It’s not that difficult figuring out why presidential candidate Scott Walker chose to opt out of attending the National Governor Summer meet Thursday through Saturday In West Virginia. Costs and controversies surrounding attempts to combat global warming are among topics the nation’s governors plan to tackle when they gather this week.
But because Walker believes 97% of scientists publishing papers on this subject are wrong, and he says human activity has no impact on the climate, he has little reason to attend this meeting.
This timely and urgently needed conference comes also as states grapple with issues that defy easy answers. Those include long-range funding for infrastructure upgrades, the effects of prolonged drought, and adequately funding public schools and colleges, to name a few.
It is likely that should Scott Walker become the next U.S. president, he will have to change his toon as the results of even worse global warming will already be upon us. We ought not wait for the next election to take massive actions and provide positive financial incentives to residents who cause limited or no amounts of contributions (greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere) to this potentially very real calamity. See “About This Blog” for one approach.
Originally published on Sep 27, 2014, as requested by Neil himself. More than one version. “Please feel free to create any video of “Who’s Gonna Stand Up” u wish. Use social media to spread the word. – NY”
The above photo is of the Alberta, Canada area which was once boreal forest but was converted into a tar sands mine.
The Koch Brothers are the main owners. A Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres in the northern Alberta oil sands, an area nearly the size of Delaware. The Washington Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Koch Industries has been involved with almost every aspect of the tar sands industry, from mining bitumen to transportation, exportation, distribution and, of course, refining the petrochemicals — a large part of their empire.
Koch Industries is “one of Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers, and exporters, with more than 130 crude oil customers,” and is also responsible for about 25 percent of oil sands crude imports into the U.S., for use at its refineries, according to a Post article by Ari Philips, March 20, 2014.
Koch Industries on a net acreage basis is the largest American and foreign holder of leases in Canada’s oil sands.
The Enbrige owned pipeline cuts diagonally across Wisconsin from Superior to the border with Illinois The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved its permit to triple the volume pumped through the current 42 inch pipeline to 1.1 million barrels (42-gallons) per day. Dane County added a condition to placing a pumping station on the Dane County that they appropriately insure the project in case of a spill like the one that occurred in 2012 in Kalamazoo, Michigan part but Wisconsin state legislators nullified that with language prohibiting local action. The Wisconsin DNR determined there was no significant environmental impacts warranting a public review and Environmental Impact Statement EIS.
The GMO-labeling movement was dealt a major blow last week when Congress passed HR 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill, sponsored by Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), prohibits states from mandating labels on products with genetically modified ingredients and creates a voluntary certification system at the USDA.
Forty-five Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Voting “yes” to the bill were Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, James Sensenbrenner, Glen Grothman, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble. Voting “no” were Mark Pocan, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore.
Why Have Our Commercial and Public Media (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Online Sources) and Officials in Federal and State Government in the United States Not Sounded the ALARM Yet on Continued Global Warming and Climate Change?
The following is a summary of a 2008 international conference entitled: “ENVIRONMENT: FROM GLOBAL WARNINGS TO MEDIA ALERT” that was held October 10 and 11, 2008, in Venice, Italy. The purpose of the conference was to challenge the international media to improve public understanding of the impact of climate change. Journalists and news executives from 29 countries representing six continents attended the conference which was held by the international World Political Forum (WPF).
