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/tampabay.com)
  • 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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tom Toles said ...

We are apparently going to let the debate on the (climate change) science run until hell freezes over. If you can't accept the conclusions of 98 percent of the scientists whose FIELD IT IS, then why even bother with science? If that high a percentage of field of study is to be discounted ENTIRELY, then we are in deep trouble, which, of course, we are.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Hottest Year Ever on Record

To date, this is the hottest year ever recorded since reliable temperature recording began in 1880, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Although NOAA experts say global climate change isn't the only reason 2010 has been so hot -- an El Nino event earlier in the year pushed temperatures up -- they said it's still the most important reason. 

"We would not be where we are without the influence of climate change", said Deke Arndt of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Climate Change from the archives ... 2005 ...

The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. (Highlighting not in original document)

Joint statement by 11 national science academies to world leaders (signatories: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, United States)

Question? What prompt action has been taken in the intervening five years?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Agitated Ecoist Challenges Developers, Builders, and Municipal Planners to "get with it!!"

America's Energy Secretary, Steven Chu:

 Another example of his unorthodox thinking is his observation that painting the roofs of buildings around the world white and using light-coloured road surfaces rather than blacktop would reflect a lot of sunlight back into space—possibly enough to have an effect on global warming as big as taking every car in the world off the road for a decade. There are plenty of scientists with such notions, but they are seldom in a position to convert their visions into reality.  (The Economist, July 2, 2009)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rivers - unsuitable for human "contact"

Amazing what we are doing to this planet ... an article from the latest version of the Economist magazine .... dateline ... China ...

"The Ministry of Environmental Protection released figures on July 26th that showed 43.2% of state-monitored rivers were classified as grade 4 or worse in the first half of the year, meaning their water was unsuitable for human contact.

Can we screw up the planet even more?

Stay tuned ... daily reporting of such events available ...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The pluses of reduced crop yields

I guess the upside of the downside of the destruction of our environment, is that at some panicked point in the future, we'll all realize the benefits (a, b also) and necessity (1, 2 also) of a vegetarian diet.

"The amount of grains fed to US livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet. (1)
That is, assuming we wake up to the grave threat before it is too late.

Wake up, wake up, wake TF up! We are ALL in this together, there will be ***NO*** escaping that fact, no matter your position nor your wealth.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Russian heat wave kills 15,000

From Weather Underground web-site; Jeff Master blog .... excerpts ...

Over 15,000 likely dead in Russian heat wave; Asian monsoon floods kill hundreds more

Worst Russian heat wave in 1,000 years of history

The temperature at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport hit 99°F (37°C) today. Prior to this year, the hottest temperature in Moscow's history was 37.2°C (99°F), set in August 1920. The Moscow Observatory has now matched or exceeded this 1920 all-time record five times in the past two weeks. Temperatures the past 27 days in a row have exceeded 30°C in Moscow. Alexander Frolov, head of Russia's weather service, said in a statement today, "Our ancestors haven't observed or registered a heat like that within 1,000 years. This phenomenon is absolutely unique." There is some slight relief in sight--the latest forecast for Moscow calls for high temperatures of 31 - 33°C (88 - 91 °F) Wednesday though Sunday.

The heat wave began on June 27. These grim statistics suggest that in Moscow alone, the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 has likely killed at least 7,000 people so far.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Climate dummies by ideology

Who needs science when you've got the crutch of ideology ... avoids having to think about issues, and have real feelings as a result ... see the climate dummies below, by ideology ...

GMO - Jeremy Grantham - Global Warming in Five Minutes

GMO Summer Essays – July 2010

(Note: Jeremy Grantham is the Chairman of the Board at the global investment firm, GMO, who manage $94 Billion in assets. This is a portion of his summer newsletter).
Everything You Need to Know About Global Warming in 5 Minutes

1) The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, after at least several hundred thousand years of remaining within a constant range, started to rise with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. It has increased by almost 40% and is rising each year. This is certain and straightforward.

2) One of the properties of CO2 is that it creates a greenhouse effect and, all other things being equal, an increase in its concentration in the atmosphere causes the Earth’s temperature to rise. This is just physics. (The amount of other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane, has also risen steeply since industrialization, which has added to the impact of higher CO2 levels.)

3) Several other factors, like changes in solar output, have major influences on climate over millennia, but these effects have been observed and measured. They alone cannot explain the rise in the global temperature over the past 50 years.

