Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Morning Linkfest

Good morning people. How's the environmental movement living, breathing, moving, in your world, today?

Anyway, here's some stuff I've found interesting in the past while:

  • "I think leadership starts to crumble when it becomes inconsistent. People don’t know which way the wind’s blowing. What’s the C.E.O. going to decide today? They’d rather him or her consistently be a jerk in a certain area as opposed to being inconsistent. Then they know it’s coming." (on leadership via New York Times)
  • Still, we are rapidly approaching a point of no return, cautions climate modeler Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, who participated in the study. (via Scientific American)
  • OK, for all you conspiracy theorists out there who have long known that there's a 100 mpg car out there, it turns out you just  might be right (wink, wink).
  • Need some good news on the environment and people in general? Who doesn't? Here's our highlighted link of the weekend. "Faced with the mind-numbing bad news about the environment over recent months, a couple of us at the Guardian decided to try to cheer ourselves up by finding examples of the right kind of environmental change. We set out to find 50 green pioneers, people who are making a practical difference but whose work is not yet widely known."  (via The Guardian)
  • "In just 20 years, one in every three vehicles on British Columbia's roads could be electric, according to a primer released by the Pembina Institute today, coinciding with the start of a four-day electric vehicle conference in Vancouver."  (via Pembina Institute)
  • George Monbiot says "In 2012 the only global deal for limiting greenhouse gas emissions – the Kyoto protocol – expires. There is no realistic prospect that it will be replaced before it elapses: the existing treaty took five years to negotiate and a further eight years to come into force. In terms of real hopes for global action on climate change, we are now far behind where we were in 1997, or even 1992. It's not just that we have lost 18 precious years. Throughout the age of good intentions and grand announcements we spiralled backwards." (via his blog)
  • “If you spent your entire annual income in nine months, you would probably be extremely concerned,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “The situation is no less dire when it comes to our ecological budget. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, water and food shortages are all clear signs: We can no longer finance our consumption on credit. Nature is foreclosing.” (via Global Footprint Network)
  • "As the world gets warmer, sea levels are rising. It has been happening at a snail's pace so far, but as it speeds up more and more low-lying coastal land will be lost. ...  Throwing trillions of dollars at the problem could probably save big cities such as New York, London and Shanghai, but the task of defending all low-lying coastal areas and islands seems hopeless. Or is it?"  (via New Scientist)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Soil - the basis of all land based life

Q. What's wrong with the soil?

A. Half of Iowa's original topsoil has been lost or moved by erosion caused by agriculture. And we've lost half of our black organic matter (carbon) to oxidation from crop production. We can't keep on with this deficit spending of the ecological capital that the prairies bequeathed us, as Wes Jackson has phrased it.


Interview here

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Baby thrown out with bathwater? - OR What's in the bathwater?

Alviso's Medicinal All-Salt may look like ordinary table salt, but it has a little extra pharmaceutical kick. Exactly which drugs are present is somewhat unknowable, even to those selling the product, since it depends on which ones happen to have been recently flushed down local toilets. That mysterious grab-bag aspect is all part of the fun -- unless of course, you happen to get a batch infused with industrial pesticides and flame retardants.


Man, this is pretty messed up, when we don't even have a system in place to deal with all the industrial materials, whether it's pharmaceuticals, or what have you, to avoid having them flushed down the toilet.

Story here

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Even simple things add up, collectively ...

Like, for example, the environmental consequences of using too much soap in the laudry, or dishwasher. From the creation of the resource, to the outflow of the soap-laden waste water, it all has an effect.

Washing machines and dishwashers are made to use far less water now than older models and, therefore, need less soap. And detergents have also become increasingly concentrated. So a little goes a long way. 

“Most people use 10 to 15 times the amount of soap they need, and they’re pouring money down the drain,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Story here

Monday, September 20, 2010

Second Week of Walking to and from Work - 12km / 8 miles round trip

This is the Agitated Ecoist's report of the second week of walking to and from work.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Global hunger will rise soon ...

Conundrum: fewer people are hungry, but hunger on the rise. But UN says 925 million people undernourished an ‘unacceptably high number’

Story here

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Morning Linkfest

Good morning oh fellow timid environmentalists.

What do we have on tap today? Well, it's the usual round up of suspects - things I find interesting.

As always, I am on the lookout for articles on leadership particularly, including especially ones dealing with the ability to motive people to action. This is a trait sorely needed in our general populace, as apathy and complacency are as widespread as our material wealth is deep. If you see something that fits the bill, drop me a note, and I'll include it in a future edition here.
  • A wind turbine suitable for urban circumstances is tricky, given the low wind speeds and swirling source winds inevitable in many urban locales. "Eddy is one of many vertical axis turbines vying for attention among consumers and businesses looking for on-site power options. Urban Green Energy's wind turbines have a design that makes them perform very well in changing wind conditions, said Blitterswyk. A two-axis shaft reduces strain on the permanent magnet generator at the base of the turbine and improves the performance." (via CNET - see photograph, above)
  • Another green dream - a real possibility, or simply one more blind alley of technology? You decide. "A group of chemical engineers at MIT have devised a way to collect solar energy 100 times more concentrated than a traditional photovoltaic cell. If their ’solar funnel’ venture proves to be a success, it could drastically alter how solar energy is collected in the future — there will no longer be a need for massive solar arrays or extensive space to generate significant and sufficient amounts of power." (via inhabitat)
  • Bulky and expensive photovoltaic panels are so 2008. What does the future look like? Entire buildings, rooftops and even windows spray-painted with revolutionary nanoparticle inks that channel solar power into a thin, semi-transparent and relatively inexpensive medium. Sound crazy? (via inhabitat)
  • More proof that women are smarter than men (as if I needed someone else to pile on my wife's side): more women believe global warming is real and the effects likely to be negative (via Live Science)
  • While she can show you how to lower your carbon footprint, just don't call her the "green Martha Stewart". (via David Suzuki Foundation)
  • Part of the Obama infrastructure proposed spending looks good - 4,000 miles of new railway. Could it be more than just enough to get across the country once? Seems unambitious to me. (via inhabitat)
  • Why are so many, so timid about standing up against climate change - is it because we are all complicit to some degree? "Doctors have been too timid about highlighting the risks to human health from rises in greenhouse gases," Dr. Michael Wilks, past president of the Committee of European Doctors, said in a statement." (via Daily Climate)
  • The problem is that we are now frequently seeing even the scientists surprised by the speed at which various climate change effects are occurring. Greenland's glaciers are melting "faster than expected". (via Greenpeace [3 minute video]
  • A neighborhood nuclear power plant on every corner? Sounds appealing from a carbon reduction standpoint - unfortunately, terrorists would likely enjoy the shopping convenience such a situation would provide. (via The Washington Post)
  • Carbon market: the low-hanging fruit? (via Daily Climate)
  • And our highlighted link on leadership today ... "Great leaders (there, I’ve said the dreaded word) get people to focus on the key elements of strategy – the standards on which the firm is going to compete. With a clear ideology to rally around, talented people get the choice of saying – ‘I can believe in that. I think I’ll stick around to a part of that and be a member of a society of like-minded people operating together in accordance with common values.’" (via David Maister)
  • Gary Ovitt, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said Friday that the state's global-warming law could cost local governments and businesses dearly. The county, he said, is looking at an estimated $133 million deficit each year for the next few years. "It's clear," he said, "we can't afford higher energy costs."  (via San Bernardino Sun)  ... I would add that this is the shit that environmentalists have to deal with: people who have NO CLUE how climate change mitigation strategies will balloon wildly in cost as they are pushed ever off into the future.
  • Time is growing shorter and shorter to sustain human life on this planet, in quantities that are both here now, and capable of supporting with lifestyle changes. Only 225 months left until climate change effects are virtually irreversible. (via nef)
  • Sure, green roofs. And green walls too? But what type? (via New Scientist)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Canada drawn into climate battle?

Say it can't be so .... even peace-loving Canada drawn into conflict due to climate change? Apparently the military thinks it's a possibility.

Story here

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Retreat

Suggestions earlier this summer that ice was recovering now ruled out, long-term decline seems to be continuing.

Story here

Monday, September 13, 2010

Food Inflation begins the inflation cycle ... starting ... like ... NOW

When does inflation start? Well, if you had to pick a point, it might be at a point when many pundits believe deflation is likely as many western-world based investment managers seem to currently.

Two to three years ago, many investment talking heads (myself included) spoke of the potential for emerging and developed countries stock markets to diverge in, at least, the strength of their upward market trend. The idea being that the developed country markets would move sideways, while emerging markets would continue to thrive.

The credit crisis which culminated in the stock market plunge of 2008/2009 of course showed how correlated these markets could be during times of panic. However, there is nothing wrong with the general divergence thesis during normal times, with many emerging markets getting close to re-testing their 2007/2008 price levels. Divergence is or will be here, and remains as real a prospect as ever.

However, there is one place where divergence currently exists: the "anticipation" of inflation/deflation. In developed nations, the worry is that future deflation will set these rich economies on a two-decade Japanese-style slump. In developing economies, the worry is the opposite and, rather than an intellectual debate about the future, the issue is immediate and proximate: inflation, which IS (t)here. Especially food inflation.

Large developing nations, such as India, China, and Russia, have all recently reported jumps in their inflation rates, headlined by significant jumps in food inflation (see here, here, and here). This has even resulted in an overall significant jump in global food inflation too (see here). This is the result of climate change generally, which of course plays out via specific "natural events", such as drought, flooding, and "rainfall dosing" (which is a term I am using to describe the phenomenon of growing season rainfall remaining relatively the same, but is concentrated in far fewer days [but does not consist of "flooding", per se]). This is in addition to the lower yields that are produced from heat-stressed plants. Climate-change induced food issues are here, and they are here to stay for some time.

The only reason that inflation remains off the radar screen of many professional investment types is that, in the western world at least, the food budget typically consists of a very low proportion of overall income. Whereas, however, the opposite is true in the developing world (or more so, even, in the undeveloped world), food budgets constitute a much higher proportion of the total income. So, food inflation has a much greater effect in those countries and feeds into the total inflation picture very quickly. In food, the principle of substitution (the idea that, during inflationary times particularly, folks substitute cheaper but roughly similar items for more expensive ones) has only limited applicability: after all, everyone needs to eat.

Food inflation also enters the general inflation cycle very quickly too (especially farther down the income ladder a country is) because, aside from an inflationary element of its own, the inflation knock-on effect is very pernicious, as the factory worker,, marches into the boss' office, and demands a raise to deal with his deteriorating ability to feed his family. This scene plays out exactly the same way, hundreds of millions times, in hundreds of thousands of bosses offices.

The dream that (some may have that) food inflation emanating in one part of the globe won't spill over somewhere else is likely to be met by the insistent ringing of the morning's alarm clock: free trade in food. As pricing for food rises - there and here - the knock-on effect will also be felt as like looking into a mirror - here and there.

Climate change, and its resultant outputs, will have effects ranging from the evisceration of the capital value of, particularly, long-dated low-yielding stripped bonds, to the more pragmatic, of the renewed popularity of the high-yielding home garden.

So, the weather issues of this summer's northern hemisphere's growing season provide a glimpse into the future: a future which is coming fast. For those who want to understand it better, there's no better place to point your binoculars than at the emerging market countries.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Amazon shapes up for intense drought?

Will the Amazon drought continue?

Scientists in Peru and Brazil say the lack of rainfall, which is typical for this time of year, should continue for a few more weeks until the start of the rainy season.

But there is some concern that the dryness could persist as what is shaping up to be an intense hurricane season in the Atlantic sucks humidity away from the Amazon.

"The formation of hurricanes is very much related, more hurricanes means less rain for us," said Marco Paredes, head of Peru's meteorological service in Iquitos, some 500 miles (800 km) from the capital of Lima. "It's an inverse relationship."


Story here

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Morning Linkfest - Mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore?

Good morning oh timid environmentalists. Question: Is it time to stop pretending this is much other than a life and death struggle now, or should we still keep quiet, maintain our western-style peer approval ratings, and not bother the neighbors? No? NO!

We need to take the fight right to the doorstep, and I mean that, right to the very personal doorstep, of those funding the fight against climate change action. We cannot allow them to dictate this. We simply cannot sit on our hands on this anymore.

Here's some stuff that I've found interesting in the past little while:
  • "I wrote the first book for a general audience on global warming back in 1989, and I've spent the subsequent 21 years working on the issue. I'm a mild-mannered guy, a Methodist Sunday school teacher. Not quick to anger. So what I want to say is: This is fucked up. The time has come to get mad, and then to get busy." (by Bill McKibben in Tom Dispatch  via Grist)
  • And our highlighted link on environmental leadership issues today. "When leaders want to influence people to make significant changes, they need to help them connect the changes to their deeply held values. This establishes a moral framework that shifts people's experience of the new behaviours. If leaders fail to engage people's values, they must compensate for a lack of personal motivation with less profound and sustainable sources of motivation, such as carrots and sticks. Although personal motivation can be powerful, it's rarely enough. Successful influencers find ways to engage personal  motivation, but then combine it with several different additional sources of influence." (How to Have Influence, from MIT Sloan Management School, via Annie Hu)
  • "Musing about what it would take to get more people in other cities to hop on bikes, Notaras mentions some of the many initiatives in Japan to promote cycling, including the Green Pedal Map, which provides information in English and Japanese "on bike lanes, danger zones, rental locations, bike parks and so on," as well as the leadership role that needs to be played by government and businesses. Cultural change is required too, so that people begin to see bicycles as the domain of "people of all ages, genders, and social statuses," as they do in Tokyo." (via treehugger)
  • Check out the PUMA Mopion bike: I'll buy their claim of a "serious cargo hold", but when they say it's "stylish", I have to ask, "Compared to what, guys in 1960s horn-rim glasses and girls in 1980s leggings?"  (via inhabitat)
  • "Technological developments [such as electric cars etc.] are welcome, but maybe it's time we started rethinking our car culture as whole. The average car in North America carries 1.5 people, which means that most cars on the road only have a driver in them. Is it really efficient to use more than 1,000 kilograms of metal to transport 100 kilograms of human?" (David Suzuki via treehuggger)
  • Nothing illustrates how we are well prepared for the past, but not preparing for the future, like the ten day traffic jam in China. In a world of seven billion people, could we purposely design a more fouled-up transport system than highways designed primarily for single occupant cars? (via The Independent or via
  • Environmentalists and environmental scientists have been punching "below their weight" for better than two decades now. Can we punch above our weight, when the chips are now really on the line? According to Forrester Research (a major consultancy), just 6% of online adults generate 80% of the online "influence impressions" (via Forrester Research blog)
  • In seeking green behaviours, another MIT Sloan Management School paper asks, "Instead of highlighting how existing practices are harming the planet, shouldn't managers focus on what employees have already been doing to preserve the environment, such as turning off lights and computers at the end of the day, recycling paper and so on?" AND ALSO "The impact of peers increases during periods of uncertainty. Intuitively, this makes sense. After all, when people are unsure what is happening around them, they don't look inside themselves for answers, because all they'll find there is confusion."  (via Carlson School of Management, University of Manitoba)
  • Finding environmentally sound products is hard, and requires lots of internet research, right? Apparently, not so much. There's an app for that now. (via GoodGuide)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cut Home Energy Use by 70%?

The goal of the DOE program is to cut energy use by 30 percent, but GE and its partners think they can reach 70 percent if rooftop solar panels are added to the mix.

Article here

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Week One Walking Report

In this video, the Agitated Ecoist reports on his first week of walking to work, a 12 km (8 mile) round trip.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Climate Change Solutions - depopulation?

... the most profound way a U.S. citizen can impact climate change is to have fewer children, since every American child born today will add almost 10,000 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere under current conditions—five times more than a Chinese child and 160 times more than a baby from Bangladesh. Having one fewer child would reduce a family’s greenhouse gas impact 20 times more than driving a Toyota Prius, using Energy Star appliances and other environmentally friendly lifestyle choices combined, according to researchers at Oregon State University.


Just sayin ... via Seed Magazine

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Agitated Ecoist takes climate change matters into his own hands (er, feet I mean)

The Agitated Ecoist takes on a challenge to walk to work every day for one full year. See why in this short two minute video:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The drivers of global famine ...

This is a partial excerpt from the New York Times excerpt of Julian Cribb's book that was discussed yesterday:

The coming famine is also complex, because it is driven not by one or two, or even a half dozen, factors but rather by the confluence of many large and profoundly intractable causes that tend to amplify one another. This means that it cannot easily be remedied by “silver bullets” in the form of technology, subsidies, or single-country policy changes, because of the synergetic character of the things that power it.

To see where the answers may lie, we need to explore each of the main drivers. On the demand side the chief drivers are:

Population. Although the rate of growth in human numbers is slowing, the present upward trend of 1.5 percent (one hundred million more people) per year points to a population of around 9.2 billion in 2050 — 3 billion more than in 2000. Most of this expansion will take place in poorer countries and in tropical/subtropical regions. In countries where birth rates are falling, governments are bribing their citizens with subsidies to have more babies in an effort to address the age imbalance.

Consumer demand. The first thing people do as they climb out of poverty is to improve their diet. Demand for protein foods such as meat, milk, fish, and eggs from consumers with better incomes, mainly in India and China but also in Southeast Asia and Latin America, is rising rapidly. This in turn requires vastly more grain to feed the animals and fish. Overfed rich societies continue to gain weight. The average citizen of Planet Earth eats one-fifth more calories than he or she did in the 1960s — a “food footprint” growing larger by the day.

Population and demand. This combination of population growth with expansion in consumer demand indicates a global requirement for food by 2050 that will be around 70–100 percent larger than it is today. Population and demand are together rising at about 2 percent a year, whereas food output is now increasing at only about 1 percent a year.

These demand-side factors could probably be satisfied by the world adopting tactics similar to those of the 1960s, when the Green Revolution in farming technology was launched, were it not for the many constraints on the supply side that are now emerging to hinder or prevent such a solution:

Water crisis. Put simply, civilization is running out of freshwater. Farmers presently use about 70 percent of the world’s readily available freshwater to grow food. However, increasingly megacities, with their huge thirst for water for use in homes, industry, and waste disposal, are competing with farmers for this finite resource and, by 2050, these uses could swallow half or more of the world’s available freshwater at a time when many rivers, lakes, and aquifers will be drying up. Unless major new sources or savings are found, farmers will have about half of the world’s currently available freshwater with which to grow twice the food.

Land scarcity. The world is running out of good farmland. A quarter of all land is now so degraded that it is scarcely capable of yielding food. At the same time, cities are sprawling, smothering the world’s most fertile soil in concrete and asphalt, while their occupants fan out in search of cheap land for recreation that diverts the best food-producing areas from agriculture. A third category of land is poisoned by toxic industrial pollution. Much former urban food production has now ceased. The emerging global dearth of good farmland represents another severe limit on increasing food production.

Nutrient losses. Civilization is hemorrhaging nutrients — substances essential to all life. Annual losses in soil erosion alone probably exceed all the nutrients applied as fertilizer worldwide. The world’s finite nutrient supplies may already have peaked. Half the fertilizer being used is wasted. In most societies, up to half the food produced is trashed or lost; so too are most of the nutrients in urban waste streams. The global nutrient cycle, which has sustained humanity throughout our history, has broken down.

Energy dilemma. Advanced farming depends entirely on fossil fuels, which are likely to become very scarce and costly within a generation. At present farmers have few alternative means of producing food other than to grow fuel on their farms — which will reduce food output by 10–20 percent. Many farmers respond to higher costs simply by using less fertilizer or fuel — and so cutting yields. Driven by high energy prices and concerns about climate change, the world is likely to burn around 400 million tonnes (441 million U.S. tons) of grain as biofuels by 2020 — the equivalent of the entire global rice harvest.

Oceans. Marine scientists have warned that ocean fish catches could collapse by the 2040s due to overexploitation of wild stocks. Coral reefs — whose fish help feed about five hundred million people — face decimation under global warming. The world’s oceans are slowly acidifying as carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels dissolves out of the atmosphere, threatening ocean food chains. Fish farms are struggling with pollution and sediment runoff from the land. The inability of the fish sector to meet its share of a doubling in world food demand will throw a heavier burden onto land-based meat industries.

Technology. For three decades the main engine of the modern food miracle, the international scientific research that boosted crop yields, has been neglected, leading to a decline in productivity gains. Farmers worldwide are heading into a major technology pothole, with less new knowledge available in the medium run to help them to increase output.

Climate. The climate is changing: up to half the planet may face regular drought by the end of the century. “Unnatural disasters” — storms, floods, droughts, and sea-level rise — are predicted to become more frequent and intense, with adventitious impacts on food security, refugee waves, and conflict.

Economics, politics, and trade. Trade barriers and farm subsidies continue to distort world markets, sending the wrong price signals to farmers and discouraging investment in agriculture and its science. The globalization of food has helped drive down prices received by farmers. Speculators have destabilized commodity markets, making it riskier for farmers to make production decisions. Some countries discourage or ban food exports and others tax them, adding to food insecurity. Others pay their farmers to grow fuel instead of food. A sprawling web of health, labor, and environmental regulation is limiting farmers’ freedom to farm.

The collapse in world economic conditions in late 2008 and 2009 has changed the prices of many things, including land, food, fuel, and fertilizer — but has not altered the fact that demand for food continues to grow while limits on its production multiply. Indeed, the economic crash exacerbated hunger among the world’s poor, and has not altered the fundamentals of climate change, water scarcity, population growth, land degradation, or nutrient or oil depletion.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Morning Linkfest - Power to the People

Good morning Vietnam (as Robin Williams said ...)

PICTURE: There's no better example of the energy past and present, meeting its future: Gas station in Nags Head, NC that fell victim to Hurricane Earl's winds.

Here's some articles I've found interesting in the past little while:

Blame the damn plankton for creating those hurricanes and typhoons. (via New Scientist)

The Salt Palace convention center in, where else, Salt Lake City, is getting a rooftop full of solar (America's largest rooftop installation) - enough to supply fully one-quarter of its electrical needs. The convention centre is more than 700,000 sq.ft. in size, including the exhibit and meeting space, and the grand ballroom. (via Solar Feeds)

Are huge solar panel efficiency gains just around the corner? We've all heard that "green is the new gold", but maybe black is the new green. (via inhabitat)

Thorium nuclear reactors? "There is no certain bet in nuclear physics but work by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the use of thorium as a cheap, clean and safe alternative to uranium in reactors may be the magic bullet we have all been hoping for, though we have barely begun to crack the potential of solar power.  Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal ... produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. A mere fistful would light London for a week." Apparently the stuff also "eats its own hazardous waste". Sounds too good to be true?  (via Telegraph)

Another Pollyanna take on infinite energy production? "Take sunlight, add water, and there you have it: free energy. Plants have been doing this for quite some time, splitting water's hydrogen apart from its oxygen, but our efforts to turn water into a source of free hydrogen fuel by mimicking them have borne no fruit. The problem is that splitting water takes more energy than conventional solar-cell technology can realistically deliver. But now we may be tantalisingly close to having economically viable sun-powered water splitters, and with it all the clean-burning fuel we want." (via New Scientist)

Wind power takes an upgrade, both visually and on the efficiency front, via a "wind lens" that boosts wind speed. (via inhabitat)

'The average American (just one of 309 million) uses up some 194 pounds of stuff—food, water, plastics, metals and other things—per day, day in and day out. We consume a full 25 percent of the world’s energy despite representing just 5 percent of global population. And that consumerism is spreading, whether it be the adoption of cars as a lifestyle choice in China or gadget lust in the U.S. “Consumerism is now spreading around the world,” says Erik Assadourian, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. “Is this going to keep spreading? Or are countries going to start recognizing that this is not a good path"?' (via Seed Magazine)

In the totally underwhelming category: "Australia's leading energy [retail] companies today added their voices [by open letter] to calls for the next government to introduce a carbon pricing mechanism as soon as possible, joining a coalition of civil society groups which yesterday issued a statement demanding the introduction of a new climate change bill. The letter said a price on carbon is required if Australia is to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020." (via BusinessGreen)

There's something rotten in Denmark Greenland. Arctic ice melting is slower this year than the record-setting year of 2007. "This low has yet to be surpassed, but the extent of sea ice is not all that matters, as Barber found. Look deeper and there are even more dramatic changes. This is something everyone should be concerned about because the transformation of the Arctic will affect us all."  (via New Scientist)

Sure our brains are huge - but are they large enough to figure out we must change - change or die? Green bikes in London start taking off. But all is not smooth sailing. (via Business Green)

Sometimes it's the really simple things we forget to change - the poorly weatherstripped door for instance, leaks out a lot of hot or cool air, and therefore wastes energy. Ever wonder what that annoying water drip wastes and the cost? Apparently, "there's a [free] app for that". (via inhabitat)

Passivhaus meets solarhaus. The result? Four times the energy you need to run the house. (via inhabitat)

And finally, I thought I'd close with this one - an attempt to "depower the people". Changing behaviours via incentives - nine ideas. Workable? Some are already. (via greentechmedia)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hungry Millions on the move, not too far in the future now ...

People don't understand that famines will impinge on them personally. It will affect the prices they see, the taxes they pay, and they will get flooded with immigrants. Think of the Irish Potato Famine. A quarter of the country departed for Canada and American and Australia. A population that's starving will move.


No one will be untouched by it. No person, no country.
- Julian Cribb

Mr. Cribb's book, The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It,   highlights the serious global food situation. It can be thought of this way: dire. There's no need for me to mince words about it, or pretend it's anything other than what it is: dire. The future is coming hard and fast folks, climate change crunches with global wealth creation (and accompanying dietary changes) to produce the upcoming situation: dire.

Longish excepted article, is here.

Interview with author, is here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Climate Math - 80% cut in emissions far too low

(Energy use per capita: Click this link for ginormous diagram)

You don't have to be a genius or climate researcher to figure out that the widely targeted 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (of 1990 levels), proposed to be reached by 2050, isn't going to cut it.

Here's my math - about one-fifth of the planet has been the heavily-industrialized leading edge for let's say 100 years and contributes about 60-80% of total emissions. Assuming that the rest of the planet aspires to energy use and the wealth of that one-fifth (in other words, eventually adding another four-fifths at similar greenhouse gas emissions), then pealing back everybody to one-fifth of what effectively amounted to almost all the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, means that the total emissions in 2050 will about equal all the emissions in 1990.

So, what are collective political global "leadership" is effectively proposing, is to continue 1990 level emissions. And as we are just beginning the earliest phases of really experiencing that reality, via Russian heat wave and forest fires, Canadian and Californian forests on fire, Pakistani floods, early signs of potentially runaway food inflation, etc. does anybody really think the global ecology can handle that kind of continued annual load?

No? Me neither.

For one creditable plan to reduce the load far, far, more, please read Mr. Monbiot's book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Climate Change Apathy must be overcome

Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.

Arnold J. Toynbee

Question - what "definite intelligible plan" have environmentalists consistently/uniformly articulated to deal with climate change?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cranks, kooks, & quacks: conservative climate deniers destroying conservative movement

Condensed as excerpts from the article, published in a conservative newspaper ...
Have you heard about the “growing number” of eminent scientists who reject the theory that man-made greenhouse gases are increasing the earth’s temperature? It’s one of those factoids that, for years, has been casually dropped into the opening paragraphs of conservative manifestos against climate-change treaties and legislation.

Fine-sounding rhetoric — but all of it nonsense. In a new article published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, a group of scholars from Stanford University, the University of Toronto and elsewhere provide a statistical breakdown of the opinions of the world’s most prominent climate experts. Their conclusion: The group that is skeptical of the evidence of man-made global warming “comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers in the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups.

This is a phenomenon that should worry not only environmentalists, but also conservatives themselves: The conviction that global warming is some sort of giant intellectual fraud now has become a leading bullet point within mainstream North American conservatism; and so has come to bathe the whole movement in its increasingly crankish, conspiratorial glow.

Conservatives often pride themselves on their hard-headed approach to public-policy — in contradistinction to liberals, who generally are typecast as fuzzy-headed utopians. Yet when it comes to climate change, many conservatives I know will assign credibility to any stray piece of junk science that lands in their inbox … so long as it happens to support their own desired conclusion.

In simpler words, too many of us treat science as subjective — something we customize to reduce cognitive dissonance between what we think and how we live.

In the case of global warming, this dissonance is especially traumatic for many conservatives, because they have based their whole worldview on the idea that unfettered capitalism — and the asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture it has spawned — is synonymous with both personal fulfillment and human advancement. The global-warming hypothesis challenges that fundamental dogma, perhaps fatally.

Rants and slogans may help conservatives deal with the emotional problem of cognitive dissonance. But they aren’t the building blocks of a serious ideological movement. And the impulse toward denialism must be fought if conservatism is to prosper in a century when environmental issues will assume an ever greater profile on this increasingly hot, parched, crowded planet. Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined — and discredited — by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists.


See this illustration of climate dummies by ideology. I wouldn't trust most of these conservatives to run a fruit and nut stand these days, as they appear way tooooo dumb ... even though my own fiscal leanings are to the conservative side of the table ... The smarter conservatives who have dealt with their own cognitive dissonance issues, need to tell the conservative kooky, cranky, and quacky brethren, to sit TF down, and shut TF up.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Winner of the Carbon Footprint Calculator is ...

Again, in the realm of knowledge is power, the right kind of mindset, combined with information available from the right kind of carbon calculator, might help us all take steps to ameliorating our individual climatic impact. But before I get to the actual winner, I should also mention a few gripes.

Firstly, some very major environmental organizations or foundations don't apparently have any sort of calculator: I can only ask - "What's up with that?" Isn't it part of your explicit or implicit mandate to help change behaviours?

This is a pretty basic tool that every large and serious environmentally-bent organization should have. Outsource its development if necessary, but for goodness sakes, get it done. Some notable laggards in this space include:
  • Greenpeace
  • World Watch Institute
  • Rocky Mountain Institute
Having grumbled about that, I'd like first to thank all the organizations featured herein for at least developing something. I also note that I haven't checked any calculators that require you to register first before using it, as I definitely feel this is an unnecessary barrier to use.

Having said all that, I will review the calculators I came across. From the bottom up:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculator
Unfortunately, for a very large agency (in comparison to most of the folks here) charged with protecting the environment, they have a very poor calculator. It misses the diet category entirely, lacks any consideration of "other lifestyle choices", and doesn't compare to a sustainable carbon load. Furthermore, you need your actual energy bills to produce the estimate. Hopefully, the EPA can do better next year, and perhaps one individual there will take it upon him or herself to champion through to completion a top-notch calculator. Grade: Fail. (note to parent - your child has ample resources, please have them bring them to bare on this problem).

Bonneville Environmental Foundation
The choices here are really limited, for your house for instance, you can either pull out your energy bill for your house, or it basically calculates it on a very broad average for a dwelling of that type. Misses diet and "other lifestyle choices" entirely. Grade: Fail (note to parent - this homework needs a serious makeover).

UK Government Calculator
This calculator is sponsored by the British government. It is thorough and extraordinarily deep and detailed in questioning, particularly, about energy use in and about the home, as well as transport use. I have absolutely no doubt that were I a UK resident, I would be able to have a very accurate picture of my home and transport energy use, although this does take a considerable amount of time to complete. Nevetheless, if it were only judged on these issues, it would be a runaway winner.

Unfortunately, it only calculates for UK postal code areas. It also lacks consideration of diet issues, and of other lifestyle factors. For these reasons, it cannot pass. Grade: Fail (note to parent - your student needs to apply themselves equally across the entire assignment).

Carbon Footprint
Home carbon load can be calculated by cost of energy, or actual energy use only, which is a serious deficiency in my view; however, it also allows for a wide variety of location choices, which most calculators don't. However, can only enter 3 flight itineraries; cars (2 only), can choose right from a database that includes mileage; includes mass transit and; asks many detailed questions about other activities; fashion, recreation, recycling, electronics purchases, etc. gives you your total, versus country average, and world target. Personal favorite on the other lifestyle choices, but home energy consumption needs a serious upgrade as does the travel category. Grade: C (note to parent, your students homework shows good potential for a better grade)

Their "one minute calculator" really is simple and easy to use. It has the quickest and simplest interface and, with a bit more detail, could easily be the "one to beat" next year. Although lacking, I could see it becoming a personal and recommended favorite, with some upgrades. However, the home energy use calculator doesn't allow for regional climate variations, and the final number doesn't show sustainable averages or even country averages. Additionally, only one choice can be made for transport, eg driving.

