“The global extent of ocean acidification, its complex social–ecological dynamics involving potential tipping points, the clear role of anthropogenic CO2 emissions to worsen it, the large uncertainties associated with most of its dimensions, and the potentially very large impacts, all together speak for a precautionary approach to address ocean acidification”
Source: Jagers, S.C., Matti, S., Crépin, A.S., Langlet, D., Havenhand, J.N., Troell, M., Filipsson, H.L., Galaz, V.R. and Anderson, L.G., 2018. Societal causes of, and responses to, ocean acidification. Ambio, pp.1-15. Societal causes and responses to ocean acidification
pH has declined by about .11 units, equivalent to about a 28.8% increase in acidity, relative to pre-Industrial era baseline. (NOAA pH) (See the three figures below)
…(C)omputer re-creation of surface ocean pH from 1895 to the present and a forecast of ocean pH between now and 2100 under business as usual emission scenarios. Purple dots show cold-water coral reefs. Red dots show warm-water coral reefs. The pH scale is shown on the right. Increasing acidity is a relative shift in pH to a lower value. https://pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/OA+Educational+Tools
CO2 And Seawater Chemistry: “Ocean Acidification”
Fundamental changes in seawater chemistry are
occurring throughout the world’s oceans. Since the beginning of the industrial
revolution, the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from humankind’s
industrial and agricultural activities has increased the amount of CO2
in the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we
release into the atmosphere every year, so as atmospheric CO2 levels
increase, so do the levels in the ocean. Initially, many scientists focused on
the benefits of the ocean removing this greenhouse gas from the
atmosphere. However, decades of ocean
observations now show that there is also a downside — the CO2
absorbed by the ocean is changing the chemistry of the seawater, a process
called OCEAN ACIDIFICATION. NOAA Ocean
Significance: Ocean acidification is expected to impact ocean species to varying degrees. Photosynthetic algae and seagrasses may benefit from higher CO2 conditions in the ocean, as they require CO2 to live just like plants on land. On the other hand, studies have shown that lower environmental calcium carbonate saturation states can have a dramatic effect on some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Thus, both jobs and food security in the U.S. and around the world depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans. NOAA Ocean Acidification
“Emissions of toxic and long-lived substances such as synthetic
organic pollutants, heavy metal compoundsandradioactive
materials (emphasis added) represent some of the key
human-driven changes to the planetary environment. These compounds can
have potentially irreversible effects on living organisms and on the physical
environment (by affecting atmospheric processes and climate). Even when the
uptake and bioaccumulation of chemical pollution is at sub-lethal levels for
organisms, the effects of reduced fertility and the potential of permanent
genetic damage can have severe effects on ecosystems far removed from the
source of the pollution. For example, persistent organic compounds have caused
dramatic reductions in bird populations and impaired reproduction and
development in marine mammals. There are many examples of additive and
synergic effects from these compounds, but these are still poorly understood
At present, we are unable to quantify a single chemical pollution boundary, although the risk of crossing Earth system thresholds is considered sufficiently well-defined for it to be included in the list as a priority for precautionary action and for further research.”
Biocide Planetary Boundary
In a recent paper (Nature
Sustainability 1, 632-641 (2018) “Antibiotic and pesticide susceptibility and
the Anthropocene operating space.10.1038/s41893-018-0164-3)
team defined and assessed the state of the planetary boundary for six types
of resistance including: antibiotic resistance in
Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria; general resistance to insecticides
and herbicides and resistance to transgenic Bt-crops and glyphosate resistance
herbicide resistant cropping systems. All six assessed boundaries are in zones
of increasing risk and three out of six are in zones of high regional or global
State of the Anthropocene operating space of biocide
Antibiotic susceptibility is globally surpassed for Gram-negative bacteria and in the uncertain zone for Gram-positive bacteria.
Pesticide susceptibility is generally assessed as being in the uncertain zone, but surpassed at the regional level in genetically engineered cropping systems owing to increasing resistance to foundational pesticides.
Insecticide resistance is assessed as being in the uncertain zone, given that multiple insecticide resistance is increasing in several pests.
In plants, multiple herbicide resistance is increasing and leads to an assessment of general herbicide use as being in the uncertain zone.
For Bt crops, the spread of resistance to regionally available Bt-crop toxins in the US mid-west and in India leads to an assessment of regionally surpassed.
For herbicide resistant crops, the increasing spread of glyphosate resistance leads to its assessment as regionally surpassed
Global Assessment: for all major types of antibiotics and pesticides considered, we are today in a situation where resistance puts current practices at increasing risk
Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances, that is, they
are carbon-based. They possess a particular combination of physical and
chemical properties such that, once released into the environment, they:
remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years);
become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air;
accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain; and
are toxic to both humans and wildlife.
As a result of releases to the environment over the past several decades due especially to human activities, POPs are now widely distributed over large regions (including those where POPs have never been used) and, in some cases, they are found around the globe. This extensive contamination of environmental media and living organisms includes many foodstuffs and has resulted in the sustained exposure of many species, including humans, for periods of time that span generations, resulting in both acute and chronic toxic effects.
addition, POPs concentrate in living organisms through another process called
bioaccumulation. Though not soluble in water, POPs are readily absorbed in
fatty tissue, where concentrations can become magnified by up to 70,000 times
the background levels. Fish, predatory birds, mammals, and humans are high up
the food chain and so absorb the greatest concentrations*. When they travel,
the POPs travel with them. As a result of these two processes, POPs can be
found in people and animals living in regions such as the Arctic, thousands of
kilometers from any major POPs source.
effects of POPs can include cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to
the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders, and
disruption of the immune system. Some POPs are also considered to be endocrine
disrupters, which, by altering the hormonal system, can damage the reproductive
and immune systems of exposed individuals as well as their offspring2;
they can also have developmental and carcinogenic effects.
1. POPs and bioaccumulation impacts in apex
marine predators: Jepson, Paul D., and
Law, Robin J. 2016. Persistant
pollutants, persistent threats, Science 352,6292, pp. 1388-1389. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9075
2. For example, see a discussion of Michael
Skinner’s work on transgenerational effects of exposure to epigenetic effects
of exposure to DDT, permethrin, jet fuel, phthalates, bishphenol A, and dioxin: Kaiser, Jocelyn, 2014. The
Epigenetics Heretic, Science, vol 343, 6169, pp361-363 DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6169.361
Over the 1900 to present time span roughly 4.5 Million sq km of potential permafrost area has been lost.Berkeley Earth Permafrost
Significance: Approximately 1330-1580 Pg of soil carbon are estimated to be stored in soils and permafrost of high latitude ecosystems, which is almost twice as much carbon as is currently contained in the atmosphere. In a warmer world permafrost thawing and decomposition of previously frozen organic carbon is one of the more likely positive feedbacks from terrestrial ecosystems to the atmosphere. Although ground temperature increases in permafrost regions are well documented there is a knowledge gap in the response of permafrost carbon to climate change. (Permafrost Carbon Network)
Total estimated carbon storage is ~1300 Pg with an uncertainty range of between 1100 and 1500 Pg. Around 800 Pg carbon is perennially frozen, equivalent to all carbon dioxide currently in the Earth’s atmosphere. (Permafrost Carbon)
Permafrost potential is declining…
Arctic Sea Ice
Average September (summer minimum) Extent Declining at -12.8%/decade (relative to 1981-2000 average
Ice Sheets: Antarctica, Greenland, The Third Pole
An ice sheet is a mass of glacial land ice extending more than 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles). The two ice sheets on Earth today cover most of Greenland and Antarctica. During the last ice age, ice sheets also covered much of North America and Scandinavia.
Together, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth. The Antarctic Ice Sheet extends almost 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), roughly the area of the contiguous United States and Mexico combined. The Antarctic Ice Sheet contains 30 million cubic kilometers (7.2 million cubic miles) of ice. TheGreenland Ice Sheet extends about 1.7 million square kilometers (656,000 square miles), covering most of the island of Greenland, three times the size of Texas.
-127.0 Gt per year +/- 39 (Mass variation since 2002)
ice sheet is a major contributor to sea level rise, adding on
average 0.47mm +/- 0.23 mm/year to global mean sea level between 1991 and 2015
cryosphere as a whole has contributed around 45% of observed global sea level
rise since 1993.
show surface lowering across virtually all regions of the ice sheet and at some
locations up to -2.65m/year between 1995 and 2017
Overall Greenland has lost 255+/- 15 Gt/year of ice over
the period 2003-2016, compared to a rate loss of 83 +/- 63 Gt/year in the
Mass Change and Contribution to sea level rise 2003-2016
The map shows the latest changes in mass
derived from data from the GRACE satellites. The graph
show the gain in the mass of ice when there is precipitation, and how much of
this mass is lost when snow and ice melt and when icebergs break off from
the ice sheet’s major outlet
glaciers. The difference in these mass
changes over a glaciological year (September-August) is called the total mass
balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
The graph illustrates the month-by-month
development in changes of mass measured in gigatonnes, Gt (1 Gt is 1 billion tonnes or 1 km3 of water). The left axis on the graph shows how
this ice mass loss corresponds to sea level rise contribution. 100 Gt
corresponds to 0.28 mm global sea level rise). All changes are given relative
to June 2006.
Based on this data, it can be seen that during the period 2003-2011
the Greenland Ice Sheet has lost 234 km3 of water per year,
corresponding to an annual contribution to the mean increase in sea level of
This data shows that most of the loss of ice occurs along the edge of the ice sheet, where independent observations also indicate that the ice is thinning, that the glacier fronts are retreating in fjords and on land, and that there is a greater degree of melting from the surface of the ice. (See map)
High on the central region of the ice sheet, however, the GRACE satellites show that there is a small increase in the mass of the ice. Other measurements suggest that this is due to a small increase in precipitation/snowfall. (See map)
Significance: Today, many glaciologists are more
concerned with predicting when various glaciers will disappear. In many parts
of the world—including the western United States, South America, China, and
India—glaciers are frozen reservoirs that provide a reliable water supply each
summer to hundreds of millions of people and the natural ecosystems on which
they depend. NOAA CLIMATE
the most dramatic evidence that Earth’s climate is warming is the dwindling and
disappearance of mountain glaciers around the world. Based on preliminary
data, 2017 is likely to be the 38th year in a row of mass loss
of mountain glaciers worldwide. According to the State of the Climate
The cumulative mass balance loss from 1980 to 2016
is -19.9 meters, the equivalent of cutting a 22-meter-thick (72-foot-thick)
slice off the top of the average glacier.
The graph shows cumulative mass loss in “*meters of water equivalent,” which is the depth of the meltwater spread out over the glacier’s surface area.
Melting of mountain glaciers has accelerated since 2000
The atmospheric abundance
of CO2 has increased by an average of 1.83 ppm per year over the past 40
years (1979-2018). The CO2 increase is accelerating — while it averaged
about 1.6 ppm per year in the 1980s and 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s, the
growth rate increased to 2.3 ppm per year during the last decade (2009-2018).
The annual CO2 increase from 1 Jan 2018 to 1 Jan 2019 was 2.5 ± 0.1 ppm (see https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html), which is slightly higher than the average
of the previous decade, and much higher than the two decades before that.
Total global carbon dioxide emissions in 2017: 41.2±2.8 GtCO2; 53% increase over 1990 (Source: Global Carbon Project)
Carbon dioxide emissions attributable to land-use change are highly uncertain, with no clear trend in the last decade
Land-use change was the dominant source of annual CO2 emissions until around 1950. In 1960 land-use change emissions accounted for 43% of emissions; between 2008-2017 they averaged 13%. In total, CO2 from land-use change accounts for 31% of cumulative emissions between 1870-2017.
Fossil CO2 emissions now dominate global changes: Coal (32%), Oil (25%), Gas (10%), Others (2%) account for 69% of cumulative emissions between 1870-2017.
Radiative Forcing: 298 times that of CO2 over a 100 year period Residence time: 114 years
Agriculture (soil management—fertilizers, manure, burning of agricultural residues)
Growth of nitrous oxide
Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
Black Carbon: 6600Gg (2015)
Radiative Forcing: Black Carbon (BC) has a strong influence on radiative forcing, affecting the climate globally and regionally, and is responsible for a significant proportion of the global forcing to date.
Bond (2013)* estimated that black carbon, with a total climate forcing of +1.1 W m-2, is the second most important human emission in terms of its climate-forcing in the present-day atmosphere; only carbon dioxide is estimated to have a greater forcing. For comparison, the radiative forcings including indirect effects from emissions of the two most significant long-lived greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), in 2005 were +1.56 and +0.86 W m-2, respectively.
BC deposited on the cryosphere leads to enhanced melting rates and can affect the intensity and distribution of precipitation. Climate and Clean Air Coalition
Residence Time: 4–12 days
! ! Global emission estimates have uncertainties of about a factor of 2 (i.e., -50% to +100%) or even by a factor of 3 (See Climate and Clean Air Coalition)
Domestic biomass combustion (especially in traditional cookstoves)
Open-burning of municipal solid waste
Crop residue open-burning in the field
Traditional brick kilns
Forest fires and savanna burning
Traditional coke ovens
Flaring from oil gas extraction and processing
Transportation (diesel engines in on-and off-road vehicles, ships, generators)
T. C., Doherty, S. J., Fahey, D. W., Forster, P. M., Berntsen, T., DeAngelo, B.
J., Flanner, M. G., Ghan, S., Kärcher, B., Koch, D., Kinne, S., Kondo, Y.,
Quinn, P. K., Sarofim, M. C., Schultz, M. G., Schul, M., Venkataraman, C.,
Zhang, H., Zhang, S., Bellouin, N., Guttikunda, S. K., Hopke, P. K., Jacobson,
M. Z., Kaiser, J. W., Klimont, Z., Lohmann, U., Schwarz, J. P., Shindell, D.,
Storelvmo, T., Warren, S. G., and Zender, C. S.: Bounding the role of black
carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment, J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos.,
118, 5380– 5552, https://doi.org/10.1002/jgrd.50171, 2013.
The abundances of the majority of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) that were originally controlled under the Montreal Protocol are now declining, as their emissions are smaller than the rate at which they are destroyed. In contrast, the abundances of most of the replacement compounds, HCFCs and hydrofluorocarbons are increasing. (United Nations Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2018)
The ozone hole is not technically a “hole” where no ozone is present, but is actually a region of exceptionally depleted ozone in the stratosphere over the Antarctic that happens at the beginning of Southern Hemisphere spring (August–October). Satellite instruments provide us with daily images of ozone over the Antarctic region. The ozone hole image shows the very low values (blue and purple colored area) centered over Antarctica on 4 October 2004. From the historical record we know that total column ozone values of less than 220 Dobson Units were not observed prior to 1979. From an aircraft field mission over Antarctica we also know that a total column ozone level of less than 220 Dobson Units is a result of catalyzed ozone loss from chlorine and bromine compounds. For these reasons, we use 220 Dobson Units as the boundary of the region representing ozone loss. Using the daily snapshots of total column ozone, we can calculate the area on the Earth that is enclosed by a line with values of 220 Dobson Units (the white line in the figure). Source: NASA Ozone Watch
The 2018 ozone hole: The polar vortex began to form in early May and reached its maximum area in late September at around 34 million square kilometres. It was a little larger than the decadal mean in size, and was generally of average or above average stability. The ozone hole grew rapidly and by its maximum in late September was above the average size for the decade at 24.8 million square kilometres. The area with ozone hole values had declined to zero by the end of November, later than in the last two years, but sooner than the decadal average. NASA observations show that a minimum ozone amount of 102 DU was reached on October 11 and 12. Although this is a low value it is not as low as around 1990 to 2000. Ozone depletion would have been much worse this year without the protection of the Montreal Protocol.
Although the amount of ozone destroying substances in the atmosphere is going down, the inter-annual variation in the size and depth of the ozone hole is largely controlled by the meteorological conditions in the stratosphere.
A simple extrapolation of the trend in minimum values gives the final year with ozone hole levels as 2073, though the error bars on this estimate are very large. Models suggest that recovery may be more rapid after 2010.
It is still too soon to say that we have had the worst ever ozone hole, particularly as there has been no major volcanic eruption in the Southern Hemisphere since 1992. There has also been little cooling of the lower stratosphere since the mid 1990s.
Observations reported in Nature in May 2018 showed that the rate of decline of CFC-11, an ozone
depleting substances in the atmosphere, which is also a greenhouse gas, had
become slower than predicted. This suggested that either something
unusual was taking place in the atmosphere or that there were additional
man-made emissions. The paper suggested that the most likely reason was
illegal manufacture and release from somewhere in eastern Asia. Investigation by the EIA has found that production of polyurethene foam in
China can explain the observed changes. They encourage the Chinese
government to take immediate action. This became news again in May 2019
when another paper was published in Nature.
CFC’s—refrigerants; decompose in the
upper atmosphere and catalyze the destruction of ozone. Phased out according to the provisions of the
1990 Montreal Protocols of 1987, 1990.
HFC’s and HCFC’s—Substitutes for
CFC’s. HCFC to be phased out by 2040
because they destroy ozone. HFC’s
targeted for emission reductions in the
CFC’s—100 years (CFC-12)
HFC’s –13 years (e.g., HFC-134a);
lifetime weighted by usage—15 years
Ozone Depleting Gas Index (ODGI) Source: NOAA ODGI
The ODGI is estimated directly from
observations at Earth’s surface of the most abundant long-lived, chlorine and
bromine containing gases regulated by the Montreal Protocol (15 individual
chemicals). These ongoing, surface-based observations provide a direct measure
of the total number of chlorine and bromine atoms in the lower atmosphere, or
troposphere, contained in chemicals with lifetimes longer than approximately
0.5 yr. Because the lower atmosphere is quite well-mixed, these observations
also provide an accurate estimate of the composition of air entering the
stratosphere. The threat to stratospheric ozone from ODSs, however, is derived
only after considering additional factors: the time it takes for air to be transported
from the troposphere to different regions of the stratosphere, air mixing
processes during that transport, and the rate at which ODSs photolytically
degrade and liberate reactive forms of chlorine and bromine in the
2018 Antarctic ODGI 79;
i.e., we have progressed 21% towards the 1980 benchmark
2018 Mid-latitude ODGI
55; i.e., we have progressed 45% towards the 1980 benchmark
Particulates and Ozone
Matter (PM2.5) Air Quality
matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that
they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Some particles less
than 10 micrometers in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even
get into your bloodstream. Of these, particles less than
2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5,
pose the greatest risk to health.( EPA
particles are small enough to work their way deep into the lungs and into the
bloodstream, where they trigger heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and asthma (Berkeley Earth
Get the Airvisual 2018 World Air Quality Report Here
pollution kills more people worldwide each year than does AIDS, malaria,
diabetes or tuberculosis.
