Cracking a climate conundrum

Cracking a climate conundrum

Thursday, May 10, 2018

CO2 emissions leveled off between 2014 and 2016. But annual growth of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to more than 50 percent above that of past decades. What explains the contradiction?

In 2015, we earthlings – some 7.5 billion of us – discharged 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from many tailpipes and smokestacks. That is about the same amount of planet-warming gas belched out in 2014, and the figure remained largely unchanged in 2016.

After a century of exponential growth in the mass of carbon dioxide ejected into the air, the leveling-off of the output caught many observers by surprise. It’s explained partly by widespread substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity production and by expanded use of wind and solar energy.

Although the amount of CO2 ejected into the air leveled off in 2015, the quantity accumulating in the atmosphere did not let up. Rather, it spiked. Indeed, the concentration of the gas increased that year by 3 parts per million (ppm), 50 percent more than in the previous year and the average annual increase of the prior four decades. Researchers hadn’t observed an increase so large since they began systematic measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere back in 1958. The amount of CO2 in the air probably hadn’t surged so much in a single year since at least the end of the last ice age – 10,000 years ago.

The science explaining the seeming dichotomy

A scientific article published in late 2017 explains this apparent paradox. The extra CO2 came from the world’s tropical forests. Beginning at the end of 2014 and lasting 19 months, the strongest El Niño recorded in more than 50 years warmed and dried the tropics – increasing wildfires, slowing tree growth and speeding-up the rotting of dead vegetation – releasing billions of extra tons of CO2 into the air. The authors of that 2017 paper also reported a surprise: Not all tropical forests reacted to the El Niño the same way, a finding the coauthors say could help improve climate models.

The forests most likely rebounded in 2017, and the trend of CO2 growth appears to have returned to its long-term average. But the incident may preview a worrisome mechanism that climate change might permanently trigger, says Junjie Liu, the paper’s lead author and a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Ca. Many climate models project that hot, dry conditions in the tropics, such as those of 2015 and early 2016, will be more common later this century. She says that the results reported in her paper hint that in the future, the tropics “may release more carbon into the atmosphere or absorb less,” speeding the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and further accelerating warming.

Thanks, sea and forests … ‘Nature has done us a fantastic favor.’

For every four tons of CO2 created in the combustion of fossil fuel, only two tons accumulate in the atmosphere. One ton dissolves quickly into sea water and eventually sinks. Forests absorb a second ton, with the trees transforming the gas by photosynthesis into carbon-rich compounds such as sugar and cellulose, some of which becomes permanently sequestered in soil.

“Nature has done us a fantastic favor,” halving the amount of CO2 amassing in the atmosphere, says Scott Denning, of Colorado State University, an atmospheric scientist not involved with the study.

That ocean uptake is likely to continue unhindered in the coming decades, Denning says. The future of forest uptake is less certain. Researchers have tried for years to forecast whether climate change will damage forests and disrupt this critical carbon sequestering process.

Forests in temperate and tropical regions alike take up carbon dioxide and moderate climate change. But many climate scientists say tropical forests – including in the Amazon, the Congo, and Southeast Asia jungles – are the most likely to experience less carbon intake. The consequences, if they do ease off, would be grave. In an average year, primary tropical forests soak up nearly 5 billion tons of CO2, according to figures published in one widely-cited study. Some research suggests that this carbon sink is absorbing less and less, but the evidence is contested. The huge scale and poor infrastructure of tropical forests have bedeviled attempts to determine just how they’re behaving.

The 2017 Science article drew on some of the first measurements from space of atmospheric carbon dioxide. That research almost didn’t happen. On February 24, 2009, NASA launched a Taurus rocket topped by the Orbital Carbon Observatory (OCO), a satellite designed to measure precisely the amount of CO2 above patches of Earth’s surface as small as one-mile square in area. The satellite was to fly over the poles in systematically shifting orbits, passing above the entire planet every 16 days. With a lot of number crunching, researchers had planned to turn the pattern of readings into comprehensive maps of the world’s sources and sinks of the gas.

But the rocket malfunctioned just before nudging the refrigerator-size spacecraft into orbit, and the satellite tumbled into the Indian Ocean. One of the Science paper’s 16 coauthors, David Schimel – a leading expert on the carbon cycle, the circulation of carbon between the atmosphere and reservoirs on Earth – watched NASA’s live feed of the launch in horror.

Schimel had yearned for years for the torrent of data the satellite was to beam down from space. “Just one word” went through his mind when it crashed, he recalls, the ‘Oh sh*t’ cuss that Paul Newman’s and Robert Redford’s characters screamed as they leapt off a cliff in the classic western comedy “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

NASA immediately vowed to build a replacement. Five and a half years later, in mid-2014, the agency successfully launched the satellite’s twin, nicknamed OCO-2. The orbiter has since circled the Earth some 20,000 times, making hundreds of millions of CO2 readings.

After the 2015/2016 El Niño struck, Liu says, she and her collaborators realized that they’d been handed a rare opportunity to observe tropical-forest response to future-like conditions at a spatial scale not previously measurable. They looked at OCO-2 readings and discovered that the El Niño had caused marked changes. In a normal year, CO2 accumulates in tropical trees and soil like water filling a kitchen sink with the tap running. During the El Niño, the sink’s level rose rather than went down, as if a cosmic hand had shut the tap and unplugged the drain. The net result on tropical forests was as if humans beings had increased fossil fuel use by more than 25 percent for a year, releasing an extra 9.5 billion tons CO2 into the atmosphere.


Indonesia to raise efforts to reduce haze

Indonesia to raise efforts to reduce haze

Vows to introduce measures to prevent blazes in fire-prone peatland areas

May 3, 2018

The Indonesian government has pledged to raise its efforts to reduce annual choking haze caused by forest fires and crop burning that blanket not only large parts of Indonesia but also several other Southeast Asian countries.

Declaring 2018 as a “zero smoke year”, Bambang Hendroyono, general secretary of the Environment and Forestry Ministry said the government has come up with a concrete plan to reduce the air pollution.

This involved closer monitoring of peatland areas — especially the activities of farmers — speeding up conservation and forest restoration efforts, wetting arid areas and public awareness campaigns.

“Conservation of peatlands is important to decrease the intensity of forest and peatland fires,” said Hendroyono, at a meeting on peatland management in Banjar, Central Kalimantan.

Preventing peatland — of which Indonesia has 14.9 million hectares — from catching fire is a key element of the government’s plan as it acts as a natural fuel and is very difficult to put out once a fire starts.

According to Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, a fire has consumed more than 3 million hectares of peatland in the last three years.

“Conservation of peatland is important to decrease the intensity of forest and peatlands fires,” Hendroyono said.

Father Frans Sani Lake, head of the church-run Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation group in the Kalimantan region responded by warning the government that it would take a mammoth effort to significantly reduce fires and that they would remain a big threat, particularly during the dry season.

“Being free from haze is a dream of all people. But, we must be realistic and be prepared,” he told

The priest said the church has urged Catholics — through homilies, catechism, and announcements in churches — to be wary of activities that trigger forest fires.

Sacred Heart Father Ansel Amo, who heads Merauke Archdiocese’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission in Papua, welcomed the government’s move.

“All should respond to this, which serves as a reminder for all of us to protect forests and peatlands, particularly during the dry season,” he said.

Annisa Rahmawati, Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia said such a commitment to reduce fires must be ongoing.

She said this year there has already been a 20 percent increase on the 2,400 hotspots found last year.

“We hope the government promise is turned into real action,” she told

Source Link:

Accelerate efforts to address air pollution: WHO to South-East Asian countries

Accelerate efforts to address air pollution: WHO to South-East Asian countries

THE NEWS SCROLL 02 MAY 2018  Last Updated at 6:29 PM

New Delhi, May 2 The WHO today called upon member countries in the South-East Asia region to aggressively address the issue of pollution, saying it accounts for 34 percent of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution together globally every year.

This comes in the wake of a report of the global health body which puts Delhi and 13 other Indian cities in the list of 20 most-polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016.

Stating that air pollution contributes significantly to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, stressed on the need for investment in effective urban planning with energy-efficient housing and power generation, building safe and affordable public transport systems and improving industry and municipal waste management.

She also sought elimination of the emissions from coal and biomass energy systems, proper management of agricultural waste, forest fires and agro-forestry activities such as charcoal production and support the transition to exclusive use of clean household energy for cooking, heating, and lighting.

Singh drew attention to the example of India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala scheme under which, in the last two years, 37 million women living below the poverty line were provided free LPG connections to support them to switch to clean household energy use. The country targets to reach 80 million households by 2020.

“The availability of clean household energy affects us all and our families and is a key to sustainable development. All countries in the region are making efforts to expand the availability of clean fuels and technologies, however, over 60 percent population do not have clean fuel,” she said.

She said that individuals should also contribute by valuing the environment and adopting behavioral changes such as using public transport or ‘soot-free’ vehicles, using clean, low-or no-emission stoves and fuels for cooking and reducing and disposing of household waste in an environmentally sound manner.

The combined effects of household air pollution and ambient air pollution become increasingly hard to address if not tackled early, the World Health Organization official said. The majority of countries in the region are at early stages of accelerated urbanization and rapid industrialization.

“Hence, air pollution needs to be brought under control with urgent and effective action at the earliest to stand the best chance to prevent the situation from worsening as development proceeds,” Singh said.

Of the 3.8 million deaths caused by household air pollution globally, the region accounts for 1.5 million or 40 percent deaths, and of the 4.2 million global deaths due to ambient (outdoor) air pollution, 1.3 million or 30 percent are reported from the region, according to the latest WHO report.

Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, according to a data released by the WHO.

The WHO data also said that nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.

In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figured among the 20 most-polluted cities of the world in 2016.

Source Link:

Asian Forest Cooperation Organization to be launched with 14 nations

Asian Forest Cooperation Organization to be launched with 14 nations By Shin Ji-hye Published : Apr…

Entering the dry season, watch out for fire in forest and plantation area

Entering the dry season, watch out for a fire in forest and plantation area

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2018, | 02:11 pm – Some parts of Indonesia region had entered dry season this month. Some regions need to cautious of forest and land area blaze.

“Facing dry season this year, we need to be more cautious for a fire in forest and plantation areas,” said Head of BMKG (Meteorology, Climatology and Geology agencies), Dwikorita Karnawati in her statement, Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

The region where vulnerable of happening of Karhutla (fire of forest and plantation areas), which are Aceh and North Sumatra, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Gorontalo, South Sulawesi, North Sulawesi and  South Papua

Entering the dry season, some areas of Indonesia are affected by weak category of La Nina and can be moved to its normal conditions in September 2018.  BMKG clarified that there was no indication of abnormal weather.

“BMKG predicted that the Indian Ocean is constantly in the normal condition in April up to September 2018,” said Dwikora.

Wind circulation has been dominated by Australia monsoon wind (eastern) almost in all Indonesia region from the southern equator. Eastern wind brings dry wind from the Australian continent.



Dried Melaleuca forest poses risk of fire

Dried Melaleuca forest poses risk of fire

Update: April, 17/2018 – 15:00

Viet Nam News CÀ MAU — The 43,000ha U Minh Hạ Melaleuca forest has been completely dry since Monday, according to forest rangers of the Mekong Delta province of Cà Mau.

This puts 4,200ha of the forest area under forest fire danger level 5 (very high) and another 14,600ha under danger level 4 (high). Most of this area falls in the communes of Nguyễn Phích, Khánh An and Khánh Lâm in U Minh District and Khánh Bình and Tây Bắc communes in Trần Văn Thời District.

Many measures have been put in place to protect the forest, prevent fire and regularly track water levels to issue timely forest fire forecasts as well as mobilise adequate contingency forces.

The provincial forest ranger has conducted several awareness campaigns, calling for individuals to take fire prevention measures and teaching local residents to put out a fire.

Authorities have also warned against collecting honey in the dry season and have set up warning signs in the forest.


Rain abates, fires foul air in North

Rain abates, fires foul air in North

Breaking News April 16, 2018, 12:04

By Tossapol Boonpat
The Nation

Continuing forest fires pushed air quality in northern Mae Hong Son province well beyond the safe level on Monday.

After 10 days during which particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometres (PM10) were found to be within the safety limit of 120 micrograms per cubic metre – a respite credited to recent rains – the level rose again on Sunday to 150 micrograms.

On Monday, the level at 5 am was 164 micrograms, and by 10 am 177 micrograms.

