Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Climate Change News: New Coral; Methane; GHG Reporting

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I’m catching up on a few more news items.  First, a new genus of coral might have been found.  This finding is somewhat less impressive when you realize how little we know about what is in the oceans.  The oceans remain the least explored region on Earth.  Six of seven species discovered recently could qualify for a new genus, once additional examination is conducted.  Just as importantly, researchers were able to secure 4,000 years’ worth of history from some long-lived coral species.  Their growth rings can be “read” like tree growth rings to tease out clues of past climatic conditions.  What will coral tell us about the climate?  As CO2 is slowly absorbed by the oceans, they become more acidic.  Coral can’t grow when the water is highly acidic.  Lots of marine organisms have the same limitation.  These corals are deep-water coral.  If they start dying off due to increased acidity (and temperature) due to manmade greenhouse forcing, it will be a strong signal that the 21st century climate will indeed be quite different than anything we’re familiar with.

Methane levels in the Norweigan Arctic are rising.  Vast beds of methane have been locked up in the northern tundra due to the perpetual cold temperatures.  Global warming has warmed the poles much more than the mid-latitudes or tropical regions.  As they’ve warmed, the tundra is thawing.  As a result, those vast methane beds are releasing the gas back into the atmosphere.  Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas than is CO2.  Therefore, it doesn’t take nearly as much methane to amplify the polar warming already underway (that’s called a positive feedback loop).  One of the problems climatologists face is the arctic region is less well sampled than are the mid-latitudes.  Not even close to the degree that the oceans are under- or non-sampled.  But enough to be a big missing piece of the puzzle.

Yet another missing puzzle piece might come into focus.  The EPA is looking to introduce mandantory greenhouse gas tracking on approximately 13,000 facilities nationwide.  I’m sure we’ll hear plenty of outrage from Cons who will insist its an unfair tax that businesses shouldn’t be made to shoulder.  Ah what a difference an election makes:

“Our efforts to confront climate change must be guided by the best possible information,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement announcing the proposed regulation.

Well said.  Climate change is already impacting businesses and societies.  How much it will continue to do so will only be made more clear once we know how much pollution we’re emitting.  Oh – an easy way to get out of this requirement?  Quit producing the greenhouse gases.  Support renewable energy development – it greatly reduces emissions.  Or continue with the old, polluting ways and finally pony up the costs to society.  Smart, bottom-line watching companies will see which path is cheaper, I’m sure.

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