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Posts Tagged ‘climate change

“Plants can’t move, yet the insects come to them and spread their pollen”*…

A canola plant damaged by heat and drought in Saskatchewan, Canada last July

The impact of climate change on agriculture is much discussed– but mostly at the level of yields. Carolyn Beans looks into what a warming planet means for fertilization and reproduction…

… heat is a pollen killer. Even with adequate water, heat can damage pollen and prevent fertilization in canola and many other crops, including corn, peanuts, and rice.

For this reason, many growers aim for crops to bloom before the temperature rises. But as climate change increases the number of days over 90 degrees in regions across the globe, and multi-day stretches of extreme heat become more common, getting that timing right could become challenging, if not impossible.

Faced with a warmer future, researchers are searching for ways to help pollen beat the heat. They’re uncovering genes that could lead to more heat-tolerant varieties and breeding cultivars that can survive winter and flower before heat strikes. They’re probing pollen’s precise limits and even harvesting pollen at large scales to spray directly onto crops when weather improves.

At stake is much of our diet. Every seed, grain, and fruit that we eat is a direct product of pollination…

Farmers and scientists are increasingly observing that unusually high springtime temperatures can kill pollen and interfere with the fertilization of crops. Researchers are now searching for ways to help pollen beat the heat, including developing more heat-tolerant varieties: “Pollen and Heat: A Looming Challenge for Global Agriculture,” from @carolynmbeans in @YaleE360.

* Nahoko Uehashi

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As we try to stay cool, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that chlorophyll– the green pigment responsible for photosynthesis in plants– was first synthesized. The feat was accomplished by Robert Burns Woodward, the preeminent synthetic organic chemist of the twentieth century, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965 for this and other syntheses of complex natural compounds (including Vitamin b12).

Robert Burns Woodward

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself”*…

The world’s largest permafrost crater, Batagay, Russia, 2017

The cliché, avidly promoted by Moscow, is that Russia, one of the world’s largest petro-states, will be a relative winner in climate change; but a new book argues that the country will find itself in deep trouble. Sophie Pinkham unpacks the lesson’s in Thane Gustafson’s Klimat: Russia in the Age of Climate Change

Thane Gustafson, a longtime specialist on Russian energy, wrote Klimat: Russia in the Age of Climate Change before the [Ukraine] invasion, when the Covid pandemic seemed the great unexpected event complicating every prediction. Yet with its focus on the future of Russia’s energy, grain, and metals markets, all of which have been reconfigured by the war and the new sanctions, Klimat could hardly be more timely. Gustafson argues that Russia’s days of hydrocarbon-funded might are numbered. Unfortunately, the end of this era will not come soon enough for Ukrainians, or for the planet.

Russia is warming 2.5 times as fast as the world on average, and the Arctic is warming even faster. The cliché, avidly promoted by Moscow, is that the country will be a relative winner in climate change, benefiting from a melting and accessible Arctic shipping route, longer growing seasons, and the expansion of farmland into newly thawed areas. Gustafson counters, with a dry but persuasive marshaling of facts, that in the redistribution of wealth and power that will result from climate change, Russia is doomed. After reading Klimat, Russia’s attack on Ukraine begins to look like the convulsion of a dying state.

About two thirds of Russia is covered in permafrost, a mixture of sand and ice that, until recently, remained frozen year-round. As permafrost melts, walls built on it fracture, buildings sink, railways warp, roads buckle, and pipelines break. Anthrax from long-frozen reindeer corpses has thawed and infected modern herds. Sinkholes have opened in the melting ground, swallowing up whole buildings. Ice roads over frozen water, once the only way to travel in some remote regions, are available for ever-shorter periods. The Arctic coast is eroding rapidly, imperiling structures built close to the water…

Russia’s forests are the largest in the world, accounting for a fifth of Earth’s trees, but they are being grievously damaged by fire, drought, and disease, all of which are caused or exacerbated by climate change. Smoke has choked Siberian cities. During the 2019 fires that burned about 10,000 square miles of forest in Siberia, the Internet lit up with protest, and Russian singers and actors took part in a flash mob called “Siberia Is Burning.” President Putin sent in military units to help extinguish the fire, but he was soon rescued by rain. The problem was forgotten. As burning, dying, clear-cut forests become carbon producers rather than carbon sinks, they make the problem of climate change even worse. The same is true of melting permafrost, which releases methane, another potent greenhouse gas…

