Friday, February 27, 2009

sunny Labrador

It's becoming clear that moves to cut global carbon emissions may be too little and too late for us avoid the worst effects of climate change. This is a photograph of an agricultural area not too far from Beijing that's quickly being overrun by the Gobi Desert. We all know about the recent devastating fires in Australia and everyone in the Gulf areas of the US are naturally terrified of another Hurricane Katrina coming ashore.

Scientists are predicting the average global temperature will rise from 2-6 degrees Celsius in the coming century. So what? Celsius is unAmerican and doesn't mean much of anything, does it? Anyhow, just for the heck of it I looked up the number on a conversion program and learned that the mid-range temperature of 4C actually translates to 39 degrees farenheit. Yow. Is it silly of me to worry about such a thing? After all, overnight temperature swings can be much like it just about anywhere we live or we could compare it to moving from Montreal to Miami.

Whether we like it or not we need to understand that an average warming of the entire world by 4C would make the planet unrecognizable from anything humans have ever experienced. When will we know when it's time to take drastic action and will the human race ever be able to act positively in a coordinated way? Okay, I know the answer to that one but I had to ask. Goodness knows someday a few people will look back at what we've done to the planet and wonder what were we thinking. Maybe that's the answer. It will be a few people.

It's definitely time for the world to pass on the clean coal fantasy. Coal provides 50% of our electricity which comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. The Chinese have been opening a coal-burning power plant every week. How can we even begin to discuss alternatives with them until we do something ourselves?

On Monday there's going to be a big rally in Washington, DC of environmental activists. The people in Appalachia have suffered for decades under the rule of the coal mining companies and the ugly, old and dirty coal fired power plant owned by Congress should be the first to go.

There are plans made and still shelved to rebuild and electrify the railroads here. A revived rail service could remove 85% of the long haul trucks from the highways within 25 years. What a great concept and how nice it would be if people didn't have to give up their cars.. at least so long as they're electric ones.

A little symbolic action may be just what the country needs to raise awareness that things can be done so we don't have to plan on moving our families to sunny Labrador. I consider it an encouragement to the current administration to keep moving forward. We've already lost too much time and I'd like to know there'll always be an April in Paris.

You can check out the full size version of the map here.

Late addendum: Lindsay Lobe came by today and noticed I'd made a serious error with my translation of a 4C temperature increase meaning 39F. Although 4C does translate to 39F, in actual practice I'd failed to note that average global (combined ocean and land) temperature is 57F and a subsequent rise of 4C translates to about 8F. Ooops. Sorry. I never was renowned for my math skills but 8F isn't good either. All the rest stays the same.


gfid said...

please keep this map under your hat. if your mercun military gets a look at it, we'll be the next country that needs 'military aid' from y'all.

linda said...

wow, going to the site and seeing this blown up is quite a trip! I hope my grandkids like living in the wilds of canada, that won't be wild anymore....or siberia...very frightening prospects if we don't get our world wide act together one of these days...I think I'd be looking at the ocean instead of the bay! I'm going to go read more on the site, it looks like a fascinating read but scares the crap out of me, which is a good thing.

in looking at that map, all I could think about is how the problem will no longer be oil, it will be water and food!

susan said...

gfid - Damn straight.

linda - I know it's really scary stuff but when I first read these articles a couple of days ago I knew I'd have to do a post about them. Who the heck reads New Scientist? Nevertheless, my eyes nearly fell out when I saw the map. It's obvious to me we have to be thinking about this stuff on some level because the consequences of what's already done will have to be faced. I'm not expecting much in the way of comments for this one so I really do appreciate you and gfid both for doing so.

Lover of Life said...

I'm with you all the way! We have to keep in mind that our demand for electricity is going up dramatically. If we move to electric cars, what will that mean? New forms of clean power must be our first priority. We have to back our current administration to do everything we can to control global warming. It truly is the most important thing facing mankind.

How would you like to be Obama right now?

Seraphine said...

i hate cold weather anyway.
but ohhh.. to see northern california vineyards overtaken by gobi desert-like sand dunes would be terrible. we are already semi-arid. even a few inches of rain here makes a big difference.
and i like to take hot steamy showers.

Randal Graves said...

I love when you post such cheery fare.

"Global warming? It's 24° today! Fahrenheit, you commies!"

susan said...

lol - There are some excellent proposals out there for non-petroleum or coal fueled energy production systems. The electric rail piece I linked to discusses powering trains through wind power with the result trains wouldn't have to carry their own fuel. General Motors even made trains before the major highway conversion projects after WWII. Solar and tidal hydropower are also easily available and could be ramped up soon if investments were made in the near term. You can't find answers if you don't know the questions, eh?

sera - The Gobi has been expanding at an incredible rate for years now without much notice by the West. A lot of water could be saved for growing and nice hot showers if people in S. Cal gave up their personal swimming pools - never mind the unbelievable water waste in Las Vegas. It all comes from the same aquifers. I still remember as one of my favorite movies - Chinatown.

randal - You have to admit it keeps out the riffraff ;-)

susan said...

lol - I wouldn't want to be him but it would be nice to talk to him.

gfid said...

just keep in mind that you'll have to take out the Newfies first. they've pretty much taken over Alberta, and now they're working on everything between here and The Rock. i know i wouldn't mess with 'em.

on a more serious note (that'll be the D just above middle C) the thing that troubles me most about all these predictions, and the public's general reaction to them, is how only a few brave souls dare mention that it's CONSUMPTION... as in quantity of energy required to maintain a needlessly 'consumptive' lifestyle, that is the problem, much more than the type of energy that's consumed. our earth is dying of consumption, in much the same way people died of tuberculosis in the past century. the big difference is, they were eager to take the cure, as soon as they knew what it was. we, however, have been told the cure, but we won't take it. and, tragically, this kind of consumption is slower acting. those who are first infected don't die of it. they just pass it on for a few generations before it reaches the terminal stage.

susan said...

gfid - You mean they broke out of that fence built when I was a kid?

I don't know how well informed people in Canada are about the energy consumption problem but I'm imagining it's made much clearer there than here. People in the West have been trained to consume for 50 years or more and it's just been getting worse. Nowadays they feel it's a right to consume unnecessarily and dispose of at will. I think some stuff even gets tossed before it's been paid for.

In other words, they prefer not to know and goodness knows there are enough talking heads in the media to tell them global warming is just a myth perpetrated by crazy left wingers. Treated properly and with respect the earth is a self healing system but I'm very afraid she's got a serious infection. I really don't know what else to do but to continue living simply and to post what I learn. The conclusions I'm drawing aren't happy ones.

Liberality said...

I've got a present for you.

oh yeah, excellent post. I get so depressed sometimes when I think about it though.

Lisa said...

Oh boy. It's an uphill battle. The Actor told us the other day that his science teacher doesn't believe that humans have any impact on climate change.

I'm thinking that dude ought not be teaching science.

Gary said...

Amazing photo from China and yes, the map is too. Yeah, let's do what we can to wake up the leaders to act now. The tar sands in Alberta can go the way of the Appalachian coal, by the way.

susan said...

liberality - Good news. Thanks for whatever it is and I'll be by.

It is depressing and especially so with all the other stuff but we're not talking about a comet that may or may not hit in a thousand years. If half of what these people are saying is true it's best to know.

lisa - The Actor's teacher isn't the only one. We're talking the continuation of major denial and obfuscation from the msm on down.

gary - Yeah, getting oil out of the tar sands is costing an amazing amount of water. It's horrible.

Seraphine said...

southern calif used to get a lot of water from mono lake, on the nevada side of the mountain from yosemite park.
because they were taking so much water, the lake itself was turning into salt.
the lake had more salt in it than the ocean.
you'd never think seagulls would fly that far from the ocean to nest, but they do.
but because people were so pro-active in saving mono lake, about 15 years ago southern california starting diverting less water from the lake.
i think socal now leads the world in water recycling.
but but but i've never seen a seagull nest in a swimming pool.

Utah Savage said...

Utah, aside from being backwards in so many ways is also coal country. So we want dirty coal to rain black rain on us. We're just that kind of hearty pioneer stock.

susan said...

sera - I didn't know that but now I do. Besides, I know swimming pools have more chemicals than water since one of my friends had her white blond hair turn green :-)

utah - Thank goodness for the Sierra Club and all the people who are working with them. I loved that trailer you showed a couple of weeks ago about a A Snowmobile For George. We do plan on seeing it.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Susan
Your concern is justified. However (without wanting to detract from the dire consequences of a 4-6 degrees Celsius increase in global warming this century) I would point out your comparing absolutes as if they were differences. – The centigrade to Fahrenheit conversion table starts out at 1 degree Celsius equivalent of 33.8 Fahrenheit. Hence 4 degrees Celsius is the equivalent to 39.3 degrees Fahrenheit, but an increase of 4 degrees Celsius represents an increase of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, not 39.3 as I think you may be incorrectly inferring. E.g. If global warming increased average temperatures by 4 degrees Celsius in one country from 28 Celsius (82.5 Fahrenheit ) to 32 Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit ) that is an increase of 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Click on the conversion table to verify what I am saying if you’re not sure on how it works -which can be confusing.
That is not to say we are not close to a point of no return and the consequences with rising sea levels will be horrific if we fail to act decisively. But I don’t think we have reached that tipping point yet – but unfortunately the current global crisis is diverting attention away from the need to act immediately.
Climate changes are notourouslty difficult and complicated to understand or predict but I think the overwhelming number of scientists are now convinced our worst case senarios are likely to prove correct. In Australia we have the double whammy effect; during the period of 1950-1980 we incurred an unusually wet period which lulled us into a false sense of security. We are now returning to normal dryer periods that were appareant from weather patterns dating prior to 1950, fuelled additionally by the effect of global warming. Even so in the early part of the 20th century 25 % of the total land area of Victoria was destroyed by fire. Best wishes

susan said...

lindsay - Thanks so much for providing a correction to my misunderstanding of what a 4C upturn in global temperature would really mean in Farenheit. It's still scary even if it's just 7F but I'll post an edit just the same. I'm glad you noticed.