UPDATED: Business and Climate
Business and Climate
My original entry is below the line:
I am attending in Chicago the conference Corporate Climate Response. There is a lot of energy in this group. One of the things that you notice about people in business, they speak with more certainty than scientists. This conference opened with the statement that climate change is "No longer an issue to debate, an issue to act upon." This was the position of the Chicago administration. If you look at the agenda linked above, you see the range of participants in the conference.
The first panel had speakers from Exelon Corporation, BP America, Caterpillar, and World Resources Institute. These people are advocates of a cap and trade system with emissions targets. There was a lot of discussion of the US-Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP) . The principles of US-CAP are
1) Global problem, global response, US needs to lead
2) Technology is required, hence real price of carbon
3) Has to be effective, limit CO2 to 450-550 ppm
4) Create opportunity
5) Fair, economy wise
6) Encourage early action
For those who keep up with the science; 450 ppm is pretty much impossible, and 550 ppm will require Herculean efforts.
A member of the panel, Jonathan Lash, felt that there was virtual certainty of regulation in the next five years. All of the panel members felt that the businesses represented in the room should be considering the "cost" of carbon in their business plans. An informal poll of the audience suggested that only very few companies were doing this.
One of the things that becomes apparent is the challenge of different economic sectors. Two examples: the power industry, major carbon emitter, stationary and countable numbers of emitters. The other: transportation, major carbon emissions, but often in the hands of dispersed consumers. We're still a very long way away from reconciling all of the different economic sectors in any policy mechanism.
The big responses of corporations is to go "green." In many cases this has significant benefits in the realm of efficiency - improves energy and water use. Also, cities like Chicago, have embraced the green philosophy to attract people into the city and to help make and keep it vital. Chicago has expedited the permitting process and reduced (or eliminated) fees for green buildings.
There is a lot of discussion on how to measure your carbon footprint ... how much carbon you use? How much of the Earth is required to support you? An interesting report on the carbon footprint of magazine production (Heinz Center Press Release). And here is the whole report ... (Paper Trail). An interesting comment by John Disharoon from Caterpillar - it would take 5 Earth's for the developing world to develop the same way the "developed" world developed.
One of the interfaces that I find most interesting is business and climate change. Often the business community has been posed as an adversary to those who advocate that we should be taking action about climate change. However, the business community is astoundingly diverse, and represents the spectrum of responses of society as a whole ... or the readers of this blog.
There are many reasons that businesses decide to embrace or ignore or oppose the move take action on climate change. Some see opportunity, some see risk, others see the ability to brand themselves to a desired customer community, some see the ability to improve their recruiting of staff.
A lot of interesting things have happened for me since starting to write this blog. Right now I am waiting for a much delayed flight to Chicago to attend a conference on Corporate Climate Response. Thanks to the blog, I am invited as a member of the press! That's a new one. (I've had to get out a sports coat. Don't have a suit.) They want me to write entries during the conference.
I will need the best of comments!
Here are some paragraphs cut from earlier blogs for some background.
A major constituency of the climate change society is the business community. Policy influences the environment in which businesses function, and the business community does not function well when important policy changes might reduce the profitability of projects with the stroke of a pen. Currently many businesses are looking at infrastructure investments, for example power plants, which are sure to operate in a period of changing climate and changing climate policy. Municipalities, states, regions, and countries are, individually, developing climate policies. This makes for a difficult environment for some businesses; therefore, it is of interest to at least part of the business community to promote climate policy. An example is the recent Climate Action Partnership .
A study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change , led by Professor Andrew Hoffman at UMICH, highlights the need for climate policy and the business-related risks of continuing in the current policy environment. ( PDF of Hoffman's Pew Report (2.27 MB)) Another place to look --- the CERES Reports on Corporate Governance and Climate Change show major changes between 2003 and 2006.
Updated: 19:02 GMT le 12 Mars 2008
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Vostok Revisited: More on Iconic Figure #2
Vostok Revisited: More on Iconic Figure #2
In my previous WU blog, I showed the figure of carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperature from the Vostok ice core.
In the analysis of that figure I wrote: The periodicity is closely correlated with many of the orbital parameters of the Earth and the Sun. As many of you will note, this curve does not establish cause and effect. Further, higher scrutiny shows that the temperature increase begins before the carbon dioxide increase. This combination of the orbital parameters, the change in temperature, and the change in carbon dioxide provides a challenge for understanding. A plausible physical argument can be made that the greenhouse gases modulate, perhaps amplify, the radiative changes associated with the orbital parameters. Much of the change in the carbon dioxide would be associated with changes in ocean biology and chemistry.
