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

Liquid Sponges - Mopping up Carbon Dioxide and Methane

Keskiviikko 15.3.2023 klo 14:43 - Mikko Nikinmaa

I admit that I have never been overly enthusiastic about technological advances that make it possible to continue in the path of growth. That is because they cloud the primary issue of why the earth is in trouble: overconsumption and resource use. To have a healthy planet consumption, resource use and human population should all decrease. Instead of having the population of eight billion, the planet in balance should have about three billion, just like there was as late as 1960’s.

Having said that the primary goal for us should be to accept that the earth is finite and thereby cannot sustain limitless growth, the technological advances can speed up our aim to reduce and even abolish the damage we have caused during the years. Among the recent, promising technologies are liquid sponges, liquids that can take up the carbon dioxide or methane from the effluents of energy production and even exhaust fumes. The liquid containing the carbon dioxide or methane load can be stored as such or be heated, whereby the mopped gas is given up, and can be utilized as the starting material for any industrial process requiring them. That is an incredibly good way of mitigating climate change just as long as instead of continuing on growth path we choose to adopt sustainable life.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, carbon dioxide absorption, porous liquids

An Agreement Reached on Protecting High Seas

Maanantai 6.3.2023 klo 19:32 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Worldwide agreement on the protection of open oceans was reached yesterday. In comparison to climate change and biodiversity protection negotiations, reaching an agreement was easy, and nobody expressed serious dissatisfaction. Not surprisingly, though, the negotiations even in this “easy” case took ten years. The reason for reaching an agreement is, however, not that governments would have become environmentally conscious, but because of the following fact. The open seas are ocean areas, which are not under the control of any nation. The maximal “economic zones” where different nations can restrict the use of the sea area are 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) from the coast. Beyond that point anyone from anywhere can use the resources of the sea and sea bottom. Thus, they belong to no nation state, but because more than 70 % of earth’s surface is ocean, form the majority of sea area.

Protecting the oceans is crucial in order to combat climate change and feed world’s people. It is not generally known that oceanic algae consume about half of the carbon dioxide and produce half of the oxygen in the world. Consequently, the well-being of oceans is as important for preventing global temperature rise as preventing the rain forest loss of Amazonas. Because of aquatic pollution, which should now be decreased as the result of the agreement, oceanic photosynthesis has probably decreased by 10-15 %. People have not really cared about what happens to the open oceans before the huge plastic gyres have caught everyone’s eye. It is clear that not only plastic waste but all sorts of chemicals, including oil components are something that sea organisms encounter all the time. To my mind it is probable that the marked decrease in eel stocks, which has occurred in the last 50 years, is to a large extent caused by oceanic pollution. Because of the very strenuous spawning migration, even slight pollution can overstress the eels so that spawning becomes ineffective.

At present, less than 1 % of the oceans is protected. The agreement states that by 2030 30 % of the high seas would be protected. This would enable many overfished species to recover. However, even though the actual protection of the seas is important, it is even more important that the pollutant discharge to oceans is diminished. Only that can help the high seas to stay healthy or recover.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: ocean, aquatic pollution, climate change, eel, plastic pollution

Whale strandings - what causes them?

Keskiviikko 22.2.2023 klo 16:00 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The stranding of whales almost invariably result in the death of the animals before they can be returned to water. This is because when whales start to dry, their temperature increases since the surrounding water is not there to cool the body. The body temperature increases until it is lethal. To limit the temperature rise, stranded whales are flushed with water. During the recent past whale strandings have become more and more common. They are one of the symptoms of disturbances in oceanic environments, and may have various reasons. Regardless of the ultimate reason, it is possible that the whales make a decision to commit suicide because of the environmental stress. This can happen, as whales have very complex brains, and appear capable of conscious choices, as, e.g., commit suicide.

However, many of the strandings take place to injured whales. One of the biggest causes of whale injuries is a collision with ship. Because of the injury, the whale may not be able to swim properly and is washed ashore. Also, whales use sea currents to help them in swimming. As a result of climate change, the direction and strength of the currents may have changed so that when the whale thinks that it is swimming normally using the help of the current, it ends up stranded. By far the most important disturbance to whales is noise pollution. This is because long-distance acoustic communication is a major feature of whale life. If acoustic communication is disturbed enough, the whale may decide to commit suicide.

