Posts Tagged ‘climate change’


Global warming ‘irreversible’ for next 1000 years.

As reported by AFP, NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) scientists have released a study saying that current levels of global warming will cause irreversible damage, no matter what is done in the future to decrease CO2 and other related emissions.  I will add a link to the primary scientific article when the link is published.

“NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon said the study, published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, showed that current human choices on carbon dioxide emissions are set to “irreversibly change the planet.” Researchers examined the consequences of CO2 building up beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million, and then completely stopping emissions after the peak. Before the industrial age CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere amounted to only 280 parts per million. The study found that CO2 levels are irreversibly impacting climate change, which will contribute to global sea level rise and rainfall changes in certain regions. The authors emphasized that increases in CO2 that occur from 2000 to 2100 are set to “lock in” a sea level rise over the next 1,000 years.”

This is certainly well past a wake-up call, if anybody still needed one. Here’s where the relentless optimist meets the original cynic: I refuse to accept that it is worthless to make the biggest changes possible to head off increased global warming. Am I denying science? No, I’m just clinging to hope.

Original text copyright © 2009 James K. Bashkin

See futher discussion of this post here at Gather.com.


By Bruce Nichols SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) – “Satellite data show that changes in the sun are contributing to global warming but to a smaller extent than human activity, a space scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington told a group of petroleum geologists…”

This is the third major study in the past year or so negating the “solar activity” claim of climate-change skeptics- the claim suggests that solar activity rather than human activity is responsible for modern global warming. See discussion of another report that show no major effects of solar activity on modern global warming (at this link).

“Climate-change skeptics have suggested that solar cycles may be more responsible than human activity for increasing global temperature. But (scientist Judith) Lean said her findings showed ‘the sun is a factor of 10 less than the anthropogenic.'” In other words, people (and human activity) are responsible for the vast majority of modern climate change according to this study.

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original text © James K. Bashkin, 2008

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“Scientists have produced further compelling evidence showing that modern-day climate change is not caused by changes in the Sun’s activity…” from an article by Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News website. “The research contradicts a favoured theory of climate “sceptics”, that changes in cosmic rays coming to Earth determine cloudiness and temperature.”

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Affiliated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Earth Hour 2008 will be held at 8 pm on the 29 of March, 2008. People and groups around the world, including cities and companies and schools, will turn their lights out for one hour. This is a global version of an event started in Sydney, Australia, last year. Earth Hour attempts to engage people, companies, organizations, schools and cities in the conservation process, to make people more aware of the environment, and to show how individual acts, multiplied by millions of people, can have a significant, positive influence on energy use and savings.

  • If you believe in global warming, you might see this as a chance to help reduce human contributions to climate change.
  • If you don’t believe in global warming, you might view this as a much-needed exercise in energy conservation.

I recently became aware of this event via two friends on gather.com, Morgan and flit (thanks!). See also this article by Kate Keeley for more information, and a personal perspective that starts out with the intriguing sentence:

Someone asked me while I was traveling in Antarctica, “So…are you having the greatest time ever?”

The following is taken from earthhour.org:

Earth Hour 2007 was a Sydney event. Earth Hour 2008 is a global movement.

Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. As a result, at 8pm on the 29 March, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tel Aviv will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.

There is much more information at the primary site, earthhour.org. You can help organize participation by your whole community, participate on your own, etc. Take a look, you might want to register and participate. I did.

For more on the WWF, see the following links from the US website (or look here for their global site, which links to WWF organizations in many countries):

DISCOVER

Endangered Species
Where We Work
Global Forces
Conservation Science
WWF In Action
Travel
Get Involved
Newsroom
Business Partnerships
Humanitarian Partnerships
About WWF / Jobs

EXPLORE

WildFinder

WildWorld Camera Traps

Marketing Partners
Shop WWF Gear
Fun & Games
Free E-Cards
Free Wallpaper
Photo Galleries

DONATE

Donate to WWF
Gift Center
Adoption Center
Monthly Supporter
Legacy Gifts
Partners in Conservation

© James K. Bashkin, 2008
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Planning to ice skate on a local lake or river this winter? You may need to think twice, say scientists J. Magnuson, O. Jensen and B. Benson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Their research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Data came from newspaper archives, transportation ledgers and religious observances. From NSF News:

The records show that later freezing and earlier ice breakup occurred on lakes and rivers across the Northern Hemisphere from 1846 to 1995. Over those 150 years, said Magnuson, changes in freeze dates averaged 5.8 days per 100 years later, and changes in ice breakup dates averaged 6.5 days per 100 years earlier. The findings translate to increasing air temperatures of about 1.2 degrees Celsius each century.

In contrast to the observation that climate changes are occurring more rapidly at higher latitudes, said Benson, the greatest rate of change in ice breakup dates in the Great Lakes region is happening at lower latitudes, near the southern boundary of the area in which lakes are routinely ice-covered during winter.

