Displaying items by tag: Global warming
Thursday, 27 June 2013 11:18

Black Carbon

Black carbon is a fine particulate matter that belongs to a group of substances known as short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs).

Black carbon, or soot, is actually the most short-lived SLCF as it remains in the atmosphere only for a matter of days or weeks, whereas methane, the longest lived SLCF has an atmospheric lifetime of around a decade.

Published in Focus
Friday, 25 November 2011 09:48

Invention of greenhouse gases

A hundred and fifteen years ago, the Swedish physicist and chemist Svante August Arrhenius (1859-1927) presented his theory about the connection between the greenhouse effect of the earth’s atmosphere and the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. He was aware of the enormous rise of CO2 emissions due to industrialisation, and he was the first one to predict that burning of fossil fuels would lead to global warming.

Yet, Arrhenius was far from alarmed by his own discovery as he rather saw rising CO2 levels as something that could help prevent the earth from falling back into a new ice age. In his book Världanars Utvecklinng from 1906 (English edition Worlds in the Making, 1908), he wrote:

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The ancestor of all polar bears has been found: a brown bear living in Ireland 50,000 to 20,000 years ago. The analysis of the Irish bear leads to the conclusion that the female ancestor of the polar bear lived in Alaska some 14,000 years ago. Today, a study provides the proof of an earlier interbreeding of brown bears – aka grizzly bears - and polar bears.

An international team of biologists lead by Beth Shapiro from the Pennsylvania State University has taken DNA samples from living as well as fossilized bears during the course of the last 120,000 years from various regions of the world.

The team has analyzed the genetic lineage by studying the DNA of the so-called mitochondrial cellular component. This particular DNA material reveals the history of the maternal line of the species, as this part of the genetic luggage of mammals transmits itself via the mother and her descendants. The scientists have discovered that 50,000 to 20,000 years ago, during the ice age, the ensemble of maternal genes of the white bear ”congealed” into its present form.

Published in All News
Friday, 24 September 2010 14:14

The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue

On 23 September, world’s leading experts on the Arctic together with prominent politicians finished their discussions on the political, economic, and environmental issues affecting the Arctic region. The forum, hosted by Russian Geographical Society, was entitled: "The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue" on September 22-23 in Moscow. The forum was initially scheduled for April 2010, but it had to be postponed following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which prevented many international participants from coming to Moscow. RIA Novosti was the official media partner of the forum.

Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway are seeking to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to contain rich oil and gas deposits. The vast hydrocarbon deposits will become more accessible as rising global temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice.

The main purpose of the September 22-23 forum was to discuss possibilities of international cooperation in the Arctic and to regard the region as an area of peace and cooperation. Discussions were focusing on the environmental protection and the sustainable development of natural resources in the Arctic.

Mr. Lars Møller, the Chair of the Arctic Council noted the active and constructive role of Russia in taking the initiative in organizing a forum where problems regarding the Arctic can be discussed and solved. "The Arctic is changing - primarily due to climate change. We have new challenges and new opportunities (...) We should make sure that the Arctic Council has tools to respond to these challenges at any times" Lars Møller said, "I am confident that the Arctic Forum will make a significant contribution to the cooperation of the countries in the Arctic" he concluded.

As the participants of the forum believe, the global ecological problems can be solved when using the indigenous knowledge. “It is not the first climate change event in our planet and the Arctic indigenous peoples are the ones who can save the future”, Mauri Yla-Kotola said, the Rector of the Lapland University. Prince of Monaco, Albert II called for urgent measures in preserving the heritage of the Arctic indigenous peoples. "We must share the burden of these people. The damage being done to the Arctic environment, and it change their lifestyle. Their cultural heritage – is a heritage of all mankind.“

When closing the meeting, Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin who heads the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees admitted that the Arctic was the subject of competing "geo-political interests". Additionally, he said that all claims – including those of Russia – should be decided under existing UN rules. "We should maintain the Arctic as a region for peace and co-operation," Putin declared. He also announced a major clean up in Russia's northern territories of rubbish left behind during communist times. "We have to clean up the mess created over decades and left behind on islands, on airfields in the tundra region and in the waters of the Arctic,” he told the forum.

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Friday, 28 August 2009 08:35

Melting hot summer in Greenland

he Greenlandic newspaper AG reports of a summer of records in terms of warmth and dryness. Scientists from all over the world are busy monitoring one of the planets most magnificent and spectacular climate change barometers, the Kangia glacier in Western Greenland. Majestic and awe-inspiring as the glacier remains, with a front that stretches 5 kilometres across the fjord, it is on a hasty retreat ever farther into the fjord, leaving its mark of barren, formerly ice-covered rock.

Especially since 2001, the retreat of the glacier has accelerated so that its front is now positioned deeper into the fjord than ever before. At the same time, the speed of the ice being transported in the opposite direction out into the fjord is also increasing  - reaching a speed of 40 metres per day – so that, while no longer producing quite as impressive icebergs as it used to, the glacier is nonetheless sending out a record-breaking more than 40 cubic kilometres of ice into the sea per year. In the same World Heritage environment of the Kangia Ice-fjord, earlier this summer a wildfire raged through the  landscape around the listed, prehistoric ruins Sermermiut.

