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Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

A Crude Awakening

Posted by A birch tree on June 21, 2008

One hour and twenty-two minutes of streaming video garaunteed to scare the pants off of you. Great stuff, very well done, but very, very disturbing. Just give it half an hour to hook you.

Peak oil is here. Sky’s fallin’, yo.

A Crude Awakening

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts, Humans vs. Planet, Political | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

“But the Earth is so BIG…”

Posted by A birch tree on May 28, 2008

Barf.

Ok, so there’s folks who believe humans had fuck-all to do with climate change. “Big Plant, Little Human!” they scream at the top of their CO2-emitting lungs. “CO2 is a trace gas!” they whine, over and over again, as if that particular combination of words had any meaning. “Cows produce more than cars!” they gripe, oblivious to the fact that it’s humans’ fault that cows are so ubiquitous as to be such a large provider of greenhouse gasses.

Over and over again, they cite “natural cycles” and Earth’s allegedly massive “self-correction” potential as rhetorical proof, minus any scientific backing, that humans are completely blameless for anything that may or may not be happening to the planet, so they can continue the devil-take-tomorrow approach to radical consumption ideology, guilt-free.

Question: How’s this part of a natural cycle? What does it say about the planet’s wonderous miracle-like ability to heal itself from humans’ paltry, negligible enviornmental effects that the ocean has become 30% more acidic since people have started pumping CO2 into the air like it was going out of style? The fact that you’d have to go back through 35 million years worth of ice cores and geological records to find a time when oceans were this acidic due to excess CO2 being dissolved therein is what? An unhappy coincidence? A fluke of timing? Just circumstantial? Shelled critters that have managed to evolve and live for the last twenty-million-and-change years without too much hassle have suddenly noticed their houses getting thin and brittle, and it’s just a very odd, very intriguing turn of events we’re totally not responsible for?

Well, what does it have to do with us, anyway? It’s just a few fish that’ll be screwed, not humans. You know, those completely useless fish like salmon and pollock…

Go on, deniers, try it. You know how many people with an IQ higher than GWB’s are taking you seriously right now? Wanna see what happens to that number when you try to blame oceanic acidification on cow farts?

Oh, and hey, remember those climate forecasts y’all keep saying are “chicken little”-like, or “doomsaying” or otherwise biased to give horrible results as quick as possible in order to serve as a vehicle for some insidious political agenda like… um… something? About how they’re too liberal, play fast and loose with big numbers, and are otherwise vastly inflated? Well, as it turns out, they’re actually too conservative. This wasn’t supposed to happen until around 2100. Surprise!

{Hat tip to Climate Ark}

Posted in Global Environment, Humans vs. Planet, Oceans | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Humans: We Kill Everything, Even Ourselves!

Posted by A birch tree on April 20, 2008

Still no consistent internet, as I’m sure you can surmise. My goal is to have access back by monday afternoon. We’ll see how that works out for me.

Until then, here’s an article for discussion: High Levels of Household Chemicals Found in Pets, which is a bit of an understatement if you read the article. It should be “Killing Puppies and Babies are Bad, Except When Du Pont Does it for Us” or something.

You, friendly adult human, have a certain level of environmental toxins running through your bloodstream. Things like chemicals leached into your soda pop from the plastic bottle it’s contained in (“Forever In A Landfill, Forever In Your Urine”), growth hormones from your beef, fecal coliform in your oysters, flame retardants from your carpets, and whatever the hell that stuff is in perfume that makes it stick to the little hairs inside your nostrils for an hour after you’ve left Bath and Body Works being just a few examples. They all cause cancer, illness, reproductive nonsense, and lots of other happy fun things. Let’s say this level is X.

Your dog, and any other household pet or family member that spends most of its time on the floor putting random objects into its mouth, has a level of toxins that is roughly equivalent to 20X. Give or take.

Lovely, isn’t it? Do we even bother to think a little bit ahead, as humans? I mean, fuck, how long had Teflon been around before we found out it was deadly? And I don’t have time to find the citation yet, but we’ve been using cell phones for how long before we finally admitted they cause cancer? One technician was quoted as saying something like the red blinking light on top of the tower is more stringently regulated than the radiation from the tower itself.

Congratulations, Humanity in general and the Masculine Drive Towards Ever-Increasing Scientific Pogress that we Don’t Want to Wait and Test and Make Sure it’s Safe Before we Inject it Into the Environment in Vast Quantities, specifically. You’re succeeding in the most convoluted long-range suicide attempt in the history of the universe. Which wouldn’t be an issue, really, if you weren’t so hell bent on taking everything else down with you.

