Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change

Looking for some light summer reading to keep yourself entertained while also staying informed on matters of international and scientific importance? Look no further. “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change”, by Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman, is now available. You may remember these characters from their fully-illustrated yet unlikely literary debut, “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics”, which elucidated the dismal science with whimsical clarity. Think of it as a cross between “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar” by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein and “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi.

Their latest joint venture takes the most contentious topic in contemporary American politics and spells it out so plainly that even a Tea Party member could understand it. Students, skeptics and scaredy-cats could all stand to gain from a close reading of these climate change comics. Check your local book store or order online today. “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change” is sure to be a hot seller.

San Luis Obispites, your neighbors to the south need your help! Oil and gas interests are planning to exploit the Monterey Shale deposits in Santa Barbara county. Dubbed the “Santa Maria Energy Project”, the scheme would create 136 drilling wells. If passed, the industry estimates that they will be able to extract 15.4 million barrels of oil, as much as would be pumped through the Keystone XL Pipeline over a 40 year period. In addition to wreaking havoc on the climate by pumping 88,000 tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each year, the extraction processes would waste and pollute already stressed water supplies. The Santa Maria Energy Project would inject 300,000 gallons of water into the earth each day, taking resources away from farmers and infrastructure.

Take the time to sign a petition through 350.org to be presented to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and County Supervisors this month!

Modern man has been awful rough on the oceans. With climate change acidifying the seas, and through overfishing, pollution, dead zones and resource extraction, humans have done an amazing amount of damage to the world’s aquatic ecosystems. Brendan Smith encountered many of these challenges as a commercial fisherman. After realizing that most current fishing practices were unsustainable, he decided to settle in Long Island Sound and raise oysters. As of last year, he integrated kelp into his practices, creating a 3D farm that could take advantage of the entire water column. Once he added the green-blue algae, he found that the seaweed and shellfish had great economic and environmental benefits.

Now the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, Smith is looking to expand his 3D farm and educate others as to the applications of kelp and shellfish. Known as the “rainforest of the sea”, kelp is able to capture an incredible amount of carbon at almost five times that of land based plants. His 2o acre farm alone can sequester up to 134 tons a year. Seaweed and oysters can also filter out nitrogen which is the main cause of dead zones created by agricultural runoff. His Thimble Island Oyster Co. farm sucks up 164kg of nitrogen annually, purifying the water and converting the nutrients into a healthy source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Kelp also possesses the added bonus of being a terrific feedstock for biofuel. According to the US Department of Energy, a kelp farm the size of Maine could potentially produce enough algae to replace petroleum for the entire country. Farming kelp has the ability to jump-start what Smith describes as a “Blue-Green Economy” that could not only help to repair damaged ecosystems, but create valuable jobs and revamp a crumbling infrastructure. Instead of drilling and contaminating the water supply, why not take advantage of natural processes that allow life to flourish?

As a climate scientist, tackling global warming is an immense challenge. The most basic information, such as the location of the world’s fossil fuel-burning power plants and how much CO2 they emit, is difficult to obtain while sitting in an office. Through the power of crowdsourcing and the Internet, researchers at Arizona State University have created a computer game called Ventus that takes advantage of data provided by citizen scientists. Led by Kevin Gurney, the website operates on the belief that every facility in the world has at least a dozen or so people living or working near the plant that could provide valuable information. Players register through the page and are asked to provide the name and location of the plant along with what kind of fuel is used, how much electricity is produced, and the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. They are able to view all entries as well as make adjustments and edits. Participants who have provided the most useful data at the end of the year will win.

The team at ASU has already compiled a list of 25,000 plants through Google Earth. They estimate that there are over 30,000 fossil-fuel sites across the world, and the number is likely to grow as countries such as India and China continue to industrialize. With power plants accounting for nearly half of the world’s CO2 output, understanding where and how much greenhouse gas is being expelled into the environment will be a powerful tool for governments and communities to use in shifting towards alternative sources of energy.

You would think with a name like “conservative”, those occupying the right wing of the political spectrum would be all about saving money and cutting energy costs. Yet, according a study led by Dena Gromet from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, CFL light bulbs labeled with a “protect the environment” sticker were shunned by conservatives. Their decision comes despite the fact that CFLs last 9,000 hours longer than incandescents and reduce energy costs by 75 percent. In an study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month, she and her colleagues from Wharton and the Duke Fuqua School of Business gathered 210 potential buyers. They asked them to choose between incandescent bulbs and CFLs, some which sported a “protect the environment” sticker. Divisions were apparent until they made both bulbs the same price. Then, every subject except one chose the CFL.

“Our results demonstrated that a choice that wasn’t ideologically polarizing without a (“protect the environment”) label became polarizing when we included that environmental labeling,” Gromet noted. “We saw a significant drop-off in conservative people choosing to buy a more expensive, energy-efficient option.”So it makes that choice unattractive to some people even if they recognize that it may be a money-saving choice. When we asked afterward, those consumers identified the CFL bulbs as providing greater monetary savings over time. But they would forgo that option when that product was made to represent a value that was not something they wanted to be identified with.”

Regardless of whether or not they realized that the CFLs would be more practical in the long run, conservatives still opted to go for the less efficient technology. To combat global warming and carbon emissions, the United States is one of many countries trying to persuade consumers to switch to bulbs that use little power. Last year, they took on 100 watt bulbs, and in January they introduced new efficiency requirements that went into effect for 75 watt bulbs. You would think that a bulb with a longer life and overall benefit to the consumers’ pocketbook would be a win-win, but not for those who look to the government’s regulations as just one more step down the road to communism….or fascism…or whatever dystopian future some out there have imagined.

To add insult to injury, there is little evidence that green PR helps boost sales of products amongst liberals. While the research team needs more data to confirm this suspicion, they did not find any support that leftists were swayed by green labeling. In addition to political prejudice, pro-planet goods have to contend with old stereotypes that they are poorly designed, overpriced, and not as high in quality as long-established brands. One small ray of hope may lie in the overall trend for consumers to look towards LEDs in favor of CFLs for their homes and businesses. While the Wharton study did not test opinions over LEDs, it would be interesting to see whether or not politics play a role in their selection and whether the CFL phenomenon is simply a fluke.

Still, with those who are under the belief that the UN’s Agenda 21 is a plot to take control of the world under the guise of a green manifesto negotiated without the input of the American people, it is not hard to see how some are ruffled by being told to do pretty much anything. Sadly, they will maintain this point of view even if what they are being asked to do is for the benefit of the greater good. Unfortunately, the environment does not care whether or not you are Democrat or Republican when it comes to natural disasters brought on by a shifting climate. CO2 doesn’t vote or go to the store. However, humans do, and we are the ones making the ultimate decisions on how we live ont his planet. We can only pray that we do the right thing regardless of the motivation.

In the effort to combat climate change, we carpool, scale back our utility use, purchase carbon credits, and do our best to source our power from clean technologies. Yet, if we pay tuition, donate to non-profits, or have a stock portfolio, we may still be contributing to dirty energy. Many universities, local governments, and religious institutions have endowments or investments that benefit financially from fossil fuels. Seeing the support of coal companies, oil giants, and mining projects as antithetical to their moral and political proclivities, organizations across the nation are divesting from these markets.

The Fossil Free campaign helps to organize and support those who wish to give non-renewable resources the boot. Over 300 colleges have already started their own campaigns, including Brown University who is slated to vote on axing 15 coal and mining companies from their endowment this month. Major cities, such as San Francisco have decided that exacerbating climate change was not in the best interest of the planet or the Bay. Those interested can visit the website and either begin a petition or join an already existing call to action. In addition to hosting a platform to collect signatures, Fossil Free also provides relevant articles, charts, and studies to help make a strong and well-informed case.

As a strategy, taking away a source of revenue may be one of the quickest and most effective ways to halt fossil fuel infrastructure. Seeing as much of the industry has bought influence in Congress and around the world, pulling money away from conglomerates is one of the most powerful means of stopping a number of pipelines and mountaintop removals at one time. While it is true that companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal make billions of dollars and that the dissent of only a few small institutions may not at first make a huge dent, it is important to back up beliefs with concrete action. Not only igniting discussion and creating a PR nightmare, large endowments are responsible for billions of dollars themselves, and can make their voices heard if they decided to gather together to send a message and hit polluters where it hurts. Money could then be apportioned to back renewable energy and bolster a healthier, greener economy that would not only ease the burden of climate change, but give birth to a vibrant new market that benefits more small businesses and communities.

The time has come to tell the fossil fuel giants that carbon is so very last century.

Forget the national debt, don’t worry about the next election cycle, no big deal if you can’t drop those extra couple of pounds before swimsuit season. As a species, climate change is the largest challenge we face. So why then are our elected officials doing almost nothing to address a phenomenon that could make the planet uninhabitable for human beings? Scientist Anthony Leiserowitz from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication recently sat down with Bill Moyers to discuss the public’s understanding and reactions to global warming.

Lesierowitz has identified six groups of American by levels of knowledge about and  engagement with the issue of climate change. As a specialist in the psychology of risk and perception, he explains how climate change is almost the perfect challenge for human beings. While we are wired to deal with immediate physical survival, global warming and its causes are practically invisible. For the most part, we cannot see the greenhouse gasses spewing into the atmosphere, and the gradual changes we have made since the Industrial Revolution tend to escape our notice. Only by amassing large amounts of data taken from a variety of sources across the world can we begin to understand our effects on the planet.

Part of the difficulties climate activists face is working amidst a very vocal and well connected association of deniers and special interests that dominate the political discourse. In addition to clarifying the science for those who still do not believe in the myriad of reports and drastic weather conditions affecting the country, each of the six groups requires a completely different type of social engagement. The best way to connect with each demographic is to identify their core values, and meet their concerns on terms that are familiar.

The stakes are high, the problems that we are causing are getting worse, and are on track to escalate in intensity. At the heart of the dilemma is how human being see themselves in relationship to the natural world. What are our responsibilities to nature and one another? How do we organize to tackle such a huge problem? What is the best way to sound the alarm and put climate change at the top of the agenda?

The first step is come together. Check out 350.org and other movements that are working towards shifting our political system and economy to take action!

 

Climate change is perhaps the single biggest issue facing the health of our communities. Severe weather conditions threaten the crops on which we depend for food and a thriving economy as well as the safety of our neighborhoods and health of our landscape. In San Luis Obispo, we have historically seen weather patterns consistent with a Mediterranean climate where we experience long, hot and dry summers with rainy, wet winters. Many of the native plants are drought-tolerant, and the cold waters and upwelling of nutrients off of our coasts provide us with a stunning amount of marine biodiversity. With greenhouse gasses on the rise, what can we expect for the seasons to come?

The Coast: According to a report released by the California Academy of Sciences in June of this year, Central California’s waters are already showing the effects of a warming planet. Surface waters have increased in temperature, sea levels are higher, winds are stronger, upwellings are more intense, there is increased ocean acidification, and shoreline erosion has accelerated. As a result, ecosystems have been thrown out of balance and organisms are struggling to adapt.

The study states that the most severe ecological disruption will come from the changes associated with upwellings, ocean temperature, sea level rise, and acidification. Upwelling appears to be increasing because of more rapid heating of land in contrast to the ocean which creates pressure gradients and strong winds, driving the process. Researchers worry that stronger currents may carry the larvae of fish and other animals out to sea, disconnecting whole populations and threatening the food web. Warm surface temperatures have heated bays and shallow waters, making for steep temperature gradients from east to west. Warmer surface waters also inhibit the vertical mixing of water and nutrients which can result in plankton blooms and areas of low dissolved oxygen, killing certain species that need oxygen rich habitats to survive and aiding in the takeover of invasive organisms.

Sea level rise has accounted for a large amount of coastline erosion as well as the change in tidepool ecosystems. Rising waters affect the ability of marine mammals to reproduce and rest, changing the living patterns for these top predators. As CO2 continues to be absorbed by the sea, waters have become more acidic, creating conditions where shelled animals cannot form their exoskeletons or even dissolve.

In regards to broader weather patterns, the El Nino oscillation cycles are expected to continue with higher temperatures than in the past. La Nina years will be wetter and warmer than average with heavy downpours becoming more frequent.  Days of high fire risk are going to become more common with an extended fire season brought on by hotter temperatures and increased evaporation. Flooding and erosion from sea level rise and lack of vegetative cover will deposit more soil and sediment into freshwater systems, eventually affecting marine ecosystems as they flow out to sea.  Saltwater is also expected to flow into freshwater systems as the oceans rise.

 

 

 

 

“No snow.  No ski.” asserts the Soul Poles website.  The company, based in Utah, makes ski poles out of bamboo and knows all to well the impact that global warming is having on the levels of alpine snow. Acknowledging the fact that climate change directly influences the success of their business, Soul Poles has committed itself to being as environmentally responsible as possible.  Founded by former members of the U.S. Ski Team racers, the equipment is fashioned by hand in the United States, helping to create local jobs and and curb emissions that contribute to the rise of greenhouse gasses.

Poles are available in models suited for both skiing and trekking.  Fabricated using bamboo, recycled plastics, and recycled aluminum they are available in a natural finish or customized colors that use a low VOC water-based paint and clear coat.  Sturdy and attractive, the body of the pole is 100% biodegradable. Ranging from $110-350, Soul Poles are a fantastic alternative to non-recyclable synthetic materials.

In an effort to help the ski and snowboard industry become a little more green, Soul Poles has partnered with Recycle Utah to educate consumers on how to safely dispose of their unwanted gear.  The company is also a member of 1% for the Planet, a non-profit that contributes a portion of total revenue to environmental organizations.  Soul Poles also partners with World Cup Dreams, a group that assists winter sports athletes to achieve their goals as professional competitors, and Protect Our Winters which focuses on uniting and engaging the global snow sports community.

 

The Earth is a complex, dynamic organism that is constantly transforming with the rhythms of the Universe.  For the past 40 years, the Landsat satellite has been capturing images of the world’s changing landscapes, covering the same area every 16 days.  The program was launched in 1972 as a joint venture between NASA and the US Geological Survey in an effort to collect “remote sensing” information.  A recent story by Treehugger explains how Landsat, in collaboration with Google’s Earth Engine, is compiling trillions of images taken over the decades to be used free of charge.

It is hoped that scientists, governments, and independent researches will be able to take advantage of the data, helping to solve problems such as deforestation, estimating biomass and carbon levels, and mapping unexplored and roadless areas.  Google and Landsat have already released a video detailing the project, as well as fascinating time-lapse pieces.  Among some of the most interesting subjects include Las Vegas’ urban explosion, the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest, and drying of the Aral Sea.

Landsat has already been involved with a number of projects that aim to devise solutions to some of the globe’s most perplexing problems through the use of standardized scientific data.  From watching how nations control and utilize water resources to studying the effects of climate change on vegetation and population, our survival may just be getting a little help from someone watching from above.

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