Climate Change Update: 2021-8-7

Many of these links found via Charles Arthur’s excellent Overspill website.

We’ll start with one of the Sydney Morning Herald story on Australia and Chevron’s attempt to sequester 80% of the carbon dioxide in the production process of Western Australian gas wells over 5 years.. They failed and fell far short of the goal, capturing only around 50% of the production emissions. In his summation Arthur writes:

“It’s often overlooked that to slow or, better, reverse global heating we need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If we can’t even capture more than half of what’s produced in extracting more fossil fuels (which will then be burnt), then we’re wishing for miracles.“

It’s not surprising that this effort was a failure. I suspect that that is the rule rather than the exception.

Which brings me to another article on what it is we need to do with the CO2 that we’ve already put into the atmosphere. Grist asks: What happens next?

We talk so much about the supreme challenge of reducing emissions — something that already requires transitioning our entire economy away from the burning of fossil fuels, adapting to existing climate threats, and doing all that in a way that at the very least doesn’t add to the burdens of already marginalized communities. It’s hard to imagine that there’s more still to do. Can it really be that, on top of all those tasks, we have to pull carbon out of the atmosphere too?
Well, yes.
It’s not like we can just flip a switch in order to return to preindustrial CO2 levels. Zachary Byrum, a research analyst in carbon removal at the World Resources Institute, likes to compare our atmosphere to a rapidly filling bathtub. “Even if we turn the tap off, we still have a bathtub of CO2 that is full up to the top,” he said. “It might evaporate, but that would take a very long time. You have to make a drain so that the water, or CO2 in this metaphor, can go somewhere, and carbon removal is the means to do that.”

Siberia is burning:

“For a month already you can’t see anything through the smoke,” said Varvara, a 63-year-old pensioner from Teryut, a village in the Oymyakonsky district. “We have already sent the small children away. And the fires are very close, just 2km [1.2 miles] from our village.”

UK heatwave

Climate extremes expert Vikki Thompson at the University of Bristol said: “Heatwaves can have devastating impacts on human health. In the summer of 2020 heatwaves led to an estimated total excess mortality of 2,556. Hot weather causes deaths due to cardio and respiratory problems caused by increased strain on the heart and lungs.

Just a reminder that there was a far more devastating European heat wave in 2003. The death toll for that heat wave exceeded 70,000.

Of course it’s not just humans that are affected by climate change. Every other species we share the planet with is being affected. One example, the Monarch butterfy, whose populations are being decimated by climate change. Western monarchs have lost 99.9 percent of their numbers since the 1980s.

The Guardian has a collection 50 photos of the climate crisis taken over the last 6 months.

Last, and perhaps one of the most worrisome articles I’ve seen recently is this from the Guardian: Warning signs of the Gulf Stream collapse:

Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points.

The research found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown.

Such an event would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa; increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe; and pushing up the sea level off eastern North America. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets.

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