Climate Change is Simple

I really like this TED speech from David Roberts, called ‘Climate is Simple‘.  Well I like how he presents the facts…but I don’t like hearing the conclusions (though I don’t dispute them).  He sums up where the climate has been, where we’re at now, and where we’re headed.  It’s that last part that scares me…we’re on the verge of ruining this planet for future generations.  What gives us the right to do that?  I believe we should preserve this planet for future generations to enjoy…not alter it for future generations to suffer and face a lesser quality of life than us.  If you agree, it’s worth watching this video:

Climate Change Skeptics Reverse Course

Finding a climate change scientist who does NOT believe that people are responsible for global warming is pretty hard (the commonly-reported estimate is that 98% of climate change scientists are in agreement that people are mostly responsible for climate change)…and it’s getting harder.  One of the more prominent skeptics, Richard Muller, has accepted the scientific evidence and is no longer a skeptic…he was part of a team of more than a dozen scientists at the University of California, Berkeley that have been studying global warming, specifically with respect to how global warming correlates to human and natural events, to try to determine the cause.  What they found was that the average land temperature has increased by 1.5C over the last 250 years, and that “”the most straightforward explanation for this warming is human greenhouse gas emissions.”  Most of that increase has been in the past 50 years, too.

I think former skeptic Muller put it best when he said, “While this doesn’t prove that global warming is caused by human greenhouse gases, it is currently the best explanation we have found, and sets the bar for alternative explanations.”  This is what science is all about.  Recognizing the facts, but also maintaining an open mind, for science is rarely 100% certain about anything.  Perhaps some new hypothesis will be put forth that shows that CO2 is NOT responsible for global warming, but until such a hypothesis is presented and proven, we need to stop this media debate over global warming and report the scientific facts.  The media needs to stop giving air time to climate change skeptics who don’t have the science to back up their claims…for doing so only works to legitimize their ideas in the mainstream public’s minds.

The project’s official website is here, where you can view full results of this study.  Or, read more about it over at The Guardian.

26 states are natural disasters due to drought

26 states have been declared natural disasters due to drought.  Crops are withering.  While it’s not possible to tie one year of weather to climate change, this is just another data point in a continuing trend, one that’s going pretty much as climate scientists have been predicting.  Another result has been the wildfires in Colorado.  Increased rainfall in the Pacific Northwest.  These are, most likely, not ‘abnormalities’, but rather the new norm…and we’re nowhere near predicted levels of global climate warming, that’s still decades away (or more, if we don’t find a way to drastically cut CO2 levels).  If we were to slash CO2 emissions to zero this year (great TED talk from Bill Gates here on that topic), much of this could be held at the levels we see now (except that sea level rise would continue for quite some time).  The chances of that happening are zilch, I’d say.  Expect weather extremes to get worse, and be ready to adapt the best you can.

Over-consumption

No surprise here, but a recent article at phys.org talks about over-consumption on a global scale, how we’re consuming more than this planet can produce.  Think of it in terms of personal finance…we’re spending more than we’re making each money, and out savings account is going to run out (with no interstellar ‘banks’ to extend us credit!).

What I really found interesting though was the chart below, that illustrates how the carbon footprint of different food varies.  It’s amazing how bad cows are for our environment, especially compared to other meat options like pork or chicken!

Coal use climbing

Bad news for our atmosphere…at a time when we should be reducing carbon emissions, consumption of the most CO2-laden fossil fuel, coal, is increasing, up by 5.4% over last year.  Renewable energy solutions continue to make progress, but it’s a drop in bucket and doesn’t even offset these increases in fossil fuel usage.

While I continue to believe that we have developed the technology to afford-ably implement the type of massive change that’s needed to maintain atmospheric balance, it’s quite clear that we lack the social and political willpower to do so.  What a shame.

Read more about coal usage over at Treehugger if you’re interested.

Greenhouse gas emissions hit new record high

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence pointing to the dangers of increased greenhouse gas emissions, our species still managed to hit a record for 2011 with a 3.6% increase at a time when science says we need to be decreasing that instead.  Our record gas emissions have us on track for a 3.5C or higher global temperature rise.  Check out the full report over at Treehugger.

We’re moving the wrong direction and let’s face it, we don’t have a political or social system that will effect the real, tangible change required to avoid high levels of global warming.  This planet will continue to warm and we can expect global climate patterns to change.  Sea levels will rise.  Food production will be impacted (at a time when a grown global population places more demand on that system).  Our children will ask us why we did this to the planet, and we won’t have a good answer…but we cannot deny that we knew what we were doing.

If this is important to you, prove it.  Drive less.  Vote for politicians who do not deny the science behind global warming (there are both Republicans and Democrats who believe in science here).  Buy less ‘stuff’.  Support truly eco-friendly businesses (not ones that are just good at greenwashing).  Better yet, teach your children about the impact our choices have on this planet, and what it means for their own future.

Depressing data on the future of climate change

According to this article in the New York Times, the future does not bode well for our planet.  By 2050, the global economy is expected to be about four times its current size, and fossil fuels will be supplying around 85% of energy at that time.  Not only does that mean increased air pollution (and the health effects caused by that, such as millions of deaths per year due to air pollution), but an increase in global average temperatures of 3-6C, well above the 2C limit internationally agreed upon.  With increasing population will also come increasing demand for water, something that is already in scarce supply in much of the world.  As climate patterns change due to global warming, we can expect those water supplies to be further strained as historical norms make way for the new (look at Texas’ drought as one example).

So, what can we do?  Let’s face it, not much.  In the US, we have a major political party that’s still in denial, so we could start there perhaps.  Realistically though, Bill Gates got it right in this TED talk where he says that what we need is a ZERO CO2 energy economy.  We’re so far away from that, that if we don’t take action and get serious about this soon, it’s going to be a really rough transition to adapt to a dramatically warmer Earth.  It’s a good talk, watch it: