Solar Geoengineering May Not Cool the Oceans, Study Says
By Daisy Dunne
Spraying aerosols high in the stratosphere could dampen global warming over land, but may not prevent the oceans from heating up, new research says.
The findings suggest that this type of "solar geoengineering"—a set of techniques that aim to tackle global warming by reflecting sunlight back into space—may not necessarily stem sea level rise or prevent damage to the world's marine ecosystems.
The research indicates that solar geoengineering could carry "major uncertainties and risks," the lead author told Carbon Brief.
The study also raises the issue of whether global average temperature "is the best metric to control" when addressing the impacts of climate change, another scientist told Carbon Brief.
Harnessing a Volcano
When a volcano erupts, it sends an ash cloud high into the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide released in the plume combines with water to form sulfuric acid aerosols, which reflect away incoming sunlight, temporarily cooling the Earth.
Artificially introducing aerosols into the atmosphere—via a plane or a high-altitude balloon—could have a similar cooling effect, researchers say.
The idea has never been tested, but previous research using computer simulations suggests that releasing aerosols could help limit global temperature rise to 1.5C—the aspirational target of the Paris agreement—and keep rainfall from becoming irregular.
The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, identifies, for the first time, another potential downfall of the proposed technique: it may not be able to limit warming in the deep ocean.
This is because aerosol release could cause rainfall to decrease in some regions, which could influence ocean circulation patterns, says lead author Dr. John Fasullo, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder. He told Carbon Brief:
"The explanation involves two key stages. In the first, the aerosols reduce the amount of rainfall that occurs globally. This change in rainfall is not uniform, rather, reductions are larger in some key regions—namely, the northern Atlantic Ocean—and this increases the salinity of those ocean areas, making the water more dense."
This increase in water density could cause the "Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation" (AMOC) to speed up, he said. The AMOC is a perpetual conveyor belt that transports heat from the equator up to the North Atlantic. It is part of a wider network of global ocean circulations patterns that transports heat all around the world. Fasullo said:
"The North Atlantic is a key region of deep-water formation and higher density therefore leads to an acceleration of this circulation. The speed up in deep-water formation buries more heat in the deep ocean that would have otherwise occurred."
To explore the impact of aerosol release on oceans, the researchers used a set of 20 computer simulations looking at what would happen if aerosols were released between 2020 and 2099. This set of simulations is known as the "geoengineering large ensemble" (GLENS).
The simulations assume that aerosols are released at uniform points across the globe. (Previous research shows doing this would prevent large regional changes in temperature and weather.)
The researchers compared their geoengineering simulations to another set of simulations where no geoengineering takes place and little action is taken to tackle climate change, leading to high emissions in the coming decades (a scenario known as "RCP8.5").
The chart below shows how global average temperature (full lines, left-hand y-axis) and global rainfall levels (dashed lines, right-hand y-axis) are expected to differ between the high-emissions scenario (RCP8.5) simulations and GLENS.
Above: Changes to global mean temperature (full lines, left-hand y-axis) and global rainfall levels (dashed lines, right-hand y-axis) under a scenario with solar geoengineering (GLENS; blue) and a scenario with no geoengineering and high greenhouse gas emissions (RCP8.5; red). Source: Fasullo et al. (2018)
The chart shows how, in the geoengineered world, the global average temperature is kept constant while global rainfall levels fall. In comparison, temperatures and rainfall levels continue to rise under the high-emissions scenario.
The maps below show expected changes to ocean heat content (OHC) between 2010-30 and 2075-95 in the upper ocean (0-300m; left) and in the full-depth of the ocean (right) under the geoengineering scenario. On the maps, red shows increases in OHC, while blue shows decreases.
Above: Expected changes to ocean heat content (OHC) between 2010-30 and 2075-95 in the upper ocean (0-300m; left) and in the full-depth of the ocean (right) under a solar geoengineering scenario. Red shows increases in OCH, while blue shows decreases. Source: Fasullo et al. (2018)
The charts show how, in the geoengineering scenario, some shallower parts of the ocean are expected to heat up. This includes the Arctic Sea and waters off the western coast of North America.
When the full depth of the ocean is considered, however, many more regions are expected to see OHC increases—with warming likely to be most severe in the Arctic Sea and in the Southern Ocean.
The findings suggest that—contrary to previous research—solar geoengineering could fail to prevent sea level rise.
Sea level rise is chiefly driven by the expansion of seawater as a result of warming and by the melting of land ice at the world's poles. In some parts, including in Western Antarctica, melting occurs where land ice comes into contact with warm ocean water. Fasullo said:
"Relative to present day, it is extremely likely that sea level will continue to rise under our geoengineering approach, but it is also likely that the rate of this rise will be less than under a business-as-usual climate trajectory [RCP8.5].
"We cannot say with confidence what that rate of rise might be as we don't have models of the ice sheets fully coupled to our climate simulations, nor have we sufficiently vetted such models to have confidence in their projections at this point."
The results could also mean that solar geoengineering would fail to prevent marine heatwaves, which pose a major threat to undersea wildlife, and the expected increases in hurricane intensity. (Although no research has looked at these issues, specifically, so it is still too soon to draw conclusions, Fasullo said.)
The study raises the issue of whether global average temperature "is the best metric to control" when addressing the impacts of climate change, said Prof. Govindasamy Bala, a physical scientist from the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Science, who was not involved in the study. He told Carbon Brief:
"However, as this is a single modeling study, it is not clear to me if the results of this paper are robust. A multi-model based approach would be needed to verify the robustness."
The findings imply that solar geoengineering could have "large potential downsides," said Fasullo:
"There have been various high-profile policymakers in the U.S. that have framed climate change as an engineering challenge. I think the key takeaway from our work is that geoengineering itself carries major uncertainties and risks."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.
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By Jake Johnson
Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.
"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."
The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."
In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."
"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."
Today the 6 Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces are unveiling final language. The Climate Task Force accomplished a gr… https://t.co/gz3broq2qe— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1594240617.0
The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.
Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."
"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."
Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."
"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.
On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.
Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.
"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."
We rein in #pharma's greed by: 1) Allowing Medicare to FINALLY negotiate Rx drugs FOR ALL AMERICANS 2) Using Rx d… https://t.co/6k9iUCLMp7— Abdul El-Sayed (@Abdul El-Sayed)1594238411.0
Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."
Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."
"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."
"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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