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Date Created: 10/23/15
Gas leak Global warming i p hen o m en o n 7 H of methane cause oar in our qeok39 qical pa t But no one SUI 1 what triq ered the news feature o onnes of methane safely locked up in soils and beneath the ocean oor were released into the oceans and atmosphere Methane is a greenhouse dent that has not been matched since 7 within a few thousand years average temr 4 ac In the case of nt 7 ti 7 i isotopes inthe sedimentaryrocks showed that th sea surface temperature was about 12 C before th PPTM 7 year Window around the PETM they leapt by 778 c39C and didn t return to prerPETM levels r though the evidence for this warming is clear what sparked the methane release is a mystery Some researchers believe that the H r responsiblei Analyses of cores from ocean drilling experiments may soon provide the answer but the results might do more than shed ight on ancient climate 7 they may T ancient warming known as the PalaeoceneEocene thermal maximum M is the mostprominent climate epie sode of the past 65 million years It was first ldentlfiedlnthelate1980sby oceanographers emsotope levelsmacore drilled from thesea bed near Antarcu Watermolee e oxygen718 so the relative proportion of oxye genrl8 in the oceans rises if the temperature Asea change Researchers wondered what could have i i ii i l i i l rnents used to identify the FEM Liyirg organisms such as aigae Lake up carbonrlZ in preference to carboneis during photo my i r r r L 1 little photosynthesis is taking place aiso i i Sedimentary rocks containing shells date 57 no e r 0 5 d even if all synthetic acuvityhadceasedwhentheywer formed Researchers concluded that ther 8 0 7 e e 12 into the ocean and atmosphere 7 an injection simiiar to or Lh greenhouseegas releases pumped into the synthe ens l L L l l u L Lil ofmarine animals that form in water where An explanation for the carbonelz spike r suggested in 1995 by Gerald Dickens ageoioe l ttlw rt fle l he mechanisms that helped bring down tem peratures in the past are still active today Arbor2 He argued that the carbon came from methane hydrates7iceelike crystalline so ids in w lch methane molecules inside frozen w Th n as no a Q o ea 2quot 5 mag agree gt539 oceans near conunentalslopes Thegasfitsthe on as it causes greenhouse warming and the methane in hydratesls rich in carbonrlZi If the methane escapes from its icy cage 531 A smEDSPL news feature It can comblne wlth dlssolyed oxygen tn the w mlng c releasmg moremethane lustasrn a ng could klckrstart a posltlye fe u n bee e oceanratmosphere system mlessthan 10000yearstocause the tempera ture rlse and create the dlsunctwe carbomsor tope ratlo seen for the PETM3 Bubbling under Evldence for the methanerburp theory troplcal Atlantlc off the coast of South Carr 0 na T hes lndlc t at 55 mllllon years ajor searbe landsllde occurre t e lon et release whlch o l have destablllzed th dge ls one posslb caus he bu eory ls also backed by cllr mate slmulatlons T y for 1 Gavln chmldt an Drew Shlndell atmosr phenc chemlsts at Columbla Unlyerslty m New York publlshed I a amount of methane thought to have been released from hydrates ls conslsr f u e the atmos tent In terms o lts lfe m ln pher and us greenhouse effects t estl ed temper t re changes at dlfferent the P ls sull begs the questlon of what prompted the methane release Arecent sugr gestlon by Dennls Kent ageologlstatRutgers Unlyerslty ln New Jersey lnyokes the lmpact of a comet c ntalnlng large amounts of carbonrlZ ret 6 would haye Vaporlzed parts of the comet addmg carbon to l l mg The ldea has some lntrlgulng eyldence to mnl 39 l bottle says erlam Katz a marlne geologlst at Rutgers Unlyerslty Katz has developed models to see whether a change ln ocean says lame s Zachos a palaeoceanographer at the Unlverslty of Callfornla Santa Cruz who also salled on theOIDESReSOIUD39mI such as sea floor landslldes could have trlggered an abrupt degasslng of meth reservolrs Wlth exlstlng data nelth mechanlsm can be ldentlfled unequlvocally 39shesays m 2 are issue But new lnformatlon should soon be avallr ab e Last month the US fOIDES Resolution completed expedltlon to the Walvls erge off the coast of N mll Vl thelr prerPETM leyels The process may haye beenhelped bylncreased growthorplants and pl have accelerated the physlcal ankton El ngher temperatures are lllltely to and chemlcal v mnl mm the amount of lron and hosphate washed P nto the ocean These nutrlents drlve p otor thesls and c use more carbon t be nlsms that helped to brlng down temperar In 7 d from flve sltes and these should provlde a better plcture of condltlons at the tlme of the PETMt By usrng these data to rrnproye thelr models researchers hope to rule out all bu one l tn n ttl tn M h o he 9 d th PETM says Ursula Rohl a rnanne geologlst amounts ofyegetatlon ocean phytoplankto and eroslon could all actas anatural brake o 639 o n n ay s global warrnrng But studles also sug gest that we shouldn t rely on these systems NFL t PET teach us that the Earth can help M boundary ltse f says t r l Unlverslty of Oxford But we should always supportlt For attheL there ls aJ ump ln the levels of lrldlum found salled on the fOIDES Resoluu on expedltlon torecove rnfosslls datlng back to the M7 and that proyldes cllmate sclentlsts wlth an extreme unlrln Schlenmlerls Mama39s aernun correspondent metsare oftenrlchlnlrldlum Butonecrur test of c lmate theory and models It also l Kanle osbmtwmssmzsezzu 199 c alpanoft L t 2 Dumcxo39mmmnkoomxn W h r y y y Palwoemognphyl sirwl was 3 mm 1tcould be hlddenonthe oceanfloor oceans she adds 921430 2000 Other researchers argue that a change ln L L t alb n A 3 x3 3 a n k 7 Mquot K ocean condltlons could have caused the h m m l 5 hv m 0 re easea h rncreaslng by about 0 5710 0 every mllllon l l l s l ezs m0 Thy u could 7 u as W have reached a threshold leyel that altered the underlylng mechanlsms are not The 5 mm mm CVBWVT Lng amp ocean crrculatron channellrrg destabrlrzrng baslc blogeochemlcal reactlons and pro strays GeologySHJOSHOTO 2002 r ammo Lheh ump that 9 ranMEcnmers s Mon cs Ktz o ydrates So Is stll whlch rnechanlsrn was the trlgger7 lt unclear exactly what uncorked the 532 cesses lncludlng the blologlcal a s MulerK c mtootnogrpnylmussz ml phere to the deep ocean should be the same a r l w m w n AM lllelm moo n sumcmmnn NEWS FEATURE D POROVAP POWER STRUGGLE For decades California has bucked the US trend of gobbling ever more electricity But can the state pull offan even more ambitious goal and slash its greenhousegas emissions Charles Petit finds out mold Schwarzenegger has a mis7 sion he wants to terminate global warming In June the California governor called forthe state to slash its greenhouseigas emissions to 80 of 1990 levels in the next 45 years The debate is overquot he said in a forthright speech in San Francisco We know the science We see the threat And we know the time for action is nowquot This was fighting talk but if any advanced economy can pull off such drastic cuts in emis7 sions this highitechnology Pacific Rim state and its 36 million residents probably can Schwarzenegger has help His muscle for the job is a team of state quot r 7 experts who have been in the business for years And first among them is his polar oppoi site a short skinny physicist named Arthur Rosenfeld More than three decades ago Rosenfeld help ed to trigger the state s success ful fight to cut energy consumption today he is one of the five members of California s Energy Commission Rosenfeld was Enrico Fermi s last graduate 410 student and he spent decades as a physics prof fessor at the University of California Berkeley He now commutes weekly between his home overlooking San Francisco Bay and Sacra mento the capital in an energyisaving Prius hybrid sedan that the state provides The Energy Commission s job isn t easy to help the mo st populous US st ate figure out how it might cut greenhouse gas emissions and make money doing it Under control In his of ce Rosenfeld pulls out a data plot of which he is particularly fond It shows electric lly I 39 er Ldpild from 1960 to 2002 with one line for California and one for the United States In 1960 both lines sit at 4000 kilowattihours per person They rise at ruusmy L I L 7 nnn Ln an hours in the early 1970s But at the point when the US energy crisis struck that decade the lines diverge dramatically California virtually atlines its energy use per citizen 7 even though its economy was outpacing the rest of 2005 Nature Publishing Group the nation The state s electricity use per capita to day is the lowest in the nation at 6800 kilo wattihours compared with 12800 kilowatt hours for the country overall The strategies that helped California achieve those conservation goals may now help it in its greenhouseigas cuts State energy experts including Rosenfeld don t foresee California adopting many radical new technologies to meet its ambitious goals Rather a steady application of proven technologies should do much of the job California s 157trillion gross annual prod uct makes it the world s sixth largest economy behind France and ahead of Italy It is the planet s ninthilargest emitter of greenhouse gases California is not an insignificant actor and we are seen as a world leader in protecting he 39 quot says Eileen Tutt a senior officer at the California Environmental Prof tection Agency Not to take action sends a very strong signalquot Still the governor s pledge made on the United Nations World Environment Day H AURORAGETTY MAGES wind above and geothermal below California aims to cut its greenhousegas emissions caused more than a few jaws to drop NEWS FEATURE with Oregon and Washington in a governors initiative to encourage energy efficiency and Schwarzenegger is a tax7cutting Republican L Ifuel nmn n 4 is deeply suspicious of government regulation Beset by budget fights and union opposition he has sagged in popularity with the state s generally Democratic voters since his election two years ago But his energypolicies building on those ofa string of governors ofboth par7 ties get him kudos from longtime activists The governoris a real7life climate actionhero todayquot Nancy Ryan a senior economist with the group Environmental Defense told reporters after his speech Specifically Schwarzenegger vowed that California will cut its greenhouse7gas emis7 sions to below 2000 levels by 2010 andto less than the 1990 level of373 million tonnes by 2020 But then the governor added the final ambitious goal to cut emissions by a further 80 by 2050 Out on a limb His policy stands in stark contrast to that of the federal administration under President George W Bush who has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse7gas emissions The president has said that such action would squeeze the US economy too much California officials say that they can do it while boost7 ing the economy and creating jobs The state s strong environ7 mental policies in the past they point out occurred while its economy thrived Success will require the cooperation of several interlocking agencies The Energy Commission plays a major role as do the s ate s 39 Protection Agency Air Resources Board and Public Utilities Com7 missio Schwarzenegger s proclamation renewed their absolute licence to go out and make California a model country for green7 house policiesquot says Stephen Schneider a physicist and climate7policy analyst at Stanford Universit State officials have much at stake Califor7 nia s climate could change utterly if a warmer world redirected storm paths see Nature 430 818 2004 Rising temperatures could cause winter rain instead of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains triggering oods for which the state s aqueducts and dams are not prepared Plus its coast is vulnerable to a rise in sea level Other states have also recognized their vul7 nerability to climate change and have inde pendently taken climate policy into their own hands Local legislators from mayors of cities to state governors have begun their own ver7 sions of Kyoto7like regulations see B Fisher and R Costanza Nature 438 3017302 2005 In the northeast nine states have agreed to cap carbon dioxide emissions from more than 600 power plants in the region see Nature 437 11 2005 On the west coast California has joined 2005 Nature Publishing Group The governor is a reallife climate action hero todayquot Nancy Ryan But of all the states California has set itself up as amodel of how diligent attentionto effi7 ciency can take root and pay off Its example has caught on in recent years many other states have adopted California s standards for car pollution rather than the more lax federal standards And the state is now attracting international attention In September its Public Utilities Commission Energy Commission and the Paci c Gas and Electric Company signed a pact with China s Iiangsu province to train officials and utility executives in energy7conservation tactics Earlierthis month Schwarzenegger led a sales delegation to China to tout the state s energy7saving technologies and another team from the state s Air Resources Board travelled to Belgium to brief European air7quality experts on energypolicies California s approach to energy conserva7 tion has helped it save money The state sets electricity rates for private utilities and some7 times provides subsidies to help power companies induce customers to cut their con7 sumption If they do the state gives money back to the companies 7 through rate adjust7 ments and other payments 7 that makes up for what the firms would have earned had they built additional power plants Ener Commission cal7 culates that the total power bill for residents is about 16 billion lower each year than if the state had not launched its conservation campaign Conser7 vation has also managed to prevent some 18 million tonnes of carbon pollution being emitted from power plants 7 equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the roads After allowing for the cost of measures such as changed building practices appliances and subsidies the net saving is ab out 12 billion And deeper energy cuts should pay more the commission says The Air Resources Board estimates that planned reductions in greenhouse7gas emissions by 2020 from motor vehicles alone could save Californians 256 million annually by 2010 mostly from smaller fuel bills and 48 billion annu7 ally by 20 20 Cut and dried But will the state s longer7term emissions pol7 icy succeed Schneider is unsure how cost7 effective the whole plan will be Earlier stages may pay for themselves he says but the final leap to the 80 cut is unlikely to come without costs It would take a total revamp of our fuel infrastructurequot he notes So far even state planners aren t sure how they will meet the later goals We don t have the details but we ll have a report to the gover7 nor s office in Januaryquot says Tutt Some fresh ideas are already in the works 411 One notion set out by Schwarzenegger s administration is to place 1 million solar7 panel systems on rooftops by 2018 California gets about 1 1 of its electricity from geother7 mal wind biomass and solar units for the United States overall the number is around 2 California aims to increase its share of renewable sources to 20 by 2010 and to 33 by 2020 Also helpful will be the vehicle clean7up legi islation enacted just before Schwarzenegger s arrival This requires car manufacturers start7 ing in 