Unfortunately, now almost five years after this conference was held, commercial and corporation funded TV and radio media in these United States continue to purposefully ignore said challenge by not sounding the alarm on the global warming world catastrophe in the making, as do many U.S. publicly elected government officials in federal and state government, leaving the at large public in the U.S. as confused as ever over whether human activities such as fossil fuel burning: in power plants that produce electricity; in home and business heating (natural gas; oil; propane; electric baseboard); in motor vehicle travel and product shipping, via trucks, ships, pipelines (fueling lift stations), in airplanes and in trains; and in cement making and paving the landscape (fuel burning in earth moving equipment). Another significant contributor to the growing global warming crisis is continued deforestation, worldwide, and especially the deforestation of the tropics, where previously large reductions in of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being taken out of the air by the vegetation there – through the process of photosynthesis. Less green vegetation on Earth means increasing buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, adding to warmer global temperatures. Methane gas (unburned natural gas) that is released from oil wells, livestock, and rotting biological matter (permafrost thawing) compound the problem that is resulting in what the scientific community has called “a potentially very dangerous situation for all humanity and life on Earth and lasting far into the future. Reason is that many positive (lead to more warming) feedbacks . One such warming feedback is the loss of Earth’s albedo, where a reduction in the area of snow-covered land, ice caps, glaciers or sea ice has a compounding effect on the initial warming. As the loss of “white” snow and ice cover (the albedo) continues, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean increases, leading to more warming, which reduces the albedo on the planet even more, which causes more warming, and so on. A small amount of snow melt exposes darker ground which absorbs more radiation, leading to more snowmelt.
The effect is most vividly demonstrated by the decline in Arctic sea ice in recent decades.
As humans are continuing to do things that add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is that climates all around Earth have been measurably and significantly changing, mostly to the detriment of humans and animal life.
The global warming that has already taken place has caused Earth’s ocean levels to rise – due to thermal expansion from increasing water temperatures and from melting glaciers on Greenland, Antarctica, and Earth’s numerous mountain ranges.
Ocean water acidification has already taken place (a 33% increase) which has already lead to significant environmental, economic, and social cost. These effects of expected to continue unabated which is expected to worsen in time, with projected increases in monetary losses, damage, and loss of human and animal life due to worse and worse “natural” disasters.
As examples of recent catastrophes suspected to have been made worse as a likely direct consequence of rising average global temperatures (global warming): in 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan killed 1,400 and 2,500 people; in 2013, the thirtieth named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines – with an estimated one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on one-minute sustained wind speed and the deadliest typhoon hitting the Philippines in recorded modern history, killing 6,300 people in that country alone (dozens of fatalities from the storm were also reported in Taiwan, China and Vietnam) and according to United Nation’s officials, about 11 million people were adversely impacted by the storm with many left homeless and an economic cost in the billions of dollars; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy, which remains the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)) is estimated to have caused monetary damages of over $68 billion and killed at least 233 people along its path on the eastern U S. seaboard including New Jersey and New York; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was not only the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. Total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion; the hurricane and subsequent flooding took 1,833 human lives and an undetermined number of domesticated and wild animal lives.
Yet today, incredibly – almost six years later – there remain deniers of human-caused global warming and climate change, including our State of Wisconsin’s own U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, as well as announced U.S. presidential candidate and our current governor, Scott Walker, who continue to spread the false message that Earth’s climates have not been shown to have changed as a result of human activities, to the delight of corporations that are financially benefiting from continued and more fossil fuel burning, which releases carbon dioxide gas, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, which compounds from year to year in the atmosphere and Earth’s oceans, leading to monumental negative consequences for humanity and other life forms on Earth.
WPF’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 when the party was dissolved, chaired the conference at which participants reached a consensus that the problem of climate change is “URGENT”.
“Time is running out,” Mr. Gorbachev said in his closing remarks. “The most efficient way to tackle the urgent environmental problems facing our planet is transparency, in which the media have a vital role to play. This means global glasnost.”
Climate experts and media delegates approved a declaration calling for higher standards of reporting on strategic options to avert irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems.
Stressing the importance of well-informed public opinion, the declaration set out the following main recommendations:
– The media have the central role in ensuring that politicians, corporations, non-governmental organisations and scientists keep the general public informed about the latest facts and policy options regarding climate change. Civil society formation and action are essential components in deliberation on this issue.
– Journalists have a responsibility to improve their knowledge and skills in order to be able effectively to question government policy-makers, to distinguish facts from opinion or advocacy, and to evaluate scientific arguments from an independent viewpoint.
– Journalists and civil society should redouble their efforts to combat restrictive measures by governments on journalists reporting on their deficiencies in fighting environmental degradation or in informing the public about the dangers of climate change.
