Less than two weeks into 2012 and we've got some really interesting climate news we're watching, both in terms of the effects of climate change currently and far in the future (delaying the next Ice Age anyone?), as well as what's being done to mitigate the effects.
China's Largest Companies To Face Direct Carbon Tax By 2015
China's Economic Information Daily says plans for a new carbon tax on the nation's largest energy-consuming companies, to be implemented by 2015—and remember that China as a whole is now the world's largest energy-consuming nation. Reuters says, "The tax would begin at a rate of 10 yuan ($1.59) per tonne of carbon dioxide, and gradually increase depending on a company's emission levels." More on who will be affected by the tax at the link above.
Perhaps it doesn't need official confirming, especially for TreeHugger readers who've been following our diligent coverage of all the grim announcements about the state of Texas' drought, but the National Weather Service has officially stated that 2011 was the driest year on record for Texas. Average rainfall across the state was 14.89", one-tenth of an inch below the previous record, set in 1917. It was also the second-hottest year on record, with a statewide average for the year of 67.2°F, three-tenths of a degree coolers than the hottest year, 1921.
This Winter's Warm Weather & Lack of Snow Due to Record Jet Stream Configuration
Weather Underground's Jeff Masters has some interesting insight into why the winter of 2011/12 so far has been the winter-that-wasn't in most of the US:
The cause of this warm first half of winter is the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The Arctic Oscillation (AO), and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (which can be thought of as the North Atlantic's portion of the larger-scale AO), are climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere defined by fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure in the North Atlantic between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. The AO and NAO have significant impacts on winter weather in North America and Europe--the AO and NAO affect the path, intensity, and shape of the jet stream, influencing where storms track and how strong these storms become. During December 2011, the NAO index was +2.52, which was the most extreme difference in pressure between Iceland and the Azores ever observed in December (records of the NAO go back to 1865). The AO during December 2011 had its second most extreme December value on record, behind the equally unusual December of 2006. These positive AO/NAO conditions caused the Icelandic Low to draw a strong south-westerly flow of air over eastern North America, preventing Arctic air from plunging southward over the U.S. and Europe.
But, As Most of North America Warmer & Dried, Alaska is Breaking Snow & Cold Records
Anchorage Daily News reports that as of 2pm last Friday, the National Weather Service reports that Valdez has received a total of 272.1" of snow so far this winter, with 42" of snow falling in the last storm and a 6' snowpack. The record for the year in Valdez is 560.7" (1989-90), with this winter on track to beat it.
Farther north, in Nome, for the first time in 13 years, temperatures hit -40°F, with temperatures remaining below -30°F for ten consecutive days.
Weather weirding all around indeed.
Next Ice Age May Be Delayed By Carbon Emissions
Luke Skinner from Cambridge University, talking about his latest research published in Nature Geoscience:
At current levels of CO2, even if emissions stopped now we'd probably have a long interglacial duration determined by whatever long-term processes could kick in and bring [atmospheric] CO2 down. (BBC News)
The last Ice Age ended roughly 11,500 years ago; sans rising carbon emissions the next one would likely set in some 1,500 years from now. Read more.
Rapid Decline of Canada's Boreal Ducks Attributed to Changing Climate
Scientists long puzzled by the rapid decline in millions of Canadian boreal ducks since the 1970s think they may finally have the cause:
"Because of climate change, the ducks don't have the food that they need when they need," Stuart Slattery, a research scientists with Ducks Unlimited Canada, told CBC News on Friday.
As TreeHugger has long documented, changing food availability due to climate change as species adapt to a warming world at different rates, threatens many more species than boreal ducks.