One of the more far-out ideas to “fix” the carbon dioxide emission problem and save the planet still has its proponents, although many remain opposed. The idea is to use plankton as a sponge to draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the sea, where it sinks to the bottom and is locked into deep sea sediment. But the amount of carbon dioxide stored away was less than predicted, so some have proposed “seeding” the plankton with iron, which can stimulate it’s growth. Others fear that adding iron to the ocean may damage ecosystems. Experiments show that natural iron increased the amount of stored carbon, but it still fell far below estimates. The next steps, using artificial iron, will be crucial to determine the ecological impacts. The German government has now authorized an ocean fertilization experiment near Argentina. However, squabbling continues over what rules and safeguards should apply.
This article is not about an asteroid wiping out the dinosaurs. It is about a much more recent cosmic event, an hypothesis that about 13,000 years ago a comet killed the woolly mammoths as well as the prehistoric humans known as the Clovis culture. One feature of that hypothesis is that a cometary impact over North America ignited fires across the whole continent. Unfortunately, analysis of charcoal and pollen records from the time of the hypothesized impact doesn’t support the theory. The research reported here and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doesn’t show any sign of continent-wide wildfires on a scale that could exterminate entire species and cultures; it does indicate that the greatest incidence of fires occurred just after periods of sharp climate change. Not surprisingly, the proponent of the cometary impact theory and the current researchers disagree over how to interpret the latest findings. Climate watchers, however, place more importance on the fact that the research provides the first hard evidence that more fires than normal occur after periods of climate warming. This suggests that areas of low fire occurrence, like Britain, aren’t prepared for increases in wildfires due to climate warming, which can have impacts other than just rising sea levels
This short article from the New York Times isn’t really about climate warming or climate change, but air quality is related to emissions of many types, some of which do affect the climate or the populace. Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah studied how changes in air quality from the early 1980s to the late 1990s impacted life expectancy in 51 cities. The found that for every decrease in 10 micrograms of pollutant particles per cubic meter of air, life expectancy increased by seven months. Over all, average life expectancy increased by two years and eight months. Controlling for smoking and other factors, they estimated that five months of the increased life expectancy was due to improvements in air quality. Efforts to clean up the air pay off in longer life.
Our post from yesterday talks about America’s most popular hybrid, the Toyota Prius, whose sales account for 75 percent of the hybrid market in the United States. Today, here is an article from the New York Times reveals that a rival to the Prius is coming soon.
Honda is hoping to challenge the dominance of the Prius with the introduction of their new Insight hybrid. Although this vehicle is smaller and less fuel efficient than the Prius, Honda plans to sell the Insight for about $4,000 cheaper. The lower cost and similar design are what Honda believes will allow them to compete with the Prius. While Toyota doesn’t seem too concerned (at least not publcily), auto industry analysts believe that the Insight will reduce Toyota’s stronghold on the hybrid car market.
Although our focus here at ClimateYou is on climate change, here is an interesting article from the New York Times about some extreme weather in London.
London was blanketed by up to 10 inches of snow on Monday, February 2, 2009. The heavy snow disrupted all forms of transportation, from cancelled flights at the airport to delays on the Tube, the city’s subway system. In addition, many stores and businesses were either closed or empty since travel on the road’s was hazardous. London’s congestion charge, a policy designed to help fight climate change, was also suspended for the day.
Whether or not climate change has something to do with the rare weather events such as this is still being investigated by scientists.