climate change

April 14, 2008

Bush ready to pass global warming legislation?

Bush_earth The Washington Times shockingly reports this morning that President Bush decided to to announce early this week that he wants Congress to pass legislation to combat global warming.

Key members of the Republican Party seem confused on the sudden shift in direction, and no one is certain what Bush will say. Many theorize that the recent states-driven lawsuit vs. the EPA to require regulation of greenhouse gases is forcing action the issue. Bush may fear a regulatory nightmare as we move towards carbon regulation, and likely wants to get ahead of the game in protecting businesses from overhead.

All current presidential candidates favor a cap-and-trade program, similar to the one currently running in the E.U. It is unclear whether President Bush intends to go that far.

It will certainly be an interesting week...

Link [Washington Times]

Al Gore's new Slideshow

Al Gore has a new slideshow, focused on how climate change is worse than we expected, more of an emphasis on the oil situation, and a challenge to think "generationally" by becoming super-active citizens and getting laws changed. Check it out above.


April 11, 2008

New study states no link between cosmic rays and climate change

Sun_activity I believe climate change is happening. When you look at the glacial and Arctic melts and the global temperature trend, it's pretty hard to argue with climate change as fact.

I do try, however, to keep an open mind as to its cause. I'm 90% convinced that greenhouse gases are the culprit, but I attempt reserve some openness as to other influences. After all, we can barely predict the weather two days out, so climate change modeling seems to be a bit beyond our capabilities.

So when I read an article last summer in Discover Magazine about cosmic rays being a contributor to the warming trend, I paid close attention. Henrik Svensmark's hypothesis is that sun cycles impact cloud formation, and cloud formation has a pretty significant impact on the temperature. If the sun is generating more cosmic rays than usual, less clouds may form, and the planet may get cooler.

Even recent geologic findings have corroborated the significance of clouds influencing temperature, demonstrating that when clouds are absent, the world has entered periods of "super-greenhouse" in the Cetaceous and Eocene periods.

Scientists can definitively demonstrate that as the world has heated up, there have been less clouds, but aren't sure whether it is cause or effect. Could it be sun activity, or is it just the greenhouse effect acting as predicted?

A new study released from Durham University and the University of Lancaster may have the answer. Using cloud coverage data from satellites, they attempted to do a basic correlation with sun activity data (sun spot indices and muon particle observations) over the last 20 years. They did not find much to back up Mr. Svensmark's hypothesis.

According to the study, current data claiming a connection between cosmic rays and clouds completely avoids high-altitude clouds. This is opposite of what you would expect, since cosmic rays would probably be intercepted higher in the atmosphere, causing more high-altitude clouds, not producing lots of low-level cloud cover.

Given the way Earth's magnetic field works, cosmic rays are particularly channeled towards our poles, which is why you see amazing Northern and Southern lights there as the particles dance through the atmosphere. In theory, the poles are more susceptible to cosmic ray increases and thus would receive the biggest delta in cloud activity. Nope. In fact, the scientists found the opposite.

" corroboration of the claim of a causal connection between the changes in ionization and low cloud cover...could be found in this investigation...We find that, averaged over the whole Earth, less than 23% of the dip comes from solar modulation of the cosmic ray intensity, at the 95% confidence level. This implies that, if the dip represents a real correlation, more than 77% of it is caused by a source other than ionization."

Translating the science speak, the data indicates there is no evidence for strong correlation, but does not completely rule out small influences. Overall, 77% of cloud activity seems to be controlled by something other than cosmic rays.

"There is no connection between global warming and cosmic rays. That's because there's no trend in cosmic rays. It's completely bogus," remarked Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt, a NASA researcher and contributor.

I continue to keep an open mind, but my personal skepticism about cosmic ray theory has reached new heights.

April 02, 2008

What does E.P.A. stand for? A fable.

Epa_logo_2Once upon a time in a far away land (or rather, July 1970 in Washington DC) the people and their leaders looked around and started to get worried about the mess they were making of the land, and the resulting human health consequences.

In response, they founded an organization whose mission would be to protect human health, to protect the environment, and repair damage that had already been done to the natural world. They called themselves the EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency. It was a big task, but they felt up to it.

In the first two decades of their existence, they started off strong, passing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts to protect the things we breath and drink. They established something called Superfunds to clean up hazardous waste sites and areas where there had been extensive environmental damage.

And then came the biggest environmental threat of all. Scientists worldwide realized that greenhouse gases were raising the temperature of the Earth, and the consequences could be severe. The people of the nation looked to this agency and said "What do we do?".

The Environmental Protection Agency responded: "Don't do anything yet. The science is still unclear".

This appeased the people for a while, until the science became more clear. The people went to the inEpt Pessimistic Association and said "Okay, NOW what do we do?" The inEpt Pessimistic Association said "Nothing yet, there still isn't scientific consensus".

Over time, the people became more and more concerned with this. They said, "Maybe there isn't consensus, but if the majority of scientists are right, we face extensive loss of life around the world. Maybe we should consider taking some action?" The Excruciatingly Prideful Airheads said "No, no. Not yet."

The people became so alarmed that they stopped looking to the EPA and started taking their own action, but the Extremely Pessimistic Agency made it difficult for them to proceed. So many of the people sued the EPA in the highest court of the land.

The highest court agreed with the people. Something needed to be done. So they ordered the EPA to comply with the people's wishes and regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Months went by and the Execrable Pointless A-holes did nothing.

The people were shocked that they would not comply with the highest court of the land, especially since this agency was designed to serve the people. Hands tied, they did the only thing they could do, which was to join with even more people and sue the EPA again.

The end of this story isn't written yet, and I'm fresh out of acronym insults (thank heavens!). But it may be worthwhile contacting the EPA to tell them what you think about their history of inaction around the threat climate change.

Even if they manage to shift their policies, they have an uphill battle to fight against the Department of Energy and private industry. But without introducing federal policy in the battle against climate change, it will continue to be difficult, if not impossible, for this nation to change its ways.

April 01, 2008

The American West is heating up nearly twice as fast as the world


A recent report by the NRDC indicates that the American West has experienced average temperature increases at a rate of 70% greater than the rest of the world. This is resulting in loss of snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, which leads to pervasive drought and water shortage.

Glaciers are melting faster than forecasted as well. Glacier National Park was projected to be glacier-free by 2030, but now it appears 2022 will be the year. In the Washington Cascades, the 37 glaciers tracked there have lost 20-40% of their mass in the last 20 years, with five glaciers having disappeared entirely.

You can read the full report at

March 26, 2008

Shock and Awe: Watching the Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse

You've likely heard the news by now that a chunk of ice the size of Connecticut dramatically and unexpectedly broke from Antarctica yesterday. 

I don't want to spend too much time on the details of the news: there are many good news reports out there outlining the details of what occurred. But I do want to convey the horror I felt when I learned about this.

Between the Arctic Ice melt, the glacial retreat, and the beginnings of Antarctica's collapse, I'm not certain what additional evidence is required to see that climate change is occurring.

While the melts we see to date of Arctic and Antarctic ice don't change the sea level significantly, the looming threat of major ocean currents shifting and of the greater Antarctic Ice Shelf (the one on *land*) collapsing are out there. These proverbial canaries in the coal mine should serve to help us take the threats seriously and do something about it.

I'll leave you with a series of pics of the ice in question. Hopefully they'll inspire as much awe in you as they have in me.

Click pic to enlarge

Ice1 Ice2_2  

Ice3 Ice4


Click here to see an animation of the collapse

March 24, 2008

Interesting climate change rationalization

I thought I'd share a video that pretty much sums up my views on why even though I still have doubt about the validity of climate change theory, I am still taking action on reducing my footprint.

Warning: the guy in this video is extraordinarily geeky and cheesy, and sometimes a bit painful to watch. But his argument is extremely well-reasoned. It's an interesting journey in the risk management of climate change science.

March 19, 2008

Arctic and Glacial Ice melting like Igloos in the Sahara

It's always a little bit difficult to tell whether odd weather can be attributed to climate change, or just nature being weird. Ice, however, has been a consistent canary in the proverbial coal mine for climate change scientists.

Two major ice benchmarks, arctic ice, and glacial ice, have been showing continued signs of massive deterioration.


The BBC reports that recently released data from NASA indicates that even though the overall surface area of ice covered in the Arctic is thicker this year than in years past, the volume of ice in the Arctic continues to melt away at alarming rates. The overall ice crust is thinning dramatically as years-old ice deep below the surface liquefies.

What annoys me is that not all of the media sources are reporting the data accurately. Some are reporting the surface area of ice as an "increase" in Arctic ice, contrary to the facts presently. The truth is, despite the media spin, there is less ice in the Arctic. Much less.

This summer should see another Arctic thaw similar to last year making for another ship-navigable Arctic. Don't be fooled though, this news is not good. It's likely that melting Arctic ice will severely impact the ocean's currents, leading to massive weather pattern shifts all over the globe.

Scientists project at current rates that the Arctic will be ice free by 2040.


Glaciers are receding rapidly as well. The graph above is data released from the Glacial Monitoring Service which takes samples from 80 glaciers all over the world. The number decreasing is the average of the size of the glaciers, taken at similar times during the year every year.

Climate change isn't waiting for us to clean up our acts. It's steamrolling ahead. Consider whether there's a project you can implement this month to help reduce your carbon footprint.

February 29, 2008

801 U.S. mayors pledge to fight climate change


801 mayors of cities across the United States have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ (USCM) Climate Protection Agreement.

The Agreement came to pass in 2005 when the United States failed to sign the Kyoto Treaty. Several cities, citing the importance of actively fighting climate change, decided to agree to the Kyoto guidelines independent of federal adoption.

Since then, adoption of the agreement has been staggering. Still, the USCM represents all cities in the US with populations over 30,000. There are 1,139 such cities in the US today, so some hold-outs remain. Notable cities who haven't signed include Houston, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Under the agreement, the mayors commit to taking the following actions:

  • "Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns;
  • Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol -- 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system."

View a map of committed cities, or learn more about the agreement at

February 27, 2008

Genetic Engineering becoming pivotal weapon in war on emissions

Corn_dnaTwo recent breakthroughs in agricultural genetics demonstrate how genetic engineering is becoming an increasingly important tool in the struggle to reduce emissions.

In California, Arcadia Biosciences announces a new genetically-modified form of rice. The rice thrives on soil imbued with only half of the typical dose of greenhouse-guilty nitrogen fertilizer. As such, less needs to be used, resulting in nearly one ton of CO2 saved per acre.

Farmers living in areas with emissions cap-and-trade systems would be incented to use this rice to reduce their footprint and make money selling their certificates, now selling for $22/ton in European markets.

Across the country in St. Louis, researchers at Washington University announced that they have finished decoding the corn genome. The work was unveiled yesterday in the hopes that scientific researchers will be able to create super-corn that is either more nutritious, or more efficient for ethanol production.



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