Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Summary of Scientific Research: CO2 IMPROVES Ocean Health

Summary of Scientific Research: CO2 Improves Ocean Health
The CO2 Coalition of climate scientists today released a White Paper analyzing decades of peer-reviewed research on the impact on the oceans of carbon dioxide emissions from the conversion of fossil fuels to energy.  Ocean Health - Is there an "Acidification" problem? concludes that CO2 is an important plankton food that enriches sea life, and that the term "ocean acidification" is highly misleading.

The principal researcher for the paper is biologist Jim Steele. A member of the CO2 Coalition, Steele is the recently retired director of San Francisco State University's Sierra Nevada field campus, a position he held for over 25 years.

The acidity or alkalinity of sea water is described by its pH level. At a representative ocean surface temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, water is acidic at a pH less than 7 and alkaline if pH is greater than 7. Seawater is naturally alkaline at 8.2. Steele reports a scientific consensus that even if atmospheric CO2 concentrations were to rise from today's four percent of one percent to 10 percent of one percent (over about 250 years at current rates), ocean pH would fall only to 7.8, still well above neutral for all ocean surface waters, and stabilize there.

Steele cautioned that "much of the policy debate on pH levels is based on mathematical modeling rather than field data, so a better understanding of the biological dynamics through on-site research is key."

The White Paper reveals that the term "ocean acidification" was invented to scare citizens into opposing the use of fossil fuels, which power 80 percent of the U.S. and world economies. It also shows that carbon dioxide is a vital part of ocean health and the ocean food web, because additional CO2 input allows marine life to thrive. The foundation of the ocean food web is phytoplankton, which includes organisms such as microscopic plants and bacteria. These organisms require CO2 to make their food through photosynthesis.

CO2 Coalition chair Patrick Moore, a noted ecologist and a former top-ranking Greenpeace official, said that, "This paper details the powerful cycle that takes surface carbon down to the depths for lengthy periods, before upwelling to enrich surface life again. Shells and marine species thrive in widely varying pH levels, making the so-called acidification crisis yet another cynical example of propaganda masquerading as science. As with fears of polar bear extinction, frequencies of hurricanes, length of droughts, and 'accelerating' sea-level rise, the specter of 'ocean acidification' has no basis in the scientific data."

The White Paper is available for download here:
Ocean Health - Is there an "Acidification" problem?

From The CO2 Coalition []

A glut of new coal-fired power stations endangers China’s green ambitions

China is home to half the world’s coal-fired power stations, the most polluting type of generator. Their share of the country’s electricity market is shrinking as nuclear plants and renewables slowly elbow them off the grid. But Chinese investors and local governments are still keen on them. Last year coal-fired generating capacity expanded in China by 37gw (factoring in plant closures)—more than the amount by which it grew globally. China has been relaxing curbs on building such plants. That suggests more to come.

Work on many of the new coal-fired stations began after the central government gave local officials greater freedom to approve construction at the end of 2014. The aim was to cut red tape, not to ramp up the burning of coal. But it resulted in a blizzard of new permits. Within about a year provinces had approved enough new plants to expand China’s coal-powered generating capacity by a quarter.

China does not need a lot more power. Its economy is growing less energy-intensive as it relies less on manufacturing and construction. Lately coal-power plants have been able to sell less than half the electricity they are able to produce, down from 60% a decade ago. But local governments see any big construction project as a potential boost to growth. Some also have coal-mining industries to protect.

In 2016, recognising its mistake, the central government began clawing back the authority it had devolved to the provinces. But it worried that halting projects would threaten local economies, so it allowed many of those under way to proceed. Soon it began to relax curbs on the approval of new stations. In January China had 135gw of coal-power capacity either permitted or under construction, says Global Energy Monitor, an ngo in San Francisco. That is equal to about half the total coal-power capacity in America.

The new power stations will not be put to full use. They will face fierce competition from renewable energy. China’s capacity for producing this is also growing fast. Plants using coal risk limits on their output imposed by governments to improve air quality. Instead of increasing the total amount of electricity China gets from coal, new stations may simply pinch operating hours from existing ones.

That would be a problem for power-firms’ balance sheets. But the world may also suffer. China’s targets to reduce carbon emissions remain too low. The economic blow it has suffered as a result of covid-19 will deter it from making new pledges that could restrain its freedom to boost growth with the help of large and dirty building-projects. The glut of underused, debt-laden power stations could further weaken China’s emissions-cutting resolve.

The big state-owned firms that operate coal-burning generators are also being relied upon by the government to produce much of China’s renewable energy, notes Lauri Myllyvirta of the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. But they would rather not hasten the closure of carbon-spewing power stations that they had intended to keep working for a good three decades


Sun unleashes biggest flare since 2017. Is our star waking up?

More warming?

On Friday morning (May 29), our star fired off its strongest flare since October 2017, an eruption spotted by NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

Solar flares are bursts of radiation that originate from sunspots, temporary dark and relatively cool patches on the solar surface that boast very strong magnetic fields. Scientists classify strong flares into three categories: C, M and X. Each class is 10 times more powerful than the one beneath it; M flares are 10 times stronger than C flares, but 10 times weaker than X-class events.

Today's flare was an M-class eruption, so it was no monster. (And it wasn't aimed at Earth, so there's no chance of supercharged auroras from a potential associated coronal mass ejection of solar plasma.) But the outburst could still be a sign that the sun is ramping up to a more active phase of its 11-year activity cycle, NASA officials said. If that's the case, the most recent such cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, may already have come to an end.

Scientists peg the start of new cycles at "solar minimum," the time when the sun sports the fewest sunspots and the least activity.

"However, it takes at least six months of solar observations and sunspot-counting after a minimum to know when it's occurred," NASA officials wrote today in an update announcing SDO's flare detection.

"Because that minimum is defined by the lowest number of sunspots in a cycle, scientists need to see the numbers consistently rising before they can determine when exactly they were at the bottom," the officials added. "That means solar minimum is an instance only recognizable in hindsight: It could take six to 12 months after the fact to confirm when minimum has actually passed."

So, stay tuned! More observations should tell us if we're already in Solar Cycle 25.


Push to bring back Australia's lost oyster reefs

This is one environmental progran that makes sense -- if the costs can be curtailed

Australia's southern states had their own version of a Great Barrier Reef until it was erased almost entirely by the middle of last century.

Before European settlement, the flat oyster reef ecosystem that dominated southern waters lay like a wreath around the coastline in bays, inlets and harbours. But with the oyster beds harvested for food or broken up to be used in cement, these reefs were made functionally extinct.

Now scientists, recreational fishers, conservationists and local governments are calling for government funding to bring the reefs back. They say previous public investment in reef restoration has exceeded expectations and expanding it will be a cheap, quick and effective regional jobs stimulus.

What's more, bringing back an ecosystem from extinction to the point where it could regrow itself would be a world-first, James Cook University marine biologist Ian McLeod said.

"The reefs act as a catalyst for a new food chain … [they] support lots of fish and all sorts of marine life, seagrass, worms and crabs," Dr McLeod said.

"It's surprising how well things have been going" with the handful of installations already established, he said. Reefs have been rebuilt over recent years in places such as Victoria's Port Phillip Bay, South Australia's Gulf St Vincent, Western Australia's Oyster Harbour and Port Stephens in NSW.

Oysters, and the mussels that proliferate among them, cannot naturally recolonise without help. Since their natural habitat was removed, bays have silted over and they need a bedrock to cling on. However, it's an easy fix.

The only requirement is some quarried limestone, concrete or compressed old shells harvested from restaurants to serve as a bedrock, seeded with oyster sprat and dropped overboard.

The Nature Conservancy is leading the campaign for funding. With $100 million, 60 reefs – about a third of the natural range of shellfish reefs – could be brought back, generating 850 jobs in construction, fisheries and service industries, it said.

"The reefs come back like a miracle ecosystem and provide a huge environmental benefit," said Nature Conservancy Australia director Rich Gilmore.

"There's huge water quality benefits. Each oyster filters about 150 litres of water a day. And then there's the fish benefits too. One hectare of oyster reef can create 375 kilograms of fish a year."

Mr Gilmore said the pilot reef installations had met with "no community opposition, but have overwhelming community support".

Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW president Stan Konstantaras said restoring oyster reefs was a "no-brainer".

"More habitat equals more fish," Mr Konstantaras said. "Places like Botany Bay have suffered huge amounts of habitat degradation … everywhere has been modified by development. Every estuary on the coast would benefit from having an oyster reef."

Dr McLeod said the world was at "peak oyster industry" when Australia was settled, with vast oyster industries in New York and London quickly harvesting all their native shellfish beds for food.

The same thing happened to Australia's flat oyster, which once flourished from Sydney to Tasmania and Perth, and the Sydney Rock oyster, which lives from around Noosa to Sydney. Limestone oyster reefs in bays and estuaries were also busted up and hauled ashore once Australia had exhausted its land-based limestone resources to make mortar and cement.

By the time the Second World War rolled around, the flat oyster reefs were gone.



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