– Journalists should avail themselves of existing international databanks of validated statistics and scientific research on climate change.
– Scientists need to acquire improved communications skills to explain their findings in accessible terms and to build relationships of trust with the media.
– Media proprietors should be prepared to invest more resources in investigative reporting to allow specialist journalists to carry out serious and objective coverage of complex issues, based on a thorough understanding of good science.
– Editors should provide more space for in-depth treatment of environmental issues, not just on-line but in print and on air, and encourage innovative approaches that will grab the attention of the audience in a responsible, independent and non-sensational manner.
– Journalism training organisations should develop ever more sophisticated exercises to improve reporters’ skills in explaining complex scientific arguments. An international network should be created to share information about the availability of training courses and the development of new training models.
The Conference concluded on a positive note, declaring: “There is, however, cause for optimism if we act now. Numerous positive solutions to the global environmental change proposed by science and made possible by innovations in technology, the potential inherent in global civil society organization and by citizens’ groups everywhere in the world; and contributions from socially responsible business leaders can make it possible for us to provide for a decent and full life for all, and for generations to come, within the limits of our planet’s resources.”
Madison’s “Bee Fest” kicks off the beginning of Pollinator Week, June 15 – 21, 2015, a week dedicated to highlighting the importance of bees, bats, birds, butterflies and other pollinators.
A dramatic drop in the number of honeybee colonies in recent years drew dozens to the UW Arboretum on Sunday to understand that trend and how to encourage more pollination in Madison.
About 60 people spent their Sunday learning about pollinating insects and animals — which are not restricted to bees — and how to monitor their numbers in to help researchers track them.
The event was hosted by the Wisconsin chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology and is part of a larger effort to track populations of pollinating insects in the city.
More than 60 percent of Wisconsin’s honeybee hives have died since April of last year — higher than the national average, according to a recent survey conducted by a partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Now, the group is cataloging different species of pollinating insects with a focus on the rare rusty-patched bees and yellow-banded bumblebees in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which stretches along Lake Mendota’s University Bay between Muir Woods and Picnic Point.
Sunday’s event was the kickoff of that effort, chapter member and event organizer Wynne Moss said.
“One thing that’s challenging about studying changes in communities over time is that we often don’t have baseline data,” said Jesse Miller, a UW-Madison graduate student and botanist who researches grasslands and biodiversity patterns.
“This hopefully will be a long-term project that allows us to track changes year to year so we know what species were there in 2015, and how did that change in 2016,” Miller said. “And that can become incredibly valuable because these long-term data sets are so rare.”
Many of those attending Sunday’s event learned how to catch and identify insects using nets, special insect vacuums and by creating traps in cups of soapy water.
Attendee Keefe Keeley is the executive director of the Savanna Institute, a nonprofit based in Urbana, Illinois, that is focused on developing restorative agricultural systems.
Keeley said the effort will help ongoing research into bee hive collapse.
Anitra Johnson of Madison, a retired landscape gardener, plans to help monitor the insects, too.
On Sunday, she caught three species of bees that were drawn to baptisia and wild rose plants.
A major contributing factor to the declining bee population is a reduction in native plants they prefer, Miller said.
“In order to conserve pollinators, we have to conserve our natural habitats, and native plant gardens can be one way to do that, in addition to conserving the wild lands,” Miller said.
Miller said agricultural land has largely replaced savannas and prairie lands, especially in southern Wisconsin, diminishing the number of plants that flower at various times throughout the year.
“It’s not only having a native habitat but having a diverse enough native habitat that you have nectar throughout the summer, and that’s hard for a lot of gardeners to recognize and know when things bloom,” Moss said.
Source: Molly Beck firstname.lastname@example.org
EPA is joining other federal agencies, the National Wildlife Federation, the Pollinator Partnership (pollinator.org) and many more organizations in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/) to promote pollinator health.
The global warming genie has escaped his bottle! He has begun to show his wrath, which is only likely to worsen in the coming years, decades and centuries, and there is presently no end in sight!
