Archive | October 2012

2,000 Year Old Climate Change

While I was thinking about what topic to write about in this post, I thought, “Wait, everyone is talking about the effects of global warming on the U.S. or on the world as a whole. But who has really talked about the effects of global warming in Europe specifically?” That was my “Eureka!!!!” moment. So I searched for articles and information on global warming in Europe, because my great-great grandparents came from Germany and I wanted to know more about what they may have known (or experienced) about global warming. What I found was very interesting. The article I found mainly showed data about how much global warming has affected Europe over the years and also just how long global warming has possibly been going on over there in Europe.

This study displayed by a Daily Mail UK Online author shows that during the Roman Empire it may have been warmer in northern England than it is today, and that is why the Romans were able to have vineyards there. The study also shows that around 2,000 years ago Britain and the rest of Europe experienced a series of higher temperature summers. German scientists have found that Earth has been on a 2,000 year cooling process, and is just starting to heat up again to cause the global warming that most people most everyone knows about. Lead author Professor Dr. Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz said he thought earlier estimations of historical temperatures were not quite as accurate as you may think:

“We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low. This figure we calculated may not seem particularly significant, however it is not negligible when compared to global warming, which up to now has been less than 1 degree C.”

The scientists have used data from tree rings, an age-old indicator of climate change through looking at the width of the rings to find data about this topic. They have found that by looking at these rings they can tell that the earth has been cooling by 0.6 C over the past 2,000 years, which they attributed to the changing of Earth’s orbit, which brought it farther away from the sun.

In doing this study, I think these German scientists have been able to prove the possibility of the idea of global warming being less important than people think it is.  They have looked at the problem from a different angle and found that there is a good chance that the opposite side of this massive debate is more believable and could be more is correct in their data and other information. The information on this study has been well collected from a dependable source, and this just helps to make this side of the argument seem more dependable.

The Frankenstorm: Did We Bring This On Ourselves?

I am sure that almost all of you have heard of the disaster that is Hurricane Sandy. After all, you can’t read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch the TV without hearing something about a monster like that. It’s everywhere. Inside of my RSS feed, I found quite a few articles that have to do with Hurricane Sandy, talking mainly about its current path and its aftereffects. However, there have also been quite a few articles about the relationship between Hurricane Sandy and global warming. Many of them state that the sea from which Sandy came from was in fact 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than its usual temperature. Tropical storms gain a lot of strength when going over warmer water, so those 5 degrees can make a big difference. One of the articles featured Dan Miller, an engineer and venture capitalist who cares a lot about climate change, and helped James Hansen (NASA climate scientist), challenged writer Andrew Revkin on something Revkin wrote earlier. Miller claims that the earth is warming significantly, mostly because of humans:

We have increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by about 40% in the last 100 years (mostly the last 50 years) on the way to doubling later this century.  The Earth has warmed up about 1.4°F)already due to the extra greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere and it would have warmed even more if we weren’t also putting up smoke that reflects sunlight.  This warming has increased Earth’s energy radiation to space, but the excess greenhouse gases are still trapping more heat than the Earth is radiating to space.  This “energy imbalance” is about 0.6 watts/square meter.  This doesn’t sound like much but it is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs going off every day.

Humans have been creating lots of heat from greenhouse gasses, and now we’re turning our planet into a superhero (the radiation). Either that, or we’re killing the Earth even faster (the more likely choice). The only thing that is even decent is that us humans are putting up a smoke screen which has been reflecting some of the sunlight, but is also killing anyone with asthma. Miller goes on to show some more effects of the increasing heat:

Extremely Hot Summers have increased 5000% in the past 50 years.  There is 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere than 50 years ago.  Average ocean temperatures have increased (90% of global warming energy goes into the ocean).  The Arctic sea ice just reached its lowest level in thousands of years and in a few years you will be able to sail a boat to the North Pole for the first time in human history.

He says that all of these things would have an effect on strength, scale, and direction of Sandy. And I may not be any expert on the science of hurricanes, but I know a bit and this all seems to make sense. So, it is very possible that we brought Sandy on ourselves. This really should be a wake up call that we need to start doing something. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, Sandy is unusually strong (although that could be just me). It has already caused tons and tons of damage. So if this won’t get people to do something, what more has to happen in order for us to start doing something?

Sandy The Squirrel? No, Sandy The Hurricane!

I am sure that most people have heard of the monster storm that is pummeling the east coast as we speak. Hurricane Sandy, although classified as only a Category 1, has caused mass destruction along the east coast of the United States. Unlike most east coastal hurricanes that stay out to sea and never really hit the shoreline, Sandy is doing the exact opposite. Hurricane Sandy has also been called a “rare hybrid superstorm”, or even more cleverly nicknamed to match the Halloween spirit, “Frankenstorm.” Hurricane Sandy was created by an Arctic jet stream, formed in the north that morphed with a tropical storm formed in the south. Although New York is feeling the most of Sandy’s “wrath,” the coasts of Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, and even North Carolina have experienced high winds and pummeling rains. Hurricane Sandy has not only sparked interests in the United States, but all over the world.

