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CLIMATE SCIENCE
'Plan B': Seven ways to engineer the climate
By Marlowe HOOD
Berlin (AFP) Oct 11, 2017


Finding Nemo may become even harder: climate study
Paris (AFP) Oct 11, 2017 - The clownfish, the colourful swimmer propelled to fame by the 2003 film "Finding Nemo", is under threat from warming ocean waters wreaking havoc with sea anemones -- the structures which serve as its home, a study has found.

Closely related to corals, sea anemones are invertebrate marine creatures that live in symbiosis with algae, which provide them with food, oxygen and colour.

Clownfish, also known as anemonefish, in turn use the structures as shelter to lay their eggs and raise their young -- keeping the anemones clean in return.

For the study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, a research team monitored 13 pairs of orange-fin anemonefish living among the coral reefs of Moorea Island in the South Pacific.

They were monitored before, during and after the El Nino weather event that in 2016 caused major coral bleaching as the Pacific Ocean warmed.

Half of the anemones in the study "bleached", expelling the algae that live on them and turning bone white, the team found.

This happens in response to environmental stress, such as ocean warming or pollution.

"Among the clownfish living in the bleached anemones, the scientists observed a drastic fall (-73 percent) in the number of viable eggs," said a statement from France's CNRS research institute.

"These fish were laying eggs less frequently and they were also laying fewer and less-viable eggs."

No changes were observed among fish with unbleached abodes.

Blood samples showed a sharp increase in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the affected fish, and a "significant drop" in sex hormones that determine fertility, the team reported.

The health of the anemones and the fish improved three to four months after the end of the warming event.

Further research is needed, the team said, to examine the effects of a longer, or more intense, warming period, and whether affected fish would deal better or worse with a new bleaching episode.

Exceptional ocean warming events are predicted to become more frequent as the average global temperature rises.

Nearly 200 nations agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over industrial levels.

A level of about 1 C has already been reached and scientists fear the ceiling will be shattered, with potentially disastrous consequences for the Earth's climate.

In June last year, a study said many of the real-life Nemos swimming in children's fish tanks around the world were caught using cyanide -- another threat to the species.

"Finding Nemo", the movie about the quest of a young fish separated from its family, resulted in more than a million clownfish being harvested from tropical reefs as pets.

Dismissed a decade ago as far-fetched and dangerous, schemes to tame global warming by engineering the climate have migrated from the margins of policy debate towards centre stage.

"Plan A" remains tackling the problem at its source. But efforts to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions have fallen woefully short and cannot, most scientists agree, avert catastrophic climate change on their own.

Here is a "Plan B" menu of geoengineering solutions that can be broken down into two categories: dimming the sun, which remains highly controversial, and capturing carbon dioxide (CO2).

- Solar radiation management -

The goal is simple: prevent some of the sun's rays from hitting the planet's surface, forcing them instead back up into space.

One idea worthy of a "Star Wars" sequel would assemble giant orbiting mirrors to deflect a bit of Earth-bound radiation.

A more feasible scheme -- experiments are scheduled for next fall in Arizona -- would inject tiny reflective particles into the stratosphere.

Nature sometimes does the same: Debris from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines lowered the planet's average surface temperature for a year or two afterwards.

Scientists have also calculated ways to alter clouds that could help beat the heat.

One is to brighten the white, billowy ocean clouds that rebound sunlight back up. Another would thin cirrus clouds, which unlike other types absorb more heat than they reflect.

DRAWBACKS: Even if it works as intended, solar radiation management would do nothing to reduce atmospheric CO2, which is making oceans too acidic. There is also the danger of knock-on consequences, including changes in rainfall patterns, and what scientists call "termination shock" -- a sudden warming if the system were to fail.

- Ocean fertilisation -

Microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton gobble up carbon dioxide and drag it to the bottom of the ocean when they die.

Colony size is limited by a lack of natural iron, but experiments have shown that sowing the ocean with iron sulphate powder creates large blooms.

DRAWBACKS: Again, scientists worry about unintended impacts. Die-offs of plankton, for example, use up oxygen, which could create massive "dead zones" in the oceans, something already on the rise.

- Enhanced weathering -

Natural weathering of rocks -- a chemical process -- removes about one billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, about two percent of total manmade C02 emissions. What if technology could accelerate that process?

Spreading a powdered form of a greenish iron silicate called olivine across certain landscapes -- especially over the oceans and in the tropics -- does just that, experiments have shown.

DRAWBACKS: Enhanced weathering could probably be rapidly scaled up, but it would be expensive to mine and mill enough olivine to make a difference.

- Biochar -

Biochar is charcoal made by heating plant waste -- rice straw, peanut shells, wood scraps -- over long periods in low-oxygen conditions, for example buried in the ground. It can store CO2 for long periods, and also enriches soil.

DRAWBACK: The scientific jury is still out on how quickly this method could be scaled up, and on the stability of biochar used as a fertiliser.

- BECCS -

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) marries a natural process with a high-tech one.

Step 1: Plant rapeseed, sugarcane, corn or "second generation" biofuel crops such as switchgrass, which pull CO2 from the air while growing.

Step 2: While burning the harvested plants for energy, sequester the CO2 produced.

The net result is "negative emissions," with less CO2 in the atmosphere than when the process started.

Virtually all climate change models projecting a future consistent with the Paris Agreement's core goal of capping global warming at "well under" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) assume a key role for BECCS.

DRAWBACK: Studies calculate that upward of 40 percent of arable land would need to be given over to biofuel crops, putting the scheme in conflict with food crops.

- Direct CO2 capture -

Experiments have shown it is possible to suck CO2 directly from the air, converting it into fuel pellets or storing it underground.

A Canadian company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates launched a pilot facility in Canada in 2015, and another company is set to unveil one in Iceland this week.

DRAWBACK: As of now, the technology is prohibitively expensive.

- Massive afforestation -

Extensive planting of trees could significantly slow the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which currently stands at more than 400 parts per million.

DRAWBACK: Even if deforestation could be reversed -- millions of hectares of tropical forests still disappear each year -- the number of trees needed to put a dent in CO2 emissions would clash with food and biofuel drops.

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Ninety-eight scientists launch a 2,000-year global temperature database
Montreal, Canada (SPX) Oct 05, 2017
A team of 98 scientists from 22 countries has compiled the most comprehensive database of past global temperature records to date, spanning 1 CE to the present. "This is a shining example of large-scale cooperative science," says Jeannine-Marie St-Jacques, assistant professor in Concordia's Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, who contributed to the publication. "Togeth ... read more

Related Links
Climate Science News - Modeling, Mitigation Adaptation


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