Monthly Archives: December 2006

Climate change and phytoplankton

One of those many details regarding the effects of climate change: phytoplankton. I continue to be amazed in my conversations with the people around me and how little they know about climate change and what it all really means. Most folks that I encounter seem to have no clue about how it is our earth actually works or the delicate balance that keeps it all going.

Climate Change is Killing the Oceans’ Microscopic ‘Lungs’

Global warming has begun to change the way microscopic plant life in the oceans absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – a trend that could lead to a dramatic increase in the heating power of the greenhouse effect.

Satellite data gathered over the past 10 years has shown for the first time that the growth of marine phytoplankton – the basis of the entire ocean food chain – is being adversely affected by rising sea temperatures.

Scientists have found that as the oceans become warmer, they are less able to support the phytoplankton that have been an important influence on moderating climate change.

The fear is that as sea temperatures continue to rise as a result of global warming, the loss of phytoplankton will lead to a positive-feedback cycle, where increases in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere leads to warmer oceans, and warmer oceans lead to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations.


“Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a key part of global warming. This study shows that as the climate warms, phytoplankton production goes down, but this also means that carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean plants will decrease,” Professor Behrenfeld said. “That would allow carbon dioxide to accumulate more rapidly in the atmosphere, making the problem worse.”


Despite their small size, phytoplankton account for about half of the photosynthesis carried out by all plants on Earth. And phytoplankton have a high turnover because they are quickly eaten by small marine animals – making them even more vulnerable to climate change.

“This fast turnover and the fact that phytoplankton are limited to a thin veneer of the ocean surface, where there is enough sunlight to sustain photosynthesis, makes them very responsive to climate change,” Professor Behrenfeld said. “This was why we could relate productivity changes to climate variability in only a 10-year record. Such connections would be much harder to detect from space for terrestrial plant biomass.”

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Stolen Elections and Empire

Juan Cole has an interesting post on How the Republicans are Stealing the November Elections:

Or, Bushes and Bonapartes

On November 7, the American people delivered a stiff rebuke to the Bush Administration and the Republican Party over its far-right policies. They were especially worried about the Iraq fiasco, and upset over the mounting US and Iraqi casualties. But they also worried about Bush’s coddling of the Religious Right and the erosion of the separation of religion and state, along with the assault on civil liberties.


You see, we do not have a democracy, with the Bush administration in power. We have an elective dictatorship. The elections are like lotteries. Many of them don’t even reflect the popular vote or the general will. The Rehnquist Coup of 2000 was not intrinsically different from the Rounds Coup (if it happens) of 2006. Nor would the techniques whereby elections are “won” bear much scrutiny. Ask Tom Delay, through the penitentiary window. And the incumbents feel they owe nothing to the electorate, nothing whatsoever. They have the Power. They act as they please. The rest of us are just onlookers.

So Bush’s response to the clear public demand for a change of course and a disengagement? It is to run to Henry Kissinger’s apron strings. And what does the Butcher of Chile and Indonesia urge? That Bush should put another 40,000 US troops into Iraq!

The problem is that Iraq is a 500,000 troop problem. Another 40,000 are just going to anger locals. And, apparently, they would be sicced on the Shiite Mahdi Army in hopes of permanently crippling the Sadr Movement headed (in part) by Muqtada al-Sadr. And maybe they’d be used in a new offensive against the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

Let me explain why it won’t work. It won’t work because Iraqis are now politically and socially mobilized. This means that they have the social preconditions for effective political and paramilitary action (they are largely urban, literate, connected by media, etc.) And they are politically savvy and well-connected. They are well armed, gaining in military experience, and well financed through petroleum and antiquities smuggling and through cash infusions from supporters abroad. The Mahdi Army fighters can be defeated by the US military, as happened twice in 2004. But they cannot be made to disappear, as they were not in 2004. That is because they are an organic movement springing from the Shiite poor, and are the paramilitary arm of a large social movement with a national network and ideology.

Attempts to crush popular movements once they have mobilized have most often failed. No attempts at counter-revolution in France in the 1790s were successful. Even powerful empires like Austria were helpless before the mobilized French infantry (who for the first time used large numbers of conscripts).


I am not saying that popular protests cannot be crushed. They can and have been. I am saying that when you have a whole country that is politically mobilized and has substantial resources, a crack-down is likely doomed unless it is almost genocidal (Saddam’s use of chemical weapons in 1988 and of helicopter gunships against civilians in 1991 are examples, as is Truman’s use of the atomic bomb against Japan).

The US is not going to commit the half a million troops it would take to have a chance of winning in Iraq. Nor is it going to use genocidal methods to strike absolute terror into the hearts of the Iraqi people.


Bush is the Napoleon of our age, trampling on whole peoples, a Jacobin Emperor mouthing the slogans of liberty and popular sovereignty while crushing and looting those he “liberated.” And Kagan and Kristol (playing Talleyrand 1798) and Emperor Bush are readying a further slaughter of our US troops, 24,000 of whom have been killed or wounded, and of innocent Iraqis, 600,000 of whom have been killed by criminal and political violence since spring of 2003.

And you thought a mere election would make a difference. No one had to elect the American Enterprise Institute. No one needs to crown the emperor, he can do it himself. Welcome to Year 1 of the Empire.

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Sea level rise ‘under-estimated’

I’m definitely seeing a pattern with the reporting on climate change stories. Seems that with every single story on every new report it is always we underestimated the effects or this particular effect is happening much sooner than we thought it would. The BBC reports that Sea level rise ‘under-estimated’:

Current sea level rise projections could be under-estimating the impact of human-induced climate change on the world’s oceans, scientists suggest.

