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Archive Environmental News December 2020

Effects of Global Warming on Land and Sea

When you hear the term “Global Warming” you may mistakenly assume that local temperatures will rise. What you need to understand is that global warming does not refer directly to your local weather. The impact of global warming affects our global climate, which then affects local weather.

The earth’s atmosphere has always acted like a greenhouse to capture the sun’s heat, ensuring that the earth has enjoyed temperatures that permitted the emergence of life forms as we know them, including humans.

Without our atmospheric greenhouse the earth would be very cold. Human enhanced global warming, however, is the equivalent of a greenhouse with high efficiency reflective glass installed the wrong way around.

(Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions)

Oceans cover 70% of earth’s surface. When the ocean heats up, more water evaporates into clouds – only to come down as torrential rains. A good example is the storms that flooded the American Midwest in the recent past.

Where storms like hurricanes and typhoons are forming, the result is more energy-intensive storms. A warmer atmosphere makes glaciers and mountain snow packs, the Polar ice cap, and the great ice shield jutting off of Antarctica melt, raising sea levels.

Rising temperatures change the great patterns of wind that bring the monsoons in Asia and rain and snow around the world, making drought and unpredictable weather more common.

Over your lifetime you may have noticed changes in weather patterns where you live. The changes are a result of the increased temperature.

Heat is energy and when you add energy to any system changes occur.

Because all systems in the global climate system are connected, adding heat energy causes the global climate as a whole to change.

On Land

A good but very sad example is the ice storms that hit Oklahoma last month.

“We had an ice storm that devastated 80% of the trees here, something that had never been recorded since they started keeping records on climate.” reported local resident Gianni Pascuzzi.

He described it as “Ground weather was below freezing, but upper atmosphere cloud weather was warm, so rain came down, and then instantly froze onto all surfaces.

So each leaf looked like it was wrapped around by an ice cube. Then the weight of the ice just split the trees in half and worse.

Even super thin little reeds and pampas grass looked like they were encased in long, inch-thick swords of ice.”

Hurricanes increasing in strength

Source: Earth 911

Climate Change Extends the Life of Hurricanes After Landfall

Warmer Atlantic waters are fueling longer-lived hurricanes in the U.S., according to a new report in Nature. With more energy, these storms produce more damage to homes, more coastal erosion, and longer-lasting storm surges. The data confirms that hurricanes are slower to decay compared to 50 years ago. They used to expend 75% of available energy during the first day after landfall but now lose only 50% of storm energy during the same time. Storm tracks have also shifted eastward during the past half-century, putting more inland populated areas at risk. The study suggests that storms will continue to grow in size and duration as the planet warms. Insurance and public-policy decision-makers must factor the new information into their planning.

Guest Article

Mitigating Climate Change: It Starts With Better Ocean Data

Photo by Agustín Lautaro on Unsplash

 “This article is originally posted on Sofar Ocean

For years (and we mean many years), the ocean helped us mitigate the early effects of human emissions by absorbing greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and heat, from the atmosphere. As a result, more than 90 percent of the warming that happened on Earth between 1971 and 2010 occurred in the ocean. A selfless act by Mother Nature, but it’s catching up to us. 

Climate change, which describes long-term changes to temperature and typical weather, is accelerating at an alarming pace—and the impacts are hard to ignore. Let’s take a look at some changes to our ocean.

3 Ways Climate Change Affects Our Ocean 

Rising sea levels

Sea levels are rising at the fastest rate in 3,000 years. From 2018 to 2019, the global sea level rose to 6.1 millimeters. Sure, a few millimeters doesn’t sound like a lot**, until you hear that the average, since 1993, has been 3.2 millimeters per year. That means that last year we doubled the global average from the past twenty years! The same report shares that the U.S. East Coast’s average is actually three to four times the global average. The ocean is rising, and it’s rising fast.

The two major causes are thermal expansion (warm water expands), and melting glaciers and ice sheets. Why should we care? Rising sea levels increase the amount and severity of floods and shoreline erosion. It may also destroy wildlife habitats on the shoreline, interfere with coastal farming, and contaminate potable water sources. 

Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is a chemical imbalance that stems from large amounts of carbon dioxide. Put simply, it increases the concentration of hydrogen ions and reduces the amount of carbonate ions. Shellfish and other sea life rely on carbonate ions to grow their shells and thrive. But with fewer carbonate ions, shells become thin and brittle, growth slows down, and death rates increase. Since the Industrial Revolution, ocean acidity has increased by 30%. With large shellfish die-offs, the whole marine food chain is affected—not the best news for the multi-billion dollar fishing industry. 

Extreme weather events

With more heat in the atmosphere and warmer ocean surface temperatures, the world is experiencing an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. For example, research suggests that the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes—characterized by higher wind speeds and more precipitation—is steadily increasing. To make matters worse, sea-level rise and a growing population along coastlines will exacerbate their impact. We’re predicting that coastal engineers and planners will be busy in the coming years. 

