Tag Archives: global warming

Three Numbers in Global Climate Roulette

19 Jul

Bill McKibben, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Rolling Stone.

First number: 2 degrees Celsius. Some sort of vague international consensus has been reached that we have to keep the rise in annual average temperature below 2 degrees C. That number dates to 1995 and the average has gone up 0.8 degrees C. since then. Some experts think 2 degrees is too much; 1 degree would be much safer.

Second number: 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide: “Scientists 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.”

Third number: 2,795 gigatons of CO2: That’s how much CO2 will be released when we burn all the fossil-fuels in existing proven reserves. Notice that it’s almost five times the “allowable”limit, which itself may be too high.

Are we cooked?

Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Is it too much to say that the fossil-fuel industry is evil?

Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

Apocalypse soon – Environment – Salon.com

8 Jun

By 2025, just 13 years from now, humans will have modified half of all the land on Earth. We will have turned space that once supported complicated systems of plants, animals, soils, water and microbes into cities or farms. Already, we’ve taken over 43 percent of the land. What’s left is mostly criss-crossed by our roads. By 2060, 70 percent of the earth’s surface could be covered with human development.

According to the group of more than 20 scientists responsible for these observations, published this week in Nature, these shifts could also be pushing the Earth toward a tipping point — a round of irreversible planet-wide changes. …

Here’s a taste of what could be coming. Within a century, “climates that contemporary organisms have never experienced are likely to cover 12-39% of Earth,” the scientists report. Sooner than that, by 2070, the average global temperature “will be higher than it has been since the human species evolved.” Shifts like the one the report considers have meant that not only do certain species face extinction, but new varieties of creatures begin to thrive. From a human perspective, though, the most important changes will be to the resources we depend upon for survival. Within a few generations, the forests, fisheries and agricultural systems that feed us could change so much they’ll no longer be able to support our species in the fashion to which we’ve become accustomed.

via Apocalypse soon – Environment – Salon.com.

Less Meat, Less Global Warming – NYTimes.com

16 May

Whether it’s 18%, 51%, or somewhere in between, the percentage of greenhouse gases attributable to livestock is very large.

Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling.

A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in World Watch, that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that that number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: “All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals.  ”But according to the most widely-used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.”

via Less Meat, Less Global Warming – NYTimes.com.

April 2012 heats up as 5th warmest month globally

16 May

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center calculated that April’s average temperature of 57.9 degrees (14.4 degrees Celsius) was nearly 1.2 degrees (0.7 degrees Celsius) above the 20th Century normal. Two years ago was the hottest April since recordkeeping started in 1880.

Last month was the third hottest April in the United States and unusually warm in Russia, but cooler than normal in parts of western Europe. This is despite a now ended La Nina which generally lowers global temperatures…

The last time the globe had a month that averaged below the 20th Century normal was February 1985. April makes it 326 months in a row. Nearly half the population of the world has never seen a month that was cooler than normal, according to United Nations data.

via April 2012 heats up as 5th warmest month globally.

Nearly one-tenth of hemisphere’s mammals unlikely to outrun climate change: study

15 May

It’s not just about us. It’s about all the animals and plants in the biosphere.

For the first time a new study considers whether mammals will actually be able to move to those new areas before they are overrun by climate change. Carrie Schloss, University of Washington research analyst in environmental and forest sciences, is lead author of the paper out online the week of May 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We underestimate the vulnerability of mammals to climate change when we look at projections of areas with suitable climate but we don’t also include the ability of mammals to move, or disperse, to the new areas,” Schloss said.

Indeed, more than half of the species scientists have in the past projected could expand their ranges in the face of climate change will, instead, see their ranges contract because the animals won’t be able to expand into new areas fast enough, said co-author Josh Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forest sciences.

via Nearly one-tenth of hemisphere’s mammals unlikely to outrun climate change: study.

Global Warming and the Beginning of the Great Transition

20 Apr

I’ve been thinking about the recent poll showing that a majority of Americans now believe that global warming is real and that it is the cause behind recent extreme weather (as reported in The New York Times):

The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed.

Not only that, but “one of the more striking findings was that 35 percent of the public reported being affected by extreme weather in the past year.” That is global warming is no longer something affecting only “those people” who live “over there, in that other place far far away from me.” It’s happening here and now, to me!

What’s the ripple effect of these beliefs? William McKibben says ““My sense from around the country and the world is that people definitely understand that things are getting freaky” and his group, 350.org, is planning rallies on May 5 to help people to “Connect the Dots” between the crazy weather we have now and long-term climate change.

Of course those aren’t the only dots that need to be connected. Climate change needs to be connected to energy policy and practices, to farming and ranching and food practices, to relationships between local and global communities, to, well, when you think about it, to just about everything.

Certainly to war and peace. All the time, energy, and resources we throw into way is just thrown away. We need to devote that to saving the earth and thus to saving ourselves and our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

But first we need to believe that all that must be done. Is this newly emerging consensus on global warming the beginning of that belief? Is this the beginning of the Great Transition?

Americans Link Global Warming to Extreme Weather, Poll Says – NYTimes.com

18 Apr

A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.

The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.

via Americans Link Global Warming to Extreme Weather, Poll Says – NYTimes.com.

March Heat Broke 15,000 Records; Weather Could Have Deadly Effects – Technology – The Atlantic Wire

10 Apr

March’s warm weather broke a lot of records. Science has confirmed what we all already knew (and feared?), last month was the warmest since 1895, which is as far as the record goes back. “The average temperature of 51.1°F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5°F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910,” explains the research report. In addition, every single state had at least one day of record breaking temps and over the 31 days, 7,755 daytime records and 7,517 nighttime records were broken across the country. Alaska, on the other hand, not included in this tally because it does not fall in the contiguous U.S., had its 10th coldest on record, contributing to the climate change extreme weather theory.

via March Heat Broke 15,000 Records; Weather Could Have Deadly Effects – Technology – The Atlantic Wire.

A Message From A Republican Meteorologist On Climate Change | ThinkProgress

30 Mar

I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. To complicate matters, I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up, long-term. It’s ironic.

The root of the word conservative is “conserve.” A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.

via A Message From A Republican Meteorologist On Climate Change | ThinkProgress.

Offsetting global warming: Molecule in Earth’s atmosphere could ‘cool the planet’

21 Jan

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2012) — Scientists have shown that a newly discovered molecule in Earth’s atmosphere has the potential to play a significant role in off-setting global warming by cooling the planet. …

Professor Dudley Shallcross, Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry at The University of Bristol, added: “A significant ingredient required for the production of these Criegee biradicals comes from chemicals released quite naturally by plants, so natural ecosystems could be playing a significant role in off-setting warming.”

via Offsetting global warming: Molecule in Earth’s atmosphere could ‘cool the planet’.