To combat climate change with farming subsidies

Sunnuntai 25.11.2018 klo 20:15 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Much of the farmers' income in Europe is subsidies from state or European Union. This simple fact makes it feasible to do the actions in farming, which are required for combatting climate change, without much affecting farmers' income. Now that all political parties claim that they are in favour of climate actions, this should be eElokuu6.jpgasy to do. All it would take is to direct production towards products, which have less effects on climate than the present agricultural products. This could be done by giving subsidies on the basis of their climate effects. As a result, for example, having sheep for meat production would be discouraged and number of meat cattle would be reduced. Instead, cultivating, e.g., root plants like carrot and turnip could be encouraged. The exact ways by which the subsidies should be redirected should be planned by expert committees with knowledge of the direct and indirect climate effects of cultivation. One point in addition to the subbsidies themselves is that the transport of produce should be minimized, so that local production would be favoured. This could actually be included in the subsidies: increasing them, if the product is used close to the area of production. In this way the carbon dioxide footprint of transport of agricultural products would be decreased. 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: agricultural policy, land use, climate change

Climate change- the reason for the collapse of Western civilization

Sunnuntai 28.10.2018 klo 17:57 - Mikko Nikinmaa

It has now started -books are written about how western civilization collapses, because adequate actions are not taken to prevent climate change. In the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway a future historian from about year 2400 writes about the Collapse of Western Civilization a little before 2100. The book recounts how scientists are not adequately listened to by populace, and how the self-serving interests of the oil and coal lobbying groups lead to political collapse. The book, although fiction, is scaringly close to reality. And what is more scary, it was written in 2014 - before Trump got to power, and is doing everything that a politician can do to destroy both American ideals and the rest of the Western World. Actually, the climate crisis shows the problem with democracy: required actions, which are unpopular among the common people, cannot be done. The direction virtually all populists take, going back to the good old days, is not possible, because in the good old days there were 3 billion people in the world, now there are close to 8. If the population were less than half of what it is today, the climate change problem would not be acute.

I only fear that even though books of fiction start to address climate change, they are only read by people, who are aware of the problem and ready to do something, not the ones that would need the change of mind.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, democracy, science fiction

Biofuel from wood - is it climate-friendly?

Sunnuntai 14.10.2018 klo 15:21 - Mikko Nikinmaa

To be climate-friendly, the production of biofuels from wood should be associated with an increase of forest growth, which covers both the burned wood, and the carbon dioxide production during harvesting the material and transporting it to the biofuel factories and transporting the ready fuel to the fuel stations. If this requirement is not fulfilled, and new cuts done to obtain biofuel, then the new carbon dioxide produced is no better climatewise than carbon dioxide produced from oil and coal.

Climate-friendly biofuel can be produced from waste material, if new forest is planted at the same time. Then one increases the carbon sink, and simultaneously does environment-friendly treatment of waste.

I cannot understand, why production of biofuels without the above requirements is marketed as climate action, because it is definitely not that. To market something on grounds that is good for certain economic sectors and political parties, but against the most crucial requirements needed to have a sustainable world future, is something that our children do not thank us for, because we would have a choice. It would probably be against the interests of some groups, and probably more expensive than the cheapest choices, but it would in any case be a choice that we can decide on. Our children and grandchildren do not have the choice, but have to accept the situation we have generated through our choices.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy production, fossil fuels, bioenergy

Circadian rhythms and environmental disturbances ? underexplored interactions

Perjantai 24.8.2018 klo 9:24 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Variation of functions with daily cycles is an important component of environmental responses of organisms, and environmental disturbances can affect daily rhythms. This possibility has been surprisingly little taken into account in environmental studies. For this reason Jenni Prokkola and I have written a commentary on the topic. Its abstract follows:

Biological rhythms control the life of virtually all organisms, impacting numerous aspects ranging from subcellular processes to behaviour. Many studies have shown that changes in abiotic environmental conditions can disturb or entrain circadian (∼24 h) rhythms. These expected changes are so large that they could impose risks to the long-term viability of populations. Climate change is a major global stressor affecting the fitness of animals, partially because it challenges the adaptive associations between endogenous clocks and temperature – consequently, one can posit that a large-scale natural experiment on the plasticity of rhythm–temperature interactions is underway. Further risks are posed by chemical pollution and the depletion of oxygen levels in aquatic
environments. Here, we focused our attention on fish, which are at
heightened risk of being affected by human influence and are
adapted to diverse environments showing predictable changes in
light conditions, oxygen saturation and temperature. The examined
literature to date suggests an abundance of mechanisms that can
lead to interactions between responses to hypoxia, pollutants or
pathogens and regulation of endogenous rhythms, but also reveals
gaps in our understanding of the plasticity of endogenous rhythms in fish and in how these interactions may be disturbed by human
influence and affect natural populations. Here, we summarize
research on the molecular mechanisms behind environment–clock
interactions as they relate to oxygen variability, temperature and
responses to pollutants, and propose ways to address these
interactions more conclusively in future studies. (Source: Prokkola JM, Nikinmaa M, Journal of Experimental Biology 221, jeb179267)

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: Photoperiod, Climate change, Xenobiotic

Meat-containing diet - not as bad as usually thought

Sunnuntai 19.8.2018 klo 12:37 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When thinking of the most sustainable diet, it is normally considered that one should turn to fully vegetarian one to feed world's population. If animal products were used at all, they should be from ectotherms like insects and fish. Against this background it came as a surprise that having a small amount of traditional farm animal products in the diet actually reduces the land use needed for obtaining a given amount of energy even as compared to vegetarian diets. This surprising result is caused by the fact that farm animals can utilize feed that is human refuse - something that cannot be included in vegetarian diets. Pigs and cows happily eat the leaves of sugarbeets and turnips, which would just be left to rot and to release the carbon dioxide taken up back to the environment, if strictly vegetarian diet were utilized. This surprising conclusion was reviewd by van Zanten et al. recently (Glob Change Biol. 2018;24:4185–4194). So, the most sustainable diet includes some animal products.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: land use, climate change, food consumption, population growth

Enemy of the people

Maanantai 6.8.2018 klo 12:20 - Mikko Nikinmaa

President Trump is calling liberal media enemies of the people. At the same time the Trump government is scrapping the agreements that have been made to limit the production of toxic effluents and greenhouse gases. This happens at a time that the effects of greenhouse gas emissions are clearly seen in Northern Hemisphere. Although individual weather events cannot be associated with climate change, this time the accumulation of different phenomena has occurred in so many different places that there can only be one conclusion: enemies of the people are not the ones that report what is happening but the ones, who decide to neglect all the warning signals, and remove or weaken the emission standards as well as promote the use of fossil fuels.

The Californian wildfires are to some degree worsened by the extreme heat and drought - several people have already died. Extreme heat has been the plague of people in Europe, China, South Korea, Japan, parts of North America and parts of North Africa - altogether one can estimate that there have been several hundred heat-related deaths across the world. This is the first time ever that extreme heat has occurred simultaneously in all the continents of the Northern Hemisphere. Storms and heavy rains have already killed hundreds of people, and droughts in other places similarly. 

Thoughts and prayers are offered to the mourners of the victims of weather-related deaths by the government, which acts in many ways to worsen them. While other governments could also be doing much more than they are, at least they are not saying that the whole climate change is "fake news".

Isn't the enemy of the people the government that neglects the evidence that is seen by everyone except them and acts in ways that may worsen the situation causing human deaths.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy production, Paris climate agreement

World Population Day

Tiistai 10.7.2018 klo 10:52 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In 1960's-1970's when the environmental movement started, population growth was considered to be maybe the biggest problem for the future of the earth - it was considered that world's agriculture could not feed population exceeding 5 000 000 000. We are now 8 000 000 000. So, the development of agricultural practises has enabled food production far beyond the expectations of late 20th century.

However, that does not mean that there would not be many problems associated with the large population. The increase in agricultural production has been achieved with the help of pronounced pesticide use and artificial (mineral) fertilization. Fertilization in crop production is an important component in eutrophication of waters, which is also caused by the excretion of people and livestock. Water and land is polluted by pesticides and other toxicants. Recently, as a result of waste production of the large human population, the huge plastics problem has been generated. One can also say that the climate change, associated with the large use of fossil fuels, is caused by the large population. 

