Category Archives: Global Warming

Making Hay! While the Snow Flies!

Exit?  Had enough yet?That was a lot of snow getting dumped
in the midwest over the past few weeks.

And of course, natural snowstorms do occur, but with the global climate changes taking place, the rate at which some relatively disastrous snowstorms occur is anticipated to increase. Just like the incidence of drought, the flood level raining etc. The weather patterns are changing here on the small blue planet and that is primarily because of the burning of fossil fuels.
The thing I noticed as I watched the midwest snowstorms was that state and federal emergency systems were able to mobilize helicopters to drop hay to stranded livestock. And I appreciate the efforts to prevent the starvation of these animals. I think it’s right, but it’s a little weird to see how the National Guard and other agencies know how to mobilize to feed cows trapped in a snowstorm, but so few of the agencies in this country could figure out how to mobilize to drop food or water to the human beings stranded in New Orleans after Katrina.

I am sorry to say it, but I think the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the cattle trapped in snowstorms in the midwest are recognized as an economic asset that must be protected where the poor folks in New Orleans just aren’t seen to have much value.

The haydrop to the midwest cattle is a feel-good story except for the fact that these animals are being fed to be slaughtered and sent to packing plants in the near future. I do like a good burger from time to time. I had a good one at the Olympic Club in Centralia earlier this week, and I apologize to the bovine crowd for that weakness and habit.

And that really is key to understanding why and when our national emergency systems work now. We can mobilize when an economic asset is threatened. We talk and do the photo-op flyover when it’s just a disaster that primarily affects non-economic assets. This commercialization of the world shows up everywhere in US policy – in foreign policy and here at home.

You know that graphic of the light bulb going on above the head?

Can we really have any impact on the global climate problems through what we do in our own lives? Isn’t it just too big? Well, the light bulb going on above your head can really work for the planet if the bulb is a compact fluorescent, and especially if it replaces an incandescent bulb.Note to self:  Replace this thing with a CF Bulb!Why? Can that really matter? Yes, it can. The compact fluroescent (CF) bulb generally uses 13 watts to produce the same amount of light that an incandescent produces using 60 watts of power.

Think about the possibility of cutting the need for new power plants by simply pulling all the incandescent bulbs in the country and replacing them with compact fluorescents. Plus the CF bulbs last much longer than incandescent bulb so you get to save a little energy yourself and there is really is no question that CF bulbs are cheaper over the life of the bulb if you are just cheap and could care less about global warming.
So how much difference could this really make? Here are the numbers courtesy the Union of Concerned Scientists:

If every household in the United States replaced one regular light bulb with an energy-saving model, we could reduce global warming pollution by more than 90 billion pounds over the life of the bulbs; the same as taking 6.3 million cars off the road.

That’s about the same amount of cars I was stuck behind at Milepost 95 one day last week.

Why would the US hesitate to pass legislation that phases out the production and importation of incandescent bulbs if industry is not willing to transition out of common sense, a survival instinct, and ethics?

Does the Second Amendment say we have the right to bear incandescent lightbulbs?

Here’s a fact sheet from Georgia Interfaith Power & Light that covers the issue from the Christian perspective of environmental stewardship.

What else can you do that is this easy? We can start the change in the world right here in our own homes. Here are some links that cover CF bulbs and other things that we can do to have a smaller footprint on this small blue planet:

The price of the CF bulbs have really dropped. Sunbirds in Chehalis sells them for $.99. That’s a local business. Walmart may have a good price for a similar product, but we like Sunbirds if we are shopping in Chehalis. The bulbs are reliable, they don’t flicker, they are “instant-on.” We have incandescents outside the place on fixtures that use motion detectors etc, but we are shopping for CF flood lights that work in outdoor environment and with dimmers, motion detectors etc.

Want a simple New Year’s Resolution that will reduce global warming? Resolve to buy no incandescent bulbs for any spot where a CF bulb can be used.

I am still on the Carbon Cycle thing.

Here’s a good website from Kansas State University about the carbon cycle. The website includes a basic analysis of how the carbon cycle can be manipulated to reduce the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide. You can look at the supply side – burning fossil fuels, cutting down trees – or the storage side – into the ocean, or increased vegetation, or into soil storage.The part of the carbon cycle I have been thinking about for the past few days is the ocean storage element.

As carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere in larger concentrations it also starts to build at greater levels in sea water. This is not so good I fear. The bipeds on the planet have used the waterways as dumpsters for thousands and thousands of years. Some of what we have dumped in the water has really not been a problem. Organic compounds that break down easily in amounts that the waterways can breakdown are essentially inconsequential. But as we bipeds have started creating more complex materials that are less easily broken down, we have started to create a bit of a mess in the waterways. One of the most striking examples of that sort of thing was the day in June 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire. The actual 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was somewhat apocryphal, but still it’s a feature of a certain biped’s impact on rivers that any river, anywhere, can actually support combustion. In a more natural state, I don’t think you could get a river to burn with a blowtorch.

Anyway….

Despite the better jpegs available when a river catches on fire, I am thinking about the less news-worthy, but more catastrophic picture of oceans dying. And this slow ocean death is at least partly based on the build up of carbon in the oceans.

This is not a minor thing. We really have no way of knowing to what extent we are starting to knock out some of the fundamental forms of ocean life and whether we can reverse or even slow the trend. As Chief Sealth noted, the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. We are a strand in the web of life. The web of life is fragile.

The Polar Bears Are in Trouble. Should We Care?

From the The New York Times, December 28, 2006:

Polar bears have declined in the Western Hudson Bay in Canada.

Many experts on the Arctic say that global warming is causing the ice to melt and that the warming is at least partly the result of the atmospheric buildup of heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks. The plight of the polar bear has been held up by environmentalists as a symbol of global warming caused by humans.

But in a conference call with reporters, InteriorSecretary Dirk Kempthorne said that although his decision to seek protection for polar bears acknowledged the melting of the Arctic ice, his department was not taking a position on why the ice was melting or what to do about it.

Here’s a quote from by past Sierra Club President Adam Werbach given 11 months before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

“Before 9/11, the idea of terrorists taking down both World Trade
Center buildings was considered “unthinkable” for most people. Here’s
the “unthinkable” scenario for global warming:

“Global warming will continue to cause the ice on the earth’s poles
to melt, triggering the Gulf Stream to migrate several thousand miles to
the south, lowering by five degrees the average temperature in Europe
and much of North America in 10 years or less.”

“Â…Meanwhile, this abrupt climate change would unleash a series of
monster hurricanes and floods across Central America and the Caribbean,
making the 2,000 Haitians killed this September in a single storm seem
like a minor event.”

Werbach is talking about the possibility that the changes on this small blue planet that are caused primarily (I am not going to argue this with the doubters – more on that later) by human activity is going to “throw the switch” on the Gulf Stream. I hope he is wrong about this, but I suspect and fear he is right. The changes would be fast and dramatic.

The richest people on the planet will be fine in this scenario. A lot of the rest of us will be chatting with the polar bears about survival in changing climates.

When I talk about the richest people on the planet, I do not mean Americans, though I understand that as a class, Americans could be construed as one of the “richest peoples” on the planet. I am talking about the obscenely wealthy folks around the globe who have amassed wealth and power on an individual basis. If you have never worked an hour in your lifetime for an hourly wage, you are the people I am thinking about.

These folks use their great wealth and the influence it buys very shrewdly. They buy up and control the media. They have learned the art of controlling the public discourse and torturing language in a manner that would embarass George Orwell.

These folks manipulate a plurality of their “underclass” through wedge, hot button topics like gay marriage, gun control, abortion and crusade-style christianity to keep the public discourse away from serious, productive discussion that could threaten their stranglehold on public policy. There is no way that we, an electorate, can control or even rationally discuss progressive public policy if we are constantly reacting to the polemic issues and discussion that comes up if a menorah is displayed in a public place while a nativity scene is banned. That one and its ilk are a seasonal issue that can be raised every year and is good for keeping the public discourse away from meaningful and progressive discussion and drafting of public policy.

Gun control is less seasonal. It’s great for derailing the public discourse, but it only has legs after some nut with a duffel bag full of ammo and automatic weapons kills a bunch of people and the public rouses from it’s “Survivor” coma and says, wow, that could happen to me, maybe gun control is a good idea? At that point, gun control has legs and can keep the public discourse tied in knots for a period of time.

Hence, my point earlier that I am not going to waste my time arguing whether humans cause global warming with the manipulated masses. I am not sure we have the time to waste trying to help folks with weak analytical skills and authoritarian personality traits see the ways they are manipulated and unless they understand that issue, they are impervious to intellectual, analytical discussion of any issue.

So, why would these manipulated masses be against recognizing and dealing rationally with global warming? I think it’s because there are large and pervasive media that tell them that the same folks who want to take away their guns, or allow gays to marry, or who love Osama bin Laden (you pick the hot button) are the people making up this story about global warming. These folks hate America. They are flag burners. Etc., etc. and so forth as the King of Siam once said. It’s a puzzlement.

That’s a plug for a good flick full of meaning.

So, should we care about the plight of the polar bear or the flight of the bumblebee?

Yes, I think we should. And I think we should be very reluctant to engage in rancorous discussion with the manipulated masses. We should think twice before giving their manipulated positions any traction by sponsoring their disinformation. As long as these manipulated folks can be so effectively manipulated through their hotbutton topic – gun control, abortion, gay marriage, Saddam the boogie man – they cannot be reached and they are used to keep the public discourse tied up in comparatively trivial discussions about whether a menorah or christmas tree should be displayed publicly, or in designed scientific arguments that take scientific facts out of context – like the gaps in evolution are evidence for creationism – or that humans account now for only 3% of the carbon cycle – never mind it’s the three percent that is causing planetary climate disruption – instead of allowing thoughtful people to talk about solutions that benefit the whole planet, even the polar bears and the bumblebees, instead of maintaining the status quo favored by the richest people on the planet.

Is a Parasol the Answer to Overheating a Small Blue Planet?

Roger Angel of the University of Arizona has proposed a sun shade solution to global warming. This sun shade solution – actually lots and lots of 2 foot sun shades – a cloud of sun shades – is immediately a more attractive solution to global warming – just the heat issue – than deploying new chemicals like burnt sulfate into the upper atmosphere – because it does not tinker with the “notoriously complex” chemistry of the upper atmosphere.

And that’s the weakness of this kind of solution as well. It ignores the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused primarily by the rate that bipeds are burning fossil fuels down here at ground level.

Once you start recognizing the problem of the carbon overoload in the ocean, it crosses the minds of thoughtful bipeds that if and when we are smart enough to move away from burning fossil fuels, we might find that the sun shades are not only no longer necessary, but are contributing to a certain chill in the air.

Still, the sun shade is an interesting idea. Want to read more?

Continue reading Is a Parasol the Answer to Overheating a Small Blue Planet?

Rolling Stone article on global warming.

Now this one is interesting in a scary, Dr. Strangelove kind of way:

This scientist has spent his lifetime developing weapons science. Despite his likely familiarity with nuclear winter as a definitive treatment for global warming, this guy, Dr. Lowell Wood has instead suggested that global warming could be fought by spraying burnt sulfur particulates into the atmosphere. The guy works at Livermore, so you have to think he’s a scientific heavyweight. He may be on the Dr. Mengele side of the spectrum with his weapons science history, but still a serious scientific thinker.

Now it seems to me that sulfur is part of the acid rain problem and that maybe spraying a lot of into the atmosphere could cause unforeseen problems, but hey, I am still trying to sort out atoms and molecules.
Read more? Ok.

Continue reading Rolling Stone article on global warming.

Global Cooling Plans?

Some of us worry a lot, maybe too much about global warming. I think it might be a blessing to have an IQ of 90 and less imagination and empathy. That combination might have allowed me to land a civil service job, maybe I could have become a police officer? That would have been cool. Guns and pepper spray. Intoxicating stuff.
Glacier?  Where?

Oh, well. That didn’t happen to me.
So here’s a picture of the Upsala Glacier in Argentina. Top view is about 1928, bottom view is about yesterday.

Are glaciers good? Should we care about these views or should we see if there are any fish in that lake? Could there be coal under yonder mountains that we can dig up and set afire?

Well, as it turns out, glaciers are good if the planet is heading in a dangerous warming direction. They reflect more solar heat by reflecting it back into space instead of absorbing more of it like ground and water, so if you like a stable and somewhat predictable environment with fewer Class 5 hurricanes, droughts, and floods, then glaciers are good. Maybe that dynamic is part of the explanation of why the planet ever comes out of ice ages. If you cover enough of the planet with ice, the planet reflects a lot of solar radiation and oddly enough, starts warming up.

So what cools the planet back down if it starts to overheat? Read more?
Continue reading Global Cooling Plans?

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Hat tip to Bobby Dylan for a good line.

Boy, the wind did blow a bit though here in the south sound this past week. And my waterlogged extended family in the WA Cascades tell me we just went through a thousand year flood. Folks are talking about more money to build, repair, and maintain dikes and levees. Levies for levees, as it were.

But down the coast a few miles, the folks in Santa Barbara, CA are taking a deep breath and a longer view. They have a developed the lightblueline project to keep the “oceanfront down at the beach.” They have a cool idea to help us see the impact of business as usual. I think Santa Barbara must be a cool city in many ways.
The premise of the lightblue line project is that a predictable worst case scenario of global warming is a 7 meter rise in sea level. That is based on the sea level rise if just the Greenland ice sheet was to melt. What can you say? That’s a big ice cube. And it is melting.

The mood of the electorate was pro-environment in the November 2006 election cycle with almost all of the US ballot initiatives dedicated to the premise that land and resource use is first and foremost an economic right went down to defeat.