December 19, 2009
End of a long day, Start of a long road
Frequently heard fallacies are that "global warming stopped in 1998" or "the world has been getting cooler over the past decade". These statements appear to be wishful thinking – it would be nice if true, but that is not what the data show. True, the 1998 global temperature jumped far above the previous warmest year in the instrumental record, largely because 1998 was affected by the strongest El Nino of the century. Thus for the following several years the global temperature was lower than in 1998, as expected.
However, the 5-year and 11-year running mean global temperatures (Figure 3b) have continued to increase at nearly the same rate as in the past three decades. There is a slight downward tick at the end of the record, but even that may disappear if 2010 is a warm year. Indeed, given the continued growth of greenhouse gases and the underlying global warming trend (Figure 3b) there is a high likelihood, I would say greater than 50 percent, that 2010 will be the warmest year in the period of instrumental data. This prediction depends in part upon the continuation of the present moderate El Nino for at least several months, but that is likely.
December 18, 2009
I've spent the last few years working more than full time to organize the first big global grassroots climate change campaign. That's meant shutting off my emotions most of the time—this crisis is so terrifying that when you let yourself feel too deeply it can be paralyzing. Hence, much gallows humor, irony, and sheer work.
This afternoon I sobbed for an hour, and I'm still choking a little. I got to Copenhagen's main Lutheran Cathedral just before the start of a special service designed to mark the conference underway for the next week. It was jammed, but I squeezed into a chair near the corner. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave the sermon; Desmond Tutu read the Psalm. Both were wonderful.
But my tears started before anyone said a word. As the service started, dozens choristers from around the world carried three things down the aisle and to the altar: pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures; stones uncovered by retreating glaciers; and small, shriveled ears of corn from drought-stricken parts of Africa. As I watched them go by, all I could think of was the people I've met in the last couple of years traveling the world: the people living in the valleys where those glaciers are disappearing, and the people downstream who have no backup plan for where their water is going to come from. The people who live on the islands surrounded by that coral, who depend on the reefs for the fish they eat, and to protect their homes from the waves. And the people, on every corner of the world, dealing with drought and flood, already unable to earn their daily bread in the places where their ancestors farmed for generations.
Those damned shriveled ears of corn. I've done everything I can think of, and millions of people around the world have joined us at 350.org in the most international campaign there ever was. But I just sat there thinking: It's not enough. We didn't do enough. I should have started earlier. People are dying already; people are sitting tonight in their small homes trying to figure out how they're going to make the maize meal they have stretch far enough to fill the tummies of the kids sitting there waiting for dinner. And that's with 390 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. The latest numbers from the computer jockeys at Climate Interactive—a collaboration of Sustainability Institute, Sloan School of Management at MIT, and Ventana Systems, is that if all the national plans now on the table were adopted the planet in 2100 would have an atmosphere with 770 parts per million CO2. What then for coral, for glaciers, for corn. I didn't do enough.
I cried all the harder a few minutes later when the great cathedral bell began slowly tolling 350 times. At the same moment, thousands of churches across Europe began ringing their bells the same 350 times. And in other parts of the world—from the bottom of New Zealand to the top of Greenland, Christendom sounded the alarm. And not just Christendom. In New York rabbis were blowing the shofar 350 times. We had pictures rolling in from the weekend's vigil, from places like Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, where girls in burkas were forming human 350s, and from Bahrain, and from Amman.
And these tears were now sweet as well as bitter—at the thought that all over the world (not metaphorically all over the world, but literally all over the world) people had proven themselves this year. Proven their ability to understand the science and the stakes. Proven their ability to come together on their own—in October, when we organized what CNN called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," there wasn't a movie star or rock idol in sight—just people rallying around a scientific data point. Now the world's religious leaders were adding their voice.
On one side: scientists. And archbishops, Nobelists, and most of all ordinary people in ordinary places. Reason and faith. On the other side, power—the kind of power that will be assembling in the Bella Center all week to hammer out some kind of agreement. The kind of power, exemplified by the American delegation, that so far has decided it's not worth making the kind of leap that the science demands. The kind of power that's willing to do what's politically pretty easy, but not what's necessary. The kind that would condemn the planet to 770 ppm rather than take the hard steps we need.
So no more tears. Not now, not while there's work to be done. Pass the Diet Coke, fire up the laptop, grab the cellphone. To work. We may not have done enough, but we're going to do all we can.
December 8, 2009
GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.
December 1, 2009
Tom Rand outlines his Green Hotel project at TEDxToronto and explains how it is possible to lower global carbon emissions by 75% and make money doing it. The hotel is due to open in December 2009.
November 25, 2009
Perhaps it is time to rethink our Thanksgiving traditions. We should be able to find ways to have a joyous celebration of thanksgiving without the focus being on loading the table with more than anyone could ever eat.
November 19, 2009
This groundbreaking NRDC documentary explores the startling phenomenon of ocean acidification, which may soon challenge marine life on a scale not seen for tens of millions of years. The film, featuring Sigourney Weaver, originally aired on Discovery Planet Green.
November 16, 2009
November 13, 2009
The town, with the blessing of residents concerned about tax increases, mandates the recycling of not only commonly reprocessed items like aluminum, glass and paper but also tires, batteries and household appliances.
Mr. Willett said that while the amount of trash that island residents carted to the dump had remained steady, the proportion going into the landfill had plummeted to 8 percent. By contrast, Massachusetts residents as a whole send an average of 66 percent of their trash to a landfill or incinerator.
When apple cores, stale bread and last week's leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.
The solar array, which debuted as North America's largest renewable venture in December 2007, is composed of more than 72,000 solar panels containing 6 million solar cells, and represents an enormous step toward energy efficiency, Belote said. It supplies 28 percent of the base's power, saving about $83,000 a month and 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the colonel said. "It's really an exciting thing to be a part of," he added.
"Cutting HFCs, black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane can buy us about 40 years before we approach the dangerous threshold of 2°C (3.6°F) warming," said co-author Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
October 29, 2009
September 27, 2009
Andrew Jones from the Sustainability Institute delivered a truly inspiring speech at the Ted Conference in Asheville.
If you want the background behind this talk, he has written a detailed post explaining how we can succeed at cutting our carbon footprint enough to sustain life on our planet.
September 25, 2009
September 24, 2009
The Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge all tinted red by one of the worst dust storms in years.
"It was amazing. I've never seen it. I'm 72 years old and I've never seen that in my life before, its the first time ever. "
It is yet another reminder that this country is battling one of its worst ever droughts. Many say it is the effects of climate change making themselves felt.
Updated: Here is a picture from space of the same storm!