Live Earth: Love it or leave it

July 07, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

When we were in Scotland, we spent a few days on the beautiful Isle of Skye. Met a man there who totally gobsmacked us with his environmental philosophy. (And by the way, he’s not a Scot.) He’s an affluent man who took early retirement from an upper management position with an international corporation. He’s married. Has no children. This is basically what he had to say.

“I don’t care about climate change. Frankly, I think it’s baloney and I absolutely refuse to change a single thing I do. I have earned what I have and I fully intend to use it as I see fit. Why would I install fluorescent bulbs so the guy down the street doesn’t have to? My van gets better mileage than most people’s hybrids. I don’t care a fig about ‘the next generation.’ I don’t care about your grandchildren. I don’t care about those people in India or Bangladesh. Not my problem. I. Don’t. Care. And my bottom line is that it’s all about me. Me. Me. Me. Yes, I really mean it. I’m not budging on this. And by the way, though I’m not American, I’m absolutely a Republican.”

I’m not making this up and I’m not exaggerating. Please read on.

Most of us acknowledge that climate change is real. It’s leaving its calling card all over the planet. There is scientific certainty about some of it, and a measure of muzziness about the rest. Never in the world’s history has there been anything even close to the current combination of elements that threaten our environment. I suppose there may come a day, after the fact, when any scientist who survives can say, “We tried to tell you.” An environmental Pyrrhic victory.

Did a little web surfing today to re-acquaint myself with the data. There’s a boatload of stuff out there. It’s important to identify trusted sources and go with that, I think.

You already know that Al Gore is one of my trusted sources. Be sure to check out the Live Earth concert(s) playing all over the country. If you didn’t already send $61 to a worthwhile cause to disrespect the First Obstructionist’s birthday, this would be one place to consider.

You’re smart people. Chances are you know much more about all of this than I do. So what follows is as much for my own information as yours. (Me. Me. Me.)

Behold: Barbara’s cheat sheet on climate change.

From Al Gore’s web site: WHAT IS GLOBAL WARMING? (All stats from the site are footnoted.)

    Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.

    The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.

    We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.

  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
  • The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
  • At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences:

  • Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
  • Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

The Environmental Protection Agency – almost certainly on the First Obstructionist’s hit list but not yet decimated – provides excellent climate change information on its site. Why excellent? Because the EPA provides scientific data, along with accompanying variables that cannot be precisely measured nor predicted. In other words, fair and balanced (ack!).

Global warming/climate change opinion is broad and varied. It is an imprecise science, but evidence exists that global warming exists. And scientists are basically saying, “If y’all wait for absolute certainty, it will be too late.” Not just tree huggers saying this. Scientists with creds.

Cherry-picked from the EPA site:

  • Children, the elderly, and the poor are considered to be the most vulnerable to adverse health outcomes. The understanding of the relationships between weather/climate and human health is in its infancy and therefore the health consequences of climate change are poorly understood.
  • Climate change may directly affect human health through increases in average temperature. Such increases may lead to more extreme heat waves during the summer while producing less extreme cold spells during the winter. ~ snip ~ Particular segments of the population such as those with heart problems, asthma, the elderly, the very young and the homeless can be especially vulnerable to extreme heat.
  • Climate change may increase the risk of some infectious diseases, particularly those diseases that appear in warm areas and are spread by mosquitoes and other insects. These "vector-borne" diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis. Also, algal blooms could occur more frequently as temperatures warm — particularly in areas with polluted waters — in which case diseases (such as cholera) that tend to accompany algal blooms could become more frequent.
  • Agriculture in the U.S. and other industrialized countries is expected to be less vulnerable to climate change than agriculture in developing nations, especially in the tropics, where farmers may have a limited ability to adapt.
  • Flood magnitudes and frequencies are expected to increase overall, as increasing temperatures intensify the climate's hydrologic cycle and melt snowpacks more rapidly. Flooding can affect water quality, as large volumes of water can transport contaminants into water bodies and also overload storm and wastewater systems.
  • Higher temperatures, particularly in the summer, earlier snowmelt, and potential decreases in summer precipitation could increase risk of drought. The frequency and intensity of floods and droughts could increase, even in the same areas.
  • Changes in temperature due to climate change could affect our demand for energy. For example, rising air temperatures could increase energy needed for air conditioning. On the other hand, energy needed for space-heating may decrease. The net effects of these changes on energy production, use and utility bills, will vary by region and by season.
  • There may also be changes in energy consumed for other climate-sensitive processes, such as pumping water for irrigation in agriculture. Rising temperatures and associated increases in evaporation may increase energy needs for irrigation, particularly in dry regions across the Western U.S.
  • Depending on the magnitude of these possible energy consumption changes, it may be necessary to consider changes in energy supply or conservation practices to balance demand.
  • National parks and other protected areas are currently susceptible to events influenced by climatic variability, such as drought, wild fires, impaired air quality, and severe storms. Climate change may change the frequency and severity of these kinds of events.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), North America - including the United States -- is projected to warm by about 2-13º F on average by 2100. The large range in warming reflects uncertainties in future emissions, the climate's response to those emissions and the difficulty of projecting future climate change at the regional level. Click here to see regional breakdown.
  • Polar regions are expected to experience the greatest rates of warming compared to other world regions. In part, this is because ice has greater reflectivity (also known as albedo) than ocean or land. Melting of highly reflective snow and ice reveals darker land and ocean surfaces, increasing absorption of the sun's heat and further warming the planet, especially in those regions.
  • Some nations will likely experience more adverse effects than others, while other nations may benefit. Poorer nations are generally more vulnerable to the consequences of global warming. These nations tend to be more dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as subsistence agriculture, and may lack the resources to buffer themselves against the changes that global warming may bring. (Barbara note: Some of us do care about those people!)
  • Our current level of understanding, as summarized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, is as follows:

    … some extreme events are projected to increase in frequency and/or severity during the 21st century due to changes in the mean and/or variability of climate, so it can be expected that the severity of their impacts will also increase in concert with global warming. Conversely, the frequency and magnitude of extreme low temperature events, such as cold spells, is projected to decrease in the future, with both positive and negative impacts. The impacts of future changes in climate extremes are expected to fall disproportionately on the poor.

  • . . . human society and the natural environment are not entirely protected against, nor perfectly adapted to, current climatic variability and extreme weather events. Current economic losses from climatic variations and extremes can be substantial. These losses indicate that society is vulnerable and that adaptation has not been sufficient to offset damages associated with current variations in climatic conditions.
  • Human-induced climate change represents a new challenge, and may require adaptation approaches to changes that are potentially larger and faster than past experiences with recorded natural climatic variability.

  • (Barbara continues:) There are pages and volumes more about all of this, in greater and ever greater detail. Al Gore’s site and the EPA’s are just two among them. It’s a vastly convoluted issue, and what I have presented here is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

    I promised myself long ago that I would get smarter about climate change/global warming. And rather like a New Year’s resolution, I set it aside, failing, therefore, to deliver to myself and possibly to my country on this one. You, too? Well, then, I hope this helps jump-start our individual and collective thinking and conversation.

    Drip drip drip.

    Posted in

Comments

Anonymous (not verified) | July 7, 2007 - 9:05pm

Just happened to meet him, huh?

Such good timing to meet such a man.

You Silly Girl !

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Mark Lavalier (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 8:15am

You call it global warming, I would call it the normal ebb and flow of the earth's climate, given that at one time much of North America had a tropical climate. Then the ice age (what happened to that, global warming million of years ago? The glaciers didn't just up and walk away. Something had to warm up. No industry to emit greenhouse gasses back then.) But you folks on the anti-human side of the board conveniently want to forget about that part of history. Of course you were preaching about the second ice age in the 70"s. Make up your minds or start using them. Sheep just follow the flock.

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paul miller (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 8:58am

the guy you met was just a more honest republican - he didn't hide his self centeredness with his faux faith or the political sloganeering of compassionate conservatism. I wish the cabal that took over our country would be as honest so that the average shlep could judge them on their real policies / actions
re: global warming, as you note the developing world will pay the price for our actions / lifestyles as they already do, it's a good gig for the haves, for the have nots, not so much

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Anonymous (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 3:18pm

re: global warming, as you note the developing world will pay the price for our actions / lifestyles as they already do, it's a good gig for the haves, for the have nots, not so much

That is so much garbage and you know it.

