Archive for November, 2009

Fantastic food!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

We add substances to processed food in in increasing amounts using more and more diverse substances. E.g. adding omega-3 fatty acids is good for you – it works against depression, cardiovascular disease, homicide, improves IQ of babies, etc.

Claims are being forwarded as to the benefits arising and companies are asked to supply evidence for these claims. Functional foods are may be not so easy to make? Scientific studies will form the basis for a claim, and improving understanding of what food does to your body must be OK.

America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EU via the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will look into regulation of such claims so as to better asses nutrition and health factors. In the process we can expect clearer information as to what “healthy” really means. This also means that the ingredients of food will be better understood, including what it means for human health – benefits and drawbacks – the last must also be established.

Food as a drug can be linked to the pharmaceutical industry, personalizing food and linking it to your personal metabolism is possible, selling services like dietary analysis and training is coming up ….

Keep also in mind the link to nanofoods – food is getting more and more complex – we must make sure we know what is going on.

Ecological ethics and economics – oil and the environment

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Nations lucky enough to have oil, gas, coal are continuing to develop their fields and selling their produce. The CO2 density is as a result (mainly because of this?) still rising. A debate has started in Norway about the dilemmas involved: Continuing the extraction will give money, but also more CO2.

To achieve sustainability something has to give. Could a start be to drill the oilfields, use the gas which is environmentally better than oil and leave the oil where it is? The oil companies surely will not like this, but the state will have good ecological conscience and a good name in the world. There has to be a sound combination of environmental, economic, political thinking to find a way out of this dilemma.
The debate has just started and may become an international one. Will other nations follow?

Water future

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

There is an increasing lack of water in many areas of the world. Desalination installations are used all over the world, and the water industry is thriving. The technical challenges are great in producing clean water, the energy required is substantial – may be 2-4 kWh pr. m3 water, in some cases as high as 25 kWh/m3. The industry is hoping to get this down to about 1 kWh/m3. The energy required thus gives a push to nuclear energy.

Today most fresh-water is used to grow food – some say 90%.

From the landmass of Norway there is a water run-off of 350-400 km3 per year – going into the sea. Calculating that each person uses 150 liter per day we can say that Norway alone can deliver the water required for everybody in the world. A number of projects have been developed for the purpose of transporting water to the needy, but so far without success.

Techniques like reverse osmosis using membranes can be used at sea depths of about 800 meters to produce cheap water without having to take care of the salt.

Many technical challenges and commercial possibilities are ahead of us.

Environmental note about fish farming

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Emissions from a medium-sized fish farming installation in the sea with a production of about 3000 tons of fish per year equals the total emissions from about 50000 people. This can “kill” the sea in the area if care is not taken. Primarily this consideration is taken care of by locating fish farms in robust and open areas. Danger signals are posted in Norway, and the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority is warning that stricter measures are coming.

In Asia this problem is well known in shrimp-farming, but dealing with it is not so easy. Pricing of environmental costs must become an issue again.

Climate models – evolving.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Climate modeling is an evolving part of science. It is extremely complex with many parameters interacting and changing in value over the short and long term. The results based on present models must surely be indicative only!

The climate has great influence on human activities like growing crops, building houses because of  temperature, precipitation, wind, flooding, local natural conditions etc….

Now climate modeling is developing as a science – including physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, oceanography, glaciology and geology. An analysis of all the components of the climate system will include the atmosphere, oceans, ice sheets, solar activity, human activity etc. We wish to be able to understand the dominant causes of past climate changes and to critically evaluate the projections of the climate change over the next centuries or millennia.

Because of the complexity of the climate system we use models. Both comprehensive three-dimensional numerical models and simple models are used to show the fundamental properties of the climate, climate variability and climate change in order to estimate future climate.

The correct use of models is also important, e.g. extrapolation must only be done within the limits of what the models are designed for.

The number of parameters used is high and may be increasing? Cosmic radiation and the effect of the earth´s magnetic field seems to play a role. The effect varies with distance from the poles. The incidence of cosmic radiation seems to have increased significantly during the last millenia.

It must be obvious that this science is fresh. Models and results should therefore be used with moderation as we move along to better understanding. Is the IPCC putting more into them than they are worth? Who decides what is a good model? The question should be open to international open debate for a long time coming.

One important consideration is whether the change in climate due to CO2 may be much less than the IPCC has calculated.

It seems there is a strong probability that there is a negative warming trend so we must be careful. Research is suggesting answers to the phenomena, but the dynamics and natural variations seem to make firesure  conclusions difficult. But to be happy in the future we must worry now. At the same time we should avoid heated debate! Activists should let science take its course.

If you are interested in further reading about climate models: Goosse H., P.Y. Barriat, W. Lefebvre, M.F. Loutre and V. Zunz, date 11.11.2009, Introduction to climate dynamics and climate modeling. Online textbook available at

See also: for testing of climate models.

The run-up to Copenhagen 7-18 Des. 2009

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

The big economies of the world are at this stage naturally the big offenders when it comes to CO2 emissions. Moving them into an active reducing position seems to be the challenge. The US seems stalled politically, China is building a good name by being active in solar systems and wind farms, but are plagued by their enourmous coalfired plants, Brazil has rainforest ambitions, India is making exchange deals with small nations like Norway.

Many things may be moving behind the scenes with everybody jockeying for glory and status!

Is everybody important willing to take part? Will the negotiators be able to find solutions to steer us toward low-emission societies? Will nations accept legally binding agreements? What will the relations be among the developed and the emerging economies? Is it necessary to put some common money into the purse?

Norwegian environmental action – moving forward

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Gassnova SF is the Norwegian State run organization to deal with handling of CO2. It will stimulate research, development, pilots and help fund projects possibly leading to full-scale installations. International cooperation is important, and Gassnova will act as an adviser to the Government. Norway aims to be one of the leading nations in the CCS field.
Norway started large scale CCS in the North Sea in 1996 in connection with oil production, and the interest in further development for this area and other subsea storage areas is growing.

Practical work:
Klimakur 2020 is a project to assess what we must do to reach our goals by 2020. The project will propose a set of activities to reach the goal of climate gas reductions of 15-17 million tons in the period starting 2010. The activities will be coordinated with and considered in relation to related international activities.

Centres for Environment-Friendly Energy Research (FME) has been established as a result of the Energi21 paper with recommendations for Norwegian activity related to renewable energy production.

The objective of the scheme of Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (FME) is to establish time-limited research centres which conduct concentrated, focused and long-term research of high international calibre in order to solve specific challenges in the field.

The eight Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research are:
BIGCCS Centre – International CCS Research Centre
Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy (CEDREN)
Bioenergy Innovation Centre (CenBio)
Norwegian Centre for Offshore Wind Energy (NORCOWE)
Norwegian Research Centre for Offshore Wind Technology (NOWITECH)
The Norwegian Research Centre for Solar Cell Technology
SUbsurface CO2 storage – Critical Elements and Superior Strategy (SUCCESS)
The Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings – ZEB

This is good progress!

The chemistry of the body

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Biochemistry is the study of the chemistry of the functions of the body: cells, organs and systems. Bad health has many forms and sickness or lack of wellness points to an imbalance in this biochemistry. We need to check these imbalances and correct them through biochemical testing uncovering nutritional deficiencies, toxic levels, intolerances and allergies. With information at hand we can design a personal dietary and supplement program to achieve a healthy condition.

Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms to maintain life. About 500 substances are involved in the working of the metabolism, about 20 of which are essential or “must-have”. There is at present no basic agreement as to what amounts of these substances each of us need.

The expression healthy food is used by all without closer definition.

Tests can determine your condition and be made the basis for a “good” diet and lifestyle. There are many  therapies available, but there seems to be little agreement among nutritional practitioners about basic practizes.

It should be possible to agree that removing the cause of a disease or weak function is important, so that the body if possible can heal or improve itself. There are many known health consequences of nutritional depletion, e.g. lack of magnesium hinders a birth, making a cesarean neccessary. Lack of vitamin C…….etc.

The concept of Recommended Daily Allowance (RDI) – why is it not more actively used by us? Do we have them for all we need and are they correct ? Must we supplement what we are not fed through our diet? Can we live with deficiencies or must we supplement? What are the vital components?

The alarm bells are ringing: we are getting more and more diabetes2, more and more cancers – the reason must surely have something to do with western lifestyle?

Some say you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet. Will somebody please tell us all what a correct diet is and make sure it can be bought in the shops?

Iron, calcium, selenium, zinc, magnesium, calcium etc…… almost 500 “stuffs” are there to be had!

Climate Models: Albedo, Earthshine

Thursday, November 5th, 2009


Measuring Earthshine: How New Terra Data are Improving Weather and Climate Forecast Models

A sensor aboard NASA’s Terra satellite is helping scientists map how much sunlight the Earth’s surface reflects back up into the atmosphere, and this new detailed information should help to greatly improve weather and forecast models.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) now routinely provides daily global and local measurements of albedo, or the total amount of light reflected from Earth’s surface out to space. These precise data may allow scientists to better understand and predict how various surface features absorb and reflect solar radiation, which influence both short-term weather patterns and longer-term climate trends.

American Meteorological Society

Land surface albedo is a critical parameter affecting the earth’s climate. For many general circulation models (GCMs), both visible (0.4–0.7 μm) and near-infrared (0.7–5.0 μm) albedos are needed, whereas the surface energy balance studies typically require broadband shortwave (0.25–5.0 μm) albedo. Although surface albedo has been routinely observed for a long time and different approaches have been explored, a global map of surface albedo with high accuracy is not simply available right now. It has been well recognized that surface albedo is among the main radiative uncertainties in current climate modeling. Most GCMs are still using prescribed fields of surface albedo that are often 5%–15% in error from place to place and time to time.

More than CO2? Reflective or albedo effects also?

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The earth is getting hotter – or is it not? Has the Sun increased it´s shining during the last 150 years?

Our understanding of the the climate problem is not complete and will not be solved by focusing on CO2 alone. The calculation of carbon neutrality has to take into account the fact that the sun shines on the earth with a force of 1350 Wm2, whereas the effect due to burning fossil fuel is only 1-2 Wm2. As an example massive removal of forests in temperate zones will cool the earth, while deforestation in the tropics will increase the temperature.

Scientists haven’t been able to quantify accurately what the effect of CO2 on temperature is. Reduce CO2 or maybe it is just as effective to alter the reflective properties or color of the earth?

The albedo or reflective properties of the earth is an important concept in climatology and must be accounted for in the models used.

The albedo of an object is the extent to which it diffusely reflects light from light sources – in the case of the earth the Sun. It is a unitless measure between 0 and 1 indicative of a surface’s or body’s diffuse reflectivity. The word is derived from Latin albedo “whiteness”.

“Terrestrial albedo: Albedos of typical materials in the visible light range from up to 90% for fresh snow, to about 4% for charcoal, one of the darkest substances. Deeply shadowed cavities can achieve an effective albedo approaching the zero of a blackbody. When seen from a distance, the ocean surface has a low albedo, as do most forests, while desert areas have some of the highest albedos among landforms. Most land areas are in an albedo range of 0.1 to 0.4. The average albedo of the Earth is about 30%. This is far higher than for the ocean primarily because of the contribution of clouds. ” (Wikipedia)

Human activities have changed the albedo (e.g. forest clearance, farming) around the globe. Quantification of this effect on the global scale is difficult.

An example of the albedo effect is the snow-temperature feedback: a snow-covered area warms and the snow melts, the albedo decreases, more sunlight is absorbed, the temperature tends to increase. If snow forms, a cooling cycle happens. The intensity of the albedo effect depends on the amount of sunshine – it can be potentially very large in the tropics.

The Earth’s surface albedo is regularly estimated via Earth observation satellite sensors.

The Earth’s average surface temperature due to its albedo and the greenhouse effect is currently about 15°C. Based on theoretical models it has been estimated that for the frozen (more reflective) planet the average temperature is below -40°C.  If all continents only were completely covered by glaciers the mean temperature would be about 0°C. The simulation for the more absorptive aquaplanet shows the average temperature close to 27°C.

There are CO2 critics: The journalist Christopher Monckton (among others) is critical of the theory of man-made causes for climate change and the stated scope of it – it is unlikely to prove catastrophic. He has criticized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), their interpretation of the Medieval Warm Period, the “hockey stick” model. He supports the solar variation theory as a possible explanation of global warming. He states that Gore and the IPCC has systematically falsified and exaggerated the evidence for global warming.

Scientists are sceptical as well: Ferenc Miskolcz (among others) says that the Earth’s atmosphere dynamically keeps its greenhouse effect right at its critical value, regardless of our continuing CO2 emissions, regardless of any change in atmospheric CO2 concentration in the past ten thousand years. Miskolczi’s dynamic constraint keeps the greenhouse effect “climatically saturated”: emitting CO2 into the air cannot increase the normalized greenhouse factor g because any impact of human addition of CO2 is dynamically countered by about 1% decrease of the main greenhouse gas water vapor (moisture) in the atmosphere.

The aim must be to check, control or reduce total warming. Comprehensive models with a good combination of empirical and theoretical science must be established.