the United States and Europe, air pollution is equivalent in detrimental health
effects to smoking 0.4 to 1.6 cigarettes per day.
China the numbers are far worse; on bad days the health effects of air
pollution are comparable to the harm done smoking three packs per day (60
cigarettes) by every man, woman, and child.
“Studies of emission inventories show that, of the major pollutants, the lowest uncertainties are associated with CO2 and SO2,which depend primarily on the quality of fossil fuel statistical data and fuel properties. Studies estimate globally an 8% uncertainty (90% confidence interval) for emissions of CO2 (Andres et al., 2012; IPCC, 2014) and 8–14% uncertainty for SO2, for a roughly 5–95% confidence interval (Smith et al., 2011). However, uncertainty for certain sectors can be much larger, for example 50% for global estimates of CO2 emissions from the combined Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use sector (IPCC, 2014). Similarly, uncertainty can be larger in certain regions (e.g. China) due to uncertainties in the level of coal consumption, emission factor for coal and the actual implementation and efficiency of control technology (Guan et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2015; Olivier et al., 2015; Xu et al., 2009; Zhang et al., 2012). Uncertainties for global inventories of GHGs other than CO2 are much higher, being estimated by IPCC (2014) at ±20% for CH4 and ±60% for N2O (both expressed as the 90% confidence interval). Again, uncertainties for some sectors are much higher, for example, for CH4 emissions from rice paddy fields, livestock enteric fermentation and landfill.
Emissions of PM, including BC and primary OC, are more uncertain, as these pollutants usually form under poor combustion conditions in small, inefficient installations burning poor-quality fuels, which are difficult to account for, resulting in large emission variability (Bond et al., 2004; Klimont et al., 2017; Hoesly et al., 2018). Considering local data and knowledge about emission sources and their emission factors could significantly reduce these uncertainties (Zhang et al., 2009). Inconsistencies in measurements of PM emissions (e.g. in-stack or directly after stack for industry; laboratory versus real- world measurements for cookstoves) in different countries contribute to overall global inventory uncertainties. Uncertainty can also be large for activity data of relevance to PM emissions – such as poor-quality fuels (e.g. biomass) in cook stoves or brick kilns (Klimont et al 2017) or even size and composition of local vehicle fleets.
Bond et al. (2004) estimated total uncertainties of about a factor of 2 (i.e. -50% to +100%) in their global estimates of BC and OC emissions for 1996 from contained combustion (excluding open-burning of vegetation and crop residues). More recent work (Bond et al., 2013) estimated larger uncertainties for a global BC inventory for the year 2000; of around a factor of 3 for energy-related emissions and >3 when open-burning is included.Advances in emission characterization for small residential, industrial, and mobile sources will be required to reduce the scale of these uncertainties. Uncertainties in national scale BC emission estimates are likely to be less than for the global inventories described above. For example, emission uncertainties are considered to be in the order of 1.5 to 2-fold for national BC inventories recently prepared by EU countries for CLRTAP.” (Emphasis added)
Total number of people globally without electricity now below 1 billion
Global electricity generation rose by 3.7%, led by China, India*, and the U.S.
*India: A vast rural electrification program has brought electricity to 95% of Indian households, leaving only 11 million homes without electricity. The International Energy Agency describes this programs as one of the greatest success stories of 2018 ( The Economic Times Rural Electrification )
Renewables were the single largest contributor to the increase in global electricity use
April, 2019–U.S. renewables electricity exceed coal (21.6%) for the first time FERC (see below)
Fossil fuels still account for 64% of global electricity
Electricity generated from coal set a new record in 2018—38%
Natural gas accounted for 23% of global electricity generation
Generation grew by 2.4%; China accounted for 75% of this growth
U.S. Energy Trends
In 2018, the United States consumed more energy than ever before; the increase was the largest since 2010.
Coal, natural gas, and petroleum accounted for 80% of total U.S. energy consumption
This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.
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