Thursday, August 1, 2013

Μολὼν λαβέ

Μολὼν λαβέ is translated from the ancient Greek as "come and take them", made famous as the response of the Spartans to the Persians when asked to lay down their weapons.  It's a belligerant and confrontational and defiant laconic phrase, and what I say to all those people who ask for peer-reviewed research showing that ozone is toxic to trees, and then won't read it.

This is the second summer that my little farm, Wit's End, has remained untended by motorized grooming.  I just couldn't afford the lawn service anymore and besides, I always hated the noise, the smell and of course the pollution.  Now, in the absence of power equipment, the whole place is rapidly turning into a shameful, embarrassing shambles.  In an effort to look on the bright side, I try to think of my disgrace as the New Jersey version of an ancient ruin in a jungle.
Angkor Thom
I can hardly get to the gardens anymore, and even if I could I can't smash the wheelbarrow through the mangled raging plants to the compost heap to deposit the neglected beds of flowering shrubs and ornamental perennials are reverting.  It isn't nice native plants spreading, instead - overwhelmingly - invasive species are rampant, smothering I don't know how many dollars and hours of labor nurturing precious ornamentals under their torrent of repulsive and voracious vines and thorns.  For relief, I went to a nearby park, the Cross Estate Gardens.  To my delight, there were so many flowers in the formal gardens that dozens of butterflies were there too.  The pictures of them (and the dying trees) in this post are from that sunny afternoon.
There are piteous numbers of bare trees.
The row of evergreens along the drive is thin.
It is punctuated with stumps.
I wish the picture of the garden showed how brilliant the colors are, but it's a disappointment.
Between the phlox and the lilies, the scent was marvelous.
My favorite hydrangea was in full glory.
The pannicles are gigantic.
But the damage to the leaves is frightening for mid-summer:
In the lawn, the volunteers who maintain the gardens are dwarfed by this silver maple.
There is some dispute about how old it is based on records.  It's at least 80 but no more than 100...begging the question - why are trees this large so rare?
Yesterday I went reluctantly outside, to amble down the driveway with my clippers, because the vegetation is spilling onto the tire tracks and becoming snarled in protruding trim of any car that jolts down over the potholes.  It's about 1,000 feet to the road, and I whistled back and forth, "drink your tea tea tea" with a towee along the way.  It occurred to me that one reason the invasives are taking over is that the trees are losing branches, and the sunlight is penetrating to the forest floor, changing the dynamics of the woods.  Quickly the thought followed that we have so thoroughly disrupted the ecosystem, in so many ways, for so long, that there can be no recovery.
Watchlist Indicator showing the average population trend for 77 moths, 19 butterflies, 8 mammals and 51 birds listed as UK BAP priorities, 1968-2010. Species are weighted equally. The indicator starts at 100;  a rise to 200 would show that, on average, the populations of indicator species have doubled, whereas if it dropped to 50 they would have halved. Dotted lines show the 95% confidence limits. Graphic: RSPB
Maybe that's because the very first thing I saw on the computer when I sat down with coffee that morning was a story posted by DesdemonaDespair, with a graph of wildlife decline in the UK.  I posted extensively from that same State of Nature report from which it derives (in Crier Havot), but I hadn't included that particular graph...which sums it up rather well and all by itself ought to be sufficient to decimate a lingering hope that our heedless species will stop short of anything less than full-out extermination of every living thing on earth.  I mean, this is the UK, where they love gardens and forests and hunting wildlife - and also happens to be one of the wealthiest of nations on earth, not only from their own natural assets but what they have plundered from the rest of the world over centuries of empire.  If they can't stop themselves from destroying their own country, will the poor hungry people of Asia, or Africa?  I don't think so!  With typically British understatement, the report states:

"Since 1970, the indicator has dropped by 77%, representing  a massive decline in the abundance of priority species.  There was a steep decline in the early years of the indicator, but this is to be expected because it was these declines that led many species to be included in priority lists in the first place. What is important is whether the decline has stopped in response to conservation action: worryingly, it has not."

A few days ago I became embroiled in an online brawl, which is occasionally not a total waste of time because, as occurred in this exchange, some useful information emerges (if tangentially) in the course of the altercation.  And since it was on facebook, I made some new friends, which is always good.  I hate to think I'll be alone when the time comes to dance off the cliff of doom - misery loves company, or maybe a better way to look at it, is the more the merrier!
Anyway, the issue was how to interpret Jim Hansen's latest missive to the world, in which he modified something he wrote earlier in his book, Storms of my Grandchildren, which was:

"[I]f we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

Some of the religiously optimistic on facebook's Climate Fact of the Day page insisted that he has since modified that statement in "Making Things Clearer: Exaggeration, Jumping the Gun, and The Venus Syndrome".  I still can't understand how they make that jump since the entire paper is basically saying, "I have been accused of exaggerating and NO I was  not!"  The only thing I can find that he specifically retracted is this:

"At least one sentence in 'Storms' will need to be corrected in the next edition: even with burning of all fossil fuels the tropical ocean does not "boil". But it is not an exaggeration to suggest, based on best available scientific evidence, that burning all fossil fuels could result in the planet being not only ice-free but human-free."

The way that people latched on to whether we are headed for a run-away Venus effect, or not, is just another technique to avoid the implications of the myriad other ways our species has fouled the planet, along with any chance for a peaceful future.  Besides, they also just wanted to argue because I had earlier brought up trees dying from pollution.  Now I have to say it's quite odd that I am consistently attacked for being a single-issue (in this case) "conspiracy theorist" for proposing that pollution underlies the virulence of the epidemic of insect, disease and fungal attacks on vegetation, when in fact it is the climate people who are blindly wedded to temperature.  It turns out there is a compelling reason why they don't want to acknowledge the effects of ozone.
This is why it was all worthwhile (sort of):  I was looking for more information about Hansen's position and read an older paper, from 2008, "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" for which he was the lead author.  He makes the case that we must not only stop emitting CO2, we must sequester enough of what we have already released to get back down to at least 350 ppm (if not lower).  When the paper was published we were at 385 ppm, and have just recently achieved the milestone of 400 ppm.  So, given that emissions continue to increase year-on-year, and rather than sequestering carbon through reforestation we continue to rapidly deforest (never mind the increase in wildfires) I take that to mean we're toast.

I wrote to Hansen in early 2009, and he wrote back, saying that oddly enough he had just spent several thousands of dollars removing dead trees from his property in Pennsylvania, how's that for a coinkydink.  But he never expressed any further interest in the global trend for trees to die prematurely, whether from ozone pollution or not.  In a way this isn't surprising since I haven't found any other climate scientists who are interested in it, even though you'd think the loss of a major CO2 sink might be of concern to them.  In this 2008 paper lurks the explanation. 
Hansen's entire thesis as presented there is based on the proposition that we can only save our selves by reforestation.  That is an absolutely critical, indispensable wedge in his calculations.  Without it, his prediction is that there's no hope, so it's small wonder that he - and all the other climate scientists who surely have read and understand this calculation - will not admit that trees everywhere are dying, and especially that we can't reforest as long as we keep emitting the precursors to ozone from burning coal, oil, and gas.  Here's the abstract, and some excerpts:

"Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is 
~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and icefree Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occurring when CO2 fell to 425±75 ppm, a level that will be exceeded within decades, barring prompt policy changes. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects."

p. 10 "Warming ‘in the pipeline’, mostly attributable to slow feedbacks, is now about 2°C. No additional forcing is required to raise global temperature to at least the level of the Pliocene, 2-3 million years ago, a degree of warming that would surely yield ‘dangerous’ climate impacts."

p. 11 "Phase-out of coal emissions by 2030 keeps maximum CO2 close to 400 ppm"

[note:  haha, 2030 - we are NOW at 400 ppm, in 2013!  Do we see how the goalposts are constantly being moved to pretend there is still time to avert disaster?]
"Policy relevance. Desire to reduce airborne CO2 raises the question of whether CO2 could 
be drawn from the air artificially. There are no large-scale technologies for CO2 air capture now, 
but with strong research and development support and industrial-scale pilot projects sustained 
over decades it may be possible to achieve costs ~$200/tC (79) or perhaps less (80). At $100/tC, 
the cost of removing 50 ppm of CO2 is ~$10 trillion."

"Improved agricultural and forestry practices offer a more natural way to draw down CO2. 
Deforestation contributed a net emission of 60±30 ppm over the past few hundred years, of 
which ~20 ppm CO2 remains in the air today (2, 81, figs S12, S14). Reforestation could absorb a 
significant fraction of the 60±30 ppm net deforestation emission."

p. 12  "Carbon sequestration in soil also has significant potential. Biochar, produced in pyrolysis of residues from crops, forestry, and animal wastes, can be used to restore soil fertility while storing carbon for centuries to millennia. Biochar helps soil retain nutrients and fertilizers, reducing emissions of GHGs such as N2O. Replacing slash-and-burn agriculture with slash-and-char and use of agricultural and forestry wastes for biochar production could provide a CO2
drawdown of ~8 ppm in half a century."

[note:  slash-and-burn agriculture is accelerating as forests are cleared for soy and palm oil plantations...and I know of no industrial-scale biochar use.]

p. 12  "A rising price on carbon emissions and payment for carbon sequestration is surely needed to make drawdown of airborne CO2 a reality. A 50 ppm drawdown via agricultural and forestry practices seems plausible. But if most of the CO2 in coal is put into the air, no such “natural” drawdown of CO2 to 350 ppm is feasible. Indeed, if the world continues on a business-as-usual path for even another decade without initiating phase-out of unconstrained coal use, prospects for avoiding a dangerously large, extended overshoot of the 350 ppm level will be dim."

[note:  That was 2008, when he gives us ten years to stop the business-as-usual path of coal use, which has since been increasing...does anyone think we will slow it down in the next five years to avoid a "dangerously large, extended overshoot of 350?]
"Humanity’s task of moderating human-caused global climate change is urgent. Ocean and 
ice sheet inertias provide a buffer delaying full response by centuries, but there is a danger that 
human-made forcings could drive the climate system beyond tipping points such that change 
proceeds out of our control. The time available to reduce the human-made forcing is uncertain, 
because models of the global system and critical components such as ice sheets are inadequate."

[note:  The tipping point of an Arctic that is ice-free is happening decades before it was expected in 2008, and that the case for catastrophic methane release just got stronger no matter how much scientists like Gavin Schmit try to downplay it.] 
p. 13 "However, climate response time is surely less than the atmospheric lifetime of the human-caused perturbation of CO2. Thus remaining fossil fuel reserves should not be exploited without a plan for retrieval and disposal of resulting atmospheric CO2."

"Paleoclimate evidence and ongoing global changes imply that today’s CO2, about 385 ppm, 
is already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife, and the rest of the 
biosphere are adapted. Realization that we must reduce the current CO2 amount has a bright 
side: effects that had begun to seem inevitable, including impacts of ocean acidification, loss of 
fresh water supplies, and shifting of climatic zones, may be averted by the necessity of finding an 
energy course beyond fossil fuels sooner than would otherwise have occurred."

[note:  a Bright Side!  I knew there had to be one.]

"We suggest an initial objective of reducing atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm, with the target to 
be adjusted as scientific understanding and empirical evidence of climate effects accumulate. 
Limited opportunities for reduction of non-CO2 human-caused forcings are important to pursue 
but do not alter the initial 350 ppm CO2 target. This target must be pursued on a timescale of 
decades, as paleoclimate and ongoing changes, and the ocean response time, suggest that it 
would be foolhardy to allow CO2 to stay in the dangerous zone for centuries."

"A practical global strategy almost surely requires a rising global price on CO2 emissions and 
phase-out of coal use except for cases where the CO2 is captured and sequestered. The carbon 
price should eliminate use of unconventional fossil fuels, unless, as is unlikely, the CO2 can be 
captured. A reward system for improved agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon 
could remove the current CO2 overshoot. With simultaneous policies to reduce non-CO2
greenhouse gases, it appears still feasible to avert catastrophic climate change."

[note:  It appeared "feasible to avert catastrophic climate change" in 2008 - but since then, no global price on CO2 emissions has been instituted, no "reward system" for improved agricultural or forestry practices have been instituted either.]
"Present policies, with continued construction of coal-fired power plants without CO2 capture, 
suggest that decision-makers do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. We must begin to 
move now toward the era beyond fossil fuels. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects."

[note:  Does that mean in five years from now if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow we will have "practically" ELIMINATED the possibility of avoiding the tipping level for catastrophic effects?  That's what it says.]
p. 15  Assumptions yielding the Forestry & Soil wedge in Figure 6B are as follows. It is assumed  that current net deforestation will decline linearly to zero between 2010 and 2015. It is assumed that uptake of carbon via reforestation will increase linearly until 2030, by which time reforestation will achieve a maximum potential sequestration rate of 1.6 GtC per year (S34). Waste-derived biochar application will be phased in linearly over the period 2010-2020, by which time it will reach a maximum uptake rate of 0.16 GtC/yr (83). Thus after 2030 there will 
be an annual uptake of 1.6 + 0.16 = 1.76 GtC per year, based on the two processes described.

[note:  "Net deforestation will decline to 2015"...are you laughing hysterically at these assumptions yet?]

Assumption No. 1 - coal must decrease.  But this chart shows what it is actually doing.

Grist:  Despite Slowdown, Global Coal Remains a Planet Destroying Monster

“Only a very small portion of the global public is aware that global coal consumption has advanced by over 50% in the past decade.”

Assumption No. 2 - forest cover must increase.

"The development of civilization and industry in general has always shown itself so active in the destruction of forests that everything that has been done for their conservation and production is completely insignificant in comparison."

~ Karl Marx, Capital (1867)

In 2007, Tom Hartmann wrote in The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Death of Trees:

"A rainforest tree will draw three million gallons of water up through its roots and release it into the atmosphere as water vapor during its lifetime. While it may seem that this would deplete the soil of water, actually the reverse is true: trees draw water into the soil, the first step in a complex cycle which prevents land from becoming desert."

"Without forestland pumping millions of tons of water into an area’s atmosphere, there’s little moisture released into the air to condense into clouds and to then fall again as rain. The result is that just downwind of the place that was once forest but is now denuded, the rains no longer fall and a process called desertification begins. This has happened over much of north and eastern Africa, leading to massive famines as the rains stop, crops fail, the topsoil is then blown away, and what is left is desert."

"Most rainfall on non-forest land either is absorbed and becomes surface ground water, or is transported along culverts, ditches, sewers, streams, and/or rivers, eventually reaching the ocean. On our continental land-masses, only trees effectively cycle large quantities of water back up into the atmosphere. For comparison, think about the evaporation from a forty-acre lake. That may seem like a lot of water to be evaporating into the atmosphere, but that forty acres is also the evaporative leaf surface of a single large tree."

"As of this writing, over 1500 acres of land are becoming desert worldwide every hour, largely because of the destruction of upwind forests. The total amount of rainforest left on the planet is about the size of the continental United States, and every year, an area the size of Florida is cut down and permanently destroyed."

Add to rising coal use and deforestation the fracking boom, which was completely unanticipated in the earlier estimations as to how much coal emissions must decrease and how much reforestation must take place.  Why, look at just the flaring from space!

From Common Dreams, July 29 - 'Skies Roast' Above North Dakota as Natural Gas Flaring on the Rise - Yearly greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to adding 'one million cars on the road'

"Bright torches of natural gas are to become an ever-more common sight along the horizon of North Dakota as the environmentally devastating practice of flaring, or burning off natural gas as a byproduct of oil production, continues to skyrocket, according to a report released Monday by sustainability research group Ceres.
Analyzing oil and gas production data on the Bakken oil fields, researchers estimate that the volume of flared gas 'more than doubled between May 2011 and May 2013,' and in 2012 alone, the greenhouse gases emitted from flared wells was equivalent to 'adding nearly one million cars to the road.'
Further, as report authors Ryan Salmon and Andrew Logan note, because the flares only partially combust the natural gas, 'a variety of other hazardous pollutants are generated by the process, including black carbon, another potent driver of climate change with adverse health effects.'
The latest data shows that the state’s oil and gas developers flared 29 percent of the natural gas they produced during May 2013.
The spike in flaring is the result of environmentally negligent production companies combined with historically low natural gas prices. 'At current market rates, oil is approximately 30 times more valuable than natural gas. As a result, producers have chosen to flare much of the gas they produce, rather than invest in the infrastructure necessary to collect, process and market it,' explains the report."'Without large-scale mitigation effort," notes the authors, 'flaring will continue to grow over the next several years.'
"Gas flares are nothing short of crimes against humanity," Nnimmo Bassey, director of Lagos-based Environmental Rights Action and chair of Friends of the Earth International, told the Guardian last fall. 'They roast the skies, kill crops and poison the air. These gas stacks pump up greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, impacting the climate, placing everyone at risk. Gas flares go on because it is cheap to kill, as long as profits keep on the rise.'"
Wait did somebody say it kills crops??  I found Nnimmo Bassey on facebook and sent him a message yesterday.  This is what he wrote back:
  • Today
  • 4:25am

    Nnimmo Bassey

    Gas flares cause acid rain from a combination of moisture in the air with the sulfur and nitrogen oxides they release. The acid rain affects both crops and everything else. Most of the flares burn very inefficiently and so release soot over the surrounding areas.  Besides the heat is so much that nearby farmlands have poor yields.  I hope this helps. Best wishes!
So, that brings me to the other serendipitous result of the facebook dispute, which is that someone contributed a link to a news release from the Royal Society about their report, "Ground-level ozone in the 21st century: future trends, impacts and policy implications" from 2008, yay!  Since ozone is after all what this blog is about...mass extinction from climate change notwithstanding.  And, on page 48, it says:  "Methane is clearly an important influence on background O3 levels. Several studies have found similar results and have highlighted the potential co-benefits for both air quality and climate forcing that result from CH4."
It's over 100 pages, plus definitions and citations and lists of international contributors.  Like so many other publications about ozone, it appears to have been largely ignored by climate scientists, despite it's clear warnings and recommendations for further research and policies.  Now rescued from the dustbin of history, following are a few excerpts, starting with the release:

"The analysis concludes that existing emission controls will not be sufficient to reduce ozone concentrations to levels acceptable for human health and environmental protection and calls for renewed global action to address ozone and its precursors. It highlights the importance of ozone as a global air pollutant and as a greenhouse gas, and finds that in some parts of the world ozone may have as important an impact on food security as climate change."

"In response to a call from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for Parties to nominate new and emerging issues for consideration under the Convention, the  President of the Royal Society, Lord Rees of Ludlow, has written to Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary,  proposing that the impact ground-level ozone on biological diversity be considered."

[note:  I did a search at the CBD website - that comes later]

"The letter draws on the Society's recent report, ' Ground-level ozone: future trends, impacts and policy implications'. One of the objectives of the report was to review what is known about the impacts of ground level ozone on biodiversity, and to evaluate the potential future impacts given trends in ozone precursor emissions.  The main points from our study that are of relevance to this submission are outlined below:"
  • Current concentrations of ozone are already having an impact on terrestrial plants;
  • Most research has been conducted on plant and tree species of commercial value, very little is known about the impacts of ozone to biodiversity and ecosystems and very little research is being undertaken on this issue;
  • Globally ozone concentrations are likely to remain close to current concentrations, but in the rapidly developing regions, particularly Asia and Africa, concentrations are projected to increase;
  • Ozone is a potent greenhouse gas and also has an indirect radiative forcing effect on climate; with consequent indirect effects on biodiversity.
Figure 1.1 Modelled global changes in surface O3 concentrations between pre-industrial times and the present day. Multi-model mean surface layer annual mean O3 (ppb) is presented for pre-industrial (PI) times in the top left, and for the present day (PD) in the top right. The modelled increase in O3 (PD–PI) is presented in the lower left figure and the percentage of annual mean O3 attributable to anthropogenic sources in the lower right.
From the report itself, which is chock full of the usual daunting chemistry:

Figure 3.1 A schematic view of the sources and sinks of O3 in the troposphere. Annual global fluxes of O3 calculated using a global chemistry–transport model have been included to show the magnitudes of the individual terms. These fluxes include stratosphere to troposphere exchange, chemical production and loss in the troposphere and the deposition flux to terrestrial and marine surfaces. Data source: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Working Group I Report “The Physical Science Basis“ (Denman et al. 2007).
p. 9 Where they have been implemented, policy measures have had demonstrable success at reducing O3 precursor emissions with substantial reductions of NOX and VOC and consequent declines in short-term peak O3 concentrations of typically 20–30 ppb in Europe. At the same 
time, however, measurements in many regions show that the hemispheric background has been increasing (by typically 2 ppb per decade since 1980) in the mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere over the period during which emission reductions have been made in Europe and North America. The increase in background O3 is not fully understood, but is thought to be due mainly to emission increases in other Northern Hemisphere countries and increases in emissions from poorly regulated sectors such as international shipping and aviation. While less certain, an increase in the stratospheric source of O3 may also have contributed to the increasing background.

The trend in background O3 is very important for two reasons: (i) it greatly reduces the benefits of the reductions in peak O3 concentrations; and (ii) the growth in background has made ground-level O3 a hemispheric/global issue, as well as a regional/national one.

Box 6.1 Case study of an extreme high pollution episode: implications for the impacts of climate change on future ozone levels:  In August 2003, Western Europe, especially Switzerland, France and Southern England experienced a prolonged heat wave and very high levels of surface O3. In several locations, temperatures exceeded those previously recorded, and O3 levels were severely elevated both in geographical extent and the duration of the episode. Ozone levels exceeded those considered harmful to human health by factors of 2 to 3 (up to 200 ppb in France. It is estimated that the 2003 heat wave in Europe was responsible for at least 22,000 deaths (2.5–85.3% of deaths attributed to O3 across European cities) and triggered losses of an estimated £7bn.

8.1 Introduction
The most important and well-documented environmental effects of O3, are those on terrestrial vegetation. O3 has been shown to cause reductions in crop production, tree growth and carbon sequestration, and to modify species composition (Ashmore 2005; US EPA 2006).

Ozone can also have effects on many organisms other than plants, although these are less well documented. The vast majority of animal studies relate to the respiratory effects of O3 on laboratory mammals, although recent studies suggest that O3 can also induce secondary changes in body temperature, water balance or oxygen consumption in reptiles (Mautz & Dohm 2004).
For insects, both positive and negative changes in performance have been observed, primarily as a result of changes in leaf chemistry.  Effects may be mediated through atmospheric reactions of O3 with VOC, for example by reducing searching efficiency and interference with pheromone signalling of insects. For example, McFrederick et al. (2008) recently suggested that such effects could reduce the distance over which insect pollinators could detect floral scents from kilometres at pre-industrial O3 levels to less than 500 m under present background concentrations.

Both decreases and increases in plant fungal diseases have also been observed in response to O3. The secondary effects of O3 on both insect pests and fungal diseases could have significant implications for crop and forest productivity but are not well understood.

p. 80  The complex range of effects on trees caused by O3 also highlights the importance of understanding the combined effects of O3 and other environmental stressors. The longest running study of the effects of O3 on trees is the open-air fumigation AspenFACE experiment, which includes an elevated CO2 treatment, an elevated O3 treatment and a combined elevated O3 and CO2 treatment. This experiment shows a 14–23% reduction in total biomass due to increased O3 exposure after 7 years (by increasing annual mean from 37 ppb to 52 ppb). Overall the elevated O3and elevated CO2 treatments had opposite effects. When the two treatments were combined, elevated CO2 generally reduced or removed the negative effects of elevated O3 on growth and physiology. However, there were exceptions, eg the accelerated senescence and abscission of leaves caused by O3 was not affected by elevated CO2.  Other important effects include those on bud-burst; senescence; anti-oxidant gene expression; insect herbivory; prevalence of leaf rust disease; increased water stress; and increased rates of soil respiration. The total soil carbon incorporated into these plots over four years was reduced by about 50% in the O3 plus elevated CO2 treatment compared with the elevated CO2 treatment.
In a recent experimental study (Peacock et al. personal communication) the effects of O3 were assessed on mesocosms of upland grassland under management regimes being used to restore biodiversity under environmental improvement schemes. The data (Figure 8.4) show that in this case O3 reduces the proportion of the grass Briza media and the legume Lotus corniculatus which are both important amenity species.

Figure 8.4  "Impacts of simulated present day versus 2050 UK-upland O3 climate on an upland mesophilic grassland community of high conservation importance. Data are presented for 2006 (third year of study), averaged across soil fertility and management treatments. Coloured segments represent the proportion of above-ground harvested biomass as different species; for those labelled * the effect of O3 is significant. The relative sizes of the two circles indicates the effect of O3 on total biomass. Data provided by Dr Simon Peacock, University of Newcastle."

p. 83  "If the threat to biodiversity increases in proportion to the modelled reduction in GPP, this analysis suggests that the areas of greatest risk are in eastern North America, Central Europe, the northern half of South America, Central Africa and South-East Asia (Figure 8.8); all of these five zones contain one or more G200 eco-regions."

"In total, 17 of the G200 ecoregions, covering an area of 1.4 million km2, have a predicted decrease in GPP above 20% due to O3. Adverse effects of O3 on sensitive native plant species have been demonstrated both in the Appalachian mountains of North America, and in the Swiss mountains, where this value of a 20% reduction in GPP is exceeded (Figure 8.8)."
"Figure 8.8 Assessment of key biodiversity areas at high risk from O3 impacts. The figure shows the projected percent decrease in GPP [Global Plant Productivity] due to O3 within the Global 200 priority conservation areas. Projected O3 concentrations (based on SRES A2 global future simulations for the period 1901–2100) are taken from Sitch et al. (unpublished data, used for Sitch et al. (2007) and adapted from Crown copyright data supplied by the Met Office). A ‘low’ O3 sensitivity is overlain with the locations of the ‘Global 200’ priority conservation areas (adapted from Olson & Dinerstein (2002) with permission from Missouri Botanical Garden Press). The colours indicate the predicted decrease in GPP in each eco-region; regions without any colour fall outside the G200 areas. The areas in deep purple are identified as regions where the risk of adverse effects of ozone on biodiversity is most significant at a global scale."

Conclusions. p. 84

"Detrimental effects of O3 on terrestrial carbon uptake will lead to more anthropogenic CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere and an indirect radiative forcing of climate change that adds significantly to the direct O3 forcing, increasing the importance of O3 as a driver of climate change."

"Global yields of staple crops are already reduced as a consequence of current O3 exposure.  The impact of O3 on crop production may increase over the next few decades in some rapidly developing regions, especially without the full implementation of current legislation to reduce emissions. Significantly increased impacts of O3 are projected in South Asia where there is evidence both of substantial impacts on yield of current O3 levels and that the local sensitivity of crops may be greater than in North America or Europe. In South Asia, and other developing regions, O3 could present a significant threat to national food security, although it has received much less recognition than the impacts of climate change."
"9.3 Implications of future ozone projections for food security"

"Under current O3 concentrations, significant impacts to crops in Europe and North America have been observed. Although much less information is available in other regions, significant impacts on staple crop yield and quality have also been demonstrated in experimental studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As the modelling projections and scenario analysis suggests that emissions and therefore O3 concentrations will increase in many regions of these continents to 2050, impacts to crops are also likely to increase. These findings must be placed into the wider context of future food security, globally, nationally and locally."

"All of the IPCC SRES socioeconomic scenarios (except A2) predict a large decrease in numbers of people at risk of hunger over this century, due to an increase in income and food production. Climate change scenarios generally reduce the extent of this decrease in hunger, but they do not reverse it. However, these analyses do not incorporate the effects of O3 especially in reducing or reversing the positive direct effects of increased CO2 concentrations on crop productivity. Hence the key issue in terms of O3 exposure is how far it may further delay achievement of critical Millennium Development Goals in terms of reducing the estimated 800 million people worldwide who are undernourished."

"Timescale is important in this assessment. The primary benefits of climate change mitigation measures for agriculture are likely to fall in the latter half of the century. In contrast, this report suggests that the greatest impacts of O3 are likely to fall in the first half of the century. The negative impacts of O3 must therefore be minimised before temperatures increase sufficiently to have significant negative impacts on global crop yields."

Another clear reason why climate scientists don't want to know about ozone.  Because they like to think that there is time to deal with CO2, but clearly, ozone needs to be dealt with YESTERDAY.

And I wasn't going to bother mentioning ozone production from biofuels, but then I saw that is promoting them (?????), so I decided it's important to consider all the sources of emissions in production and not just burning as the report outlines:

p. 89  "Depending on the type of biofuel and the lifecycle of the fuel, biofuels could have substantial effects on air quality in the future. Deforestation and biomass burning occurs often as a result of clearance of land to plant new crops, particularly in the tropics, and is a major source of O3 precursor emissions as it is not yet well regulated. Some of the preferred biofuel tree species (willow, eucalyptus, poplar and palm oil) are also high isoprene emitters (Arneth et al. 2007) and if planted in high NOX environments could lead to increased regional O3 production, particularly during heat wave events. Conversion of tropical forests to oil palm plantations, for example, could lead to substantial increases in isoprene emissions as a result ofchanges in isoprene flux potential from 480 g km–2 h–1 to 9410 g km–2 h–1 (Owen et al. unpublished data). Ozone precursors (CH4, VOC, NOX and PM2.5) are also emitted along the biofuel supply chain and are affected by practices and processes including fertiliser use, agronomy, harvesting, conversion and distribution."

In response to the call for the CBD to consider ozone, a "short technical note" was submitted, titled Biodiversity and Ground-level Ozone in 2011.  Even though it begins with "New evidence of unexpected and significant impacts on biodiversity" it doesn't exactly ring any new alarms and mostly rehashes what was already in the Royal Society report.

Two passages of interest:

"Mitigation of O3 precursor emissions (predominantly nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds including methane) requires changes in industrial, domestic and transport related emissions, often as part of international emission reduction programmes since O3 is a transboundary pollutant. Importantly, the only world region that is making any concerted effort to control O3 concentrations to limit vegetation damage is Europe through work under the UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution ( and various EU legislative directives. However, still thresholds and targets set by these bodies are exceeded in many locations across Europe with the likelihood that damage to vegetation resulting from O3 exposures will be occurring across the region. The lack of similar international efforts to control O3 precursor emissions in other parts of the world means that many ecosystems are completely unprotected from this strongly phyto-toxic pollutant."
"While the outputs from these modelling exercises offer the only global estimates for O3 effects on NPP and associated impacts on ecosystem properties and services, there are limitations to these estimates. Still, the models support experimental findings that O3 has had a significant negative impact on terrestrial NPP since the Industrial Revolution, which has important implications for terrestrial carbon storage and global radiative forcing."

Wow, that's the first time I've seen "since the Industrial Revolution" even as I have wondered many times about everything from the potato famine (did you know they were burning peat like crazy in Ireland then?) to Dutch Elm disease and the Chestnut blight.

Recent research (published 9/12) research based on newly discovered records puts the natural level of ozone at only 10 ppb):

 "The rate at which ozone is increasing in the troposphere is uncertain due to the lack of accurate long-term measurements. Old ozone measurements obtained at the Pic du Midi Observatory (3000 m high, southwestern France) were recently rediscovered. Four sets of data available at this station are presented herein: (1) 1874–1881 and (2) 1881–1909 by the Schönbein method and (3) 1982–1984 and (4) 1990–1993 by UV absorption analyzers. The results show an increase in ozone by a factor of 5 since the beginning of the twentieth century, corresponding to an exponential increase of 1.6% per year, although this trend is probably higher (2.4% per year) for the last few decades. A stable 10 ppb ozone mixing ratio is observed during the first 20 years of the series, which is representative of the preindustrial era ozone level. The increase is seen to start around 1895."
That was just the beginning of the latest amateur ozone sleuthing - you never know where it will lead.  First, a couple of stories in the news led to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2013 Report, and legal action around EPA regulations.

From SeacoastOnline:  As temperatures rise, air quality expected to decrease
As a heat wave smothers the Seacoast, the American Lung Association urges residents and visitors to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone and to take health precautions when levels are high.
According to the Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report, more than 8.6 million people in the Northeast live in counties with dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution, the two most widespread air pollutants.
The stretch of land from the New Hampshire Seacoast to as far north as Acadia National Park in Maine has often been dubbed the “tailpipe of the country,” said Ed Miller, senior vice president of public policy at the ACA’s northeast division in Augusta, Maine.
“There is a lot of pollution from cars and power plants that comes up the coast,” he said. “When it mixes with the sun and temperature, it causes high levels of ozone pollution.”
Ozone is the most widespread air pollutant and can cause health problems such as wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even premature death.
So, I went to the ALA website to read their report, which is full of some really scary information about what ozone does to human health, summarized like this:

"Ozone Pollution - It may be hard to imagine that pollution could be invisible, but ozone is. The most widespread pollutant in the U.S. is also one of the most dangerous.  Scientists have studied the effects of ozone on health for decades. Hundreds of research studies have confirmed that ozone harms people at levels currently found in the United States. In the last few years, we’ve learned that it can also be deadly."
 Hummingbird Clearwing Moth - Hemaris thysbe
This is how it described the legal maneuverings:

"The Association filed an action challenging the standards set by the Bush Administration in 2008, and resumed the legal battle following the Obama Administration’s decision in 2011 to ignore the overwhelming scientific research and the opinions of experts that much stronger standards were needed. Now, the EPA has a second chance in December 2013, when it must propose a new standard under the regular review cycle."
But, WAIT!!!!  That's out of date already, because this story ran on July 23:

Bush-Era Ozone Standard From 2008 Upheld By Federal Court
WASHINGTON — A federal court on Tuesday upheld a 2008 air pollution standard the Obama administration vowed to strengthen, but later reversed itself and kept in place.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington rejected arguments that the ozone standard for public health set by former President George W. Bush was either too weak or too strong. The Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisory panel at the time said the standard should have been more stringent to adequately protect health.
But referencing Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the court on Tuesday said it cannot demand EPA get things "just right" when it comes to health.
However, the court ruled that the agency would have to revisit a secondary standard aimed at protection forests and other vegetation from ozone pollution.
The decision marked a partial defeat for environmental groups, a dozen states and two cities that had sued the agency in 2008 to strengthen the standards, only to resume the legal battle after Obama decided not to toughen them.
But the ruling was also a mixed bag for the state of Mississippi, which along with an association of industrial groups, argued against the standards because they were too stringent.
Ozone, the main ingredient in smog, is a powerful lung irritant that can cause asthma and other lung ailments. Smog is created when emissions from cars, power and chemical plants, refineries and other factories mix in sunlight and heat.
The Obama administration proposed in January 2010 to tighten the smog standard at a cost of $90 billion a year. But 18 months later, the White House tabled the plans after businesses and congressional Republicans said it would harm the economy. A review of the standard was supposed to be finished this year, but EPA has missed that deadline.
"The Obama administration now has the opportunity to follow the science, and not play politics with protecting our national parks and forest from air pollution damage," said Mark Wenzler, vice president of climate and air quality programs at the National Parks Conservation Association.
I think what the court is saying is that EPA proved the current standard is inadequate to protect vegetation, but they didn't show that their new proposed regulation WOULD be.

Also in the ALA report, it was mentioned that the EPA released their final "Integrated Science Assessment for Ozone and Related Photochemical Oxidants" report in February.  How did I miss that?  Well, google the title and guess what?  Not one single news story appears.  Wouldn't you think that would be newsworthy??  The only links that came up in the search are to EPA's own site, and older stories about the 2011 draft.  The final version can be downloaded here.  It's obviously going to be worthy of its own blogpost, so I'll leave it at that until I have time to read it over the next few days.  Thursday nights have turned into "Ladies' Night In" aka "Pony Club for Grown-Ups" at first daughter's farm, where she and her friends ride around in circles jumping the jumps...and guess who is the designated caterer for dinner afterwards, so I'll be a little busy.  Last time I made grilled chicken fajitas with guacamole, before that it was hamburgers and various salads.  Tomorrow I'm going for a Greek theme, with lamb kabobs, orzo salad, taboule, and peach shortcake  - 'cause they are ripe in the local orchard and sooooooo good.

And now take a deep breath of cognitive dissonance...

I read a pretty good essay at the Deep Green Resistance site, "Sustainability is Destroying the Earth".  It tears into the usual hopium that if we recycle and shop green and divest our stock portfolios from fossil fuel companies like 350 and the Sierra Club tells us to, then everything will be okay and we can still have second vacation homes and laptops...oh, and believe in something, anything, to lend meaning or spirituality to our one-way ticket to oblivion - the newest iteration of which may be, according to one person's jovial neologism, "reoccurrance".  I guess since reincarnation just seems utterly fatuous by now a modern route to immortality is required.  A great analysis of the false clean promise of electric cars - restricted to the "revered metric" of CO2 emissions (revered metric - so disdainful, I love that!) is here.
It seems to me that we have been serial ecosystem crashers since we discovered fire and how to chop down trees.  At that time we stepped squarely outside of nature's limits on our population, and then it was only a matter of time.  We were able to colonize hostile climates that would otherwise have been uninhabitable, and cooking food enabled us to utilize more energy to develop our brains - and our ability to indulge in self-serving fantasy, which may be our defining essence as a species.  (See this funny rumination called "The Backfire Effect" about our remorseless ability to lie to ourselves:  "The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.  The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.")

I think we always "knew" that we were living unsustainably, we just chose to ignore it.  Society shunned Mathus, Hobbes, Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the Limits to Growth study.  To be honest I "knew" that overpopulation is a problem, but I didn't think it applied to me, so I selfishly had three children - and I think that's pretty typical.  We know that plastic makes non-biodegradable trash but how many of us never use it?  We all know that fish populations are crashing - the cod in the 1980's! - but how many people don't eat fish as a result?  We all know that our electronic toys and clothing are made by slaves but how many of us don't buy them?

It's fun to loathe the sociopathic PTB and their hypocritical tools in the government, but I really think it's misguided to blame them when everyone who overconsumes is guilty of driving the mass extinction that is already well underway.  Actually I think the so-called environmental and climate activists are WORSE than the PTB, because many of them are flying around going to fundraising cocktail parties disguised as conferences where they talk about the solar panels they put on their house and recycling, pretending this party can continue with so-called "clean" energy, which is a big fat lie.

Pointing out that drastic reductions including rationing and draconian laws about consumption and reproduction would constitute just the beginning of addressing our plight tends to agitate manic optimists who then posit clichés like "Perfect is the enemy of the good"  or platitudes like "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little".  But why bother if you don't answer the question, which is, what could actually make a difference.  When you are in a zero-sum game - like, EXTINCTION is pending - the only thing that matters is what will work.  Making recommendations so that people feel like they are doing something is worse than useless.  In this case, good is the enemy of the perfect, if perfect means survival vs. annihilation.
Given this map (which is arguably optimistic) of the portion of earth that is on track to be uninhabitable, if activists genuinely believe that reducing personal carbon footprint is effective by setting an example, then flying and driving and using a computer would be off the table and so would riding a bicycle, which requires fossil fuels and mining to produce.  They should be outlining - and personally following - a realistic path towards long-term viability of the human race.  Anything less is inadequate. We can't afford to burn more fuel, and if anyone should get down to near-zero, it's the people in the rich countries who have been having the oil and coal binge for the last 150 years. But with very few exceptions I see nothing other than token gestures, and that includes the largest carbon footprint anyone can possibly have, which is reproducing.  Personally I think fuel should be rationed and made illegal for non-essential purposes, enforced internationally, and reproducing should be controlled by lottery.
But that's just me, because when I look at the research that includes that shattering map I cannot understand how people who insist that they adhere to "peer-reviewed science" still think we can survive, yet meanwhile they continue to drive and fly.

"A recent research paper from the University of Iceland that explored some of the ramifications of climate change in the Arctic, found that: With Arctic land temperatures expected to climb by 4-7 degrees Celsius by 2100, much of the world’s populations, agriculture, and infrastructure, will shift northwards. Much of the equatorial world will eventually become nearly uninhabitable, except in thin regions along the coasts. In time, it is likely that the Arctic Ocean and the countries bordering it will become the “center” of the world, featuring the majority of human activity."

"How fast this migration towards the Arctic occurs will largely have to do with how fast the Arctic becomes “habitable” and how fast some of the more southerly regions become unable to support large human populations. This loss of habitability in southerly regions will likely be as a result of diminishing agricultural productivity/increasing failures, increasing conflict, drought, and desertification. Though it is also likely that the increasing quantities/intensities of extreme weather events, and resource depletion/soil erosion/deforestation will factor in."

And let's not forget the water, where life is being extinguished at least as fast as on the land.  Following is an update on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Dead zones are the indirect result of nutrients, largely from fertilizer use, running off into rivers and then into bodies of water like the Gulf. Once these excess nutrients reach the ocean, they fuel algae blooms. The algae then die and decompose in a process that consumes oxygen and creates oxygen-free areas where fish and other aquatic creatures can't survive. This zone can have serious impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries on the Gulf Coast, causing fish die-offs."

Even little streams are having fish kills, like this one in Hackney:

Thousands of dead fish in Hackney as the River Lee is “on its last gasp” 
The shocking scene was witnessed Tuesday morning after the previous night’s heavy thunderstorms, following a two week dry spell.
The Environment Agency confirmed the rain had washed oils, heavy metals, dirt and dust which had built up on the roads into the Lee and its tributaries, leaving the pollutants to dissolve the little oxygen that remained in the water.
Theo Thomas who runs campaign group Thames21’s Love the Lea Campaign said the pollution had pushed the river over the edge.
“During hot weather water holds less oxygen anyway. But fish were not dying earlier in the week, it’s the pollution that killed the fish.
Those behind the campaign believe the status quo must change, as an increasing number of vehicles on the roads mean more pollution is being washed into the rivers.
“There’s an attempt to say this is just the hot weather, that sets the conditions up very dangerously and precariously if it hadn’t have rained and washed in the pollution we wouldn’t have seen the fish die,” said Mr Thomas.
“This is the water we use to draw out drinking water from, it seems to be a nonsense to put all this pollution into the source of our drinking in the first place.”

I like that article, because it reflects rather perfectly my quixotic quest to reorient the focus from (admittedly existentially threatening warming) to pollution.  How people can not recognize that life is withering all around I do not know.

By happenstance I rented the movie, The Bay, to watch online.  It wasn't until the credits rolled out at the end that I became curious as to who made it, and found it was Barry Levinson - who directed some tremendously excellent films like Diner and Wag the Dog, and Possession (based on one of my favorite novels) and Rain Man.  That explained why it was such a fantastic movie, very sophisticated even though it's superficially a spoof of the dumbest horror movie.  It turns out, he made it because he has a home on the Chesapeake Bay and learned to his consternation that at least 40% of it is a dead zone.  I almost hesitate to post the trailer here, because it doesn't at all do justice to this movie, a visceral nightmare of what we are doing with pollution - with a horrifically convincing portrayal of how the suddenly the breakdown will proceed.  If I've persuaded you to rent it, don't watch the trailer (the second preview) until after.  Just watch this first one instead, based on a true jaundiced autobiography (I am hoping collapse holds off until November when it's due for release):


1 comment:

  1. Holy fecal matter, Batman! And step in the OZONE.
    But I digress into humor...
    It seems Americans done sold their squishy little souls for a BRAND NEW CAR! Or maybe it's that NEW CAR SMELL... it must be a special toxic brain gas that makes people just plain crazy to go places where they ain't.
    you talk about that MISTER CLIMATE MEISTER JIMBO HANSEN, he's something all together else. Poor fella' had all those dead trees that kept sticking up into the sky obscuring the big CLIMATE HOUSE IN THE SKY... But he did get to sit next to AMY GOODMAN a lot, and never once did he yell CLIMATE! or OBAMA! in a crowded PACIFICA TV STUDIO.
    Maybe he too was hoping for a BRAND NEW CAR!
    Me, I've never been to WitsEnd in Jersey, but back in 1967 I did spend the night in the Greenwich Hotel in New York City.
    So, does GOV. CHRISTIE have a formal DESIGNER HAZ-MAT SUIT to wear when he visits the common folk in places like WitsEnd where the TREES ARE DYING... you know NEW JERSEY TREES!
    Hmmmm... GOVERNOR HAZ-MAT, I like that.
    It kind of goes with CRINGE & COWER! Or is it DUCK & COVER?

    Thanks Gail, for your hard work in trying to describe for us the challenges we face in surviving this mess we are in.
    I think it's like math: in order to arrive at an equation, we must ACCURATELY DESCRIBE every element of the equation.
    Your work does this.


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