Category: Climate change

New poll finds climate change is not a big issue for Americans

In news that will neither shock nor surprise, a poll has found that Americans don’t care as much about global warming as they used to.

The survey, snappily titled “Every single climate poll done since that Al Gore movie came out”, conducted by the Washington Post and Stanford University, found that climate change is no longer the top concern for Americans, and now ranks second to air and water pollution as the planet’s biggest environmental worry.

Just 18 percent named climate change as their top concern, compared to 33 percent in 2007.

Nonetheless, Americans do see the issue as a threat: three-quarters say they believe the Earth is getting warmer and will continue to do so if nothing is done.

Findings from the poll indicate that Washington’s decision to can action on climate policy means that the issue has receded from the public consciousness. Similarly, President Obama has slowed down on pushing a bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions, after the proposal stalled in the Senate in 2010.

Governments look to cash in on melting Arctic

The temperature of the Arctic is increasing twice as fast as the rest of planet, which will play a key role in the shaping of future geopolitics, according to a new report.

As the ice melts, more opportunities in shipping, tourism and oil and gas extraction are unlocked, and the world’s largest economies are waiting to cash in on control of the region. The report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) says that the rapidly-melting Arctic is a “bellweather for how climate change may reshape geopolitics in the post-Cold War era”.

An absence of ice will open up waterways allowing for expanded shipping routes, and allow greater opportunities for extracting fossil fuels, which are believed to lie beneath the Arctic waters. So, ethical implications aside, the question is: who will take control of the area? The International Institute for Strategic Studies has produced a comprehensive map illustrating the intentions of neighbouring regions.

The report from C2ES indicates some areas of debate. In it, the authors say that while countries seem “focused on building a cooperative security environment in the region”, there is also an “apparently contradictory trend toward modernizing their military forces in the Arctic”. This means that if political cooperation fails, most of the Arctic nations have no qualms about sending in troops ready to compete in the Arctic’s formidable environment.

Furthermore, the USA is absent from the Law of Sea treaty – the one document that provides a framework for resolving territorial disputes in the Arctic, as well as detailing the rights of nations in using the world’s oceans. It is unlikely that the States would forfeit a claim on this enormous commercial opportunity because of a detail like this, and therefore conflict is likely to arise in this area, too.

The report also notes that the ability of the eight circumpolar nations to respond to disasters in the Arctic area is extremely limited. Should the emerging Arctic experience an ecological crisis from gas or oil exploration, or a humanitarian crisis from a shipwreck, for example, response capabilities are likely to be highly inadequate. This, according to the report, poses a greater threat than the potential militarisation of the area.

Yet the overall environmental implications can’t be overlooked. The very fact that these controversies are being discussed is because the Arctic’s environment is being destroyed by climate change. Surely adding new, damaging infrastructures to the area will only accelerate its progress to extinction?

Flatulent cows’ effect on environment to be scientifically measured… by lasers

It sounds like the premise to a bad joke, but a team of scientists using lasers has been commissioned to find out just how much gas Britain’s cows are releasing into the atmosphere.

The agriculture industry is thought to be responsible for around eight percent of all British greenhouse gas emissions, thanks mainly to the less-than-fresh releases from cattle and other farm animals. But the exact figure is unknown. After all, how straightforward would it be to measure the methane escaping from a cow’s derriere?

As the government is committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 34 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, Defra has asked a team of experts from the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington to develop an accurate way of measuring the flatulence from a herd of cows. The endeavor will be part of a £12.6m project into understanding how farming leads to climate change.

To reliably measure the gas, scientists plan to use lasers to monitor the atmosphere across an entire field.

Alan Brewin, who is overseeing the project, told The Telegraph“We use lasers to interact with the gas in the field. The way the light is absorbed tells you what gas there is, how much of it there is, which direction it is flowing in and how fast.”