Many comparisons have been made between Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. Well for one, both of these hurricanes have defied odds. Hurricane Sandy is the first hurricane that has traveled upward along the east coast. Most east coastal hurricanes stay farther east, and never directly hit land, but Sandy refuses to do so. In addition, Hurricane Katrina is one of just three hurricanes that have been recorded as a category five. Hurricanes are categorized based on the speed of their winds. A hurricane is called a category five when its winds exceed one hundred fifty-five miles per hour. So if you can imagine how fast you go on the highway, and double that speed, you still won’t have the speed of a category five hurricane.  I know, wow!

The question has been raised, “Is Hurricane Sandy caused by global warming?” In my opinion, asking if global warming caused Hurricane Sandy is similar to asking if hurricanes are caused by global warming. Well, hurricanes form in waters of warmer temperatures, and will occasionally hit land. So if hurricanes are created in warm waters, the water temperatures are continuing to increase due to global warming, and the number of destructive hurricanes is increasing as well, is it safe to assume that global warming causes these storms?

In my opinion, the answer to this common question is yes. Everything adds up, if hurricanes are reliant on warm waters to even exist, and global warming causes the water temperatures rise, as a result, there will be more hurricanes. I predict that over time, parts of Earth that don’t normally experience hurricanes will get them because the waters will have warmed in that area. If people can piece these facts together, they will realize that the frequency of hurricanes will increase. Many people, I feel, refuse to put two-and-two together because they don’t want to face it that there is something serious happening to our planet; our home. No one likes a hurricane, so hopefully these severe storms will send a message to those that don’t feel the importance of putting a stop to global warming that says this issue is serious and they need to do something about it.

Recently in our Environmental Writing class, we Skyped with the climate scientist for NASA, Bruce Wielicki. Dr. Wielicki told us that we don’t know if global warming directly causes Hurricane Sandy, and we are still researching. He predicts however, that in the future, we will see less small hurricanes, but larger, more devastating storms, similar to Hurricane Katrina. No one can put a date on the day when the world will end, or when something serious happens, but we can put a date on when we do something about global warming.

A Push To Solar

The government should make a big push to concentrate on solar energy. The presidential town hall debate featured Obama and Romney debating over oil, gas, and coal. As we have to come to learn, unsurprisingly climate change was not mentioned. President Obama did mention renewable energy production, but other than that solar energy references were non-existent. I think the reason Obama did not mention solar any further is because of Solyndra. Solyndra is a company that manufactured solar panels, which received loan guarantees because of Obama’s stimulus bill. This company recently went suddenly bankrupt. Solyndra went bankrupt because of Obama’s administration inability to properly handle subsidies. The technology that this green company was using was also a new, but the cost of its structure kept going up. Obama probably did not want Romney to bring this particular point up. I bring Solyndra up because although it is a shame that these people went bankrupt, but it looks like it will be better for the environment. Because this company shut down, solar panel manufacturing has moved to China, where it has now become a commodity and a high-volume industry, making the panels cheaper. Now that these panels are cheaper, more people will buy them making the atmosphere much cleaner.

Solar energy would be in perfect position to be competitive in today’s market if the subsidies weren’t so high for industries in oil, gas, and coal. In 2010, there was a $349 billion difference between renewable energy and fossil fuels. Cutting those subsidies would be good for the economy: it would reduce energy consumption, it would give solar power better standing to compete with fossil fuels, and it would give other renewable energies more chances as well. Between the other renewable energies, solar would still prevail because of its availability. Although only a small fraction of the sun’s light hits earth, that is 10,000 times as much energy than what we currently use. It is undeniable that solar energy has the best availability.

The only problem with solar energy is that the most usage of electricity occurs at night when there is no sun. But I think this could be an easy fix too. At high temperatures, solar energy can be stored in molten salts. These salts refers to salts in a liquid phase that is normally solid. This storage method is a good solution because salts are an effective method and are very cheap.

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This solar theory is a very legitimate solution to give a massive decline in the progress of global warming. It would also save people like Calvin, and who doesn’t like Calvin?

Global Warming? Or Freezing?

According to the new article, “Antarctic Sea Ice Hits Record … High?” from National Geographic, Antartica has actually gained new ice! So much ice, in fact, that in late September, it was breaking records! Let’s see what the author, Daniel Stone, actually had to say about it:

Despite frequent headlines about a warming planet, melting sea ice, and rising oceans, climate analysts pointed to a seeming bright spot this week: During Southern Hemisphere winters, sea ice in the Antarctic, the floating chunks of frozen ocean water, is actually increasing.