Posted in Global Environment, Pollution | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Global Warming Primer

Posted by A birch tree on April 6, 2008

A great synopsis of global warming evidence, courtesy of Infinite Grey over at Mysticwicks. It really needs no introduction or additions. Big thanks to him for doing all that research, and double thanks for his permission to post it over here.

The Global Warming Hype

Over the past decade perhaps longer; global warming has been a bit of a contraversal topic; recently on this forum there have been a few threads devoted to this, and in each case there has been a variety of opinions expressed. Ranging from support of the popular theory to condemnation of of; for a range of reasons – some are valid, others illustrate an acute misunderstanding of how the majority of scientists working the fields of Climate Change arrived to the idea that the most likely cause of global warming is the development of industry. So boys and girls, here is the evidence involved with the theory of Global Warming.

The global average air temperature near the Earth’s surface rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the hundred years ending in 2005.

“most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations” ~ IPCC

Natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward.

Human Land Use.

Deforestation:

66% of CO2 emissions over the last 250 years have resulted from burning fossil fuels, 33% have resulted from changes in land use, primarily deforestation. For those that do not know, forests are not just there to look pretty; plant life act’s like “air scrubbers” or filters, absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the levels of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Include the instances of biomass burnings that frequently accompany deforestation and you also get aerosols.

Terrestrial Albedo:

The albedo of an object is the extent to which it diffusely reflects light from the sun. It is therefore a more specific form of the term reflectivity. Albedo is defined as the ratio of diffusely reflected to incident electromagnetic radiation.

Which leads to Radiative force, the warming and cooling of an area.

What does this mean? It means Cities collect heat and warm the surrounding areas – due to the large quantities of cement, metal, glass and asphalt.

Livestock and land use:

70% of all land used for agriculture is used for liverstock, or 30% of non-ice covered land. 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to livestock and livestock-related activities.

  • 9% of global carbon dioxide emissions
  • 35-40% of global methane emissions (chiefly due to enteric fermentation and manure)
  • 64% of global nitrous oxide emissions, chiefly as a result of fertilizer use

Aerosols:

These little bastards are fun, the villian in so many senerios, small particles or droplets suspended in the atmosphere. They can be responsible for warming AND cooling, but where do they come from? Well here are some the cheif hometowns:

  • biomass burning such as slash and burn deforestation. Aerosols produced are primarily black carbon.
  • industrial air pollution, which produces soot and airborne sulfates, nitrates, and ammonium
  • dust produced by land use effects such as desertification

—-

“Anthropogenic warming of the climate system is widespread and can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the free atmosphere and in the oceans. Evidence of the effect of external influences, both anthropogenic and natural, on the climate system has continued to accumulate since the TAR [Third Assessment Report].”

There are external and internal phenomena, such as solar variations and volcanic activity; but the evidence suggests that human activity is responsible for the majority of the greenhouse effect.

Evidence for this conclusion includes:

  • Estimates of internal variability from climate models, and reconstructions of past temperatures, indicate that the warming is unlikely to be entirely natural.
  • Climate models forced by natural factors and increased greenhouse gases and aerosols reproduce the observed global temperature changes; those forced by natural factors alone do not.
  • “Fingerprint” methods indicate that the pattern of change is closer to that expected from greenhouse gas-forced change than from natural change.
  • The plateau in warming from the 1940s to 1960s can be attributed largely to sulphate aerosol cooling

—–

THIS BIT IS IMPORTANT

Detection vs. attribution:

Detection of a signal requires demonstrating that an observed change is statistically significantly different from that which can be explained by natural internal variability.

Attribution requires demonstrating that a signal is:

  • unlikely to be due entirely to internal variability;
  • consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing
  • not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.

Detection does not imply attribution, and is easier than attribution. Unequivocal attribution would require controlled experiments with multiple copies of the climate system, which is not possible. Attribution, as described above, can therefore only be done within some margin of error. For example, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report says “it is extremely likely that human activities have exerted a substantial net warming influence on climate since 1750,” where “extremely likely” indicates a probability greater than 95%.

Following the publication of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) in 2001, “detection and attribution” of climate change has remained an active area of research. Some important results include:

  • A review of detection and attribution studies by the International Ad Hoc Detection and Attribution Group[9] found that “natural drivers such as solar variability and volcanic activity are at most partially responsible for the large-scale temperature changes observed over the past century, and that a large fraction of the warming over the last 50 yr can be attributed to greenhouse gas increases. Thus, the recent research supports and strengthens the IPCC Third Assessment Report conclusion that ‘most of the global warming over the past 50 years is likely due to the increase in greenhouse gases.'”
  • Multiple independent reconstructions of the temperature record of the past 1000 years confirm that the late 20th century is probably the warmest period in that time
  • Two papers in Science in August 2005 resolve the problem, evident at the time of the TAR, of tropospheric temperature trends. The UAH version of the record contained errors, and there is evidence of spurious cooling trends in the radiosonde record, particularly in the tropics. See satellite temperature measurements for details; and the 2006 US CCSP report.
  • Barnett and colleagues say that the observed warming of the oceans “cannot be explained by natural internal climate variability or solar and volcanic forcing, but is well simulated by two anthropogenically forced climate models,” concluding that “it is of human origin, a conclusion robust to observational sampling and model differences”
  • Bratcher and Giese observed conditions that “could be an indication of a climate regime shift to pre-1976 conditions.” Bratcher and Giese conclude: “The results presented here do not preclude the possibility that anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases have contributed to global warming. However the results do indicate that the human forced portion of global warming may be less than previously described.”

Ice Core Records:

Ice core record shows that on some occasions temperature starts rising hundreds of years before CO2 increases. Such results confirm that the relationship between CO2 and climate can go in both directions: changes in CO2 concentrations affect climate, while changes in climate can affect CO2 concentrations.

They indicate that he earth had gone through many climate changes over its history, as result of a few natural factors; solar activity, change in orbit, volcanic activity and so on.

But the point is, that since the beginning of the industrial age, CO2 levels greatly exceed the range found in the ice core data. Isotopic analysis of atmospheric CO2 confirms that fossil fuel burning is the source of most of the CO2 increase, unlike during prior interglacial periods.

—–

Reference:

  1. Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change. IPCC.
  2. (2007) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Summary for Policymakers). IPCC.
  3. The Kyoto Protocol. UNFCCC.
  4. (2007) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Technical summary). IPCC.
  5. a b c (2006) Livestock’s Long Shadow. Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N.
  6. (2007) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Front matter). IPCC.
  7. Geerts, B.. Aerosols and Climate.
  8. (2001) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Summary for Policymakers). IPCC
  9. Barnett, T.; et al. (May 2005). “Detecting and Attributing External Influences on the Climate System: A Review of Recent Advances”. Journal of Climate
  10. gavin (2007-08-11). Et Tu LT?. RealClimate.org.
  11. gavin (2007-08-11). The tropical lapse rate quandary. RealClimate.org.
  12. Wigley, Tom M. L.; et al. (2006-05-02). “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere – Understanding and Reconciling Differences (Executive Summary)”. NOAA.
  13. Barnett, Tim P.; et al. (2005-07-08). “Penetration of Human-Induced Warming into the World’s Oceans”.
  14. Bratcher, Amy J.; Giese, Benjamin S. (2002-10-08). “Tropical Pacific Decadal Variability and Global Warming”
  15. Geophysical Research Letters.
  16. Lindzen, Richard S. (1997-08-05). “Can increasing carbon dioxide cause climate change?”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  17. Indermühle, Andreas; Monnin, Eric; Stauffer, Bernhard; Stocker, Thomas F.; Wahlen, Martin (2000). “Atmospheric CO2 concentration from 60 to 20 kyr BP from the Taylor Dome ice core, Antarctica”. Geophysical Research Letters 27.
  18. Fischer, Hubertus; Wahlen, Martin; Smith, Jesse; Mastroianni, Derek; Deck, Bruce (1999). “Ice core records of atmospheric CO2 around the last three glacial terminations”.
  19. Skinner, L.C. (2006). “Glacial – interglacial atmospheric CO2 change: a simple “hypsometric effect” on deep-ocean carbon sequestration?”. Climate of the Past Discussions 2.
  20. Paillard, Didier (2000). “Glacial Cycles: Toward a New Paradigm”. Reviews of Geophysics
  21. Liou, K.N. (2002). An Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation (2nd ed). Academic Press.
  22. Staley, D.O.; G.M. Jurica (1970). “Flux emissivity tables for water vapor, carbon dioxide and ozone”. Journal of Applied Meteorology

—-

So, why do people believe that scientists just make this stuff up? What could there agenda possibly be? There is little money in cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, and little thanks for possibly heralding the end of the world as we know it.

The bigger question I have to wonder, is why some people are so hell bent on insisting that nothing is wrong and our pollution isn’t doing this. Is it personal?

———————————

Tree here, again. That last question is immensely important, and I think there are two prongs to it. The first is profit motive, and the second is personal responsibility motive.

In the first, lots of companies and well-off individuals stand to lose quite a bit of cash if we cut down or eliminate carbon emissions. Setting up a gree power grid, entirely possible according to last moth’s issue of Discover Magazine, would put a lot of people out of business, Big Oil foremost among them. And since Big Oil is a Big Contributor to conservative political campaigns (read: gives out lots of bribes), there’s a lot of people with Big Agendas telling Big Lies and using Big Ridicule to further the goals of Big Oil.

