Tag Archives: Ozone hole

New hope for the climate with US/China agreement?

For immediate release The agreement by China to phase out one of the most potent greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has led to hopes that progress to combat climate change might finally be made. LONDON June 12 – One of the great stumbling blocks of climate talks in the last 15 years has been that America refuses to move to cut emissions of greenhouse gases until China does – but at the weekend leaders of the world’s two great polluters reached agreement to phase out one of the most potent of them hydrofluorocarbons (HCFs). It was heralded as a great breakthrough, and if it works it will seriously improve the chances of the world avoiding dangerous climate change. But curiously the phasing out of HCFs will be carried out under the Montreal Protocol and not the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Montreal Protocol was set up before the climate change convention to deal with a completely different threat, the hole in the ozone layer. It has always been a more successful international forum for agreement. This is because the chemicals that were causing the problem with the ozone layer were made in a relatively few countries and by large manufacturers. As a result governments were able to control emissions quickly and directly by regulating the industry and creating deadlines to find non-harmful substitutes. Optimism The problem was that in solving one problem by producing substitute chemicals that did not hurt the ozone layer, another was made worse. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, 1,000 times more so than carbon dioxide. So the agreement to phase them out taken at the week-end, instigated by President Barack Obama and agreed by President Xi Jinping of China, will save the equivalent of two years worth of current global warming emissions. Very important is the fact that while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for at least 100 years HFCs fall out of the atmosphere in a few years staving off rapid warming. So phasing them out is extremely good news for the environment. The big question is whether this will translate into action on other greenhouse gases, particularly since this needs to be done under the Climate Change Convention and not the Montreal Protocol. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), was optimistic. The announcement, Mr. Steiner said  “could signal a new and perhaps transformational chapter in international cooperation on climate change. “Along with a variety of recent signals from several key countries including China and the United States, this one on HFCs by these two key economies is welcome as the world moves towards a universal UN treaty on climate change by 2015.” “It is widely recognized that securing a meaningful treaty and keeping an average global temperature rise under 2 degrees C this century will require all hands on deck—what, however, must not be overlooked or sidelined is the urgency to also tackle the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as part of negotiations underway under the UN Climate Convention.” Six million die This last of Mr Steiner’s points appears to be the problem. By comparison with carbon dioxide HFCs are an easier problem to solve. Even before the US/China agreement 112 countries had urged phasing them out and a group called the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of several hundred retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders from over 70 countries had agreed to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants beginning in 2015. But governments may also be able to reach agreement on other short-lived greenhouse gases, according to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. Of these the principle culprits are methane, low-level ozone, which also damages health and crops, and black carbon soot, which kills an estimated six million people a year. Methane can be captured and used as a fuel and cutting out the other two has important economic incentives as well as saving lives. Perhaps the biggest single factor is the attitude of the new Chinese government. Despite the lack of democracy the Chinese are under pressure from the population because of the horrific effect of pollution on daily life, particularly the health of children. Unlike most of the American population the Chinese also realize that climate change is a threat to their economy as well as their health. Come the next round of climate talks in Warsaw in November it may be China trying to persuade the Americans and reluctant parties like Brazil and India that action on carbon dioxide is needed too. – Climate News Network

For immediate release The agreement by China to phase out one of the most potent greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has led to hopes that progress to combat climate change might finally be made. LONDON June 12 – One of the great stumbling blocks of climate talks in the last 15 years has been that America refuses to move to cut emissions of greenhouse gases until China does – but at the weekend leaders of the world’s two great polluters reached agreement to phase out one of the most potent of them hydrofluorocarbons (HCFs). It was heralded as a great breakthrough, and if it works it will seriously improve the chances of the world avoiding dangerous climate change. But curiously the phasing out of HCFs will be carried out under the Montreal Protocol and not the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Montreal Protocol was set up before the climate change convention to deal with a completely different threat, the hole in the ozone layer. It has always been a more successful international forum for agreement. This is because the chemicals that were causing the problem with the ozone layer were made in a relatively few countries and by large manufacturers. As a result governments were able to control emissions quickly and directly by regulating the industry and creating deadlines to find non-harmful substitutes. Optimism The problem was that in solving one problem by producing substitute chemicals that did not hurt the ozone layer, another was made worse. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, 1,000 times more so than carbon dioxide. So the agreement to phase them out taken at the week-end, instigated by President Barack Obama and agreed by President Xi Jinping of China, will save the equivalent of two years worth of current global warming emissions. Very important is the fact that while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for at least 100 years HFCs fall out of the atmosphere in a few years staving off rapid warming. So phasing them out is extremely good news for the environment. The big question is whether this will translate into action on other greenhouse gases, particularly since this needs to be done under the Climate Change Convention and not the Montreal Protocol. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), was optimistic. The announcement, Mr. Steiner said  “could signal a new and perhaps transformational chapter in international cooperation on climate change. “Along with a variety of recent signals from several key countries including China and the United States, this one on HFCs by these two key economies is welcome as the world moves towards a universal UN treaty on climate change by 2015.” “It is widely recognized that securing a meaningful treaty and keeping an average global temperature rise under 2 degrees C this century will require all hands on deck—what, however, must not be overlooked or sidelined is the urgency to also tackle the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as part of negotiations underway under the UN Climate Convention.” Six million die This last of Mr Steiner’s points appears to be the problem. By comparison with carbon dioxide HFCs are an easier problem to solve. Even before the US/China agreement 112 countries had urged phasing them out and a group called the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of several hundred retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders from over 70 countries had agreed to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants beginning in 2015. But governments may also be able to reach agreement on other short-lived greenhouse gases, according to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. Of these the principle culprits are methane, low-level ozone, which also damages health and crops, and black carbon soot, which kills an estimated six million people a year. Methane can be captured and used as a fuel and cutting out the other two has important economic incentives as well as saving lives. Perhaps the biggest single factor is the attitude of the new Chinese government. Despite the lack of democracy the Chinese are under pressure from the population because of the horrific effect of pollution on daily life, particularly the health of children. Unlike most of the American population the Chinese also realize that climate change is a threat to their economy as well as their health. Come the next round of climate talks in Warsaw in November it may be China trying to persuade the Americans and reluctant parties like Brazil and India that action on carbon dioxide is needed too. – Climate News Network

Antarctic ozone hole 'slows CO2 dispersal'

EMBARGOED till 0001 GMT on Sunday 3 February
The good news is that the Antarctic ozone hole is on the way to recovery. The bad news is that scientists now think it is helping to slow the polar seas’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

LONDON, 3 February – The Antarctic ozone hole, caused by CFCs and other damaging chemicals, may be accelerating climate change. Scientists now think that the hole may have altered some Antarctic ocean currents, leading to a slowing of the absorption of atmospheric CO2 into the oceans.The discovery is important because the Antarctic accounts for about 40% of the total carbon absorbed by the world’s seas.

Writing in the journal Science, Darryn W. Waugh, an earth scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and his team show that both the sub-tropical waters in the southern oceans and the upwelling circumpolar waters closer to the Antarctic landmass have changed, in a way they say is consistent with the changes in the westerly winds around Antarctica.

These have grown stronger and moved poleward over the past few decades as the ozone layer has thinned. The new study finds evidence that those shifting winds are speeding circulation patterns in polar waters, with the currents closer to the land pushing more deep water up to the ocean surface.

The scientists’ worry is that the increasing upwelling of that water, hundreds of years old and naturally rich in carbon dioxide, is reducing the amount of manmade carbon absorbed by sub-polar waters.

“This may sound entirely academic, but believe me, it’s not,” said Waugh. “This matters because the southern oceans play an important role in the uptake of heat and carbon dioxide, so any changes in southern ocean circulation have the potential to change the global climate.”

Less room for more carbon

The team used measurements taken from the early 1990s to the mid-to-late 2000s of the amount of a chemical, chlorofluorocarbon-12 (CFC-12), in the southern oceans.

