Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Breeze...or a Typhoon?


This video produced by Nick Breeze, which I saw linked at the impeccably produced weekly show, RadioEcoshock, is too well done not to share - for anyone wondering whether the future is still within our control, it is essential viewing.  It is probably the most valuable explanation I have ever seen as to how hopeless the prospects are for preserving a habitable climate, given the unrealistic projections regarding emission reductions and removal.  This would be true even without assumptions that trees will continue to absorb CO2.  My comment, of course was - Trees of all species are dying prematurely right now, all over the world, well in advance of intolerable temperature rise. Nitrogen precursors leading to ozone pollution are invisible - but highly toxic to vegetation. We are losing the forest sink already and this is going to rapidly accelerate the climate change predicted by models, because none of them take pollution into account - with link to my video, The Silent War on Trees).

29 comments:

  1. Hey Gail - thanks for the update. Yeah, those of us who have been paying attention see the trajectory we're on, like a runaway train that's gone over the cliff but hasn't hit the ground yet. Here's one for you (that i'm sure you've read already) to maybe include in the Library of Doom:

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2015/03/in-high-carbon-dioxide-world-canopy.html

    In a high-carbon dioxide world, canopy damage from insects limits forest growth – ‘This is the first time, at this scale, that insects have been shown to compromise the ability of forests to take up carbon dioxide’

    [begins]

    In a high carbon dioxide world, the trees would come out ahead. Except for the munching bugs.

    A new study published today [Monday, March 2, 2015] in Nature Plants shows that hungry, plant-eating insects may limit the ability of forests to take up elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reducing their capacity to slow human-driven climate change.

    The finding is significant because climate change models typically fail to consider changes in the activities of insects in the ecosystem, says Richard Lindroth, a professor of ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the leader of the study. The research suggests it’s time to add insects to the models.

    Tom

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    1. Thanks Tom. I have written to the authors of that research and they tell me that they were studying older trees and there appears to be a reversal of insect activity which is increased with younger trees in elevated ozone.

      I don't really know what to make of their results in fumigated chambers. I do know that in the real world, trees of all ages are dying and they are being attacked by biotic pathogens in epidemic proportions.

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  2. Thanks. I think it is a given that the global economy with contract, perhaps gently if we are lucky, but more likely chaotically and quickly, due to peak cheap oil and peak debt. I wish climate scientists would incorporate this scenario into their models because CO2 emissions are proportional to economic activity. A global depression will hurt a lot of people but it would be nice to know if this pain will be enough to retain a habitable planet for our grandchildren and other species.

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    1. Scientists, to the extent they expect the economy to contract, would have no way of predicting the impact on climate. There is so much they don't know how to measure, so they leave it out of models entirely. Most are feedbacks that will amplify warming, and since they have already begun and are irreversible (like melting ice, thanks to the albedo effect), economic collapse is not going to save earth for future generations. For a while, when industrial civilization is no longer functional, emissions will get worse because people will burn every tree and stick of furniture for heat and energy (and all the nuclear power plants will melt down), and forest fires will rage unchecked. Then there is the wild card of war, which will make for all sorts of emissions. Either way, within days of that being finished, the aerosols will clear and the +/- 50% of warming that has been masked by pollution will instantly arrive to devastating effect, should there be anyone around to notice. I'm afraid I don't see much benefit deriving from society's collapse whether it comes sooner or later.

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    2. Thanks for responding. I recently found your blog and am working my way through your excellent book. FYI, I "published" your book on Goodreads in the hope it might get more circulation. As I walk the trails here on Vancouver Island I now watch for signs of tree sickness but I am not yet confident in my ability to identify problems.

