Archive for the ‘Carbon dioxide’ Category

Monarchs Decline–More Proof of Man’s “Success”

15 March 2013

I used to see many monarch butterflies each summer since we live in an area that grows a considerable amount of corn and milkweed was a prevalent weed. In fact, we used to have a large patch of milkweed along one of our ditches. I handpulled it all decades ago when I found out milkweed is toxic to horses.

However, a few years ago, when I first started reading about the monarch decline, I planted some milkweed in the fenced and generally horse-free native grass and wildflower garden that surrounds our house. Last year, the single monarch butterfly I saw year landed on the milkweed in my garden.

My few milkweed plants aren’t enough, of course. Articles like this one from NPR assure me of that:

“Monarch Butterfy [sic] Population Falls to Record Low, Mexican Scientists Say”

I read articles like this every day, and it’s getting harder and harder to deal with the cognitive dissonance of those who say everything’s just fine. Monsanto’s just fine. The climate’s just fine. Everyone should buy, buy, buy, eat, eat, eat, breed, breed, breed–but only if they’re white–and then drive, drive, drive.

Everything’s NOT fine. So there.



Politicians: Stupid or Merely Insane (and Stupid)?

4 March 2013

Here in Colorado, Democratic governor Hickenlooper drank what he was told was fracking fluid.

That, I thought, was proof enough of the state of American politics.

Now I read this: “Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt Claims Bicyclists Produce More Pollution Than Motorists”

As if I needed more proof that almost no one does any research.


Support Your Local Santa!

6 December 2012

A local company installed our EPA-approved fireplace insert three years ago. The insert now supplies almost all of the heating for our house. We love it, but, alas, the tight firebox Santa-proofs our house.

Of course, considering the stats on the first part of this website, that might not be a bad thing:  “What Is Santa’s Carbon Footprint?”

Whoever put this site together might be happy to know that some of the holiday wrapping I use has been recycled many times. I also recycle gift bags I receive. Stuffing a bag is so much easier than wrapping! For couples, I’ve been known to stuff lots of little gifts into a fancy pair of new pillowcases and pin a card on each. Why use any wrapping at all? It ain’t gonna save the planet, but it makes me feel good.

Happy Holidays!


The Future Is

21 November 2012

I just read a summary of projections, none of them good, for our future climate.

There are entire books out there on what a ten degree temperature F rise will do to the world, so when I read this reiteration of what I already knew, I shouldn’t have felt shock, should I? Unfortunately, I felt shock. In fact, the changes already look real.

The temperatures here in northern Colorado are running ten degrees F above average. Maybe a tad more. We had the windows open today. There is almost no snow on the mountains. The big reservoirs are still dropping. Perhaps that’s why this story hit me.

It should hit people, shouldn’t it? These lines are pretty dire

Some people will likely survive, but such a level of global warming will pose severe difficulties for industrial society adapting. Heatwaves will buckle our railway lines causing transport chaos. Increasing intensity of cyclones and storm surges will swamp our coasts and coastal infrastructure. Extreme weather, high temperatures, changes in precipitation will reduce our crop yields and raise food security alarms. As transport and freight is disrupted, our social fabric will start to tear apart at the seams.

The Executive summary of the report concludes:

Thus, given that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts, there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible. A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur–the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.

The report puts forward that a 4°C world is not inevitable and that with sustained policy action warming can still be held below 2°C.

Sustained policy action. Like that’s going to happen.


Climate Change: Wry Polar Disorder

27 March 2012

One of the first things I do every morning is to click up Google News and check my favorite topics.  One of them is climate change.  Today’s listings provide a neat visual summary of the dichotomous reporting I’m dubbing Wry Polar Disorder.

Here are the listings as I just looked at them:


Climate Change »

Daily Mail
Wall Street Journal – ‎15 hours ago‎
The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil 
Straits Times
Reuters – ‎21 hours ago‎
By Nina Chestney | LONDON (Reuters) – The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday. Scientific estimates differ but 

It doesn’t take a climate scientist to suss out the split here, does it?   According to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and NewsMax stories, everything is fine–cool even.  Then below those articles is an article distributed by Reuters and links to that story distributed by some environmental groups. Things look not so fine in these versions of the world.

Now admittedly, Reuters, a major news agency, covers business news, but it’s unlike WSJ, Forbes,  and Newsmax in that Reuters is headquartered in London.  I’m not sure how their stories like this one fare in Britain, but in America they aren’t as prominent in business publications as stories and op-ed pieces regaling the glories and/or irrelevance of a rising carbon dioxide level. Although I do see the occasional exception, American business publications tend to toss out alarming climate change information in favor of stories–rationalizations?  fictions?  fables?–indicating things are fine.

Is it surprising that the typical business and corporate types are likely to doubt or even sneer at those who say climate change is not only real but dangerous?  Where do you think the people who run businesses are likely to get their information?  Environmental websites?  Peer-reviewed climate journals?  I think not.  I suspect they are far more likely to read WSJ, Forbes, and Newsmax.  Those are Merkin, true-believing sources.  Would they mislead?  No!  That’s what those environmental sites do.  They’re run by lefties, and we all know lefties are into world domination–unlike major American corporations.

Living in a facts-optional, fantasy-lauding country like the current incarnation of the United States alarms me even more than the supported, documented news I read.  And that’s saying something.


Rock Paper Scissors Reality

6 March 2011

Here’s a story from the Los Angeles Times: “Even Conservative Newport Beach Gets Serious about Rising Sea Levels”

Do you suppose stories like this will most likely be repeated across the country over the next few years?


The Myth of Zero Emissions

6 January 2011

One of the problems with renewable energy is that it isn’t, at least not when one counts all the stuff that it took to get the product built in the first place. I thought the problems with electric cars would be obvious to just about everyone, but apparently they aren’t. An article in today’s Seeking Alpha has a neat explanation. Here’s the key point from “Plug-in Vehicles and Their Dirty Little Secret”:

The dirty little secret of plug-in vehicles is that they’ll all charge their batteries with inherently dirty night-time power and be responsible for more CO2 emissions than a fuel efficient Prius-class HEV that costs a third less and doesn’t have any pesky issues with plugs, charging infrastructure or range limitations.

For a full explanation, read the article. It’s got neat graphs too.


Corn: It’s the Food Supply, Stupid

28 November 2010

Al Gore finally concluded ethanol isn’t a good idea and conservative sources are gloating, for example “Al Gore’s Ethanol Epiphany: He Concedes the Industry He Promoted Serves No Useful Purpose.” The problem here is that while ethanol isn’t a good idea, both Gore and many of his critics typically fail to mention one extremely significant reason the current American ethanol process is folly: CORN IS FOOD.

In fact, it’s in so many American food products, I won’t even try to list them. Just read some labels at the grocery store if you don’t believe how ubiquitous corn is.

As someone who likes to eat on a regular basis, I worry about the air, the soil, the water, and the weather it takes to produce food and the resources it takes to distribute food. I long ago decided that I’d rather eat corn than drive around with it, but the Gore reversal and the reactions to it did little to convince me that the food supply was on the minds of those in power.

It’s sure on my mind because a number of factors point to lean times–dire times–ahead. How far ahead, I don’t know. Five years? Could be, but I’m not too worried. Ten? Now I’m starting to worry. By 2030 misery, possibly even world-wide misery, looks closer to being a sure thing. By mid-century–oi. Forget corn. Google “commercial fishing 2048” or something like that and find out what a good many project.

The future does not look bright for a number of reasons, among them carbon dioxide emissions that will continue to rise for a thousand years even if we were to stop driving cars and trucks today. However, our fossil fuel use is hardly the problem that worries me most. The rising human population does. Our problem is simple. We all like to eat, and, after eating, a good many of us like to do other things, one of which results in there being too many of us.

Ask any biologist what happens when a population continues to rise. If you don’t already know the answer, I suggest you read William Catton’s 1980 book Overshoot. It’s written for non-scientists and is still the best overview of the future I’ve ever read. When populations overbreed, they then eat themselves out of house and home. Those of us who live in developed countries have been skirting this Malthusian issue for a long time now. Fossil fuel fertilizers and fossil fuel-driven machines have allowed us to produce vast quantities of food and export our surplus to those less able to exploit the planet.

Kinda looks like that’s coming to an end because of increasing confluences of climate, consumption, soil-degradation, and water shortages. What happens if Hundred Year Droughts turn into droughts that come every ten years? We certainly can’t say that Russia’s recent drought was caused by climate change. It’s quite possible it was just a routine, devastating drought, something that happens every fifty or every hundred years or so. But what if it was not? What if climate change models are right and severe droughts become more frequent. We had a nasty drought here in Colorado in 2002.

In 2010, however, the farmers in my locale are rejoicing about the weather. On the 7th of November, an article titled “Crops Yield ‘Once in a Generation’ Payoff” appeared in the Longmont Times-Call. Whether or not they believe climate change is an issue, farmers certainly believe the weather is an issue. And they believe in luck. The article outlined how in 2010 Colorado “[c]rop prices . . . fetched what one expert called ‘once in a generation’ prices.”