As always, the real science gets lost. A lie can go around the world before the truth can get its boots on, and that’s primarily because it takes three seconds and no thought to say “It’s just a natural warming cycle,” and lots of time, energy, research, and words to say “That’s only a tiny bit of the truth, and is mostly a lie, because x, y, and z, but q, p and r sometimes lead to questions….”

And, well, we live in a sound bit culture. You get two medium-sized sentences to convince an undecided person of any given position, and the first sentence had better be sharp and quotable or nobody will hang around for the second. It had better be witty, interesting, and memorable, and the second line has to cram as many facts as you can get into it without using more than one, MAYBE two commas.

You can put up to two or three other sentences in between them, but that’s kind of pointless because people will only remember the first and last ones, and if you take to long to get to the last one, nobody will be paying attention by the time you say it.

Which makes this blog kind of pointless, since nobody who doesn’t already agree with me will remember anything beyond the first paragraph of any post I make. Oh well. I’ll call it “fighting the sound-bite culture” and get all pretentious about it to make myself feel better.

Tree of Finches – Fighting the Sound-Bite Culture Since 2008!

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Spreading Awareness of “Just How Hard We’ve Bitch-Slapped the Planet”, Oceanic Edition

Posted by A birch tree on April 5, 2008

From the “The Planet is so Big, We Couldn’t Possibly Affect it!” file:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0506_040506_oceanplastic.html

So apparently we’ve got tons and tons of microscopic plastic particles floating around in the oceans, sucking up toxic hydrophobic industrial waste chemicals (in addition to the toxic chemicals they’re already made of), and releasing them into the digestive tracts of marine invertibrates, as well as probably causing all sorts of other sundry chaos we haven’t even thought to look for yet, and won’t think to look for until ten years from now we find it and go “Oops, didn’t think of that!”.

And, even scarier:

http://www.bestlifeonline.com/cms/publish/health-fitness/Our_oceans_are_turning_into_plastic_are_we_2.shtml

The North Pacific gyre contains an ocean of plastic twice the size of Texas, from surface to bottom. Moreover, it’s only one of five oces gyres with similarly depressing plastic dumps, making 40% of the total volume of our oceans consumed by nothing more than waste plastic. Leaching toxic chemicals into the oceans, creating vast marine dead zones, working its way into the food chain, and generally fucking with the environment in monumental ways.

PEOPLE! WAKE THE FUCK UP! THE OCEANS ARE 40% PLASTIC!

Jesus Christ on a bike! Next time I hear someone say anything even remotely like “The planet has these systems, see, that take care of itself and are all self-correcting and shit, so humans are so small and the earth is so big and complex that there’s nothing we could do to REALLY change, damage, or affect it. Have you seen the keys to my Hummer?” I may just have to haul off and kick them in the shins until they cry like a clubbed baby seal.

Some happy-happy-joy-joy quotes:

All sea creatures are threatened by floating plastic, from whales down to zooplankton. There’s a basic moral horror in seeing the pictures: a sea turtle with a plastic band strangling its shell into an hourglass shape; a humpback towing plastic nets that cut into its flesh and make it impossible for the animal to hunt. More than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die in the North Pacific each year, either from mistakenly eating this junk or from being ensnared in it and drowning.

Bad enough. But Moore soon learned that the big, tentacled balls of trash were only the most visible signs of the problem; others were far less obvious, and far more evil. Dragging a fine-meshed net known as a manta trawl, he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.

This statistic is grim—for marine animals, of course, but even more so for humans. The more invisible and ubiquitous the pollution, the more likely it will end up inside us. And there’s growing—and disturbing—proof that we’re ingesting plastic toxins constantly, and that even slight doses of these substances can severely disrupt gene activity. “Every one of us has this huge body burden,” Moore says. “You could take your serum to a lab now, and they’d find at least 100 industrial chemicals that weren’t around in 1950.” The fact that these toxins don’t cause violent and immediate reactions does not mean they’re benign: Scientists are just beginning to research the long-term ways in which the chemicals used to make plastic interact with our own biochemistry.

Most alarming, these chemicals may disrupt the endocrine system—the delicately balanced set of hormones and glands that affect virtually every organ and cell—by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. In marine environments, excess estrogen has led to Twilight Zone-esque discoveries of male fish and seagulls that have sprouted female sex organs.

In his opinion, the movie Cast Away was a joke—Tom Hanks could’ve built a village with the crap that would’ve washed ashore during a storm.

Posted in Global Environment, Humans vs. Planet, Oceans | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »