From Lima to Paris with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)

On Sunday morning, following two nights of intense negotiations at the UN Climate Summit in Lima, all nations approved the final negotiating text and delivered an agreement that has a chance to succeed.

Known as INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), it is based on countries’ commitment to propose the steps they will take to reduce their emissions. It is the first time that the countries agreed to bring together element s of a bottom-up system in which each country will put forward plans that aim to reduce global emissions enough to limit average temperature rise to 2 degrees C by the end of the century, a level scientists believe would avert the worst impacts of climate change.

The proposals will be assessed prior to the Parris Summit in December 2015. Such a process will help to ensure that objectives and principles are not lost out of sight and furthermore it will help build trust and accountability among countries and stakeholders. The requirements for a good INDC are to be ambitious, transparent, and equitable, so that each country does its fair share to address climate change.

It is good that we have an agreement and INDC is a move in the right direction. But we need to be more ambitious, to invest more in energy productivity, by raising corporate standards for energy efficiency, updating the energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment and by improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

Global Carbon Atlas: A journey through the history and future of human development and carbon

The Global Carbon Atlas is an online platform that allows anyone to see what their country’s emissions are and compare them with neighbouring countries – past, present, and future. It allows you to explore and visualize the most up-to-date data on carbon fluxes resulting from human activities and natural processes. Human impacts on the carbon cycle are the most important cause of climate change.

Capture

Sea urchin could hold key to tackling climate change

The humble sea urchin could hold the key to turning harmful greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into chalk on an industrial scale, British scientists have revealed.

At the moment, pilot studies for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) systems propose the removal of CO2 by pumping it into holes deep underground, but it is both costly and has a long term risk of the gas leaking back out – possibly many miles away from the original downward source.

 The Echinus melo or water melon sea urchin at Capo Caccia Alghero Sardinia. Source: Wikipedia
The Echinus melo or water melon sea urchin at Capo Caccia Alghero Sardinia. Source: Wikipedia

But now scientists have discovered that sea urchins use nickel ions to harness carbon dioxide from the sea to grow their exoskeleton – or shell. It could be a way to capture tonnes of CO2.

Using the nickel nanoparticles suspended in water vats at factories, power stations would capture the CO2 as it is pumped through, converting the gas into the chalk.

The nickel catalyst can be recycled and the by-product – the carbonate – is useful and not damaging to the environment.

Physicist Dr Lidija Siller, a PHD student at Newcastle University, discoverd the nickel enzyme by chance.

“We had set out to understand in detail the carbonic acid reaction – which is what happens when CO2 reacts with water – and needed a catalyst to speed up the process.

“At the same time, I was looking at how organisms absorb CO2 into their skeletons and in particular the sea urchin which converts the CO2 to calcium carbonate.

“When we analysed the surface of the urchin larvae we found a high concentration of nickel on their exoskeleton. Taking nickel nanoparticles which have a large surface area, we added them to our carbonic acid test and the result was the complete removal of CO2.”

Each year, humans emit on average 33.4 billion metric tons of CO2 – around 45% of which remains in the atmosphere. Typically, a petrol-driven car will produce a ton of CO2 every 4,000 miles.

Source and further reading: The Telegraph

New study documents the natural relationship between CO2 concentrations and sea level

From the “Descent into the Icehouse”

By comparing reconstructions of atmospheric CO2 concentrations and sea level over the past 40 million years, researchers based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton have found that greenhouse gas concentrations similar to the present (almost 400 parts per million) were systematically associated with sea levels at least nine metres above current levels.

The study determined the ‘natural equilibrium’ sea level for CO2 concentrations ranging between ice-age values of 180 parts per million and ice-free values of more than 1,000 parts per million.

It takes many centuries for such an equilibrium to be reached, therefore whilst the study does not predict any sea level value for the coming century, it does illustrate what sea level might be expected if climate were stabilized at a certain CO2 level for several centuries.

Lead author Dr Gavin Foster, from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton which is based at the centre, said, “A specific case of interest is one in which CO2 levels are kept at 400 to 450 parts per million, because that is the requirement for the often mentioned target of a maximum of two degrees global warming.”

The researchers compiled more than two thousand pairs of CO2 and sea level data points, spanning critical periods within the last 40 million years. Some of these had climates warmer than present, some similar, and some colder. They also included periods during which global temperatures were increasing, as well as periods during which temperatures were decreasing.

“This way, we cover a wide variety of climate states, which puts us in the best position to detect systematic relationships and to have the potential for looking at future climate developments,” said co-author Professor Eelco Rohling, also from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton.

The researchers found that the natural relationship displays a strong rise in sea level for CO2 increase from 180 to 400 parts per million, peaking at CO2 levels close to present-day values, with sea level at 24 +7/-15 metres above the present, at 68 per cent confidence limits.

“This strong relationship reflects the climatic sensitivity of the great ice sheets of the ice ages,” said Dr Foster. “It continues above the present level because of the apparently similar sensitivity of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, plus possibly some coastal parts of East Antarctica.”