Sounds travel long distances in water. As a result, whales can communicate with their mates tens of kilometres away. This is the way they find partners for reproduction, inform of good food sources etc. Ships and motorboats make a lot of noise in the oceans. The noise levels may disturb whale communication. And the sea traffic has become more intensive and noisier in the recent past disturbing the whales more and more.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: noise pollution, climate change, ship traffic

Exxon scientists predicted climate change already in 1970?s - the company marketing sold a different story

Perjantai 20.1.2023 klo 13:49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The high standard of living in Europe and North America is largely based on the use of oil (and coal). The fossil fuel industry has made immense profits during the time of fossil fuel use. It should now be apparent that the use of oil is causing climate change. Yet, even now climate denial is common, and is supported by oil industry lobby groups.

It was predicted already more than a hundred years ago by the Danish physiologist August Krogh that the use of fossil fuels would increase atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Fifty years later all the big oil companies had scientists working on the atmospheric effects of the company’s products. In a recent number of Science (Science 379, eabk0063, January 13, 2023) Supran et al. review what has been reported by the scientists of the oil company starting from the late 1970’s and up to 2000’s.

The main takeaway from the reports and articles is that Exxon scientists informed the company and academic circles about the likely increase of global temperature as a result of the projected oil use. However, the company itself discounted its own scientists’ findings. The first of the lies of the company was that in 1970’s scientist had reached a consensus that the world was headed towards a new ice age, and now these same scientists are predicting that there will be a marked temperature increase. Clearly, such scientists cannot be trusted. There was no scientific consensus about cooling trend, in fact less than 15 % of climate science papers between 1965 and 1977 suggested temperature decrease. Further, the scientists of Exxon had come to the conclusion that temperature decrease is not probable. The second claim of the company has all the time been that the variability of climate data and predictions is so large that one cannot claim that a single anthropogenic cause could make any difference. However, the scientists of the company had, taking into account the variability, shown that even with the large variability, lack of temperature increase was not a possibility. They also estimated already in 1970’s and 1980’s that one would start seeing clear climate effects in early 2000’s, as has been observed. In addition, they estimated the amount of carbon dioxide, which, if exceeded, would cause problematic warming. Thus, the Exxon scientists appear to have done their best to alert the company.

Instead of heeding the scientists’ warning, the company has lied, hidden unpleasant findings and distorted the data. It appears from this behavior that greed has no limits: who cares about future generations if one can make a lot of profits now.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels

Where have the eels gone

Keskiviikko 18.1.2023 klo 14:51 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Everything was better in the past. That is the slogan of conservative populists throughout the world. It is actually true for some things, but the actions should be completely different from the ones advocated by the populists in order for us getting the good things from the past also in the future.

Here I am focussing on the eel. Smoked eel is a true delicacy. When I was a child, one got eels virtually every time one went fishing. The fish was fatty and had virtually no bones making it tasty and easy to eat. However, eels started disappearing from the shops and waters from 1970’s onwards and now you can rarely find them anywhere.

The life cycle of the eel is the main reason why the species is so vulnerable to environmental contamination. The European eel stocks have decreased more than 90 % from 1970’s to 2010’s. If one starts from the sexually mature eel, it migrates several thousand kilometres from the inland waters, where it matures, to the spawning site in Sargasso Sea. During this months-long migration the fish does not eat, but uses the fat deposits as energy stores. This fact has several consequences. First, the condition of eels reaching the spawning site is poor. Many do not make it to the site at all, and the rest are barely able to make the final effort of the spawning migration. Any lipid-soluble environmental contaminants are released to the circulation when lipid deposits are used for energy production. This further weakens the fish. Also, because of the climate change, the ocean currents may have weakened causing an increase in the energy consumption during swimming from Europe to Sargasso Sea. This also weakens the eel before spawning.

The adult eels die after spawning, but the developed embryos start their long travel towards the European feeding grounds. No specific problems have been found in the early part of the migration in the Atlantic. However, it is possible that the food items of the eel embryos have decreased in abundance and that ocean currents have slowed down. When the eels come to the European coasts, a final strenuous part of the travel awaits. They must go up to suitable growth sites. In selecting where to swim to, eels use, e.g., the lateral line organ. This sensory organ is very sensitive to metal contamination. Thus, the present increases of copper, lead and cadmium levels may disturb the final leg of eel migration.

In short, eels suffer from environmental contamination in most parts of their migration. Further, the studies have shown that the presently occurring contaminant levels are adequate to cause, e.g., sensory problems. Consequently, to be able to go back to the good old days, when smoked eel was a common delicacy, we need to improve water quality.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: aquatic toxicology, metal pollution, climate change

Damage and Repair Fund was established in COP27 Climate Summit - who pays?

Keskiviikko 28.12.2022 klo 19:30 - Mikko Nikinmaa

One of the results of the Climate Summit in Egypt was that the participating nations agreed to establish a Damage and Repair Fund to help poor nations that suffer from climate disasters. Everyone agrees that such fund is necessary. However, what has not been agreed upon is who would give money for the fund. The European Union has again been the primary source of the fund possibility. But EU does naturally not want to bear the cost alone. Thus, European countries think that the biggest fossil fuel polluters should contribute to the fund. Consequently, countries that are normally not paying to global funds, e.g., China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia should be among donors in addition to European countries, USA, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Including oil­-producing countries among the fund donors makes perfect sense. They are making their profits with the fossil fuels that cause the damage. And they have money. As an example, the Soccer World Cup in Qatar cost more than 200 billion euros, ten times more than any Olympic Games up to now. It is kind of funny that that sum of money is available for “sports washing”, but not for helping areas which are suffering from the consequences of getting the riches that make also “sports washing” possible. With the same logic, big oil companies should contribute to the fund. Recently, their profits have been huge, and in my opinion should not line only the pockets of owners, but help the areas, which suffer from their profit-making.

There is no reason for the damage makers not to contribute to the fund. If they do not, it is an indication that greed and selfishness are more important for them than habitable world.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels

Energy production using nuclear fusion in 30 years. True this time?

Tiistai 13.12.2022 klo 15:49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When I became interested in science in 1960’s, I read with excitement about the possibility of energy production via nuclear fusion. Unlimited amount of energy would be produced without any waste material. It was estimated that commercial nuclear fusion power plants would be functioning in 30 years.

In 1970’s there was a severe oil crisis. People were saving electricity, because of the very high price of oil. Individuals with a strong belief on nuclear fusion consolidated the public promising that the oil price fluctuations would not matter soon, since nuclear fusion power plants would produce plentiful of electricity in 30 years.

When worries of climate change started in 1990’s-2000’s, individuals trusting on mankind’s capacity to solve environmental problems with advances in technology were of the opinion that nuclear fusion could replace fossil fuels in energy production in 30 years.

For the past 60 years, commercial energy production with nuclear fusion has been hoped to happen in 30 years. So, the news from Livermore Laboratory showing that irradiation of small amount of hydrogen with laser beams produced more energy than put in by the laser beams indicates that a controlled fusion was achieved give real hope that nuclear fusion can form an important energy source in 30 years.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: electricity production, nuclear power, climate change

Tidal Energy - an Almost Untapped Major Energy Source

Tiistai 29.11.2022 klo 13:39 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Moon gravity creates tides, felt everywhere in oceanic coasts. Tides have immense energy, probably more so than the inland waters, which have been used for generating electricity for years. Furthermore, as flowing water, tides are very regular, occurring regardless of sunshine or wind. Thus, the tidal energy does not suffer from the problems with solar and wind power, i.e., marked daily or seasonal variation. Further, huge tides wash the coasts of many of the world’s rich countries, and in principle the technology for generating electricity from tidal energy is already available.

Because of the above, one would imagine that tidal power features strongly in the renewable energy sector. But no, so far there are only a couple of experimental tidal power plants in function. The main reasons for this are probably the following: First, there was no tradition of converting tidal energy to usable power. In contrast, windmills have been around for at least a thousand years, as also riverine power stations. Second, since coal and oil have been cheap, generating energy using the fossil fuels has been the preferred way for energy production.

The situation must change now that we shall combat climate change. A major argument of the fossil fuel lobbying groups has been that the green shift is not really possible, since wind and solar power have marked production fluctuations. The same argument is used by nuclear power advocates, who maintain that in order to get assured constancy of energy production, nuclear power plants are required. However, tidal energy power plants will produce energy at a predictable rate, and building them is both cheaper and more rapid than nuclear power plants. Also, they do not generate carbon dioxide emissions thus representing a true green shift.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, electricity, energy production, green shift, fossil fuels

Another disappointing climate meeting

Maanantai 21.11.2022 klo 15:47 - Mikko Nikinmaa

We know what should be done. We have the methods and technology to do it. There would even be enough funds to do it. Yet, combatting climate change remains at the stage of lip service. Politics does not enable climate actions to be done. It is very funny that the same politicians, who are so worried about our children inheriting debt are not really worried about giving our children an Earth, where only some places are truly inhabitable (or in the worst case not even that; the bleakest scenario has the Earth going the Venus way with average temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius).

Country leaders quarrel as to who should pay. Naturally, climate actions should not cost at all. Surprisingly many politicians do not accept the existence of climate change despite the heat waves, droughts, surprising floods, wildfires and melting glaciers. Oil-producing countries try to delay the transfer to not using oil, China tries to convince others that it is a developing country, which needs to get financial support to carrying climate actions. Small, rich countries have large groups of people saying that we need not do anything, as our contribution is necessarily so small that it does not affect world’s climate at all. Maybe a lot of the reluctance of politicians to do anything is due to the fact that they are overwhelmingly over 50 years old, and are living in the past. In their childhood climate change was not an issue.

So I, as an old-age pensioner, hope that there is a rapid generation shift in political leaders of the world. To me it appears that only people who have grown with acknowledging that climate change can seriously affect their life will be able to carry out the necessary actions even if the Gross National Product decreases because of them.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: COP27, climate change, environmental politics

Heart function and individual variability play major roles in temperature tolerance of fish

Maanantai 14.11.2022 klo 14:42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Climate change has major effects on fish, especially fish in lakes, since the whole water body can warm up as a result of long-lasting heat waves. Because of the uniform temperature regardless of the depth, fish cannot seek colder temperatures near the bottom. As a consequence, massive fish mortalities occur in shallow lakes of temperate zone every summer nowadays.

The reasons, why fish die as a result of increased temperature can only be understood by studying the functional changes occurring as a result of temperature elevation. Thus, physiological studies should be in the centre of climate change studies. If the reasons for vulnerability to increased temperature are known, it can also be estimated, which measurable responses predict fish mortalities. This as a background, and recognizing that individual variability of fish determines why some die and others remain living, we studied how fish tolerant and intolerant to high temperatures differed from each other. The results of the extensive studies are reported by Anttila et al in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology (//

Our results show that for a given age group, heart function is decisive in determining temperature tolerance. The efficiency of heart is markedly different in different individuals, whereby marked individual variability in temperature tolerance occurs. Thus, in predicting the effects of climate change on fish populations, we should not restrict our analysis to the mean response but also to the variability observed. In future it must be evaluated to which extent the thermal tolerance and its variability are heritable, as this will have significant impact on the vulnerability of species to global warming.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fish biology, temperature acclimation, heat wave, fish mortality

World Scientists' Warning 2022

Torstai 3.11.2022 klo 13:43 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The alliance of world scientists, with the lead of William Ripple in Oregon, have again done a report of what has been happening during the recent past. The report is published in BioScience and can be accessed freely at The year 2022 has been characterized by a multitude of climate-related disasters, which the report tabulates. I have taken the information from the table and give it below.

In addition, the film “The Scientist’s Warning” has now been released and is free to view online at https://scientistswarningfilm. Further, different climate-related resources can be accessed in the Alliance of World Scientists website

Climate disasters in 2022.


Many rivers in Europe have run low or dried up partly because of the worst drought in 500 years and intense heat waves. Climate change has likely played a significant role in this crisis by increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts and heat waves.


La Niña and climate change contributed to record-breaking rainfall on the east coast of Australia. This led to flooding that damaged thousands of properties and killed eight people.


Record-breaking flooding occurred along the northeastern coast of Australia, leading to standing water, which, in turn, promoted the spread of mosquitoes that carry the Japanese encephalitis virus. Such flooding is likely becoming more common because of climate change.


The number of people affected by drought in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia who have limited access to safe water increased from 9.5 million to 16.2 million. This increasing drought severity may be at least partly due to climate change (Ghebrezgabher et al. 2016).


A severe drought in the Southern Plains of the United States put the winter wheat crop at risk. Although droughts are complex phenomena with many possible causes, increasing drought intensity has been linked to climate change (Mukherjee et al. 2018).


A deadly heat wave occurred in India and Pakistan, killing at least 90 people and contributing to widespread crop losses and wildfires. It was estimated that climate change made this event 30 times more likely to occur.


Climate change likely contributed to extreme rainfall in Eastern South Africa, which triggered flooding and landslides that killed at least 435 people and affected more than 40,000 people.


Widespread dust storms in the Middle East led to thousands of people being hospitalized; such dust storms may be increasing in frequency because of climate change.


Extremely heavy rainfall in northeastern Brazil resulted in landslides and flooding that killed at least 100 people. Climate change may be responsible for the increasing frequency of extreme rainfall.


A severe storm in Yellowstone (United States) caused the Gardner River and Lamar River to overflow, destroying parts of various roads in Yellowstone National Park. Such extreme flooding could be increasing in frequency because of climate change.


Several countries in Western Europe experienced a record-breaking heat wave. This heat wave contributed to major wildfires in Spain and Germany. Many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere also experienced extreme heat; for example, temperatures reached 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit in Isesaki, Japan—an all-time record for the country. Similarly, a heat dome in the United States contributed to record-breaking temperatures. Other affected countries include Finland, Iran, Norway, and Italy. In general, extreme heat is becoming more common because of climate change (Luber and McGeehin 2008).


Following extreme heat, China experienced record-breaking rainfall, which may be linked to climate change.


Bangladesh experienced the worst monsoon flooding in 100 years, killing at least 26 people. This flooding is likely at least partly due to climate change causing monsoons to become more variable.


Extreme rainfall led to flooding in some parts of New South Wales, Australia. Sydney is currently on track to experience the wettest year on record. It is likely that climate change contributed at least partly to this rainfall and flooding.


Deadly floods in Pakistan have killed more than 1,000 people and affected roughly 33 million people, including 16 million children, since mid-June. Impacts include surging rates of dengue fever, gastric infections, and malaria. These floods may be at least partly related to climate change causing monsoon rainfall to become more intense.


China experienced an extraordinary heat wave, which may be the most severe that has ever been recorded globally. Such events are likely becoming more common because of climate change. The extreme heat contributed to large-scale crop failures and wildfires, in addition to exacerbating a major drought that caused 66 rivers to dry up and led to a significant decline in hydroelectricity generation.


California and other parts of the Western United States faced extremely hot temperatures because of a heat dome, which caused seven firefighters to be hospitalized with heat-related injuries. The effects of the heat dome may have been worsened by climate change.


In the United States, Hurricane Ian caused damage across many parts of Florida and the Carolinas, killing more than 100 people and leaving at least 2.5 million without electrical power. Ian is one of the costliest and strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. Climate change is likely causing strong and rapidly intensifying storms such as Ian to become more common.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, floods, wildfires, drought, heat waves

Climate Promises from Glasgow - It was all talk

Keskiviikko 26.10.2022 klo 16:13 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Last year 193 countries solemnly agreed in Glasgow to speed up climate actions to decrease the negative effects of climate change. A year has gone and the next climate meeting in Egypt is just around the corner so it is good time to evaluate, if the pledges made have been fulfilled as promised for the year 2022. This is even more important, as the year 2022 has been characterized by huge wildfires, record-breaking heat, extreme drought, melting of glaciers and devastating floods. In addition, deliberate natural gas leaks have been generated and Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused fossil fuel use that much exceeds peace-time consumption.

Further, now that energy price is high, the populistic politicians everywhere demand that more electricity should be produced using subsidized fossil fuels. One would have thought that the pronounced adverse signals that things are going wrong with climate at an alarming rate would have made governments to take mitigation measures of climate change more seriously than a year ago, but no. “Blaah, blaah, blaah, it is all talk”, said climate activists disappointed after the Glasgow meeting.

Indeed, only 26 countries, i.e. 13 % of nations who made pledges to do something extra in 2022, have fulfilled their promises. This means that climate change can continue almost as nothing had happened. For a large part the inactivity is said to be due to actions being economically too expensive. This claim does not hold, as there are funds to repair the climate-caused damages. Indeed, proper combatting climate change could currently turn out to be cheaper than repairing the damage done by climate-related catastrophes.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, wildfires, fossil fuels

Air pollution increases stroke risk

Perjantai 7.10.2022 klo 13:44 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Today, only climate change effects of fossil fuel burning get attention. While climate change is undoubtedly the ultimate stress, it does not seem to reach the minds and be accepted by many people even today when the heat waves, hurricanes, floods and wildfires all testify that climate change is happening. The people with the highest percentage of climate sceptics are also the most susceptible to stroke: overweight, with low education, not exercising and driving a lot. They are not likely to be worried about something that may happen to the next generation or to other people as long as they can live their comfortable life.

But they may get stroke! That is something they are worried about when they drive to work in the congested highways of towns with high nitrogen oxide and elevated small particle levels. In a recent article in Neurology, Tian et al. (DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201316) showed quite conclusively that this kind of air pollution increases stroke risk. Earlier studies have shown that air pollution causes all sorts of lung-related problems. Thus, there is quite clear evidence that fossil fuel use should be stopped even if one is only worried about one’s own health and wouldn’t care at all of the well being of future generations.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, climate sceptics, nitrogen oxide, traffic

The thermal tolerance of fish is not increased by 40-45 years of exposure to increased temperature

Sunnuntai 25.9.2022 klo 18:42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The waters in the vicinity of nuclear power plants give a possibility to investigate how increased temperature affects fish populations. Nuclear power plants use ambient water to cool down the units where energy is produced. The cooling water is returned to the environment. As a consequence the water in the vicinity of the power plant is 2-5oC higher than in the environment generally. In Finland, nuclear power has been produced 40-45 years, so organisms have experienced the increased temperature for that period of time. Both the temperature increase and the duration of exposure are similar to what can be expected to occur as a result of climate change.

In her Ph.D. thesis, which is defended on September 30, 2022, Giovanna Mottola used this natural exposure to evaluate, if the 40-45-year exposure was able to improve the thermal tolerance of stickleback. The results indicate first, that regardless of the previous exposure history, a short heat wave increases the highest temperature tolerated acutely, and second, that previous history of living in the high temperature of the vicinity of nuclear power plant does not affect the temperature tolerance as compared to non-exposed fish. This means that fish living at an increased temperature are closer to the tolerance limit than fish living in cooler temperatures, and if a heat wave occurs, are consequently more likely to succumb. Although the studies are only on one species, similar results have been observed with the couple of other species so far studied. This suggests that the upper thermal tolerance of a given species is fixed and cannot be evolutionary increased within the time window available in climate change scenarios.

If one then considers on the basis of the natural laboratory data the ecological status of fish populations in the climate change scenarios, it appears likely that marked disappearance of fish occurs, before the migration of more temperature-tolerant, southern fish occurs. This will be true because of the time constraints of movement. Also, coastal fish are not likely to cross open water areas, so in their case the northward migration of southern populations is further slowed down.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fish populations, temperature acclimation

Amazonas may have reached the tipping point already - if not, urgent action is necessary

Maanantai 12.9.2022 klo 18:51 - Mikko Nikinmaa

If 20-25 % of a rainforest area is lost (deforested, burned), the forest turns to savannah. This is because the water cycle maintaining the forest is interrupted. The tree area of the forest needs to be adequate in order to guarantee that the evaporative water loss from the trees turns to rain that keeps the forest alive. With decreasing evaporation, the moisture generated is not enough to turn to rain, and the moisture-requiring forests disappear and are replaced by savannah. This generates an extensive loss of the carbon-dioxide absorbing capacity of the area. Since Amazonas has for good reason been called Earth’s lungs, the deforestation and burning can be called Earth’s lung cancer.

It is estimated that the area of Amazonas that has already been changed to agricultural land is a little less than 20 %. In addition, another 6 % is under quite heavy human influence, but could be returned to proper rain forest. Thus, we are clearly at the tipping point; if forest loss is allowed to continue, we lose the major carbon dioxide sink, if we take the countermeasures, restoring the heavily impacted area, Earth’s lungs may survive.

