What do I think, What can I do?

Posts tagged ‘consecuences’

Water: our great treasury at risk

This post (in Spanish) wonderfully explains the small amount of water there is in the earth compared to the size of the planet and the even tinier proportion of freshwater.

  • In fact, freshwater is less than 4% of the water in earth as 96,54% is in the oceans and seas.
  • Almost all the rest is in form of snow/ice, 1.76%, at least for the moment, and underground 1.69%
  • The lakes only hold 0.013% of the water, half freshwater, half salty. 130 ppm
  • The rivers are even more insignificant with a tiny 0.0002%, 2 ppm of the water. So, if we apply this stupid comment about the small amount of 450 ppm of CO2, we would have been lost as we depend on roughly 72 ppm of freshwater. I know this is nonsense, it is just to remember that in some cases ppms are critical.

Most dramatic consequences of climate change are related with water somehow: droughts, extreme rainfalls, floods,… Being conscious of the big figures can help us remember how delicate are water equilibria.

Amundsen and Scott, an extraordinary race from a strange point of view

Antartica Map from Wikitravel

This year is the hundredth anniversary of two famous historical events: sinking of the Titanic and south pole discovery race by Admunsen and Scott. The first being mentioned in some climate change related posts, the second has engaged me through the wonderful book by Apsley Cherry-Garrard: The Worst Journey in the World. I am still reading it but I know the end of the story, it was epic, as deserved in the last land of the world discovered by mankind. It was so difficult that it was not done again by food until 40 years later, with temperatures always below zero, strong blizzards,… Admunsen was completely successful and Scott to some extent, as he reached the pole, but he was second and his last five men died, including him in the return journey.

Scott five-men subgroup who reached the south pole (from wikipedia)

But this is not a blog about south pole, just some climate related thoughts:

  • The two ships of the two expeditions (the Fram and the Discovery) were “hybrid”, combining coal fueled steam engine and wind. It is a pity we lost the wind as our main driving force to navigate.
  • Nevertheless, this year new adventurers were able to make this south pole journey based on kites help. It was not the only expedition to remember the great effort of Admundsen and Scott in a low carbon way. Interesting.
  • Scott expedition was the first to use oil sledges. The combustion engine was not so reliable that time and he obtained less result than expected from them, but this was the first serious attempt, later it became the main way to reach so difficult places. In the other hand he did not allow to sacrifice any dogs or ponies  and they were really in a hard situation.
  • Scotts men made great efforts to gather scientific information, that expedition was not only geographical, it had many other scientific purposes. Those data have been very valuable for scientific progress in different fields, their climate records were valuable too.
  • Admunsen expedition was very practical, based in snow and dog expertise, with only a clear objective and the means to get it. The dogs were sacrificed to feed other dogs in order to reduce the load. They were fast and reliable and learned many techniques from Inuits. Their success was based in the clever utilization of proven knowledge. Making too many trials in extreme situations maybe counteracting.
  • This can be an idea to climate change too. Our success as global society in this huge challenge will be more likely using in a new way and in a new context our previously acquired knowledge, instead of waiting for new wonderful technologies.
  • One last thought: Those men discovered a land which contains enough water to raise the sea level several meters. It is in our hands to avoid the massive thawing.

Admunsen and Scott routes from wikipedia


Extreme weather and skepticism

Recently, IPCC launched a special report about extreme weather events (SREX). And the climate blogosphere has reacted, as it should.

Climate Hawks considered it correct but too soft in some senses. Joe Romm says it is a bit outdated regarding some articles, RealClimate does not agree with  one interpretation of statistics.

In the other hand, some climate skeptics have welcomed it effusively ,for example this one in spanish considers it a victory of the science.

This author was based in Piekle Jr blog and has read a different report really, because he considers that the report denies the occurrence of more extreme events in last years due to climate change. It has been one of the most striking examples of cherry picking I have come across last times, and there are many of those (I love this word).

A last example is the vegan blog from which I took the photo. They consider the link established and the occurrence clear. Yes , reading the same report.

I haven’t read it thoroughly but I agree more with the vegans, the report is written in a scientific tone, not a journalist one, but clearly talks about the risks increment due of extreme events.

This is an important battlefield in climate change, extreme events are an important negative consequence of climate change but at the same time are a great driving force for public opinion. Average temperatures are not easy to notice whereas terrible floods or hurricanes or droughts are impossible to forget. Even when they are not scientifically considered a climate change consequence they exert a great effect. Sometimes the science come to us in unexpected ways. For these reasons we will continue to discuss about them.

And painfully to suffer them unless we change our emissions path fast.

Methane Hydrates, energy solution, bombshell or just a beautiful fire?


Image from Wikipedia

Recently I read in a sceptic blog a post about methane hydrates. They are a huge potential source of methane or natural gas in the bottom of the sea. Their extraction and use as fuel it is not straightforward nor cheap, but some researchers claim they have found a way to do it economically. This wonderful “burning fire” promises a new oil era, a longer one to continue with fossil fuel energy.

