Posts

Pectinatella magnifica	Bryozoan, living, Rheinberg

CO2 Eating Organisms In the Antarctic

When we hear about climate change, it’s usually about humans destroying the basis of our own livelihoods – with ecosystems as the victim. However, researcher David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) just published some new findings that could prove this perspective wrong.

After 20 years of collecting data, Mr. Barnes found out that in the melting of Antarctic ice led to a marked increase of the presence of bryozoans, living organisms that absorb CO2. Their number has doubled over the past two decades, and scientists estimate that they are absorbing an amount of CO2 equivalent to about 50,000 hectares of tropical rainforest per annum. This would consequently have a slowing effect on climate change.

When polar ice melts, the white and reflecting poles become much darker, therefore absorbing more heat and melting more ice – usually creating a vicious cycle. But this melting can have a positive effect: where the water is relatively shallow, ice-free water helps the growth of phytoplankton, which in turn feeds the bryozoans, who therefore absorb a significant amount of carbon.

There are surprising differences in the amount of carbon taken up in different regions in Antarctica. As these differences are linked to the sea ice losses at each location, there are big hopes of finding such organisms in the Arctic area too.

Scientists already knew that algae and arctic forests partially mitigate climate change. By studying these organisms, the range of species that absorb CO2 has just increased. It is amazing how, although not visible, ecosystems have already begun reacting climate change, stabilizing the planet. Seems “homo sapiens” still have much to learn.

Sources:

http://gaianews.it/ambiente/clima/fusione-del-ghiaccio-antartico-in-aumento-la-vita-nei-mari-e-lassorbimento-di-co2-59128.html#.VkNE5ys_DIU

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/scientist-has-found-melting-ice-caps-have-led-to-increase-in-bryozoans-who-absorb-co2/story-fnjwvztl-1227538986456

http://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/umwelt/article146660283/Kleine-Tierchen-futtern-Kohlendioxid-in-Massen-weg.html

Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/carolinabio/5804018747/

Solarenergy

Not Even Cheap Oil Can Keep Up with Renewables Now

Even though oil prices are at about $50 a barrel— the lowest they have been since 2009— this will not deter humanity’s transition to cleaner energy. For starters, oil and renewables do not really compete with each other, despite what many people think. Renewables are for electricity, while oil is for cars— oil is simply too expensive to power the grid. But even when solar is compared to coal and natural gas, solar wins the battle: solar is predicted to be the world’s largest single source of electricity by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). If this occurs, more than 6 billion tons of CO2 emissions would be avoided per year by 2050 – that is more than all current energy-related CO2 emissions from the United States or almost all of the direct emissions from the transport sector worldwide today. The reason solar currently makes up less than 1 percent of the electricity market is due to panel availability and high upfront capital costs. However, because solar is a technology and not a fuel, these costs are expected to keep dropping as time passes and efficiency increases. The following graph illustrates this point:

solargraph Not Even Cheap Oil Can Keep Up with Renewables Now News

Moreover, the history of oil prices shows that oil will not stay at its current low for more than a year or two. While it may never return to $100 per barrel, it will not remain below $70 per barrel because almost $1 trillion in investments in future oil projects would not be profitable if that were so. Therefore, supply will eventually shrink and prices will rise again. On the other hand, as shown by the previous graph, solar will keep getting cheaper and cheaper. The question is no longer if the world will transition to cleaner energy, but how long it will take.

Sources:
IEA. (2014, September 29). How solar energy could be the largest source of electricity by mid-century. IEA Press Releases. Retrieved from http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2014/september/how-solar-energy-could-be-the-largest-source-of-electricity-by-mid-century.html

Randall, T. (2015, January 30). Seven Reasons Cheap Oil Can’t Stop Renewables Now. Bloomberg Business. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-30/seven-reasons-cheap-oil-can-t-stop-renewables-now