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Climate Change in the Arctic & around the globe

Science of Climate Change under-reported?

Within the framework of an online discussion forum, Diana Lungu from the European Journalism Centre has drawn my attention to a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism looking at media coverage of last year’s Copenhagen climate summit. It makes for interesting reading. The author James Painter comes to the conclusion that the actual science was under-reported, with more attention being directed at the hacked a-mail debate.
There’s  a useful summary of some of the main results of the study in the Washington Post. The study includes calls for more discussion between scientists, journos and policy makers “on how to keep highly significant, slow-burn issues like climate change interesting and engaging to different audiences around the world”, more media staff to help scientists and more frontline reporting on the effects of climate change. I’m with you on all of those James.

Date

November 18, 2010 | 1:14 pm

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“An airborne mission for earth’s polar ice”


(Aerial view of Svalbard, one of my pics, iq 2007)

A lot of our information on the state of the ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic comes from measurements from NASA. This week they invited journalists to a (climate-friendly internet-based) briefing on the progress of the IceBridge mission, which they describe as “an airborne mission for earth’s polar ice”.
A lot of it is about the technical procedures involved, so if you’re generally interested in how data gets collected by scientists flying over Antarctica (and the weather and work conditions down there) this is an interesting site to look at. There is also a blog from members of the team. They are in the Antarctic at the moment, but there is also info on the worrying state of the Arctic sea ice based on the latest measurements on the site.
Tomorrow (Thursday) they will be running a live chat on their findings so far, details on that website if you’d like to join in.

Date

November 17, 2010 | 11:33 am

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Compromising on climate: How far do you go?

I’ve just come back from a short media briefing by the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres. The climate secretariat’s headquarters is just next to our building, so it was not a problem for me to walk over and be back in half an hour. I’d love to be able to say the room was full. There were a handful of us, although no doubt there will have been some others following online.(But I didn’t hear questions from the big players I’ve heard in previous briefings either).
Two weeks ahead of the Cancun negotiations, there is a distinct lack of hype and a very low-key feeling about the whole business. After the big Copenhagen fiasco, it’s hardly surprising.
“Cancun will be a success if parties compromise”, says the Exec Sec. Well, we will certainly need a lot of compromising.
Mrs Figueres mentioned adaptation, technology transfer, forests and the funding of long-term financing as areas where she expects progress. More or less the same as what EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard told me. What struck me, though, was a similarity in the two ladies’ rhetoric. BOth talk of the need for a “balanced set of decisions” and use similar cautious formulations which could fit a wide range of possible outcomes. My feeling is politicians and neotiators are taking no chances of getting it wrong this time.
Somebody asked a question about the organisation. You may remember there was chaos last time with too many people to fit into the conference centre and hour-long queues. This time, earlier advance registration and better planning are supposed to improve that. Given the overall feeling of disappointment and resignation hanging in the air, I don’t think the organisers will have to worry too much about a huge surge of participants this time.
Never mind, think of the emissions we’ll save on all those flights to Cancun.

Date

November 15, 2010 | 2:58 pm

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Geoengineering – the “Plan B”


(Photo: Prof. Thomas Pettke, Institute for Geology, University Bern)

Cough pastilles? Ingredients for your Christmas baking?
No, these green crystals, which can be up to a centimetre in size, are actually olivine, the major constituent of the earth’s mantle.

This is what it looks like in vulcanic rock, in this case from Mount Erebus in Antarctica. (Photo by Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute).
So what is the green rock doing on the ice blog? Well when olivine weathers and decomposes, it can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have been conducting experiments to find out how much, and whether artificially weathering the mineral could help counteract ocean acidification.
Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association and the KlimaCampus of Hamburg University have just published some model calculations. They say around a ton of olivine dissolved in water would be necessary for each ton of CO2 that could be transferred from the atmosphere to the ocean using this method.They assume the method is not suitable to neutralise present-day greenhouse gas emissions completely, but could be interesting on some scale as just one factor of many.
The Alfred Wegener Institute stresses it is not out to pave the way for the commercial implementation geoengineering measures with this research. “It makes an important contribution to improving the scientific database on geoengineering methods,” says Prof. Karin Lochte,the Director of the Institute.
Given the lack of progress on the large-scale emissions reductions that would be necessary to keep global warming to the 2 degree target, it’s hardly surprising that there is a strong interest in techniques like geo-engineering, whether it be installing mirrors in space or measures like this one.
Of course there are plenty of risks involved. The recent Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya, Japan, called for more information to help assess the potential effectiveness and the risks of geoengineering to the environment and biodiversity.
There’s more detail on all this on the AWI website

Date

November 11, 2010 | 1:30 pm

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Self-interest as a motive for halting climate change

Let me just draw your attention to some thoughts from Matthis Wackernagel from Global Footprint Network indicating that interest in our own welfare could/should/must be the factor that will bring progress in the climate negotiations. You’ll find them here

Date

November 10, 2010 | 9:51 am

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