It is interesting for me to see the fascination that some feel for fossil fuels or anything that burns. Because in order to find some new energy source they could explain the new possibilities of nanotechnologies in this field or advances in biofuels. All those researches could become real or not , the same as methane hydrates. Yet they have a big difference, they do not emit CO2 and would help us reduce climate change.

And all this if due to climate change some of those methane hydrates do not start to melt just by the higher temperature, something quite dangerous as methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and it would ignite a strong positive feedback. It seems unlikely, fortunately. but it they want to get it all for sure they will have to be fast.

The fight with the sea in saint Jean the Luz, will climate change alter the result?


Saint Jean de Luz beach in a winter sunny day

In the first week of this year I had the chance to visit the wonderful Basque town of Saint Jean de Luz, a beautiful site living just in front of the sea. Apart from the very nice day trip in a gorgeous winter sunny day,  I was surprised to see the heavy walls in front of the beach, before the first line of houses. It was a walk too, but the structure and stony aspect was of a wall.

Reading the touristic explanation my thoughts were confirmed, it was a wall to protect the houses and streets from the sea. The peaceful sight of the beach could become a terrible wave under heavy storms and the inhabitants had fought for centuries. It has been a war with many battles, and some of them sourly lost but nowadays it seems quite under control.

And I asked myself, what will happen with a higher sea level and more extreme weather events in the next decades? Because when thinking about consequences of climate change and sea level rise I always think about sunk houses but before any house sinks it will happen that seafront houses and restaurants will suffer severe damages under storms and will have it very difficult to renew the insurances.

I hope they will be able to adapt as they have been for centuries, but this time, even with much better means the battle will be tougher.

Is my home like Durban?

A building in maintenance work

Last week we held a long meeting in my building home community to decide about some important and expensive maintenance works we should do and I remembered Durban COP17. Why? Lets find the common points:

1.- The decision is common,  we all have the share of the responsibility because the common parts of the building belongs to everyone, and we will all suffer the consequences of our decision. But not all to the same point.

2.- We are not in the same economic situation, although this is sometimes less clear than it seems.

3.- The works to be done are expensive in short term. But not doing them will be more expensive.

4.- We have serious difficulties to get agreements and sometimes we need several useless meetings for that.

5.- Some blame each other for not taking care of their part of the building.

But there are some notable differences too:

1.- In Durban it is accepted that Climate Change is occurring and that it is important. This seems basic but it is the beginning because at home some have some doubts about the need to make the maintenance works.

2.- At home we more or less know each share in the cost, even the ones that do not like it. In Durban this is a discussion.

3.- At home most accept that the problem is the age of the building in spite of some mutual criticism. In the world we know (most of us) that the problem has been created by us.

Will we reach an agreement? At home we are reaching some kind of it, maybe in the world too but it will be at time?

The risks: Why I believe in Climate Change (IV)


When you do not see too much and you still have to take decisions, basic approaches can be helpful

As explained before, I believe in climate change for several reasons, witch include the temperature data and the mechanism of greenhouse effect and CO2. But now I want to follow another approach: What if we did not have enough data either to accet or to refuse climate change?

It happens many times in our life, we have to make important decisions without having too much security about consecuences. I think it happens in economy a lot of times, different strategies are recommended for European debt crisis but the uncertainties are great for any of them. In those cases, for many, the straigthforward solution is the standard one: business as usual, it is actually a way to avoid the decision or to avoid the unbearable uncertainty.

However this business as usual not always works, how many companies have failed for not being brave enough to innovate when it was neccesary! I think it is the case about climate change. It is a new challenge for humankind, maybe the first global critical challenge and it requires new prespectives. If we had not enough data we should balance the risks of the two failure possibilities one is difficult but the other one is dreadful in my opinion:

1.- The difficult one is to believe in the risk and act consecuently but if climate was not a real problem. So, more or less: reduce our energy demanding activities, rationalize our transport needs, control our population, be much more efficient in energy use and transport, make a great effort in development of renewable energies, spend more money in our energy bill,… I am convince all this means sacrifice, personal, colective and economical. But the ultimate situation would be that we would start in advance something we would need to do someday, change our energy sources, beacause fossil fuels are not forever.

2.- The dreadful one is to continue our growing path of greenhouse gas emissions, to burn coal, oil and gas as fast as we can and provoke serius changes in our planet climate without doing nothing serious to avoid it. The consecuences would range: problems in our water supply, food security, sealevel, public health, extreme weather event frequency,… So not only more sacrifice than in option one, it also means many more unexpected problems.

So, even without reliable data making proactive sacrifice know seems more reasonable because the risk is lower and predictable. And, besides, we are lucky because we do not need to do such a sacrifie only for an hipothetical problem (it uses to be very difficult to make sacrifices and more when the drawback is not completely sure) because we have the data and they are clear, our fossil fuel consumtion is changing the climate drastically and fast.