Saturday, April 16, 2022
Friday, April 15, 2022
As long as there has been marine life, there has been marine snow — a ceaseless drizzle of death and waste sinking from the surface into the depths of the sea.
The snow begins as motes, which aggregate into dense, flocculent flakes that gradually sink and drift past the mouths (and mouth-like apparatuses) of scavengers farther down.
But even marine snow that is devoured will most likely be snowfall once more; a squid’s guts are just a rest stop on this long passage to the deep.
Although the term may suggest wintry whites, marine snow is mostly brownish or grayish, comprising mostly dead things.
Increasingly, however, marine snowfall is being infiltrated by microplastics: fibers and fragments of polyamide, polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate.
And this fauxfall appears to be altering our planet’s ancient cooling process.
Every year, tens of millions of tons of plastic enter Earth’s oceans.
Scientists initially assumed that the material was destined to float in garbage patches and gyres, but surface surveys have accounted for only about one percent of the ocean’s estimated plastic.
A recent model found that 99.8 percent of plastic that entered the ocean since 1950 had sunk below the first few hundred feet of the ocean.
Scientists have found 10,000 times more microplastics on the seafloor than in contaminated surface waters.
Marine snow, one of the primary pathways connecting the surface and the deep, appears to be helping the plastics sink.
And scientists have only begun to untangle how these materials interfere with deep-sea food webs and the ocean’s natural carbon cycles.
“It’s not just that marine snow transports plastics or aggregates with plastic,” Luisa Galgani, a researcher at Florida Atlantic University, said.
“It’s that they can help each other get to the deep ocean.”
As these microbes metabolize, some produce polysaccharides that can form a sticky gel that attracts the lifeless bodies of tiny organisms, small shreds of larger carcasses, shells from foraminifera and pteropods, sand and microplastics, which stick together to form larger flakes.
“They are the glue that keeps together all the components of marine snow,” Dr. Galgani said.
Marine snowflakes fall at different rates.
Smaller ones have a more languid descent — “as slow as a meter a day,” said Anela Choy, a biological oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.
Bigger particles, such as dense fecal pellets, can sink quicker.
“It just skyrockets to the bottom of the ocean,” said Tracy Mincer, a researcher at Florida Atlantic University.
Plastic in the ocean is constantly being degraded; even something as big and buoyant as a milk jug will eventually shed and splinter into microplastics.
These plastics develop biofilms of distinct microbial communities — the “plastisphere,” said Linda Amaral-Zettler, a scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, who coined the term.
“We sort of think about plastic as being inert,” Dr. Amaral-Zettler said.
“Once it enters the environment, it’s rapidly colonized by microbes.”
Ocean plastics commonly develop a filmy “plastisphere” of distinct microbial communities.
Microplastics can host so many microbial hitchhikers that they counteract the natural buoyancy of the plastic, causing their raft to sink.
But if the biofilms then degrade on the way down, the plastic could float back up, potentially leading to a yo-yoing purgatory of microplastics in the water column.
Marine snow is anything but stable; as flakes free-fall into the abyss, they are constantly congealing and falling apart, rent by waves or predators.
“It’s not as simple as: Everything’s falling all the time,” said Adam Porter, a marine ecologist at the University of Exeter in England.
“It’s a black box in the middle of the ocean, because we can’t stay down there long enough to work out what’s going on.”
To explore how marine snow and plastics are distributed in the water column, Dr. Mincer has begun to sample deeper waters with a dishwasher-size pump full of filters that dangles on a wire from a research boat.
The filters are arranged from big mesh to small to filter out fish and plankton.
Running these pumps for 10 hours at a stretch has revealed nylon fibers and other microplastics distributed throughout the water column below the South Atlantic subtropical gyre.
But even with a research boat and its expensive and unwieldy equipment, an individual piece of marine snow is not easily retrieved from deep water in the actual ocean.