He’s leaving plenty of evidence. The only way we can all help weaken him is by stopping our nonessential burning of fossil fuels, stopping deforestation especially of the tropics, and doing things which naturally result in more greenhouse gases being added into the earth’s atmosphere and oceans (such as overeating, wasting food, not recycling, not reusing things whenever possible, running our air conditioning and furnaces needlessly, using energy derived from tar sands industry, doing other things that frivolously burn fossil fuels such as going for joy rides, cruising, etc.. Because our atmosphere is where Global Warming lives and breathes (now that he’s escaped the bottle) and because he gets his tremendous strength to wreak havoc on the world by his breathing in greenhouse gases that have been accumulating to record high concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere (as a by-product of our burning carbon-based fuels in our cars, trucks, airplanes, power plants, ships, boats, trains, machinery, recreational products and the like) we need to all put him on a crash diet, NOW!
According to David Owen, author of Green Metropolis and The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse, the proportional share of the fuel burned during a round trip from New York City to Melbourne, Australia, is greater than the total amount of energy that the average resident of the earth uses, for all purposes, in a year. Forestalling global calamity is a preemptively worthy, ethically justifiable and economically achievable goal for everyone on the planet, especially in this era of television, radio, computers, Skype, the iPhone and virtual reality. Climatologists, environmentalists, CEOs, religious leaders, students and tourists seeking entertainment or to broaden their horizons, and government officials ought use the least greenhouse gas emitting technologies available to them to accomplish their objectives; they should not have to cross the oceans and great land masses of world (requiring vast burning fossil fuels) just to be present in person. Likewise, our government leaders and business people ought minimize the amount of products traded with distant countries, so as to minimize the amount of fuel burning required in the shipment of goods by air, sea and over miles and miles of terrain. Transportation of billions of tons of goods along with extensive long distance vacationing and business trips by millions of people every year is simply no longer sustainable. Such activities are becoming ethically wrong because they are unquestionably harming the planet and all the living things it is home to, both now and in the future.
We cannot and must not wait for technology to bail us out. Scientists the world over say it is now paramount that all humans begin acting in significant ways to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions. Otherwise, we will never get Global Warming to go back into his bottle – where he belongs! Greenhouse gases accumulate atmospherically over time – they build up in the atmosphere and oceans from year to year. Their volume is accelerating in earth’s atmosphere and as well as in its oceans, and the total volume will likely keep accelerating for some time due to compounding factors (positive feedbacks) of the earth’s natural systems. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance – paramount – that everyone act in ways to reduce their annual carbon footprint, immediately, before Global Warming becomes all to powerful, uncontrollable and for generations, a tragedy for civilization.
Following are the comments I submitted by email on the governor’s proposed budget for July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017.
Bad things can happen to good people. It happens all the time, and has occurred all throughout history. So when bad things, or threats, are predicted to occur or seem reasonably likely to occur, it’s best for one to take action, and involve others in removing the oncoming threat, before it gets realized and significant damage to life and our environment occurs.
Governor Walker’s biennial budget plan for Wisconsin for the next two years contains numerous threats to the people of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin’s natural resources. Some of those threats could have devastating and harmful impacts if they are allowed to occur without any attempts to prevent or ameliorate them.
Governor Walker’s budget plan as written will cause a great deal of harm for many thousands of Wisconsin’s people and their families. Some people who have worked their entire life at University of Wisconsin or UW-extension will likely lose their jobs, and the public who those people serve will lose out as well. Wisconsin’s elderly and disabled population, and families having children enrolled in Wisconsin’s excellent public school system will also suffer loses. Many hard working and dedicated school teachers and educational assistants serving special needs children will be without a job next fall if this budget is not revamped.
The governor’s budget also hurts those who watch over and protect our precious natural resources, both now and in the coming years, by cutting positions and land stewardship funds.
But really the worst thing about the governor’s budget is not what’s in it but rather what’s NOT IN IT BUT SHOULD IN IT. For example, despite Wisconsin’s aging population and increasing number of people who prefer not to drive, or who can’t drive because of the high cost of owning, maintaining and driving an automobile, the Walker budget proposes nothing new to help with mobility in the state, transit in particular. Rather, it borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to expand an already too large highway system at great environmental harm to the state, and for no good reason.
Numerous observations demonstrate that the climate of the Great Lakes Region, including Wisconsin’s climate, is changing. Average temperatures are getting warmer and extreme heat events are occurring more frequently. Total precipitation is increasing and heavy precipitation events are becoming more common. Winters are getting shorter and the duration of lake ice cover is decreasing over time. As a state, we should already be doing as much as we can to drastically cut back on our burning of fossil fuels but we seem to be doing almost the opposite. This tragedy grows in magnitude the longer it takes for our country and other countries to wean themselves off burning fossil fuels. There are many other unintended consequences of living in a fossil fuel burning dependent society.
But ironically, rather than then increasing substantially the funding of transit systems and the funding of positive financial incentive programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage walking and use of nonmotorized travel by state residents and businesses, the governor’s budget promotes more highway expansion. Instead, the state should reward those who drive less (miles), don’t fly, and minimizing their use of fossil fuel derived energy over the year. Use the money that Governor Walker’s budget borrows to fund a bigger highway system and a big new professional basketball arena instead – expenditures that not only subject state taxpayer to great financial risks but also promote adding millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere including promoting jet airplanes flying of visiting teams and fans to the games.
Wisconsin Public Radio (part of state’s UW-extension) plans vacationing trips to Scotland and Australia, trips that not only release hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but also give nothing back to the state’s own tourism businesses.
Governor Walker’s budgets include more trade promotions with foreign countries despite the fact that shipping products and working with foreign business interests similarly add millions and millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
My plan would increase Wisconsin families’ and individuals’ annual income for polluting less and reducing the global warming threat, rather than adding to it. It would encourage Wisconsinites and Americans to buy from local entrepreneurs, whenever possible.
Governor Walker’s plan is to require a monthly drug test of food share (too low to begin with) recipients and proof of their having worked at least 80 hours at a place of employment before their receiving the meager food share benefits. It would do nothing to curb the rising income and employment inequalities and racial disparities in the state. The numbers of families and children living in poverty already will not be helped by Governor Walker’s budget. It is a fact that children of families living in poverty start their lives with a handicap because of many reason but the worst is that they do not receive adequate nutrition before and after they enter their school years. The governor’s budget insufficiently funds Wisconsin public schools and the families that live in poverty are disadvantaged in those schools from day one. Yet the governor’s budget does nothing to make up for previous cuts to public schools and add more financial stress for them by requiring them to pay vouchers for children attending private schools.
The budget should also refund the planned parenthood clinics the state had before Scott Walker took office. Certainly we ought not be adding to our human population pressures on the environment if we don’t have to.
Thank for the opportunity to submit my comments on the proposed state budget. For addition background on my concerns expressed here, please visit my blog at: http://www.allthingsenvironmental.com.
Organizing committees of both the Wisconsin Senate and Wisconsin Assembly called both houses of the Wisconsin legislature into extraordinary sessions this week to pass a “right-to-work” bill, making it illegal for employers and labor unions to charge their employees and any new employees union dues as a condition of accepting employment. The Wisconsin State Journal reported in today’s newspaper edition that the full Senate could vote on this highly charged legislation (Senate Bill 44) as early as Wednesday and the Wisconsin Assembly could vote on this legislation (AB 61) as soon as Monday.
Governor Scott Walker has said he would sign the bill into law.
The Senate and Assembly organizing committees ought have called their “extraordinary” sessions to address what the State of Wisconsin ought do to protect its citizens from global warming and climate change instead. Greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and climate change are far more significant to the future of Wisconsin than are unions charging union dues in the state.
