Gulf Stream at risk from Climate Change

February 10, 2009 · Filed Under termninology · 4 Comments 

Part of the ‘Global Ocean Conveyor Belt’, a series of giant ocean currents that flow around the earth, the Gulf stream carries vast quantities of warm Atlantic water northward giving Europe and parts of North America a temperate climate. The amount of heat involved is phenomenal, estimated by Stephen Rahmstorf, an oceanographer at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, as equivalent to one million powerplants.

Without the Gulf stream, Northern Europe would be hardly habitable, certainly not by the present dense population.

The Gulf stream is powered by the weight of the dense, salty water of the northern part of the current which sinks, pulling the current behind it. Scientists are extremely worried that fresh water pouring into the northern ocean from melting glaciers will mix with the salt water of the current making it lighter and unable to sink. It is disturbing that from measurements taken in the last few years there is already a decline in the vigour of the circulation and studies indicate that unlike other climate changes, ocean currents can shift or stop in just a few years.

The effects of such a shut-down would push Northern Europe into semi-Arctic weather conditions, a change so profound that most people don’t even want to think about it.

What is Peak Oil?

January 17, 2009 · Filed Under termninology · Comment 

Peak Oil is sometimes called ‘Hubbert’s Peak.’ Marrion King Hubbert, a Shell geologist predicted in 1956 that US oil production would peak around 1971. His prediction was not believed by the U.S government or even by most other prominent geologists and oil companies, but he turned out to be correct. He said that production in the U.S would follow a bell shaped curve, rising steeply, reaching a peak in 1971 and then falling.

Hubbert also predicted that world production would follow a similar pattern. Many geologists and oil experts have in the last few years concluded that he was correct in that too, and indeed in many other countries, especially high consumption countries, production is already declining, leaving us more dependent on the Middle East.

When North Sea production went in to decline in 1999, the oil companies and the UK government seemed to have been taken by surprise. They had not predicted such an early peak and were reluctant to admit it had actually happened.

There are gigantic amounts of oil left, but when world oil production reaches its highest level ever, a level never to be repeated and to be followed by a decline, a mad scramble will begin and panic will prevail simply because we cannot manage with less in the face of rapidly increasing demand from Asia, especially China and India.

There are many different estimates of when Peak Oil will happen, mainly because it is impossible to get accurate reserve figures from producing countries, especially OPEC members who are thought to have lied for years about their reserves in order to have a high production quota.

Some experts think we are at or near to peak already and point to the fact that very high prices during the last few years have not led to big production increases as would be expected. Other experts think that around 2010 is the most likely time while others think it could be more then 20 years away.

What is not in dispute is that oil and gas are finite resources and will peak at some time. We need to be urgently working on ways to allow food production to continue when the peak arrives.

The solutions section of the book, Famine in the West, describes my thoughts on how this can be done. What are your thoughts?

What is Peak Oil?

June 18, 2007 · Filed Under termninology · Comment 

Peak Oil is sometimes called ‘Hubbert’s Peak.’ Marrion King Hubbert, a Shell geologist predicted in 1956 that US oil production would peak around 1971. His prediction was not believed by the U.S government or even by most other prominent geologists and oil companies, but he turned out to be correct. He said that production in the U.S would follow a bell shaped curve, rising steeply, reaching a peak in 1971 and then falling.

Hubbert also predicted that world production would follow a similar pattern. Many geologists and oil experts have in the last few years concluded that he was correct in that too, and indeed in many other countries, especially high consumption countries, production is already declining, leaving us more dependent on the Middle East.

When North Sea production went in to decline in 1999, the oil companies and the UK government seemed to have been taken by surprise. They had not predicted such an early peak and were reluctant to admit it had actually happened.

There are gigantic amounts of oil left, but when world oil production reaches its highest level ever, a level never to be repeated and to be followed by a decline, a mad scramble will begin and panic will prevail simply because we cannot manage with less in the face of rapidly increasing demand from Asia, especially China and India.

There are many different estimates of when Peak Oil will happen, mainly because it is impossible to get accurate reserve figures from producing countries, especially OPEC members who are thought to have lied for years about their reserves in order to have a high production quota.

Some experts think we are at or near to peak already and point to the fact that very high prices during the last few years have not led to big production increases as would be expected. Other experts think that around 2010 is the most likely time while others think it could be more then 20 years away.

What is not in dispute is that oil and gas are finite resources and will peak at some time. We need to be urgently working on ways to allow food production to continue when the peak arrives.

The solutions section of the book, Famine in the West, describes my thoughts on how this can be done. What are your thoughts?

What is the Gulf Stream?

June 15, 2007 · Filed Under termninology · Comment 

A Part of the ‘Global Ocean Conveyor Belt’, a series of giant ocean currents that flow around the Earth, the Gulf stream carries vast quantities of warm Atlantic water northwards. The amount of heat involved is phenomenal, estimated by Stephen Rahmstorf, an oceanographer at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, as equivalent to one million powerplants. The volume of water flowing north has been estimated to be equal to 75 Amazons.

The warm waters of the Gulf are very salty due to surface water evaporation. The Earth’s rotation helps to push this water to the north east where it becomes  cooler, saltier, denser and heavier. It then sinks pulling the current behind it and heads back south as a deep water current.

Scientists are extremely worried that fresh water pouring into the northern ocean from melting glaciers will mix with the salt water of the current making it lighter and unable to sink. It is disturbing that from measurements taken in the last few years there is already a decline in the vigour of the circulation, and studies indicate that unlike other climate changes, ocean currents can shift or stop in just a few years.

What does “Peak Food” mean?

June 8, 2007 · Filed Under termninology · Comment 

Peak food is a term for the moment in time when food production per capita will peak and then start to decline. Many people believe this will be at the same time that oil production peaks simply because on a farm in North America or Europe nothing at all can be produced without natural gas for nitrogen fertiliser and oil to power machines and make pesticides. No oil means no food and less oil means less food. As this moment may already have passed everyone should be concerned. This is because world population is increasing at the rate of about 80 million per year but more significantly, many millions in developing countries like China and India are moving up the food chain, eating more meat which needs much more land. Every day there are more people to feed but less good agricultural land. When there is a shortage of oil either through natural decline, terrorist attack or due to unreliable suppliers,  this will only be exacerbated. And, it really is when because this shortage will happen sooner or later.  Today’s agriculture needs tractors which need diesel. If there is no oil there will be no tractors. And it’s no good thinking we’ll go back to horses and oxen because we in the West don’t have them or the people to manage them.Â

Unfortunatly, there are many other threats to food production coming at just the same time as energy uncertainty:

Climate change is already causing crop losses due to droughts, floods and other weather extremes.Â

There is loss of farmland due to desertification, erosion, urban and industrial sprawl, and road building.

Fisheries are collapsing. Wild fish is the only major food source that has no human or fuel input up to the time of harvest. Overfishing is causing fish stocks to collapse so that the per capita supply of fish is expected to decline rapidly.

There are water shortages. Agriculture is having to compete with cities and industry for water at a time when aquifers are being depleted and river flows declining in many areas.

Each year massive areas of land are being turned over to produce crops for biofuels such as biodiesel from oilseeds and ethenol from maize and sugar cane . The way this is being done will reduce food supply.

The concept of peakfood should put things into perspective for those of us in the West. Instead of worrying about where we are going on holiday next year or what colour to paint the kitchen, we should be seriously thinking about if our children will have enough food in the very near future.

My book, Famine in the West, goes into more detail on this and outlines solutions.