Further, the oceans are overfished, the mineral resources are overexploited etc. In fact, the earth's resources are drastically overused - if the population were much smaller, the overuse were much easier to avoid.

The World Population Day is on July 11. As one aim of the future for world population is to curb population growth. In Europe the population is not increasing any more, and the same could and should be the goal for every other part of the world. The second aim should be to increase recycling: instead of producing new products of virgin materials and at the end of the product's life time throwing it away, everything should be recycled. It would be important for us in Europe to have all the household machines to be made so that they would be repaired instead of being thrown away/replaced when broken down. As a final aim, the whole concept of economy should be changed: economic growth should not be sought for.

As individuals and families/groups we can celebrate World Population Day by decreasing the group's use of resources per time. The manifest of concerned scientists can be found at http://www.scientistswarning.org/, which generally is a site to follow if one is interested in anthropogenic influences on Earth.

 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: population growth, sustainability, climate change, resource use

Borders, immigration and populism - environmental considerations are needed for counteractions

Sunnuntai 1.7.2018 klo 15:51 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Already the Roman Empire faced the Great Migration. Mongol hordes and invasion of Europeans to America are other examples of mass movements of people a long time ago. Although the areas facing invasion invariably tried to build walls or fight the invaders, the final result was not very good for the original inhabitants. One of the major cases was that the cultures of American Indians were all but destroyed by the European invaders.  In the mass migrations people were always looking for better places to live.

Thus, today’s immigrations do not differ from the ancient ones. However, there are three major differences which actually make the problems more acute, if we have not learned from the past. First, there were less than a tenth of the number of people as compared to today during the old mass migrations of people. This results in the fact that wherever the migrations go to, there are a plenty of people already inhabiting the areas, which inevitably generates marked clashes. Second, even the poorest places have mass media, and can thus every day see how rich places like Europe and North America are. Third, the means of transport are much faster than they were during the ancient migrations. There are two main reasons for people leaving their native lands: either conflicts or environmental deterioration. If the conditions in the areas from which the people leave were tolerable, the likelihood of mass migrations would markedly decrease.  

Immigration and the fear of people of anything different from things that they are used to are together the most important reasons for the rise of populism. It is invariably so that the strongest opinions against immigrants are found in areas with least immigrants. Further, people do not want to experience any changes. Virtually always things were best during the childhood days, even though if people now had to actually go back to them, many aspects would be completely intolerable because they were so poor as compared to today’s conditions. The hostility between local people and immigrants (or even their descendants because of the poor integration) is what has generated and maintains both the terrorism and ultra-right. As long as reasonable people do not rise against the hate-mongering which is utilized from very small minorities from both sides, proper integration of people to a common world cannot occur.

Although conflicts are presently probably the most important reason for the mass movements of people, the deterioration of the environment does not come far behind. Besides, the conflicts are more and more caused by environmental deterioration. Because people would likely not leave their native lands, if living conditions were tolerable, immigration would be stopped much better by improving the living conditions in the places from which people leave than by building border walls. By putting only a few % of the money that is now used for “defence” to developmental aid, national security would be increased much more than can be done by any money invested in defence budgets. However, that is contrary to the populist approach, in virtually every country the populist voices demand more money to defence budgets and less to developmental aid. However, the aid should not be given from our standpoints but from those of the receivers (which should not be the corrupt governments but the people actually in need). For example, the agricultural practises of temperate areas do not fit tropical soils. Further, much of the agricultural area of developing countries is used for crops, which are not for food production of natives, but for the different uses in rich countries. Similarly, the development of crops with, e.g., gene modification is not directed to increase food production where production is scarce, but to increase the profits of big companies.

The final problem of environmental deterioration is climate change. The overall temperature increase, unpredictability of weather, erosion as a result of sudden rains coming at the wrong time, droughts, frequent storms, floods affecting coastal populations – more than a billion people live in an area that may be covered by sea within the next 100 year, if the climate change cannot be stopped etc. are all factors that may cause an increase in the number of environmental refugees.

Economists and politicians have long thought that environment is not something that needs to be considered deeply in their profession. However, it is now quite clear that only by taking environment thoroughly into account in economical and political decisions we can have a peaceful future for mankind. Otherwise we will be having conflicts and chaos, as has been the case in all of the historical migrations. Borders and rise of nationalism can only lead to conflict.  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, refugees, developmental aid

Water Use

Torstai 24.5.2018 klo 11:13

We have heard the news about water in Cape Town area being close to finis, about droughts and wildfires in California, Australia, Portugan etc. We have also heard predictions that climate change causes droughts in many new areas.

Because of these news about too little water in many parts of the world, people in Scandinavia, Germany, U.K. etc. are accused of using unnecessarily big amount of water per day. But hey, it rains a lot in all of those countries normally, and the water use by agriculture and people does not normally lead to shortage of water. I do not understand why people should feel guilty about using a commodity, which is not diminished by use. It is more or less the same as saying: "Since there are people, who are starving in the world, you shall also starve."

The situation is different in places, where water use is greater than water supply. It has been estimated that e.g. in California water use is 8-10 times greater than its yearly supply. Because of irrigation in agriculture, the Dead Sea is rapidly losing its water. The excessive water use presently generates problems in Australia, Texas, Mediterranean countries etc. The common problem in those places is that people are using the water as they would in places, where it is plentiful. In those areas one should, e.g., cultivate plants, which need little water. Israel is, for example, producing a lot of avocados, which is a very water-needing plant. That does not really fit together with drying Dead Sea. Also, innovations to replace WCs (even in urban areas) are urgently needed in dry places.

In conclusion, water-saving solutions should be made in areas having water shortage, but people in North-West Europe can use copious amounts of water in good conscience - the availability of water in South Sudan does not increase if a person saves water by not taking a shower in Turku.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: agriculture, groundwater, climate change

A greenhouse gas measurement system of NASA discontinued by US government

Lauantai 12.5.2018 klo 18:05

After the Trump government left the Paris climate accord, many things of the government have focussed on being against environmentalism. The chief of Environmental Protection Agency is very much against environmental protection, protection of freshwater systems against coal and other mining wastewaters was scrapped etc. Against this background it is not surprising that the funding of a carbon dioxide and methane measurement system of NASA was discontinued, as reported in Science (May 11). The surveillance has been important for monitoring, if the climate accord is being followed. The system may not be important for the present US government, but is recognized to be important by the rest of the world. Consequently, European countries have already developed a monitoring system to replace the American one. Consequently, the slogan "America first" is also in this case becoming "America alone". The rest of the world is moving forward without Trump's USA.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels

The Earth Day

Sunnuntai 22.4.2018 klo 20:04 - Mikko Nikinmaa

It is the Earth Day today. The day for global environmental questions has been around since 1970. During that time a couple of environmental problems have been more or less solved in Western Europe, but many global questions have emerged. Acid rain is not a problem any more in Europe - smoke cleaning standards have abolished it. The ozone hole has started to shrink, because the most harmful chemicals have been banned. The levels of persistent organic pollutants in the Baltic Sea have dNorsu.jpgecreased markedly as water treatment has become strictly required. These examples show that environmental problems can be solved if it is deemed necessary. Today's urgent environmental problems are climate change, and associated with it the availability of water. Solving the climate problem requires many different actions, but two are clear, changing our energy use habits, and increasing carbon dioxide fixation by plants. The most effective solution to the plastic waste problem would be to make waste collection effective everywhere and influence the attitudes of people. In the present situation, if it weren't for plastics, other types of waste would be filling our beaches and seas. Finally, the Earth is facing mass extinctions. For big mammals a solution is to stop trophy hunting completely, but in addition to the mammals, also other species are suffering from the decreased availability of suitable habitats and deaths caused by pesticides and other environmental toxicants.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: environment, conservation, climate change, drought

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

Unpredictable Weather - a Major Problem

Maanantai 2.4.2018 klo 19:29 - Mikko Nikinmaa

For the past 10000 years the world's climate has been quite stable. This has enabled the cultures to develop. The rains have normally come in time for growing crops, dry periods have enabled harvesting, predictabe winds made long-distance sailing possible. Cold spells and snow have been necessary for winter sports etc. Although we are now waiting and waiting for the spring to break out, the long cold spell in  Northern Europe  is just another indication of climate change. The polar cold doesn't come down to lower latitudes where it has always come. While Helsinki is shivering,  it has never been as warm in Greenland as this year. Also different storms have been more severe and unpredictable in the last years than earlier. The droughts and rain come and go at surprising times causing havoc: floods and wildfires occur with increasing frequency. The predictability of weather has been necessary for effective food production. If we are now losing that, can the large human population avoid starvation?

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, agriculture, food production

Less flying - for the sake of the environment

Lauantai 10.2.2018 klo 18:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Flying has changed from being very exclusive way of transport for the rich to quite cheap means of everybody's transport. Presently, flying can be cheaper than taking the train. Tourism industry depends on for the common man IMG_20170807_0015_NEW.jpgto be able to reach the destination by flying. Also, fresh fruit, fish and other perishable items and other kinds of freight are transported, e.g. from East Asia to Europe.

Surprisingly seldom the use of fossil fuels in flying is brought forward as a problem. Scientists concerned of climate change fly from Helsinki to Melbourne etc. However, as a result of the hugely increased air traffic and the lack of alternatives to the use of petrol, flying is increasingly becoming a significant source of air pollution. Further, the air fields take up a lot of space, which could otherwise be used for example for food production. It is also a problem that people speaking about our need to combat climate change are themselves not really taking action against it by avoiding flying. 

So, what to do? I think that instead of trying to increase the speed of getting from one place to the other, one should accept somewhat slower transport. New generations of zeppelins could do that between continents. The picture of an exploding and burning zeppelin has been imprinted in everybody's mind, but that could not happen these days, since inert gases like helium would be used in the balloons of the zeppelins - the balloons of children do not have hydrogen any more because of its explosiveness. If zeppelins instead of present-day planes were increasingly used, the air fields would need much less land area than presently. Within continents, high-speed electric trains could be used. If electricity were generated mainly in power plants not using fossil fuels, the transport now generating a lot of carbon dioxide would be virtually carbon-neutral. Two things should, in addition, be done. First, one should decrease the number of meetings requiring everyone's presence, and use video meetings instead. Second, instead of flying perishable goods all over the world, we could use local foods only (as long as they are produced in a manner not causing large carbon dioxide loads).  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: air pollution, climate change, fossil fuels

Rhythmic behaviours are influenced by temperature - significant for climate change responses

Sunnuntai 21.1.2018 klo 15:48 - Mikko Nikinmaa

One significant question with climate change is that although temperature increases, the light-dark cycles at any location remain constant. Many of the responses of animals living in temperate and arctic (antarctic) areas depend on light-dark cycles. If the responses depending on light are affected by temperature, they may occur at inappropriate times in a climate change situation.

This was the outset for our experiments, reported in JM Prokkola et al. (Journal of Experimental Biology, in press). We studied the transcriptional responses of Arctic charr, a polar fish species, acclimated to two temperatures in July-August. Significantly, the rhythmicity of transcription was quite pronounced at an acclimation temperature close to the upper temperatures experienced by the fish in their natural environment. The rhythmicity of transcription all but disappeared at lower acclimation temperature. Since feeding, reproduction, migrations etc. are cued by light rhythms, an effect of temperature on how genes react to light, i.e. temperature effects on circadian rhythms of transcription may affect all those responses negatively. Consequently, effects of climate change can be pronounced even when temperature changes are such that they can easily be tolerated, e.g., by a fish population: any responses normally cued by light rhythm may occur at inappropriate times.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, circadian rhythms, fish survival

Can we get rid of plastics - or is it really needed?

Lauantai 20.1.2018 klo 13:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When I was a child there was practically no plastic material. Fruit and other foods were placed in paper bags. Water was carried in metal buckets. Now everything is put is plastics - all the clothes are in plastic covers, candies are first in plastic bags and then in individual plastic covers. It can actually be said that we have moved from iron age to plastic age. Plastics are oil-based, cheap, light and durable materials. Further, they are good insulating material. Therefore, when I look around, covers of computers, printers, TVs, phones etc. are made of plastics. The same is true of wastewater pipes. For this reason, replacing plastics in manufacturing is very challenging. Or is it really needed?

The real problem with plastic waste is the material that is thrown in the environment. That is the material generating the big marine garbage gyres. Most of their material is plastic waste thrown to the environment. It is funny that people picknicking in parks do not collect their plastic cups, plates and utensils and put them in garbage bins. If that were always done - all the plastic wastes placed in the collected carbage, there would not be any garbage gyres, and the sea and the coasts would be beautiful and trash-free. I have sometimes wondered if people, who throw the wastes around in the environmentIMG_20170727_0010.jpg do that also in their homes.

So what to do with the plastics? The first thing is that they have to be collected. Thereafter much could be recycled, used for new plastic products. Currently only a few percent of plastics are recycled largely because recycling containers are quite rare. If societies really want to solve the plastics pollution problem, the collection of plastics must be improved - the percentage of plastics that is recycled  could easily be increased to over 50%. For the rest, energy use is probably the best. Since plastics are made of oil, burning them for heat production of towns instead of oil, which continues to be used for a long period of time, would be advisable. Instead of burning oil, one could first carry shoppings home in a plastic bag, thereafter use the bag in collecting trash, whereafter it would be burned. Since the same material would be used for several times, the carbon dioxide footprint of the bag would become smaller. This is more or less the same as instead of using wood to produce energy, it is used to produce paper for a newspaper which is afterwards burned in a fireplace.

If plastics were either recycled or burned for energy production, most of plastic pollution would disappear. The remaining problem would be microplastics. Much of it, which is caused by the slow breakdown of big plastic materials to microplastics as a result of mechanic tear, solar radiation and oxygen, would disappear with the collection of plastics. The remaining sources are plastic microbeads of cleaning liquids, tooth pastes and cosmetics, the small fibres given up whe washing clothing containing synthetic materials, and the dust from tyres, paved roads, artificial turfs etc. The first of these could be avoided already today, since there are more and more products, which do not contain plastic microbeads. The choice is the consumer's: he/she only needs to read the contents or ask the shop assistant, and buy products without plastic beads - if products with plastic beads were left unsold, the manufacturer would soon change their contents.The fibres from washing clothes containing synthetic materials is a more difficult problem, as most pieces of clothing have some synthetic fibres. Fleece clothing has recently gained a lot of attention, but actually most shirts, trousers, Goretex clothing, other outdoor apparel  etc. contain synthetic material, and are thus a source of microplastics. The problem with replacing clothing with synthetic materials by cotton actually causes as big environmental (and social) problems as it solves. Water and pesticide  use of cotton production is unacceptable. Further, the use of child labour in different stages of making cotton clothing is also unacceptable. The third major source of microplastics: the tear of tyres, dust from roads, and dust from artificial turfs is probably quantitatively the most important. There are no easy ways to decrease the amount released from traffic, unless people give up cars, and use rail traffic instead.

Thus, I think that the use of plastics can continue, if measures are taken not to allow the release of plastics to the environment. For a large part this can already be done, but requires actions both from the consumers and the society.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: garbage gyres, microplastics, climate change, energy production, marine pollution

Strange Weather

Perjantai 12.1.2018 klo 10:53 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Snow in Sahara, no snow in Southwestern Finland, bats dropping dead because of extreme heat in Sydney, drought followed by downpoor in California, record number of hurricanes in the USA and East Asia  - the list could be continued almost to infinity...

Whenever there is abnormal weather anywhere, the meteorologists are asked if this can be connected to climate change. Invariably they answer that this single phenomenon can occur even without climate change. That is true, and invariably they also state that weather is different from climate. Very cold weather can occur even if there is global warming. I can just imagine Trump tweeting "Hey, I even stopped global warming, when I said that it is not a threat. Look how cold it has been after that in North America."

Unfortunately, the cold weather in USA and snow in Sahara actually fit very well in the climate change scenarios. All the predictions of climate change agree on three things: the temperatures near poles increase more that elsewhere, the predictability of weather decreases and the likelihood of unusual or extreme weather conditions increases. All these predictions have already taken place. They are, further, interconnected. Because the temperature difference between the poles and Equator decreases, the distribution of high and low pressure areas changes, and as a result the earlier predictable monsuuns or such like become unpredictable: it can snow in Sahara and rain in Finland. Also, the high pressures can persist and cause droughts with extensive wildfires occurring in consequence. At the same time extreme heat may occur. Temperatures close or even above +50 centigrade are difficult to tolerate.

The unpredictability of weather is really the major problem. Human (and other) life has thrived as a result of predictable weather. One has always known that the rain comes more or less in the right time, it is cold when it is supposed to be, the extreme weather conditions never occur etc. That this is the case was actually shown by the bat deaths in Sydney. The bats have evolved in New South Wales for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. During that time they have adapted to the temperature conditions that can be expected. The recent +47 was above what their evolved tolerance could cope with, and they dropped dead from the trees. The predictability of weather is the prerequisite for food production. Agriculture requires rain at the right time, and dry period during harvesting. With climate change one year may bring you downpoor, another extreme heat and drought, and a third frost.

All future generations are treated unjustly, if we don't actually demand our leaders all over the world to forget their slogans about their own nation first, and start enacting decisions which help keeping the world in reasonable state for future generations.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, global warming

Private cars or not - electric or petrol-fueled?

Lauantai 30.12.2017 klo 15:57 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Instead of using petrol to fuel your car, you should use use electric car - or not? To evaluate what should be done, one should think not only about illusions, but the life-time ecological (and social) footprint of the product. The problem with electric cars is that making them requires much more resources than making conventional cars. Especially the production of batteries is a problem. This is because they need rare metals, presently mainly mined in places with little environmental concern. The maning wastes often go uncleaned to rivers, and child labour may be used in mining.

Normally, it is only thought that burning petrol is the cause of carbon dioxide loading. This is naturally true, but another point should be considered. Oil pollution, to a large part caused by oil transport, is a major reason for the decrease in the photosynthetic ability of marine algae, and thus the removal of carbon dioxide.

Consequently, take the train or other forms of public transport. Since the major reason for having private cars is the ease of choosing the time of travel, public transport based on calls would be the choice of future. Minibus taxis should not be a dying breed but a transport system of future. 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuel, public transport, electric cars

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

Energy Production and Transfer

Tiistai 28.11.2017 klo 19:55 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The energy and heat production have traditionally been done in large units, which have also been responsible for electricity and energy transport. Because of the centralized system, it has been possible to build power plants for billions of euros/dollars. While the electricity transport system should be minimally nationwide or continentwide and owned, e.g., by European Union, the actual production should and could increasingly be done in small units. I discuss first the transport, which should, in my opinion, be free of private profit making, and then energy production and distribution, where the state-owned transport units could be used by different-sized companies.

The transport of electricity and heat should be carried out by nations or even bigger units. It should not be done by private companies. A good analogy is road system. In most European countries road system is nation-owned. This makes it impossible for private companies to make large profits, and the same should be true for electricity. The biggest injustice that has been experienced by Finnish consumers is that they largely must pay to a foreign company for electricity transport. This company makes big profits throughout the year, and whereas one is able to have different companies to compete for the price of electricity, one cannot have competition on the price of electricity transfer. Adding to the injustice is that one has to pay fixed price for the transfer regardless if one uses one unit or a 1000 units of electricity. If one uses little electricity, one may pay 90 % or more in transport of alectricity and less than 10 % in the actual electricity. Needless to say that the private company pays hardly any tax to Finland.Interestingly, the transport of electricity in Finland was state responsibility, until it was privatized, and sold abroad. The question is why? As an exact analogy, the roads shoud then also be.

If the energy and heat transport were state owned, the companies could buy and sell energy from small units. Again an analogy to roads, different sizes of transport companies are using the state-owned roads. The same could be done with energy transport. The energy companies would make their profits from selling and buying the product. This way all the excess heat generated in different factories, individual solar panels etc. would come to maximal use. With the present-day digital systems, it would generate no problem to be able to do this.

The state-owned transport system, and private companies doing the buying and selling the energy could generate much more effective system than we have presently, with the net result that the waste would decrease, and one could be diminishing the use of fossil fuels more rapidly than with the present system.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, climate change, wind power, solar power

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