More methane in the atmosphere!

For the third time this year the Trump administration is rolling back efforts to fight climate change. It is preparing to make it easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.

Companies have long argued that forcing them to test their wells for methane emissions was costly as well as encumbering them with too many rules. Methane is a powerful gas that contributes to climate change and routinely escapes from oil and gas wells.

This new relaxing of Obama rules will mean that companies would not have to monitor and repair methane leaks as often as now. Rules about venting and burning methane during drilling operations would also be relaxed.

Naturally the energy companies are happy about the changes, complaining that there was too much red tape involving gases such as methane as well as being costly.

Methane as a gas makes up only nine percent of greenhouse gases but is 25 times more effective than carbon in trapping heat in the atmosphere. About one-third of methane pollution comes from oil and gas operations.

The net result from this relaxing of rules is more methane leakage from oil and gas drilling operations. If there are less inspections of the wells then it would mean more leakage of methane over a longer period of time. Nothing good can come out of this relaxing of rules, except that the energy companies will make more money by spending less on monitoring their wells as often. The climate loses in the end, and so do we.

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A multi million dollar idea.

Trash in the oceans is truly an international problem and finally a novel solution is being applied to the problem, one involving million of dollars. A floating boom has been designed to corral plastic debris that is presently littering the Pacific Ocean.

This 2000-foot long unmanned structure is the product of a non-profit company that aims to trap up to 150,000 pounds of plastic during the first year of the boom. With dozens of booms there is hope that half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be cleaned. The patch is located between California and Hawaii and it is estimated to comprise 1.8 trillion pieces of detritus of which there is at least 87,000 tons of plastic.

How the boom will operate is simple; once the boom is detached from the vessel that brings it to the patch the current will pull the boom into a “U” shape. As it drifts along helped in this by the waves and the wind it should trap plastics. The captured plastic would be transported back to land and then recycled. The boom has a skirt that can catch small pieces of plastic but marine life can pass underneath.

Still, there is worry as to how the boom will fare in the ocean where it will face high winds as well as corrosive salt water and other challenges. And of course, can it really pick up half of the garbage patch in only five years?

Naturally one should not see this boom as the miracle solution to the plastic problem. It is necessary to prevent more plastics from coming into the oceans of course, but starting a clean-up is also necessary, even if we are obviously only iin the beginning stages.

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Wasting fish resources.

According to a recent report one in three fish caught never makes it to the plate as it is either thrown back overboard or rots before it is eaten. The recent report also shows that total fish production has reached a record high, mainly because of fish farming, especially in China. Half the fish that is consumed in the world comes from aquaculture.

The amount of wild fish caught has not changed since the late 1980’s with a third of commercial fish species being over fished. Expansion of fish farms will continue and will produce 20% more fish by 2030 and this will help sustain people but could hurt wild fish populations as the feed of fish farms comes from wild fish such as sardines and anchovies.

Fish are crucial for the nutrition of billions of people but over fishing is rife in some areas of the globe, most notably in the Mediterranean, the Black seas and the Southeast pacific. Data suggests that wild fish stocks are declining faster than thought and now half of the world’s oceans are industrially fished.

The recent report suggests that 35% of global catches are wasted. Most of these losses are due to ignorance as well as a lack of refrigeration needed to keep fish fresh. To cut losses other solutions include raised racks for drying fish on land and better facilities for handling crabs have cut losses of these by 40%.

The report is clear that aquaculture is here to stay and will continue to expand as more and more people eat fish. Most fish now eaten come from fish farms, 53% exactly. But fish farming is not sustainable in the long run as other fish are used as feed and this is a waste of food. Curbing the amount of fish that is wasted could go a long way in reducing the pressure on wild fish populations now and in the future as well as reducing the reliance on fish farming

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Overfishing tuna in the Philippines.

More and more people in the Philippines are staying longer at sea to catch tuna as the fisheries is closer to collapse due to over fishing, A body of scientists have recently predicted that the fish reserves in Asia-Pacific were on course to crash by 2048.

