Archive by category | Quirin Schiermeier

Plan B for Copenhagen

“smoke.bmp”The United Nation’s upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen threatens to get caught in a trap between high expectations and the immense complexity of the task at hand, warns the author of an opinion piece in Nature today [subscription]. Since diplomats cannot possibly produce a useful treaty for the December meeting in the remaining twelve weeks, negotiations should focus on a small number of realistic goals, and leave the rest for later, says David Victor, an expert on international relations at the University of California in San Diego.  Read more

Ozone: The patient is not getting sicker

Ozone: The patient is not getting sicker

Twenty years after the Montreal Protocol came into effect to regulate substances that deplete the ozone layer, the annual ozone hole above Antarctica shows no signs of recovery. A feature article and editorial in Nature today explain why this is so, and why the Montreal Protocol has been a unique success nonetheless. As things stand, scientists expect the first signs of recovery of springtime ozone depletion in the polar stratosphere around the year 2065. Outside polar regions, where chemical ozone destruction is less pronounced but potentially harmful to human health, it appears as if ozone levels are beginning to increase.  Read more

Warming speeds carbon release from peat

Warming speeds carbon release from peat

Northern peatlands, typical for subarctic Scandinavia and Russia, contain one third of the world’s soil organic carbon. How much extra carbon these soils will release to the atmosphere, through accelerated respiration in a warmer climate, has been pretty much guesswork. Data from an eight-year in situ experiment carried out in Sweden now suggest that even modest warming will release enough extra carbon to effectively equalize the European Union’s emissions reductions achieved under the Kyoto Protocol.  Read more

Indian Ocean: Gatekeeper to climate extremes?

Indian Ocean: Gatekeeper to climate extremes?

Some glacial periods in the Earth’s more recent geological past have been cooler and more severe than others, despite very similar greenhouse gas concentrations and orbital parameters. What is it that decouples global temperature from carbon dioxide levels and the solar heat?  Read more

What the G8 target means

The G8 meeting last week – the last get-together of the leaders of the world’s major industrialized nations before the United Nations climate summit in December – was loaded with expectations as to what Obama & Co might give climate negotiators to take with them to Copenhagen.  Read more

Plant power

Why carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 24 million years or so have never dropped below 200 parts per million, despite environmental conditions that have been favourable for CO2 drawdown by rock weathering and sedimentation, has always been a bit of a mystery.  Read more

Europe looks to draw power from the Sahara

Cross-posted from The Great Beyond A gargantuan plan of supplying European consumers with electricity generated in the Saharan desert could see the light of day earlier than even the most optimistic solar energy aficionados had expected. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a group of 20 large German companies, led by the reinsurance giant Munich Re, and also including Siemens, Deutsche Bank and RWE, is determined to go ahead with an €400 billion project known as Desertec. If fully realized, the envisaged network of huge solar thermal power plants across North Africa could provide up to 15 % of Europe’s overall  … Read more

Perestroika and permafrost

Perestroika and permafrost

Russia has been a rather puzzling actor in the complicated diplomatic game which resulted in the Kyoto protocol, and which will be played out again in Copenhagen in December. Climate warming doesn’t make headlines, and has so far not been a big concern, between Moscow and Vladivostok. What prompted Russian leaders to ratify Kyoto was the prospect of making good money from emissions trading, rather than conviction that man-made climate change is a real phenomenon and a threat to society.  Read more

Atlantic Ocean circulation: the inside story

The system of surface and deep currents which make up the Atlantic Ocean circulation, a powerful heat conveyor belt and a poster child for abrupt climate change, is a more complex affair than straightforward textbook diagrams suggest.  Read more