Category Archives: global warming

More New Global Warming Math

Interesting new stuff about global warming this week – The Daily Beast calls our attention to a new article published in Rolling Stone called Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math. While it is true that every time we have a warmer-than-usual season people start to get nervous about global warming, it is also true that unusual seasons and more extreme storms do seem to be the new normal. The Rolling Stone article opens with some data:
“If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 1099, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the ‘largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.’ The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.”
In the New York Times, Monday, July 23, 2012, Paul Krugman wrote Loading the Climate Dice in which he gives the following analogy:
How should we think about the relationship between climate change and day-to-day experience? Almost a quarter of a century ago James Hansen, the NASA scientist who did more than anyone to put climate change on the agenda, suggested the analogy of loaded dice. Imagine, he and his associates suggested, representing the probabilities of a hot, average or cold summer by historical standards with a die with two faces painted red, two white and two blue. By the early 21st century, they predicted, it would be as if four of the faces were red, one white, and one blue. Hot summers would become much more frequent, but there would still be cold summers now and then.
And so it has proved. As documented in a new paper by Dr. Hansen and others, cold summers by historical standards still happen, but rarely, while hot summers have in fact become roughly twice as prevalent. And 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
But that’s not all: really extreme high temperatures, the kind of thing that used to happen very rarely in the past, have now become fairly common. Think of it as rolling two sixes, which happens less than 3 percent of the time with fair dice, but
more often when the dice are loaded. And this rising incidence of extreme events, reflecting the same variability of weather that can obscure the reality of climate change, means that the costs of climate change aren’t a distant prospect, decades in the future. On the contrary, they’re already here, even though so far global temperatures are only about 1 degree Fahrenheit above their historical norms, a small fraction of their eventual rise if we don’t act.
Bill McKibben, the author of the article in Rolling Stone, tells us three important numbers that we need to keep track of regarding global warming. One is the number 2 degrees Celsius, the second is the number 565 gigatons, and the third is the number 2,795 gigatons.
The significance of the first of these numbers which came out of the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, which produced little else besides this number, was this point contained in the first paragraph of the accord: “it formally recognized ‘the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” It also declared that “we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required…so as to hold the increase in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius. (We have so far measured an increase of 0.8 degrees Celsius.)
The second number represents this agreement: “Scientist estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (Reasonable, in this case means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)
Mr. McKibben goes on to say:
“This idea of a global “carbon budget” emerged about a decade ago, as scientist began to calculate how much oil, coal, and gas could still safely be burned. Since we’ve increased the Earth’s temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we’re currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we’re already three-quarters of the way to the two degree target.”
As for the third number:
“This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.”
What It Means
It means that this is the moment we must start to switch away from fossil fuels. It means politically and economically it is scary to make this move, but environmentally we must. It means we will become independent of foreign nations that provide us with fossil fuels, but in a totally different way than we are thinking about it right now. It means that unless fossil fuel companies wake up and offer us new ways to make inexpensive energy they will die a horrible death that will be catastrophic for the market place. They must lead the way to non-fossil fuel alternatives or we will have to drive them out of business. They are already in panic mode. Have you counted the number of ads being offered in the media by the fuel industries? We are bombarded constantly by propaganda to make us believe that coal can be clean (will it no longer produce CO2), that we need to get more fossil fuels from tar sands and fracking the shale laid down by glaciers in prehistory.
It means that, in spite of our economic challenges, we need, to find a way to subsidize solar energy to make it much more affordable. We could plaster solar panel all over American housing and let people pay for them with their power bill savings. We need to help everyone switch to hybrid and electric vehicles, again with some kind of subsidies where necessary. We need to put lots of pressure on countries like China and India who are ignoring environmental issues in their understandable goal to raise the standard of living in their respective countries. The planet cannot afford to let them have their fossil fuel moment. These energy companies and energy countries can either continue to be part of the problem which will eventually lead to their demise, or they can be proactive and be part of the solution. The people of the planet beg you to choose the latter approach. Choose it right now, please. Wean us now.  

New Data on Global Warming

Maybe we won’t be able to verify global warming by looking at the big picture. Perhaps small local studies by groups who have lived in and observed a specific ecosystem for years will end up being the best evidence for or against global warming. I’m not talking about anecdotal descriptions; I’m talking about data, recorded for decades.
In the Syracuse Post Standard on Sunday, May 6, 2012 I found an article with the title “NY lake’s freezing and thawing shows warming trend” by Mary Esch of The Associated Press which has been picked up by many other newspapers. She spoke with ecologist Colin Beier in Newcomb, NY. He is the lead author of a study that shows that the length of time Wolf Lake in the Adirondack High Peaks region is covered with ice each winter has declined by three weeks since 1975 (so says the label under the picture included with the article). Colin says that “Lake ice doesn’t lie. The process of ice formation and lake closure and opening is a straightforward physical process and people have kept records of it for decades.”
“The loss of ice cover may change a lake’s water chemistry,” he says, “and the types of algae and plankton which affect the rest of the food chain.”
The article goes on to say that, “Scientists have documented that places like the Adirondacks that are transition zones between temperate hardwood forests and cold-loving spruce-fir forests are especially sensitive to climate change.”
“In Vermont’s Green Mountains, a 2008 study found the transition zone between maple-beech forest and spruce-fir forest moved 400 feet up the mountain over 43 years, in sync with a 2-degree rise in the area’s mean annual temperature.”
Small localized studies like these may offer just the data we need to make a clear decision before or against global warming.

