Saturday, April 16, 2011

two wins: China & Lovelock

A new climate findings post is up at blisterdata.  I scrolled through recent issues of Nature and checked out items published elsewhere, as in Geophysical Research Letters and Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.  Two things stick out.

One is China's new five-year plan (links in "mitigation").  It seems the communist leadership "gets it".   COP-15 raised question marks about China's conduct, but it now appears that the communist government is now willing to do what it takes.  Whereas the U.S. is bungling postcarbon opportunities, China is not.  While powershift is happening in Washington, D.C., with B McKibben consoling the crowd that this so very centrist president is just not that into you, and with V Jones stating that the national political establishment is stuck on stupid, the new Chinese plan stipulates the reduction of energy intensity by 16 % and of carbon intensity by 17 % until 2015. (This is not enough to stay at the 2 C mark, but it's close, and far better than what the Americans are doing.)  Non-fossils are to be boosted from the current 8 % to more than 11 %, and forest coverage is to expand to 22 %.  (The postcarbon shift is doable, since China has the know-how, but the forest expansion may not be, what with the ever drier climate.)  The plan also decrees the increase of efficiency of irrigation to 53 % and the reduction of water use per unit of industrial growth by 30 %.  (If the last goal is met, then China's industrial base will be as sleek as that of Europe.)  That this is not just words is shown in the mass transit investments I blogged about last time.  With a financial effort two orders of magnitude greater than that by the U.S., China puts its money where its mouth is.

Another is James Lovelock.  As a philosopher in awe of the progression from Spinoza and Leibniz to Kant and Hegel, I root for the Gaia Hypothesis.  Every time I come across another instance of Gaia going mainstream, I'm as happy as a clam.  The review by Lucht, of Lenton and Watson, works for me.  Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson published Revolutions that Made the Earth with Oxford 2011.  The authors substantiate Lovelock's contention (spelled out in The Ages of Gaia), that life forms and the planetary environment are the joint product of co-evolution.  Wolfgang Lucht, who teaches Sustainability Science at the PIK and at Humboldt University, compares this substantiation of the Gaia Hypothesis to a culture-changing insight akin to the Copernican revolution.  In Nature no less.

Surely it would be nice to end on this happy note. 

Unfortunately, Gaia and The Ages of Gaia were followed by The Revenge of Gaia and The Vanishing Face of Gaia.  And my data trawling netted findings that fit either of these sequels.  (Those findings are mentioned in Nature and published in Geophys. Res. Lett.)  About the vanishing face, it appears that the 2010 Amazon drought has led to a widespread decline in greenness.  The rainforest is in crisis, and the eventual savanna is now just around the corner.  About Gaia's revenge, it turns out that rising arctic ocean temperatures cause gas hydrate destabilization.  This is news of the balls-crawling kind: the clathrate gun points now at us.  While the authors hasten to assure the reader that the methane release won't kick in as climate forcing for a century, it will augment acidification within years.

So eat these tasty fishies while they still swim.

Sixty-eight months left.

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