Tag Archives: climate change

Floating Cities: Strategies of Adaptation And Long-Lasting Anticipation ?

Photograph courtesy: © Andrew Cooper


Climate change is redefining the rules by which we live and at a pace we never expected. Because of rising sea level, several areas of the globe are in danger of vanishing from the map, disappearing under water. Society must adapt and maybe, one day, live in floating houses…

Adapting to Climate Change With Floating Houses? Read Full Article, Science Daily

Floating Homes, Inhabitat

Floating Ecopolis: Lillypads, by Vincent Callebaut

A Floating City that Survives the Ebb and Flow of Shifting Tides, Inhabitat
A Bangkok-based architecture firm recently unveiled plans for a self-sustaining floating city that can thrive with the ebb and flow of rising tides. Dubbed “A Post Diluvian Future”, the “wetropolis” allows Bangkok to live with natural flooding instead of resisting it while creating a homeostasis that detoxifies the region’s polluted waters.

If A Island State Vanishes, Is It Still A Nation?

Pacific Walruses Studied as Sea Ice Melts

walruses usgs
Walruses resting on an ice floe in the Chukchi sea. Caption and photo source: U.S. Geological Survey


USGS Alaska Science Center researchers, in cooperation with the Native Village of Point Lay, will attempt to attach 35 satellite radio-tags to walruses on the northwestern Alaska coast in August as part of their ongoing study of how the Pacific walrus are responding to reduced sea ice conditions in late summer and fall.

Walruses spend most of their lives at sea, but haul out on sea ice and sometimes land to rest between feeding bouts.

They can dive hundreds of feet to forage on the sea floor. However, when the sea ice recedes past the continental shelf into very deep waters of the Arctic Basin, the walruses haul out on land.

The extent of sea ice has been less in recent summers, and walruses have been hauling out on beaches in Alaska and Russia in the past few years. Thus, radio-tracking the walruses’ movements in water and to and from land provides important insights into walrus movements and foraging behaviors in response to changing sea ice conditions.

Since 2004, the USGS Alaska Science Center Pacific Walrus Research Program has collected data on walrus foraging behavior and movements throughout areas of the Bering and Chukchi seas during periods when sea ice is present and when sea ice is absent over the continental shelf.

In 2010, walruses came ashore in late August. This year, the sea ice disappeared from the shelf earlier and walruses have already begun to come ashore.

“Sea ice is an important component in the life cycle of walruses,” said Chad Jay, research ecologist with the USGS Alaska Science Center. “These tracking studies will help us to better understand how top consumers in the arctic ecosystem may be affected by changes in sea ice habitats.”

In July, the scientists attached 40 radio tags on walruses hauled out on distant offshore sea ice near the edge of the continental shelf, northwest of Barrow, Alaska. This month researchers will tag a number of walruses that have come to land after the retreat of the sea ice from the shelf. Tracking animations from tagged walruses are available online and are updated approximately every week.

Original Article

Melting Ice Forces Walruses On Alaskan Shores
A video showing massive herds of walrus being forced onto dry land because of a lack of sea ice, the World Wildlife Fund reports. Discovery News UGC video shows an estimated 10,000 animals gathered in Point Lay, Alaska, September 2010.

Better Desalination Technology, Key to Solving World’s Water Shortage

Photo source:
©© Midlander1231


Over one-third of the world’s population already lives in areas struggling to keep up with the demand for fresh water. By 2025, that number will nearly double. Some countries have met the challenge by tapping into natural sources of fresh water, but as many examples, such as the much-depleted Jordan River, have demonstrated, many of these practices are far from sustainable.

“The globe’s oceans are a virtually inexhaustible source of water, but the process of removing its salt is expensive and energy intensive,” said Menachem Elimelech, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale and lead author of the study, which appears in the Aug. 5 issue of the journal Science

Read Full Article, Yale University, in Science Daily

The Future of Seawater Desalination, Original Article in Science Magazine
In recent years, numerous large-scale seawater desalination plants have been built in water-stressed countries to augment available water resources, and construction of new desalination plants is expected to increase in the near future. Despite major advancements in desalination technologies, seawater desalination is still more energy intensive compared to conventional technologies for the treatment of fresh water.