“You’re looking at the trifecta: Sugar prices are high; corn prices are high; if you’re a dryland wheat farmer, prices are high,” said Mike Urbano-wicz with Colorado Commodities, an organization that buys and sells crops from Colorado farmers.

“To me, it’s once in a generation to have all this happen in the same year,” Urbanowicz said.

In June, corn producers were looking at getting in the mid-$3-per-bushel for their 2010 crop.

“Four dollars (per bushel) was a goal; $5 was an absolute dream,” Urbanowicz said. Corn is already a little more than $5 a bushel and may hit as high as $6.50, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

“A month ago, we saw a huge spike, and it just seems to be hanging around,” said Kent Peppler, a fourth-generation farmer near Mead who grows wheat, alfalfa, barley and corn, his biggest crop, on about 500 acres.

Urbanowicz said the spike in corn prices is due to a couple of things: The weak U.S. dollar increased the export of corn, and growing conditions in Colorado this year have been outstanding compared to some other states, such as Illinois and Indiana. [emphasis added]

(For comparison’s sake, Colorado is projected to produce about 171 million bushels of corn this year, while the two states mentioned above combine for about 4 billion bushels between them.)

Wheat prices also spiked because of a severe drought in Russia and the Ukraine, Urbanowicz said.

That comment about the Midwest caught my eye. So what happened in the Corn Belt, in states like Illinois and Indiana? According to MarketWatch “Corn and other grains futures shot up Friday after a U.S. Department of Agriculture report pointed to the tightest supply and demand balance for corn in 14 years.”

The Agriculture Department on Friday forecast a 2010-11 corn crop 3.8% smaller than government expectations just a month ago, as a hot Midwest summer preceded by floods in June takes its toll. . . . Following flooding in June, the Corn Belt suffered from a hot summer and, more importantly, warmer-than-usual nights [emphasis added] that interfered with corn’s ability to pollinate as it normally would, he said.

“Warmer-than-usual nights.” Haven’t computer models suggested that global warming results in warmer nights even more than warmer days? Aren’t warmer nights one reason cited for the world-wide decline in the frog population? (Google keywords: frog decline warmer nights) Learning that corn too was threatened by warmer nights was not welcome news.

But again, all this could just be a routine year. It’s still possible that humans and their toys aren’t behind warmer nights and other shifts. The current food prices could just be routine. But what happens if Russia’s drought hits the United states next year?

That would be bad enough without some other factors–like supply lines. For example, with the recent admission by the International Energy Agency that we reached peak oil in 2006 the food transport factor kicks in. It’s now increasingly likely that we will find a way to continue shipping food from one place to another to avoid mass famine. At least it’s becoming clearer to people like Al Gore that ethanol is a porky boondoggle rather than the key to our fossil fuel problems. I just wish it’d become clearer to more people that a planet with fewer people is the answer to our continued survival.

The bottleneck predicted by so many–by Catton, by E. O. Wilson (Google E. O. Wilson bottleneck), by many–approacheth. In a not too distant future, it’s quite possible that famine will sweep the United States the way it routinely sweeps Africa. Sooner or later, our farming luck will run out.


America, Land of the Free–from Content, Context, and Caring

15 October 2010

The short Reuters article “Most Americans Lack Basic Knowledge of Climate Issues, Study Finds” struck me as totally unsurprising.

How many Americans know how many parts per million of carbon dioxide are in our atmosphere right now?

——If, like most people, you don’t know, you can find the answer here:

I keep hearing “skeptical” Americans parrot this litany: “Carbon dioxide is a harmless, colorless gas, a necessary part of our atmosphere.”

While this is certainly true, I wonder if those who say this would be willing to enter a chamber where the carbon dioxide level was, say, six percent.

What would happen to those who entered?

—–The answer is here.

And I am NOT suggesting that we are in danger of reaching this concentration in the atmosphere. I am just trying to make a point about the general ignorance of the American public. What bothers me is not so much what Americans do not know, it’s that all too many among us do not CARE that they do not know and/or think they do know when they don’t.

I wonder how many will read this post, not know the answers, and leave without clicking the links.

Ignorance is curable, but one has to seek–or at least accept–treatment.


Dead Zones and Such

5 July 2010

McClatchy News just published “It’s Not Just BP’s Oil in the Gulf tThat Threatens World’s Oceans.”

Those who read will find little new here, but it puts together some pieces.

Of course it fails to emphasize the impending end of commercially fishable stock, but I’m not much of a fish eater, so what’s that to me?