      Timothy Garrett modeled the economy as a thermodynamic system and showed that US$1 (1990) is equivalent to 9.7 mW. Since 95+% of our energy is fossil carbon it is straight forward to model the impact of economic collapse on CO2 emissions. An interesting consequence is that the best method of measuring worldwide GDP and avoiding government fudge factors is to measure CO2 on Mauna Loa.
      http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~tgarrett/Economics/Economics_and_Climate.html

      One of Garrett's conclusions is that collapsing the economy might be enough to stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm. My understanding of 450 ppm is that this would result in a lot of pain for a lot of life but might be survivable.

      With regard to your other points you may be right. My guess is that people living a subsistence lifestyle and burning wood for heat will produce a lot less CO2 than our current industrial civilization. I do not know if the feedbacks you mentioned with stabilize if we reduce our emissions.

      My overall point is that climate scientists should be modeling economic collapse because it has a reasonable probability of occurring. Some of us think economic collapse is a certainty.

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    3. Thanks for reading my book, and for adding it to Goodreads! I hadn't thought of doing that.

      I have been familiar with Timothy Garrett's research for several years and took it to mean that industrial civilization is not compatible with emission reductions. I wasn't aware that he concluded we could stabilize at 450 ppm, and I do not believe that is accurate, because of the amplifying feedbacks that are already irreversible, particularly methane release. You might compare our current situation with the PETM, http://preview.wunderground.com/climate/PETM.asp ,

      or check out Prof. White's lecture on abrupt climate change, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZdhPnsp4Is (if you haven't already).

      By the way, the measurements at Mauna Loa will become an increasingly inaccurate correlation with emissions as the major sinks for CO2 - the ocean and forests - become saturated and emit rather than absorb.

      If you are on facebook and want to check out The Panic Room, friend me and I'll admit you. We love to thrash out the potential for different scenarios, with a healthy dose of doomer snark for fun. :)

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    4. Thanks for the links. Good point on Mauna Loa. Guess we'll need a new measurement we can trust.

      I've been avoiding Facebook because I suspected it was a fluffy time waster. I signed in and accessed your Panic Room but do not see any activity for the last 5 months. Wondering if I am in the right place? Maybe I need a secret handshake?

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    5. No question, it can be a time waster! But given that the percentage of people who understand exactly how dire overshoot has become is vanishingly small (I know exactly one person "in real life"), it's nice to find a gathering spot for frank discussions. I've been lucky to meet and make close friends with several people that I met online, some on FB and some on other forums. For me, it's invaluable. Anyway, you probably found the page, which is moribund. People preferred the structure of a group (when I started it I didn't know the difference) and ultimately the overwhelming sentiment was to set it as "private" which means nobody who isn't a member can find it let alone see who belongs or what they write. A lot of people have family and/or co-workers that they don't want to share doom with. So, if you want to see if it is of interest to you, send me a friend request and I'll admit you. You can leave anytime (bwahahahaaaa!)

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  3. http://lareviewofbooks.org/interview/michael-marder
    dmf

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  4. Gail, since I don't do facebook, I can't comment on the glaring errors in this Climate Progress posting about air pollution. Ozone IS mentioned, but there's confusion about parts per million (ppm) and parts per billion (ppb). Perhaps you'd have time to set them straight.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/03/06/3630677/better-air-better-lungs/
    Catman306

    Breeze's video was very much worth watching, thanks!

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  5. Doomers will want to read see this:

    Scientists have assembled a slew of new forensic evidence – from high-resolution dates to microscopic fossils – to prosecute the dino-killer. Their indictment has worrying implications for us.

    In North America and Europe the dinosaurs were healthy and diverse right up to within about 200,000 years of the end-Cretaceous, at which point they disappeared. Mammals and amphibians continued but declined markedly through the final 200,000 years of the Cretaceous, coinciding with the Deccan eruptions. A very similar story is told by the fossils of India, where you see fossils of flourishing vegetation and abundant animals, including nesting dinosaurs, right up to the Deccan eruptions. Once the eruptions start, sediments between the lava flows capture life dwindling away like a tragic stop-motion film. Dinosaurs and forests are decimated by the onset of the eruptions about 250,000 years before the end of the Cretaceous. The few that survive don’t make it past the next eruption, disappearing from the Indian fossil record well before other reptiles like turtles and snakes. During the final 18,000 years or so of the Cretaceous, terrestrial plant life in North America declines up to the end-Cretaceous boundary, matching the timing of the marine extinction and the Deccan mega-eruptions.

    So it seems that the eruptions, not the Chicxulub impact, did-in the dinos, just as they dispatched so much other life on land and in the seas.

    Verdict
    So we have reached a verdict. All rise.

    Deccan eruptions - for the Cretaceous global warming, ocean acidification, and extinction in the marine realm: guilty! For the terrestrial extinction including the dinosaurs: also guilty – but some may still claim reasonable doubt.

    Chicxulub impact – for the Cretaceous global warming, ocean acidification, and extinction in the marine realm: not guilty! For the terrestrial extinction and doing-in the dinos: not guilty - It has an alibi, and there’s insufficient evidence of its ability to kill on a global scale to prosecute. After 30 years it’s time to let this one go. It has done its time.

    Case closed? Probably not. There’s room for appeals and fresh evidence in the years ahead – perhaps even a “Serial” podcast. But the many strong strands of scientific evidence that global warming and ocean acidification was behind the demise of so much life, including the dinosaurs, should give us pause.

    catman306



    http://www.skepticalscience.com/So-what-did-in-the-dinosaurs.html

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    1. Thanks Catman, I am having computer problems (hopefully soon resolved) so I didn't follow up on the CP pollution link...the dino extinction event has always made me curious. My understanding is that any combustion creates NOx, so given the amount of gases released from volcanism at that time, I wonder why wouldn't there have been high levels of ozone over a long period, damaging vegetation and thus the entire food chain? The article really emphasizes the SOx and acid rain. If only I was a geologist I could look for fossil leaves from the era to see if they have damaged stomata!

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  6. Here's more ozone news:

    By Timothy Cama - 03/16/15 03:13 PM EDT
    The oil industry says it’s inappropriate for the Obama administration to try restricting ozone standards when the country is still working toward the current requirements.

    The American Petroleum Institute (API) says the current standard, set in 2008, would be sufficient to protect health and the environment if states were actually given time to achieve it.


    http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/235833-oil-lobby-wants-ozone-rule-scrapped

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  7. seen this?

    http://www.sott.net/article/294104-Bark-beetles-are-decimating-our-forests-which-may-be-a-good-thing

    Bark beetles are decimating our forests which may be a good thing

    Tom

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    1. Thanks Tom! Here's another one for you - http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/growing-threat-to-amazons-crucial-carbon-sink/

      I wrote to the lead author of that study today - to see if they considered ozone in their research haha. Finally have a functioning computer yay! so hoping to put some sort of coherent post together within a week.

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  8. The cause of the greatest mass-extinctions of all? Pollution (Part 1)

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pollution-part-1.html

    Part 2 is ready, awaiting part 3
    catman306

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Catman!! I left this question at part 1 - What about nitric acid being converted into tropospheric ozone, which is highly toxic to plants? Could that have played a role in mass extinctions where volcanic emissions are the initial event? http://www.cee.mtu.edu/~reh/papers/pubs/non_Honrath/mather04a.pdf

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  9. Trees in the Amazon dying younger, 30% less capacity to sequester carbon even in untouched areas
    http://www.trust.org/item/20150318180026-cfcv3/?source=dpagetopic

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    1. Thank you Lidia! The studies are piling up at a rate that was unimaginable - and denied possible - just a few years ago...now they are blaming old age for killing trees averaging 90 years old, ha! http://phys.org/news/2015-03-current-forest-odds-real-world.html and http://phys.org/news/2015-03-competition-trees-main-driver-forest.html#nRlv

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  10. https://vimeo.com/channels/thisweeksbroadcast/videos
    as the world warms

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  11. I don't remember seeing this picture in your gallery.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/reborn--the-giant-tree-felled-as-a-result-of-a-barroom-wager-10126496.html
    catman306

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    1. Thanks, it is new to the annals of tree murders at Wit's End. I see they mention the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, "an organisation set up by a former biker-gang member, David Milarch". In an early interview, he said he abandoned his nursery in Michigan because all the trees were dying from pollution. Then he had a vision and started the Archangel outfit, trying to reproduce "pollution resistant" clones. Now it appears he doesn't even mention it. Too depressing, I guess, since no abatement of emissions appears to be on the horizon.

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  12. This was linked over at robertscribbler's blog in a comment directed to you, so i'm linking it here for you to see:

    Nitrogen emissions in smog threatens to 'massacre' world's forests: Chinese scientists

    http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/technology/article/1749736/nitrogen-emissions-smog-threatens-massacre-worlds-forests

    Tom

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    1. Thanks Tom! I wrote to Dr. Lu yesterday and in the middle of the night (my time!) he had sent me a number of his papers. So today I will read them and post something here. His research makes it even more aggravating than usual to read this from an article about a study finding premature death of trees in the Amazon...duh..

      "Why the lifespan of trees has decreased so sharply isn’t yet fully understood, but researchers suggested a number of potential causes including increased carbon levels in the atmosphere, drought and rising temperatures."

      http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-2-march-april/green-life/amazon-rainforest-scrubbing-half-much-carbon-it-used-new-study

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  13. German media reports that there have been dozens of injuries from flying branches.
    Forecasters said that on Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, winds of more than 190km/h (118 mph) were recorded.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32138213

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    1. Good grief that must be some kind of record for deaths and injuries from trees. It's going to get rapidly worse from now on!

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  14. Gail, I am currently taking Geoff Lawton's online Permaculture Design Course (I know, I know..). Anyway, the parts about trees are even more amazing (and therefore sad) than I could have imagined. We're just now on the part about soils and pH. I think pH has a great deal to do with tree deaths and sickness, as well as ozone. I was flabbergasted to hear that the most acidic samples he had ever taken were from the top of the snowpack in Vermont!!.. get this.. 1.6, I believe he said!!!!! ONE-POINT-SIX. And you know pH is a logarithmic scale so this is millions of times more acidic than what would be normal.

    What happens outside the neutral range of pH is that soil nutrients become less bio-available to plants. With each step toward acid or alkaline, the process by which micro-organisms capture nutrients and share them with plants (it's not the soil that feeds plants, but micro-organisms within the soil that actively do so) is diminished. You can have any amount you like of physical nutrient present in the soil, but it will not be taken up in conditions of whacked-out pH. Hence, plants that fail to thrive.

    ====
    Speaking of more overt tree murder, I can see the writing on the wall here:
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-sidewalk-settlement-20150402-story.html

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    1. The link above about the "massacre" of trees is about nitrogen oxides acidifying soils, mainly. The author of that paper sent me the pdf along with several others he has written and that is their focus. NOx and ozone are inextricably entwined, chemically, so looked at that way regardless of wet or dry deposition or atmospheric, it all boils down to disruption of the nitrogen cycle - which is a large part of eutrophication in the oceans as well. I have thought a lot about it and I think it is mainly atmospheric, because the damage is so uniform, globally - as long as you account for the biotic epidemics that are more species-specific. But for over five years now, leaves exhibit damage by the end of the growing season regardless of what species they are or whether they are old trees or trees in nurseries or ornamental plants in pots or plants in greenhouses. I don't see how, if the issue is primarily acidification of soils, it can account for all that. That sidewalk story in LA was funny - it was clearly fromt tree roots bursting through the pavement, which makes me wonder why people say trees die in cities because they are paved over. Trees, when they are healthy, laugh at rocks and concrete!

      Delete

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