Slowing climate change by targeting gases other than carbon dioxide

bench ocean
Photo source: ©© Chodab


Carbon dioxide remains the undisputed king of recent climate change, but other greenhouse gases measurably contribute to the problem. A new study, conducted by NOAA scientists and published online today in Nature, shows that cutting emissions of those other gases could slow changes in climate that are expected in the future.

Discussions with colleagues around the time of the 2009 United Nations’ climate conference in Copenhagen inspired three NOAA scientists – Stephen Montzka, Ed Dlugokencky and James Butler of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. – to review the sources of non-carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gases and explore the potential climate benefits of cutting their emissions.

Like CO2, other greenhouse gases trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Some of these chemicals have shorter lifetimes than CO2 in the atmosphere. Therefore cutting emissions would quickly reduce their direct radiative forcing — a measure of warming influence.

“We know that recent climate change is primarily driven by carbon dioxide emitted during fossil-fuel combustion, and we know that this problem is going to be with us a long-time because carbon dioxide is so persistent in the atmosphere,” Montzka said. “But lowering emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide could lead to some rapid changes for the better.”

Scientists know that stabilizing the warming effect of CO2 in the atmosphere would require a decrease of about 80 percent in human-caused CO2 emissions — in part because some of the carbon dioxide emitted today will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. In contrast, cutting all long-lived non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent could diminish their climate warming effect substantially within a couple of decades. Cutting both CO2 and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions to this extent could result in a decrease in the total warming effect from these greenhouse gases this century, the new paper shows.

For the new analysis, the researchers considered methane; nitrous oxide; a group of chemicals regulated by an international treaty to protect Earth’s ozone layer; and a few other extremely long-lived greenhouse gases currently present at very low concentrations.

The new review paper describes the major human activities responsible for these emissions, and notes that steep cuts (such as 80 percent) would be difficult. Without substantial changes to human behavior, emissions of the non-CO2 greenhouse gases are expected to continue to increase.

The climate-related benefits of reductions in non-CO2 greenhouse gases have limits, Montzka and his colleagues showed. Even if all human-related, non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated today, it would not be enough to stabilize the warming influence from all greenhouse gases over the next 40 years – unless CO2 emissions were also cut significantly.

The scientists also noted in the paper the complicated connections between climate and greenhouse gases, some of which are not yet fully understood. The non-CO2 gases studied have natural sources as well as human emissions, and climate change could amplify or dampen some of those natural processes, Dlugokencky said. Increasingly warm and dry conditions in the Arctic, for example, could thaw permafrost and increase the frequency of wildfires, both of which would send more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“The long-term necessity of cutting carbon dioxide emissions shouldn’t diminish the effectiveness of short-term action. This paper shows there are other opportunities to influence the trajectory of climate change,” Butler said. “Managing emissions of non-carbon dioxide gases is clearly an opportunity to make additional contributions.”

Original Article, NOAA

Ice-shelf collapse from subsurface warming as a trigger for Heinrich events.

melting glaciers
Photo source: ©© Trey Ratcliff
Heinrich events, first described by marine geologist Hartmut Heinrich, occurred during the last glacial period, or “ice age”. During such events, armadas of icebergs broke off from glaciers and traversed the North Atlantic. The icebergs contained rock mass eroded by the glaciers, and as they melted, this matter was dropped onto the sea floor as “ice rafted debris”. Scientists drilling through marine sediments can distinguish six distinct events in cores of mud retrieved from the sea floor, which are labelled H1-H6 going back in time; there is some evidence that H3 and H6 differ from other events.
The icebergs’ melting caused prodigious amounts of fresh water to be added to the North Atlantic. Wikipedia


An analysis of prehistoric “Heinrich events” that happened many thousands of years ago, creating mass discharges of icebergs into the North Atlantic Ocean, make it clear that very small amounts of subsurface warming of water can trigger a rapid collapse of ice shelves.

One of the most vulnerable areas, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, would raise global sea level by about 11 feet if it were all to melt…

Read Full Article, By Oregon State University, in Science Daily

Blue Carbon Initiative: Buried Treasure For Climate and Coastal Communities

A mangrove plantation in Bali. Photo source: ©© Lawrence Hislop /Unep

Excerpts; from UNEP, The World’s Bank and Conservation International

There is overwhelming consensus amongst climate scientists that the Earth’s warming in recent decades has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that nearly 50 per cent of the emissions causing global warming in the twenty-first century are from non-CO2 pollutants ranging from black carbon entering the atmosphere from the inefficient burning of biomass and dung for cooking and from diesel engines, coal-fired power stations, low-level ozone, methane and nitrogen compounds.(unep). According to researchers, black carbon’s likely near-term climate change contribution ranges from 20 to 50 per cent of the CO2 warming effects. Especially damaging are the black carbon emissions that end up on snow and ice, as consequently these surfaces absorb more of the sun’s heat. UNEP’s focus in this area has been on the Arctic and Himalayan Tibetan Plateau.

According to a 2009 report, Mitigating climate change through restoration and management of coastal wetlands and near-shore marine ecosystems, to mitigate the most serious impacts of climate change a range of different strategies to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere are required.

Instead of relying on costly technologies such as carbon capture and storage, boosting investments in the conservation, rehabilitation and management of the vast stores of carbon held by the world’s ecosystems like forests and oceans, can deliver significant cuts in carbon emissions and avoid even more being released to the atmosphere.

Such activities have the added benefit of preserving the huge range of services and goods these ecosystems provide to local people and the wider community, the report concluded.

The concept of Blue Carbon, which refers to the important role that some coastal habitats play in naturally storing greenhouse gasses, thereby helping to mitigate climate change, was introduced by UNEP in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Education and Science Organization (UNESCO).

Mr Archim Stenier, the UNEP Executive Director, said that the blue carbon was a mix of the colour blue signifying oceans and the cutting on carbon emissions and how we should cope with the issue in the foreseeable future. We will have to rely more and more on carbon capture and sequestration in our eco systems done by nature. We humans should turn nature’s natural systems into assets. What is underestimated is the power of the worlds oceans to store more carbon in marine ecosystems rather than terrestrial ones.” An added, “We already know that marine and coastal ecosystems are multi-trillion dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, shipping and fisheries – now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change.” Press Release, Unep

Dubbed “blue carbon” for their ability to sequester and store huge amounts of carbon, coastal marine ecosystems are believed to be able to complement the role of forests (Green Carbon) in taking up carbon emissions through sequestration, if valued and managed properly.

Carbon sinks along the world’s coastlines, including mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes store massive quantities of carbon both in the plants and in the sediment immediately beneath them. Carbon is buried in the sediment at rates up to 50 times higher than those observed on land, and these rates can be maintained for centuries or more. (Conservation International)

According to scientists at the first 2011 International Working Group on Coastal “Blue” Carbon event, total carbon deposits per square kilometer in these coastal systems can be up to five times the carbon stored in tropical forests, resulting from their ability to sequester carbon at rates up to 50 times those of tropical forests, and this could provide an immediate and cost-effective tool to counter the impacts of climate change.”

“What we’ve seen is that that these three main systems, mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, are phenomenally efficient at storing carbon below ground in the sediment for centuries at a time,” said Dr. Emily Pidgeon, the Marine Climate Change Program Director for Conservation International. “So it seems natural to us that oceans should be part of the climate change solution. It’s been a bit puzzling to me as to why they haven’t so far.”

According to scientific analysis, coastal systems globally are being lost at an alarming rate, with approximately two percent removed or degraded each year, which is four times the estimates of annual tropical forest loss.

“The loss of mangroves is like a one-two punch to our planet: first, it results in the rapid emission of carbon stores that in many cases have built up over centuries and the lost opportunity of future carbon sequestration from these areas, and second, it destroys habitats that are critical for fisheries around the world,” said Pidgeon.” (IC)

“Scientific studies have shown that although mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes account for less than 1 percent of the total plant biomass on land and forests, they cycle almost the same amount of carbon as the remaining 99 percent. So the decline of these carbon-efficient ecosystems is a valid cause of concern.”

mangroves bali
The removal of large areas of mangroves for industrial purposes can significantly alter these precious coastal ecosystems. This can have a broader effect on the community, threatening vital clean water sources, tourist industries and the food supplies on which we rely. In addition to this, the root system of a mangrove forest serves to stabilize the coastline, providing protection from storm surges. Being a small archipelago made up of 17,000 islands, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels or intense tropical storms linked to Global Warming. ©© Lawrence Hislop /Unep

“From 1940 over 30% of Mangroves and 30% of Sea grass meadows and 20% of salt marshes have been lost in the name of development. Along with that 50% of the worlds wetlands have been lost while we humans ramp up carbon emissions. Now we have to link different ways to mitigate and adapt to focus on an urgent answer to get rid of this excess carbon both by blue and Green carbon efforts. Mr Steiner said this joint Blue Carbon Initiative will draw the world’s attention to the role of oceans in this fight.” (Unep)

“We appeal to all countries to preserve these abilities of coastal and marine ecosystems as important variables in global climate change dynamic”, said Dr. Fadel and Mr. Steiner.(unep)

On his first meeting in Paris, last march, the International Working Group on Coastal “Blue” Carbon, brought a set of key priorities and recommendations: link. The group of scientists will continue the collaborative scientific study in August.

Young mangrove plantation on coastal Bali. An important function of mangrove forest is to hold back silt water that damages coral reefs. In extreme weather conditions, mangroves provide a physical barrier, absorbing and dissipating the energy from tsunami, flood or storm winds. ©© Lawrence Hislop

The Project Blue Carbon, UNEP

Scientists Offer Warning And Plan For Protecting Earth’s Blue Carbon, By Conservation International

Blue Carbon Buried Treasure For Climate And Communities, By Conservation International

Mitigating climate change through restoration and management of coastal wetlands and near-shore marine ecosystems : challenges and opportunities, Report, The World Bank

Photo Source, GRID-UNEP

The Colors Of Carbon, UNEP

The Blue Carbon Portal

UN climate change conference and the world security

storm chief
“Storm Chief.” Photograph by: ©© Jennifer Daylight

Excerpts; by Ambassador Marlene Moses, Nauru’s Permanent Representative to the UN

“On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council concluded its open debate with a Presidential Statement that formally recognized the link between climate change and the maintenance of international peace and security…

Read Full Article, Huffington Post

UN Original Statement, July 20th 2010
The Security Council this afternoon expressed concern that the possible adverse effects of climate change could, in the long-run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security and that the loss of territory in some States due to sea-level rise, particularly in small low-lying island States, could have possible security implications. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who opened the Council debate, pointed to the devastating impact of extreme weather and rising seas on lives, infrastructure and budgets — an “unholy brew” that could create dangerous security vacuums. “We must make no mistake,” he said. “The facts are clear: climate change is real and accelerating in a dangerous manner,” he said, declaring that it “not only exacerbates threats to international peace and security; it is a threat to international peace and security”.

UN says climate change threatens world security, AFP

U.N. Deadlock on Addressing Climate Shift, The New York Times

Huge Ice Island Near Labrador ‘s Coast

Huge ice island off Labrador’coast. Image source: NASA, Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michael Carlowicz.

By Michael Carlowicz, NASA

Nearly 11 months after calving off of the northwestern coast of Greenland, a massive ice island is now caught up in ocean currents off the coast of Labrador, Canada.

The ice island, known as “Petermann Ice Island” was formed when a 251-square-kilometer (97-square-mile) chunk of ice broke off the Petermann Glacier on August 5, 2010. The Canadian Ice Service has since been tracking the ice island, dubbed PII-A, via satellite and radio beacon.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image of the ice island on June 25, 2011. The northeast-facing coast of Labrador is mostly obscured by thin, wispy clouds, as it has been for much of the past week.

News agencies reported that the ice island stretched roughly 62 square kilometers in area and weighed between 3.5 and 4 billion tons.

The island has been slowly breaking up and melting on its journey—nearly 30 degrees of latitude, or more than 3,000 kilometers—but it could eventually pose a hazard to shipping lanes off Newfoundland.

Canadian fishermen captured this close-up video of the ice island.

WATCH: Ice Island Off labrador’s Coast, Close-up Video, “Petermann Ice Island video.”

Original Article

Huge ice island near Labrador ‘blew’ scientist’s mind
A huge island of ice the size of Manhattan is drifting off the coast of Labrador, and it’s a glacial event that has scientists around the world abuzz.”It blew my mind at how big it was,” said Sara Weikamp, a marine science technician with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Rising Oceans: Too Late to Turn the Tide?

sea level rise
Photo source: ©©PinPix


As the world’s climate becomes warmer due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, sea levels are expected to rise by up to three feet by the end of this century.

But the question remains: How much of that will be due to ice sheets melting as opposed to the oceans’ 332 billion cubic miles of water increasing in volume as they warm up?

Read Full Article, Science Daily