Governor Scott Walker Punts on Taking On Climate Change in Wisconsin’s State Budget and Other Walker Administration Decisions
While other countries and U.S. states struggle with the deadly and extremely negative economic costs of dangerous storms made worse by warming oceans and rising sea levels caused by increasing greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken a pass on including anything in his two-year budget about how or to what degree the State of Wisconsin might reduce its annual greenhouse gases emissions and better adapt to the changing climate predicted for the future in Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s two-year state budget was forwarded to the Wisconsin Legislature earlier this month for adoption by July 1, 2015.
Much of what the governor’s budget proposes for the state will exacerbate the world’s chances of ever reducing climate change, or global warming, to a safe level. Scientists now say the changing climate around the world (global warming) is overwhelmingly human-caused and will be disastrous for the planet if the amounts of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) we are now burning are not significantly reduced and in a timely manner – now! – worldwide, and deforestation, over has been done over the last 100 – 150 years is stopped. Forests sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow, which is also the most abundant of the greenhouse gases emitted during fuel combustion.
While Wisconsin did experience a costly drought two years ago, and suffered through two recent killing heat waves in 1995 and 2011, the state has generally been spared from such massive destruction and loss of life as occurred in the Philippine Islands caused by Typhoon Haiyan U.S. states under hit by Hurricanes Sandy Sandy, Katrina and Ike, Hurricane Irene and increasing torrential rains and flooding around the world, heavier snowfalls, and long lasting droughts in California, other western states, and other areas around the world.
The economic costs of these catastrophes, especially those occurring in the United States, negatively effects all states in the U.S. through increased prices of goods, higher insurance rates, and the overall health of the U.S. economy.
Instead of addressing the inevitable economic and environmental effects of climate change and its causes in Wisconsin, Governor Walker instead chose to include in his two year budget proposal for the state many action items that, if enacted into law by the Wisconsin Legislature will, without question, add to the already abhorrently high human, economic and environmental costs of change climate here in Wisconsin and throughout the rest of the world. For example, Governor Walker’s two-year budget, which would begin taking effect in July 2015, expands numerous major highways in the state to increase their capacity to accommodate increased driving of cars and trucks, the vast majority of which burn fossil fuels. The governor’s budget proposes to contribute millions of dollars in state bonding to help the privately owned Milwaukee Bucks build a new arena for NBA games, games that require thousands of miles of jet travel each year for each visiting team as well as their fans and supporting personnel, adding measurably to rising volumes of greenhouse gases linked with global warming.
Furthermore, by not proposing other actions, many additional sources of greenhouse gases and pollution will continue and undoubtedly increase significantly in the next two years under the Walker administration and the current Republican legislature. Due to the lower price of crude oil, prices of fuel at the pump have dropped, leading to the purchase of less fuel efficient SUVs and trucks.
Americans and Wisconsinites need to drastically reduce their annual driving miles, and Governor Walker’s budget should have included positive financial benefits to encourage people to drive fewer and fewer miles each year, and compensate those individuals and Wisconsin families who manage to drive less miles, annually, than average – especially those individuals and families who don’t drive personal automobiles or fly airplanes (jet fuel is a fossil fuel and jets burn tons of fuel on each trip) during the year. The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere from motorized transportation, jets, other internal combustion engines, as well as GHGs emitted from coal, oil, and natural gas burning power plants and household and business furnaces is “cumulative”, meaning the various emission of those gases accumulate in the atmosphere over time, rising to higher and higher levels of concentration in the atmosphere.
Scientists the world over have reached a level of consensus that the amount of GHGs present in the atmosphere are becoming increasingly of concern, more threatening each year that global warming worsens. Eventually, global warming could reach, or is close to reaching, its “tipping point” in the atmosphere – a level of accumulation of GHGs in the atmosphere after which the earth’s natural systems could keep adding more and more GHGs into the atmosphere, the point at which continued warming would become inevitable, regardless of what we humans do to reduce our GHG emissions. For example, as the permafrost region of the planet thaws (1/5 of earth’s surface exists in the form of permafrost), the GHG methane is released from the rotting permafrost. Methane is a much more potent GHG than CO2, and when the permafrost begins to thaw extensively, it will be releasing massive amounts of methane to the atmosphere, This would make matters much worse, because global warming would become less responsive, if responsive at all, to the amount of GHGs we humans cause to be emitted (or not to be emitted).
Ever since the horrendous loss of life, property and the desolation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and much of the Gulf of Mexico’s northern coastal lands and inland states in the U.S., and caused many deaths and injuries over the last few days of August 2005, people everywhere have become increasingly concerned about global warming causing more violent storms and causing other kinds of extreme weather (floods, droughts, heat waves), with the effects worsening and becoming more pronounced over time. For example, the gas carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a powerful GHG (and is invisible so we don’t see it) is emitted to the atmosphere in large quantities whenever large quantities of fossil fuels – such as coal, oil and natural gas – are combusted for heating or energy. CO2’s concentration level in the atmosphere has grown in magnitude from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere during the 1800’s to 400 ppm in 2014, a 42% increase. Other GHGs have also accumulated along with rising CO2 concentrations, and their combined accumulated effect has caused the earth’s climate to change, now noticeably so, and mostly for the worse. Much of the change so far has been in the form of worsening extreme weather, such as stronger storms, heavier downpours and flooding, rising seas and warming surface waters. Other areas might be experiencing, hotter, longer and more deadly heat waves, and horrendous drought, such as the drought that has been taken place in the Southwestern U.S. over much of the last several years.
Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Super Typhoon Haiyan, severe rainfall and numerous tornadoes – all likely fueled by a warmer than normal atmosphere and warmer ocean water (plus the higher sea level) – are examples of what we can expect seeing more of in the future, if a moratorium were put in place worldwide today. [Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It is U.S.’s costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes to hit U.S. land. At least 1,833 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods and total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion.] Greenhouse gas would continue to rise regardless of actions, increasing the costs, damages, human and animal lives lost due to the more hostile earth of the future. But things could get 10 times worse, and occur sooner if no action is taken. And things will get unbelievably bad the less we take action now to reduce overall GHGs added to the atmosphere, ever month.
Scientifically speaking, the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere keep our planet warm by absorbing and emitting radiation from the Sun through the process called the “greenhouse effect”. Without them, planet earth would be in a permanent frozen state, devoid of life. While a certain amount of some GHGs such as CO2 are necessary for life to prosper on earth, over the past few hundred years, humans have been adding to volume of GHGs in the atmosphere by increasing amounts, resulting primarily as a byproduct of their burning immense of fossil fuels, by extensive deforestation, and by their creation of immense amounts of methane from waste products, many from human waste disposal practices and from animal production and waste disposal. A melting permafrost region, which amounts to a fifth of the earth’s surface, is likely also contributing GHGs from anaerobic digestion.
The shear number of humans: billions of people who contribute only minor amounts of GHGs to the earth’s greenhouse effect because of the undeveloped nature of their economies, their lack of motorized travel, electricity, meat production, and consumption of foreign goods that require fossil fuel burning for shipment; and the millions who currently continue to cause the emission of billions of tons of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, as if our atmosphere were just one large sewer, requiring no user fees for those who make massive GHG deposits over their lifetime.
As a result, the earth’s atmosphere is subject to what economist Garret Hardin called “the tragedy of the commons”. The tragedy of the commons occurs in situations in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally and in their own self-interest (in this case, burning fossil fuels in cars, airplanes, boats, buying products requiring mining, drilling, motorized transport, clear cutting…) ultimately deplete a shared limited resource (in this case, our atmosphere) even though it has become clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest, particularly for all future earth inhabitants, for this to happen. Ecologists and environmentalists often use the phrase “there is no free lunch” when people ignore the reality of the tragedy of the commons, and often expect Government to place limits on the activities that will otherwise lead to tragic consequences.
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists released last Friday (Jan. 16). The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
In an independent analysis of the raw data, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record. “NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”
Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades.
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades.
While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.
While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year.
The GISS analysis incorporates surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. This raw data is analyzed using an algorithm that takes into account the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the calculation. The result is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.