By plotting global mean surface temperatures against sea level rise, the team found that levels could rise by 59% more than current forecasts.

The researchers say the possibility of greater increases needs be taken into account when planning coastal defences.

The findings have been published in the online edition of the journal Science.

The team from Germany and the US found that for the timescale relevant to human-induced climate change, the observed rate of sea level rise through the 20th Century held a strong correlation with the rate of warming.

When applied to the possible scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the researchers found that in 2100 sea levels would be 0.5-1.4m above 1990 levels.

This projection is much greater than the 9-88cm forecast made by the IPCC itself in its Third Assessment Report, published in 2001.

He writes in Science Express: “Understanding global sea level changes is a difficult physical problem, as a number of complex mechanisms with different timescales play a role.”

These include:

* thermal expansion of water through heat absorption
* water entering the oceans from glaciers and ice sheets
* increased ice flows after the removal of buttressing ice shelves

Professor Rahmstorf said he decided to use observational data because computer models of climate significantly under-estimated the sea level rise that had already occurred.

“The fact that we get such differences using different methods shows how uncertain our sea level forecasts still are,” he said.

Greenland’s glaciers have been sliding faster towards the sea

He added that the main uncertainty was the response of large ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to rising temperatures, which was difficult to predict.

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Feeding ourselves on a warmer planet

I sometimes wonder if people are really thinking about the effects that global warming will have on their lives. Do folks just think the oceans will rise a little and erode away a few beaches? Maybe a few more intense hurricanes? I have a hunch most have no real clue just how far reaching the effects will be. Personally I’ve come to believe that our very survival is at stake and our ability to feed ourselves is at the top of the list.

The Guardian reports that the Search for crops that can survive global warming has already begun:

An unprecedented effort to protect the world’s food supplies from the ravages of climate change will be launched today by an international consortium of scientists. The move marks a growing recognition that serious changes in weather patterns are inevitable over the coming decades, and that society must begin to adapt.

Some £200m a year will be poured into the research by governments across the world to help agricultural experts develop crops that can withstand heat and drought, find more efficient farming techniques and make better use of increasingly fragile soil and scarce water supplies.

Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute, said: “The impacts of climate change on agriculture will add significantly to the development challenges of reducing poverty and ensuring sufficient food production for a growing population. The livelihoods of billions of people will be severely challenged as crop yields decline.”

The Stern review of the economics of climate change said a 2-3C rise in average global temperatures would put 30-200 million more people at risk of hunger. Once temperatures rise 3C, 250-550 million extra people will be at risk, more than half in Africa and western Asia. At 4C and above, global food production is likely to be hit hard. The British scientist James Lovelock warned last week that such food shortages could trigger a growing number of conflicts this century between nations desperate to find fertile land to feed their people.

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China’s white dolphin called extinct after 20 million years

Incredibly sad but as I’ve said before, this is going to get much worse. Climate change, combined with all the toxins we’ve released, is creating a very different planet earth. I’m convinced we won’t be around much longer. Within 15 years, probably 10 we will no longer recognize our planet. Yes, I think it’s happening that fast. China’s white dolphin called extinct after 20 million years:

BEIJING, China (AP) — An expedition searching for a rare Yangtze River dolphin ended Wednesday without a single sighting and with the team’s leader saying one of the world’s oldest species was effectively extinct.

The white dolphin known as baiji, shy and nearly blind, dates back some 20 million years. Its disappearance is believed to be the first time in a half-century, since hunting killed off the Caribbean monk seal, that a large aquatic mammal has been driven to extinction.

A few baiji may still exist in their native Yangtze habitat in eastern China but not in sufficient numbers to breed and ward off extinction, said August Pfluger, the Swiss co-leader of the joint Chinese-foreign expedition.

“We have to accept the fact, that the Baiji is functionally extinct. We lost the race,” Pfluger said in a statement released by the expedition. “It is a tragedy, a loss not only for China, but for the entire world. We are all incredibly sad.”

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2006 Britain’s hottest year since records began

In other climate news, The Guardian reports that this year will be Britain’s hottest since records began:

· Surge in temperature astounds weather experts
· Man – not nature – is to blame, researchers say

Britain is on course for the warmest year since records began, according to figures from the Met Office and the University of East Anglia yesterday. Temperatures logged by weather stations across England reveal 2006 to have been unusually mild, with a mean temperature of 10.84C. The record beats the previous two joint hottest years of 1999 and 1990 by 0.21C.
Temperatures in central England have been recorded since 1659, the world’s longest climate record, and they indicate the trend towards warming weather across Britain as a whole.

Why would a surge in temperatures astound weather experts?? It’s to be expected and it will get worse. This is just the beginning.

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2006 Set to be 6th Warmest Worldwide

Via Common Dreams/Reuters, 2006 Set to be 6th Warmest Worldwide: UK Report:

This year is set to be the sixth warmest worldwide since records began, stoked by global warming linked to human activities, the British Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia said on Thursday.

As England basks in unseasonably warm December weather two weeks before the end of the year, the Met Office said data from January to November made 2006 the warmest on record for central England.

“Worldwide, the provisional figures for 2006 using data from January to November, place the year as the sixth warmest year” since records began in the 1850s, the report said.

The previous warmest years were 1998 and 2005, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO was due to release its own 2006 figures later on Thursday.

“The top 10 warmest years have all occurred in the last 12 years,” it said, adding that 2006 could have been warmer but for La Nina, a cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean.

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