First Paper Linking CO2 to Temperature

Pretty cool.

Here’s a copy of the first paper linking CO2 to increased atmospheric temperature, published by Mrs. Eunice Foote, read before the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1856!

That was three years BEFORE Darwin published On the Origin of Species!!!

The receiver containing the gas [CO2] became itself much heated - very sensibly more so than the other - and on being removed, it was many times as long in cooling.

An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as increased weight must have necessarily resulted.

On comparing the sun’s heat in different gases, I found it to be in hyrdrogen gas, 104°; in common air, 106°; in oxygen gas, 108° and in carbonic acid gas [CO2], 125°

The Sixth Extinction

This article, The Sixth Extinction was written just over ten years ago and has since been expanded to a book, which is on my to-read list. In it, Elizabeth Kolbert uses the die-off of amphibians to illustrate how we’re causing a mass extinction by various means, from transporting animals/plants/insects and their associated viruses/bacteria to places not adapted to them, to reshaping the environment for our accommodation or food, to pollution and climate change.

Amphibians are among the planet’s great survivors. The ancestors of today’s frogs and toads crawled out of the water some four hundred million years ago, and by two hundred and fifty million years ago the earliest representatives of what became the modern amphibian clades—one includes frogs and toads, a second newts and salamanders—had evolved. This means that amphibians have been around not just longer than mammals, say, or birds; they have been around since before there were dinosaurs.


Griffith said that he expected between a third and a half of all Panama’s amphibians to be gone within the next five years. Some species, he said, will probably vanish without anyone’s realizing it: “Unfortunately, we are losing all these amphibians before we even know that they exist.”

Which brings to mind Niemöller’s quote:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I wonder how far things will have to go before we as a species decide to seriously address the issue?

Adapting to Climate Change

A good article from a few years back, looking at how some US farmers are adapting to climate change while still being deniers that it’s happening in the first place.

It’s an interesting read, but this passage towards the end stands out…

For the next two hours or so, Ethan and I talked. It wasn’t an interview anymore. It was a conversation between two old men who, while we may come from different ideological camps, have each managed in our lives to cheat catastrophe long enough to learn to listen to each other.

And at the end of the conversation, I rolled a final cigarette, and Ethan took a deep breath when I lit it. “You know what, Ethan?” I said. “We’ve just sat here for the better part of four and half hours, a good old-fashioned rock-ribbed conservative like you and a good old-fashioned dyed-in-the-wool liberal like me, and we’ve touched on most of the major hot-button issues in the culture wars — abortion, same-sex marriage, guns, even climate. On about 85 percent of those issues, you and I could find enough common ground to find a shared purpose. On another 10 percent or so, we could at least reach an understanding. There was maybe about 5 percent where the differences were just too great. But we could set those aside, at least for now.”

He agreed.

“So why is it,” I asked, “that when I hear people talking about you, and you hear people talking about me, the only thing they ever talk about is that 5 percent?”

Unfortunately we’re still only talking about the 5 percent.

Conspiracy Debunked

A video which debunks the claims that the hacked CRU emails give evidence that claims of anthropogenic global warming are just a global conspiracy. Worth a watch.

NASA Animations

NASA’s Scientific Visualisation Studio has some cool information on their site, but two ones I found today were of particular interest.

The first is an animation based on the output of the best of our current climate models, showing what would have happened if we had not enacted the Montréal Protocol banning the emission of CFCs into the atmosphere. The period covered includes actual data collected since 1978 and modelled data from 2009 forward to 2065, showing a side-by-side view of what is happening on the left, and what would have happened without the treaty on the right. Have a look here.

The second animation show the changing extend of Arctic sea ice based on actual satellite observations since 1979. It’s frightening how much it has changed in the last 30 years. That animation can be viewed here.

Rudd Sells Out

On Monday, the Climate Change minister, Penny Wong, announced that Australia will aim to cut emissions by 5-15% over 2000 levels. This was widely greeted by derision and a complete cop-out on what many see as one of the central reasons for Labor’s election last year.

The Government’s cuts of between 5 and 15 per cent below 2000 emissions levels are an admission it has given up on an ambitious global climate change agreement coming out of the UN talks next year. Figures in the Garnaut review clearly show that Australia, along with other developed countries, would have to take on cuts of at least 25 per cent to get an agreement in Copenhagen that might have a chance of saving the Great Barrier Reef.

The UN’s scientific body believes the 2020 target for developed countries should be cuts in the range of 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 emissions to keep the global temperature rising above two degrees and avoid dangerous climate change. This, along with slowing the emissions from developing countries, is required to keep global greenhouse gas concentrations at about 450 parts per million and achieve an ambitious climate agreement.

As mentioned previously, the UN’s 25-40% targets are almost certainly too low to remain under 450ppm, so Australia’s 5-15% effort really is pathetic.

Rudd repeatedly said that he wanted Australia to be a leader in climate negotiations, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Howard, who wanted nothing to do with climate change at all. Rudd’s first act as prime minister was to ratify Kyoto, leading many to hope that finally we had someone in charge who was going to take the threat seriously. Unfortunately, it seems that this is no longer the case, and Australia will most definitely not be a leader on the global stage.

Our only hope now is that Obama comes forward with an aggressive US target and that Rudd then feels comfortable in raising Australia’s game. In a nice change from the orthodox, Obama has appointed a Nobel physics laureate as his energy secretary. No more oil/coal guys in charge!

We're Screwed: Now It's Official

So my semi-serious post on how I think we’re screwed when it comes to climate change may not be so wide of the mark after all. The latest information coming out of the Poznan Conference, reported by both The Guardian and Nature, makes the point that the latest IPCC report is based on scientific information from 2005 at the latest, and that all the published papers since 2005 have shown that climate change is proceeding much faster than the IPCC report suggests.

The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as [Kevin] Anderson [an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University] pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and “dangerously misguided” at worst.

In the jargon used to count the steady accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s thin layer of atmosphere, he said it was “improbable” that levels could now be restricted to 650 parts per million (ppm).

All our current efforts are based on trying to stabilise at 450ppm and even that’s proving “too hard”. Now it seems that we’ve almost no chance of staying under 650ppm, virtually guaranteeing a 4C rise in global temperatures.

What’s worse is that calculations seem to indicate that for every decade we delay CO2 reductions result in higher temperatures:

Each decade that the global peak [of CO2emissions] is delayed, the temperature increase goes up by .4 to .5 degrees. According to this model, an eighty percent reduction by mid-century delivers 1.4 degree of warming with a peak in 2015; 1.8 degrees if the peak is in 2025; and 2.4 degrees with a peak in 2035. In other words, there is a penalty for delayed action.