According to the study, sea level stays more or less constant for CO2 changes between 400 and 650 parts per million and it is only for CO2 levels above 650 parts per million that the researchers again saw a strong sea level response for a given CO2 change.

“This trend reflects the behaviour of the large East Antarctic ice sheet in response to climate changes at these very high CO2 levels. An ice-free planet, with sea level 65 metres above the present, occurred in the past when CO2 levels were around 1200 parts per million.”

Professor Rohling said, “Sea level rises to these high values will take many centuries, or even millennia, but the implications from the geological record are clear – for a future climate with maximum warming of about two degrees Centigrade, that is with CO2 stabilized at 400 to 450 parts per million, sea level is set to steadily rise for many centuries, towards its natural equilibrium position at around 24 +7/-15 metres, at 68 per cent confidence. In Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change terms, this is a likely rise of at least nine metres above the present. Previous research indicates that such rises above present sea level may occur at rates of roughly one metre per century.”

Based on these results, which document how the Earth system has operated in the past, future stabilization of CO2 at 400-450 parts per million is unlikely to be sufficient to avoid a significant steady long-term sea level rise.

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 The study is published this week online ahead of print in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS manuscript # 2012-16073R).

Ocean Acidification in Google Earth Tour at High CO2 Conference

Google produced a new Google Earth tour on ocean acidification with partners IGBP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for the major international conference, the Ocean in a High CO2 World, co-sponsored by IGBP.

A new Google Earth tour explores the phenomenon of ocean acidification and explains why even small changes to ocean chemistry could have profound implications for marine life and future economic activities.

Follow the tour as we fly from the Great Barrier Reef to remote islands in the Arctic and the bubbling seabed off Vesuvius in Italy.

Hear stories of how ocean acidification is already affecting marine life and livelihoods’ dependent on a healthy ocean, such as shellfish farming.

Ocean in a High CO2 World in Monterey in September 2012 and was prepared in partnership with Jenifer Austin Foulkes (Google).

Narration, script and production: Dan Laffoley from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Chair of Europe’s Ocean Acidification Reference User Group.

Production and script: Owen Gaffney (International Geosphere and Biosphere Programme)

The animated sequence of ocean acidification through to the year 2300 was created using data provided by the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology http://www.mpimet.mpg.de (courtesy Dr. Tatiana Ilyina) and the visualization tools of the German Climate Computing Center http://www.dkrz.de (courtesy Dr. Michael Böttinger).

Film clips courtesy of Canadian Broacasting Group’s One Ocean, Greenpeace, Tipping Point by Nicolas Koutsikas and Laurence Jourdain, Georama TV Production.

Learn more at http://www.ocean-acidification.net/

Source: IGBP Global Change

What is Climate? Climate Change, Lines of Evidence — video series

The US National Research Council has been doing a lot recently to expand its knowledge exchange on climate change.

In a series of videos it  explains how scientists have arrived at the current state of knowledge about recent climate change and its causes. This is part one of a seven-part series, all available on the National Academies channel.

Ocean-based Food security threatened in a high CO2 World

A Ranking of Nations’Vulnerability to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification

Emissions from human activities are changing the ocean’s chemistry and temperature, in ways that threaten the livelihoods of those who depend on fish and seafood for all or part of their diets. The changes may reduce the amount of wild caught seafood that can be supplied by the oceans and also redistribute species, changing the locations at which seafood can be caught and creating instability for ocean-based food security, or seafood security.

 This report ranks nations based on the seafood security hardships they may experience by the middle of this century due to changing ocean conditions from climate change and ocean acidification. This is done by combining each nation’s exposure to climate change and ocean acidification, its dependence on and consumption of fish and seafood and its level of adaptive capacity based on several socioeconomic factors. Country rankings are developed for risks from climate change and ocean acidification independently, as well as from both problems combined.

Fish and seafood are a primary source of protein for more than one billion of the poorest people on Earth.  By 2050 the global demand for seafood is expected to rise, mainly due to an increase in population to about nine billion people. The oceans can be a large part of the solution to this global food security challenge. But at the same time, emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are disrupting ocean conditions and threatening the future of the essential food resources we receive from the oceans.

The Rapid Change in Ocean pH since the Industrial Revolution is Likely
the Fastest in Earth’s History (Turley, C., et al. 200616)

As a result of the increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the oceans are warming. This is creating changes at the base of the marine food web. Because marine species and their prey are adapted to a certain temperature range, as temperatures change, their habitable ranges can change as well. Rising temperatures are shifting the locations where a given fish species can live and find food. In general, these changes are pushing many species into deeper and colder waters towards the poles and away from the tropics. Not only does this redistribution of species put the tropics at risk, but these climate induced invasions of new habitats could have serious ecological consequences, including the extinction of native species toward the poles.

The oceans absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions each day. As a result, their pH has declined by 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution. This rapid change in ocean chemistry, called ocean acidification, is already threatening habitats like coral reefs, and the future of shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels is also in jeopardy. This means that nations that rely heavily on threatened types of fisheries as a primary food source could be hit hardest.

Soure and further information: Oceana.org  – Ocean-based Food security threatened in a high – CO2 World