Imperialism originates in a struggle for resources; the ideology justifying the brutality of conquest and control is secondary. Oil has been one of the most coveted resources of the modern era, but the oldest and most essential resource is food. Ukraine’s famously fertile “black earth,” desired by many invaders and colonizers over the course of the country’s history, may also be among the motivations for Russia’s new aggression. According to recent reports, Russia has been commandeering or destroying Ukrainian grain stores and making off with Ukrainian agricultural equipment, smuggling the stolen grain to Syria for sale in the Middle East. Gustafson points out that as shortages become more frequent, food will become an increasingly significant tool of geopolitical influence…

Eminently worth reading in full: climate change is coming for Russia: “A Hotter Russia,” from @sophiepinkhmmm on @ThaneGustafson in @nybooks.

Lest American readers feel complacent: “The challenging politics of climate change,” from @BrookingsInst.

* Franklin D. Roosevelt

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As we get serious, we might send imperial birthday greetings to the man Vladimir Putin seems to wish he was: Pyotr Alekséyevich, also known as Peter I, and best known as Peter the Great; he was born on this date in 1672. But even as Putin is trying to turn back the cultural clock, Peter was the Tsar who modernized Russia and grew it into an empire, capturing ports at Azov and the Baltic Sea, laying the groundwork for the Imperial Russian Navy, ending uncontested Swedish supremacy in the Baltic, and beginning the Tsardom’s expansion into a much larger empire that became a major European power.

Peter led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political systems with ones that were modern, scientific, Westernised, and based on the Enlightenment. His reforms had a lasting impact on Russia, and many institutions of the Russian government trace their origins to his reign. He adopted the title of Emperor in place of the old title of Tsar in 1721, and founded and developed the city of Saint Petersburg, which remained the capital of Russia until 1917.

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“The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve.”*…

Jeff VanderMeer is a master of teasing out the weird in the service of critiquing our relationship with nature; his novels– e.g., Annihilation, Hummingbird Salamander— are entertaining, illuminating cautionary tales. In a recent essay, he turned his attention to his native Florida…

About the size of Greece, Florida is the jewel in the crown of the amazingly biodiverse Atlantic Coastal Plain. The state has 1,300 miles of shoreline, 600 clear-water springs, 1,700 ravines and streams, and over 8,000 lakes. More than 3,000 native trees, shrubs, and flowering plants are native to Florida, many unique to our peninsula and also endangered due to development. Our 100 species of orchid (compared to Hawai’i’s three native orchids) and 150 fern species speak to the moist and subtropical climate across many parts of the state. Florida has more wetlands than any other conterminous state—11 million acres—including seepage wetlands, interior marshes, and interior swamp land. Prior to the 1800s, Florida had over 20 million acres of wetlands.

As Jen Lomberk of Matanzas Riverkeeper describes it, Florida’s aquifer is unique because it is “so inextricably connected both underground and to surface waters. Florida’s limestone geology means that pollutants can readily move through groundwater and from groundwater to surface water (and vice versa).” In a sense, the very water we drink in Florida lays bare the connections between the often-invisible systems that sustain life on Earth and reveals both the strength of these systems and their vulnerability.

[But Floridians aren’t stewarding these unique resources…]

Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.

Consider this: several football fields-worth of forest and other valuable habitat is cleared per day in Florida, with 26 percent of our canopy cut down in the past twenty years.  According to one study, an average of 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation worldwide.

The ecocide happening here is comparable for our size to the destruction of the Amazon, but much less remarked upon. Few of the perpetrators understand how they hurt the quality of life for people living in Florida and hamstring any possibility of climate crisis resiliency. Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges

An accelerating race to destroy Florida’s wilderness shows what we value and previews our collective future during the climate crisis: “The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy,” from @jeffvandermeer in @curaffairs. Eminently worth reading in full.

* “The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.” – VanderMeer’s fellow Floridian Carl Hiaasen

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As we contemplate consequences, we might recall that it was on this date in 1626 that Peter Minuit, the new director of “New Netherland” for the Dutch West India Company, in what we now know as Manhattan, “purchased” the island from the the Canarsee tribe of Native Americans for a parcel of goods worth 60 guilders: roughly $24 dollars at the time, now roughly $1,000. 

In the event, Native Americans in the area were unfamiliar with the European notions and definitions of ownership rights. As they understood it, water, air and land could not be traded. So scholars are convinced that both parties probably went home with totally different interpretations of the sales agreement. In any case, the Carnarsees were happy to take payment in any meaningful amount pertaining to land that was mostly controlled by their rivals, the Weckquaesgeeks.