The pumps often disturb the snow and scatter fecal pellets.
And the flakes alone offer little insight into how fast some snows are sinking, which is vital to understanding how long the plastics linger, yo-yo or sink in the water column before settling on the seafloor.
“Is it decades?” Dr. Mincer asked.
“Is it hundreds of years? Then we can understand what we’re in here for, and what kind of problem this really is.”
Instant marine snow
To answer these questions, and work within a budget, some scientists have made and manipulated their own marine snow in the lab.
In Exeter, Dr. Porter collected buckets of seawater from a nearby estuary and loaded the water into continuously rolling bottles.
He then sprinkled in microplastics, including polyethylene beads and polypropylene fibers.
The constant churning, and a squirt of sticky hyaluronic acid, encouraged particles to collide and stick together into snow.
“We obviously don’t have 300 meters of a tube to make it sink,” Dr. Porter said.
“By rolling it, what you’re doing is you’re creating a never-ending water column for the particles to fall through.”
After the bottles rolled for three days, he pipetted out the snow and analyzed the number of microplastics in each flake.
His team found that every type of microplastic they tested aggregated into marine snow, and that microplastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene — normally too buoyant to sink on their own — readily sank once incorporated into marine snow.
And all the marine snow contaminated with microplastics sank significantly faster than the natural marine snow.
“It’s not as simple as: Everything’s falling all the time,” Dr. Porter said.
Dr. Porter suggested that this potential change of the speed of the snow could have vast implications for how the ocean captures and stores carbon: Faster snowfalls could store more microplastics in the deep ocean, whereas slower snowfalls could make the plastic-laden particles more available to predators, potentially starving food webs deeper down.
“The plastics are a diet pill for these animals,” said Karin Kvale, a carbon cycle scientist at GNS Science in New Zealand.
In experiments in Crete, with funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research program, Dr.
Galgani has tried mimicking marine snow on a larger scale.
She dropped six mesocosms — huge bags that each contained nearly 800 gallons of seawater and recreated natural water movement — in a large pool.
Under these conditions, marine snow formed.
“In the field, you mostly make observations,” Dr. Galgani said.
“You have so little space and a limited system. In the mesocosm, you are manipulating a natural system.”
Dr. Galgani mixed microplastics into three mesocosms in an attempt to “recreate a sea and maybe a future ocean where you can have a high concentration of plastic,” she said.
The mesocosms laden with microplastics produced not just more marine snow but also more organic carbon, as the plastics offered more surfaces for microbes to colonize.
All this could seed the deep ocean with even more carbon and alter the ocean’s biological pump, which helps regulate the climate.
“But we have some signals that it can have an effect. Of course, it depends on how much plastic there is.”
A plastic feast
To understand how microplastics might travel through deep-sea food webs, some scientists have turned to creatures for clues.
Every 24 hours, many species of marine organism embark on a synchronized migration up and down in the water column.
“They do the equivalent of a marathon every day and night,” Dr.Choy said.
Guilherme V.B.Ferreira, a researcher at the Rural Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil, wondered: “Is it possible they are transporting the plastics up and down?”
Dr.Ferreira and Anne Justino, a doctoral student at the same university, collected vampire squids and midwater squids from a patch of the tropical Atlantic.
They found a plethora of plastics in both species: mostly fibers, but also fragments and beads.
This made sense for midwater squids, which migrate toward the surface at night to feed on fish and copepods that eat microplastics directly.
But vampire squids, which live in deeper waters with fewer microplastics, had even higher levels of plastic, as well as foam, in their stomachs.
The researchers hypothesize that the vampire squids’ primary diet of marine snow, especially meatier fecal pellets, may be funneling plastics into their bellies.
“It’s very concerning,” Ms.Justino said.Dr.Ferreira said: “They are one of the most vulnerable species for this anthropogenic influence.”
Ms.Justino has excavated fibers and beads from the digestive tracts of lanternfish, hatchetfish and other fish that migrate up and down in the mesopelagic, 650 to 3,300 feet down.
Some microbial communities that settle on microplastics can bioluminesce, drawing in fish like a lure, said Dr.Mincer.
In the Monterey Bay Canyon, Dr.Choy wanted to understand if certain species of filter feeders were ingesting microplastics and transporting them into food webs in deeper water.
“Marine snow is one of the major things that connects food webs across the ocean,” she said.
When the larvaceans move out, their microplastic-laden houses sink into the deep.
The larvacean resembles a tiny tadpole and lives inside a palatial bubble of mucus that can reach up to a meter long.
“It’s worse than the grossest booger you’ve ever seen,” Dr. Choy said.
When their snot-houses become clogged from feeding, the larvaceans move out and the heavy bubbles sink.
Dr. Choy found that these palaces of mucus are crowded with microplastics, which are funneled to the deep along with all their carbon.
Giant larvaceans are found across the world’s oceans, but Dr. Choy emphasized that her work was focused on the Monterey Bay Canyon, which belongs to a network of marine protected areas and is not representative of other, more polluted seas.
“It’s one deep bay on one coast of one country,” Dr. Choy said.
“Scale up and think about how vast the ocean is, especially the deep water.”
Individual flakes of marine snow are small, but they add up.
A model created by Dr. Kvale estimated that in 2010, the world’s oceans produced 340 quadrillion aggregates of marine snow, which could transport as many as 463,000 tons of microplastics to the seafloor each year.
Scientists are still exploring exactly how this plastic snow is sinking, but they do know for sure, Dr.
Porter said, that “everything eventually sinks in the ocean.”
But the microplastics that pass through them will remain, eventually settling on the seafloor in a stratigraphic layer that will mark our time on the planet long after humans are gone.
- GeoGarage blog :Ocean microplastic pollution can now be tracked by satellite / Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say ... / Tracking ocean plastic from space - / Magnets, vacuums and plant-based nets: the new ... / Microplastics killing fish before they reach reproductive age ... / The Atlantic is awash with far more plastic than ... / Plastic by the numbers in the Atlantic Ocean / Sea anemones are eating the plastic microfibers that your ... / By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world's ... / We can solve the ocean plastic problem / eXXpedition to end ocean plastic pollution / Book review: Plastic Ocean / Our seas have become a plastic graveyard - but can ... / Plastic pollution in the world's oceans: Interactive map reveals ... / 'Great Pacific garbage patch' far bigger than imagined, aerial ... / Full scale of plastic in the world's oceans revealed for first time / The revolutionary giant ocean cleanup machine is about to set ...
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Shanghai, while down south a giant convention centre has been converted to a quarantine hospital as Guangzhou follows a familiar Chinese path towards lockdown.
Setting alarm bells ringing further for people working in global logistics, Covid-19 cases are being detected in greater numbers at Shanghai’s giant port neighbour, Ningbo.
Beijing has faced severe criticism for its zero-Covid policy, which has seen trucking capacity cut dramatically in and out of Shanghai during its 16-day lockdown, as well as warehouses and factories shuttering their doors.
Commenting via LinkedIn on the latest Covid numbers coming out of Shanghai, Lars Jensen, CEO of liner consultancy Vespucci Maritime, stated: “Yet again record levels of Covid in Shanghai meaning no immediate end in sight to production and logistics disruptions. With the outbreak in Guangzhou also leading to shutdowns there, the impact on export volumes out of China will grow larger.”
Jensen warned shippers ought to expect drops in export demand, port omissions and more blank sailings in the near term future as well as Shanghai-bound cargo increasingly being discharged elsewhere.
Discussing China’s Covid situation on the GMS Podcast yesterday, Peter Sand, chief analyst at freight rate platform Xeneta, said: “Having a lockdown of Shanghai, which is the most connected port in the whole world, is terrible. It is so much more significant than the lockdown in Shenzhen.”
Sand said that problems at the port are being exacerbated by Covid restrictions on truck drivers.
“What we have seen is that exports have been performing fairly well, whereas imports have come to a complete stop because truck drivers simply can’t get into and out of the port,” Sand told the show hosted by GMS’s chief communication officer, Jon Chaplin.
In Guangzhou, meanwhile, familiar steps are being taken on China’s well-worn path to another municipal lockdown.
Shanghai Yangshan Port is the world’s largest automated container port, powered by China’s Beidou (#北斗) navigation system! #AI #ArtificialIntelligence #automation #robots #port #China #Shanghai #洋山深水港 #Shipping #supplychain #video #北斗卫星导航 pic.twitter.com/dotHYBng12— China4Tech (@China4Tech) April 12, 2022
To understand how crucial Shanghai’s port is to the global flow of goods, the -Port of Shanghai hosts over quadruple the volume of the Port of Los Angeles (one of America’s largest shipping ports)
Covid cases are also on the rise in Ningbo, a port city where many cargoes have been diverted to during the 16-day ongoing lockdown in Shanghai.
“While Shanghai is in complete lockdown, Ningbo is now on ‘yellow alert’ with some cases having been found. Warehouses in Beilun are full with the Shanghai lockdown causing congestion in Ningbo. Space is tight and there is lack of 40′ & 40HC equipment,” an update posted on Monday from UK logistics company Woodland Group stated, going on to discuss the severe trucking issues across much of the People’s Republic.
“Across China, trucking services are still a key concern, with mandatory PCR tests, positive Covid cases and trucks unable to cross borders causing significantly reduced availability unable to meet the high demand, and rates subject to continued increases,” Woodland stated.
The Chinese government looks rattled from the enormous criticism it is getting for its ongoing zero-Covid policy, both at home and overseas.
- Splash : World’s largest inland port becomes latest victim of China’s zero-Covid strategy
- Bloomberg : China Port Congestion Leaves Everything From Grains to Metals Stranded
- Stripes : Containers pile up at Chinese ports as lockdown blocks trucks
- CNN : Port delays are getting worse in Shanghai. That's very bad news for global supply chains
- Freight Waves : If globalization is really over, what happens to supply chains?
- CNBC : Chinese carriers are shipping more empty containers than full ones out of U.S. West
- GeoGarage blog : Ships waiting to unload / China’s AIS data open to public
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
To better visualize activity at sea, Global Fishing Watch engineers new technology to power updated map
Despite its overwhelming benefits and the value it brings to all life on Earth, the ocean remains one of the least observed areas of our planet.
We have been able to see very little of what’s happening across the water, both above and below the horizon of the sea.
Without that global picture, we cannot truly grasp humanity’s impact on life below water.
But things are rapidly changing.
An explosion in new data—about the ocean and the human activity taking place on it—is changing our ability to understand this complex ecosystem.
This data must be harnessed in open tools that create new insights and empower decision-makers to improve marine governance.
However, visualizing billions of dynamic ocean data points in a single interactive map is a huge challenge—one we’re taking head on.
In an effort to advance its mission to create and publicly share knowledge about the ocean and strengthen maritime governance, Global Fishing Watch has released the next generation of its flagship map.
Initially launched publicly in 2016, our map is the first open-access online tool that can be used to visualize and analyze vessel-based human activity at sea.
Our latest version builds on this technology, adding in innovation to deliver a revolutionary, open-source, robust system that supports the transparent sharing of data and new insights about our ocean and planet.
The challenge: processing billions of ocean data points
Our map users—representing a diverse group that include researchers, marine managers, policymakers and fisheries analysts—are always in search of more precise information.
More detail equates to more knowledge, which can often be challenging to display in a visualization.
Take Google Maps for example: if you were to view the entire country of France, the map would show you the names of regions and cities.
Once zoomed in, however, you are provided with more information, like the individual names of streets.
This feature has been available for years, solving the problem of how much information to display for an area based on the context.
But visualizing activity is more complex.
Fishing is something that happens not just over different geographic areas but over different times as well.
Analysis and ocean monitoring therefore need to conceptualize data over time—if we were to show fishing that is only happening at a precise moment in time, our stakeholders would be missing a significant part of the picture.
Big data is only as good as it is processed and analyzed.
For Global Fishing Watch, that processing needs to happen over space and time.
Let’s return to the Google Maps example.
To get directions somewhere, all you need to do is take out your phone, input a destination, press go, and you will quickly be provided with the best route.
But imagine if you also needed to map out all of the possible directions to a specific destination over different periods of time during the last eight years.
This is equivalent to policymakers needing to understand large-scale patterns of fishing activity, not just that of a single fishing vessel.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Imagine needing to focus in on a particular year to view all possible directions from point A to point B, but you also need to group and visualize those directions by hours, days, months or years at the touch of a button.
Multiply that one request by the approximately 65,000 vessels that Global Fishing Watch monitors through satellite tracking, on top of the thousands of people currently using the map, and you can begin to get an idea of the engineering challenge.
Access to information is also a key priority for Global Fishing Watch.
While one global ocean connects us all, fisheries monitoring and analysis are needed in some of the most remote areas of the planet, far removed from the rest of the world’s population.
Global Fishing Watch would not achieve its vision and mission if access to data was limited to the highest-end computers and fastest internet connections.
To ensure equity standards, we’ve had to make sure our map has parameters to support access from cities like Tokyo to remote islands like Tristan da Cunha or the Galápagos.
Once the computer and internet connection are accounted for, we also need to make sure that the tools being offered are easy enough to understand and use.
As a free, open-source online map, it’s essential that we consider an intuitive design that allows people to understand the activity data and empowers them to do their best work, from analyzing specific vessels to informing regional fisheries management.
For the past three years, we looked around for off-the-shelf solutions that allowed us the functionality we needed to effectively address these challenges.
But these options posed risks that would equate to an unresponsive website, leading to fewer users and less value from our map.
Ultimately, this would present a major barrier to Global Fishing Watch’s mission.
Although daunting, the answer was simple.
We had to create a responsive, dynamic system to process and present the data ourselves—a system that flies when processing billions of ocean data points.
The solution: combining technologies for a whole new use
Global Fishing Watch has developed a combination of open-source technologies that renders billions of data points with fast response times and supports dynamic filtering and different ways of interacting with data.
Inspired by the extraordinary feats of flying fish, we call this technology “4Wings”.
All of our map-based products, including our recently released marine manager portal and carrier vessel portal, now use this technology to deliver vessel and environmental information.
What’s more, 4Wings is open access so it can be applied to any dataset that needs to be visualized over space and time, from mapping sea ice cover or deforestation rates to tracking fishing vessel movements.
Global Fishing Watch produces two types of maps: Dot density maps, which use shapes to show the presence of vessels; and vessel track maps, which use lines to represent the tracks of vessels.
Both of these maps visualize geographical data, providing vital insights into instances of fishing activity and vessel encounters.
Analysts and researchers alike tend to favor precise maps with an abundance of detailed, gridded information with which to work.
Until now, however, Global Fishing Watch has had to use a technique that layers circular brushstrokes on top of one another to visualize data—this means it’s more difficult to be specific about where and when an activity is taking place on the water.
With 4Wings technology, visualizations are clear—all data is gridded and has been mapped to hexagon-shaped grids to allow comparisons of data across global latitudes without distortion, unlike a square grid which would distort significantly at the poles.
This means fishing activity at the equator can easily be compared with fishing activity in the Barents Sea.
Our new technology also provides map users with the ability to view several variables at once, such as apparent fishing effort, sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a concentration in the marine manager portal.
This enables strategic analysis of large-scale areas while also providing the ability to drill down and extract intelligence that will help support the monitoring of them.
Smart management to load the map
At Global Fishing Watch, we want our tools to be as efficient and easy-to-use as possible.
Whatever preparation is needed to assemble the data in a way that can feed the various parts—or “tiles”—of the map, is carefully calculated so that the map updates instantly when users toggle between hours and months.
Our engineering team—they work on the underlying code—have developed a highly efficient format to do this.
Each tile is loaded from a concise list of numbers, which allows the computer’s internet browser to aggregate values and present the data in a way that is aligned with the current map settings.
A responsive and adaptive solution
There are 365 days in a year—that’s a well known fact.
But at Global Fishing Watch, we operate on 465 days.
To ensure the map is truly responsive, we built smart systems to pre-emptively load data based on the current view so anyone can seamlessly interact with the data and the information loads before they even need it.
For every year displayed on the map, we have pre-loaded 100 days of the following year’s data to allow analysts and managers to quickly adjust their required information without slowing their workflow down.
4Wings technology allows us to support the various ways people will use the map: animation, exploration and analysis.
Animation allows managers to visualize high-level trends over time where only low detail is needed.
Exploration supports much higher detail and responsiveness so visualizations load quickly and managers can rapidly investigate activity hotspots or vessels.
Finally, analysis supports fast visual sorting and filtering alongside the ability to show several different datasets at once for easy comparisons.
All of these use cases require different optimizations in the underlying code, and we have built them to adapt easily and automatically, requiring no work from the individual using the map.
Processing and visualization of dynamic global data
With the latest release of our map, Global Fishing Watch has harnessed new technology to visualize and animate global ocean datasets.
Whether someone wants to see that information in hours or years, they can now do it in a way that is fast, interactive, easy to maintain and accessible to everyone, regardless of their internet connection or computer’s processor.
Over the coming months, we look forward to seeing how the new map can support the incredible work that managers and analysts are doing to visualize data and better understand and manage our global ocean.
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
It was once the pinnacle of humanity’s climate ambitions.
The world’s most ambitious climate goal—to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above its preindustrial level—is still technically feasible.
There is not yet so much greenhouse-gas pollution in the atmosphere that avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming has become impossible, on paper.
But it is now, in practice, probably impossible to achieve.
On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations–led panel of scientists and scholars charged with summarizing the world’s understanding of global warming, released its newest report.
Unlike its previous reports, which focused on the physical and social consequences of climate change, this missive looks at how humanity can reduce its carbon pollution and avert climate collapse.
If most IPCC reports present a warning, this week’s is more of a “how to avoid the apocalypse” guide.
It is also the final report in the IPCC’s current eight-year cycle of consensus reports.
After this report (and a final “synthesis” report due later this year), the IPCC will not publish a major new document for years.
This is the last report before the 1.5-degree-Celsius scenario becomes completely impossible.
So it’s worth looking at that goal—and how it attained significance.
In 2015, as part of negotiations over the Paris Agreement, the world’s countries set a new goal of holding global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and preferably aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius.
(These translate to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.) The agreement also asked the IPCC to write a new report on the benefits of the 1.5-degree goal.
Just by itself, enshrining the 1.5-degree goal in international law represented a victory for the small island nations, such as Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, which have historically called for the most aggressive climate policy because rising sea levels could wipe them off the map.
But the political potency of the goal exceeded even their dreams.
When the IPCC published its 1.5-degree report three years later, it detailed the dire famines, droughts, and disasters that would accompany even that level of warming.
It inspired a new round of global climate concern.
The aggressive climate action of the past few years—Greta Thunberg’s protests, Wall Street’s calls for corporate sustainability, even Europe’s Green Deal—would have been unimaginable without the 1.5-degree report.
So it is charged, to say the least, to suggest that such a goal may now be impossible.
That’s partly because achieving 1.5 degrees has never seemed particularly likely: The 2018 report shocked readers to some extent because it recognized that, in order to avoid climate catastrophe, the world needed to replace its energy system at an unprecedented pace.
Decarbonization, too, has always required looking to the fantastic, the miraculous: Phasing out fossil fuels is both so difficult and so non-optional that any savvy realism must more closely resemble Marquez than Mearsheimer.
But while the eyes search for divine assistance, the feet must stay on solid earth.
And allowing a fantasy of 1.5 degrees to outlast its feasibility could curdle hope into bad assumptions, foolish thinking, or worse.
“It’s still technically possible to meet the 1.5-degree limit,” Peter Erickson, the climate-policy program director at the Stockholm Environment Institute, told me, but “the window even for technical feasibility is rapidly shrinking.”
“Even of the scenarios they evaluate, only a third of them are able to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius with any confidence,” he said.
Oliver Geden, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and one of the lead authors of the new IPCC report, agreed.
“I would say it’s plausible to talk about it. I think it’s not plausible to say that, given what we know right now, we won’t [exceed] it,” he told me.
Even though the goal remains possible, the report makes clear that enough fossil-fuel infrastructure to blow past the goal has already been built.
The world can emit as much carbon dioxide as it produced during the 2010s—about 400 gigatons—before it uses up the rest of its 1.5-degree budget, the new report finds.
But the world’s existing fossil-fuel infrastructure, as already built and financed, would generate another 660 to 850 gigatons of emissions.
Meeting the goal will require taking coal, oil, and natural-gas capacity offline before it was designed to shut down.
The question that really matters, both Erickson and Geden said, is not technical feasibility but political will and institutional capacity.
So although the new IPCC report repeatedly finds that the 1.5-degree goal is technically feasible, it also establishes that the pace of institutional change required to achieve such a technical transition would have no historical precedent.
Only a few countries have successfully moved away from a single fossil fuel in a single economic sector at the pace with which the entire world would need to eliminate all fossil fuels in all sectors, Erickson said.
And even these examples are not necessarily encouraging.
During the 1970s oil crisis, the United States accomplished one of the fastest energy transitions in history when it stopped burning petroleum to generate electricity.
But it replaced that oil with domestically mined coal, a far dirtier fuel.
More recently, the U.S. rapidly phased out its coal capacity, but it replaced that fuel not with zero-carbon energy, but with climate-polluting natural gas.
But they’re almost all wealthy industrialized countries, including the U.S., some Northern European nations, and former Soviet states.
“The former Soviet bloc is no model for decarbonization by any stretch,” Erickson said, because the lower emissions of those states accompanied a collapse in economic productivity.
To its credit, the original 1.5-degree report recognized that humanity was unlikely to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius for the entire century.
Instead, most of its scenarios envisioned that the world’s temperature would overshoot that goal, and then humanity would bring the temperature back in line by removing massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere after 2050.
To attempt anything more ambitious than that baseline, carbon-removal scenario, the countries of the world would have to marshal real political momentum for emissions reduction.
“I don’t see political momentum” for that kind of change, Geden said.
But as humanity keeps putting off the task of reducing its emissions, the amount of carbon that needs to be removed keeps growing.
That could produce its own political issues, Geden said.
The contours of UN climate talks “will change dramatically if you start assuming net negative [emissions] are possible.
You could open up a new round of entirely magical thinking,” he said.
India, for instance, has already reasonably insisted that the world’s most developed countries go carbon-negative before other countries do.
But if you assume truly massive amounts of carbon removal are possible, then countries could simply assume that greater and greater amounts of carbon-dioxide removal will kick in as the century progresses.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fractured international economic cooperation in a way that was not expected in 2018, and both the war and the Western response seem likely to alter the fossil-fuel system.
The IPCC has modeled dozens of different scenarios of future emissions, Erickson noted, but none that assumes the creation of a new major geopolitical rivalry foresees a path to the 1.5-degree goal.
All of this has made Geden wonder if a more measured goal makes more sense.
“Is it 1.5 at any cost?” he asked.
“Or do we want to do 1.6? Is that a new aim because it’s also ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius’?”
Erickson said that advocates and politicians should keep the new goal in mind, but not base their entire strategy on it.
“‘1.5 or Bust’ is not a recipe for success, or equity, or for frankly reducing the worst impacts of climate change.
And maybe that’s a straw man, but you know, there are groups that are building their campaign strategies around that goal,” he said.
“It’s a painful conversation. It still seems like we should do everything we can. But to the extent that we foreclose backup strategies in the singular pursuit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, that could be problematic.”
- The Atlantic : The oceans we know won’t survive climate change
- Grist : The world’s most ambitious climate goal is essentially out of reach
- The Economist : The latest IPCC report argues that stabilising the climate will require fast action / Can the 1.5°C climate target survive?
- Phys : Urgent action needed to meet 1.5 degree Celsius goal
- E360 : New UN Climate Report Outlines Failure of Existing Policies, Need for Rapid Emissions Cuts
Monday, April 11, 2022
From History by Anne Keene
Before people typed addresses into Google maps, travelers charted their course by the sun and moon and other celestial bodies.
The daughter of Italian and Yugoslavian immigrants was born in San Francisco on June 9, 1908, two years after that city’s great earthquake.
From Precocious Student to Prized Teacher
Like Katherine Johnson, NASA’s brilliant mathematician celebrated in the film “Hidden Figures,” Janislawski could out-calculate any male classmate.
Janislawski taught Weems’ nautical and aerial navigation methods as an adjunct professor at U.C. Berkley, Stanford and Polytechnic College of Engineering in Oakland in the late 1930s.
Mary Janislawski Papers, HDC 1649, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Among Janislawski’s most famous navigation students was Fred Noonan, who disappeared over the South Pacific with Amelia Earhart in 1937 when they tried to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Model 10 Elektra.
Those who knew Mary remembered her as a conduit of ancient techniques to the modern world.
According to Gaylord Green, one of the pioneers of the development and operation of Global Positioning Systems, Mary Janislawski was a founding member of the Institute of Navigation as navigation transitioned from a professional art to a science of the modern world.
“Understanding both the art and science of navigation, Mary helped shape the agenda of meetings for navigation to advance to a modern capability. Recognizing the importance of the U.S. effort, the British proceeded with a Royal Institute of Navigation patterned after the U.S. Institute,” says Green.
Mary was teaching at Stanford University when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941 and the United States officially entered World War II.
Using protractors and sextants, Janislawski made navigation fun, and only a handful of students failed to pass their C.A.A. exams.
During the war, Janislawski taught some 4,000 cadets how to plot their positions at King City airport in Mesa Del Ray, California.
Janislawski worked at Alameda Naval Air Station to train women in the U.S. Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) program in flight simulators for celestial navigation, and prepared Navy fliers for missions from carriers and bases in the Pacific under radio silence.
Crafting Lunar Maps for Apollo Astronauts
Mary Janislawski Papers, HDC 1649, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
In the last phase of her career, Janislawski contributed to the burgeoning space age by creating lunar grid maps to help the Apollo astronauts navigate the surface of the moon.
When Janislawski died on June 16, 1998 at age 90, she was posthumously honored as the first female Fellow of the Institute of Navigation.
In a condolence letter dated August 1, 1999 to her daughter, former student “Ernie” Ford, U.S. Air Force Command pilot credited for flying more command missions of any U.S. Army Air Force pilot during World War II and who was awarded six Flying Crosses, summed up his instructor’s impact on navigation.
“Not only did your Mother train pilots how to fly in the sky above and return, BUT she developed a new and altogether different way to navigate in outer space and safely return. This made inter-planetary travel possible,” wrote Ford.
“As your ‘Mom’ always said, keep ‘em flying.”