Tag Archives: global warming

Climate change is now an acceptable conversation topic

From a Calgary Herald report:

“The Holy Grail is figuring out how to get the public engaged on this issue. The problem is that the typical output of climate studies is statistical information that’s impenetrable to most people,” said Karen Akerlof. “If you can help people feel they’ve actually experienced what’s happening, they may be able to better acknowledge the risks.”

Researchers found 27 per cent of people felt they had personally experienced global warming…(this feeling) was so meaningful, it positively predicted concern for local risks related to climate change: think forest fires, drought, changes to animal and plant species, and public health.

This is obvious but still worth reporting because I’m finding people more open to the question, do you think this is global warming?

Mostly I receive warm responses and pleasant discussions. Which is so different from years ago when it would spark political arguments or a heated debate on the merits of being environmental.

I want to urge you to ask the question and discuss it with people. You may find yourself engaged in a charming conversation. And maybe pass along a green tip or receive one in return.

 

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3rd warmest summer for United States and the planet – nearly 2 degrees warmer worldwide

If you thought this summer was warm, so did everybody else, from USA Today:

While the USA sweated through one of its warmest summers on record, so, too, did the rest of the globe.

“Considering global land surfaces only, June – Aug. 2012 was record warm, at 1.85 degrees above average.”

Only the summers of 1998 and 2010 were warmer. Records go back to 1880.

 

The report also states the United States is in a drought, as is eastern Russia and India. There is a possibility the record heat is due to the transition from the cold water of La Niña to the warm water of El Niño, but we are in our 330th month of higher than average temperatures.

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Video: North Pole shrinks to record levels, could be gone in 4 years

 

This animation shows the 2012 time-series of ice extent. The black area represents the daily average (median) sea ice from 1979-2000. Layered over are the daily satellite measurements from January 1 — September 14, 2012. A rapid melt begins in July, whereby the 2012 ice extents fall far below the historical average.

 

This melting has caused many to reconsider their predictions. A Cambridge scientist in the Arctic believes we could be only 4 years from a North Pole without ice.

From Yale’s Environment 360:

Peter Wadhams, who heads the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge and who has measured Arctic Ocean ice thickness from British Navy submarines, says that earlier calculations about Arctic sea ice loss have grossly underestimated how rapidly the ice is disappearing. He believes that the Arctic is likely to become ice-free before 2020 and possibly as early as 2015 or 2016 — decades ahead of projections made just a few years ago.

 

 

// Thx – DB

The EPA is screwing up the discussion on global warming

The EPA is reporting the wrong information on global warming and I want them to get it right. The information they publish becomes the gold standard and is reported in the media, covered on TV, and published all across the web. It reaches the eyes and ears of a majority of Americans, and so why are they screwing it up?

The first problem is in using economic terms over plain language. The average person has a hard time understanding the meaning of ‘by economic sector’ or ‘end user emissions’. And nowhere in their mission statement does it say they should be communicating like college professors:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

Neither does it say they should communicate clearly, but that’s covered in the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Another problem they face is choosing what data to report. Again, they seem to be focusing on macroeconomic data sets instead of what will help the average person. Here is the data set spread out across 20 pages on the EPA website and reported many thousand times over in the press:

 

Emissions by Economic Sector

  • Electricity generation – 34%
  • Transportation – 27%
  • Industry – 21%
  • Agriculture – 7%
  • Commercial & Residential – 11%

 

Very helpful for the big picture and if you’re writing policy, but worthy of ignoring by the common person. What are they supposed to do about electricity, buy a wind turbine? For transportation, go out and buy a new car? What does industry even mean?

For those steeped in the economics of global warming this makes total sense. Our energy is slowly moving towards renewables, cars are becoming electric, homes and business can similarly electrify, and that would make 61-90% of our emissions from electricity. Yes, it is vital we pick up renewables.

But that stymies any discussion about what individuals can do. Here is another data set left to gather dust, buried 200 pages deep in the EPA’s most important report:

 

Emissions by End User

  • Manufacturing – 30%
  • Homes – 18%
  • Business – 17%
  • Personal Cars – 17%
  • Farming – 8%
  • Freight Trucks – 6%
  • Airplanes – 2%

 

End user is an economic term for you bought it you own it. Meaning the person who drives the car is responsible for the emissions, not General Motors. From this perspective the story changes entirely. Transportation moves down into a tie for third most important. The three ahead of it – manufacturing, homes, business – all represent places where the average person has a significant impact.

Individuals could buy less or switch to recycled products, in simple ways, like buying recycled toilet paper. At home they could lower the thermostat or send less to the landfill. At work they could accept normal temperatures for the A/C and support any green company policies.

