Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

I want to report a mugging

January 1, 2010

To the Editor of The New York Times:

I want to report a mugging. I thought I was enjoying a quiet and safe New Years at home.
Re “It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It” (opinion article, Jan 1).

Mr. Dutton, provided an entertaining and benign exposition on human fascination with Apocalypse and it’s counterproductive nature, speaking of Y2K, religion, UFO cults and “Frankenstein” – noting:

“Such end-time fantasies must have a profound, persistent appeal in order to keep drawing wide-eyed crowds into movie theaters, as historically they have drawn crowds into churches, year after year.”

Mr. Dutton’s theme is clear. And having read 90% of his 1,332 word article, never once encountering climate change, Mr. Dutton decides to pivot, and magically concludes in 77 words:

“This applies, in my view, to the towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions of popular climate catastrophism. Such entertaining visions owe less to scientific climatology than to eschatology, and that familiar sense that modernity and its wasteful comforts are bringing us closer to a biblical day of judgment. As that headline put it for Y2K, predictions of the end of the world are often intertwined with condemnations of human “folly, greed and denial.” Repent and recycle!”

Suddenly I was no longer reading at my dining table but felt as if standing in Times Square, just conned by a Three Card Monte street hustler – and the hopes for the New Year were just sucked out of the room. I sit, mugged by the New York Times.

Yes, I realize Mr. Dutton has written an opinion piece and that he is a “controversial” libertarian figure – although the paper’s one line bio gives no hint. However, The New York Times must realize that this opinion piece does great damage to the public understanding of climate change.

Mr. Dutton does more damage than just executing an “elegent” con on The New York Times and its readership in presenting what amounts to little more than a one sided political screed masquerading as observations of the human pyche. Mr. Dutton presents the BIG LIE.

Perhaps other readers noticed as I, that in his 1,332 words, Mr. Dutton spends not a single one explaining why he thinks climate science is based on eschatology. One might expect such libelous assertions to be presented with some form of basic, sound, scientific underpinning. But no, he provides nothing to support his outrageously wrong-headed assertions about climate science. He instead leaves us to infer that “climate catastrophism” – the mainstream position of business-as-usual climate science – to be somehow deserving of categorization with the likes of Y2K, and End of Days cults and providing an almost sublime rhetorical service to climate change deniers the world over.

I don’t expect The New York Times to be an advocate of climate change energy policy but at a minimum it would be nice to get from the paper a greater understanding of climate science and the catastrophic risks facing me and my family.

Instead, on this 2010 New Years Day morning, the paper is a mule, smuggling counterfeit information into our homes.

The number is ZERO

October 26, 2009

“If you ask a scientist how much more CO2 do you think we should add to the atmosphere, the answer is going to be none.”

– Gavin A. Schmidt, climate scientist quoted by Andy Revkin in Sunday’s NY Times.

Ken Caldeira, the now famously injured party in the SuperFreakonomics fiasco, says:

I believe the correct CO2 emission target is zero….

Every carbon dioxide emission adds to climate damage and increasing risk of catastrophic consequences. There is no safe level of emission.

It is a clarifying moment perhaps. I’d like to think this is a teachable moment brought to us by the irresponsibility of Levitt and Dubner. I’d like to think it is a moment where our artificial greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) take a big step toward becoming a social outcast akin to smoking, and that we may recognize these emissions are an unforgivable liability being passed to our children and grandchildren.

As we know any amount of smoking is bad for our health, a carcinogen – so it is that any amount of GHG emissions are bad for the health of our climate and the civilization as we know it, delivering catastophe.

It is time we all take a closer look at our lives – individually and as a society. How do our daily actions needlessly imperil our planet? How does the extravagance of our travel and entertainment, our business and household activities? How do we take concrete steps, incremental and wide ranging steps to reduce our carbon footprint?

Yes, like it has taken government action to banish smoking from work and public places, so to our government will need to lead in transforming our world economy to one based on clean energy. And as Bill McKibben notes in Revkin’s article, we need to hit a “wartime footing”.

But as I see it, the most important step may be the awakening in so many that no additional GHG emissions are acceptable. NONE ARE ACCEPTABLE. Many are now recognizing the self-destruction in our actions, transforming how we see our lives and how we live. As we must stop smoking to live a healthy life and so too we must stop emitting GHGs.

