Friday, November 2, 2018

New IPCC Finding Shows More Rapid Ocean Warming - And Accelerated Path To Calamity

Image result for images of Puerto Rico damageDevastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, which climate scientists agree was spawned by warmer ocean temperatures from global warming.

Even as we've learned of the world now projected in an ominous United Nations report — prepared by The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, a new subsidiary report warns of warmer than ever oceans.  According to the last major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's oceans have taken up over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases.
This new study says that every year, for the past 25 years, we have put about 150 times the amount of energy used to generate electricity globally into the seas - 60% more than previous estimates.   This poses serious problems going forward, not the least of which is the threat to ocean life (such as corals) from warmer temperatures, e.g.
Image may contain: ocean, sky, plant, outdoor, nature and waterImage may contain: plant, sky, outdoor, nature and waterDying coral reef from warmer ocean temperatures (left and a healthy reef.
As well as rising sea levels, and more frequent Category 5 hurricanes (such as Maria, see top graphic) which feed off higher ocean temperatures.
 The IPCC team bases its predictions about how much the Earth is warming by adding up all the excess heat that is produced by the known amount of greenhouse gases that have been emitted by human activities. This new calculation shows that far more heat than we thought has been going into oceans. But it also means that far more heat than we thought has been generated by the warming gases we have emitted. 
All the extra heat being absorbed by the oceans means not only a much greater difficulty of containing increased warming - even to 2 C- but also many deleterious effects for ocean life itself.  According to  Laure Resplandy , a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the startling study published Wednesday in the journal Nature:
"If you look at the IPCC 1.5C, there are big challenges ahead to keep those targets, and our study suggests it's even harder because we close the window for those lower pathways.A warmer ocean will hold less oxygen, and that has implications for marine ecosystems.  There is also sea level, if you warm the ocean more you will have more thermal expansion and therefore more sea level rise."
The critical element is the fact that as waters get warmer they release more carbon dioxide and oxygen into the air.  As Dr. Resplandy made clear:
"When the ocean warms, the amount of these gases that the ocean is able to hold goes down,"  

"So what we measured was the amount lost by the oceans, and then we can calculate how much warming we need to explain that change in gases."
The additional IPCC findings help resolve a long-running puzzle about the rate of ocean warming before 2007. when more reliable measurements from devices called “Argo floats” were put to use worldwide. Before that, differing types of temperature records — and an overall lack of them — contributed to uncertainty  about how quickly the oceans were heating up.
The higher-than-expected amount of heat in the oceans means more heat is being retained within Earth’s climate system each year, rather than escaping into space. In essence, more heat in the oceans signals that global warming is more advanced than scientists thought.
As Dr. Resplandy put it:
"We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted.  But we were wrong. The planet warmed more than we thought. It was hidden from us just because we didn’t sample it right. But it was there. It was in the ocean already".
 Of course, this again puts the lie to climate change denier Holman Jenkins' recent bloviations, e.g. 'How Greens Humiliate Themselves', WSJ
That there is oh so much uncertainty and climate scientists are just squandering time and money trying to nail down any real increase in global temperatures.   Of course, this is utter codswallop which merely says more about the deficiencies of the Journal's op -ed writers than anything else. 
Given ocean temperatures are rising more rapidly than previously calculated, that  leaves nations even less time to dramatically cut the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide. That is, assuming there is any hope in limiting global warming to the ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.  Many newer results show this is overly optimistic and neglecting other factors in play, e.g.

Climate report understates threat


"So far, average temperatures have risen by one degree Celsius. Adding 50 percent more warming to reach 1.5 degrees won’t simply increase impacts by the same percentage—bad as that would be. Instead, it risks setting up feedbacks that could fall like dangerous dominos, fundamentally destabilizing the planet. This is analyzed in a recent study showing that the window to prevent runaway climate change and a “hot house” super-heated planet is closing much faster than previously understood."

Even as we've now been informed of the new ocean warming factor, we also have found out - more than than a year after the fact-  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took down information on climate change from its website for an “update”, it now seems uncertain whether it will ever reappear.

In April last year, the EPA replaced its online climate change section with a holding page that said the content was being updated to “reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump”.
Information previously found at made it clear that human activity was warming the planet, resulting in harm to Americans’ health as well as crucial ecosystems on which humans depend.
The “update” page has now given way to a page that simply states: “We want to help you find what you are looking for.” Below, one finds links to search other areas of the EPA website, as well as to an archived “snapshot” of the site from the day before Trump became president in January 2017. The switch was observed by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which tracks changes in government websites

In the words of Juidth Enick, former EPA special administrator:.
It’s an embarrassment. It is a ghost page.  It’s a bit like Amazon not allowing the public to order books via its website – it’s that fundamental. There’s no other issue at the EPA more important than climate change; it affects air, water, health and whether large parts of the world will survive.
The likely culprit responsible? Scott Pruitt, the climate pseudo - skeptic who was Trump’s pick as EPA administrator until he resigned in July amid a long-running ethics scandal, repeatedly questioned basic scientific understanding of climate change while he headed the agency, such as whether carbon dioxide is a primary driver of planetary warming.

Tuesday provides a small chance to get it right. But if voters fail to follow through, or too many are bamboozled by the "threat" of a caravan of poor Honduran migrants, well they will have a real existential threat to fret over in a dozen years.

See also:

We Have 12 Years to Save—or Lose—Our Only Home

No comments: