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Showing posts from August, 2014

Diary of the Last Age, food

I've already discussed seafood.  But there are already effects of global warming on agriculture and husbandry.  Extreme weather events are having an impact on prices of meat and grain.  Droughts affecting wheat and corn are going to affect meat as well since cattle and sheep are fed grain.  Food is going to become more expensive, more scarce, and then on top of that the world's population is approaching 8 billion by 2025.  This is happening to some degree right now, but extremely exacerbated in coming years.  Mass starvation is certain to occur.  Everyone reading this now will be affected.

Perhaps the countries of the world will get it together and impose a carbon tax, the only real solution to global warming.  If that happens, the importation of food will become close to prohibitive.  No more fresh fruit and vegetables year around.  Everything in the grocery store will become seasonal, and local.  People will relearn canning and storage for the winters.  It'll be like th…

Global Warming Hiatus

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The underlying global warming trend is being driven by the CO2 we're pouring into the atmosphere.  Most of the CO2 is being absorbed by the oceans acidifying them and thereby endangering carbonate sea life (oysters, clams, shrimp, krill).  What remains in the atmosphere is warming us and it has been steadily increasing:




There's an important distinction to be made between the underlying secular trend and the variation around that trend.  The observed time series of the atmospheric global temperature has slowed over the last 15 years, providing fodder for global warming deniers.  But the observed time series is not the underlying secular trend.  Other independent factors, such as ENSO which operates on top of the secular trend, both positively and negatively, must be taken into account.

Recently a paper by Chen and Tung, climate scientists, has been published in Science offering an additional explanation for the slowing in the observed data, also described here and here.  A lar…

Dystopias, Hunger games and Falling Skies

Our planet is in very great danger of a serious dystopia, one which I've tried to describe.  The popular Hunger Games is another version of a global warming dystopia.  The movie version, however, downplays the global warming aspect.  The description in Hunger Games is quite different from mine, almost the reverse. What I see, somewhat similarly, are barricaded cities surrounded by camps of environmental refugees.  The difference is that what remains of civilized life is found in the cities, not the countryside. The cities will maintain a monopoly over the important resources, food, water, and health care.  The refugees will have to scrounge for food, negotiate for water, but may be left out of the modern health care available to the cities. They will be living in near medieval conditions, no vaccinations, no advanced hospital services.

So I see a harsh life for the refugees.  But unlike Hunger games, life in the cities won't be grand either.  Over time the social order mainta…

Global Warming Denialism - life decisions

To survive every person must be able to make responsible life decisions.  Many aren't and find themselves in very bad situations.  I remember in 1978 reading articles in Science Magazine about a strange cancer, Kaposi's Sarcoma, being contracted by men who were gay.  I could see immediately that for gay men their life decisions needed to take this into account, that it was something far worse than other sexually transmitted diseases.  It was just a glimmer of evidence.  It was another four years before it was found that a retrovirus, HIV, was severely compromising their immune systems, enough for them to develop a serious and very rare cancer.

The problem for many critical life decisions, the science is slow.   Responsible life decisions are based on science, in evidence and observation, but sometimes critical life decisions have to move ahead of the science. Gay men had no alternative but to realize their lives were at stake years before science made that clear.

Even so for …

Global Warming Denialism, part 2

A Harvard historian documents the denialism.  She makes, I think, some very important points.
Q: But what is it that you think drives the denial industry? How much of it is just pure self-interest? Is it fear of socialism - a kind of post-Cold War paranoia that you identified in Merchants of Doubt? Or is it ideological fervour like the kind you've witnessed amongst American Tea Baggers?I think it’s a complicated mix. Certainly, there are some very cynical individuals and groups who are protecting their own self-interest, with little or no regard to the consequences for others.
There are also those who have bought into the watermelon argument—that environmentalists are green on the outside, red on the inside—and that climate change is just an excuse to bring in socialism by another name.
Then there are also many people who I think believe, or have persuaded themselves, that climate change is just another fad, exaggerated by scientists who just want more money for their research, or…

Global Warming Denialism, part 1

For some time I've been wondering about people who believe global warming is either not happening or believe we don't have to do anything about it because we'll be able to handle it.  It all comes down to how each person seeks out and handles evidence.  There are interesting parallels with the evolution of life on our planet.  The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, as solid as about anything science has tackled, but there continue to be many people who deny it, a majority of the Americans, in fact.

I believe one very strong reason is that people are unwilling to follow the intellectual path to their final conclusions.  If one is well read enough in the evidence for evolution, one must reject religion entirely.  Only atheism or deism remains.  There are many people unable to accept that conclusion and thus reject it in some way.

It is the same with global warming.  If one reads enough about the evidence, the only conclusion, if nothing is done at once, is that civili…

Diary of the Last Age -- Sea Life

I live in the Pacific Northwest and I love raw oysters.  The Puget Sound (now called the Salish Sea) is home to more varieties of oysters than anywhere on the planet.  But that precious advantage is now in danger, the oysters are dying.  They are dying from the acidification of the Sound.  The fact is that most of the carbon dioxide our civilization is pumping into the atmosphere is ending up in the oceans.  And that has consequences, serious ones, for carbonate sea life, like oysters, clams, shrimp, and most significant, krill.  Krill is the main source of food for whales and other large mammalian sea species.  When the krill is gone, they'll be gone. And unless we stop pouring CO2 into the atmosphere and thus the ocean, the krill will be gone.  And oysters, and clams too.  
The important issue is that the increase of CO2 is accelerating.  There have been times with more CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, but when their introduction is slow, it can be accommodated.  However, when …

Diary of the Last Age -- Wildfires

I remember as a young man reading about forest fires in the Northwest consuming whole forests at the turn of the last century, hundreds of thousands of acres, jumping mighty rivers and lakes.  Forest fires are a natural part of the forest life and the West has experienced many truly large ones.  It is this history that makes some people skeptical about whether the wildfires the West is currently experiencing is any indication of global warming.  There is one piece of evidence, though, that might support a global warming explanation,

Dennis Mathisen, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the LA Times that “we’re seeing fire behavior we wouldn’t normally see until September.” That is it, wildfires happening in July.  There is something accelerating the process and global warming is the likely explanation.

NY Times Upshot says it all

Upshot says it all in the NY Times today, August 2nd, shattering global warming denier's myths.

The conclusion:
In 2009, the respected M.I.T. global climate simulation model estimated that if we do nothing to curb greenhouse emissions, there’s a 10 percent chance that temperatures will rise by more than 12 degrees Fahrenheit by century’s end, causing wholesale destruction of life as we know it.
There’s still time to eliminate this catastrophic risk at surprisingly modest cost. If we fail to act, future historians may wonder from behind high sea walls why we allowed the more effective responses we could have pursued to be blocked by an easily debunked collection of myths.
In fact, a carbon tax would not destroy jobs, nor would reducing CO2 emissions be prohibitively costly. However, a lot of coal and oil would have to be left in the ground, and that would be costly to oil and coal producers.  So it comes down to this, the wealth of a few men versus our civilization.  So the next qu…

Militarization of the U.S. Border

Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, is deploying his National Guard to the Texas border.  Apparently his plan is to force the children crossing the border into interment camps.  This but a taste of what will be happening as environmental refugees begin their march away from land made uninhabitable by global warming.  In the not too distant future people will be swarming north to escape the drought and heat and towards the relatively livable parts of North America, the Pacific Northwest and Northeastern U.S.  What will happen at our borders then?  Rick Perry is giving us a hint of what it will be like.  At first the National Guard will be joined by more National Guard, and then U.S. soldiers.  The migration will be slow at first and the military up to the task.  But soon it will turn into a flood of people, people who have nothing but starvation and death behind them.  At first, our military will slow the deluge, but that will just produce a line of starvation south of our border.  Then the…