Here is today’s climate-related news:
From USA Today: “Earth's carbon dioxide levels highest in 3 million years, study says.”
Carbon dioxide – the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming – has reached levels in our atmosphere not seen in 3 million years, scientists announced this week in a new study.
At that time, sea levels were as much as 65 feet higher than they are now, Greenland was mostly green and Antarctica had trees.
“It seems we’re now pushing our home planet beyond any climatic conditions experienced during the entire current geological period, the Quaternary,” said study lead author Matteo Willeit of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “A period that started almost 3 million years ago and saw human civilization beginning only 11,000 years ago. So, the modern climate change we see is big, really big; even by standards of Earth history.”
From the BBC: “Climate change: Warning from 'Antarctica's last forests’.”
Scramble across exposed rocks in the middle of Antarctica and it's possible to find the mummified twigs of shrubs that grew on the continent some three to five million years ago.
This plant material isn't much to look at, but scientists say it should serve as a warning to the world about where climate change could take us if carbon emissions go unchecked.
The time period is an epoch geologists call the Pliocene, 2.6-5.3 million years ago.
It was marked by temperatures that were significantly warmer than today, perhaps by 2-3 degrees globally. These were conditions that permitted plant growth even in the middle of the White Continent.
Higher, too, were sea-levels. It's uncertain by how much, but possibly in the region of 10-20m above the modern ocean surface.
What's really significant, though, is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was very similar to what it is today - at around 400 CO2 molecules for every million molecules of air. Indeed, the Pliocene was the last time in Earth history that the air carried this same concentration of the greenhouse gas.
And it tells you where we're heading if we don't get serious about addressing the climate problem, cautions Prof Martin Siegert from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.
The Guardian's take on that news: “Last time CO2 levels were this high, there were trees at the South Pole.”
Subhead: "Pliocene beech fossils in Antarctica when CO2 was at similar level to today point to planet’s future.."
Trees growing near the South Pole, sea levels 20 metres higher than now, and global temperatures 3C-4C warmer. That is the world scientists are uncovering as they look back in time to when the planet last had as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it does today.
Using sedimentary records and plant fossils, researchers have found that temperatures near the South Pole were about 20C higher than now in the Pliocene epoch, from 5.3m to 2.6m years ago.
Many scientists use sophisticated computer models to predict the impacts of human-caused climate change, but looking back in time for real-world examples can give new insights.
The Pliocene was a “proper analogy” and offered important lessons about the road ahead, said Martin Siegert, a geophysicist and climate-change scientist at Imperial College London. “The headline news is the temperatures are 3-4C higher and sea levels are 15-20 metres higher than they are today. The indication is that there is no Greenland ice sheet any more, no West Antarctic ice sheet and big chunks of East Antarctic [ice sheet] taken,” he said.
From Minnesota Public Radio: “Study: Great Lakes hit hardest by climate change in U.S.”
Excerpts (intro to audio):
The warming climate has already affected your favorite great lake.
A new study finds climate change in the Great Lakes region is happening faster than the rest of the U.S.
Lucinda Johnson, a study co-author and associate director at the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, joined Climate Cast to discuss.
Meanwhile, in the world of business:
From Oilprice.com: “Russia Seeks New Arctic Oil Frontier.”
Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled oil company and the largest oil producer in the country, plans to develop an Arctic cluster of oil fields over the next five years.
These plans by Rosneft—led by a close ally of Vladimir Putin’s, Igor Sechin—fit the Russian President’s ambition to develop Arctic oil and gas resources and adjacent regions, as well as the so-called Northern Sea Route—a shipping lane through Russian Arctic waters stretching from Europe to the Far East.
Russia’s Arctic oil development has stalled in recent years due to the western sanctions that have had international majors, including ExxonMobil, pull out of some exploration projects in Russia.
Now Rosneft is pledging increased efforts to fulfill Putin’s Arctic development ambitions, aiming to have first oil produced in the so-called Arctic cluster of fields by 2024 and to boost cargo traffic on the Northern Sea Route.
For Rosneft, the Northern Sea Route, if connected to inland oil fields in Russia’s north, could provide another export avenue for its oil, especially to the markets in Asia.
From RigZone: “Key Buyers Push US Oil Exports to Record Highs.”
Constantly evolving hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies have opened up more U.S. petroleum resources than ever imagined. Crude production has boomed 140 percent over the past decade to 12.1 million barrels per day (bpd). During the course of 2018, for instance, output rose nearly 25 percent, even more impressive since domestic prices (WTI) had fallen 23 percent to $46 per barrel by the end of December. This flood of supply is just one of a number of key factors that have allowed U.S. oil exports to rapidly grow.
The U.S. oil business was gifted its historic lift at the end of 2015, when a law change allowed crude sales to go beyond neighbor Canada. In addition, U.S. shale oil is a lighter, sweeter grade, and the country’s refining system is mostly configured to process heavier, sour kinds that have historically been imported from Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela. In other words, combined with very high but flat domestic demand, the U.S. has had a surplus of oil to ship abroad.
From OilPrice.com: “Tanzania To Begin Talks With Majors On $30B Deepwater LNG Project.”
Tanzania’s government will start this month talks with major international firms to define the commercial terms for a deepwater liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the coast of the east African country expected to be worth US$30 billion.
Negotiations are set to begin this month and to conclude by September, The East African news outlet quoted Tanzania’s Energy Ministry as saying.
Major international companies have been exploring for gas offshore Tanzania and have found sufficient quantities for a potential LNG plant.