Category Archives: Essays

New warnings on climate change.

A new report from the scientific panel of the United Nations on climate change warns that a massive change is needed so that our economies can be more green. Without a big push in more green energies the world will suffer on a massive scale from climate change. Furthermore a higher price on carbon is needed.

If nothing is done by 2040 one could see massive die-offs of corral reefs, worsening food shortages as well as wildfires. If emissions continue at the current rate the atmosphere will warm up by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial rates by 2040.

The big shock of this report is that severe damage to the world will occur well below the worst scenarios that had been imagined. A half degree of extra warming would see enormous damages done.

Just avoiding the most severe damages could mean that the world economy would have to change in order to avoid damages of up to 54 trillion dollars. To avoid severe damages the price on carbon dioxide emissions might have to go to 27,000 dollars per ton by 2100. Carbon pricing mechanisms are now enacted in some countries but not at a rate that is enough.

In the absence of aggressive action many effects once thought to occur at a higher temperature will now happen much lower, arriving by 2040. One thing is clear in the report, coal has got to go. One cannot exploit coal and try to reduce carbon emissions.

What is more worrisome is that the Paris agreement will not be enough to reverse climate change, even if everyone was on board. But with the United States out and other countries thinking of leaving, like Brazil, the future looks dim.


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Preventing fishing in Arctic seas.

A new international agreement will ban commercial fishing across much of the Arctic. This new agreement will close down vast areas of the sea that had opened up due to climate change. The agreement will safeguard an area the size of the Mediterranean for at least 16 years.

Sea ice in the Arctic is still diminishing, with this year and two other years as the lowest amounts of sea ice. There is a clear trend to less ice and lower thickness of that ice in Arctic seas and all of this is due to climate change.

There is no fishing taking place in the Arctic right now but that was bound to change. With climate change causing major fish stocks such as cod and halibut moving into northern waters in search of colder waters and over fishing in the traditional areas, it was a question of time before the Arctic seas would have seen commercial fishing arrive.

One effect of the ban will be preventing pollution from fishing vessels that accompany these fishing fleets. Furthermore, the agreement also stipulates a programme for scientific monitoring of the area to be renewed every five years.

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Preventing melting from glaciers.

Climate change has brought a flood of novel ideas to mitigate the possible damages caused by the increase of temperatures on the planet. One of these ideas involves building walls to prevent undersea glaciers from sliding and so holding back sea levels from rising.

This solution of erecting barriers of rock and sand would simply buy us time as climate changes takes hold on the planet. Still, it would be a massive undertaking.

These structures would not only hold back melting glaciers but also prevent warmer water from reaching the bases of the undersea glaciers. It is now believed that warmer waters in the oceans may be the leading cause of underwater melting these glaciers.

Scientists looked at the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, one of the widest glaciers at 80 to 100km wide. According to this study it would take as much material to create structures on the sea floor as was required for the construction of the Palm Islands of Dubai or of the Suez canal. This structure would have a 30% probability of preventing a collapse of the Antarctica ice sheet.

If a more complex design is used, a small underwater wall could have a 70% chance of blocking half of the warm water from reaching the ice shelf.

Undersea melting is a real problem as many glaciers in Antarctica extend far under the sea. If more melting occurs at the poles it will discharge vast amounts of fresh water and sea levels will rise faster than they have in the past. The single biggest source of future sea level rises could be the Thwaites glacier as it could raise global sea levels by three metres.

Clearly reducing carbon emissions is a must as the less is emitted the more the various ice sheets will survive in the long term close to their present volume.

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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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