Climate change, biodiversity loss - reincarnations of population bomb

Perjantai 2.11.2018 klo 12:46 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Very recently several important contributions on environmental questions have been published. First, the IPCC report on Climate Change, and, second, the WWF Living Planet 2018 report  (WWF. 2018. Living Planet Report 2018. Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A.(Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.). In addition, an article in Nature (Resplandy et al. 2018   Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition, Nature 563, 105-108) indicates that more heat has been absorbed by the oceans than conservative estimates suggest, i.e. that climate change may be worse than previously thought

Surprisingly, the reports do not give virtually any attention to the size of human population, although looking at the above two pivtures, a striking similarity in the population increase and athospheric carbon dioxide level graphs can be seen. In the future, it can unfortunately be estimated that if climate actions are not effective, carbon dioxide production increases much more than population growth, since population growth occurs in areas, where carbon dioxide production per person has increased markedly during recent past. Also, the major reasons for the huge (60 %) biodiversity loss are habitat loss and exploitation, both the result of the need of increasing population to get food and other commodities.

It is shocking that economic circles and politicians throughout the world forget that all economic activity ultimately depends on healthy environment. As a result, growth is not possible indefinitely, and economic theories should center not around growth but around sustainability. And one of the major aims of future global planning should be to limit world population. However, as long as the growth-based ideology predominates, population growth is needed. Naturally, actions to corb population growth should be such that nobody is offended. I have toyed with the idea that foreign aid would be given to individuals, not the (mostly corrupt) governments. The direct funding would depend on the size of the family, increasing with a decrease in the number of children. Another significant action would be the schooling of women: this would significantly decrease the population growth, and would also foster equality - certainly opposed by many in male-dominated societies.

Many innovative solutions to decrease the exploitation of wild animals and habitat distruction have been already advanced. Also, there are a plenty of possibilities to decrease the energy needed for transporting goods and new ways of energy production. However, in my opinion, a success in combatting both climate change and biodiversity loss requires that we are succesful in limiting population growth. If we cannot do that, there is bound to be a collapse resembling one that is always seen with animal populations, which have become too dense.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: land use, extinctions, energy consumption, carbon dioxide

Population explotion and climate change - close connection

Tiistai 9.10.2018 klo 20:26 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In the late 1960s, when I became an environmentlaists (and still am 50 years later), the major worry was population growth. Then it was estimated that food production would soon become a problem. However, as a result of advances in agricultural methods, the absolute hunger in the world has decreased, although the population has increased threefold. However, one can say that virtually all of the present mejor global problems are due to population growth. I was shocked to see two charts superimposed: the population growth and the energy consumption in the world. The graphs were more or less identical. So, the climate change is very much to do with population growth. If the population could decrease to the level that it was in 1960s, there would be no climate change, nor would there be the global plastic problem etc.

Naturally we cannot forcefully decrease world population, but one of the ways to migitate  climate change should be to decrease population growth in Asia and Africa. And there could be quite a simple way to do this with everyone being happy. Much of the developmental aid could be tied to birth control: if a family had maximally two children, they would be given a certain yerly sum of money. This would probably be more effective way of combatting climate change in developing counties than anything else.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: population growth, energy consumption, carbon dioxide

Climate change - why seas matter

Keskiviikko 25.7.2018 klo 16:37 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Compared to the terrestrial environment the seas contain fifty times more carbon dioxide. Further, about half of all photosynthetic carbon dioxide removal is done by oceanic organisms, mainly phytoplankton, which partly remove carbon from circulation, when they sink to seabottom after dying.

An increasing temperature decreases the solubility of carbon dioxide and ocean acidification means that the equilibrium between carbon dioxide, bicarbonate and carbonate is driven towarIMG_20170727_0010_edited_101412.jpgds carbon dioxide. Further, the pollution of the seas has resulted in reduced  photosynthesis despite eutrophication in some areas.

The net result of the above is that liberation of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the seas to the atmosphere increases simultaneously as its photosynthetic fixation decreases. Furthermore, the marine environment enters vicious circle: the higher the temperature and lower pH, the more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere and causes further temperature increase.

The well-being of the seas thus matters - also in mitigating climate change.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, carbon footprint, ocean acidification

Kelps - combatting climate change and a source of food

Perjantai 29.12.2017 klo 19:29 - Mikko Nikinmaa

An important contributor to the climate change is that photosynthesis in the oceans has decreased. Thus, any way of increasing it would be beneficial for combatting carbon dioxide accumulation. One way of doing this would be to cultivate kelp. It could be eaten as part of sallads, as binding the rice in sushi meals etc. The growing kelp would convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Simultaneously the kelp fields would harbour a rich invertebrate fauna. I have yet not come across any negative sides in advocating kelp farming to combat climate change.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, aquaculture, carbon dioxide

Solar power cheaper than coal

Maanantai 3.7.2017 klo 10:25 - Mikko Nikinmaa

It has now happened. Solar energy has become cheaper than coal - at least for places where old coal power plants do not exist. The decrease in relative price of energy produced using renewable sources has surprised everyone. One needs to go back only 20 years, when "energy experts" said that renewable energy (referring mainly to solar and wind energy) will always be so expensive that its commercial use will not be feasible without marked financial state support.

The fact that solar energy has now become quite cheap has important ramifications. For example, oil and gas prices cannot increase markedly, since one is always able to use alternative energy sources instead, if the price is too high. Nuclear energy with its huge building costs is not an attractive alternative. And imagine if even a half of the 10 billion € now needed to build a nuclear power plant would be used to research on how to store energy, which is the major problem with solar power.

Yes, storing energy so that the solar energy would be usable in the dark times is still not solved satisfactorily. Plants do it, and the energy stored is the basis of fossil fuels. This actually shows that energy storage is a solvable problem. And if even a half of funds needed to build a nuclear power plant were directed to this type of applied research, the result would likely to enable us to produce cheap, clean energy, which is usable overnight - for the benefit of mankind.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy production, fossil fuels. carbon dioxide footprint

Climate change, and the effect of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, just imagination?

Lauantai 11.3.2017 klo 16:05 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Quite incredibly the US Environmental Protection chief Scott Pruitt said that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is not the primary reason behind climate change. The scientists in EPA are of opposite opinion - thus a politician can say how things are opposite to what scientiststs who have carried out careful research on the topic have given as the conclusion by EPA. This shows the views of the present US president and his government. Lets go back to the past when there was no EPA and the environment could be be polluted so that a burning river resulted in generation of EPA. Personally, I think that if there is even a possibility that human influence endangers our environment, for the sake of future generations we should carry out corrective actions as best we can.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, anthropogenic effects

Another smoggy day

Sunnuntai 8.1.2017 klo 16:01 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In the past days one has again seen alarming pictures of the air quality in major cities. The worst ones are from Chinese cities like Beijing, but also big European ones, Paris and Madrid, have been in the news.

In Chinese cities the problem has mainly been that the energy production for warming houses and making steel is obtained using fossile fuels, largely coal with poor smoke purification. This is a well acknowledged problem, and the major reason why China has now become a very strong supporter of climate agreements. It is much better to get world's good opinion simultaneously as the number of people getting lung and airway diseases and dying from air pollution decreases. Against this background the opinion of future American president, favouring the use of fossil fuels is an unfortunate cry from the past.

The situation of Madrid and Paris is more of a problem. Poor air quality is mainly due to diesel cars. It is not long since diesel motors were considered environmentally friendly. However, their development has not been able to reduce the amount of small particles causing smog. So, one can almost predict that diesel cars are a disappearing feature. Only electric cars with electricity produced using wind, solar or different forms of water energy, are a real long-term solution for clean city air. Note that I have not included energy obtained burning wood, because burning produces both microparticles and carbon dioxide (naturally these can be removed using filters, and much less air pollution to the cities is given up from centralized energy producing units than from individual cars or fireplaces).

The removal of carbon dioxide from smoke is of utmost importance. As this is the case, innovations that enable the removal are important for combatting climate change. Recent news have indicated this kind of innovation. The produced carbon dioxide is precipitated as baking soda, which is then used. As a consumer product is the result, the removal of carbon dioxide does not cause cost as long as the product can be sold.

Future solutions for cleaner air require changes in thinking. We cannot rely on the solutions from the past, but need to find new ways of thinking. Instead of trying to go back to "Good Old 60's" we should think of ways of having sustainable future.     

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: air pollution, carbon dioxide, transport