The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty adopted to restore Earth’s protective ozone layer in 1989, has significantly reduced emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from the U.S. In a twist, a new study shows the 30-year old treaty has had a major side benefit of reducing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S.
That’s because the ozone-depleting substances controlled by the treaty are also potent greenhouse gases, with heat-trapping abilities up to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years.
The new study is the first to quantify the impact of the Montreal Protocol on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions with atmospheric observations. The study’s results show that reducing the use of ozone-depleting substances from 2008 to 2014 eliminated the equivalent of 170 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s roughly the equivalent of 50 percent of the reductions achieved by the U.S. for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the same period. The study was published today in Geophysical Research Letters.
A 1 trillion-tonne iceberg–one of the biggest ever recorded–calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica earlier this month. Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie.
It was already floating before it calved away, so it has no immediate impact on sea level. Although the remaining ice shelf will continue to regrow naturally, Swansea researchers have previously shown that the new configuration is potentially less stable. There is a risk that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbor, Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event in 1995.
If the shelf loses much more of its area, it could result in land-based glaciers speeding up their passage toward the ocean. This nonfloating ice would have an eventual impact on sea levels at a modest rate.
Caption: Map of Larsen C, overlaid with NASA MODIS thermal image from July 12, 2017, showing the iceberg has calved.
The Wilson Center hosted its Arctic Circle Forum June 21 to 22, bringing together experts on the region to discuss the latest happenings and opportunities in the polar North.
Sea Technology attended the first day of the forum, which played up U.S.-Russia relations. Representatives from the Russian government emphasized that the bilateral bond is deteriorating with the sanctions having just been imposed by the U.S. Congress on Russia in retaliation for the alleged interference by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Others at the forum, however, were quick to point out that cooperation has been consistent for years in the Arctic. Ambassador David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for Oceans and Fisheries at the U.S. State Department, pointed out that the Arctic Council has made three formal agreements thus far, all of which have involved U.S.-Russia cooperation.
The Arctic holds great economic importance for Russia. The U.S. also has economic interests in the Arctic (i.e., oil and gas), as well as scientific interest in trying to understand regional changes in relation to the Earth as a whole. U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to the Arctic in the fall of 2015 and found that Arctic science is fragmented. He wanted to develop alignments in Arctic science, which led to the White House Science Ministerial, involving all countries invested in Arctic science, wanting collaboration to live beyond his administration. The EU will host the next Arctic Science Ministerial in 2018.
The Arctic is a barometer of climate change, and sea ice extent and duration is clearly changing with the warming climate. The Arctic has always been important in the global climate cycle, and it is now taking on new importance as commercial possibilities open up in the region for shipping, tourism and natural resources. Melting sea ice will lead to new Arctic sailing routes in the coming 10 years, said Gylfi Sigfússon, president and CEO of Eimskip. His company has linked ports in the Arctic, which increases trade. “Sometimes we think we’re like AT&T. We’re connecting people, seeing places others are not eager to serve.” It is seeing these opportunities missed by others that has kept his business going strong and benefits the communities that require connections to survive in the harsh polar climate.
A highlight of the day was a Q&A with Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, who was interviewed by David Martin of CBS. He said that 33 percent of gas and 13 percent of oil sits in the Arctic, which makes it of strategic interest to the U.S. (and other countries). When he started his career, the U.S. had seven icebreakers; today, it has two—and only one of them is a heavy icebreaker, and both of them are aging. “The U.S. has not made investments in the Arctic,” he said. The Coast Guard wants to connect Arctic strategy to U.S. policy. Only 5 percent of the Arctic is surveyed to modern methods, and Zukunft went to Google to put action behind this survey challenge. He brought up the fact that an “intermodal deepwater port is lacking if this becomes the next Suez Canal connecting Europe and Asia.” While the Arctic Council is important for cooperation and reaching agreements, the Arctic Council sets policy, and implementation is done by the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, Zukunft emphasized.
Paul Fuhs, president of the Marine Exchange of Alaska, wrapped up the day by discussing the increase in vessel traffic in the Bering Strait. Real-time monitoring of vessel traffic via AIS enables dynamic resource protection in the harsh climate of the Arctic. He proposed a jointly managed seaway with Russia for navigation safety.
Capitol Hill Ocean Week is a three-day event, but the business of championing the oceans is ongoing throughout the year.
If you’re in town, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, ranking member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, will hold a roundtable event aimed at promoting an informed dialog to help Congress and the public better understand the effects of climate change that have already occurred, what we can expect in the future, and what actions are and should be taken to address this growing crisis. The oceans are inextricably linked to climate change.
The roundtable is called “Science and Policy Perspectives: Climate Change” and will take place Tuesday, June 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2360 Rayburn House Office Building in D.C.
U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the historic global pact promising action to stem climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2° C above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5° C. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. reacted to the announcement by reaffirming their ongoing commitment to exceed the targets of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan and curb carbon pollution.
The Paris Agreement, legally binding and now in force, set a target for managing climate change via global temperature. The target set was a limit on global temp rise of 1.5° C this century.
However, a new study shows global temperature is rapidly approaching the Paris target.
In the absence of external cooling influences, such as volcanic eruptions, temperature projections are centered on breaching the 1.5° C target before 2029.
The phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation will regulate the rate at which mean temperature approaches the 1.5° C level. Predictions indicate a sustained period of rapid temperature rise might be underway.
Photo Credit: Center for Clean Air Policy
The data collected helps to better understand large-scale cumulative impacts of environmental change on the region’s ecosystem.
The SIKU platform being used incorporates data from SonTek’s CastAway-CTD
and Google technology to provide access to live data for monitoring of communities around the Hudson Bay, Canada.
Climate change skeptics are in full force in Congress today as U.S. House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has called a full committee hearing on climate science.
Democrats have responded by releasing: “Much Ado About Nothing”–A Minority Review of the Majority’s Climate Science Investigation. It says the hearing is likely to bring up–and dispute–the Karl study conducted by NOAA scientists, which concludes that global warming has been advancing in the last 15 years.
Read the full report here.
The Arctic will be a tad busier over the coming weeks as numerous researchers join forces to measure ice on land and sea in order to understand and respond to dwindling polar ice, which is being given increasing importance at global climate discussions, including strategies to mitigate and adapt to change.
Unequivocal evidence of changing polar ice comes largely from satellites, such as ESA’s CryoSat.
Caption: Twin Otter airplane taking off in snowstorm heading for Greenland to start an ice measurement campaign in the Arctic. (Photo Credit: ESA)