When the international agreements on combatting climate change were done, one point that was agreed upon was that the industrialized North would give lots of funds for third world countries to enable them to establish, e.g., protected forest areas. Hitherto only less than ten % of the promised funds have been allocated. It would, however, be easy to fulfil the monetary promises, e.g., by placing a small climate tax on the superrich. Then their riches would be more beneficial to mankind than the short space explorations.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, carbon dioxide sink, water cycle

Forest Fires of the Arctic - as Big Problem as Amazonian Forest Fires

Maanantai 22.8.2022 klo 17:34 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When people are talking about the role of forest fires in climate change, the talk is almost invariably restricted to destruction of Amazonas and other major rain forest areas. Without doubt the problem of Amazonian deforestation is highly important as it has been estimated that if more than 20 % of the rainforest area disappeared, the rainforest would start turning into savannah. Amazonas has already lost more than 15 % of the forest area. For the world’s carbon dioxide balance this is a huge threat, as savannah is a much weaker carbon dioxide sink than rain forest.

However, wildfires elsewhere can be as big a problem to the earth’s well-being as fires in rain forests. To give an idea of the overall problem of wildfires, the estimated carbon dioxide release in 2022 already exceeds the yearly carbon dioxide emissions of European Union. Thus, small reductions in anthropogenic emissions cannot compensate for the forest fires.

The Arctic forest fires cause many additional problems. The magnitude of forest fires in the Arctic areas has tripled in the last 50 years. The first immediate problem is naturally the carbon dioxide given up in the burning forest. Luckily, much of the carbon dioxide is quite rapidly taken up by regrowth. Much worse problem of the Arctic wildfires is that the permafrost starts to melt. It is estimated that about twice the amount of carbon as is currently present in atmosphere is currently stored below permafrost, mainly as natural gas. Imagine if that becomes liberated via the craters developed by the melting permafrost – such a catastrophe is not included even in the most pessimistic climate models.

In comparison to the liberation of natural gas the other problems associated with wildfires may be considered small but are still serious. For salmonids migrating up the rivers to spawn, the fires cause problems liberating significant amount of nutrients and muddying the water. Consequently, the oxygen level of the water decreases, and the bottom becomes unsuitable for egg development. This, together with increased water temperature may wipe out the populations of salmonids altogether. Lichens, which are an important food item for deer (such as reindeer and caribou) may take up to 50 years to recover from burning. Similarly, cranberries and blueberries can rapidly grow back from roots, if only the above-ground part of the plant burns. However, if the fire is so severe that also the roots burn, the recovery is slow, as seeds must come from elsewhere to replace earlier growth. Losses of plants and animals can also otherwise be replaced only slowly, so that since the biodiversity of Arctic areas is low, it will remain extremely low in burnt areas for many years after fires.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, natural gas, carbon dioxide emissions, heat waves

Fish kill in Oder river - it is what I have feared

Sunnuntai 14.8.2022 klo 15:23

As a background, I have studied temperature responses of fish since 1980 and have written the book “Introduction to Aquatic Toxicology”, which was published by Elsevier in 2014, so both temperature- and pollution-related problems are within my expertise.

This summer has been intolerably warm in Central and Southern Europe. Fish kills are frequent in small, shallow lakes during heat waves in Finland, because of both reduced oxygen levels and increased temperatures. Fish kills don’t usually occur in rivers, because they have higher oxygen levels and remain cooler than small lakes. The species composition of fishes in the rivers also differs from that in the small lakes: rivers have more species, which require cooler water and higher oxygen levels. Thus, in the case of the Oder fish kill, one would need to evaluate, if all species have died equally or if species with lowest thermal maxima are overrepresented among the dead fish. If the latter is the case, then it is likely that we are experiencing the first climate change-related mass mortality of fish in Central Europe.

As the reason for the Oder fish kill, one has almost unequivocally concentrated on chemical pollution, although there have not so far been definitive measurements showing that this would have been the case. This is by all means possible, as dredging has been done in the river, which usually liberates contaminants which have been hidden in the sediment. However, even in this case an equally worrisome problem is that drought has caused the flow of the river to decrease markedly: any liberated pollutants have much higher concentrations than would be the case without drought. Also, virtually all pollutants are more toxic to fish at high than at low temperature. This being the case, even if pollutants are the cause of fish deaths, their level need not have increased. Because of the temperature increase, the toxicant level is lethal, even though it would not have been that at a lower temperature. This could be the case even if contaminant concentrations have increased.

