Climate & Energy

Slip of the tundra

CO2 released from disappearing permafrost must be factored into climate projections

What is the point of no return for the climate -- the level of CO2 concentrations beyond which catastrophic outcomes are virtually unstoppable? No one knows for sure, but my vote goes for the point at which we start to lose a substantial fraction of the tundra's carbon to the atmosphere -- substantial being 0.1 percent per year! As we saw in my last post, frozen away in the permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere currently contains (and much of that is in the form of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). What is the point of no return for the tundra? A major 2005 study ($ub. req'd) led by NCAR climate researcher David Lawrence found that virtually the entire top 11 feet of permafrost around the globe could disappear by the end of this century.

Stop the presses!

A report put together by the National Coal Council finds that coal is essential and it’s not going anywhere and reducing coal use would mean the widespread death of puppies and cute children but the …

The best offense is a good Defense

House passes Defense authorization bill, includes various climate-related elements

The House passed ($ub. req’d) the defense authorization bill for 2009 last night, and there were several climate and energy-related components included. One amendment modifies part of last year’s energy bill that forbids federal agencies …

How clean is clean coal?

A video on the great coal myth

The new but already-going-gangbusters Washington Independent has teamed up with the also new and also gangbusters American News Project to put together a video called "How clean is clean coal?" Good stuff:

The permafrost won't be perma for long

More carbon in the Arctic than previously thought

The tundra is probably the single most important amplifying carbon-cycle feedback. None of the IPCC's climate models, however, include carbon emissions from a defrosting tundra as a feedback. Yet, as NOAA reported last month, levels of methane (a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) rose last year for the first time since 1998, which may be an early indication of thawing permafrost. So it seems like a good a time for a review and update of what we know. The tundra or permafrost is soil that stays below freezing (32 degrees F) for at least two years. Normally, plants capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and slowly release that carbon back into the atmosphere after they die. But the Arctic acts like a freezer, and the decomposition rate is very low. The tundra is a carbon locker. We open it at our own risk.

Ignoring climate change will cost U.S. big bucks, says group

Doing nothing in the face of climate change would cost the U.S. $1.9 trillion a year (in today’s dollars) by the turn of the next century, says a new report from green group NRDC. That …

The Will to disbelieve

Conservative pundit correctly recognizes the radical implications of the polar bear decision

This ran on VanityFair.com earlier today. George Will is far from the only middle-aged Boomer pundit who spends his time shadowboxing Dirty Hippies on the Washington Post editorial page, but his Thursday column is a …

Notable quotable

Earth screwed, but small Japanese towns happy

“We are seeing a flicker of light after long darkness. We never imagined coal would actually make a comeback.” – Michio Sakurai, mayor of Bibai, Japan, a coal mining town being revived by the international …

Looks like …

… the coal battle in Kansas is over for the time being. Score: Coal-0; earth/Sebelius/Kansas ratepayers-1

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