Trump’s budget wants the US to stop watching the planet

Trump’s budget wants the US to stop watching the planet

SOURCE: Ars Technica DATE: February 12, 2018 SNIP: Today, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that called for massive cuts to science research across the federal government. But Trumps’s budget was accompanied by a second document that rescinded some of the cuts, even while complaining that doing so was a bad idea. Meanwhile, drastic cuts to environmental and renewable energy programs remain in both budget versions. Among the items targeted for elimination is the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST. The plan was to build this using the optical hardware of a spy satellite that was donated by the intelligence community. Once in orbit, it would scan the entire infrared sky using a wide-field lens, allowing large catalogs of different objects, including near-Earth asteroids, to be generated. The budget document more or less says that NASA is getting the James Webb Telescope and shouldn’t expect another so soon: “developing another large space telescope immediately after completing the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is not a priority for the Administration.” If you think it’s only a joke to suggest that the Trump administration would terminate an active observatory once we’ve gone through the expense of putting it in orbit, well, then you haven’t read the rest of the budget proposal, which attempts to follow through on earlier threats to gut NASA’s Earth-observing missions. Two are not yet launched. One is a satellite called CLARREO pathfinder, which is intended to develop instruments for a follow-on satellite to produce detailed climate records. Another, PACE, would track ocean-atmosphere interactions. Two other satellites would have specific instruments shut down—one of them...
We Can Pull CO2 from Air, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

We Can Pull CO2 from Air, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: February 6, 2018 SNIP: While technologies are being developed that can remove carbon dioxide from the air, they aren’t yet feasible on the scale needed to slow global warming, Europe’s national science academies warn in a new report. A wide array of technologies—from land management to ocean fertilization to capturing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it—are in various stages of testing and use, but according to the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, climate scientists and policymakers are being “seriously over-optimistic” about how much these approaches can help deal with the global warming crisis. In recent years, climate experts have suggested that it’s not enough to just decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. To avoid more than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming this century, they say, net emissions will have to fall to zero within a few decades, and it’s worth considering “negative emissions”—steps that subtract pollution from the atmosphere to offset what is being added. But despite the appeal of that notion, which in theory allows the world to overshoot its emissions budget for a while and make up the difference later, the new report warns against banking on it. “These technologies offer only limited realistic potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and not at the scale envisaged in some climate scenarios,” wrote the report’s authors, a group of experts representing the national science academies of the European Union member states, Norway and Switzerland. That’s troubling, because most of the pathways laid out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rely on deploying negative emissions approaches by...
Climate Engineering, Once Started, Would Have Severe Impacts If Stopped

Climate Engineering, Once Started, Would Have Severe Impacts If Stopped

SOURCE: Rutgers University DATE: January 21, 2018 SNIP: Facing a climate crisis, we may someday spray sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to form a cloud that cools the Earth, but suddenly stopping the spraying would have a severe global impact on animals and plants, according to the first study on the potential biological impacts of geoengineering, or climate intervention. The study was published online today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The paper was co-authored by Rutgers Distinguished Professor Alan Robock, research associate Lili Xia and postdoc Brian Zambri, all from the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Rapid warming after stopping geoengineering would be a huge threat to the natural environment and biodiversity,” Robock said. “If geoengineering ever stopped abruptly, it would be devastating, so you would have to be sure that it could be stopped gradually, and it is easy to think of scenarios that would prevent that. Imagine large droughts or floods around the world that could be blamed on geoengineering, and demands that it stop. Can we ever risk that?” The geoengineering idea that’s attracted the most attention is to create a sulfuric acid cloud in the upper atmosphere as large volcanic eruptions do, Robock said. The cloud, formed after airplanes spray sulfur dioxide, would reflect solar radiation and cool the planet. But airplanes would have to continuously fly into the upper atmosphere to maintain the cloud because it would last only about a year if spraying stopped, Robock said. He added that the airplane spraying technology may be developed within a decade or...
Monarch butterfly migration was off this year and researchers are worried

Monarch butterfly migration was off this year and researchers are worried

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: January 20, 2018 SNIP: Thanksgiving was right around the corner, and a sizable number of one of America’s most famous migrants could be seen still sputtering south. Not across the Texas-Mexico border, where most monarch butterflies should be by that time of year. These fluttered tardily through the migratory funnel that is Cape May, N.J., their iconic orange-and-black patterns splashing against the muted green of pines frosted by the season’s first chill. This delayed migration is not normal, and it alarmed monarch researchers across the country. The Cape May stragglers were only a sliver of the record number of monarchs reported in the Northeast in November and December — news that sounded good initially to conservationists. But seeing butterflies so far north so late in the year suggested that few of these latecomers would reach their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists fear that climate change is behind what they’re calling the latest monarch migration ever recorded in the eastern United States, and they worry that rising temperatures pose a new threat to a species that saw its population hit record lows in recent years. Known for their complex, ­improbable migrations, most monarchs embark on 2,000-mile journeys each fall, from breeding grounds as far north as Canada’s maritime provinces to the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico. (A separate western ­population heads mostly to Southern California.) They mate in Mexico, then fly back north to lay their eggs (and die) in the spring. Because they’re so delicate — each weighs less than a gram — monarchs are particular about the conditions they’ll fly in, and especially vulnerable...
2017 was the hottest year on record without El Niño boost

2017 was the hottest year on record without El Niño boost

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 18, 2018 SNIP: 2017 was the hottest year since global records began that was not given an additional boost by the natural climate cycle El Niño, according to new data. Even without an El Niño, the year was still exceptionally hot, being one of the top three ever recorded. The three main global temperature records show the global surface temperature in 2017 was 1C above levels seen in pre-industrial times, with scientists certain that humanity’s fossil fuel-burning is to blame. The data, published on Thursday, means the last three years have been the hottest trio ever seen, with 2017 ranking second or third depending on the small differences between the temperature records. Furthermore, 17 of the 18 hottest years recorded since 1850 have occurred since...