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paul miller (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 7:07pm

take one trip to Haiti, my friend - garbage indeed

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susan | July 8, 2007 - 9:42am

Mark writes, "But you folks on the anti-human side of the board"
Hey, we've been outed. Not a satanist, not a wiccan, not a humanist, but an anti-human. Yep, thass me. Forty years of marriage, four kids, four grandkids, a life of community involvement and partying and politicing, but I just hate humans. Don't want them to carry on, hope they'll die off.
And on the other side of "the board" we have pro-humans who do what? Leet's see, launch unnecessary wars that kill humans and take no steps to curb their various appetites -- for oil, money, power, stuff. Well, if it's any consolation Mark, your side's winning.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 10:37am

But see, folks like the Guy on Skye don't believe they need consolation. They Trust in George. And if they're wrong, they're banking that they'll shuffle off the mortal coil before it affects them. In the final analysis, that's all that matters in Denialville.

And so once again, I point to science. And BTW, the EPA is part of the First Obstructionist's government -- so far. Because once they notice that the EPA is spouting science and facts and informed opinions -- well, you know.

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Poet (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 12:01pm

Mark Lavalioer opines:

You call it global warming, I would call it the normal ebb and flow of the earth's climate, given that at one time much of North America had a tropical climate. Then the ice age (what happened to that, global warming million of years ago?

*******************

Mark it is true that tropic and polar regions have been dancing for quite a while. That's not the problem with our present global warming.

The proiblems with global warming this time around are:

1. It is happening faster than in previous times. We know this for certain because scientists at both polar regions have been drilling ice cores and exaining them. These ice coores show both atmospheric content and accumulation of frozen percipation over centuries and even milenia.

Analysis revelas that the earth is heating up faster than at any other time in recorded history. (About 6-8000 years dependig on whose records you examine.)

2. Earth's human population is exploding and requires more habitable land than before. Our space exploration has revealed that ther are no more earthly frontiers to settle and outer space contains no habitle planets within the life span of humanity supposing we could travel at the speed of light in such a quest).

3. Humanity is invested to the point of no return in living and surviving along the coasts and river basins of the world. As polar ice melts and sea levels rise there will be less and less land available for such settlement, for the agriculture to raise the food on which we all depend for survival, and predictable percipitation patterns which help regulate climate extreams.

For those of you who subscribe to the "we're spending our granchildren's inheritance" or "ques sera, sera, whatever will be wil be" schools of social responsibility just know that you are presiding over the deliberate and unneccessary acceleration of the destruction of your progeny's future home.

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Bad Penny (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 1:11pm

I don't know about you guys, but I'm not going to take the chance. We have to choose a side and go with it. I think the science guys are right. I think the Bush guys are wrong. Pretty simple, really.

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Anonymous (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 3:17pm

Yes, but WHICH science guys !!

Just askin !

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susan | July 9, 2007 - 12:49am

Anonymous. You're more than welcome to add your snarky two cents, but I would appreciate a consistent name. "Anonymous" is just so -- over used. Show some imagination, make one up.
As for which science guys? Um, the ones not paid by the oil or coal industry, and a slippery handful of others. In other words, basically all legitimate and well-regarded, prize-winning scientists, world-wide.
I don't understand why this makes people like you so furious. We've got a rapidly warming world, and there are ways to address it. Let's give it a go. Good old human ingenuity at work.

When you respond as you do, you sound like a bad alcoholic, responding to an intervention. "Whatsa problem? Who says I'm a drunk? You're not speshlists. My fren Rooster? He knows more 'n all of you, an he says I'm fine. So go way."

So what's your problem?
Just askin'.

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Susie (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 7:27am

Furious? Who's furious. Not me, and certainly not the other half of the "legitimate and well regarded, prize winning scientists worldwide" who know this to be a political attempt to trump science and to give Mr Gore some relevance.

You are a gifted writer. Light on facts-long on cutsie, but gifted.

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MLS (not verified) | July 8, 2007 - 1:43pm

Thank you Poet. You said it all for me.
I might add that Jimmy Carter, in a speech to the nation
(4/18/77), attempted to introduce an energy proposal (10
principles) that had we followed we would have at least been
a little further ahead of the game today.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/filmmore/ps_energy.html
So in answer to Mark's comment: "Make up your minds or
start using them" my response is that I made up my mind
30 years ago.

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Jim (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 11:01am

Here's some math:

The earth has warmed 1 degree Celsius in 100 years.

Mans part of that warming has been claimed to be 2-4%.

That's .02 - .04 degrees in 100 years.

It's been about thirty years since Carter.

One-third of .04 is .0134 of one degree Celsius.

Let's say his plan reduced warming by an amazing 25%.

25% of .0134 is .00335.

Now the United States consumes less than 25% of the world's resources, but let's use that number.

25% of .00335 is .0008375.

So, yes, we would be a little ahead, if all these things are true and the measuring devices are extremely accurate:

We would be about 8 ten-thousands of one degree Celsius cooler!

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DCPI (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 1:20pm

Rising water levels will NOT reduce the amount of land along rivers and coasts available for building. It would, of course, flood existing settlement, but plenty of new space for settlement would be created at the same time. So "less and less land available for such settlement" is a false statement.

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CC (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 6:38am

Gobsmacked? If you're British, OK, use it. Otherwise, really. Stop the posturing.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 8:30am

Gobsmacked? If you're British, OK, use it. Otherwise, really. Stop the posturing.

Oh, honey, it must be very uncomfortable in your dreary little cave. Is that why you're so cranky when you scuttle out early in the morning to eat bloggers with your Fruit Loops?

I know, I know. Don't. Feed. The. Trolls.

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Anonymous (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 8:42am

If Al Gore is your trusted source, you should get some better sources. Perhaps some scientists instead of a failed politician?

You are aware that since 1998 we have been in a cooling period, are you not? Don't take my word (or Al's, either) for it. Look at the UN IPCC temperature chart.

I am pretty much in agreement with the Skye guy.

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MLS (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 10:50am

in answer to annoymous-

How about Union of Concerned Scientist. Check it out.
This group has been one of my guides on environmental
issues for years and I have had no reason to doubt the UCS findings nor ignore the warnings.

In defense of Al Gore. That you think Gore is a failed politician has nothing to do with his concern and dedication on global warming. That's a petty remark. I praise Gore for his research/dedication and I appreciate that he has aided in bringing global warmth to the attention of the world.
The very least we can do is heed the warnings and follow some practical solutions.

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Jim (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 10:44am

What should the temperature be in 50 years? How about 100? Should it always stay constant? Has it ever? I don't think we humans can set the earth's temperature like a thermostat. You checked the data on one side. How about checking on the other?

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Anonymous (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 11:32am

Hey Babs, I trust you sailed to the Isle of Skye on a boat of recycled wood with hemp sails, to keep thy linen clean. Please tell me you did not forcibly rape Mother Earth for a vacation. Because you wailing about some guy's environmental philosophy that you met while jetting halfway around the world would be ridiculous.

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susan | July 9, 2007 - 1:03pm

Don't feed the trolls indeed.
But you are so simple minded it's irresisitble. Being an environmentalist does not mean living like a troglodyte. (We'll leave that to Cheney) It means trying to leave a lighter foot print, doing what we can to reduce our own clutter and waste, being responsible and informed, electing people who support science as a solution, not faith, and building international cooperation to solve a planetary problem, not denying the problem exists.
Scolding Barb for taking her "trip of a lifetime" is absurd, as is gloating when we have a sub-zero day in March. As local meteorologist Paul Douglas reminds folks constantly, "Don't confuse weather with climate."

So don't confuse environmentalism with a loopy notion of returning to the past. It's all about the future and moving ahead, putting our good noggins to work to find hi-tech solutions so that our lives improve and our options expand. In short, doing what America has always done so well.

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