Archive for the ‘Blog’ category

Emissions up in 2017

After declining in 2016, CO2 emissions went back up in 2017. According to estimates from the Global Carbon Project, emissions increased by almost 600 million tonnes, ending up at 41.47 billion tonnes. Emissions had actually decreased in 2016 after flattening out over the last few years, bringing hope that we had finally reached peak carbon pollution, but it was not to be. Still, emissions have only edged up slightly in five years, so there is hope that the curve will finally start to bend downwards. Just as the curve had flattened mostly because of decreasing coal use in China, the Middle Kingdom was also responsible for the increase, with emissions going up by 3.5%, including 3% growth in coal emissions. China has promised to peak its emissions before 2030, but not quite yet it seems. Let’s hope they do it soon.

Source: The Global Carbon Budget 2017, Le Quéré et al., 2017, pp.33-34 (free download)

The Carbon Budget — Living Beyond Our Means

There are good reasons to calculate our carbon budget. The carbon pie shows how much CO2 we’ve got to play with, how much we’ve used and how fast we’re using it. This isn’t a license to pollute, but a warning about how much we have already polluted. As long as we didn’t precisely know how much carbon we could emit, it was easier for those with responsibility to run away from it or push it ahead of them. The carbon pie should be a visceral reminder of how urgent the problem has become and it should compel governments to reflect on what they all need to do to avoid overshooting. The small remaining carbon space no longer allows anyone to continue with business-as-usual.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tipping points in the Arctic

When the summer melting season ended in 2007, the icecap floating in the ocean over the North Pole had shrunk to its smallest size ever recorded. According to satellite data, the remaining summer sea ice measured almost forty per cent less than the average for the period of 1979 to 2000. More than one-and-a-half million square kilometres that had been covered with ice the year before was open ocean. The event was a serious confirmation that had been suspected for a while in the scientific community: that the Earth may be prone to abrupt climate change and tipping points. The new science of non-linear change is challenging our notions of what climate change is and when it will occur—and it is utterly alarming.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bald eagles (new album)

Bald Eagles

Bald eagles living on and just off the campus of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. I was in Appleton to hold a community lecture on the ethical and political challenges of geoengineering and as a bonus I got to see bald eagles. Apparently they have several pairs of nesting eagles along this this stretch of the Fox River, the watercourse that runs through Appleton and fuels much of its industry.

View album


Looking thoughtfully across the Martindale Pond at a group of rowers. “Boat”, he says in Norwegian, “boat, boat, boat”, and points excitedly at a double sculler as it glides smoothly through the water right in front of us.


I was recently at a conference at the University of Oxford and I had a little time to go look around the city and the university.

Oxford is something out of the ordinary. The city is of course incredibly historic, but what truly makes it special is that it is completely dominated by the famous university. Over 30 colleges dot the city and a great many of them are right in the city centre. In many ways the numerous colleges _is_ Oxford, because their old buildings can be seen everywhere. Shops and private housing fill up the space in-between. Oxford is well worth the trip if you’re in London, only 80km away with ubiquitous bus and train connections. And if you grow tired of old buildings, you can go punting on River Cherwell and the Thames.

Battle of blue vs brown

Here’s a portrait of Sebastian from early May. He was a little sleepy, but his blank, wet, wide open eyes reveal an amazing play of colours. The ring of deep blue that dominated his eyes when he was born is gradually being  pushed out of the way by a ring of brown spreading out from his pupil. There’s no doubt he inherited his mother’s eyes, both in size and colour. Her’s, however, were were brown from she was born; here, the brown has to assert dominance over the blue in a long drawn out war of positions. It seems inevitable, though, that the brown shall win; to the blue belongs but certain defeat, though not without honour, holding out so long against the dominant brown allele.

Niagara Falls Postcard

Couldn’t this be a postcard? I know, a million other people have the same shot (or a close equivalent of it). This year, when my family visited from Norway, I took them on the trip “behind the falls” rather than on the Maid of the Mist. Perhaps a bit of a tourist trap, but I contend that it was still a nifty experience (the second time for me). What else is one to do as a tourist but touristy things? Plus, I really don’t mind having another excuse to take pictures (and try out my new, hand-me-down Nikon D80). The falls really do look quite impressive from underneath, on the viewing platform. As for seeing the falls from behind? Well, the tunnel itself was the interesting bit; the falls themselves just became a white veil of water, without much contrast. At least it was refreshing

Banff Otherworldly

Stargazing in the Rockies…see the Milky Way in all its splendour. This picture was taken at 2am on a jetty on Lake Vermillion, close to Banff.

I have only brightened this picture and done some noise removal — the colours are all original, reflecting the wavelenghts that were present but too subtle to be seen with the naked eye. The orange light that floods Mount Rundle is light pollution from Banff; in this instance, it created an otherworldly effect. The stars appears as streaks because of the movement of the Earth. The bright dot reflected in the water is Venus. I didn’t have a tripod, so I rested the camera on the edge of the jetty. As people moved around, the jetty started rocking slightly, hence the stars didn’t move in a straight line.

Technical details: f/3.5 at 18mm, 146 seconds, ISO 25o