More forest fires were reported along the Myanmar border in the past three days, contributing to the rise in PM10, said a source at a military unit based west of Muang Mae Hong Son.

Soldiers joined volunteers in extinguishing the blazes.

Khun Yuam district chief Narongchai Jindapan said residents were setting fires to clear brush so they could return later and forage for mushrooms and edible buds, which are believed to become more plentiful when rainfall accompanies intense heat, such as from fires or very hot weather.

At 10 am on Monday the Pollution Control Department reported unhealthy PM10 levels in Mae Hong Son (177 micrograms), Muang Chiang Mai (124) and Chiang Rai’s Muang district (137) and Mae Sai district (123).


HCM City increases patrols after forest fire threat

HCM City increases patrols after forest fire threat

Update: April, 12/2018 – 10:18

A fire broke out across 40ha of pines in Ia Grai protective forest in Ia Chia Commune, Ia Grai District of Central Highlands province of Gia Lai in March. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Điệp

HCM CITY – Authorities, including local ones, need to increase patrolling and promote fire safety to ensure there are no major forest fires during the ongoing dry season, a meeting held to review forest protection and fire prevention heard in HCM City yesterday.

Lê Thanh Liêm, deputy chairman of the city People’s Committee, said: “Forest fires have a severe impact on daily life and the economy and environment.”

He instructed related authorities and districts to increase patrols and take severe action against anyone found violating forest protection laws.

“Districts, which have forests in small patches, must improve fire prevention.”

He said local authorities should liaise closely with households who have been allotted forests and take care of them, he added.

He instructed the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to enhance propaganda and education on forest protection and safety and forest fire prevention and fighting, and inform local residents about the level of fire threats for them to be prepared.

“Relevant authorities must regularly monitor individuals and organisations working in forests to ensure they follow fire safety regulations.

“The city Forest Rangers Sub-department should step up patrolling.”


Tropical rainforests may be near a tipping point beyond our control

Tropical rainforests may be near a tipping point beyond our control

Deforestation may work like diseases: if left uncontained, it can win


In the Amazon, Congo, and Indonesia, the three regions that are home to nearly all of the world’s tropical rainforests, the human motivations behind and methods of deforestation are entirely distinct. In South America the most significant driver of forest loss is the need to clear land for industrial-scale agriculture and ranching, so huge swaths of forest are burned into oblivion by human-set wildfires. In Southeast Asia, on the other hand, the high price of timber in the global market makes clear-cutting a lucrative venture. In Africa, deforestation lacks this industrial scale, but is more haphazard as small farmers clear land in piecemeal efforts to plant subsistence crops.

The net result is that the rainforests of today’s post-industrial world are more like millions of tiny, isolated patches of forest than the massive stretches of jungle that blanketed the tropics for millennia. The ramifications echo far beyond sentimental conservation — these forest fragments collectively emit 31 percent more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than intact rainforests, even after accounting for emissions from deforestation. In addition, numerous plants and animals that call the tropical rainforests home, and that inspire pharmaceuticals for human medicine, have struggled to adapt to patchwork forests, and so face extinction.

Read more:

Localities urged high vigilance in response to forest fires

Localities urged high vigilance in response to forest fires


Hanoi (VNA) – Localities nationwide have been urged by the Vietnam Administration of Forestry to prepare measures to prevent forest fires and mitigate damage caused by fires.

Authorities at grassroots levels must promote communication works on firefighting among their residents while forces should be ready around the clock in case forest fires occur.

Roles must be assigned among members of all-level steering boards of the national target programme on sustainable forestry development to enhance inspections. Meanwhile, military and police forces were ordered to stand ready to offer assistance in case of fire.

Forest ranger teams should work with people’s committees to direct and examine efforts to prevent forest fires while forest owners are responsible for upgrading firefighting facilities.

Localities must monitor forest fire warnings on the forest protection department’s website: and any forest fires should be reported to the forest protection department under the Vietnam Administration of Forestry via 098 666 8333.

This year’s dry season has seen complicated weather developments, thus, the highest level alert of forest fires has been forecast in many localities. Forest fires have already hit some provinces, including Binh Thuan, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Lao Chau, Dien Bien and Hai Phong.-VNA

Read More: