Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Climate Change Mess: Here's what happened . . .

How did we get into this mess? To quote the eminent detective, Adrian Monk: “Here’s what happened”:

Beginning in the early 80's, climate scientists noticed a very disturbing looking trend, in which atmospheric temperatures began to climb in tandem with atmospheric carbon associated with fossil fuel emissions that had already been steadily rising for some time. After a few years of this, it began to look very much like some sort of tipping point had been reached, in which the atmosphere was responding rather dramatically to the increased carbon levels. The correlation between the two seemed so clear, so dramatic and so dangerous that scientists became convinced not only that fossil fuels were causing the rapid increase in atmospheric warmth, but that the increase was so dangerous as to destabilize the planetary weather system generally.

As the end of the century approached, the correlation seemed so obvious, and the dangers so clear and so extreme, that anyone could be forgiven for simply assuming the “global warming” effect had to be produced by these anthropogenically induced CO2 emissions. Most climate scientists became convinced during that time, and they managed to convince a great many others, including many very powerful people in politics and the media. And since the remedy, drastic cutbacks in fossil fuel emissions, was so extreme, many of these people went way out on a limb with their concerns, precipitating a veritable firestorm of anxiety — since nothing less than sheer hysteria could be powerful enough to produce the necessary changes. In view of the picture as it presented itself at the time, an extreme response did seem both reasonable and responsible.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Are We Headed for Disaster?

While climate change has always been an important factor in the saga of life on Earth, over the last several years the phrase has become a slogan for a worldwide movement looking more and more like a classic doomsday cult. In the words of climatologist James Hansen, 
CO2 emissions must be reduced rapidly or young people in coming decades will face unacceptable consequences: continually retreating shorelines, shifting climate zones with extermination of many species, increasing occurrence of climate extremes with widespread disruption to food and water supplies, more severe droughts and heat waves, more damaging forest fires, stronger storms, and greater flooding. (from Iowa Roots: James Hansen Speaks Truth to Power.) 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

California Drought Not Caused by Climate Change

This just in, from the LiveScience website: California Drought Linked to Natural Causes, Not Climate Change. Some excerpts:
Natural temperature swings in the ocean, not global warming, are driving California's extreme drought, according to a new government study. . . 
The report, Causes and Predictability of the 2011-14 California Drought, was released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and has not [yet] been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The study compares drought observations with 160 climate model simulations to tease out the most important factors controlling the drought. The researchers plan to submit the work to the Journal of Climate, Seager [the lead author] said.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Politics of Climate Change

Time to return to one of the principal themes of this blog: politics. And yes, climate change is heavily imbued with politics. If you're on the "left," you're for it; if you're on the "right," you're agin' it. How convenient. You don't even have to think about it, just ask yourself if you care about whether or not polar bears will be able to continue eating baby seals alive in the same abundant numbers as in the past. If you care, then "climate change is real." If not, then "climate change is a hoax perpetrated by greedy climate scientists eager for government handouts."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ecology -- the Human Factor

Big headlines today from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change): U.N. Panel Warns of Dire Effects From Lack of Action Over Global Warming

As reported in the NY Times:
Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year. . . 
“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, and in global mean sea-level rise; and it is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report declared.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fossil Fuels and Common Sense

Contrary to what some readers might think, I'm not here to defend or promote fossil fuels, or the industry that produces them. While I don't see any reason to take the sorts of drastic actions currently being proposed by so many (cf. previous post), I do see reason to be concerned. CO2 from fossil fuels promotes oceanic acidification, which is certainly harmful and getting worse. Moreover, fossil fuels and the plants that use them emit pollutants other than CO2 that can be extremely dangerous. This is especially true of the sort of unregulated, outdated coal burning power plants now proliferating in India and China.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pipe Dreams -- Part 3:The Al Gore Factor

Yes, "wild ideas being promoted by very wealthy and/or powerful people with vivid imaginations . . ." can take on a life of their own due to the outsized influence someone with enormous wealth and power can wield. No matter how unlikely the concept, no matter how absurd the reasoning, big money has a way of convincing HEPWSKB (highly educated people who should know better) who might otherwise look askance. I'm not talking bribery. I'm not talking corruption. I'm not talking cynicism. I'm talking psychology, mindset, seduction, the willing suspension of disbelief.

And yes, Al Gore comes to mind. He's no billionaire, admittedly. But his wealth was recently estimated at around $250,000,000. Wealthy enough. As a former vice-president and leading presidential contender (who came very close to winning, if you will recall), he is certainly in a position of political power as well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pipe Dreams - Part 2

(. . . continued from previous post.)

Yes, that's what I said: "wild ideas being promoted by very wealthy and/or powerful people with vivid imaginations . . ." You might want to express some skepticism regarding the Mars colonization project, because, after all, the director of NASA is neither a billionaire nor a particularly powerful Washington insider. Think again. The real driver behind this project is not anyone at NASA, though the govt. agency has certainly bought into it big time, but one Elon Musk, yet another very powerful and influential billionaire, the father of Pay Pal and the luxurious, pricey all-electric Tesla, "the automobile of the future." His latest venture is an ambitious company called SpaceX, and his pipe dream is, you guessed it, the colonization of Mars. Here's the inside story, from the Quartz website:  What it took for Elon Musk’s SpaceX to disrupt Boeing, leapfrog NASA, and become a serious space company. Some excerpts:

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