4) The uncertainties arise when it comes to the interaction between greenhouse gases and other factors in the complicated climate system. It is impossible to be sure exactly how quickly or how much the temperature will rise. But, the past can be measured. The temperature has indeed steadily risen over the past century while greenhouse gas levels have increased. But the forecasts still range very widely for what will happen in the future, ranging from a small but still potentially harmful rise of 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit to a potentially disastrous level of +6 to +10 degrees Fahrenheit within this century. A warmer atmosphere melts glaciers and ice sheets, and causes global sea levels to rise. A warmer atmosphere also contains more energy and holds more water, changing the global occurrences of storms, floods, and other extreme weather events.

5) Skeptics argue that this wide range of uncertainty about future temperature changes lowers the need to act: “Why spend money when you’re not certain?” But since the penalties can rise at an accelerating rate at the tail, a wider range implies a greater risk (and a greater expected value of the costs.) This is logically and mathematically rigorous and yet is still argued.

6) Pascal asks the question: What is the expected value of a very small chance of an infinite loss? And, he answers, “Infinite.” In this example, what is the cost of lowering CO2 output and having the long-term effect of increasing CO2 turn out to be nominal? The cost appears to be equal to foregoing, once in your life, six months’ to one year’s global growth – 2% to 4% or less. The benefits, even with no warming, include: energy independence from the Middle East; more jobs, since wind and solar power and increased efficiency are more labor-intensive than another coal-fired power plant; less pollution of streams and air; and an early leadership role for the U.S. in industries that will inevitably become important. Conversely, what are the costs of not acting on prevention when the results turn out to be serious: costs that may dwarf those for prevention; and probable political destabilization from droughts, famine, mass migrations, and even war. And, to Pascal’s real point, what might be the cost at the very extreme end of the distribution: definitely life changing, possibly life threatening.

7) The biggest cost of all from global warming is likely to be the accumulated loss of biodiversity. This features nowhere in economic cost-benefit analysis because, not surprisingly, it is hard to put a price on that which is priceless.

8) A special word on the right-leaning think tanks: As libertarians, they abhor the need for government spending or even governmental leadership, which in their opinion is best left to private enterprise. In general, this may be an excellent idea. But global warming is a classic tragedy of the commons – seeking your own individual advantage, for once, does not lead to the common good, and the problem desperately needs government leadership and regulation. Sensing this, these think tanks have allowed their drive for desirable policy to trump science. Not a good idea.

9) Also, I should make a brief note to my own group – die hard contrarians. Dear fellow contrarians, I know the majority is usually wrong in the behavioral jungle of the stock market. And Heaven knows I have seen the soft scientists who lead finance theory attempt to bully their way to a uniform acceptance of the bankrupt theory of rational expectations and market efficiency. But climate warming involves hard science. The two most prestigious bastions of hard science are the National Academy in the U.S. and the Royal Society in the U.K., to which Isaac Newton and the rest of that huge 18th century cohort of brilliant scientists belonged. The presidents of both societies wrote a note recently, emphasizing the seriousness of the climate problem and that it was manmade. (See the attachment to last quarter’s Letter.) Both societies have also made full reports on behalf of their membership stating the same. Do we believe the whole elite of science is in a conspiracy? At some point in the development of a scientific truth, contrarians risk becoming flat earthers.

10) Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs, and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? Most hard scientists hate themselves or their colleagues for being in the news. Being a climate scientist spokesman has already become a hindrance to an academic career, including tenure. I have a much simpler but plausible “conspiracy theory”: that fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results.

11) Why are we arguing the issue? Challenging vested interests as powerful as the oil and coal lobbies was never going to be easy. Scientists are not naturally aggressive defenders of arguments. In short, they are conservatives by training: never, ever risk overstating your ideas. The skeptics are far, far more determined and expert propagandists to boot. They are also well funded. That smoking caused cancer was obfuscated deliberately and effectively for 20 years at a cost of hundreds of thousands of extra deaths. We know that for certain now, yet those who caused this fatal delay have never been held accountable. The profi ts of the oil and coal industry make tobacco’s resources look like a rounding error. In some notable cases, the obfuscators of global warming actually use the same “experts” as the tobacco industry did! The obfuscators’ simple and direct motivation – making money in the near term, which anyone can relate to – combined with their resources and, as it turns out, propaganda talents, have meant that we are arguing the science long after it has been nailed down. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

12) Almost no one wants to change. The long-established status quo is very comfortable, and we are used to its deficiencies. But for this problem we must change. This is never easy.

13) Almost everyone wants to hear good news. They want to believe that dangerous global warming is a hoax. They, therefore, desperately want to believe the skeptics. This is a problem for all of us.

Global warming will be the most important investment issue for the foreseeable future. But how to make money around this issue in the next few years is not yet clear to me. In a fast-moving field rife with treacherous politics, there will be many failures. Marketing a “climate” fund would be much easier than outperforming with it.