Also, diet questions  asks for number of "servings" of this or that; I think that most people have no idea of what a "serving" size is, nor how many they eat in a week. Also entirely lacks questions about other lifestyle choices. Still, as a basic platform, you could do a lot worse than to base it off of this idea. This is easily the most scale able platform, and does a decent job of balancing ease of use, and detail. Grade: C (note to parent - your student has "A" potential).

The Nature Conservancy
US-centric home energy use choices which lets you pick only by state. Moderate choices for home energy use, but on transport can add secondary vehicles. However, flights only give you the option of so many "long flights" and so many "short flights". Ask very basic diet, recycling and waste questions. Gives an average and world average at the end. It has a simple layout, which doesn't take too long to complete. Grade: C (note to parent - your students assignment could have a bit more detail, without losing the ease of use that is valuable here).

World Wildlife Federation (WWF)
Modestly thorough on the house, but lacks questions of location, size, insulation, etc., Obviously designed for UK, but nothing specific indicating that's how house carbon is calculated. Combines travel and transport with very wide ranges given only. Thorough on diet. Questions on "stuff" seem to produce miscalculation, as the purchase of an energy efficient front load washer (to replace my vintage 30 year old top-loader), a cell phone, and a few home improvement tools led to a calculation of over 28% of my personal carbon load.

Also, only calculates tonnes of carbon you are using, and how many "planets" you would use. No comparison to others in your country, or world average. Still, all in all, a decent calculator. Grade: B- (note to parents - a bit more detail on specific locale would be useful, as would a recalculation of the "stuff" category).

Global Footprint Network
This has an interesting interface, which adds to the time required to complete the questionnaire, but also keeps you slightly entertained while doing so. The calculator also offers a choice of a kids questionnaire, or the adult version. It offers a choice of about 15 world cities to choose from for the home energy use calculations. This is also the only calculator that covers water use, as studies have shown there's a very high correlation between water and energy use. It covers almost all categories at least adequately, and took a modest amount of time to complete. The calculator isn't outstanding in every category, but like a hard-working and skilled athlete, it covers every category at least competently. They should, however, show the footprint in relation to international and sustainable averages. Grade B+.

So the winner is, the Global Footprint Network, which will be added as a link on the side-bar shortly.

As a side note to the calculator creators, I can see they struggle generally in two categories. First is the location of the home for energy use calculations -  my suggestion here would be to have some sort of drop down menu with a number of world cities to start - more can then be added to as time and circumstances permit. This would allow for more realistic calculations based on the approximate location of the home in question.

Secondly, I would suggest for air travel that the calculation simply be the combination of the two most important factors - the number of flights, and the total hours travelled. This would likely allow a more accurate picture to emerge of the travel carbon picture. All the choices of so many short, medium and long flights, or extraordinarily wide ranges, is misleading, likely inaccurate, and adds an unnecessary element of complexity.

In any case, congratulations to the winner of the First Annual Agitated Ecoist Carbon Calculator Award ... The Global Footprint Network!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Annual Carbon Footprint Calculator Review

Changing habits and lifestyle is hard. But, we all know it must be done ... or do we? In that vein, here is the Agitated Ecoist's first annual review of carbon footprint calculator reviews.  These calculators help to calculate your personal carbon footprint. The calculators chosen for review is based on a simple click through google search, and is therefore somewhat arbitrary. If you feel I have missed a good one, please say so in the comments and we'll get around to taking a look at it.

During research for this posting, it soon became obvious the best calculator features would include the following components:

  • Diet - some research indicates that food choices account for as much as 30-35% of the total carbon or greenhouse gases (GHG) load. Vegan, organic and locally-sourced diets lighten your footprint, while heavy meatatarian diets increase it. A truly good footprint calculator simply cannot be missing this component, and anyone truly knowledgeable about carbon/GHG load would not miss this factor.
  • Home - between homes sizes, heating and cooling, insulation, and appliance use, our homes are a major source of pollution and carbon load in our daily lives. A good calculator should consider the type and size of home, its age/insulating qualities, type of heating and whether or not you have air conditioning, as well as appliance efficiency and the use of those appliances. Some of the best calculators ask questions like how long you watch TV every day (and size and type of TV), dishwasher use, how warm you keep your house, etc. Furthermore, there should be some consideration for local climate variations; heating and cooling a home in a moderate climate, like Seattle, would require far less energy than the same in Phoenix, or Anchorage. Some had accurate, but what I consider to be poor metrics, because they require you to gather all your various utility bills for the year and input the total energy use. Aside from the tediousness of this, many renters simply would not have that information available to them. 
  • Land Transport - how do you get around; how many miles do you travel and how fuel efficient are your choices. The best calculators allow for a multitude of transport choices with differing fuel economies, and precise calculations of distance travelled.
  • Air Travel - again, a major contributor to climate change particularly when radiative forcing is considered, and is an area that is growing much faster than overall emissions. The best calculators consider both how many flights you travel, and total distance/time travelled; since take off and landings are the heaviest fuel use, its important to calculate both numbers.
  • Other Lifestyle Factors - some calculators miss this totally, but other choices we make about how often to update our clothing, gadgets, appliances, etc., and other activities like recreation choices and recycling have anywhere from a very limited impact to, for some people, being a serious source of emissions.
  • Context/Misc - aside from estimating the actual carbon we emit, a decent calculator should help us to put it in context, by comparing to regional, national, and international averages. Although only a few sites did so, the gold standard here would also put our total individual carbon footprint in context of what is sustainable for the world. Other factors in the judging also included things like ease of use, options for simple versus detailed calculations, and options to calculate for one person, versus all people in the household.
All of the calculators were scored on a simple numeric system for each of the many subsectors measured within the categories above  (3 = good, 2 =OK, 1= fair, 0 = very poor/does not measure).

However, it was also decided that no matter how wonderful a calculator it was in one area, it simply could not win the competition if it didn't cover the top four categories, eg, Diet, Home, Land Transport, and Air Travel.

Tomorrow we'll advise of the winners and best-in-breed, of the eight considered, and also point out some of the major environmental outfits who don't have a calculator or whose calculator is very poor (missing at least two categories).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Morning Linkfest

(Image from a highlighted story below)

Good morning,

Here are some stories that I have found interesting in the past little while:

  • MACLEAN'S magazine, Canada's answer to Time Magazine has an August 30, 2010 cover story entitled, Extreme Weather Warning: Fires. Floods. Freak storms. Droughts. Why it’s only going to get worse. My question is, are we gong to fritter away the next two decades, just as we have from the time when Time magazine warned us of the same problems in their first cover story of January 1989, entitled, "Endangered Planet"?
  • The Confused Capitalist has, at least, highlighted some investment things to think about on a warming planet. He says that Compass Minerals (CMP), a highway salt distributor, is one stock to stay away from. In the broader view, he says that "Climate change investment strategy, as I will begin to explore over the coming while, involves a very few great opportunities, some good opportunities, and a whole lot of businesses to stay away from ..."
  • Created some 700 years ago, Delhi's 18 major "nullahs," or storm drains, and their 15,000 sub-branches originally provided a drainage system for excess rainwater. Now, most carry household sewage into the heavily polluted Yamuna River. Cleaning them up won't be easy, but urban planner and architect Manjit Rastogi says his Delhi Nullahs revitalization project would have extensive environmental, cultural, and transportation benefits, and make India's capital safer for its 17 million residents. (via TreeHugger)  
  • Bamboo Houses from Tonji University built for a solar decathlon is a beautiful house design containing "bamboo solar power arrays capable of producing 9 kilowatts of electricity for the bedroom and living room. As houses with a combination of traditionalism and modernity, the state-of-the art technology and traditional Chinese architecture, they include a humidity and temperature control system, a bamboo garden and have a high level of thermal insulation systems." (via materilicious)
  • And from the same company that brings you the Discovery Channel, green sex tips (warning, mature content). Whodda thunk it? Not me.
  • "How did you become an activist?" I was surprised by the question. I never considered myself an activist. I am a slow-paced taciturn scientist from the Midwest US. Most of my relatives are pretty conservative. I can imagine attitudes at home toward "activists". - NASA climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, describes his turn towards activism. (via Guardian). 
  • Ideas like the recently completed sun umbrellas (see above) in Spain's Cordoba city can help to connect neighborhoods and promote pedestrian use in hot climates. (via inhabitat). A wonderful idea, but would it be too much to ask that all skyward facing areas be colored white, in order to increase the albedo effect, and help provide a cooling effect until we move to a greenhouse-gas-free future? (via St. Petersburg Times/
  • Any move to educate the public and change habits involves "propaganda" (defined as highly targeted messaging). Here's some propaganda from the past that have informed and inspired previous generations of Americans, during past war era imperatives. (via Grist). Changing behaviours in the face of climate change is no less an important battle than fighting current and past "real" wars. Climate activists, particularly those in government, could do a lot worse than to lift some of these ideas straight into today's world.
  • An unfortunate glimse of the future can be seen from the unprecedented (at least in the past 1000 years) Russian heat wave. Economic losses from the forest fires alone are estimated to top $300 Billion (AFP via Google), while food inflation in Russia has turned markedly upwards (AFP via Yahoo).
  • At the European Solar Decathlon contest earlier this year, university students compete to build green sustainable housing with solar advantages. Unfortunately, the two American entries come up well short, placing 10th and 16th (out of 17 entries), behind such "solar hotbeds" as Finland, and Britian. (via US Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon)
  • For those hoping that some future technological answer will magically eliminate all climate issues, geoengineering has a lot of potential problems (via BBC)
  • And our highlighted link today, over at the Climate Change Leadership Forum, they have an absolutely frightening "doomsday clock" - take a look.
  • In some good news on the chemical front, Canada is in the process of a historic move to add bisphenol-A (BPA) to its list of toxic substances, Environment Canada confirmed Wednesday. The chemical used in making plastic has become increasingly controversial since the Canadian government promised two years ago it would designate it a toxic substance. Its estrogen-like effects are suspected of creating havoc with hormone levels (via The Star)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A friend of mine said ...

I don't think that I contribute very much to the carbon load - anyway, a lot less than a lot of people I know. I mean, I carpool whenever I can, and I recycle. And anyway, I can only compare myself to my neighbours, and other North Americans.


This is how far and how delusional we have gotten as a society. This intelligent man, who I know is reasonably aware of how quickly we are destroying our planet, doesn't think that his load (or mine for that matter) is all that much. He hopes that a bit of carpooling will save us ... as I would like to hope too ...


This isn't where it's at: not even close! If we hope to escape this, hope to escape what's going to seem like a runaway greenhouse effect, it's going to take a lot more than dedicated carpooling, and diligent recycling. Yet most people haven't even yet reached the point where they will actually vote for the greenest, most radically green, candidates they find, at all levels of government.  If we hope to effect things on a societal level, this will be a very necessary element; the sooner it occurs, the better the chance we can avoid SOME of the worst things.

Will you, dear reader, reach that point at the next polling station, or will you close your eyes, and "Wish we were back in Kansas"? Well, Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore. Gather courage, brains, heart and a sense of adventure. For you electronic gamers out there, the time to use your real avatar (that's you) has arrived.

Awaken, dear people, awaken. Vote; change personally; discuss with friends. Please wake up.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Currently using 1.4 earths to enjoy life ... (although I think that understates it)

Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the middle of the century if not before, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one.

Turning resources into waste faster than waste can be turned back into resources puts us in global ecological overshoot, depleting the very resources on which human life and biodiversity depend.

The result is collapsing fisheries, diminishing forest cover, depletion of fresh water systems, and the build up of pollution and waste, which creates problems like global climate change. These are just a few of the most noticeable effects of overshoot.

Overshoot also contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies—and tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else.

Article here ...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is there a (student) doctor in the house? Job opening here ... apply within ....

If your M.D. told you that you needed immediate treatment to avoid a slow, painful, ugly death, you'd probably step right up and ask for the treatment. Our species finds itself in the first circumstance, but refuses to entertain the second part of the situation.

This leaves me thinking that a significant problem with the human species at this point is psychological in nature, as the diagnosis has been firmly reported frequently to us over the past two decades.

Therefore, the nature of our illness must be twofold: one, we are environmentally sick; two, we are delusional, since we apparently refuse to accept this diagnosis.

Therefore, this blog is seeking a guest writer, either a psychologist OR psychology student, to explain these factors but, more importantly, how they might be overcome by green leaders, avid politicians aware of the dire situation, environmental scientists, and environmental writers.

I can make the following promises: no pay, flexible hours, wide latitude of writing topics, and a limited but presumably growing audience. Oh yeah, and did I mention ... The chance to perhaps do something more significant in the world than any of your peers will ever attempt?

You and I are either going to just die, or just die trying. Me - I'd rather make a difference - I'd rather die trying. You?

