Dienstag, 15. Dezember 2015

The results of the COP21

This is going to be one of my last posts for the next time. It does not mean that I will stop writing, but the main purpose of this blog was a lecture at my university, which going to end soon.

To conclude, I will discuss the results of the COP21. The majority, in particular the press and the politicians are saying that the conference was a success. They achieved scenario 1 (see my last post, The chance of COP21) a commitment to stop climate warming below 2 degrees Celsius and even try to reach the 1,5 mark. Moreover, to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to provide 100$ billion a year to a climate change fond for the developing countries. (BBC NEWS 2015)
A victory or a turning point in climate change, as many politicians call it. But if you look closer to the agreement, you will see that it is more like vague guidelines. Therefore, a view people, like Professor James Hansen, call this agreement a ‘fraud’ with ‘no actions, just promises’ (Independent 2015).
Moreover, yesterday I was at a conference (Socialism, Capitalismand the Alternatives: Lessons from Russia and Eastern Europe), where a speaker (Naomi Klein), who attended the COP21, gave her opinion. She stressed the same by giving some examples like ‘to pursue efforts’ or the goal to get a neutral greenhouse gas emission balance ‘starting at the second half of this century’. A very imprecise statement, somewhere in the future we are going to try to change something. Which could mean nothing as well.
In addition, the neutral greenhouse gas emissions will open the door for Geoengineering. A state is allowed to do business as usual, to pollute the air, if it filters the same amount of greenhouse gases from the air, by whatever means. At my opinion, a concrete invitation to do Geoengineering.

Otherwise, the COP21 had and still have created an increased global attention to the issue of climate change, which is good. In addition, the COP21 produced a partly legally binding agreement to which the different parties should adhere. I think the enormous public attention will help to force the governments to compliance.

The COP21 was a step in the right direction to stop climate change, the biggest step until now, but still not big enough.

Mittwoch, 9. Dezember 2015

The chance of COP21

Again I am going to start with a video, a nice animated summary what the COP21 actually is.

In general, COP21 means it is the 21st Conference of Parties on climate change. 196 representatives of different nations are sitting together and discussing the environmental future of our planet. The main goal is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gas at an, for our environment healthy level, to decrease climate warming. The plan is to stay under 2 degrees Celsius of warming until 2100. This boundary value is set at the critical level of irreversible changes to our environment. Most scientists are presuming with a greater warming than 2 degrees, the positive feedback reaction, like the melting of permafrost (release of CO2 and Methane) or the degradation of the artic ice shield (reducing of the albedo), might be unstoppable. Therefore, many people are seeing the COP21 as a last resort to stop climate warming. The figure below is stressing this point, but showing at the same time the unsuccessful history of climate conferences.

Figure 9: Eichholz 2015

But maybe even because of so many previous conferences, the chance of success is this time much higher. In addition, a strong argument is the willingness of China and the US to reduce their emissions. Both are at the moment the strongest pollutants, China because of its intense economy growth and the high population and the US with the by far highest per capita CO2 air pollution. (The WorldBank 2015)
What are the possible results of the COP21?
I found a nice figure, which shows three possible scenarios.

Figure: 10 Eichholz 2015

·      Scenario 1: The conference will produce a protocol, which is binding and excepted for all parties to stay under the critical level of 2 degrees Celsius of warming. This will enhance the energy change in the direction of renewable energies and encourages investment in this sector. The best-case scenario for our environment, but unfortunately not that likely.
·      Scenario 2: The conference will produce a partly agreement, which will lead to reduced CO2 emissions, but will not be able to stay under the boundary value of 2 degrees Celsius. I presume this will be the most likely scenario. Because even if every nation is motivated to reduce their CO2, it is going to be an expensive and complicated development, in particular for developing countries.
·      Scenario 3: The negotiations will fail. There will be no contract or protocol, which would mean business as usually and would lead to a temperature rise of over 4 degrees Celsius. (Eichholz 2015)

Even though, most people are hoping for scenario 1, there are many critics and pessimistic views, for example at this environmental blog. The author doesn’t really believe in the success of this event and says that it is just a show run for politicians. He encourages the economy to look at the profitable opportunities, which could arise through a global energy change.
To conclude, at my opinion COP21 implicates a great opportunity to finally set some real guidelines to preserve our climate. And I am really hoping that is going to be more like a show for the public and that they will achieve an international treaty, without ending up with the usage of Geoengineering methods.

Sonntag, 29. November 2015

Geoengineering in international policies

To start with, I show you the official COP21 video; it is more like a plea that climate change concerns us all, to stress the importance of an international climate conference and international decisions for our future.

To come back to the topic of this post, Geoengineering in international policies, I want to underline first of all the increasing influence of Geoengineering in climate change debates. The best example for that is the intake of Geoengineering in the latest IPCC report (IPCC 5, 2014).  Even though it is described very crucial, it is still named as a possible opportunity. The Guardian even calls this intake as a ‘legitimation’ from the IPCC. Mostly because it is the final paragraph in the summary for policymakers, which could implicate, it is the most important part.

In addition, there are lots of conspiracy theories, for instance on the web side ‘Coalition against Geo-Engineering’, which are presuming that most governments already doing Geoengineering without the public knowledge. In general I would say, I don’t believe in such conspiracies, in particular from not trustworthy sources like this. But I cannot certainly deny it either. At least I can give you the official statements, from a few governments to this issue. Hence, you can create your own opinion.

For example, the German government first raised this issue in summer 2012, where representatives of the opposition party demanded a statement. In the officialreply, the government strongly denied any on going projects concerning Geoengineering and rejected this as the only solution to stop climate change. Therefore, Geoengineering will be not a replacement of reducing CO2 emissions, but it could be an addition in a worth case scenario.
The government is not giving a clear response, many maybe’s and could be’s, but more like a no to Geoengineering than a yes. Which is stressed in a citizens’ initiative response (Sauberer Himmel).  Unfortunately there is no recent statement particularly concerning any position to this issue in the upcoming COP21 conference.

If you look at the US, it will get even more obscure. There are again lots of conspiracy theories that the US government is already using Geoengineering to modify our climate. The trustworthiest source is an article on the web side geoengineeringwatch about an original document from 1978. A statement from the US government regarding the on going weather modifications. Therefore, a proof that the US actively interfered with the climate, which could be a hint that they are already practicing Geoengineering methods. Unfortunately, I am not able to find any official position papers, concerning this issue, published by the US.

The UK even published in their ‘Science and Technology  Committee -Fifth Report The Regulation of Geoengineering’ in 2010 a concrete opinion to Geoengineering. Unlike Germany, they are stressing the importance of Geoengineering, but at the same time underlining the need for more research. At moment there are to many risks and uncertainties to use Geoengineering. In addition, they are demanding a national and international regulatory for Geoengineering to reduce risks and rash action by other countries.

To conclude for today, I found more uncertainties concerning Geoengineering in international policies than actual facts. Which emphasizes even more the deep disagreement and crucial attitude to this issue. On the one hand, I am looking forward to see some results at the COP21 regarding Geoengineering, but on the other hand, I am afraid that it could be a development in the wrong direction. Because I am convinced, to ‘play’ with our climate system is not a solution. Instead we should focus more on reducing CO2 and using more renewable energies.

Dienstag, 24. November 2015

Could Geoengineering safe our planet?

In general, there could be a possibility to stop climate warming with Geoengineering methods. It doesn’t matter whether with CDR or SRM they both give possible solutions. But at what price? Most of the solution are implicating high risks or uncertainties, because most solutions are just theories. Just a few scholars actually believe in Geoengineering and most of them just with the condition of more research. For example, Marchetti (1977) recommends the CO2 storage underground as a temporally solution in a worst-case scenario. In addition, some more scientists support this idea, but mostly with the condition of first trying to reduce CO2 in a ‘normal way’.
’Climate geoengineering is best considered as a potential complement to the mitigation of CO2 emissions, rather than as an alternative to it.’ (Lenton and Vaughan 2009:5556)

This represents quite well the general opinion to Geoengineering in the scientific world. Moreover, the idea of CDR is far more popular, than SRM, because of lower risks more abilities to control it. (Lenton and Vaughan 2009)
According to Keith (2000) there are not just natural risks, but social aspects as well. For example, the politics, it would be most likely that not every country wants to go with geoengineered solutions. Therefore, just a few would make a decision, which would affect everybody.  The questions of security, sovereignty and liability could lead to international conflicts. Furthermore, Keith (2000) underlines the problem of environmental ethnics. He stresses three main problems, which will arose by using Geoengineering.
1.     The problem of, if we do once, we will do it again.
2.     The problem of, rather than solve the causes, we are just trying to fix the problem.
3.     The problem of, playing god in system we just barely understand.
He ends his essay with a very good statement, which meaning I completely support.
Humanity may inevitably grow into active planetary management, yet we would be wise to begin with a renewed commitment to reduce our interference in natural systems rather than to act by balancing one interference with another.’ (Keith 2000: 280)

Another good and critical article, written by Robock (2008), gives 20 reasons why Geoengineering may be a bad idea, which is by the way the headline of the article as well. He concludes by warning about the risks of Geoengineering, but at the same time encourage more theoretical research in this area. Moreover, he sees the problem of increased atmospheric CO2 mainly in bad politics.
‘If global warming is a political problem more than it is a technical problem, it follows that we don’t need geoengineering to solve it.’ (Robock 2008: 18)

On account of that I am going to focus in my next post on the political opinion concerning Geoengineering. In particular find out the importance of this topic in current international environmental discussions like the upcoming COP21 conference in Paris. To conclude, most scholars are not convinced of the idea of Geoengineering. There is lack of knowledge and uncertainties, which should be filled with more theoretical research, before we try it on our environment.

Montag, 16. November 2015

Geoengineering: Carbon Dioxide Reducing (CDR)

As promised, I will give you a brief summary on CDR methods. First of all, a good graph, which is showing the different methods in an abstract but comprehensible way. This is going to be a relatively short and descriptive post to create a basic knowledge hence my next post can be more focused on the recent scientific discussions concerning this topic.

·      The first and maybe easiest method would be reforestation or afforestation, which means, just planting trees in areas where trees used to be or completely new ones. With the trees, there would be an increased storage of CO2, therefore a reduction of our atmospheric CO2 concentration. (Caldeira et al. 2013) It could generate conflicts, concerning land use and would work slow, but it would be a low risk intervention to our environment and a sustainable solution. (Royal Society2009)
·      Store CO2 underground, by using electric power plants and burning biofuels. (Caldeira et al. 2013)
·      Accelerate land-based weathering of CO2, for example by using silicate minerals, which will react with the CO2 and bind it into solid minerals. (Caldeira et al. 2013)
·      Accelerate ocean-based weathering of CO2 by increasing the alkalinity of the water. (Caldeira et al. 2013)
·      Reduce CO2 by ocean fertilization. The idea behind that is to add special fertilizer to the oceans to increase planktonic productivity, which will increase the CO2 filtration from the air. (Caldeiraet al. 2013)
·      The last method is the direct capturing of CO2 from our atmosphere and stores it underground. (Caldeira etal. 2013)

So far for today, soon I will deepen the topic and will find out, what the scientific opinions to this issue are.

Freitag, 13. November 2015

Geoengineering: Reducing solar radiation (SRM)

To start with, I will introduce you to the method or idea of Geoengineering. It is a very controversial topic, but at the same time a topic, which increased strongly its importance over the last few years. In general, it is a method to reduce climate change. There are two main ideas behind this method, reducing climate change by reducing CO2 (Carbon Dioxide Removal, CDR) and reducing climate change by reducing solar radiation (Solar Radiation Management, SRM).
In this post, I will focus on the methods of reducing solar radiation. According to Caldeira et al 2013 the idea of SRM is a mathematical solution. There is a certain input of solar radiation per square meter. By increasing CO2, there will be more solar energy (warmth) left in our atmosphere. If we double the amount of CO2, it will be an increase of about 1,7%. The main idea of SRM methods is now to reduce this additional amount of energy by increasing the albedo of the earth and therefore increasing the reflection of the incoming solar radiation and decreasing the absorption.

As you can see in the picture above, there are different approaches to reduce solar radiation.
a)    Space-based approaches: The idea of installing a large “glass shield” in space between the sun and the earth or mirrors or small particles into the orbit to increase the reflection of solar radiation. A massive intervention in our system earth, which consequences could just be guessed and which expenses would be exorbitant. (Caldeira et al 2013)
b)   Stratospheric aerosol-based approaches: The increase of the atmospheric albedo by injecting aerosol particles. The success of this method is already be proven by accident. The eruption of the volcano Mount Pinatubo in 1991 released sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere and cooled our climate. There also was a first experiment to this method, SPICE, but it got shut down, because the public opinion to this topic was too controversial. In particular, concerning all the unknown side effects, which could appear and again the exorbitant expenses. (Stilgoe 2015)
c)    Marine cloud brightening: A method to brighten and add clouds, which would increase reflection. Again not all side effects of this method are known and it would just delay climate warming for about 25 years. (Caldeira et al 2013)
d)   Surface albedo enhancement (water): Our planet is covered by two thirds with water, so the easiest thing to increase the global albedo, would be to increase the water (ocean) albedo, especially water albedo is in general very low. But the expenses and environmental impacts of approaches like that are difficult to calculate. (Royal Society 2009)
e)    Surface albedo enhancement (rural areas): There are different approaches in this area, starting with covering desserts and ending by planting brighter crops. Again the ecological impact would be immense and the increase of the albedo not even that big. (Royal Society 2009)
f)     Surface albedo enhancement (urban areas): The use of different building material, brighter colours, for example white rooftops. The benefit of this method would also be to save energy for air conditioning, but the global impact would be quite small and the governance would be difficult. (Royal Society 2009)

The problem of SRM methods is mainly the unknown side effects or the impacts to our environment and the mostly exorbitant expenses.
In addition, at my opinion, it is morally not right. We, as humans, are harming our climate system by producing CO2 and instead of just reducing it; we are trying to change the whole system, which could harm our system even more. We are not trying to fix the cause of our problems; we are just fighting the symptoms, which I think, is the wrong way. Even CDR methods, which I will explain to you in my next post, are not the solution.

Donnerstag, 5. November 2015

Climate variability

„Owing to natural variability, trends based on short records are very
sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect
long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over
the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade),
which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated
since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade)
Trends for
15-year periods starting in 1995, 1996, and 1997 are 0.13 [0.02 to
0.24], 0.14 [0.03 to 0.24] and 0.07 [–0.02 to 0.18], respectively.“ (IPCC 5, Chapter 2,2013)

The only statement, I could found in the latest IPCC report to my question in my last post, is shown above. It is not an answer, but more like an excuse that they actually don’t know, why our climate didn’t warm as predicted. And if even the IPCC didn’t have an answer, I will stop looking for one and just take it as granted for the moment.

To summarize my work, I did until now in this blog. We, as human beings, have an impact on our climate with our daily actions. The largest impact is probably through generating CO2 by burning fossil fuels. There are other factors, which are controlling our climate as well and we can just presume, how large our impact actually is. But it is the only factor we really can or could control. On that account, I think it is our duty, to try to preserve our world. According to the climate change theories, the best thing to do that is by reducing CO2 emissions.

Hence, I will slightly modify my topic to; what can we as humans do, to reduce CO2? From now on, I will look and blog about strategies in politics or even in small NGO’s to reduce CO2.