There has been a global surge for sushi, sashimi and tinned tuna and this has brought more competition and massive over fishing. As the largest bay in the Philippines is fished out as most of the surrounding waters in the Mindanao Sea, fishermen now have to venture further away with bigger boats but they bring back smaller tuna.

As there is more tuna in the waters of Indonesia more fishermen go fish there illegally, risking jail time. The fishers are usually employees of the boats so that if ordered by their bosses they cross into foreign waters but when caught, it is them that go to jail, not the bosses. If they do not cross the maritime borders the fishers contract would not be extended.

Various tuna species are on the verge of collapse; Blue-fin have just 2% of their 1950 biomass left, big-eye fell below the 20% level needed for replacement and yellow-fin are down more than 70%.

The best solution to this problem is to have harvest limits, as well as better monitoring and traceability, and unionization of fishermen. Without these the future for tuna is grim in Asia-Pacific waters and many fishermen will suffer as seafood is part of the local diet.

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Delhi’s water problem.

With climate climate being responsible for deadly heat waves the people of Delhi are in a jam. The city itself has urbanized to such an extent that the whole city is a heat island. Temperatures continue to climb and a rise of 150% in heat waves has killed at least 100 people recently.

More and more people will be exposed to these heat waves in the future and so the availability of clean water is paramount. And this is why Delhi has a problem; fights over water are now happening in villages in the city, usually affecting low level income areas.

Before, when the monsoon rains would come, the excess rains could be stored in check dams, step wells and natural drains. The city planners would respect the topography of the area. But now, all this has been abandoned in the past decades. People began boring holes in the ground for deep water and forgot about water conservation.

With this neglect one can add massive urbanization and the paving of the areas that used to catch excess rain. The water table is now lower as there is less moisture in the ground as too much concrete prevents water from seeping in.

With as much as 40% of Delhi’s water supply lost due to leakages and theft, providing water to its people is now haphazard. With heat waves on the increase such mismanagement could be dangerous.

Naturally it is the government that has to implement solutions to this problem. Less pavement or more porous pavement would be a solution, but returning to age old practices of water conservation seems to be the best alternative.

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Could Earth move into a “hothouse” state?

Scientists are warning that a domino-like cascading events such as melting ice and warming seas as well as shifting currents and dying forests could precipitate the earth into a “hothouse” state. If we pass a certain point efforts to reduce our emissions will be futile.

This possible future was outlined in a scientific journal in which 10 events that included the release of methane gases stocked in the Arctic as well as the impact of melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic were studied. It seems that keeping the planet below 2 C above pre-industrials levels may not be enough.

Experts on feedback loops stress that new loops are being discovered about the climate and how all its components can be affected. For example, an increase in rainfall is making it harder for forests soil to trap greenhouse gases such as methane. These loops could push the earth towards more extreme scenarios for the future.

Naturally feedback loops and points of no return are hard to prove. In fact, we may not know we are there until we are experiencing it. So far the global average temperatures have reached 1C above pre-industrials levels. Even if we stick to the Paris accords of under 2C we may still see the global climate go haywire. That would be a nasty surprise.

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Fish are affected by climate change.

In a recent study done by scientists it was discovered that fish are slowly losing their ability to detect different smells in the water. As carbon dioxide rises in water the ability of fish to smell chemicals suspended in it decreases, especially by the end of the century when levels will be much higher.

Fish need this sense of smell if the visibility in the water is diminished and a small decrease in their ability to smell could affect their behavior. If one doubles the amount of carbon dioxide in the water the fish have to be 42% closer to the odor source. This would make it harder to detect food or predators nearby.

The behavior of the fish also changed as they swam less and sometimes did not move for more than five seconds at a time. It is unclear if fishes could adapt as rapidly as needed as these changes occur in the nose and the brain. It is possible that longer-lived species might have more time to adapt than shorter-lived species. Only time will tell and more studies.

It is also possible that because the oceans will become more acidic this could affect reproduction in the fish. Since the Industrial Revolution surface ocean waters are 30% more acidic than before. The clear solution is therefore to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air as much as possible. There is still time to act.

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