Mitigating These Effects With Data

As demonstrated above, after years of emitting greenhouse gases, the effects of climate change are very evident. It’s time to collectively mitigate and reduce our carbon footprint. 

We’re going to come out and just say it—we believe it starts with better data. 

The current scale, pace, and practice of ocean scientific discovery and observation are not keeping up with the changes in ocean and human conditions. Current data is siloed and inaccessible—hindering a unified knowledge base for strategies and policy making. 

Here are some ways that data needs to improve:

Affordability : According to the Global Ocean Science Report (compiled by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) ocean research is currently led by a small number of industrialized countries. Why? Because they can afford investments in data technology. Many coastal nations are not involved in building this knowledge base simply because they can’t afford the tools. Research is expensive.

By providing real-time information in actionable forms, this technology is incredibly useful for driving innovation. In order to accelerate the co-creation of knowledge and strategies, these tools need to be accessible to developing countries as well. Affordability and accessibility is the driving force behind Sofar Ocean’s Spotter buoys, which you can read more about here

Open data sharing : A major stumbling block to universal data synthesis is ownership. Government agencies, research, and private companies are all key players in ocean data collection and management, keeping these insights locked away for their own specific purposes. 

Data tagging, federated data networks, and data lakes should be combined to create a new era of open and automated ocean data access. Governments can lead the way by declassifying and sharing data that are relevant to ocean science and management. They can also incentivize companies and researchers to share data by making it a condition for access to public resources, such as funding for ocean research, permits for coastal development, or licenses for oil exploration or fishing.

Making Waves Requires Momentum

A molecule of CO2 emitted in India or China has the same effect on the climate system as a molecule emitted in the United States. No matter where we are, climate change affects us all the same. 

Transformative changes require a unified approach. And we believe that starts with data.

**Editors comment: “3.2 mm or or 1/8 inch seems an undetectably small sea level rise. 1993 to 2018, however, is 25 years. If the sea rose steadily 3.2 mm (1/8 inch) for 25 years, it rose 80 mm (8 cm) (3 1/8 inches). If sea rise on the East Coast of the US is three to four times higher than this average, then sea rise at Boca Raton, Myrtle Beach and Coney Island ranged from 24 cm (9 3/8 inches) to 32 cm (12.5 inches). If the rate of rise then doubled to 6.1 mm per year in 2019 and holds steady here, then by 2044, the sea will rise on average an additional 15.25 cm 6 inches. On the East Coast,, sea rise will be between 45.75 and 61 cm (18 and 24 inches) This amount of ocean is easily detected.”

Good News

While the impact of climate change is already upon us, we can not give up hope that efforts to reverse global warming will help bring back a sustainable climate. Progress is being made in many areas, our job as citizens of planet earth is to support and encourage those who are working on solutions.

Biden Brings New Hope

(White House Photo by David Lienemann)

With the change of leadership in the United States hope springs forth that a renewed focus on climate change will have a big impact globally. President Biden is building his team with experienced climate experts across a wide swath of federal agencies.

More details…

The renewed focus will help bring needed change.

Harnessing the Sun

Named one of 2020 best inventions by Time, Inc. is the HelioHeat:

Creating the tons of steel and concrete we use to build our world requires a massive amount of heat—and most of it comes from burning dirty fossil fuels. HelioHeat cleans up that process by using the power of the sun. Here’s how it works: A field of 100,000 motorized, computer-­controlled mirrors concentrates sunlight in the direction of a 40-m-tall tower, “like a giant magnifying glass,” says Heliogen founder Bill Gross. There, a hot spot gets up to 2,000°F, where the heat can be harnessed to melt steel or make cement or electricity. Future iterations of the tech, says Gross, could use the sunlight to create hydrogen to power zero-emission automobiles. —Jesse Will”

From the Guardian:

A recent report in The Guardian highlighted European Unions commitment to expand offshore wind farm capacity by 25%. The proposal would create 62,000 jobs, and help towards carbon neutrality.

Definitely a step in the right direction!

Read the full article

Cars of the Future

GM Invests In A Zero-Emissions Future

Even General Motors is making progress towards helping to clean up the environment and reduce carbon emissions:

DETROIT – General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) Chairman and CEO Mary Barra revealed that the company will offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade. Forty percent of the company’s U.S. entries will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025. Barra also announced an increase in GM’s financial commitment to EVs and AVs today to $27 billion through 2025 – up from the $20 billion planned before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Climate change is real, and we want to be part of the solution by putting everyone in an electric vehicle,” said Barra. “We are transitioning to an all-electric portfolio from a position of strength and we’re focused on growth. We can accelerate our EV plans because we are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing and customer experience.

Source: EV Trader

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Our hearts go out to everyone who has suffered a loss this year, whether from the impacts of COVID-19, and other disasters triggered by climate change.

One thing is certain, when the chips are down, the human spirit rises.

We hope 2021 will bring more unity, and more solutions to the problems that we all face with today’s challenges.

From our Family at Warm Heart to yours: Let’s work together in 2021 to build a safer, cleaner world for everyone.

Artwork by Naan, age 19

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