science


A repsonse to an Op-Ed in the NYTimes by Thomas Friedman.

 “Generation Overwhelmed” by Courtney Martin.

We are not apathetic. What we are, and perhaps this is what Friedman was picking up on, is totally and completely overwhelmed. One of the most critical questions of our time is one of attention. In a 24-7 news climate, it is all but impossible to emotionally engage all of the stories and issues you are taking in, and then act on them in some pragmatic way. So instead, young people become paralyzed. (It seems that all of us are a bit paralyzed. After all, what are Friedman’s peers really doing? And aren’t his peers the ones with the most straightforward kind of power?)…


Digg!

(more…)

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs that focus on environmental issues. I just want to highlight this particular one, because it will be authored by Andy Revkin, a science writer at the New York Times whose work I really enjoy!

The introduction:

Andy C. Revkin

By 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life. In Dot Earth, reporter Andrew C. Revkin examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits. Supported in part by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Revkin tracks relevant news from suburbia to Siberia, and conducts an interactive exploration of trends and ideas with readers and experts.

So I love the environment, and desire to explore our world. This involves flying, as I do not have a boat, or a hot air balloon. And I am still waiting on teleporting to become a viable means of getting around. I did not used to view flying in an airplane as an especially detrimental activity.

However, there is evidence that shows traveling by air is an activity that generates more pollution than we thought. This past week, an extremely large group of protesters set up shop outside of Heathrow Airport in London to voice their frustration with air travel and its polluting side effects. The protesters were trying to draw travelers’ attention to the impact on climate change of the carbon gases emitted by the aircraft in which they fly. A placard from one activist at Heathrow expressed it thus: “You Fly, They Die.”

More on air travel pollution:

Airplanes operate on petroleum fuel, which means they release large amounts of carbon dioxide when they fly. Commercial air travel is currently responsible for a relatively tiny part of the global carbon footprint —just 3.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The unique chemistry of high-altitude jet emissions may produce an additional warming effect, while the explosive growth in air travel makes it one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon gases in the atmosphere. And unlike energy or automobiles, where carbon-free or lower-carbon alternatives already exist, even if they have yet to be widely adopted, there is no low-carbon way to fly…

But…

I dream of going to some of the world’s most beautiful places, and traveling there with my family one day as well – I hope to instill in others a sense of urgency and desire to protect our planet by showing them just how beautiful it is… and well maybe this makes me a hypocritical environmentalist but I am not going to give up air travel and going to exciting new places. In fact, I’m going to Costa Rica in a little over a week!

Where does this leave you, or me?

There are some options – including carbon offsets (terrapass is one, there are others just do some research), or purchasing your plane ticket from an airline you have done a little research on to find out if the airline engages in green practices, or consulting a green-travel website.

What other tips do you have?

The following may be common knowledge for those who are actively invested in working on the problem of global warming: There are well-funded groups that actively work to deny global warming for the sake of traditional industries that rely on burning fossil fuels (oil and gas, auto, steel). The lobbying groups and think tanks have names such as: “Global Climate Coalition,” or “American Petroleum Institute,” and they are funded by ExxonMobil and others.  How could someone who is not already familiar with them, not be confused?

But it is alarming to think about how many people in the U.S. have been misled by groups who have “green” names, that are actually producing fake science to trick the American people and prevent us from transitioning into a more sustainable society and developing new economies. The dying industries (oil, auto, etc.) are desperately trying to maintain control of our global economy, and our governments, at all costs. It is costing us too much.

Newsweek’s August 13 issue tackles this problem in some depth. I strongly recommend you read it – especially if this is a new topic for you, as it is both incredibly frustrating, and interesting – and as reports come out from various think tanks and groups, you will be sure to check them out a bit more. Many of these groups find fringe scientists, who are rather soul-less if you ask me, to produce reports that claim global warming is full of controversy.

A great site, once again, to reference for some information on how to talk with the few global warming skeptics that are out there. The site does not go into a ton of details, but it is informative regardless.

Someone commented on my post “Global Warming Claims Lake” and said the following: “Give me a heads up here, what SUV, Freon Fridge caused the earth to melt the first ice age…matter of fact, what caused the first ice age…if we can’t get the weather correct for the next 7 days…how do we predict 50 years ahead… why do we believe facts are facts [when they come] from [politicians] or [celebrities]?”

As I was responding, I realized I want my comment to be out here on the main page, not just tucked away. I feel that his comments and questions are common, and valid if you do not know a whole lot about climate change or geology and science.

“…if we can’t get the weather correct for the next 7 days…how do we predict 50 years ahead…”

This is a common question and it makes sense why it is asked so often. It’s VERY important to understand the following: weather and climate are very different things, and the level of predictability for each is very different. Climate is defined as weather averaged over a period of time – usually 30 years at minimum. So, yes we are terrible at predicting the weather; I enjoy the surprises the weather might bring: ie a dramatic thunderstorm on a summer afternoon, or hail on your college graduation at the end of May. Climate predictions have far fewer surprises, as they are the the result of the averaged effects that we feel on a day-to day basis. For example, ten of the hottest years on record have occurred in the past 14 years, the hottest one of all was 2005 (as of release of An Inconvenient Truth). That is weather being averaged, and that is showing us that our climate is warming. The reason? We are releasing copious amounts of global warming pollution into the atmosphere as we burn fossil fuels and our agricultural practices spew more pollution into the atmosphere. The mainstream scientific community predicts that this pollution will cause the atmosphere to continue to warm; we can expect a rise in global temperatures if our behavior continues unchecked for much longer. Consequently, we will experience a global sea-level rise as ice caps, glaciers, and landlocked ice melts and dumps into the world’s oceans. As the water warms, it will also expand and increase sea levels further.

He also asked a question about the 2005 vs. 2006 hurricane season, and seemed confused about the link between global warming and hurricanes: There is no established link between global warming and hurricane frequency. None. What we do know is this: water is the fuel for hurricanes. The warmer the water, the stronger the hurricane. The relatively “lackluster” hurricane season in 2006 does not mean that global warming isn’t happening. That was weather. Warming sea surface temperatures due to global warming means that hurricanes will essentially be on steroids. Therefore, what we can predict is that there will be stronger, more intense hurricanes due to global warming, ones that will wreak havoc on our coastlines. We just can’t say for sure how many of them there will be in a given season. Does that make sense?

Concerning the cycle of climate, and the link between CO2 and climate: Long term oscillations in climate, aka: ice ages and interstitial warm periods, have occurred throughout our Earth’s history. Such warm periods have made it possible for our survival. What we know about what is happening right now is this: the rise in temperatures is happening much more rapidly than EVER before, and it is certain that human activities are responsible for this rapid (geologically speaking) heating event. There is no climatological theory in which CO2 does not drive temperature. Therefore, since we know we are increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, we also know that we are causing the warming.

So it’s warming? Why is that a problem? Well, given the predicted consequences (see above), and that many of them are coming to fruition, and our energy crisis – I feel very strongly that we are morally obligated to take concrete action to combat global warming pollution, and instill a sense of urgency in this process.

On celebrity science: Celebrities are not scientists, nor are politicians. They are not coming up with the ideas, or facts, so celebrity science simply does not exist. They are repeating the science they believe in and there is nothing wrong with that. Some claim Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth was alarmist hype, and while he did make the movie dramatic, he did not twist science or do anything to jeopardize the credibility of what his movie communicated. Al Gore became a celebrity due to his political endeavors, but before he was ever a buzzword for environmental consciousness he devoted years and years to studying global warming and wrote “Earth in the Balance,” a passionate book about environmental issues – I suggest you read that as well.

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)

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rayhall (D- W.Va) is one of many who found Cheney’s disregard for the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and other environmental regulations immoral and alarming.

Cheney was responsible for the largest fish kill on the West coast in history. Tens of thousands of endangered fish washed up the Klamath River, for the sake of a few farmers’ fields. Cheney manipulated the scientific findings concerning endangered species to boost the economy, and improve his standing with this district. Unfortunately – not only was his misuse of power devastating for the wildlife, it also cost Americans over $60 million in compensation for damage done to the fishing industry. This was a total loss for the environment, and the economy — yet there has been little accountability. Until now…

Rayhall is calling for a hearing to further investigate Cheney’s involvement (and the Bush administration’s) in meddling with, and disregarding, the ESA. Rayhall received a letter signed by 36 Democrats, asking for such hearings, following the Washington Post article.

The article exposed Cheney for “pressuring mid-level bureaucrats at the Department of Interior to manipulate agency decisions in environmental rulings across the country for the sole purpose of political gain,” the Democrats wrote. California Democrats Mike Thompson and George Miller were the lead signatories.

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