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How Does Climate Change Affect the Ocean

How Does Climate Change Affect the Ocean

This year brought some bad news on the climate change front: researchers found that ice is melting faster worldwide, and there’s a greater sea-level rise anticipated. The rate of ice loss each year has increased by 60%. A study of the Greenland ice sheet found that there are at least 74 major glaciers that are being severely undercut and weakened.

These statistics are dire for our oceans and the future of the planet. As glacier ice melts, it changes the chemical makeup of the oceans; and, since the oceans directly regulate the weather, changes to our oceans affect our food supply, air quality, disaster preparedness, and more. How climate change affects the ocean is complicated and touches virtually every aspect of our lives. Here’s a quick overview of the relationship between climate change and oceans, and why it’s imperative that we work to reduce ocean climate change.

Climate change and sea-level rise

There’s no question that climate change has caused sea levels to rise. But, sea-level change has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. Since 1880, the average sea level has risen eight to nine inches; a third of that gain has come in the last two and a half decades. Rising sea levels can be mostly attributed to meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets, as well as the thermal expansion of seawater as it warms.

 

Ocean Level Rise

Image Source

Climate change and sea-level rise are a big deal for coastal communities — and in the US, nearly 40% of the population lives in high population-density coastal areas. Around the world, eight of the 10 largest cities are near a coast. This puts a huge percentage of our population at risk for flooding, shoreline erosion, and storm hazards. Our infrastructure — roads, bridges, subways, power plants, water supplies, and more — are all at risk from sea-level rise.

[Read more: Flood Maps Are Outdated – Here’s How to Fix Them

Flooding isn’t the only danger of higher sea levels. Rising sea levels will impact our drinking water, food supply, and overall health. “As sea levels rise, saltwater intrusion into freshwater increases the salinity of groundwater basins and well water. This reduces crop yields and the availability of safe drinking water. It also increases the risk of hypertension, as well as vectorborne and diarrheal disease,” said one joint report by the Public Health Institute and the Center for Climate Change and Health.

Finally, climate change and sea-level rise will threaten wildlife populations and coastal ecosystems. Trees growing near the coast will struggle to find enough freshwater to grow; even those further inland won’t be able to survive repeated flooding by salty seawater. Wildlife populations that make their home along the coast will struggle to adapt to erosion, flooding, and changes in plant life. Sea birds and sea turtles that make their nests on the shoreline won’t be able to reproduce and will face extinction.

Ocean acidification and climate change

The on-shore effects of climate change are just one side of the story. The chemical make-up and temperature of the ocean are also changing.

Climate change is causing increased rates of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a process by which the pH of the ocean is reduced over an extended period of time, making the ocean more acidic. This is primarily caused by an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“The ocean absorbs about 30 percent of the CO2 that is released in the atmosphere, and as levels of atmospheric CO2 increase, so do the levels in the ocean,” explained NOAA. “When CO2 is absorbed by seawater, a series of chemical reactions occur resulting in the increased concentration of hydrogen ions. This increase causes the seawater to become more acidic and causes carbonate ions to be relatively less abundant.”

As we emit more CO2, the ocean becomes more and more acidic. The pH has dropped by 26% over the last century (to become more acidic). What does this mean for climate change and the planet?

First, marine ecosystems will struggle to survive. Acidification particularly impacts shellfish and coral reefs — organisms that need carbonate ions to make their shells and skeletons. Acidification reduces the availability of carbonate ions, preventing these populations from thriving and disrupting delicate ocean ecosystems.

Through Sofar Ocean’s partnership with Aqualink, research teams are able to take advantage of the world’s largest real-time ocean data platform to visualize temperature and other data from coral reef sites around the world. By aggregating data and providing greater transparency to sensor and model data, researchers are able to pinpoint with greater accuracy where ocean acidification and climate change are taking their toll.

It’s not just marine ecosystems that are struggling due to ocean acidification. Warming ocean temperatures are bad for the fishing industry, too. Warmer oceans lead to toxic algal blooms. “Toxic algae produce domoic acid, a dangerous neurotoxin, that builds up in the bodies of shellfish, posing a risk to human health. As a result, many West Coast fisheries have been forced to shut down,” wrote the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Some scientists have linked ocean acidification to atmospheric warming — bringing us to the third impact of ocean climate change.

Ocean circulation and the climate

Ocean circulation regulates the temperature of our planet. It works like a giant “conveyor belt” to bring heat from the Equator to the higher latitudes. “As warm water from the tropics flows toward the poles in wind-driven currents near the surface, it cools, becoming denser and heavier, and eventually sinks. It then begins flowing back toward the equator in a slow journey deep in the ocean,” explained Inside Climate News.

 

Thermohaline circulation
Image Source

Critically, the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation has slowed by about 15% since the middle of the last century. Weaker currents are at the root of a host of problems: increased rates of ocean acidification, higher sea levels, more extreme temperatures (hotter summers and colder winters), coastal ice jams that impede marine shipping routes, and the collapse of certain aquaculture operations.

[Read more:  Tracking Changes in Surface Currents

The stats on ocean climate change are alarming. We know it’s time to lower our carbon footprint — an effort that starts with better data and more affordable technology to increase the breadth and depth of data collected. As our partnership with Aqualink shows, a unified knowledge base can lead to better strategy and planning to slow down the rate of ocean climate change. It starts with more affordable and more accessible data collection — the driving force behind Sofar Ocean’s Spotter buoys. To learn more, click here.


The original article by Emily Heaslip was originally published at Sofarocean


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Carbon Pricing vs. Carbon Tax: Understanding The Difference

Carbon Pricing vs. Carbon Tax: Understanding The Difference

When the CO2 we emit costs money, we generally produce less of it. Economists worldwide point to carbon pricing as the most effective way to reduce emissions.

Why? 

Because carbon pricing reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the lowest cost possible, where that cost includes the monetary amount of efficiency measures a company takes on and the cost of the inconvenience resulting from making do with fewer goods and services that rely on fossil fuels.

Carbon Pricing is exceptionally effective because it eliminates the chance of a market failure – the unknown cost of external carbon emissions – at the source by pricing these costs.

So how does carbon tax fit into the equation? In this article, the GHG emissions management experts at SINAI provide an overview of carbon pricing and carbon tax. Gain an understanding of the difference between the two when it comes to effective emissions management.

What is carbon pricing?

Carbon pricing is a market-based approach to reduce carbon emissions (also referred to as CO2, greenhouse gas, and GHG emissions) that uses market mechanisms to pass the cost of emitting on to the emitters.  It aims to discourage the use of carbon dioxide or emitting fossil fuels in order to address the causes of climate change, protect the environment, and meet international and national climate agreements and pledges.

“Polluter pays” is a crucial aspect of the carbon pricing strategy. By putting a monetary amount on carbon, communities can hold emitters responsible for the consequential environmental and social costs of putting GHG emissions into the atmosphere, including increased risk of dangerous weather, warming temperatures, polluted air, and community health threats from the negative impacts on food and water supplies.

Carbon Pricing

Source: IEA

 

Putting a price on carbon also provides financial incentives for polluters to reduce their carbon emissions.‍

Carbon pricing provides a long list of significant benefits. It is one of the most robust policy tools available for fighting climate change. It offers the opportunity to decarbonize global economic activities by influencing the behavior of businesses, investors, and consumers. It also offers continuous technological innovation and new, clean revenue streams that are more productive and sustainable for corporations. In other words, the best-designed carbon prices provide three key benefits: they preserve the environment, promote funding in clean technologies, and boost revenue. ‍

What is a carbon tax?

A carbon tax is a fee that fossil fuel burning corporations pay as a result of government regulations. By fossil fuels, we mean oil, coal, natural gas, and gasoline. When these carbon-filled fuels are burned, they produce greenhouse gas emissions. These gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, cause global warming by raising the atmosphere’s temperature. Flooding, heat waves, droughts, and blizzards, along with other extreme weather events, are a result of global warming.

The main objective of a carbon tax is to mirror the actual cost that burning carbon creates. Carbon taxes ensure corporations and consumers pay for the external costs they inflict on the wider society.‍

How does carbon tax relate to carbon pricing?

A carbon tax is a type of carbon pricing — the other primary type of carbon pricing is emissions trading systems or ETS.

A carbon tax sets an exact price on carbon by specifying a tax rate on GHG emissions or on the carbon amount found in fossil fuels, with the latter becoming more common. Carbon tax differs from an ETS in that the GHG emissions reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not defined in advance, but the carbon price is.

National and economic circumstances largely control the choice between using a carbon tax or an ETS. There are also more indirect ways of pricing carbon, including through fuel taxes, regulations that take into account the social cost of carbon, and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. GHG emissions may also be priced through payments for carbon emission reductions.‍

Setting an internal carbon price for your company

Many industry-leading companies are setting an ambitious internal carbon price to help consolidate their environmental impact. SINAI’s cutting-edge technology can help you make sense out of complex data by quantifying targets, identifying emissions gaps, and reviewing carbon budgets more seamlessly than ever before.

SINAI can help your company define costs and carbon pricing based on precise data analysis. You’ll be able to implement pricing mechanisms based on the most robust business approach possible and align your business strategy with segmented and transparent targets built around emissions pathways.

Setting an internal carbon price helps your company build resilience, and can strengthen communication in capital markets with meticulous datasets that are accessible and easy to understand, and prepare for increasingly demanding regulation. For a demo of our software, reach out today and see what SINAI can do for your business.


This article was originally published at Sinai Technologies


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

How the energy industry impacts the environment

How the energy industry impacts the environment

In Texas, the energy industry plays an important role, particularly when it comes to green energy. Because of the prominence coal, oil, and renewable energy play in the Lone Star State, concerns over CO2 emission levels are equally important.

Burning fossil fuels and producing cement account for about two-thirds of all carbon dioxide (CO2) and industrial methane released into the atmosphere since 1854. Although the U.S. has cut more CO2 emissions than any other nation and is on pace to meet a 2009 pledge to reduce CO2 emissions by 17% (from 2005 levels) this year, global carbon dioxide emissions have still reached the highest point in human history.

The Trump administration dismantled Obama-era regulations that would have required power producers to slash CO2 emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. China is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases (by a large margin). The United States comes in second.

Union of concerned scientists

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Coronavirus pandemic affects COemissions

The impact on energy use and CO2 emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic has had major implications on global economies. In the first quarter of 2020, while many countries remained in full or partial lockdown, energy demand declined by 3.8 percent.

The hardest-hit industries include:

  • Coal. Global demand for coal fell by almost eight percent, compared to the same time in 2019. Low-priced gas and the continued growth in renewables globally, as well as mild weather across the U.S., capped coal use.
  • Oil. The demand for oil was down almost five percent in the first quarter of 2020. This was mainly due to shelter-in-place orders and reduced air travel due to COVID-19. Since air travel accounts for nearly 60 percent of oil demand globally, the impact on the demand for oil was significant.
  • Gas. Although not impacted to the same degree as coal or oil, gas still saw a two percent reduction in demand in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Electricity. Experts estimate the demand for electricity since the COVID-19 lockdown has decreased by about 20 percent. However, residential demand for electricity actually saw an increase and far outweighed the reduction in commercial and industrial operations as businesses remained closed.
  • Renewables.  This is the only energy source that saw an uptick in demand.

Energy companies step up to address climate change

Every year the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) addresses how the industry impacts changing weather patterns and greenhouse gas emissions. An increase in droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes, climbing temperatures, and rising sea levels have energy companies scrambling to address the consequences of climate change on weather patterns and the environment.

However, in the past six months, climate change has taken a backseat to the COVID-19-related conversation. Even so, according to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, nearly a dozen energy companies worldwide have agreed to cut the output of emissions by 36 million to 52 million tonnes (a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms) per year by 2025.

Energy-related CO2 Emissions from Industry, 2019

Center for climate and energy solutions

Image Credits

How are COemissions produced?

Industries produce products and raw materials for use every day. The greenhouse gas emissions that industries emit are split into two categories, direct emissions, and indirect emissions. The emissions come from the use of machines, computers, processing raw materials, heating and cooling buildings, use of petroleum in production, chemical reactions, and more.

  • Direct emissions are produced on-site at the facility
  • Indirect emissions are produced off-site and result from a facility using energy.

It’s difficult to weigh the cost to reduce greenhouse gasses for companies over time. Obviously, the long-term gains to the environment will far outweigh short-term expenses. There is no economy-wide tax on carbon. Instead, greenhouse gas mitigation policies provide subsidies aimed at certain technologies, like solar and wind generation and biofuels.

The role of renewable energy

Although all sources of energy have an impact on the environment, renewable energy – solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass – has substantially less. However, that’s not to say that renewable energy has no environmental impact.

Wind.  Wind power produces no global warming emissions or toxic pollutants. However, wind power can impact wildlife, birds, and natural habitats.  Land use and copper consumption can also cause issues for the environment.

Solar. Solar power produces electricity from the sun, which is cost-effective and leaves little impact on the environment. However, it can have an impact on greenhouse emissions with the use of hazardous materials during manufacture.

Geothermal. Geothermal plants use technology to convert resources from deep within the earth’s crust to electricity. Depending on the technology used, it can affect emission levels in the air.

Biomass. Both biomass power plants and fossil fuel power plants use the combustion of feedstock, like agricultural waste, forest products, and manure to generate electricity. How the biomass is generated and harvested can affect land use and add to global warming.

What can you do?

While you may not be able to influence large companies to change manufacturing processes, there are a few things you can do to stamp out even a small portion of greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions.

  1. Use your own reusable bottle or cup for water or coffee.
  2. Replace efficient bulbs in your home.
  3. Keep your thermostat a few degrees warmer or cooler.
  4. Recycle.
  5. Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  6. Walk or bike to work.
  7. Don’t select one-day shipping unless necessary.
  8. Get outdoors, but pick up your litter.
  9. Use the SaveOnEnergy marketplace to find and compare renewable energy plans and rates available in your area.

The original article by the Save On Energy Team was published at saveonenergy.com

Author Info:

Kathryn Pomroy is a freelance journalist from Minnesota who has written for dozens of major publications, magazines, and many well-known person finance companies. She is also knowledgeable in energy-related topics like renewable energy, climate change, and greenhouse emissions. Kathryn holds a BA in Journalism.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

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