It is strange that this data, which places the responsibility on individuals and can easily encourage a change in behavior, is buried in favor of the economic report. It would seem like the EPA is purposely avoiding the issue of responsibility, or letting the economists control the marketing. Either way it’s unacceptable and screwing up the discussion on global warming.

Come on EPA get your head in the game!

 

 

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Good news – United States greenhouse gas emissions are declining (graph)

I hate the doom-and-gloom focus of global warming. For an issue that asks people to make big changes, there couldn’t be a worse message. And so I’m proud to present another piece good news:

  • As our economy grows we are lowering our emissions (blue lines)
  • As our population our emissions are remaining steady or decreasing (orange lines)

 

source: EPA

 

This makes it look like we are cleaning up our economy and our habits, and we are. Good news.

And, one piece of bad news. The declines aren’t strong enough to stop climate change. For that we need a much steeper decline. So keep up the great work and double your efforts!

Here are some ways to do so:

Monitor global warming in real-time with new iPhone, Android app

Want to monitor the vital signs of planet Earth? View global warming trends, like ozone, CO2, and sea levels, on a 3D globe? Scan satellite data in real-time?

There’s an app for that. It’s called Earth Now and is available on both iPhone and Android.

Released by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory “to drive up excitement for their projects and put scientific data in the palm of anyone’s hand,” according to Pasadena Star-News.

If this interests you, there are 10 more smartphone apps from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

And many thanks to Max Huijgen for sharing this story.

 

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The facts about global warming, they tell their own story

Sometimes it helps to have the facts. They present their own story and make it easier for you to understand the problem.

Here are two sets of facts from the EPA’s 2012 Inventory on United States Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The first shows emissions by source:

  1. Energy – 87%
  2. Agriculture – 6.3%
  3. Industrial Process – 4.4%
  4. Waste (landfills) – 1.9%
  5. Solvents and other produces – 0.1%

 

Probably not what you expected. Our dominant method of creating energy is the problem. And that is through the use fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation. To get global warming under control we need a massive shift in energy policy (i.e. clean energy).

That’s important but if you look at emissions by end user a different story emerges:

  1. Manufacturing – 30%
  2. Homes – 18%
  3. Personal Cars – 17%
  4. Business – 17%
  5. Farming – 8%
  6. Freight Trucks – 6%
  7. Airplanes – 2%

 

To understand this you need to keep in mind that it’s the person buying the product or driving the car that is ultimately responsible for the emission. That is what these numbers show and they are often overlooked. Which is sad because they convey what you can do, right now, to have an impact.

It is not about cars and electricity like most think. Although they still are important. Rather, it’s the stuff we buy (manufacturing) and our habits at home and at work that cover 2/3 of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is why I like the facts. They tell their own story. In this case, it’s that you – one person – can change your habits and have a huge impact on global warming.

 

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Ecology goes Big Data – 15,000 sensors to measure everything in the soil

This project, called NEON, should revolutionize the study of ecology, and with it global warming.

The Economist – NEON light

Once this network is completed, in 2016 if all goes well, 15,000 sensors will be collecting more than 500 types of data, including temperature, precipitation, air pressure, wind speed and direction, humidity, sunshine, levels of air pollutants such as ozone, the amount of various nutrients in soils and streams, and the state of an area’s vegetation and microbes.

 

I just can’t believe they were able to get $400+ million in funding for this project.

 

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Our carbon sinks are absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as they used to

The term ‘carbon sink’ is becoming more common as we all gain the scientific education needed to deal with climate change and global warming.

According to Wikipedia, carbon sinks can be both natural and artificial. Both involve the process of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is called carbon sequestration.

The main natural carbon sinks are the oceans and plants, and with our planet covered in so much water, the oceans are the biggest sinks on Earth. The main artificial ones are landfills and the various carbon capture projects.

In those countries that follow the Kyoto Protocol, the use of artificial carbon sinks can serve as a way to offset other carbon use.

Of course, as we are pumping more carbon into the atmosphere our natural carbon sinks are ingesting more carbon dioxide:

Nature has her own way of dealing with excess carbon dioxide. When human activities spew CO2 into the atmosphere, plants absorb more of it than usual, leading to profuse growth. The ocean, too, swallows more than it otherwise would. Many scientists fret that these so-called carbon sinks risk getting clogged up. Some even suggest that this has already started happening. - The Economist

Some even estimate that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and plants has doubled. Nobody knows what this means, maybe it can continue and alleviate some of our carbon problems, or there could be a backlash effect.

For more on this, check out The Economist article, That Sinking Feeling.

 

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A refreshing look at climate change in America – what are we doing about it?

A refreshing, well-balanced look at climate change in America.

 

You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record…Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

 

Keep reading: N.Y. Times - There’s Still Hope for the Planet

 

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