February 24, 2012

Mount Everest’s shrinking glaciers

Image first produced and shown at UNESCO's Outdoor Exhibition ‘Satellites and World Heritage Sites, Partners to Understand Climate Change,’ at COP16 in Cancun, Mexico. Copyright Cnes 2004 - 2010 - Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image

Saw this photo on Responding to Climate Change  today while I was putting off doing my Calculus homework. It’s so beautiful, yet also super disturbing.

This is a photo of Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park, home of Mount Everest (the highest peak in the world, duh), which is famous for its “dramatic mountains, glaciers and deep valleys.”  The site says:

Several rare species, such as the snow leopard and the lesser panda, are found in the park.

The air temperatures in this area have risen by 1°C since 1970, leading to a 30% decrease in snow and ice cover over the last 40 years.

A high glacier on Mount Everest, located at an altitude of 4,000 m, is now a lake.

Glacier lake outburst floods are now much more frequent, creating serious risks for human populations with grave implications for the water supply in South Asia and the flow of major rivers such as the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra.

I just don’t get how people can look at stuff like this and say, “Oh, it’s just totally random that this is happening, it’ll all get colder someday again and everything’ll be fine.”  As if.

In case you’re curious, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) is an organization that’s dedicated to raising awareness about climate change issues (yay).  It also runs Climate Change TV, the world’s first-ever online video channel that’s 100% devoted to running stories about climate change.  You should check it out.   Everybody should.

 

 

 

 


February 6, 2012

NASA is freaking me out

In a good way, of course.

Normally, my friends, I like to pay attention to very, very long periods of time, and the big picture.  But you know, I saw something last week that I keep thinking about.  One of my colleagues sent me a link to this video from NASA, which shows what has happened to the earth over what most people nowadays think of as “a long time”.  It’s a video showing how temperatures all over the world have changed since people started keeping track of these things in the late 1880s — the Industrial Revolution, basically.  In 26 seconds, you can see how the temperature of the Earth has risen since then.

Screenshot of NASA's climate measuring video.

(The video is in Flash; iPhone or iPad users should use this YouTube link instead.)

Climate Central, where the link Flash link is posted, has an excellent explanation of how the scientists at NASA figured out the data, and some of the comments are helpful, too. (Some, maybe not so much.)

This is a fairly compelling thing to see, no?  So much happens in such a relatively short time, when you take into account the fact that the Earth is several billions of years old.

Of course, the heat generated from Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show has not been factored into the computations (yet).  I must confess to you, my friends, it absolutely knocked my socks off.

Time for a bowl of leftover sancocho, then back to analyzing my phytoliths.


January 19, 2012

Simple measures could go a long way

Anyone who follows news about climate change knows that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of trapped heat in the Earth’s atmosphere which causes temperatures to rise.   But a group of our scientific colleagues have published a study which says simple, low-cost ways to cut methane and soot (a.k.a. “black carbon”) emissions could slow rising temperatures, boost crop production, and save lives.

The Washington Post covered the study, which found that

[J]ust 14 interventions — such as eliminating wood-burning stoves, dampening emissions from diesel vehicles and capturing methane released from coal mines — would offer big benefits.

This is, of course, easier said than done, considering that three billion people — nearly half the world’s population relies on stoves that send soot into the air. (We’ve seen these kinds of stoves all over Central and Latin America in our studies; a New York Times article several years ago reported that soot in developing countries is responsible for up to 18% of global warming.

This solar cooker is an inexpensive and wood-saving alternative for preparing food.

Solar cookers, such as the one pictured above, are a great alternative, but are occasionally slow to catch on with traditonally-minded villagers who prefer the familiarity of a fire.

Other practices touted by the study include plowing agricultural waste under in developing nations, instead of burning it, as is customary practice, which would cost next to nothing.

Our colleagues (an international team of 24) ran computer simulations that showed cutting methane and soot in the air would slow global warming by almost one degree Fahrenheit by the mid-2100s.  And better air quality would help prevent lung and cardiovascular diseases, saving “anywhere from 700,000 to 4.7 million lives annually.”  Not to mention ocean, plant, and animal life (ahem).

Even if all these practices were immediately implemented, CO2 would still be the world’s biggest problem, and the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from China, the U.S., India, and the European Union.

And that may be the most difficult change of all to implement.

 


January 5, 2012

“Generation Hot”

So, this author & journalist named Mark Hertsgaard (who’s kind of old, no offense) wrote an article for The Huffington Post called “Meet Generation Hot.” It’s about how every kid born after June 23, 1988 belongs to “Generation Hot.” Not Generation Y or Z or whatever.  It’s based off the title of his book, HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

Anyway, his name for us younger people kinda makes me cringe a little bit because it can totally be twisted into something gross.  (I know you know what I mean.  Shut up.)  But basically, the idea is good.  What *he* means is that you’ve basically grown up under the threat of global warming:

This generation includes some two billion young people, all of whom have grown up under global warming and are fated to spend the rest of their lives confronting its mounting impacts.

So why June 23, 1988?

I date the beginning of Generation Hot to June 23, 1988 because that is when humanity was put on notice that greenhouse gas emissions were raising the temperatures on this planet. The warning came from NASA scientist James Hansen’s testimony to the U.S. Senate and, crucially, the decision by the New York Times to print the news on page 1, which in turn made global warming a household phrase in news bureaus, living rooms and government offices the world over.

He talks about how in 2020 there will be twice as many really hot days in the summer, and how growing enough food will be a challenge for the by-then even more populated planet.

Many members of Generation Hot are active in the climate fight, but they cannot succeed without much more help from their elders. The threat of nuclear annihilation — the other great peril of the last fifty years — called forth a powerful movement of parents, especially mothers, that eventually helped convince the superpowers to choose a safer course. Now, parents across the country and around the world should mount a similar campaign to preserve a livable future for our children, the precious young people of Generation Hot.

I wonder if enough parents are listening.


October 19, 2011

Arctic shipping routes: the upside of global warming?

Hi,

One of my shipspotting buddies saw this article in the New York Times about how warmer ocean temperatures are shrinking the Arctic “ice pack.”

Means shippers are opening more new sea lanes and more routes near shore will be accessible more often during the year:

[C]ompanies in Russia and other countries around the Arctic Ocean are mining that dark cloud’s silver lining by finding new opportunities for commerce and trade.

Not gonna lie, when I heard about this it made my mouth water, and I started polishing my binoculars.  But guess who’s the most excited about this news?  Yup: oil and mining companies.  Even Pootie-Poot, aka Vladimir Putin, thinks it’s a great idea for cutting costs. 

Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, was among those who attended the Russian conference. He noted that about $1 billion worth of goods passed through the Bering Strait last year. “The ships,” he said, “are coming.”

Can’t put anything past that guy.


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