Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tipping Point?

Interesting follow up in light my recent post below that partially discussed James Lovelock's prediction that the Earth is reaching a carbon tipping point of sorts much faster than previously anticipated.

From the Independent:

The growth in global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels over the past five years was four times greater than for the preceding 10 years, according to a study that exposes critical flaws in the attempts to avert damaging climate change.

Data on carbon dioxide emissions shows that the global growth rate was 3.2 per cent in the five years to 2005 compared with 0.8 per cent from 1990 to 1999, despite efforts to reduce carbon pollution through the Kyoto agreement.

Also - interesting follow-on to point number 6 in previous post.
Much of the increase is probably due to the expansion of the Chinese economy, which has relied heavily on burning coal and other fossil fuels for its energy.
And just in case you need historical context in order to not sleep tonight.
Based on current trends, carbon dioxide concentrations are likely to increase to 500ppm this century. The last time the planet experienced levels as high as 500ppm was about 20 or 40 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 metres higher than today.
I'm reminded of a line from a recent gawdawful Wall Street Journal op-ed. They had a slightly different perspective...minor, almost semantics really...
The second point is that the Stern report barely mentions the potential benefits from warming in the world's cold-weather regions. Al Gore and others warn about the damage from coastal flooding and changing weather patterns, among other horror scenarios. But the world is large and its climate diverse, and a longer growing season in Siberia or Canada is at least one possible benefit of warming.

So wait, it's not a hoax?

Barbara Boxer pledges a very different approach to global warming as chair of the US Senate's Environmental Committee.

Boxer's elevation to chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee comes as the Democrats return to power in the Senate. It also marks a dramatic shift in ideology for the panel.

The California Democrat is one of the Senate's most liberal members and replaces one of the most conservative senators, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Inhofe had blocked bills seeking to cut the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, calling the issue ''the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people.''

This is great news.
Boxer said she intends to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gases, strengthen environmental laws regarding public health and hold oversight hearings on federal plans to clean up Superfund sites across the country.

On global warming, Boxer said she would model federal legislation after a California law signed this summer by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That law imposes the first statewide cap on greenhouse gases and seeks to cut California's emissions by 25 percent, dropping them to 1990 levels by 2020.

A top environmental aide at the White House signaled Thursday that the administration would work with Boxer.

On the last point, I remain in wait-and-see mode.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I remember you

Been a while, eh? Anything happened? Nah, I didn't think so...

That said...sigh...three months can go by so quickly. Anyways, I've got a backlog of things to post, although half of the links have probably been moved.

In any event, I wanted to draw attention to the recent NY Review of Books article, covering several recent books discussing global warming.

The books covered:
1. The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity (James Lovelock)
2. China Shifts Gears: Automakers, Oil, Pollution, and Development (Kelly Sims Gallagher)
3. Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry (Travis Bradford)
4. WorldChanging:A User's Guide for the 21st Century (Alex Steffen)
5. Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises (edited by Architecture for Humanity)

Among the most interesting points to me:
1. Lovelock's tipping point relies on the same mechanisms as most other climate scientists, but as with most, his prediction of the results varies in both impact and time. Shorter Mr. Lovelock: we're screwed.
2. The Gaia hypothesis is alive and well
3. The science of climate behind climate change is moving faster than any literature can keep up. Apparently already An Inconvenient Truth is outdated.
4. Lovelock doesn't want wind power because it disturbs his beloved countryside.
5. Travis Bradford is an I-banker who believes solar will grow annually 20% to 30% for decades (similar growth rate in the computer chip industry). He discusses at length the success of Japan and Germany in increasing solar investment through government subsidies that are now no longer necessary.
6. "In retrospect, historians are likely to conclude that the biggest environmental failure of the Bush administration was not that it did nothing to reduce the use of fossil fuels in America, but that it did nothing to help or pressure China to transform its own economy at a time when such intervention might have been decisive."
7. Check out World Changing's website. Incredible resource for impacting our environment with simple technology at hand. Tremendous example of "the Wisdom of the Masses".
8. Where the hell is that carbon tax already?