I want to return to this analysis and the plausible role of the ocean. Here is a schematic figure that I drew of the ocean and the atmosphere and carbon dioxide. One of things that is most important when starting to examine a problem is to draw a figure.
Figure 1: Carbon dioxide at the ocean-atmosphere interface.
The top of the figure is the atmosphere and the bottom of the figure is the ocean. The wavy line in the middle is the ocean surface. I drew a dark dashed line below the ocean surface to represent the bottom of the mixed layer of the ocean. Like the atmosphere, the layer of the ocean closest to the surface is relatively well mixed. One factor that determines the depth of this layer is the wind speed at the surface of the ocean.
The green arrow labeled CO2 suggests that CO2 is transported back and forth between the ocean and atmosphere. The characteristic that is most important to the direction of the transport is the pressure of CO2. If the pressure of CO2 is higher in the atmosphere than in the ocean, then CO2 is transported into the ocean water. If the pressure of CO2 is lower in the atmosphere than in the ocean, then CO2 comes out of the water into the air. Remember that pressure is related to temperature. There are two other two-way arrows that I have drawn. The arrow labeled "tropics" represents the notion that in the tropics there is generally CO2 going from the ocean to the atmosphere. This is due to the warm ocean water. The arrow labeled "polar" represents the notion that at polar latitudes CO2 goes from the atmosphere to the ocean. This is the average situation.
I have drawn a bunch of arrows in the ocean; these are very important to the climate problem. Once in the ocean, the CO2 is "reactive." First, there is "chemistry," which converts the CO2 into carbonic acid. This effectively removes CO2 from the water, reduces the pressure of CO2, and hence, allows the ocean to take up more CO2. Thus, chemical conversion of CO2 allows the ocean to take up more and more of the atmospheric CO2. This mechanism is often called the "solubility pump," because CO2 is in a solution with ocean water. A consequence of the solubility pump is that the ocean becomes more acidic.
Second, there is biology. CO2 is used by plankton. In combination with calcium, exoskeletons and shells and bones are built. Again, carbon dioxide is removed from the ocean water, the pressure is reduced, and more CO2 can be transported from the air into the water. This is often called the biological pump.
For the sake of clarity, I needed space to draw the "biology" and "chemistry" arrows. The way they are drawn is not meant to represent a relationship to the tropics or the poles. They are just meant to explain what can happen to the CO2 dissolved in the ocean water.
There are two other elements in the figure I want to point out. These are the white arrow at the right of the figure and the artistically drawn cloud-like feature below the "plankton, shells, and bones." The arrow represents the transport of water out of the mixed layer into the deep ocean. This process occurs, primarily, in small regions of the polar oceans and seas. The cloud-like feature represents the "precipitation" of carbon, bound with calcium, as creatures die and sink.
None of the processes I described above go on without impacts or consequences. For instance, the acidity of the ocean will affect the ability of plankton to form their shells. Plus, much of the carbon that is transported down to the bottom of the ocean is slowly transported back to the surface, where it can return to the atmosphere. A small fraction remains as sediment on the bottom and gets incorporated back into the geological compartment of the Earth system. The mechanisms and paths described above are very good starting places.
Why did I go through all of this? Not so long ago many people viewed that the CO2 in the atmosphere would not be much of a problem because of the great capacity of the ocean. Two things: 1) While the capacity is large, there are consequences of putting more carbon into the ocean. 2) It takes a very long time for all of these oceanic processes to catch up with the excess CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere. The ocean might ultimately take it up, but not until there are significant changes to the atmosphere, the weather, the climate.
Back to that issue of the ice-age cycles and the warming starting before the CO2 starts to rise. Go to the figure above. Assume there is some source of warming that is not linked to CO2. If it leads to the ocean warming, then the CO2 in the ocean will start to be released into the atmosphere. The ocean will be less able to take up CO2. There will be transport of CO2 to the atmosphere. Once the CO2 is released into the atmosphere, it will make things warmer, and that will lead to more CO2 being released from the ocean. If the warming starts after a long period of cold, then there will be a lot of CO2 in the ocean to be released. This is a positive feedback. The links provided at the end go to earlier blogs where I have discussed other types of feedbacks. The general idea of the cycling is that the Sun-Earth orbital variability initiates the warming, the CO2 is released from the ocean, the positive feedback loop starts, and then this CO2 warming takes over. Why does it stop? (That's for later.)
Going back to the figure of the cycles from the last blog: What is different now than in the past few cycles? Plus what is the role of ice, especially sea ice.
Clouds Cool and Warm
Updated: 01:01 GMT le 08 novembre 2009
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Iconic Figure # 2: Vostok Ice Core and CO2
Iconic Figure # 2: Vostok Ice Core and CO2
In my class I have a set of figures that I call the "iconic figures" of climate change. There are only a handful of them, and they are the figures that I think all my students should be aware of and understand. One of the exercises that I suggest for my students is to write a figure caption for each of the figures. (Perhaps an extended figure caption.)
Here is the second figure, which has been routinely mentioned by people commenting on this blog. This is the figure of carbon dioxide and temperature change as revealed from the Vostok ice core. Vostok is in East Antarctica at about 78 degrees south. Figures like this have appeared in many papers, and an excellent reference for the figure is Petit et al. (Nature, 1999). In that paper you will see curves for methane, dust, sodium, etc. Recently the record has been extended back to more than 650,000 years.
First how is this measurement made? The basic idea is that air is trapped in snow and as more and more layers of snow accumulate, the air is help in bubbles under many meters of ice. Hence, the air in the bubbles is representative of the atmosphere at the time that the snow fell. Temperature is determined by the concentration of a particular isotope of oxygen, whose concentration is correlated with temperature. (How would you validate this measurement?)
Here is a version of the figure from the Koshland Science Museum. There is excellent material in their discussion of global warming, including a lot more about ice cores.
Figure 1: Carbon dioxide (parts per million, ppm) and temperature (Fahrenheit) from the Vostok Ice Core. Recently the record has been extended back more than 650,000 years ( Siegenthalter et al., 2005, Science )
What can we see from this figure? There is an oscillation between warmer and cooler states of the climate. The rise to the warm periods is more rapid than the descent into the cool periods. The carbon dioxide is higher in the warm periods and lower in the cool periods. Over the past 350,000 years (and in fact the last 650,000 years), the carbon dioxide did not exceed 300 ppm, until the last 100 years or so. Some of the shorter bumps and wiggles between the warm and cool periods are accompanied by similar changes in carbon dioxide. This figure establishes that carbon dioxide and temperature are correlated on these long time scales. It does not establish cause and effect.
There are other things that we can note about this figure based on some external information. First the great civilizations of humans only occur in the last 10,000 years or so. This is in a warm time, and humans have thrived in this warm period. The cool periods are categorized as ice ages, ages when glaciers expanded and covered large parts of the northern hemisphere. (As an aside, a year or so ago I attended a fascinating talk about the city of Sagalassos. Over the course of the seminar, there was a discussion about the people who lived in area before the city was formed. It struck me that they were living at the edge of a glacial lake that was first forming, then disappearing, as the glaciers receded. These people saw the end of the ice age.)
The periodicity is closely correlated with many of the orbital parameters of the Earth and the Sun. As many of you will note, this curve does not establish cause and effect. Further, higher scrutiny shows that the temperature increase begins before the carbon dioxide increase. This combination of the orbital parameters, the change in temperature, and the change in carbon dioxide provides a challenge for understanding. A plausible physical argument can be made that the greenhouse gases modulate, perhaps amplify, the radiative changes associated with the orbital parameters. Much of the change in the carbon dioxide would be associated with changes in ocean biology and chemistry. While it is straightforward to make physical arguments and to find correlative observations, the direct determination of cause and effect in these long-term climate fluctuations is difficult. (Here is a discussion from Realclimate about these difficulties.)
These graphs from ice cores contain more information than discussed here; they are very rich. The curves are used by scientists and non-scientists to make statements about both past and future climates. In both cases it is important to remember that this curve does not stand in isolation. We have many other sources of information from both observations and theory. Plus, there is something very different today; the carbon dioxide is more than 30% higher.
Petit, J.R., et al., 1999: Climate and atmospheric history if the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica, Vol. 399, p 429-436.
Updated: 01:07 GMT le 08 novembre 2009
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