2009 to cut greenhouseigas emissions from new cars and trucks by 22 by 2013 and 33 by 2017 But the law remains in dispute 7 perhaps predictably car companies have sued They argue that carbon dioxide is not a pollui tant and that regulating it at state level would preiempt federal control over the fuel7effi7 ciency standards in new cars In the long run the governorhas chosen hydrogen7fuelled cars as his personal crusade Wind power figures large in state plans California pioneered wideiscale use of it and already has more than 14000 wind turbines In a good breeze their combined capacity is 2100 megawatts 7 about the same as two nuclear power plants State energy officials estimate that wind alone in principle can generate an additional 30000 megawatts Fuel forthought The rest of the renewable energy would prob7 ably come from beefediup geothermal solar and biomass facilities In recent weeks the utility company serving San Diego contracted to buy another 2055 megawatts of wind power and the Los Angeles utility company ordered 500 megawatts ofsolarpower from a complex being built some 120 kilometres northeast of the city when construction is completed in 2013 this will be the world s largest solar facility and will more than double US solarienergy generation One energy source that is not on the agenda despite not emitting greenhouse gases is nuclear power which now provides about 10 of the state s electricity California law forbids the construc7 tion of additional nuclear plants until safe longiterm waste storage has been assured If Schwarzenegger s emissionsibusting goal seems ambitious Rosenfeld is happy to put it in perspective He recalls the early days of conservation work when he coifounded a programme in energyiefficient buildings at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory The effort spawned what today is an entire Environmental Energy Technologies Division at the lab Backthen Rosenfeld s personal project was to make uorescent lights more efficient Around the same time in 1973 state law7 makers formed the California Energy Com7 mission which was signed into existence by theniGovernor Ronald Reagan In its early days the commission took almost as gospel any reports from Rosenfeld s 412 Arnold Schwarzenegger refuels a hydrogen powered car top His vision is to seevehicles 2005 Nature Publishing Group group on how to reduce energy demand In 1978 the state used the team s recommenda7 tions as a guide to impose energy require7 ments on new buildings Appliance standards came two years later governing such items as gas furnaces air conditioning and refrigeri ators Today due largely to such regulations refrigerators use a third of the electricity and cost about a third as much to buy as in the early 1970s In contrast to California s efforts federal standards such as Energy Star labels for approved appliances did not arrive until the 1990s Energetic response The total electricity used for airiconditioning new homes in California is now a third of what it was in the 1970s And two technologies from the Lawrence Berkeley initiative 7 the revamp ed light bulb and window coatings that keep heat out in the summer and in during winter 7 will save the US economy some 23 billion in utility bills the National Acadi emy of Sciences has estimated Rosenfeld is not done waging war on wasted energy He is pushing hard for regulations to encourage the use of white roofs or at least coloured ones that re ect most near7 infrared radiation Such cool roofs could save 200 million yearly in airiconditioning costs in Los Angeles alone He frets over energy vampires the trickle of power that modern appliances continue to suck through their plugs even when they are turned off Such vampires include televisions waiting for a signal fromthe remote cable boxes modems recharging cell phones cordless phones garageidoor openers waiting for a signal and stereos Standby power which was insignificant two decades ago now typically accounts for 10 of a home s electricity use New technology that gives appliances more efficient standby modes which California will require as it becomes available could reduce this by 75 Let me show you somethingquot Rosenfeld says as he pulls out an iconic NASA satellite image of the Western Hemisphere at night The US industrial centres blaze like constellai tions against the black backdrop of the contii nent You are looking at millions of light bulbsquot he says in dismay To Rosenfeld the necklaces of light are not signs of advanced civilization but of a wastrel society leaking prei cious photons into the void Then Rosenfeld leans forward with a conspiratorial air In the next 20 yearsquot he declares California will disappearquot And that is Rosenfeld s dream 7 that the state will disappear or at least fade at night Rules enacted this year require new lights for streets parking areas and the like to focus 98 of their illumination on the ground not into the sky Once again Rosenfeld says the message for California on saving energy is simple every little bit helps I Charles rElIl in California NEWS FEATURE s VEATERAP N UTAP
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