220px-Verkoopakte_Manhattan

1626 letter from Pieter Schaghen (a colleague of Minuit) reporting the purchase of Manhattan for 60 guilders [source]

“With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches”*…

California wildfire [source]

As insurance premiums rise, global warming’s effects are impacting collectors’ bank accounts, especially in disaster-prone states like California and Florida where risky conditions have become the norm…

Art collectors in California, Florida and other states experiencing weather-related disasters aggravated by climate change are finding fine art insurance becoming more expensive, with policies increasingly difficult to obtain (or renew) and containing new restrictions.

Earthquake-prone California, which has faced a series of massive wildfires (often followed by landslides) in recent years, is one epicentre in this struggle to find insurance coverage for homes and the art within them, with the annual cost of homeowners policies rising as much as 40% and the premiums for fine art insurance coverage increasing between 5% and 12%, according to Amee Yunn, assistant vice president of the New York-based Berkley Asset Protection, an insurance company specialising in fine art, jewellery and other high-value, personal and commercial assets. Florida, with its increasingly intense hurricanes and floods, is also a concern for the insurance industry.

“Many wealthy people flocked to Florida due to the pandemic,” Yunn says, “and they took their art with them.” That concentration of wealth assets in areas prone to flooding and hurricane damage creates significant risks to the financial wellbeing of insurance carriers. “We are seeing far more billion-dollar claims now than just 10 years ago,” Yunn says, causing companies like hers to write fewer new policies, increase their prices and add deductibles and exclusions. “The problem is acute.”

These days, insurance carriers track the advance of climate change as much as environmental scientists. “We have a corporate catastrophe team, which tracks the company’s total catastrophe exposure,” Yunn says. The risks from tornadoes in the Great Plains, hurricanes up and down the East Coast and earthquakes on the West Coast are well known, but the increasing intensity of hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as the rising numbers of them, are alarming signals. The tornado that ripped through Kentucky and several other states last year in a 200-mile path during the unlikely month of December was yet another sign of a climate that is becoming less predictable, as were a series of hurricanes, wildfires and freezing temperatures that have struck in Texas since 2017. In February 2021 a combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain paralysed Texas’s power grid for weeks, causing more than 200 deaths and nearly $200bn in damage.

“It would seem that there is nowhere safe from the effects of climate change,” [senior managing director at Risk Strategies Steve] Pincus says, all of which impacts the fine art insurance world, leading to higher prices and less available coverage…

‘The only way to stop the bleeding is to stop writing policies’: climate change is making it more expensive to insure art,” from @TheArtNewspaper.

Via @WaltHickey, in his invaluable Numlock News, who observes “Listen, if ‘boo hoo, it’s getting too expensive to insure my vast art collection’ is the thing that gets rich people to actually care about climate change I’m still gonna take that as a win.”

* Adam Smith

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As we ponder protection, we might recall that it was in this date in 1885 that the first issue of Good Housekeeping was published. A “woman’s magazine” (featuring articles on women’s interests, recipes, diet, and health), it is also known for its product testing service and its the “Good Housekeeping Seal”, a limited warranty program that is popularly known as the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” One of the oldest continuously-published magazines in the U.S., it remains popular in its category.

The first issue of Good Housekeeping

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“The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.”*…

What’s true of threats is also true of opportunities. Could Ford’s new truck be the pivot to a new, greener personal transportation future?

As the top-selling model line in the U.S. for 40 years, Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series pickups hold special weight in the auto ecosystem. The lineup, led by the F-150, generates more than $40 billion in annual revenue. Only one other U.S. product—Apple Inc.’s iPhone—tops F-Series sales.

Given this, Ford’s decision to electrify the F-150 stands as one of the boldest strategic decisions in 21st century business. An electric F-150, more than any other vehicle, will persuade rural America to go green, leading the way for almost every automaker that finds itself challenged by the electric transition.

Costs for Lightning owners will be considerably lower than for those owning the F-150. The $39,974 base price (factoring in federal subsidies) is 17% less than that of an entry-level F-150, according to Atlas Public Policy.

Operating costs are lower too…

The most highly anticipated EV is about to hit the U.S. market — and raise the stakes for automakers’ efforts to cut emissions: “How Ford’s Electric F-150 Pickup Truck Will Cut Carbon Pollution,” from @business.

* George Washington

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As we plug in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that map and travel publisher Rand McNally published the first edition of Auto Chum, which went on to become the best-selling Rand McNally Road Atlas.

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