fracking sites across the United States. Every talk punctuated the fact that leaked emissions were far far above the glib assumptions made by the EPA and the oil and gas industry. Some results were truly shocking, with high percentages of methane emissions spewing from wells that the industry and EPA were ignoring. Leaving aside the documented fracking side effects of aquifer destruction, earthquake threats, progressively leaking aging wells and other pollutant damage, the levels of CH4 leaked emissions were obviously so high as to make me believe that we need a complete review about whether natural gas offers, in any truly meaningful way, a positive “bridge” to GHG reductions. Yes, by that I mean that the real climate effects of natural gas, with methane leaks taken into account, may put its climate damage on par with the coal industry it purports to cleanly replace.

Now, a study published in the journal Science, authored by leading climate experts, shows that my suspicions about this problem are confirmed. That study demonstrates that the net positive impact of the much vaunted switch to natural gas may result in no net decrease in GHG emissions whatsoever, and in fact may be making the problem worse.

In 2014 when I attended the massive climate march in NYC, I tweeted repeatedly to urge people to adopt new technologies, now available, that would rapidly reduce the demand for natural gas in households and businesses. One of those technologies, a true game changer, is the heat pump water heater (HPWH) (note this disclaimer – I don’t sell these devices and receive no compensation from anyone, directly or indirectly, for recommending them).

Heat pump water heaters (HPWH) are still an unknown to many people. However, this type of highly efficient water heater is readily available at Lowes and other other hardware outlets, and it offers substantial savings over normal electric water heaters and can replace natural gas at a cost comparable to a natural gas replacement. New style heat pump water heaters often use much less than half the electricity of normal electric water heaters, and also use far less overall energy than any other type of standard water heater, including natural gas and propane. Their big efficiency results in savings that pays for the water heater quickly, often in as little as two years or less.


Heat pump water heaters should be mandated for installation in every locality where natural gas is now used! Their use would make an enormous dent in damage caused by the phony “natural gas as GHG reduction device” argument.

Heat pump water heaters are run on electricity, but unlike normal electric water heaters that heat water with resistance coils (like the resistance coil burner on an electric range) the heat pump water heater pulls heat out of the surrounding air, accumulates it to a high temperature, and heats the house or business’s water with that energy.

Heat pump water heaters look much like normal electric water heaters and are typically offered with a 50 or 80 gallon tank. Since they pull heat out of the surrounding air, they need to be placed where there’s a sufficient amount of air available to provide enough heat. A garage or basement works fine. They can also be placed inside a house in a largish utility room. New models have ducts that allow the possibility of piping in hot attic air, or warm air from some other source potentially make HPWHs even more efficient. Imagine heating your hot water with your wasted attic heat instead of a leaking fracking well.

In the last few years, HPWH technology has improved rapidly. Now, the new “Northern Climate” models, such as new “Geospring” models made by General Electric, work efficiently in homes even in cold northern winters.

HPWHs are not much more expensive than regular electric water heaters (and with available tax incentives and rebates may be even less expensive than normal ones), yet the fast payback they offer makes them a great value for most households. They are especially great for homes with people who like to take long showers (for best savings – use HPWHs combined with low flow shower heads and faucet aerators). Combine all of this with rooftop solar and they can virtually wipe out the GHG emissions caused by heating water. Note on this website you can find where states or utility companies offer big rebates that can help offset HPWH costs. In California, the state offers many customers a rebate of $500 through the big utility companies for installation of a HPWH. With prices for 50 gallon HPWHs typically about $1,100.00, the installed cost is about the same as a regular water heater.

Again, I don’t sell these water heaters or get any compensation for advocating for them, but I urge you to see this webpage for information on new high efficiency, reasonably priced Geospring models offered by General Electric.

With a nod to the late Nancy Reagan, “Just say no!” to using natural gas.

four_brands_of_water_heater

Business of Local Energy Symposium March 4th in San Jose – Leading California to Community Choice Energy

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The second Business of Local Energy Symposium, an event that explores the emerging Community Choice Energy market in California, will be held in San Jose on March 4th. Prominent speakers from existing Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs, state energy agencies, and private industry will address an audience composed of local government representatives and private industry. Following its initial success in late 2014, the event focuses on the growing interest in Community Choice in over 80 communities in California. CCEs are a hybrid public utility that buys and sells electricity in local communities. CCEs are set up under California law as Joint Power Authorities (JPA) where single or multiple cities and other jurisdictions can act as electricity retailers while still depending on Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) for maintaining the grid.

Breakout sessions with panel discussions explore the process of creating a CCE, how CCEs boost local economies while enhancing sustainability plus support technology deployment. Experts will discuss how CCEs can play a vital role in achieving significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions while promoting distributed energy resources and local jobs. The Symposium will also emphasize how CCE’s can develop such programs rapidly, optimize results for local residents, and collaborate across jurisdictions to improve outcomes. Other presenters will discuss new disruptive technologies that will replace fossil fuel powered vehicles and appliances with more efficient and cleaner electric powered equivalents.

The Symposium presents Community Choice as a platform for innovation so it will include presentations on enhancing grid resilience through microgrid development, storage, and electric vehicle to grid storage applications. Among the timely topics addressed this year will be energy metering (NEM) policies, local energy resource plans, and a new CPUC ruling allowing collective use of virtual net metering for community solar arrays in disadvantaged communities. Registration.

Green Energy must not simply reduce carbon, it must help fundamentally remake the economic system #feelthebern

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economist_chart_800

“So we have ended up, after three decades of worshipping free markets, with a system in which the single most dominant players in setting asset prices are central banks and in which financiers are much bigger receivers of government largesse than any welfare cheat could dream about.” Did Bernie Sanders utter this statement? Or Elizabeth Warren? In fact it issued from a column by that staid defender of free markets since 1843, The Economist magazine (or “newspaper,” as they refer to themselves). The “Buttonwood’s Notebook” column of that esteemed publication included this statement in a fascinating general review of the malaise that infects the world economy and its attendant financial system. Buttonwood’s column especially focuses on the growth of the financial industry and its ill effects on the real economy. It cites various economic studies that show that the financial services world has far exceeded its usefulness as a value creating business, and now exists and grows by means of economy killing “rents,” meaning it has the ability to extract money from the rest of the economy (that is from the lower 99%) through monopoly.

In the same vein, the Economist has just posted a chart (see above) showing that the wealthiest one percent of the world’s population now hold as much wealth as the other ninety-nine percent of its inhabitants. And the trend lines are not encouraging, as they show this phenomenon is accelerating.

At its heart, this is an ideological crisis, but not in the sense most people imagine. The crisis we face is not simply due to the ascent of neoliberal ideology, nor to the massive expansion of government that conservatives claim inhibits positive market forces. The crisis we face comes from the very notion that the moribund ideologies that arose in the context of 19th century struggles between capital and labor contain a logic that can explain the problems we face in the information age.

To be sure, arguments on both the current political left and right contain useful perceptions, but as the Economist article points out, there is no general existing economic theory that explains what is really going on. People, and thus the economy, do not act in accordance with economic models. The ideologies and economic models used to describe the world are not as useful as their proponents contend they are. Economists struggle to find an economic theory as revolutionary and insightful as Quantum Theory has been for physics, or the Theory of Evolution has been for biology and zoology (or even behavioral psychology). Economists have failed in this quest, in part because the scope of the problems we face is not adequately explained in the struggle between free markets and government intervention. An aspect of the problem is simply the contention between centralized and local finance, and with respect to energy between capital intensive versus distributed energy production.

The scaled capitalization of energy production is characterized by further concentration of wealth. Imagine the possible effect on local economies if energy transactions remained largely local. Imagine if the value of gasoline, other fossil fuels, and electricity remained in local economies and were not funneled every day to the large financial institutions that even the Economist admits lead primarily to wealth concentration. However, there is little attention paid to this paradigm by economists, even “micro economists.” Among academic economists, those of the “micro” variety mainly examine the tiny bits of macro paradigms. In a digital age where Amazon and box stores dominate sales, this is understandable. But energy is one area that cries out for accurate micro-economic analysis. Such analysis could reveal the very positive, and locally multiplied effects, of getting our energy for transport, home heating/cooling, water heating, etc directly from sunshine and the winds. Green energy represents a great hope, perhaps our greatest hope, that the insidious concentration of wealth can be forestalled short of political and environmental catastrophe.

Perhaps the revolutionary ideology that can finally enlighten the economists and the rest of us is the still unscripted ideology of economic populism, where local and concentrated capital comes into a healthy balance.

Worryingly, the big banks we all have come to resent are moving rapidly to finance capital intensive energy projects that follow the old, failed model, the model that removes wealth from local hands. A clear example of this are the power purchase agreement solar installations on home rooftops, instruments financed by Wall Street. Such agreements have the potential to be packaged and marketed, possibly following in the footsteps of the mortgage instruments that led to the mortgage crisis.

Counter trends, like the Community Choice Energy movement in California are struggling against strong corporate political headwinds emanating from Wall Street. Not just the economy, but the earth itself, appears to ride on the outcome of these struggles.

Melting Icebergs Nourish Ocean. When they are gone what will we get to take their place? Ocean Nourishment, especially with Nitrogen is possible answer

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News reports indicate that melting icebergs are releasing nutrients into the ocean that propel biological activity, activity known as “ocean nourishment” that is known to counter global warming plus help maintain the health of the oceans in the face of atmospheric CO2 caused acidification. But, as icebergs diminish, what can take their place in this vital role? Ocean nourishment with nitrogen deserves more attention and research to determine if it can help counteract ocean acidification.

Leading Authorities and Scientific Community Need a Comprehensive Plan:

The US Congress recognized the threat posed by ocean acidification in 2009 when it passed the FOARAM Act. That law called for a coordinated response by federal agencies to monitor the threat and also develop response strategies to counter the effects of uptake of man made CO2 by ocean waters. Subsequently several government agencies, including NASA, NOAA, the EPA, and eight others collaborated to create the “Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification” to coordinate federal efforts. All of the eleven agencies involved have large or small research programs connected with ocean acidification. According to two reports published in 2014, one by the Working Group itself, and one a by the GAO, key goals called for by the FOARAM Act remain unaddressed. In short, sufficient funding, coordination, and information exchange remains lacking for a comprehensive response to this critical issue. At the start of 2016, the direction and ultimate success of government efforts remains obscure.

One worrisome outcome of the government’s slow response to date is that no comprehensive strategies to mitigate ocean acidification are under serious public discussion. While a great deal of research is under way to monitor the effects of OA, scaled strategies to combat it remain off the table. Obviously, reducing GHG emissions is fundamentally needed, but possible catastrophic effects on the ocean by GHGs already in the atmosphere pose a continued threat for at least hundreds of years. The need for larger scale testing of ideas that could help prevent ocean collapse appears pressing.

Natural ocean processes help store CO2 for immense periods of time. CO2 from the atmosphere mixes with ocean surface waters, then algae and plankton photosythesize some of the CO2 and results in flourishing ocean life. These tiny organisms at the bottom of the ocean food chain stimulate growth of fish and other marine populations. A byproduct is that a small part of atmospheric CO2 gets “exported” to the muddy sea floor, thus removing it for immense periods of time from both the atmosphere and biologically active ocean waters. Enhancing this process has been a much discussed way to help forestall global warming and ocean acidification, as well as increase fish stocks and other marine life.

Ocean nourishment – odd geoengineering plan may still be best hope to stop ocean acidification and species die-offs

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The US Congress recognized the threat posed by ocean acidification in 2009 when it passed the FOARAM Act. That law called for a coordinated response by federal agencies to monitor the threat and also develop response strategies to counter the effects of the uptake of man made CO2 in ocean waters. Subsequently several government agencies, including NASA, NOAA, the EPA, and eight others collaborated to create the “Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification” to coordinate federal efforts. All of the eleven agencies involved have large or small research programs connected with ocean acidification. According to two reports published in 2014, one by the Working Group itself, and one a by the GAO, key goals called for by the FOARAM Act remain unaddressed. In short, sufficient funding, coordination, and information exchange remains lacking for a comprehensive response to this critical issue. At the start of 2016, the direction and ultimate success of government efforts remains obscure.

One worrisome outcome of the government’s slow response to date is that no comprehensive strategies to mitigate ocean acidification are under serious public discussion. While a great deal of research is under way to monitor the effects of OA, scaled strategies to combat it remain off the table. Obviously, reducing GHG emissions is fundamentally needed, but possible catastrophic effects on the ocean by GHGs already in the atmosphere pose a continued threat for at least hundreds of years. The need for larger scale testing of ideas that could help prevent ocean collapse appears pressing.

Natural ocean processes help store CO2 for immense periods of time. CO2 from the atmosphere mixes with ocean surface waters, then algae and plankton photosythesize some of the CO2 and results in flourishing ocean life. These tiny organisms at the bottom of the ocean food chain stimulate growth of fish and other marine populations. A byproduct is that a small part of atmospheric CO2 gets “exported” to the muddy sea floor, thus removing it for immense periods of time from both the atmosphere and biologically active ocean waters. Enhancing this process has been a much discussed way to help forestall global warming and ocean acidification, as well as increase fish stocks and other marine life.

A year ago this blog discussed ocean nourishment with nitrogen. It explained possible advantages of this approach and called for more research and testing. But scientific and public discussion of this and other ocean nourishment remains nearly taboo. One New Year’s resolution should be to not let another year pass before much greater attention and action is taken to explore this and other ways to save our oceans.