Energy and Global Warming News for June 2nd: The seldom-seen devastation of climate change, Spains high-speed rail offers guideposts for U.S.

JR:  I have been meaning to blog on the beautiful new book by fellow blogger Gavin Schmidt (  Salon beat me to the punch.  Click the photo for a slideshow of great pictures from the book.

The seldom-seen devastation of climate change

In our visual culture, climate change remains oddly invisible. Few people can glimpse melting glaciers or perceive that seas levels are rising. We may feel hotter, but we cannot see carbon rising through the atmosphere as we drive our cars around. This is one reason for our lethargic response to the problem: out of sight, out of mind.

Climate Change: Picturing the Science, a new book by Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe, aims to alter that by providing a rich photographic record of a warming world.  Some photos tell a self-evident record of geophysical change, like a shot of Lake Powell, on the Arizona-Utah border, where warming-induced drought has produced a dramatically lowered water line — a yellow “bathtub ring” of once-submerged rock.  [See picture above.]

Most of the piece is devoted to an interview with Schmidt, including his response to Freeman Dyson’s uninformed critique of climate modelers like him (see also Media stunner: When asked “Does it matter, from a journalistic point of view, whether [Freeman Dyson is] right or whether he’s wrong?” his NYT profiler replies “Oh, absolutely not.”)

Kudos to Schmidt for a different take on climate.

Spain’s High-Speed Rail Offers Guideposts for U.S.

When President Obama announced in April his $13 billion plan to propel the United States into the age of high-speed rail, he tipped his hat to the trains that zip between the cities of the Old Continent at up to 217 miles an hour.

Spain, an enthusiastic latecomer to high-speed rail, on Friday will complete a six-day tour of European transit systems that it presented to the American transportation secretary, Ray H. LaHood. Officials say the Spanish experience could hold lessons in what works and what does not….

Spain opened its first Alta Velocidad Espa±ola, or AVE, high-speed train route in 1992, between Madrid and Seville. The network has grown to nearly 2,000 kilometers and stretches from Malaga on the south coast to Barcelona, which is north and east.

Supporters say the AVE has begun to transform the country, binding remote and sometimes restive regions to Madrid and leading traditionally homebound Spaniards to move around for work or leisure.

“Spaniards have rediscovered the train,” said I±aki Barr³n de Angoiti, director of high-speed rail at the International Union of Railways in Paris. “The AVE has changed the way people live, the way they do business. Spaniards don’t move around a lot, but the AVE is even changing that.”

Such is the train’s allure that politicians of different stripes have made extravagant promises to lace the country with a sprawling network. Under a plan devised by Prime Minister Jos© Luis Rodr­guez Zapatero, Spain will have 10,000 kilometers (more than 6,200 miles) of high-speed track by 2020….

As has happened elsewhere, the high-speed train is stealing passengers from the airlines: The 2.5-hour route between Madrid and Seville handles about 89 percent of railway and air traffic between the cities, according to Renfe, the state railway operator. In its first year, the Madrid-Barcelona route lured nearly half the five million passengers who would normally fly between the cities, Renfe said.

Supporters say such statistics bolster the train’s green credentials: The International Union of Railways says a high-speed train can carry eight times as many passengers as an airplane over a given distance, using the same amount of energy and emitting a quarter of the carbon dioxide for each passenger.

Climate chief’s pledge on energy

America’s chief climate negotiator has pledged billions of dollars a year to help developing countries acquire clean energy and adapt to climate change.

Todd Stern said it was morally right for rich nations to help the poor on climate change.

He also told BBC News that China deserved credit for its energy-saving programme.

And he defended America’s negotiating position on emissions cuts, claiming they were of the same order as the cuts proposed by the EU.

UN climate talks grudgingly accept treaty draft

Rich and poor countries criticised a first draft text of a new United Nations climate treaty on Monday but grudgingly accepted it as the basis for six months of arduous negotiations.

Despite finding fault, delegates accepted the draft as the starting point for negotiations on a treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December to curb the use of fossil fuels and widen the fight against climate change beyond the existing Kyoto Protocol.

Help wanted to write book of life

A virtual book of all life on Earth is being created by UK and US scientists.

The online reference work will create a detailed world map of flora and fauna and track changes in biodiversity.

The database, dubbed a “macroscopic observatory”, will be populated with data about local species gathered by members of the public.

Early elements of the giant database, such as automatic species identification systems, are already under construction.

Food Security And The Income Gap

Lily Kiminami, Professor in Regional, Rural and Development Economics in the Institute of Science and Technology, at Niigata University, Japan, explains that society at the regional, national and international level has a role to play in ensuring food security, that can cope with changes in food consumption, and be made sustainable in the light of climate change and in times of economic strife.

Until now, research on food policy has focused only on investigating the relationship between average income level and corresponding food demand at the national level. Research related to the impact of the income gap on food security in the face of economic changes has proved inadequate. As such, she and her colleagues have investigated the impact of economic growth on food consumption in Asia and taken into consideration the income gap.