In fact, in late September, satellite data indicated that Antarctica was surrounded by the greatest area of sea ice ever recorded in the region: 7.51 million square miles (19.44 million square kilometers), the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Thursday. Even so, it’s a slow rate of growth—about one percent over last year—not nearly enough to offset melting in the Arctic, which broke records just weeks ago.

National Geographic asked Eric Rignot, a NASA researcher and earth systems professor at UC Irvine, whether the data is good news, and what it means for the rise of global sea levels, which are fueled by melting ice.”

 Sounds great and awesome and Woo! Yeah! We are good to go! Haha. Not exactly. We are all so caught up on the Global Warming aspect of our future, but have we ever thought of the effects of the world cooling? Entering another ice age? At this point, really anything could happen. The quote says that this record breaking gaining of ice in Antarctica doesn’t even come close to offsetting the Arctic’s ice melting this year. So… what’s going on?
According to NASA researcher and Earth systems professor, Eric Rignot, Global Warming is still rearing it’s ugly head and heating our earth, but some places might just be a little slow at catching on. We have this idea that our entire earth is warming uniformly and always doing so, but we forget about our flipped seasons in the Southern (or Northern depending where you are) hemisphere. Also, we need to keep in mind that we probably haven’t experienced cold like Antarctica, but I can guess it’s probably a good bit cooler than here at the coldest of times. Let’s take another look at the issue then, shall we? Right now, Antarctica is technically still in winter- well it was when the data was collected- and it’s at the very least 50 degrees colder than what we are used to. Plus, as the temperature difference increases, the Antarctic winds are moving a little bit faster, which, of course, makes it colder.  So… Antarctica’s got some catching up to do… Should we be relieved or still plan for the worst? You may want to go with the latter because we are definitely still heating up, and I don’t think any of us are making plans to move to Antarctica just because Global Warming may be slower there. So again we are back to our gigantic, crazy important question; it’s your choice, have fun making the wise decision.

The Politics Behind Global Warming

Many people will look at the title of this post and think to themselves, “Global warming isn’t a political issue at all; a person should be able to think and make an opinion about an issue without having to worry about what his party will think about him.” Sadly, that isn’t the case. In today’s America, everything that has any importance on the daily lives of the American people has to be a political issue, global warming included. Sometimes this can be a good thing and unify Congress and get them to all agree on an issue and get something done for once, but most of the time, bringing politics into current events will only bring trouble.

A poll done by the Pew Research Center
As shown in this poll—conducted in October of 2010—more Democrats believe in global warming than Republicans (which is more or less a well known fact); the question that you have to ask yourself is ‘Why’. Why do 79% of Democrats believe in global warming whereas only 38% of Republicans believe in it? Now while you can’t have an exact answer without going to each Republican that doesn’t believe in global warming, there are a few possible answers. One thing that you could bring up is the philosophy of the Republican party; people affiliated with the G.O.P. tend to be more religious. Now while being religious isn’t a bad thing, sometimes, very religious people believe that only God or their deity has the power to change the world on such a massive scale. That was the first possible reason, but not the most probable. Possibly the most likely reason that they don’t believe in global warming is because of where they get their news. Read More…

Does Religion Matter In the Issue of Global Warming?

On Friday, we skyped with a environmental journalist named Andrew Revkin. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask him a question. My question was “How much of an impact do you think religion has on the perception of global warming?” He responded by saying, that the media distorting the truth is more dangerous than religion. He said that there are many people who believe what their religion says. Therefore, they do not have to persuade anyone about it. Whereas, if you hear something from the media, then it is an opinion whether you believe it or not. When you have an opinion, you feel obligated to persuade people to believe what the media says as well. Therefore, the media can spread a lie to the whole world. This is why Andrew Revkin thinks the media is more dangerous than religion.

However, I disagree with Mr. Revkin. If religion does not matter, then why do people think God will take care of everything? I agree with him in the sense, that bias is also an important issue relating to climate change. However, I believe that religion is more important to global warming. Because the ramifications of religion affecting global warming can be catastrophic. If everyone thinks that their respective God will do everything, then no one will do anything to try and reduce the effects of Global Warming. This can be a major problem if it is not solved quickly.

For example, I hear many people say that God has a plan for everything. Even though this could be true, if that is the case, God also creates everything. With this reasoning in mind, God would have to create global warming to have a plan to solve it. If God created it, then there is a good chance climate change is a test of humans to see how humans will respond. Just like Noah’s ark was a test for Noah’s trust in God, this could be a test about all the humans trust in God. If no one does something quickly, bad things could happen.