2014-07-08. Blueprint for Taming the Climate Crisis. Excerpt: Here’s what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. In fact, by midcentury more than half of the American economy will run on electricity. Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal’s footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. It offers a sobering conclusion. We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change. “This will require a heroic cooperative effort,” ...The teams, one in each of the 15 countries, looked at what would be necessary to keep the atmosphere from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the preindustrial average of the late 19th century, a target that most of the world committed to at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen five years ago. To do so, CO2 emissions from industry and energy use would have to fall to at most 1.6 tons a year for every person on the planet by midcentury... The decarbonization paths rely on aggressive assumptions about our ability to deploy new technologies on a commercial scale economically. For instance, carbon capture and storage is supposed to be available starting in about 10 years. Second-generation biofuels are assumed to come into play by 2020. Hydrogen fuel cells and power storage technology are deployed starting around 2030. ...Big challenges remain. Any 40-year forecast must be taken with some skepticism. Technologies that seem feasible and economic today might turn out not to be. And it bears repeating that though the teams contend they can get to 1.6 tons per person, they have not yet. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/09/business/blueprints-for-taming-the-climate-crisis.html?ref=science&_r=0. By Eduardo Porter, New York Times.
2011 March 2. Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived? By
Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News Center. Excerpt:
…In a study to be published in the March 3 issue of the journal Nature,
University of California, Berkeley, paleobiologists assess where
mammals and other species stand today in terms of possible extinction,
compared with the past 540 million years, and they find cause for hope
as well as alarm….
…“So far, only 1 to 2 percent of all species
have gone extinct in the groups we can look at clearly, so by those
numbers, it looks like we are not far down the road to extinction. We
still have a lot of Earth’s biota to save,” [Professor Anthony] Barnosky
said. “It’s very important to devote resources and legislation toward
species conservation if we don’t want to be the species whose activity
caused a mass extinction.”….
…The study originated in a graduate seminar
Barnosky organized in 2009 to bring biologists and paleontologists
together in an attempt to compare the extinction rate seen in the fossil
record with today’s extinction record....
[See also Multitude of Species Face Climate Threat, by Carl
Zimmer, The NY Times.]
2009 June 19. Sudden
Collapse In Ancient Biodiversity:
Was Global Warming The Culprit?
Scientists have unearthed
striking evidence for a sudden ancient
collapse in plant biodiversity. A
trove of 200 million-year-old fossil
leaves collected in East Greenland
tells the story, carrying its message
across time to us today.
...The researchers were surprised
to find that a likely candidate responsible
for the loss of plant life was a
small rise in the greenhouse gas
carbon dioxide, which caused Earth's
temperature to rise.
Global warming has long been considered
as the culprit for extinctions--the
surprise is that much less carbon
dioxide gas in the atmosphere may
be needed to drive an ecosystem beyond
its tipping point than previously
...Until this research, the pace
of the extinctions was thought to
have been gradual, taking place over
millions of years.
It has been notoriously difficult
to tease out details about the pace
of extinction using fossils, scientists
say, because fossils can provide
only snap-shots or glimpses of organisms
that once lived.
Using a technique developed by scientist
Peter Wagner of the Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Natural History
in Washington, D.C., the researchers
were able to detect, for the first
time, very early signs that these
ancient ecosystems were already
plants started going extinct.
The method reveals early warning
signs that an ecosystem is in trouble
in terms of extinction risk.
...By the year 2100, it's expected
that the level of carbon dioxide
in the modern atmosphere may reach
as high as two and a half times today's
"This is of course a 'worst
case scenario,'" says Jennifer
McElwain of University College Dublin,
the paper's lead author. "But
it's at exactly this level [900 parts
per million] at which we detected
the ancient biodiversity crash.
"We must take heed of the early
warning signs of deterioration in
modern ecosystems. We've learned
from the past that high levels of
species extinctions--as high as 80
percent--can occur very suddenly,
but they are preceded by long interval
of ecological change."...
2006 February. Affecting
Evolution and Extinction.
By David Pescovitz.
Volume 3, Issue 18. Every
so often, a huge number of species
on Earth are wiped out relatively
quickly. The last time a large extinction
event occurred, between 50,000 and
10,000 years ago, two-thirds of large
mammals were swept into the dustbin
of history. Why? UC Berkeley paleontologist
Anthony Barnosky sifts through the
fossil record to understand how
changes can cause mammals to move,
evolve, and sometimes die off. His
research could even help reveal whether
we're headed for another mass extinction.
...The aim... is to differentiate
between effects of climate change
that are natural, and those that
could be harbingers of a bigger problem....
"Is part of being a species
the fact that you move around in
response to climate change and it's
no big deal?" Barnosky says. "I'm
trying to establish a natural baseline
of how much communities change
in response to climate change in
... Barnosky ... investigate[d] the
cause of large mammal extinctions
in the late Pleistocene period,
50,000 to 10,000 years ago. Historically,
scientists have thought that human
populations of the time over-hunted,
killing off animals such as mammoths,
ground sloths, native American horses,
and camels. However, Barnosky and
his colleagues discovered that human
impact wasn't the sole cause of
the extinctions. Rather, climate
change combined with the over-hunting
was a "one-two
punch" leading to the extinction,
he says. The big concern, Barnosky
says, is that the state of the planet
then is not so different from today. "We've
ramped everything up," he says. "Global
warming has never been faster and
human populations are exploding
exponentially. Realistically, I
think the ecosystem will change
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