Depending on how your browser is set, a picture might show up here:

Ice cover on lakes around Madison, Wisc., and throughout the northern U.S. has formed later each winter.  Credit: Peter W. Schmitz, Madison, Wisconsin Ice cover on northern lakes across the U.S. has formed later each winter.
Credit and Larger Version (this link is not working all the time for me)

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From Fresh Air, WHYY, you can hear an interview with James Hansen, described as NASA’s leading climate scientist, on how the Bush Administration has been trying to censor his work. Mark Bowen, also interviewed, wrote a book on this subject called “Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming”.

James Hansen is one of the climate scientists whose work was specifically misrepresented by Michael Chrichton in his anti-environmentalist novel of several years ago.

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Please read the story that my previous post links to on cities that are taking various approaches to sustainability. I applaud these cities on their effort, risk, expenditure and cooperation…

but I’d like to hear what people think about the cities’ actual solutions!

Since I can barely find people who agree on anything regarding alternative fuel, or at best we seem to have warring camps, did these cities choose plans that will help or hurt the environment? How did they know what to do when so few others agree? The best presentation at a City Council meeting may reflect marketing skills rather than content.

So, let’s bring it on in a discussion, pro or con, but civil please. Thanks!

What do you think?

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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Thanks to Connell83 over on hugg.com for drawing my attention to the Nature Conservancy’s website. Although I have supported them for years, I never looked at the website before.

This undated page discusses legislation proposed by senators Lieberman and Warner and adaptations supported by the Nature Conservancy aimed at decreasing, minimizing or avoiding a wide variety of environmental problems associated with climate change and other environmental issues. Adaptations by mankind and by nature are discussed.

One interesting adaptation is based on supporting international research to identify forms of coral (and symbiotic algae) that are hardiest to changes in temperature. These hardy forms might serve as the backbone of “adapted” coral reefs.

Many other specific and detailed examples are given of ongoing work being done to prepare for, or avoid, the effects of climate change. I recommend reading through the Nature Conservancy site- it displays a positive attitude to addressing problems that is different from many “doom and gloom” stories associated with the environment.

SELF-TEST. I would pose the following to people who say that global warming isn’t credible:

  • Science does not always predict correctly what will happen in highly complex systems like the global environment. There are scientists who have been predicting environmental disasters related to oil use for decades, but nothing seemed to be happening to the environment until relatively recently (the environment of the whole planet rather than local issues).
  • However, there are also plenty of cases where scientists have not predicted harmful environmental effects, and we have had to learn hard lessons (take the great damage to the salmon population by pesticides). So, scientists can be too sure of themselves in cases of warnings or “all-clear signals”.
  • We simply need to be prepared for problems that might affect our food, water, transport, health, environment and lifestyles before these issues become even more overwhelming. What if thousands of professional scientists who study climate change, and believe it to be happening, are absolutely right? It isn’t a political issue any longer.
  • Even if you find yourself claiming or believing that global warming is a political, not a scientific or “real” issue, how sure can you be? Don’t you think it would be strategically inexcusable to be unprepared to deal with problems of energy use, dependence on foreign oil, damage to the environment and potentially catastrophic climate change? What would you think of leaders who didn’t prepare for the worst (and the best, and cases in between)?

This has probably been said better elsewhere. I’ll write and cite more on the subject.

As I would like to continue stressing, it is more important for people who disagree to discuss these subjects than for people who agree to do so, but the discussions have to involve real listening by all “sides”.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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Test your knowledge of climate change, and see what educators have to say about it, at The New York Times. You may have to sign up for a free New York Times membership to see the story. The educators discuss the natural greenhouse effect and how it is essential for our planet to support life; they distinguish the natural effect from the industrial greenhouse effect. Other frequently-confused matters are clarified, such as the relationship between depletion of the ozone layer and global warming (they are not related in a significant way).

Note that one of the answers given mentions that ethanol burns more cleanly than fossil fuels. This is very true in the sense that fossil fuels contain not only hydrocarbons, they have “impurities” that are nitrogen- and sulfur-containing organic compounds. The nitrogen and sulfur end up as well known air pollution components NOx and SOx after combustion.

However, as previously mentioned on this site on Oct. 8th, predictions of air quality in Los Angeles based on a switch to E85 ethanol-based fuel, and studies of air quality from Brazil, where some cars run on pure ethanol, all show increased amounts of highly-toxic acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and ozone and related species in the air. Formaldehyde and similar compounds damage the lungs, causing inflammation and other problems, and cause serious problems for both healthy people and especially people with asthma. Ozone is a major, direct cause of pollution-related respiratory distress. Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative for specimens in biology and medical labs.

If you wish to see the original scientific papers, they are cited here.

As possible explanations for the generation of harmful species from ethanol, I offer the following suggestions:

  • The oxygen in ethanol could, under circumstances of less than ideal combustion, result in formaldehyde and other aldehyde formation.
  • The ready manner in which ethanol absorbs water from the atmosphere interferes with combustion efficiency.

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