November 30, 2010

CO2 is Sustenance for Seaweed

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Americans continue to fall in love with sushi—even the smallest towns far away from metropolitan areas somehow are providing tasty bits of sushi to local customers. Sushi has gone from upscale and trendy to a popular and substantial component of American’s food intake. From fast food sushi to high-end restaurants to sushi at the ballpark, sushi is now everywhere!

Many of the items at a sushi restaurant contain any number of varieties of seaweed, and several days ago, someone asked us if seaweed benefits from elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). We promised to look into the question and found several articles in leading journals that bring us all good news about the future of seaweed plants we love to eat.

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November 24, 2010

Let’s Give Thanks for CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture, Plants

As Americans sit down on Thursday and give thanks for the food on their table, hopefully many will say a good word for enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as much of the foodstuff filling their plates will have benefited from the anthropogenically-elevated CO2 levels in the air.

And even if we don’t produce the food ourselves, we contribute to the growth of crops around the world through emissions of CO2 whenever we use energy derived from fossil fuels—a large component of the energy that we use to power our daily lives.

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November 18, 2010

Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment

Filed under: Climate Politics

TESTIMONY OF PATRICK J. MICHAELS TO THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT, COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, U.S HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, NOVEMBER 17, 2010

[a pdf of this and all testimony from the hearing can be found here]

Thank you for inviting my testimony. I am a Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. This testimony represents no official point of view from either of these institutions and is tendered with the traditional protections of academic freedom.

My testimony has four objectives

1) Demonstration that the rate greenhouse-related warming is clearly below the mean of climate forecasts from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that are based upon changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations that are closest to what is actually being observed,

2) demonstration that the Finding of Endangerment from greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency is based upon a very dubious and critical assumption,

3) demonstration that the definition of science as a public good induces certain biases that substantially devalue efforts to synthesize science, such as those undertaken by the IPCC and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), and

4) demonstration that there is substantial discontent with governmental and intergovernmental syntheses of climate change and with policies passed by this House of Representatives.

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November 17, 2010

Kracked Up Over Krakatoa: Models Have It All Wrong

Filed under: Climate Models

It was all the rage a few years back to claim that long ago volcanic eruptions—for instance Krakatoa in 1883—were still acting to mask a large fraction of the oceanic warming that should have occurred because of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The epitome of this argument was published in Nature magazine, by an all-star cast of scientists ever-eager to suggest that it is all our fault and then some. The authors included Tom Wigley, Ben Santer, Karl Taylor, Krishna AchutaRao, Jonathan Gregory, and lead author Peter Gleckler.

The accompanying Editors’ Summary of the 2006 Nature article by Gleckler et al. provides the gist:

The 1883 eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in Indonesia has echoed down the centuries in art and in legend. Now an analysis of a suite of 12 climate models shows that Krakatoa also made its presence felt well into the twentieth century in the form of reduced ocean warming and sea-level rise. The changes lasted much longer than was previously suspected and were sufficient to offset much of the ocean warming and sea-level rise caused by more recent human activities.

The IPCC incorporated this finding into their Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) to show that models better match the observed history of the increase in oceanic heat content and sea level rise from thermal expansion when modern (since 1880) volcanic eruptions were included along with anthropogenic forcings. The implication was two-fold; 1) the climate models were now able to closely match reality (so they should be considered reliable), and 2) the cooling from volcanoes was offsetting a large fraction of the influence of anthropogenic global warming (i.e. our influence was even worse than we thought).

Now, a new study comes along, performed by one of the et al.’s of the Gleckler study, that basically shows that the conclusions of that original paper were quite likely incorrect, because the climate models examined had been equilibrated to an improper set of “background” conditions—conditions unnaturally free of any and all volcanic eruptions.

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November 5, 2010

Good News for Polar Bears: Goose Eggs on the Menu

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Arctic, Polar

Back in May, we reported on the Trumpeter Swan’s recovery from the edge of extinction that was being made a bit easier by a warming Arctic. Now comes word of another Arctic bird that is benefiting from the warming—and at the same time, helping the polar bear cope with climate change.

This time around it is the snow goose—a rather plentiful denizen of the far north.

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November 1, 2010

Quaking Aspen Rejoice

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

The fall is here again, and deciduous trees across America are putting on their annual display of fall colors. Americans are particularly fond of Quaking Aspen trees that really know how to put on a show in the fall with leaves turning spectacular tints of red and yellow in the autumn. The range of Quaking Aspen is extensive in North America including many picturesque locations in the Rockies (makes us think about John Denver). The tree appear to quake (shake, quiver) due to the unusual architecture of the leaves that makes them move a bit even in the lightest of winds. Aside from putting on a great show in the fall, Aspen wood is white and soft, but fairly strong, and has low flammability. Accordingly, it is used to make matches, packing and stuffing materials, animal bedding, and even serves as a popular material for the interior of saunas.

Two articles have appeared recently in major journals showing us that Quaking Aspen cannot wait for higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations.

Figure 1. Range of the Quaking Aspen.

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