Another blast of cold arctic air is hitting us tonight. My thermometer read -5.3F just now (9:30pm). I heard on my car radio this afternoon that the rapid warming of the arctic is having an effect on the Gulf Stream causing it to change its usual warming pattern. This behavior is of course very complicated as I found out when I spent a little time researching online. But clearly big changes are beginning to occur in the ocean currents. So, will spring ever come? Certainly this year, one hopes, but are there mightier changes in store for us in the not too distant future?
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This has been the coldest winter I’ve experienced in a very long time. In fact I can’t remember a colder one. There may have been such winters and I just don’t remember them. The 1930’s? Could be. It’s useless to speculate. In any case it’s been colder than Hell here in Denmark, Maine. Also, a lot of snow! There was a year during the 2000’s where we got even more snow I think. I’ve got some photos. But this year takes the cake for cold combined with great amounts of snow.
Is this evidence against global warming? Far from it. In fact it’s evidence for global warming because this term really implies extremes in weather. For example in California they’re having drought like conditions in winter, very little or no snow or rain. And didn’t I just hear yesterday that this January was the warmest on record averaged over the entire globe? So there you have it climate deniers.
Juan Cole always sets me up with cheery news when I read him first thing in the morning. This time it’s about a United Nations Environment Programme study of brown clouds in the atmosphere. These light diminishing clouds stretch from Shanghai to Dubai with various “hot spots” in between. Take a look at the report. It’s pretty impressive. Lots of color maps and data!
So what are the conclusions? Here’s the summary of the findings:
The build-up of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the resulting global warming pose major environmental threats to Asia’s water and food security. Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons and ozone in the lower atmosphere (below about 15 km) are the major gases that are contributing to the increase in the greenhouse effect.
In a similar fashion, increasing amount of soot, sulphates and other aerosol components in atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs) are causing major threats to the water and food security of Asia and have resulted in surface dimming, atmospheric solar heating and soot deposition in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan-Tibetan (HKHT) glaciers and snow packs. These have given rise to major areas of concern, some of the most critical being observed decreases in the Indian summer monsoon rainfall, a north-south shift in rainfall patterns in eastern China, the accelerated retreat of the HKHT glaciers and decrease in snow packs, and the increase in surface ozone. All these have led to negative effects on water resources and crop yields. The emergence of the ABC problem is expected to further aggravate the recent dramatic escalation of food prices and the consequent challenge for survival among the world’s most vulnerable populations. Lastly, the human fatalities from indoor and outdoor exposures to ABC-relevant pollutants have also become a source of grave concern.
So, the ABCs of the ABC problem are extremely serious according to this report. I’m not knowledgeable enough, naturally, to critique it, but even if it’s half true it’s very worrisome. Thanks, Juan. More morning food for thought.
Discovered him again. I’ve always known about the man, the master theoretical physicist calculator who worked with Hans Bethe, an even more profound mathematical theorist of modern physics. But last night when I couldn’t sleep — yet again — I decided to read Dyson’s article in The New York Review of Books on Questions About Global Warming. Aileni had already certainly cautioned me about accepting Al Gore’s views on Global Warming, so I thought I’d tackle this article before hitting the others Aileni links to in Nexus, especially since I’ve been so in awe of Dyson over the years.
In this NYRB article Dyson reviews two books on global warming and provides his own prologue to the piece. In this prologue he shows that there is a rapid (twelve years) exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and vegetation which is very important for the long range future of global warming. Neither of the two books he reviews mentions it, he says. But he devotes considerable space to the book by Nordhaus who concludes that a “low-cost backstop” might provide the best climate policy. However, Nordhaus is reluctant to discuss this in any detail, partly because, as an economist and not a scientist, he does not wish to question the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which considers the science of climate change to be settled.
Dyson shows that the “low-cost backstop” option of Nordhaus has considerable potential in view of the evidence for rapid exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and plants. He considers it likely that genetically engineered carbon-eating trees could be developed within twenty years. These carbon-eating trees would convert the carbon from the atmosphere into root systems which are then buried underground so that the carbon is not returned to the atmosphere. Here is a great potential solution to the problem of reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
He spends less time on the book by Zedillo which covers a wider range of topics than the Nordhaus book. This book provides the minority opinions of Richard Lindzner of MIT who answers the question of whether the alarm of global warming is founded on fact with a resounding no. The majority opinions, most dogmatically presented by Howard Dalton of Great Britain, state that urgent action is needed now across the world to avert a major threat to the environment and human society. Dyson clearly questions this view.
After reading the NYRB article, I found an even more fascinating article by Dyson on the subject of climate change in which he goes deeper into his views on the subject. It reads very well and I strongly recommend it to any interested parties.
Finally, I was fortunate this morning to find a wonderful interview with Freeman Dyson by Robert Wright. It’s interesting what he says about religion. To him, religion is a way of life and not a matter of belief. He claims he is a Christian without the theology. What is left of Christianity when you take the theology away?, he is asked. Well almost the whole thing, he says, it’s a community of people in a church who are taking care of each other, and also there’s a great deal of beautiful language and there’s a great deal of music; it’s an art form much more than a philosophy. (Sounds a lot like humanistic UUism!) But he does believe there is some instinct of a mind at work in the universe. Not only that, but quantum physics shows that matter at the micro level is clearly not anything we can have experience of. The mathematical theory works just fine, but the reality of it is quite literally out of our world. He has much to say about the macro level as well. His bottom line is that the universe is filled with enormous mysteries of which we know very little indeed. One such mystery is the almost daily bursts of extremely intense gamma rays from completely unknown origins. But there are countless others. The universe is unimaginably amazing and mysterious.
Tags: al gore, backstop, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, climate policy, dyson, Global Warming, hans bethe, intergovernmental panel on climate change, modern physics, new york review of books, nordhaus, potential solution, prologue, rapid exchange, root systems, theoretical physicist, theorist, zedillo
We had a great Mem Day service in church today. That’s our UU church in Norway, Maine, pretty small as churches go, but we’ve picked up great enthusiasm in the last few weeks. Not sure why. But there you are. But getting back to the service today: Richard (that’s our minister) was in great form and had some wonderful thoughts. The thing about him is that he’s a regular person, not at all remote as some ministers, with their egos, tend to be. I get along with him great. He’s got a self-effacing sense of humor, just like me. But getting back to his thoughts, he emphasized memories, memorials, throughout the service. We were all asked to speak out and mention names of loved ones who have passed away. Many people spoke out. We must have had a good 25, maybe 30 people in attendance today. Our music went well too. Heather, our music director, led us in an enchanting and mesmerizing anthem about the Goddess, our returning, etc. Right now as I write this I can’t remember the details. So much happened today, I just can’t reproduce specifics. But we did pick up a new church member today, a very nice person named Trudi, didn’t get her last name. Our Growth Group met after church and Trudi became a new member of that. “An Inconvenient Truth” was shown at 1pm for those who hadn’t seen it. And now people are chatting and laughing upstairs while Clarissa and Eryn prepare supper so that Cynthia doesn’t have to do it.
Here’s a short YouTube on the concerns of snowmen expressed to the democratic candidates during the debate:
Did I forget that it’s Live Earth Day today, 7.7.07?
The Midday Open Thread by mcjoan on DAILY KOS gives a link to a “critical but informed view of the Live Earth Pledge” that should and does provoke lively discussion. This is a blog called Energy Outlook by Geoffrey Styles. He provides the seven-point “Pledge, point by point, with a bit of analysis”. Last time I looked there were only six comments, and I just read them. Who will make it a lucky seven before the day’s out?
The New York Times has an only mildly patronizing piece on Al Gore, called “A Giddy Gore Discusses ‘Live Earth’“. The MainStreamMedia (MSM) loves to pick on Al Gore, although this article reads better than the headline. Go get ’em Al!!
We had a 75 foot pine fairly close to the house, and in view of Global Warming with its extreme weather possibilities we thought we’d lop it down, so to speak. The Q-Team did it for us. Here’s the tree just before its demise:
And here’s the monster on its way down. You should have heard the BOOM when it landed!
Well, it had a good life. Porbably made it to about 100 or so years at least.