Apply within (see my profile for email, or post in comments as you wish).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More than four seasons .... apparently ...

I remember the halcyon days of my youth, back in the 1960s and 1970s. Late in the winter season, we looked forward to the spring season, when we could shed our heavy winter jackets. During the spring season, we looked forward to the summer season ultimately arriving, so that we could enjoy camping, swimming, and just generally time off. As that season drew to a close, some looked forward to the beauty of the autumn season, as nature offered its spendiferous display of fall colors. As the winter season approached, some of my peers couldn't wait for skiing, ice skating and hockey, amongst other winter season sports.

In a world of climate change, we now seem to have added "Fire Season", "Hurricane Season" and "Tornado Season" to nature's own seasons.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The new Black Gold - charcoal - improving soil quality and locking down carbon

Interesting story (The Economist, August 27, 2009) about charcoal / biochar improving soil quality and locking up carbon for long periods of time ... perhaps just the ticket for a hothouse world ... excerpts follow ..
It is a sweet irony, therefore, that the latest fashion for dealing with global warming is to bring back charcoal. It has to be rebranded for modern consumers, of course, so it is now referred to as “biochar”. But there are those who think biochar may give humanity a new tool to attack the problem of global warming, by providing a convenient way of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, burying it and improving the quality of the soil on the way.


And if sequestration by biochar is deemed sensible, there remains the question of how, exactly, to go about it. Making the charcoal is not a problem. Pyrolising stoves are easy to construct and available models range from the portable to industrial-scale machines costing tens of thousands of dollars. Moreover, Jock Gill of Pellet Futures, a company based in Vermont that makes grass and wood pellets for use as fuel, told the meeting that a teenage protégé of his has invented a stove that can be fed continuously, rather than processing batches of raw material. If that proves successful, it would be a breakthrough of the sort that has enabled other industries (not least ironmaking) to take off in the past.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things you have to think about while helping your children this week ...

or .... more on methane ... something to ponder on the way to work, or school, or errands, next week ...

Methane Gas Release from Arctic Permafrost is Far Larger Than Expected

Ocean-bottom permafrost contains vast amounts of carbon, and many experts are concerned that its release as methane gas would create a dangerous feedback loop in which increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to warmer temperatures, which in turn would lead to further melting of permafrost, further releases of methane, and further atmospheric warming.

“Wetlands and permafrost soils, including the sub-sea permafrost under the Arctic Ocean, contain at least twice the amount of carbon that is currently in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,” explains Martin Heimann, author of a Perspectives article related to the research.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Got Farts? Got to deal with methane also ....

Climate change initiatives have to deal with, yes C02 (carbon dioxide), but methane has to be dealt with as well. Some scientists think a frightening climate tipping point will occur when permafrost melts, releasing deeply held methane.

The EPA said ...

Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources. Human-influenced sources include landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial process.

Saturday Morning Linkfest

Good morning, some articles in the past little while I've come across that I thought were interesting.
  • Homes are one of the largest polluters we use in our daily lives. Understanding basic Passive House (or the original German - passivhaus) principles, whose design is to very significantly reduce or totally eliminate energy consumption. TH
  • Big Shocker? Climate change increasing stress on plants, and reducing plant productivity, by about 1% over the past decade, according to NASA. No big deal, except for global population growth that is occurring at 1.3%, per annum. (via Climate Progress)
  • Hate the look of wind turbines and wind farms? If you like look of grain fields, then you've got to think this futuristic wind farm design is a massive step forward on the beauty front (via inhabitat).
  • In the "better than nothing category", GM has a car that gets about 1 more MPG due to "variable geometry air shutter". The Chevrolet Cruze Eco. TH
  • Our highlighted article; on leadership and change. Study those who have won battles out of proportion to their base. Examine the NRAs tactics, including "building and energizing its small membership base, working to influence the outcome of critical elections, and employing bare-knuckled tactics" and apply them to the climate change battle (via Grist).
  • Some good news on the renewable energy front: in Europe, renewable energy increased its footprint in 2009, at the expense of coal (which is possibly the worst carbon-cycle energy source). TH
  • Should we name climate/weather disasters after climate change deniers? That's one thought out there (via Huffington Post). Maybe something better would be simply to work very hard in their district, before and after the election, to make sure they couldn't be elected even as chief peanut counter in the future.
  • A United Nations study transformed how Anne Lappe thinks about the climate crisis. "In the report, researchers pegged greenhouse gases from the livestock sector at 18 percent of total global emissions. Combine this with other aspects of our food chain--from agricultural chemical production to agribusiness driven deforestation to food waste rotting in landfills--and food and agriculture sector is responsible for nearly one third of the planet's manmade emissions. Move over Hummer; it's time to say hello to the hamburger" (via Huffingon Post.)
  • We needed computer modelling to tell us that we should best exploit regional resources to add to the renewable energy grid, eg wind in windy regions, geothermal in areas best suited for that approach etc.?? Apparently the utility industry did, as do our politicians (via New York Times).

Friday, August 20, 2010

The infernal car culture

No wonder we've got so many cars in our society - witness the annual subsidy of American parking.

Story here.

Yet 99 percent of all automobile trips in the United States end in a free parking space, rather than a parking space with a market price. In his book, Professor Shoup estimated that the value of the free-parking subsidy to cars was at least $127 billion in 2002, and possibly much more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Side-bar note to deal with climate-change denier dum-dums ....

As a side-bar note, I get tired of dealing with dum-dums who, for reasons of mental and emotional convenience, want to continue denying human-induced climate change. The comment forum is open as always, but if you disagree with what real, professional climate scientists say, please take it up directly with them. If you have a stunning piece of scientific evidence that disproves one side or the other, don't waste time on my channel, write a paper, and get it peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal.

Please feel free to publish the above statement as needed; it's time to stop pretending that these climate change deniers have anything other than a selfish or self-deluded agenda which obviously limits their ability to think and feel honestly. They need to be called out.

Scientists views link here

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Time Magazine Archives - dateline 1988

From the archives ... has it really been 22 years since Time Magazine named planet Earth as the "Person (newsmaker) of the Year"?

Is is a crime that we've done virtually nothing in the intervening years?

Hot topics then  ....

Greenhouse Effect/Climate Change (worsening issue currently)
Ozone Layer depletion (improving issue currently)
Biodiversity destruction (worsening issue currently)
Polluted soil, oceans, rivers, streams, groundwater (worsening currently)
Acidifying oceans (that's where the CO2 is all going; not much mentioned then)

We are batting 1 for 5, and the one we tackled was easily the simplest to change.