As our grandparents and parents frugality was bred from Depression and WWII era scarcities, our lives today now demand we be frugal with our GHG emissions.

Our emissions are the single biggest liability we are passing on to our children and grandchildren – a liability unlike mere monetary debt which can be “restructured”. Our emissions liability is one that will be unforgiving and ruthless, utterly destroying the quality of life for generations to come. Our careless emissions today are sealing a hellish fate for our babies.

A new ethic of frugality toward emissions must take hold.

Zero is the number.

Quantum leap in Permafrost destructive power – and feedbacks are intent on unleashing it

August 18, 2009

The vast amount of carbon stored in the arctic and boreal regions of the world is more than double that previously estimated…

Reported in July of this year, by Science Daily – it’s a staggering amount:

“We now estimate the deposits contain over 1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere”, said Dr. Charles Tarnocai, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, and lead author.

So the fact that the permafrost is now permamelt becomes a concern truly second to none. More worrying still is that the melting is not the product of a single amplifying feedback but, at a minimum, a tag team of three feedbacks each reinforcing each other while attacking from different angles: Land, Sea and Air. There is a comprehensive and devastating attack underway on the permafrost that would make General William Tecumseh Sherman proud.

From the Land:

A new article by Tracey Logan in New Scientist reports:

The fire that raged north of Alaska’s Brooks mountain range in 2007 left a 1000-square-kilometre scorched patch of earth – an area larger than the sum of all known fires on Alaska’s North Slope since 1950.

Now scientists studying the ecological impact of the fire report that the blaze dumped 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – about the amount that Barbados puts out in a year. What’s more, at next week’s meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Albuquerque, New Mexico, two teams will warn that as climate change takes hold tundra fires across the Arctic will become more frequent.

The concern is two-fold:
1. It transforms the tundra, traditionally a carbon sink, into an carbon emitter.
2. More importantly it radically increases the ground’s solar absorption.

Pristine tundra takes up about 30 to 70 grams of carbon per square metre during the summer months, whereas the severely burned site lost about 40 to 120 grams per square metre. The team also found that the most severely burned terrain absorbed 71 per cent more solar radiation than normal…

The really big problem: The burnt tundra – a newly minted solar heat collector – is sitting on the permafrost.

“Along with the melting ice in the permafrost, you’re also exposing more old carbon that was stored in that freezer [as organic material] and is being allowed to decompose and reintroduce itself to the atmosphere.”

Helping drive the Tundra fires is the air assault.

From the Air:

The average surface air temperature warming in the arctic has been many times greater than Earth’s average warming. The warming is concentrated where it can likely do the most damage.

The NOAA 2008 report card notes a shockingly number:

Autumn temperatures are at a record 5º C above normal, due to the major loss of sea ice in recent years which allows more solar heating of the ocean. Winter and springtime temperatures remain relatively warm over the entire Arctic, in contrast to the 20th century and consistent with an emerging global warming influence.

As the excerpt states the feedbacks are reinforcing each other. On to the the sea attack.

From the Sea:

Permafrost threatened by rapid melt of Arctic sea ice – reported the American Geophysical Union in 2008.

The team finds that, during episodes of rapid sea-ice loss, the rate of Arctic land warming is 3.5 times greater than the average 21st century warming rates predicted in global climate models. While this warming is largest over the ocean, the simulations suggest that it can penetrate as far as 1500 kilometers (about 900 miles) inland. The simulations also indicate that the warming acceleration during such events is especially pronounced in autumn. The decade during which a rapid sea-ice loss event occurs could see autumn temperatures warm by as much as 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) along the Arctic coasts of Russia, Alaska, and Canada.

What’s to worry about? It’s not like we’ve been losing all that much sea ice – NOT.

The rapidly melting Arctic permafrost is now our biggest existential threat – as it was the Soviet ICBMs raining down from the Arctic circle we so feared growing up. And while we and the Soviets were restrained by self-interest, the hard-charging feedbacks have no such restraints. We must restrain the feedbacks.

The Importance Of Being Pristine – Another IPCC Shortcoming

August 20, 2008

As deforestation accelerates and grows ever more concentrated the consequences on climate change are even greater than previously thought. As reported in New Scientist:

Pristine temperate forest stores three times more carbon than currently estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and 60% more than plantation forests, according to research in Australia.

Yes, the IPCC underestimates yet again. The numbers:

Plugging the data into a computer, the team calculated that trees in areas untouched by logging store on average 640 tonnes of carbon per hectare, compared with an IPCC estimate for temperate forest of 217 tonnes.

The study?

Mackey and colleagues used remote sensing and direct sampling to study eucalyptus trees at 240 sites across a 14.5-million hectare swathe of natural forest in south-east Australia.

The study can be found here.


The global implications are not yet clear. It could be that the carbon-storing ability of other temperate forests, such as those along the Pacific coast of the US, have also been underestimated. Mackey’s team is now investigating this possibility.

One thing is clear: the IPCC desperately needs to update their projections to include data such as this, as well as “slow” feedbacks such as permafrost melt, wetland destruction, actic ice loss and
to name a few. As humanity debates what to do to combat climate change it’s clearer than ever that the climate change beast is still not fully exposed to be the potential cataclysm it is morphing toward.

For the next American administration to make a serious attempt to combat climate change up-to-date consensus climate models will be invaluable. The past year has brought an avalanche of data that is destined to profoundly affect the models.

So while the media remains insistent on hedging what has been with a few exceptions a bad to worse story – Al Gore’s remarks back in January at Davos ring truer than ever: “the climate crisis is significantly worse and unfolding more rapidly than those on the pessimistic side of the IPCC projections had warned us,

As many scientists have anecdotally said: “Things are happening 100 years ahead of schedule”.

Yet, disconcertingly, the IPCC is not scheduled to issue another scenario report until 2013.

Wetland Destruction – Another AGW Puzzle Piece

July 24, 2008

Wetlands, understood to be an essential ecosystem in promoting biodiversity and flood control, is also another key element in slowing climate change – as wetland destruction potentially accelerates global warming.

As reported in Science Daily, leading scientists are now meeting in Brazil at the 8th International Wetlands Conference, discussing actions to better understand, protect and manage this key global resource.

How big a deal are the wetlands?

Covering just 6% of Earth’s land surface, wetlands (including marshes, peat bogs, swamps, river deltas, mangroves, tundra, lagoons and river floodplains) store 10-20% of its terrestrial carbon. Wetlands slow the decay of organic material trapped and locked away over the ages in low oxygen conditions.

So how much carbon are we talking about?

These waterlogged (either seasonally or year-round) areas contain an estimated 771 gigatonnes (771 billion tonnes) of greenhouse gases — both CO2 and more potent methane — an amount in CO2 equivalent comparable to the carbon content of today’s atmosphere.

Put another way:

Drained tropical swamp forests release an estimated 40 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. Drained peat bogs release some 2.5 to 10 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.

That’s significant. Of course it all depends how quickly, particularly the Methane, is released. And like the disappearing forests, disappearing wetlands hold a double whammy for climate change – as another carbon sink becomes a carbon emitter.

The preciousness of wetlands goes beyond carbon capture, of course:

“Wetlands act as sponges and their role as sources, reservoirs and regulators of water is largely underappreciated by many farmers and others who rely on steady water supplies,” says Prof. Junk. “They also cleanse water of organic pollutants, prevent downstream flood inundations, protect riverbanks and seashores from erosion, recycle nutrients and capture sediment.”

Typically high in nutrients, wetlands also offer rich habitats for small organisms which feed fish and other water life, which in turn nourish mammals and birds. Many wetlands feature biodiversity comparable to that of rainforests or coral reefs.

What’s our track record in protecting this invaluable resource you might wonder?

Some 60% of wetlands worldwide — and up to 90% in Europe — have been destroyed in the past 100 years, principally due to drainage for agriculture but also through pollution, dams, canals, groundwater pumping, urban development and peat extraction.

So what to do now?

German expert Wolfgang Junk says…”Lessening the stress on wetlands caused by pollution and other human assaults will improve their resiliency and represents an important climate change adaptation strategy,” he says. “Wetland rehabilitation, meanwhile, represents a viable alternative to artificial flood control and dredging efforts that may be needed to cope with the larger, more frequent floods predicted in a hotter world.”

Prof. Junk, of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Biology, notes that maintenance of wetlands is much cheaper than rehabilitation and that poorer countries will have fewer means to rehabilitate their wetlands to cope with climate change. Wetland-friendly development alternatives must be elaborated in developing countries, therefore, to minimize losses of their many benefits, he says.

Like a deforested northern hemisphere asking the tropics to save their forests, this familiar dynamic is unavoidably playing out with wetlands:

He notes too that while pressure on wetlands in poorer countries has risen dramatically in recent years, they have not suffered nearly as much damage as those in the developed world.

In fact the conference is taking place in Cuiaba on the edge of the Pantanal wetlands: “…spanning 160,000 square km, is confronted by increasing development pressure. Its catchment area straddles Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, while Uruguay and Argentina are downstream.”

A bit of good news here in the U.S., since there’s been so little, should be noted: Not only has the U.S. largely stopped wetland destruction, it is undergoing significant wetland restoration, most notably in the Florida Everglades:

The US will spend $700 million over two decades to revive the Florida Everglades. It will include six artificial wetlands (“storm water treatment areas”), to receive and cleanse excess nutrients from neighbouring farm districts.

And the most threatened?

…those around the Mediterranean, where for two millennia the population has been draining wetlands and floodplains for agriculture — and more recently for urban areas, tourist developments, and to eradicate malarial mosquitoes.

Wetlands destruction is also a slow positive feedback. As we warm, the rising temperatures will destroy further wetlands. So far it is estimated that wetlands damage due to rising temperatures has been minimal, but according to UN University scientists: “…a warming of 3° to 4°C could eliminate 85% of all remaining wetlands in the world.”

Saving and restoring wetlands, like stopping deforestation and promoting reforestation, must be a top-shelf climate change fighting effort.

Rainforest Destruction – Greater and More Concentrated

July 7, 2008

Deforestation is not only unabated, it’s accelerating around the globe. The problem is growing bigger, yet it is also becoming more concentrated.

Just how concentrated has the problem become? Previously Brazil was thought to account for 27% of worldwide deforestation – per the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Now it is understood to be a whopping 48%.

This news comes from a new study in the 7/8/08 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by Matthew Hansen – as reported by Mongabay.

Put another way:

…Brazil accounts for nearly half of global deforestation, nearly four times that of the next highest country, Indonesia, which makes up about an eighth of worldwide forest clearing.

A corollary of sorts being that African deforestation may not be as critical as once thought:

“Africa, although a center of widespread, low-intensity selective logging, contributes only 5.4 percent to the estimated loss of humid tropical forest cover. This result reflects the absence of current agro-industrial scale clearing in humid tropical Africa.”

Interestingly this greater concentration has the benefit of potentially making the problem more manageable.

Matthew Hansen says:

…the geographic concentration of deforestation, coupled with the shift from subsistence-driven to enterprise-deforestation forest clearing, may hold unexpected benefits for conservation: it may be easier for environmental groups to target their campaigns on major forest-destroying corporations and industries.

A sliver of good news to be leveraged for sure.

Previously the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provide the authoritative analysis on deforestation. But its data was largely based on individual countries self-reporting. And the new estimates?

…produced by analysis of a combination of satellite imagery from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Landsat programs. The researchers say the integrated methodology offers a more accurate way to track change in forest cover.

A bit of detail on the newly revealed concentrations:

…55 percent of total tropical humid forest clearing occurs within only 6 percent of the biome area, indicating the existence of deforestation “hotspots,” especially for Brazil and Indonesia where rates of forest loss — 3.6 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively — far exceed regional deforestation rates (1.2 percent for the rest of Latin America, 2.7 percent for the rest of Asia).

Other hotspots revealed:

“Latin American hotspots include northern Guatemala, eastern Bolivia, and eastern Paraguay. As a percentage of year-2000 forest cover, Paraguay features the highest areal proportion of change hotspots, indicating an advanced, nearly complete forest clearing dynamic…”


“…Riau province in Sumatra has the highest indicated change within Indonesia. Hot spots of clearing are present in every state of Malaysia, and clearing in Cambodia along its border with Thailand is among the highest of indicated change hot spots…”

What does the future hold?

“The pattern of deforestation in the humid tropics for the current decade indicates concentrated areas with high rates of deforestation in Latin America and southeast Asia,” study co-author Ruth DeFries, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Geography and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, told “With skyrocketing demand for biofuels and agricultural commodities, we can expect that deforestation in the future will be increasingly driven by large-scale industrial agriculture rather than small-scale landholders.”

Deforestation like coal is top-shelf climate villain. And as new coal power plant construction must be stopped so must we also stop rainforest based industrial agriculture.

Let’s capitalize on the sliver of good news. To find out more about what you can do to help, large and small, visit:

Tropical Rainforests: Bad to Worse

July 1, 2008

Pushed from center stage by the expected record arctic ice and permafrost melt, tropical rain forest destruction has been elbowing it’s way back through the smoke and into view.

Papua New Guinea’s rain forests disappearing faster than thought is one such look:

Previously, the article states, the forest loss was estimated at 139,000 hectares per year between 1990 and 2005. But now?

Using satellite images to reveal changes in forest cover between 1972 and 2002…Papua New Guinea (PNG) lost more than 5 million hectares of forest over the past three decades…Worse, deforestation rates may be accelerating, with the pace of forest clearing reaching 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) per year in 2001. The study warns that at current rates 53 percent of the country’s forests could be lost or seriously degraded by 2021.

That’s an enormous increase.

Adding insult to injury – the good news as reported last Thursday in Malaysia:

PM: No clearing of forests for oil palm plantations

Abdullah, who is also Finance Minister, said the existing oil palm plantations were enough to cater to current demands and there was no need for the opening of new plantations at the moment.

Fast forward THREE DAYS:

Sarawak to open more land for oil palm

Sarawak will continue to open up more land for oil palm plantations, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said here yesterday.
He said this would not go against the prime minister’s directive on the clearing of land for oil palm plantation as it did not apply to the state.

Oh well, so much for Malaysia lending a hand.

As so often it seems with the climate change story, the narrative turns from bad to worse and this chapter is no exception, as we turn toward the Amazon.

It’s tough to complete with the destructive capacity of the permafrost melt, but the Amazon is making up for it in it’s willy-nilly approach to climate destruction. This recent article by Rhett Butler at environment 360 sets the scene:

Historically, the Amazon has proven resilient to climate change, human disturbance by pre-Colombian populations, and even periods of fire and extreme drought during millennial El-Niño-like events. Yet the present onslaught of forces affecting the Amazon is unprecedented. Never before has the region experienced the simultaneous impact of large-scale forest loss and degradation, fragmentation, fires, and global warming. Many scientists and conservationists are deeply worried, not only because of the loss of biodiversity that accompanies destruction of the forest, but also because the cutting and torching of this vast repository of carbon will further heat up a planet already warming at an alarming pace.

What are the numbers?

Brazilian satellite data from late 2007 show a marked increase in the number of fires and deforestation in the key soy and cattle-producing states of Pará and Mato Grosso. Both experienced increases in forest loss of 50 percent or more over the same period in 2006, coupled with a large jump in burning — in the case of Mato Grosso, a spike of more than 100 percent. The 123,000 fires detected across the Brazilian Amazon by the Terra and AQUA satellites are the most since such measurements began in 2003. Deforestation in the last five months of 2007 was expected to exceed 7,000 square kilometers, an area more than twice the size of Rhode Island.

Yes, the drivers of ethanol, soy and cattle are well documented, but as is our habit, we tempt much worse:

As demand for biofuels continues to grow, there is a very real possibility that oil palm could become a dominant crop in the Amazon — an ominous development considering that the planting of oil palm plantations has been the driving force behind the recent destruction of huge areas of rain forest in Indonesia and Malaysia. Scientists estimate that Brazil has 2.3 million square kilometers of forest land suitable for oil palm, equal to the forested areas conducive to soy and sugar production combined.

The bottom line doesn’t get much lower:

Writing in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B earlier this year, Daniel Nepstad and colleagues predicted that 55 percent of Amazon forests will be “cleared, logged, damaged by drought, or burned” in the next 20 years if deforestation, forest fires, and climate trends continue apace. The damage will release 15 to 26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, adding to a feedback cycle that will worsen both warming and forest degradation in the region. Nepstad says this scenario is a conservative one — forest loss and emissions could be far worse.

It’s worth repeating: 15 to 26 billion tons of carbon by 2028 – from the Amazon alone. (That’s the equivalent of 55 to 95 billion tons of CO2.)

Nepstad is saying this is conservative – it could be “far worse”. Will we see the conservative estimate? Or worse? Or far worse realized? (Hint: remember our climate change story – so far, bad to worse.)

But let’s not throw hope under the bus – in the Abstract Dan Nepstad states:

Several important trends could prevent a near-term dieback. As fire-sensitive investments accumulate in the landscape, property holders use less fire and invest more in fire control. Commodity markets are demanding higher environmental performance from farmers and cattle ranchers. Protected areas have been established in the pathway of expanding agricultural frontiers. Finally, emerging carbon market incentives for reductions in deforestation could support these trends.

Putting some numbers to this, Managing Forests for Climate Change Mitigation by Josep Canadell and Michael Raupach in the June 13th issue of Science (sub. req’d) – conveniently referenced in this Mongabay article.

The article summarizes:

Noting that 13 million hectares of forest are felled each year, releasing 1.5 billion tons of carbon, Canadell and Raupach write that reducing deforestation rates by 50 percent by 2050 and stopping deforestation when countries reach 50 percent of their current forested area would avoid emissions equivalent to 50 billion tons of carbon.

Then quoting Canadell and Raupach:

“This ’50:50:50:50′ estimate shows that even with continuing deforestation over the next 40 years, the mitigation potential is large, in addition to protecting the sink capacity of forest for continued removal of atmospheric CO2.”

Yes, the mitigation potential is large but is our inertia larger still?

AGW & Florida

June 30, 2008

I’ll admit I’m a single issue voter this year and my issue is AGW. For if we don’t solve this problem all else is lost.

Yet AGW will NOT be a significant general election issue for most of the country – the economy will rule the day. Florida could be different.

69% of Floridians believe coast threatened by rising sea levels

Unlike the country as a whole (see here) understanding of AGW seems to be growing in Florida. And more incredibly, so is their apparent willingness to actually do something about it.

A survey of 1,077 adults in Florida from May 1, 2008 to May 19, 2008 found that 65 percent of Floridians believe that global warming is already having or will have dangerous impacts on the state within the next 10 years. 55 percent say they believe global warming is caused mainly by human activities, while 80 percent believe climate change will cause worse storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Can I hear a WOW?

The survey found more than sixty percent of Floridians support state policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if these policies have personal economic ramifications, including requiring state utilities to generate at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, introducing subsidies for energy efficiency, and supporting the installation of solar panels on state-owned buildings “even if the electricity generated is significantly more expensive than what state government normally pays for its electricity”.

The zeitgeist is forming before our eyes – sitting there for Obama or McCain to seize.

The question is: Who will seize it?

Global Warming 101 – a short reading list for everyone

June 5, 2008

Confused by the media’s coverage of man-made global warming? (a.k.a. anthropogenic global warming or AGW.)

Are we warming or are we cooling? Is climate change simply a result of natural variability or is it really man-made? Is the science to be trusted?

Scientific advances have made global warming well understood. Global warming is the existential threat of our time – greater I say, than even the threat of nuclear holocaust. We have only a few years to understand the enormity of the crisis and successfully act, so that our children might avoid the worst effects in the following decades. Yet doubts linger for many and are even growing in some.

Therefore ignorance of the subject should not be excused. This post attempts to provide a short list of resources that clearly and succinctly explain global warming.

Please read what you can. Pass a link to this post on to those you suspect have questions or doubts about it – express your concerns and ask them to read too.


The Basic Scientific Understanding:

Basic Fossil Fuel Facts – an indispensable condensed explanation, at the end of a letter addressed to Governor Gibbons of Nevada by Jim Hansen. (It starts on page 5, but the letter is very good too.)

Climate Code Red: The case for a sustainability emergency – a great summary of the science up to the start of this year, giving the crisis the urgency it deserves.

Understanding and Attributing Climate Change – IPCC makes the case. (See also Dire Predictions in Books below.)

Detecting and Attributing External Influences on the Climate System: A Review of Recent Advances – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Assessing key vulnerabilities and the risk from climate change – the IPCC’s take on what’s at stake.

The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity, Executive Summary – U.S. Dept of Agriculture

Global Warming Fact & Our Future – National Academy of Sciences covers almost every angle in a great interactive website.

Special Report: Climate Change – covers the crisis from many angles.

The Science Behind the Science and Why it can be trusted:

Scientists Explain How They Attribute Climate-Change Data – A Wall Street Journal article shows why the science can be trusted.

Models ‘key to climate forecasts’ – BBC’s examination of our most powerful tool in understanding global warming.

Addressing Doubt:

Climate change: A guide for the perplexed – a great “round-up of the most common climate myths and misconceptions”.

Skeptical Science: Examining the science of global warming skepticism

How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic – and stop them in their tracks.

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic
– Grist’s rundown is great help too.

The Denial Industry – George Monbiot’s eye opening account of the origin of the concerted network opposing legitimate climate science. Think Big Tobacco.


Best Global Warming Blogs:

Climate Progress
Real Climate

Related Websites:

Climatic Research Unit
Hadley Center for Climate Prediction
Jim Hansen
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Snow and Ice Data Center
Climate Ark
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change by Fred Pearce – The best A to Z treatment I’ve read.
Dire Predictions – Understanding Global Warming by Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump – The best explanation of the IPCC findings anywhere.
Hell and High Water: Global Warming–the Solution and the Politics–and What We Should Do by Joseph Romm
The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer R. Weart
Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Surprising Truth About Global Warming by Mark Bowen
Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning by George Monbiot, Matthew Prescott
The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge by Kristin Dow, Thomas E. Downing
The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity by James Lovelock, Crispin Tickell

And Now Action:
Okay, enough reading! Armed with the facts, go out and fight for our children’s future – change our personal, political and public lives. A comprehensive place to start is right here, at my blog: Checklist Toward Zero Carbon. Download it, edit it, make it your own, and pass it on.

A Vicious Cycle

May 16, 2008

While climate change news largely directs our attention to the melting poles, the most immediate and devastating effects will be felt from the melting glaciers. From Bhutan to Peru, global warming is exacting a great toll now and will soon be getting much much worse. The article Melting Andean Glaciers Could Leave 30 Million High and Dry describes a sobering narrative with a killer ending:

Loss of glaciers in the Andes mountain range is threatening the water supply of 30 million people, and scientists say the lower altitude glaciers could disappear in 10 years.

What’s happening to those most closely tied to the glaciers?

His community can no longer can seed indigenous potatoes in fields located at lower levels, because sufficient water does not flow there any longer. “We must seed them to greater height. But every year that happens, also we have less earth in mountains, Felipe says. “In few years more, no longer we will have no place to seed these potatoes.”

Maybe they should move to the cities? But wait:

Large cities in the region depend on glacial runoffs for their water supply. Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, draws 50 percent of its water supply from the glacial basin, and Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, draws 30 percent of its water supply.

So you’re away from home and thirsty but at least you have cheap clean power, right? Don’t hold your breath.

Power supplies also will be affected as most countries in the Andes are dependent on hydroelectric power generation. Peru gets 81 percent of its electricity from hydropower, Colombia generates 73 percent from hydropower, Ecuador is 72 percent hydro-dependent, and Bolivia, 50 percent.

No water, no home, no power: there must be a way to adapt you say?

In any case, Peru will have to invest in additional power capacity, most likely based on burning fossil fuels, at a cost of about US$1 billion per gig watt installed, resulting in higher cost to end-users and another cycle of increased carbon emissions.

The World Bank and Global Environment Facility are supporting the development of adaptation plans prepared with the assistance of a multidisciplinary group that includes expertise in glaciology, remote sensing, agriculture, water and power supply, and rural development.

Adaptation as survival in pursuit of complete self destruction.