Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Reduce Anthropogenic Emissions of CO2, Immediately!"

This picture, steeped in irony, is from the flooding in Wisconsin.  You wouldn't know it from watching the teevee, but massive, unprecedented floods have been occurring all over the world in just the past year.  Over 100 record all-time high temperatures were set as well, including just yesterday, where Los Angeles hit 113 degrees F.  Change is chaotic, not smooth and linear.  I fear stability has surpassed a tipping point and it's going to be a wild ride on the downside.

A new paper about ocean acidification makes a typically cautious scientific observation that I have been wondering about for some time but had seen no corroboration in research - which is that coral bleaching, long attributed solely to warming waters, is actually taking place in the context of acidification:
"Based on a boron isotope (11B/10B) analysis of corals, Wei et al.54 report on a significant acidification trend associated with a pH value decrease on the order of 0.2 to 0.4 from 1940 to the present for the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Hence, the major widespread coral-bleaching events observed during the years 1998 and 2002, which have been presumably caused by temperature fluctuations, could have been exacerbated by ocean acidification.
Langdon et al... have provided strong experimental evidence that the growth of coral reefs predominantly depends on the ion concentration product [Ca2+] 􏰃 [CO2􏰂] of the ambient seawater, suggesting that its saturation state with respect to aragonite has  direct impact on the biogenic calcification of the species  involved, confirming earlier results by Gattuso et al..."
Bleached Coral
Compare them to the riot of color they should be!
The same diminishment so obvious in the ocean is replicated in the forests.
This is a maple on a Massachusetts farm from an October in the past...compare this glorious glow to the drab maples this year!
After a highly technical discussion of the ominous ramifications of ocean acidification on life both in the sea and on the land, they end with this succinct and stern conclusion:
"It is now the responsibility of the humanity to avoid a dangerous interference with the climate system and start to reduce anthropogenic emissions of CO2, immediately."
I expect this will be confirmed in future research.  Maybe similarly, some day, all those experts who blindly and stubbornly assume trees are dying exclusively from insects, disease, fungus, drought and warming will understand that the poisonous composition of the atmosphere from toxic greenhouse gases is the fundamental condition which underlies the process.  If that is true then there is actually some vestige of hope that the mass extinction of vegetation and the consequent collapse of the biosphere can be averted - or at least, significantly delayed.
The yellowing of needles is a symptom of exposure to ozone, and inevitably a prelude to completely bare branches.
A little bit of everything - the Black-eyed Susans have shriveled, yellowed leaves with symptoms of chlorosis, the earth is abnormally bare, the mum blossoms are a fraction of the size they should be, and the tree trunk is covered with lurid lichens.
Here's yet another species to add to the ever-expanding list of trees projected to meet extinction - bristlecone pine, as reported in the New York Times.
"Living in extreme conditions about two miles above sea level, they have become the oldest trees on the planet. The oldest living bristlecone, named Methuselah, has lived more than 4,800 years.
Now, however, scientists say these ancient trees may soon meet their match in the form of a one-two punch, from white pine blister rust, an Asian fungus that came to the United States from Asia, via Europe, a century ago, and the native pine bark beetle, which is in the midst of a virulent outbreak bolstered by warming in the high-elevation West."


  1. I am doing a leaf strength test in science. I did beech leaves in the sun and in the shade. The leaves in the sun took 63 pennies to rip. The leaves from the shade took 68 pennies to rip. Come next summer I will repeat this experiment on as many trees and variables as I can. Sorry I cant do any more now, Im very busy with school. And the leaves are all falling off and dying which would make the data less useful. This is only one experiment but if I get the same results for many species next year it would support the idea that UV-B is harming the plants. My personal guess is its a combination of o3, UV,and who knows what else. Perhaps all those untested chemicals on the market are overloading the system? When you wrote "Heat Advisory" I could actually feel that it was harder to breathe. And in my area o3 was "only" around 80 PPB. Thats the "healthy" level set by the EPA. Should be 30 PPB.

  2. http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/world_avoided.html
    Take some time to look at the 2nd one. A UN report about uv-b damage to terrestrial ecosystems.
    "In sexually reproducing populations of an annual desert plant, effects of UV-B irradiation on growth and allocation of biomass appeared to accumulate as subsequent generations were exposed to UV-B irradiation (Musil, 1996). Furthermore, after four generations of UV-B irradiation, the effects persisted in a fifth generation that was not exposed to UV-B treatment (Musil et al., 1998). If this phenomenon is common, it could amplify the effects of UV-B radiation changes. This is somewhat analogous to apparent accumulated effects of UV-B irradiation over several growing seasons in long-lived woody plants discussed later."

  3. I think 30 ppb is probably the highest level that would be safe. Great experiment! Make sure to date it so you do it on the same date next year, as many samples as possible to rule out random data.

    I will look into the UV-B aspect more, excelllent link! One reason I have discounted it as a primary part of the problem is that leaves under the canopy in the shade on the same tree look the same as those exposed to sun. But maybe those are visual changes on the surface from internal effects of exposure. Interesting question!

  4. http://archive.greenpeace.org/ozone/radiant/1rad.html

  5. Whenever I look at the air quality maps it is almost always above 30 PPB. Even at night it doesn't always get that low. I will continue to try and find links for you to add to the Basic premise section whenever I have the time.

  6. http://www.weather.gov/aq/sectors/southplains.php#tabs Look you can see where the pollutants are coming from.

  7. This ones really good!

  8. Well I guess I have my work cut out for me today...thanks you for the links! It's amazing what you can find on the intertubes.

  9. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/air/naaqo-onqaa/ground_level_ozone_tropospherique/summary-sommaire/vegetation-effects-effets-eng.php

  10. Gail,
    bristlecone pine is going extinct?? Unbelievable yet believable.

    I graduated from Univ of MT school of Forestry many moons ago, and so many of the predictions of my professors are manifesting more and more rapidly.

    I will admit that I don't really know what to do. I cannot force somebody not to drive a car or buy something worthless. I can't break down entire systems.

    Do you plant trees? I'm noticing a lot of the same botanical dieoff that you highlight, but don't know a practical "I can do it now" strategy that could spread out and actually do anything meaningful. Maybe we're asking too much? I've come to realize that a lot of conservation has to do with what you DON'T do.

    I know enough to understand that trees are not forests, but we're heading toward wasteland.

    I am noticing an invader (mile-a-minute vine or kudzu?) all over the place lately around me -- especially creeping just north of the city from Riverdale onward. I'm not nearly as proficient at northeastern forestry especially because there are so many non-natives, but this thing is laying down a carpet fast.

    What's hearty and efficient that I could put down up here? What do you think?

  11. Here's some hope(!) for the future generation from an 11 year old, home schooled young man, he can speak for me anytime:
    from Grist:

  12. Hey Tommy...

    Over the past 30 years I have planted hundreds of young trees, from 1-year seedlings to 5-year saplings - plus a few more mature, but usually I go for quantity at lower cost rather than invest in older ones, since I've been on a tight budget.

    Because of this I always watched their progress closely, since it's not just money but significant physical effort to plant, and mulch, and prune and water and when necessary to spray for insects. I didn't plant any trees last year, 2009, because by then I was convinced none would survive.

    This past growing season, I didn't even plant annuals and let my perennial gardens go to hell - I quit weeding. There's no point! I'm afraid, to answer your question in a rather blunt and depressing, but honest way. (check out this thread, from backyard gardeners all over the US, to see what's really happening this growing season: http://www.earthboppin.net/cgi-bin/talkrec.cgi?submit=lt&baseurl=http://www.earthboppin.net/talkshop/enviro&msg_num=2885)

    I did buy bulk non-GMO vegetable seeds though. I can't predict how collapse will transpire or on what timetable, but if it happens to involve a sudden and near-total shutdown of industrial society, and transport slows considerably along with coal burning, it's possible the atmosphere will clear rather quickly of ozone, and vegetation will become viable (still treacherous from heating, acid rain, and soil nutrient depletion - but at least tenable).

    So stockpiling seeds for the longish term (and freeze-dried food for the short term) isn't a bad investment. (along with other gear - water purification etc)

    Of course this won't stop the inexorable march of climate change from CO2, which is going to heat much of the planet to uninhabitable temperatures...but that will take a bit more time and who knows? Perhaps someone will figure out a way to sequester carbon before the entire race of humans goes extinct.

    That vine - I think I know it. Don't worry about invasives - they have to photosynthesize too.

    You ask what you can put down that is hearty and efficient.

    If it's not too presumptuous of me, I would suggest the most productive focus of your energy would be to continue to scream from the rooftops, one way or another, that we will not survive if we do not radically alter our ways.

    There was a sign at Copenhagen - "System Change NOT Climate Change"

    We need a system change, a paradigm change of expectations about the role of humans in the greater ecosystem. Even just thinking about this question is revolutionary...but there is some very profound philosophizing to be found, that this would actually produce a beneficial result compared to our consumer-obsessed, individualist, fetishist, greedily self-destructive, current culture.

    That's what I recommend. Thank you for visiting witsend!

  13. http://www.businessinsider.com/iraq-plans-to-announce-massive-increase-in-oil-reserves-on-monday-2010-9
    Curses! More oil and peak oil farther away-->lower prices for longer-->we burn oil longer--->6+ degrees C of warming. >:( The oil cos are burning our future! Chances are my cause of death will be heatstroke, starvation, or death by hypercane. >:( I would hate to be them on judgement day. They will go through far more than 6 degrees of warming!
    I just hope we can stop this catastrophe before its to late. If it isnt already... :(

  14. Good morning Highschooler.

    Maybe this will give you a bit of cheer! Check for your state if you think maybe getting involved in TT will be useful for you?


  15. You can watch the video here:


  16. It is raining so hard! More moisture more rain.


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