CFC-12 was first produced commercially in the 1930s and was widely used in aerosols, refrigeration systems and air conditioning. It was finally phased out by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Because they knew that concentrations of CFCs at the surface increased in tandem with those in the atmosphere, the scientists were able to surmise that the higher the concentration of CFC-12 deeper in the ocean, the more recently those waters had been at the surface, and they worked out how fast the mixing had happened.

They believe north-south circulation in the deep ocean has been speeding up, sending water from the ocean surface near the pole to intermediate depths (500-1,000 metres down) more quickly.

At the same time, the currents closer to Antarctica’s shores appear to be pushing more old, deep water up to the surface. If surface waters are already rich in carbon, “that would mean more of the carbon we’re producing would stay in the atmosphere, and that would contribute more to climate change,” Waugh says.

Michael Meredith, a British Antarctic Survey oceanographer, said the new research drove home the importance of the Southern Ocean carbon sink. “It’s doing us a very big favour, if you like, by taking carbon from the atmosphere and slowing the rate of atmospheric climate change,” he said.

He believes the question now is what will happen as the ozone layer slowly heals and human activities pump out increasing amounts of greenhouse gases. The ozone hole is expected, on present trends, to have recovered by mid-century. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED till 0001 GMT on Sunday 3 February
The good news is that the Antarctic ozone hole is on the way to recovery. The bad news is that scientists now think it is helping to slow the polar seas’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

LONDON, 3 February – The Antarctic ozone hole, caused by CFCs and other damaging chemicals, may be accelerating climate change. Scientists now think that the hole may have altered some Antarctic ocean currents, leading to a slowing of the absorption of atmospheric CO2 into the oceans.The discovery is important because the Antarctic accounts for about 40% of the total carbon absorbed by the world’s seas.

Writing in the journal Science, Darryn W. Waugh, an earth scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and his team show that both the sub-tropical waters in the southern oceans and the upwelling circumpolar waters closer to the Antarctic landmass have changed, in a way they say is consistent with the changes in the westerly winds around Antarctica.

These have grown stronger and moved poleward over the past few decades as the ozone layer has thinned. The new study finds evidence that those shifting winds are speeding circulation patterns in polar waters, with the currents closer to the land pushing more deep water up to the ocean surface.

The scientists’ worry is that the increasing upwelling of that water, hundreds of years old and naturally rich in carbon dioxide, is reducing the amount of manmade carbon absorbed by sub-polar waters.

“This may sound entirely academic, but believe me, it’s not,” said Waugh. “This matters because the southern oceans play an important role in the uptake of heat and carbon dioxide, so any changes in southern ocean circulation have the potential to change the global climate.”

Less room for more carbon

The team used measurements taken from the early 1990s to the mid-to-late 2000s of the amount of a chemical, chlorofluorocarbon-12 (CFC-12), in the southern oceans.

CFC-12 was first produced commercially in the 1930s and was widely used in aerosols, refrigeration systems and air conditioning. It was finally phased out by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Because they knew that concentrations of CFCs at the surface increased in tandem with those in the atmosphere, the scientists were able to surmise that the higher the concentration of CFC-12 deeper in the ocean, the more recently those waters had been at the surface, and they worked out how fast the mixing had happened.

They believe north-south circulation in the deep ocean has been speeding up, sending water from the ocean surface near the pole to intermediate depths (500-1,000 metres down) more quickly.

At the same time, the currents closer to Antarctica’s shores appear to be pushing more old, deep water up to the surface. If surface waters are already rich in carbon, “that would mean more of the carbon we’re producing would stay in the atmosphere, and that would contribute more to climate change,” Waugh says.

Michael Meredith, a British Antarctic Survey oceanographer, said the new research drove home the importance of the Southern Ocean carbon sink. “It’s doing us a very big favour, if you like, by taking carbon from the atmosphere and slowing the rate of atmospheric climate change,” he said.

He believes the question now is what will happen as the ozone layer slowly heals and human activities pump out increasing amounts of greenhouse gases. The ozone hole is expected, on present trends, to have recovered by mid-century. – Climate News Network