Russia is a problem - also environmentally

Sunnuntai 19.3.2023 klo 15:41 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Massive forest fires, melting permafrost with immense release of subterranean natural gas. No information about the environmental conditions in more than half of the arctic areas. The economy almost totally dependent on the exports of fossil fuels and mining products, which are produced with minimal concern about the environment in order to reduce production expenses. Shelling Ukrainian soil with ammunition; the compounds reaching the ground are known to be highly toxic.

That, in short, is Russia today. We have only read the news about the war Russia has started, but for the world the Russian – or at least Putin government’s – attitude to environmental questions may be even more detrimental. Whereas it is generally accepted that climate change is causing massive devastation of habitable areas, sinking coastal cities and island countries, Putin’s government appears to clap hands, as increasing temperatures will probably enable commercial shipping in the Arctic Ocean North of Siberia through the Northeastern Passage.

In the age of Soviet Union, terrible environmental disasters happened without any information about them in the Western world. For example, hundreds of thousands people died or were relocated when a nuclear arms storage site blew up. Chemical weapons were dumped in sea bottom as unknown sites. Western scientists had no way of checking what happens, because they had no contact with Russian scientists. The situation today is definitely not better, and maybe even worse, than at the time of Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia is closed like North Korea, virtually all the intellectuals which could alert of the existence of environmental problems have either been forced to emigrate or are in prison, and the government is anti-environmental. In view of this, the change of Russian government is needed in addition to stopping the war also for enabling sustainable life on the Earth.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: sustainable life, climate change, environmental pollution, chemical weapons, arctic

The duo living in the past (Trump and Putin) are a major threat to sustainable life

Maanantai 19.10.2020 klo 17:50 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Both Putin and Trump are anchored in the past, and hope to make decisions on 50-year old premises. Nothing can hurt the environment and, consequently, our future more than living in the past. For Trump it is the days on glorious 1960’s America, sending man to the moon. Those days American cars were the envy of every European: they were big, lean and fast. Although they used twice as much petrol as the small European cars, it did not matter, there was plenty of oil to burn. At that time the fossil fuel industry, and other industries were firmly rooted in industrialized west. There was no globalization, China and even Japan were not any commercial competitor, and the world population was 2-3 000 000 000.

The world had two major powers, USA and Soviet Union. Putin still dreams that he is leading the great Soviet Union, which has always had czars. Until the time of 1917 revolution they were called czars, but Stalin and other ruthless leaders did not rule democratically. Communist Soviet Union considered environment only as a commodity for the benefit of the party. One could do whatever, change the direction of rivers, drain lakes etc. just as long as it helped the top officials of the party.IMG_20170807_0057.jpgdeeply rooted in the past. When Trump says the science does not know, if there is climate change, it is only one of his 20000 lies. There is more unequivocal evidence of anthropogenic influence on the state of the environment than for any other scientific endeavour. Climate change is taken seriously by all the American industries apart from the oil and coal industries. Even most of the energy sector sees that oil and coal belong to the past: the use of renewable sources has exceeded the use of oil and coal this year. So when Trump and Pence are talking about the excellent environmental record of the present government, they are telling lies, which even the commercial circles do not accept. It is almost worse with Putin, since he does not have any opposition. For him climate change is only an opportunity. Temperature increase will make the Arctic Ocean ice-free and navigable. As a result, the huge gas deposits of Siberia are easier to utilize than hitherto. It does not matter to him that the same temperature increase, which makes the Arctic Ocean ice-free, also causes permafrost thawing and liberation of immense methane deposits to the atmosphere. Since methane is much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane liberation may lead to vicious circle speeding up temperature increase even if humans tried to restrict greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. Not that it matters to Putin, since he is of the opinion that even if there is climate change, it is not caused by human actions.

With these two science-denialists in power, it is all the more important that Europe steps up. Europe’s lead with backing from China and hopefully next year from USA will be needed. The only way to get Putin change his mind is to show that his fossil fuels cannot be marketed anywhere.

That’s what comes from living in the past – no decisions fitting the future.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, climate change, temperature, Arctic Ocean, methane

Temperature increases but day length does not: an additional problem caused by climate change

Keskiviikko 18.9.2019 klo 15:59 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In temperate and arctic environments most organisms use the predictable day length changes as cues to respond appropriately to oncoming temperature changes (coming of winter or spring; availability of food; time to reproduce; change of fur colour). The day length-temperature interrelationship has remained constant so long that many evolutionary adaptations have taken place. Hares and squirrels change fur colour, hedgehogs start to hibernate, virtually all temperate and arctic mammals and birds reproduce, when food is plentiful, and coastal Arctic fish produce mRNA from gene encoding antifreeze protein in expectation that the protein is needed.

The day length-temperature relationship is unique for geographIMG_0529.JPGically distinct populations. For this reason, even if the temperature tolerance of a southern population of a species would be right for migration to north, the day length temperature mismatch would, for example, make the animal to reproduce, when the food availability is not optimal. Similarly, animals from different latitude change their fur colour at different times. Because of this, even if climate change resulted in temperatures that would be suitable for a southern population of a species, its day length requirements would be inappropriate.

With climate change, the day length-temperature mismatch becomes a serious problem. It is aggravated by the fact that plants and insects with short generation time will be able to respond to temperature increase much more rapidly than vertebrates, which have evolved seasonality. Consequently, food availability during breeding may not be optimal, leading to reduced reproductive success. This kind of indirect effect of climate change on animals is seldom mentioned, but can be even greater that temperature effects themselves alone. We pointed out the problem in Prokkola and Nikinmaa (2018) Circadian rhythms and environmental disturbances – underexplored interactions. J. Exp. Biol. 221, jeb179267; it has recently been reviewed by Walker et al. (2019) Global climate change and invariable photoperiods: A mismatch that jeopardizes animal fitness. Ecology and Evolution 9:10044–10054. Owing to their long generation time, vertebrates can hardly adapt (i.e. accumulate required genetic changes) to the changing day length-temperature relationship. However, tolerance is possible if the plasticity is large: this requires either large genetic variability within population or large phenotypic plasticity (=individual variation) of a genotype.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: biological rhythms, seasonality, arctic, light cycle

Gulf Stream may be slowing - should we be worried?

Sunnuntai 15.4.2018 klo 17:10 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The weather in Europe has been very peculiar in recent years. Heat waves, long cold spells, storms and extremely heavy rain have been common - it has become more a regularity than an exception to have strange weather. While the reason for this cannot be given for certain, based on recent articles in Nature (D. J. R. Thornalley et al. Nature 556, 227–230; 2018 and L. Caesar et al. Nature 556, 191–196; 2018), it is tempting to speculate that the sequence of events may be the following. 

1. Increasing temperature causes ice to melt. (Ice is always salt-free)

2. The water from melting ice causes the arctic seawater to have decreased salinity.

3. Decreased salinity slows down the Atlantic circulation. Also the locations of circulation are affected.

4. The climate has been relatively stable for more than a thousand years, because the Atlantic circulation has been stable.

5. Because the changes in Atlantic circulation are unprecedent, the associated weather phenomena cannot be predicted.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, arctic ice, temperature

Climate Bandits

Maanantai 3.4.2017 klo 13:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In these blogs I have earlier been critical of president Trump's actions. However, recent news indicate that he has a brother in Putin. Putin is also of the opinion that man is not responsible of climate change, and said that increased temperature is an opportunity, not a threat to the arctic environment.

It is a pity that the leaders of two major countries live so much in the past. Fifty years ago the situation was not as bad as now, but Putin and Trump cannot see to the future problems, they only see that doing things as in the past would be the way to go forward.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, sustainability, arctic environment

Soon Santa Claus cannot use reindeer sleigh even in North Pole

Torstai 22.12.2016 klo 16:00 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Although Trump's men do not believe that climate change is happening, it is quite worrying that the temperature in North Pole is presently 30-40 C higher than normally this time of year. It is close to the melting point. Soon Santa cannot drive reindeer sleigh even there.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, arctic temperature