greenhouse gas


From the Wall Street Journal, “A Consumer’s Guide to Growing Green,” Nov. 12, 2007.
The WSJ is only available with a subscription, but here is an excerpt I really liked:

We’ve become such a throw-away society. How do you fight it?

The EPA says solid waste, per person, has nearly doubled to 4.4 pounds a day from 2.7 pounds in the past 35 years — filling up landfill sites and wasting materials that could be reused to save natural resources and energy.

Although recycling is important, it isn’t as effective as reducing the use of materials from the get-go. One way to do this is to buy goods in concentrated, dry or bulk form to reduce transportation and packaging costs. Favor refillable or reusable items. Pick flexible packaging materials instead of rigid packaging, since flexible packaging typically takes less energy to make and transport. Pick goods with the highest ratio of product weight to packaging weight, when possible. Example: tuna in a foil pouch rather than in metal cans.


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Rush Limbaugh appeared on his show in a “blue funk” the other day, and ranted about NBC’s Green is Universal campaign, as well as the Powershift 2007 conference. What was Power Shift you ask? More than 5,500 young people descended upon The University of Maryland to participate in a global warming conference this past weekend. Then, 3,000 students traveled to Capitol Hill on Monday and lobbied their Congressmen and women about the single greatest issue our planet is facing: global warming. These students came on their own accord and their swift action signals a return of college activism!

Limbaugh, however, chose to mock the testimony of a Yu’pik Inuit college student, Cheryl Lockwood, and falsely claimed that she was a little girl being used by the Democratic party. He further ridiculed her for becoming overwhelmed with emotion upon discussing the loss of her heritage and wild places. Read the insulting and ignorant transcript of the show. But, don’t stop there. Do something — how are the Congressmen that represent Cheryl Lockwood going to respond? They need to stand up and get this fool off of the air… so far they’ve had no comment……

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Well… it’s been a little while since I’ve written… and even though I technically live below the Mason Dixon Line right now (emphasis on right now, and not forever) I do want to share the following with other folks concerned about climate change and the Northeast.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report yesterday, July 11, that highlighted the results of a two year comprehensive study concerning global warming and the Northeastern United States. Their findings are, as you might guess, quite alarming!

UCS provides useful factsheets which highlight local consequences of global warming in each state they included in the Northeast. They cover two scenarios: one in which our emissions continue to increase at the rate they currently are, and a less dramatic, lower emissions forecast. In Pennsylvania, they warned of a dramatic increase within this century, of days per year that are over 100 degrees. As well as serious impacts to human health regarding air quality.

Here are the links:
Their site, climate choices
The PDF report
State by state factsheets (including: PA, MA, RI, NJ, NY, CT, NH, VT, ME)

May 1, 2007 marks the beginning of a yearlong series on NPR (in collaboration with National Geographic) about climate change called “Climate Connections.”

NPR began with an in depth story about Charles (aka: Dave) Keiling, who first began taking air samples atop a dormant volcano, Mauna Loa, in Hawaii in the 1950’s. He analyzed the amount of CO2 in each sample, collected on a daily basis for decades, and plotted the relative amounts of CO2 on a graph. This graph represents the beginning of climate change studies, and it is the very same graph that motivated Al Gore to educate others about the consequences of climate change. Keiling knew he was onto something, and it is incredible that he pursued his studies at a time when climate change was considered fringe science. It is thanks to his dedicated research that we are aware climate change is occurring, and that we are the cause.

There has been a great deal of talk about the promise of ethanol-based gasoline as an efficient renewable fuel; President Bush has pushed ethanol development in the U.S. recently, and Brazil is ready to cash in even more in this developing market. However, the production of ethanol consumes a great deal of energy, and releases its share of CO2 in the atmosphere (more about this to come).

Further, an article today in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted a study released by atmospheric scientists at Stanford University concerning some other important risks associated with large scale ethanol production and consumption.

The study shows a significant projected rise in ozone-related deaths, as ethanol (specifically E85) is NOT a low carbon fuel and its byproducts when it is combusted pose serious threats, especially in urban areas. **ethanol releases ozone, as well as formaldehyde, ormaldehyde and acetaldehyde, plus benzene and butadiene** All of these are carcinogens (you may recognize the chemical formaldehyde as a preserving agent seen in many labs – one that you’re not encouraged to ingest for long amounts of time!).

A great deal of our greenhouse gas emitting behavior stems from transportation. It seems that ethanol is not the best choice for large scale public and private investment; we may do better to pursue fuel cells and other electric means of transportation that can ultimately be powered by renewable sources such as wind and solar – to reduce our dependence on nonrenewable, polluting resources as much as possible.

The full article.

Knut is an adorable polar bear cub in a German zoo who has been making major waves lately.

Knut of the North

The videos of him are fun to watch! His adorable fuzziness, and attachment to his zookeeper, has certainly brought additional attention to the plight of polar bears. Here is the real deal concerning his brothers and sisters in the wild – not meant to be an alarmist cry, rather a primer on this amazing predator that is now in danger – and what this ultimately means for us.

A little on basics: Polar bears are found exclusively in the arctic in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. They are entirely dependent on sea-ice and sea-ice pack, as it creates a vital platform for hunting in areas where there is a high concentration of seals. Sea ice allows them to travel great distances. A single radio-collared bear in northern Alaska was found to travel over 200,000 square miles!

What threatens them: Prevailing winds and water currents are depositing PCBs and other toxins in sensitive arctic areas. Pollutants are stored in their fat quite easily and quickly accumulate. These interfere with reproduction, growth, development and immune function (just as in humans). Tourism, oil exploration in prime habitats, and CLIMATE CHANGE are the other threats to their survival. With climate change posing the largest threat.

Some stats*: A female bear will usually have two cubs at a time. The survival rates of cubs fell from .61 cubs between 1967-1989 to only .25 cubs per adult female between 1990-2006. There are an estimated 20,000 – 25,000 bears in the world (according to the World Conservation Union) distributed in 19 subpopulations. In the Beaufort Sea in N. Alaska populations have fallen 15 % in 5 years (1,800 down to 1,526). The ONLY populations of bears to be considered stable or increasing are on the islands of Canada’s Nunavut territory. In autumn 2004 observers witnessed four polar bears that drowned attempting to swim between the shore and distant pack ice. In spring 2006 adult female bears and one cub were found dead as their fat reserves were not large enough to last the winter (due to decreasing habitat).

Ok they’re cute and (were) the world’s most formidable predator – why else should I care? They offer clues about what is in store for us and have often been compared to “the canary in the coal mine.”

*stats taken from Defenders of Wildlife, Navigating the Arctic Meltdown.

The US Dept. of State on dealing with global climate change:

“In taking prudent environmental action at home and abroad, the United States is advancing a pro-growth, pro-development approach to addressing this important global challenge.”

Obviously and understandably vague – however… pro-growth, pro-development doesn’t really work if you are going to take prudent environmental action to reduce GHG…

One of the largest errors we have made as a society is to perpetuate the belief that the only acceptable approaches to greenhouse gas and climate change management are those that do not alter our lifestyles. Those two issues (our lifestyles, and climate change) are in direct conflict with one another and our planet is sending us a clear message to reconfigure the ways in which we live. I am not suggesting total, dramatic, change – but rather we need to be open to changing the ways in which we consume resources in our societies in order to succeed in our one world.

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