North Atlantic’s capacity to absorb CO2 overestimated, study suggests

North Atlantic’s capacity to absorb CO2 overestimated, study suggests

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: April 3, 2020 SNIP: The North Atlantic may be a weaker climate ally than previously believed, according to a study that suggests the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide has been overestimated. A first-ever winter and spring sampling of plankton in the western North Atlantic showed cell sizes were considerably smaller than scientists assumed, which means the carbon they absorb does not sink as deep or as fast, nor does it stay in the depths for as long. This discovery is likely to force a negative revision of global climate calculations, say the authors of the Nasa-backed study, though it is unclear by how much. “We have found a misconception. It will definitely impact the model of carbon flows,” said Oregon State University microbiologist Steve Giovannoni. “It will require more than just a small tweak.” Researchers say the spring phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic is probably the largest annual biological carbon sequestration mechanism on the planet. Like a vast forest of tiny plants in the sunlight upper part of the ocean, they draw down carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. The bigger the plankton, the higher the chance they will sink into the deep mesopelagic zone of the ocean, where carbon can be trapped for more than 1,000 years. Until now, climate models have assumed that diatoms – one of the biggest types of plankton – were dominant. But the study, published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal, reveals they are a very minor share of biomass when compared with much smaller cyanobacteria, picophytoeukaryotes and nanophytoeukaryotes. This was expected in winter, but the research...
Trees on commercial UK plantations ‘not helping climate crisis’

Trees on commercial UK plantations ‘not helping climate crisis’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 10, 2020 SNIP: Commercial tree plantations in Britain do not store carbon to help the climate crisis because more than half of the harvested timber is used for less than 15 years and a quarter is burned, according to a new report. While fast-growing non-native conifers can sequester carbon more quickly than slow-growing broadleaved trees, that carbon is released again if the trees are harvested and the wood is burned or used in products with short lifespans, such as packaging, pallets and fencing. Of the UK’s 2018 timber harvest, 23% was used for wood fuel, while 56% was taken to sawmills. Only 33% of the wood used by sawmills was for construction, where wood used in permanent buildings can lock in carbon for decades. Much of sawmill wood was used for fencing (36%) with a service life of 15 years, or packaging and pallets (24%) or paper (4%). “There is no point growing a lot of fast-growing conifers with the logic that they sequester carbon quickly if they then go into a paper mill because all that carbon will be lost to the atmosphere within a few years,” said Thomas Lancaster, head of UK land policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which commissioned the report. “We should not be justifying non-native forestry on carbon grounds if it’s not being used as a long-term carbon store.” The Committee on Climate Change has called for 1.5 billion new trees by 2050 – requiring planting on 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of land a year, increasing Britain’s forest cover from 13% to 19%....
New cars producing more carbon dioxide than older models

New cars producing more carbon dioxide than older models

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 27, 2020 SNIP: New cars sold in the UK produce more carbon dioxide than older models, according to new research that suggests the industry is going backwards in tackling the climate crisis. Cars that reach the latest standards of emissions use cleaner internal combustion engine technology to combat air pollution, but the relentless rise in demand for bigger, heavier models meant that average emissions of the greenhouse gas rose, according to the consumer group Which?. The latest generation of cars produced 7% more emissions than those manufactured to earlier standards, testing of 292 models released in the UK since 2017 found. Cars account for just over 18% of UK emissions, according to government figures, and reining back pollution from the sector is seen as crucial to efforts to cut the country’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Lisa Barber, editor of Which? magazine, said: “It is shocking to see our tests uncover increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions for the latest cars that are being built and sold to UK consumers. Overall, cars that met the latest emissions regulations (standards known as Euro 6d and Euro 6d-temp) produced 162.1g of CO2 per kilometre, 10.5g more than those in the previous generation (Euro 6b and Euro 6c). That was far above the 95g target carmakers must meet across all EU sales in order to avoid steep fines. The Which? analysis found that carbon emissions were rising across every segment of the car market, from smaller city cars through to SUVs, as manufacturers packed more technology into their cars. Emissions rose fastest in the hybrid...
Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks

Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: February 3, 2020 SNIP: Just beyond the windows of Satsuki Kanno’s apartment overlooking Tokyo Bay, a behemoth from a bygone era will soon rise: a coal-burning power plant, part of a buildup of coal power that is unheard-of for an advanced economy. It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming. “Why coal, why now?” said Ms. Kanno, a homemaker in Yokosuka, the site for two of the coal-burning units that will be built just several hundred feet from her home. “It’s the worst possible thing they could build.” Together the 22 power plants would emit almost as much carbon dioxide annually as all the passenger cars sold each year in the United States. The construction stands in contrast with Japan’s effort to portray this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as one of the greenest ever. Under the Paris accord, Japan committed to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2030 compared to 2013 levels, a target that has been criticized for being “highly insufficient” by climate...
Nightmares on wax: the environmental impact of the vinyl revival

Nightmares on wax: the environmental impact of the vinyl revival

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 28, 2020 SNIP: Inside a US vinyl pressing plant – its owners have asked that I do not give its location – dozens of hydraulic machines run all day and night. These contraptions fill the building, as long as a city block, with hissing and clanking as well as the sweet-and-sour notes of warm grease and melted plastic. They look like relics, because they are. The basic technological principles of record pressing have not changed for a century, and the machines themselves are decades old. While it is far exceeded by revenues from streaming, the vinyl market keeps growing – Americans now spend as much on vinyl as they do on CDs, while there were 4.3m vinyl sales in the UK last year, the 12th consecutive year of growth. So, if you’re one of the millions of people to re-embrace vinyl records, it’s worth knowing where they come from and how they’re made. There are containers called hoppers at each pressing station, brimming with the lentil-like polymer pellets that get funnelled down into the machinery, heated and fused to form larger biscuits that resemble hockey pucks, and squashed to make records. Employees are cagey about the separate warehouse where this company stockpiles its plastic. But the empty fridge-sized cardboard boxes on the pressing floor hint at their origin. They are marked with big red letters proclaiming, “Vinyl compound” and “Product of Thailand”. While vinyl pellets are shipped in large boxes, it takes only a handful to make a typical record. US–based petrochemical corporations supplied much of this raw material until the LP market dried...