This is Colin Beier

Environmental Wars

Another article sent to me by the Republican in my back yard (TRIMBY) was about global warming. If you watch any of the news channels you probably already realize that many Republicans argue that global warming is not real. They believe that any warming trends we see are just part of the cyclical nature of rising and falling temperatures on earth. It did not help that the study on which Democrats and others based their conclusions about global warming contained made up data. Republicans argue that Democrats invented global warming to rein in Big Business and, that by calling Big Business to task as the cause of the pollution that in turn caused this “supposed” global warming, they forced businesses out of America and destroyed our hegemony. I cannot imagine why Democrats would want to drive manufacturing out of America. Most Democrats are not socialists; they believe in the economic energy of a capitalist market place. It makes no sense to believe that Democrats would create an imaginary environmental problem, lay it at the feet of Big Business, and deliberately destroy the American economy. This is either deeply paranoid or is an argument being used for political spin by the GOP to tar and feather the Democrats.
As to whether global warming is real, it looks like we do not have enough data to draw a definitive conclusion. There is evidence on each side, none really definitive. The article that the Republican in my back yard sent to me contained a number of graphs that supposedly prove that global warming is not only hogwash, but that the opposite is true; the earth is actually cooling a bit. The problem I had with this article is that the author has a background in statistics which I do not and used quite technical language to make his points many of which rested on whether data was statistically significant or not. I must admit that my brain turned off a little bit and my eyes started clouding over and I went off into my to-do list for the day. To me it looked as if the temps in the charts actually did trend upward.
On May 3rd, 2012 the article in question appeared in the publication American Thinker, a conservative on-line journal. The article “Global Warming Melts Away” by Randall Hoven is a scientific article with many graphs and even a bibliography and is worth checking out.
When the author started talking about linear regression trends for the extent shown that’s when my eyes really started to glaze over, but those of you with a good background in statistics can check this out and see if these graphs have merit. I can wait until the evidence is clearer, but I still believe that the activities of 7 billion people on our little planet do have some powerful effects on our environment, that these effects are not always positive, and that, in our search for greater comfort, we have not always been careful caretakers of earth.
So TRIMBY and I had an email exchange about these topics of global warming and pollution.
Me: Whether the earth is warming or not, the effects of humans on the earth are huge and not all positive (TRIMBY) (true, so you are admitting that global warming is crap??). (He’s a witty guy.) The enormous amount of trash we have stashed all over the planet, the chemicals we have pumped into the air, the soil and the water are real.  The earth has much more capability to recover than people understand.  That is not to say I (or Republicans, or Conservatives) want to pollute the earth.  The reality is, that we do, we will and there will always be some.  Great example is how the ocean “ate” the big spill from the well that exploded in the gulf a few years ago.  The spill is gone…   The difficulties all this “pollution” presents to the cycles of nature that keep the earth refreshed are real. The exponential growth of the size of the human population on this planet is real. True in some place, not all;  in Europe, they are having problems with shrinking populations, except for the Muslim populations.  The eventual exhaustion of the fossil fuels stored under our planet is real (true, but it has been greatly under-estimated when it will happen.  Further, as it does occur, economics says that we will find alternatives.  We are searching for alternatives now and if they are more economical, then we will use them.   It is not wrong to look to ways we can lessen the negative effects so many people have on the state of our planet.  Look is fine, force is not. Planning should be more intense rather than less intense. You know I worry that fresh water resources may be our most pressing problem can be in some areas but shortages will raise prices and make people more conscious of the problem. and that our reliance on fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on what fresh water we do have (and even on our salt water resources) (How so??). I don’t understand why people argue that it is harmful to take care of our planet and to find ways to keep it healthy. It is about balance.  You can’t have zero pollution, or you can but we would be living in grass huts.  It hurts all of us – not just business.  You would not be able to afford to eat, shop, or own a home.  It hurts business! That’s it? But a polluted earth will hurt business and it will hurt all living things. We can’t listen to corporations when they complain that environmental concerns are hurting their profits (which by the way they are not sharing) (they share their profits with the owners of the business, as they should) if ignoring the needs of our planet will eventually kill us. Corporations who are far-sighted would realize that helping to take good care of the earth benefits their bottom line far, far into the future.  It isn’t about being farsighted, the environmental movement has raised awareness of pollution, buy things and really directly influence corporations.  This is good.  Corporations are about making money- which is good.  If they can make money by being environmentally friendly, they will.  You and I are both old enough to remember the 60’s and early 70’s… the air quality, the quality of the water in the lake, just the general amount of pollution.  The environmental movement has been good for everyone. Today, corporations know that by being green, they will attract more clients, generate more business – make more money… If a corporation is bad, a polluter, then shine the light on it and it will change from public pressure.
As for the fact that our environment is cleaner than it once was, that is because our businesses took themselves off to places where there are fewer laws against pollution and are now dirtying up other, once pristine locations.  Again, not really true; there is bad pollution in China today (probably one of the worst), but by far and large, those are companies that are owned by China.  It is really up to the people there to take control of the country – that is problem with Socialism, Communism, dictatorships… they don’t care how the people live.  From what I understand, they are getting better.  Also we are not the world’s policemen, we have helped and continue to help this country clean up.  If the liberals want to do something about it, publicize it, figure out which companies are the worst and boycott them, put them on the spot… democracy at work.   If we don’t regulate what businesses can do to the environment they will have no qualms about abusing it for profit.