In conclusion, the Oder fish kill is either directly caused by climate change, or temperature increase has contributed to the pollutant-induced fish kill. If serious climate actions are not done soon, I am afraid that similar events are observed regularly throughout the globe.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, biodiversity loss, aquatic pollution

Did you know?

Perjantai 12.8.2022 klo 10:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires in the northern hemisphere in 2022 already exceed the emissions of the whole European Union.

The highest temperature measured (“in shade”) in 2022 is 63 degrees Celsius.

The carbon dioxide emissions per person are highest in oil-producing small Arab countries, tightly followed by Luxembourg, Canada, Australia, Estonia and USA. The emissions by an average American are approximately double of that of and average Chinese. An average European’s emissions are currently slightly above an average Chinese, but whereas the emissions by Europeans are decreasing, those of Chinese are increasing. An average Russian emits much more carbon dioxide than Europeans, being in the middle between Chinese and Americans. Within Europe, an average Finn emits twice the amount of carbon dioxide as an average Swede. Currently, an Indian emits about 15 % of the emissions of an American, and an African only 5 %.

Humans are using more than half of all habitable land to either agriculture, roads or habitation. Forests make up ca. 35 % of habitable land, and a large part is subject to human activities, so one can estimate that currently less than 20 % of all habitable land is free from human use. Out of the agricultural land use, 75-80 % is used for livestock (either directly or to produce fodder).

Virtually all seas are overfished. The present aquacultural practices do not decrease overfishing, as most of the feed for the cultivated preferred species is obtained by catching and processing less valuable species.

The sea ice extent in Antarctica has been the lowest ever throughout 2022 and also in Arctic much less than the long-time average. While the Arctic temperatures in 2022 are generally much higher than the long-time average, the area between Alaska and Eastern Siberia makes a notable exception as it has been very cold there.

The world’s glaciers have lost more than 25 meters of ice by 2022 relative to the situation in 1970. Since the water from glaciers is the primary water source in many areas, and glaciers have melted, the water availability decreases.

In England, July was driest after 1935. Lake Mead (the most important reservoir in Colorado river) is drying up. In other places deadly floods occur (Kentucky, South Korea)

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, water availability, land use, carbon dioxide emissions

Oil Exploration Boom Is Heating Up

Maanantai 25.7.2022 klo 13:19 - Mikko Nikinmaa

With huge forest fires raging more carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere than the present restrictions in fossil fuel use diminish the emissions. The net result is further heating, leading to further forest fires, leading to further heating…and so on.

One would imagine that at least now the world leaders would start markedly diminishing our dependency on oil production, but no. It is only last November that virtually every country in the world pledged in Glasgow to do quite a bit to combat climate change. Notably, though, leaders of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Iran (and a couple of other nations, which I don’t mention as they are not major global players in the production or use of oil) did not attend the Glasgow Summit. Well, the leaders made pledges, but what has recently happened?

Putin has started the war against Ukraine and ridiculed the European aim to shift from oil to green energy production. Since EU, UK and USA are stopping or have stopped to use Russian oil, oil production elsewhere is increasing. For example, President Biden visited Saudi Arabia, asking them to increase oil production. Norway is increasing oil production and offshore drilling. In view of these incidences, it is no wonder that Congo is slipping from its Glasgow pledge. In Glasgow, Congo agreed to protect its large rain forest for the next ten years. In exchange for this pledge, the international community promised to give Congo 500 000 000 USD.

Promises are made to be broken. Congo has now started an auction for oil exploration in its rainforest. It is expected that the oil production of Congo could increase 50-fold. At the same time the rain forest of Congo as a carbon sink would clearly decrease.

The poor countries like Congo maintain that the rich industrialized countries are again being colonial – trying to keep themselves rich and using poor nations as “carbon dioxide sinks” preventing them from economic growth if they have their way. There is some truth in this claim. After all, who are most likely to use the oil drilled from the rain forest in Congo. And the companies getting most of the profits from oil drilling are hardly from Congo. Notably, Elon Musk would rather spend his money on Mars than help people on Earth. He has already spent much more on space travel than the international pledge of funds to Congo is. I wonder which is more important for humankind – or even to him, his space travel or combatting climate change?

All in all, the best way to combat climate change would be to markedly reduce economic inequality.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, economic inequality

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