Protecting Forests Is “Critical” to Climate Solution, U.S. Says

Protecting tropical forests and using land in ways that absorb greenhouse-gas emissions are “critical” to fighting climate change, the U.S. said.

Funding to reduce logging rates should come from government and private sources, as well as from international carbon markets, the U.S. proposed in a 5-page submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN agency guiding talks today in Bonn for a new global-warming treaty.

China warms to greener refrigerators and air-cons

China aims to save 75 terawatt hours of power per year, the equivalent of 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, by promoting energy-efficient air-conditioners and other home appliances.

The government plans to raise the market shares of such appliances to over 30 percent by 2012 by subsidising sales, the National Development and Reform Commission said.

Ranchers driving wind revolution

Texan cattle rancher Mike Baca seems an unlikely evangelist for the American green revolution.

When he voices a visceral dislike of the “Washington liberals” there seems to be little hint of the environmentalist beneath the cowboy hat and saucer-sized belt-buckle.

But Mike is proof that renewable energy now unites the partisan debate on climate change.

[Note from Austin: As an apparently disliked Washington liberal, I’m glad Mike and I can see eye to eye on renewable energy.]

Ocean Acidification May Result In Job Cuts And Revenue Loss: Who Will Pick Up The Bill?

Ocean acidification, a direct result of increased CO2 emission, is set to change the Earth’s marine ecosystems forever and may have a direct impact on our economy, resulting in substantial revenue declines and job losses.

Intensive fossil-fuel burning and deforestation over the last two centuries have increased atmospheric CO2 levels by almost 40%, which has in turn fundamentally altered ocean chemistry by acidifying surface waters. Fish levels and other sea organisms such as planktons, crabs, lobsters, shrimp and corals are expected to suffer, which could leave fishing communities at the brink of economic disaster.

Nature Parks Can Save Species As Climate Changes

Retaining a network of wildlife conservation areas is vital in helping to save up to 90 per cent of bird species in Africa affected by climate change, according to scientists.

Positive Feedback Hint Between Tropical Cyclones And Global Warming

Tropical cyclones could be a significant source of the deep convection that carries moist air upward to the stratosphere, where it can influence climate, according to Harvard University researchers David M. Romps and Zhiming Kuang.

Using 23 years of infrared satellite imagery, global tropical cyclone best-track data, and reanalysis of tropopause temperature, the authors found that tropical cyclones contribute a disproportionate amount of the tropical deep convection that overshoots the troposphere and reaches the stratosphere.

Compiled by Austin Davis

15 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 2nd: The seldom-seen devastation of climate change, Spains high-speed rail offers guideposts for U.S.

  1. paulm says:

    “In 2007 the world’s computers, monitors, telecoms networks, routers and the data centres that keeps the internet running carried a carbon mouse-click of 830m tonnes of CO2. Even by the industry’s own conservative estimates, that’s the equivalent of 2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions for that year, putting it on a par with the aviation industry.

  2. Alex J says:

    My redneck fisherman brother-in-law needs to read the piece on ocean acidification. We truly tend to take abundance and biodiversity for granted. And speaking of visualizing climate change, ABC is running a special tonight taking a look at “Earth 2100”. Given that many peoples’ perceptions are shaped by mass media programming, it should be interesting to see how they do. I wonder if it’ll be based on the somewhat conservative AR4. Check your local listings if interested, and pray/hope they did a good job. We need all the help we can get, not some third-rate production that has people (other than John Stossel) rolling their eyes and grabbing their remotes.

  3. Rick Covert says:

    Alex J.

    Bob Woodruff produced the special so there is a good chance it’s good. You can take a peak at what will air tonight here:

  4. Alex J says:

    Paul, it’s good that there are some efforts underway to improve PC and server efficiency. That’s on the corporate end, and it needs to continue. As with other emission sources, individuals need to do their part, by purchasing only as much computer as they’ll need/removing unused peripherals, using power management/shutting down during periods of non-use, and upgrading CRT monitors with LCDs. Maybe even limiting frivolous use? Lots of room for improvement.

  5. Gail says:

    The book is beautiful. It expresses all the irony of losing beauty, or rather perhaps, finding beauty in loss.

    Today I took some more pictures of the climate change effects on a local level for the blog and did a little reading up on tree wilt, which is occurring all around.

    At this site I found more information, all of which confirms what I have been noticing since last summer in a terrible bland language, considering that there is no rescuing a tree – or millions of trees – once these symptoms appear:

    “Realities of drought stress symptoms:

    1) In a single year, moisture stress symptoms may not appear until late in the summer after extensive hot and dry windy weather.

    2) Extended drought stress (more than one season) can result in crown decline, twig die back, small branch die back in the upper crown and progressively larger branches can succumb or are vulnerable to breakout under strong wind conditions. Suckering may occur on the trunk and upper branches of heavily stressed trees, cambium death and cankers may also occur resulting in the girdling of the tree and total tree death. Often cankers may be the direct result of moisture stress or may occur with the development of disease which produce cankers while the tree is severely stressed and susceptible. Another symptom of extended drought stress is heavy seed loads the year following the drought.

    3) Often the symptoms of drought stress are delayed. Water deficiency may cause extensive root injury in the late summer and fall. The current year’s foliage may not reveal any symptoms. Conifers are an example of a plant that by the time it expresses symptoms of stress the plant is already in dangerously poor health. In sum, the symptoms and effects of the drought may not appear until the following year when rainfall is normal.”

    Of course, dry is now the new “normal” so we can expect continued, and rapid, deterioration.

    The site also described:

    “Progressively small leaves: Plants under drought will show progressively smaller fully expanded leaves compared to a non-stressed tree.

    Unabscised dead leaves remaining on the tree: Oaks and other deciduous trees may show complete browning of foliage and the foliage remains attached. If the leaf loss occurs too rapidly for the abscission layer to form, the tree will remain in full leaf but brown.”

    In another academic paper I found references to Chlorosis, which is when the plant cannot photosythesize because it is vascularly compromised – which would explain why the leaves on the trees look much lighter this spring, some of the silvery or almost white.

    Sigh. No fun to be right on this one.

  6. dhogaza says:

    I can attest to the efficiency of the AVE trains. The train I was on was the same Siemens rolling stock I’ve ridden in Germany, 250 km/hr (about 150 mi/hr). Spain and Germany are both upgrading to 350 km/hr (about 210 mi/hr) technology.

    It’s great. 2.5 hours Madrid to Seville, much faster than driving, and unlike the airplane you can see stuff on the way, not to mention it’s relaxing and comfortable.

  7. K L Reddington says:

    Oceans naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the air. For nearly three decades, scientists have detected a steady increase in this absorption, corresponding to an increase in the “greenhouse gases” that hold heat in the atmosphere. One of those gases, carbon dioxide, produces carbonic acid in seawater. Under natural conditions, calcium concentrations in seawater buffer this acid. But the added impact from industrial emissions has overwhelmed this balance, the report concludes.

    Scientists measure acidity by the “pH” scale familiar to every high school chemistry student. Since 1800, ice core measures show the ocean’s average pH level has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1, making it 30% more corrosive, Feely says. Expected emissions will likely drop it to a pH of 7.9 this century, a 150% increase in acidity since 1800, he says.

    From the article above.

    Ocean acidification, a direct result of increased CO2 emission, is set to change the Earth’s marine ecosystems forever and may have a direct impact on our economy, resulting in substantial revenue declines and job losses.

    Intensive fossil-fuel burning and deforestation over the last two centuries have increased atmospheric CO2 levels by almost 40%, which has in turn fundamentally altered ocean chemistry by acidifying surface waters. Fish levels and other sea organisms such as planktons, crabs, lobsters, shrimp and corals are expected to suffer, which could leave fishing communities at the brink of economic disaster.

    The ocean is actually far from acidic. \\

    “The term “ocean acidification” relates to the decrease in pH and does not imply that the pH of ocean surface waters will become acid (below 7.0) any time soon. ”

    Airborn sources of CO@ are only a smaller part of increasing CO2 levels.

    The ocean is not only far from acidic. It is a fact that CO2 can’t be a corrosive agent when the PH is above 7.

  8. paulm says:

    Gail sounds like they are being affected by climatitis.

  9. Gail says:

    Paulm, the prognosis is poor.

  10. Alex J says:

    Thanks Rick. I see Joe has it up now too.

  11. Bob Wright says:


    Do a little more reading. What is happening with increasing CO2 dissolved in the oceans is increased carbonic acid concentration, and decreased pH, decreased carbonate ion and decreased aragonite (a CaCO3 crystal phase) saturation. This makes it harder for sea life that makes CaCO3 shells and body structures to make them, and at a certain pH these shells will “corrode”. A good primer:

  12. Mike D says:

    That’s a terrific link Bob, thanks.

  13. Tom Raftery says:

    I live in Seville, Spain and I travel to Madrid on the AVE.

    Other ancillary benefits of train travel are
    1. train stations are in the middle of the city so you generally arrive a lot closer to your destination
    2. you can check in 5 mins before departure and
    3. no ridiculous security restrictions (you can bring liquids on board!)

  14. dhogaza says:

    The ocean is actually far from acidic.

    But it is acidifying. This is the proper term, just as we frequently say “temperatures will begin warming tomorrow” even if the change is from -20F to -15F.

    It is a fact that CO2 can’t be a corrosive agent when the PH is above 7.

    Nobody claims CO2, per se, is a corrosive agent itself regardless of PH. Go read the link provided by Bob Wright.

  15. To reduce water consumption.
    Halı Yıkama