Meteorological measurements from various parts of Greenland unequivocally tell of an exceptionally hot and dry summer, a fact that gets corroborated by many dried out lakes and waterways. Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, has experienced an bone-dry month of July receiving only 1,4 millimetres of rain as opposed to an average of 86 millimetres.

In Northern Greenland, in Qaanaaq, the mean temperature of July rose to 8,3 degrees Celsius as compared with the mere 4,5 degrees of a normal year. Hunter Uusaqqak Qujaukitsoq tells about conspicuous changes to the fauna:

”-Never before in my life have I seen so many flies. If food is left outside the house, it gets completely covered by flies in no time. It is not the ordinary kind of flies that everyone knows. It is a species entirely new to this place. They are very big and have red legs,” he says to AG, and continues,
”- A lot of very large jellyfish get caught in my salmon nets. I do not know if they sting, so I remove them only with gloves on my hands.”

At the same time, in the opposite, Southern part of the country, sheep herder Jørgen Lund of Inneruulalik near Narsarsuaq reports of failing crops as well as lambs much smaller than usual due to dwindling pastures. Jørgen Lund estimates his lambs to weigh somewhere between a half and one kilogram less than they normally would.

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Published in All News
Thursday, 06 December 2007 00:28

Stopping the Slow Wave of Destruction

By Patricia Cochran and Taito Nakalevu

Three years ago, when a tsunami washed away the lives and livelihoods of people in South-east Asia, the rest of the world acted with commendable compassion. Tents, blankets and food were sent, reconstruction teams poured in, and people around the world sent millions of dollars to help. Now another devastating wave is threatening the lives and livelihoods of people globally - from the fringes of the Arctic to the Caribbean and the scattered islands of the South Pacific. This wave of global warming also brings devastation in its path, but it is moving so slowly that some people fail to recognize its destructive power. Arctic regions and small islands around the world are being hit hardest.

No other region of the world is warming as fast or as much as the Arctic. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that Arctic ecosystems and habitats are vulnerable due to the speed and extent of change. The peoples of the Arctic who rely on the natural environment are vulnerable also. The IPCC says

Traditional ways of life are being threatened and substantial investments are needed to adapt or re-locate physical structures and communities.

Melting of previously frozen ground is causing havoc in some Arctic communities as roads, buildings, and pipelines sag and warp with the sudden thaw. New insect pests and diminishing ice are affecting entire populations of wildlife on which Arctic peoples rely. Seasoned hunters traveling traditional routes have been lost due to changes in ice and water that the hunters can no longer predict.

The small islands of the world are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of change, as their finite land mass severely restricts their adaptation options. Projected changes in rainfall can bring extremes of drought and flood. The recent IPCC reports say extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent and severe as a result of climate change, causing damage and destruction to islands. Increasing sea surface temperatures will result in coral bleaching, destroying the reefs that now provide protection for many islands, and breeding places for the fish that feed many islanders. The most low-lying of the islands also have to deal with the threat of rising sea levels, projected to rise by about a metre this century. The island state of Tuvalu has already appealed to both Australia and New Zealand to take in its citizens.

Given the similar levels of impact, peoples of the Arctic are working together with people in the small islands of the South Pacific, Caribbean and elsewhere to cooperate on ensuring that the moral imperative of taking action on climate change is heard. At the present meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change, this coalition – called Many Strong Voices – is asking for three things.

First, we are asking countries to aim for a global agreement that keeps temperature increases as far below two degrees Celsius as possible. This will mean large reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases. The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report clearly indicates that even if temperatures are kept below this level, vulnerable regions and countries, including the Arctic and Small Island Developing States will be severely affected by the inevitable impacts of climate change caused by past emissions.

Second, we ask countries to be open to learning from the experiences of indigenous peoples and islanders on adaptation and to assist these communities in building upon their traditional knowledge in this area. Countries involved in the negotiations also need to appreciate that there are limitations to our capacity to adapt in the context of runaway climate change.

Third, we are asking the world’s richest countries to help the vulnerable countries to adapt to change by providing an adequate financial and technical assistance. For the Small Island Developing States and other particularly vulnerable developing countries, this means living up to existing commitments and properly funding adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Arctic peoples need a commitment from their own countries to fund local adaptation efforts in the Arctic regions.

Our peoples are not asking for your tents, your blankets, your reconstruction teams – but if the influential countries of the world do not avert disaster now, we may well need all of those things later. What we ask for is your help to deal with this entirely avoidable disaster. At this next meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have the power to prevent this wave of devastation. We call on you to use that power.

Patricia Cochran is the International Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council . Taito Nakalevu is the Climate Change Adaptation Officer for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

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Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat
Fram Centre, Postboks 6606 Langnes, NO-9296 Tromsø, Norway