Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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The First Solar Car to Cross a Continent

The Solar Achiever, 1984

The first solar car to cross a continent.

“Although solar power has been used in less spectacular ways, this was the first trans-continental crossing in a vehicle deriving its energy from the sun.”

By Linn Smith

August 24, 2016—-“Maybe one day we’ll all be driving around in solar-powered cars. And, if that happens, the names of Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins will have a place in history. Without men like these, this would be a duller place. The spirit of adventure is not yet dead.”—Melbourne Herald News

The Solar Achiever

The solar car took only 8 months to build.

The Quiet Achiever

In Australia in 1982, Perth and Tholstrup, wanting to popularize solar, built the first solar-manned car to cross a continent. With an attitude of, “There’s nothing that can’t be done,” they built the solar vehicle for about $50,000. The car, known as the Quiet Achiever, was designed in only 8 months. It was piloted by Perkins and Tholstrup who only stopped along the route at night to camp. In less than 20 days, the solar powered car made its trek from Perth to Sydney, traveling 2,500 miles from coast to coast across Australia.

The Solar Achiever

The solar car traveled 2500 miles in 20 days.

Using Only the Sun’s Power

The body of the solar car was made of fiberglass and the frame of steel tubing. It had a 1 kilowatt photovoltaic power system mounted on the roof that allowed it to travel approximately 14 miles per hour. Using only the sun for power, the two 12 volt batteries stored enough power to give the car about 90 minutes of energy without the sun. But on this trip there was enough sun to keep the car fully charged at all times. The solar car met with very few problems and was periodically monitored to assure that only solar power was being used.

The Melbourne Age newspaper stated at the time, “The journey of Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins from Perth to Sydney in The Quiet Achiever will go down as one of the pioneering feats in history. Although solar power has been used in less spectacular ways, this was the first trans-continental crossing in a vehicle deriving its energy from the sun. It constitutes the fastest chapter in man’s learning how to co-operate with powers beyond his own–the sun!”

The Solar Achiever


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Montreal Protocal Is Making a Difference

Montreal Protocol

With and Without Montreal Protocol

Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

August 17, 2016—-Ultraviolet radiation is high intensity energy that Earth receives from the Sun. Ozone (O-3), high in the stratosphere, filters out much of this ultraviolet radiation. Part of this high-energy portion of the ultraviolet radiation spectrum is known as ultraviolet-B (UVB). Although the atmosphere blocks most UVB radiation, it does not block all of it. This UVB radiation is very harmful to living organisms.

Any reduction in atmospheric ozone lets more ultraviolet radiation through the atmosphere to reach the surface. Plants did not flourish on Earth until there was enough atmosphere and ozone to block much of the UVB radiation. All plants and animals now existing and living in sunlight have adapted to ultraviolet radiation in some manner. However, they vary widely in their tolerance of UVB. Plants that developed in climates with high-intensity sunlight show a variety of defense mechanisms for UVB. Some produce pigments that absorb UVB radiation.

In arid climates, plants develop thick, shiny leaves. Cacti and olive trees are examples. Most living organisms are subject to damage if UVB radiation increases. Since plants cannot adjust their behavior to changing solar radiation they are vulnerable to increases in UVB radiation. Animals have also adapted to UVB radiation. Nearly 90 percent of marine species living in the surface water surrounding the Antarctic Continent produce some form of chemical sunscreen.

Ozone Depletion

Size of Ozone Depletion

Ultraviolet-B and Human Health

Humans have adapted to UVB radiation by manufacturing melanin in the skin. This is a pigment that blocks ultraviolet radiation. A summer tan results from increased production of melanin. Persons with very fair skin do not readily manufacture melanin and sunburn very easily. Over exposure to ultraviolet radiation results in aged skin, skin cancer, and a weakened immune system. The risk of skin cancer is much greater from overexposure by a sunburn than from steady low doses. A single blistering sunburn in a person 20 to 30 years of age triples the risk of skin cancer.

The risk of getting skin cancer can be reduced with reasonable care. The first rule is to avoid exposure to the midday sun. The most dangerous hours are between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. There is an old saying: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.” If exposure to the sun is necessary, using a sunscreen with a rating of 15, based on Ultraviolet-B radiation, helps reduce skin damage.

03

O3

Chlorofluorocarbons

In 1974, scientists warned there was evidence to suggest that compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were having a depleting effect on stratospheric ozone layers. These compounds are not natural compounds.

First synthesized in 1928, these compounds promised to have many uses. They are odorless, nonflammable, nontoxic, and chemically inert. They first came into use in refrigerators in the 1930’s. Since World War II, CFCs have been used as propellants in deodorants and hair sprays, in producing plastic foams, and in cleaning electronic parts. They do not react with most products dispersed in spray cans. They are transparent to sunlight in the visible range. They are insoluble in water and are inert to chemical reaction in the lower atmosphere. For these reasons they are valuable compounds.

Antarctic Ozone Hole

Chlorofluorocarbons rise into the upper atmosphere where they break apart under ultraviolet radiation. This breakdown releases chlorine, which interacts with oxygen atoms to reduce the ozone concentration. The most disturbing reduction in atmospheric ozone is that found over the Antarctic Continent and is referred to as the ozone hole.

The ozone hole over Antarctica has occurred in September and October since the late 1970’s. During the Antarctic spring, there is a decrease in ozone north from the pole to nearly 45° south latitude. In August and September 1987, the amount of ozone over the Antarctic reached the lowest level recorded to this date. In the fall the ozone hole covered nearly half of the Antarctic Continent.

The same process takes place elsewhere in the atmosphere, but at higher altitudes and at slower rates. Ozone depletion is less outside the Antarctic, where the difference is significant. There is no Arctic ozone hole like that of the Antarctic. Temperatures are warmer, and there is more variable weather in the Arctic which provide less favorable conditions for the necessary chemical and circulation processes. Ozone depletion contributes to global warming. The additional ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth’s surface adds heat to the lower atmosphere.

International Cooperation has Made a Difference

Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment. The U.N. Environment Program called a conference in Montreal, Canada, in September 1987, that drafted a treaty restricting the production of CFC’s. The agreement is officially termed the Montreal Protocol.

International support for the treaty led to a substantial reduction in CFC production. The reduction in CFC’s has led to a decline in the amount of UV radiation getting through the upper atmosphere. The average size peaked in the 1990’s. Evidence now indicates that the average extent of the Antarctic ozone hole is declining. In the Antarctic spring of 2015, (September and October) the extent of the hole was only about ½ of what the previous maximum area had been. Hopefully, the size of the hole will continue to decline. NASA has indicated that it might be gone by 2050. This accord shows that international cooperation can occur with respect the environmental problems.

The Paris Conference on climate change can make a huge difference to global warming and climate change if the signatories follow through on their commitments.

The Paris Conference on Climate Change


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Climate Change: This is What a Vote for Trump Will Cost You!

Climate Change 2016 Elections

Climate Change-Trump has NO plan!

“Climate Change Calls for Action! Don’t opt to melt into a useless puddle of hopelessness!”

By Linn Smith

July 31, 2016—-We currently have a presidential candidate that wants to repeal the Climate Action Plan, renew the permit application for the Keystone Pipeline, lift the moratoriums on energy production on federal lands, cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to the U.N. global warming programs. Yes, that would be Donald Trump!

Climate Change: Saving Our Planet

Andy Barowitz wrote an article for the New Yorker magazine using polls conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute. In this article he explained that most people are very frustrated with trying to explain the crises we are headed for to people who don’t want to listen. “Of the many obvious things that people are sick and tired of trying to get through the skulls of deniers, is the fact that climate change will cause catastrophic habitat destruction and devastating extinctions–this tops the list for people trying to explain our earth’s future catastrophes, with a majority saying they will no longer try to explain this to deniers!”

Carbon Emissions and Global Warming

Carbon Emissions by Country.

A Vote for Donald Trump is a Vote Against Saving Our Planet

But I’m going to say it again! A vote for Trump will result in destruction to our planet. If you really and truly don’t care about the mess we leave our children and grandchildren, or you opt to melt into a useless puddle of hopelessness, which I have often seen lately, you can quit reading now. (And for the Bernie supporters, the world is full of flaws and imperfections–we all gotta deal with it on a regular basis!)

Here are some facts which your children and grandchildren will have to endure during his or her lifetime. This information, from the United Nations and EPA websites, is a result of computer models which have allowed scientists to average all possible scenarios for our planet:

* By 2100, the average U.S. temperature is projected to increase by about 3-12 degrees F, depending on the scenarios and climate model used.
* There will be reduced ice and snow cover.
* Sea levels are on the rise and will continue to do so.
* There will be an increased frequency and duration of extreme weather events.
* The number of days with high temperatures above 90 degrees is expected to increase throughout the U.S., and globally, especially toward the end of century.
* Ground level air temperatures are expected to continue to warm more rapidly over land.
* The combination of crops yielding less, due to climate change and overpopulation of our earth, is going to lead to starvation of many.

Climate change and crop yields

Climate Change will effect crop yields.

* There will be more heat related deaths.
* Winter weather patterns will move northward with southern areas having more rain than snow.
* There will be an increase in the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.
* Forest fires are on the rise and will continue at an accelerated pace.
* An increase in diseases, which is on the rise today.
* An increase in civil disorder due to disease and food shortages.
* There will be an extinction of many animals (including eventually ourselves)……..and this list could go on!

Species Extinction and climate change

Spec!ies Extinction will happen has the temperatures rise

These changes will impact our food supply, water resources, infrastructure, ecosystems, and our own health!

El Nino’s Impact

Don Paul of the Buffalo News states, “We have now experienced our 14th consecutive record warm month globally, far beyond the range of El Nino’s impact. These are broad climate trends not short term weather trends. There are uncertainties about how fast global warming will continue to take place in the future but scientists agree, it will take place, with peaks and valleys in daily local weather patterns.”

If we stabilize greenhouse gases today, surface air temperatures will continue to warm because greenhouse gases can stay in our atmosphere for hundreds of years. But it is still possible to limit the increase in global mean temperatures to two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, when the earth’s temperature began to increase. We need to act now!

When you vote in the 2016 election vote for a healthy planet!

Do the Next Right Thing!


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The Indian Subcontinent Again Sets Record Temperatures

India Droiught

Record breaking temperatures and little rain.

“As the planet warms it can be expected that there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places.”

Dr. John Hidore

July 22, 2016—Global warming is occurring over the entire planet and record high temperatures have become common. The Indian subcontinent is no exception. Early written history documents heat waves and droughts.While temperature records were not available prior to the late 19th century, written descriptions indicate the severity of some earlier events.

Drought and Famine in 1768-1770

In the mid-eighteenth century the people of India were largely subsistence farmers. It was primitive crop agriculture subject to the vagaries of the monsoon. The country was under the control of the British East India Company, which kept the farmers on the verge of starvation under the best of conditions. Because of the general poverty of the mass of the population, and the marginal food supply, only a small shortfall in rain produced scattered starvation.

India is a large country, and at the time only a ponderous transportation system existed. There was no means of moving large quantities of food, or of moving people to more productive areas. Therefore, when drought set in, the alternatives were few. The beginnings of a prolonged drought and massive famine began in India in the fall months of l768. Rainfall was below normal and the crops were poor in December. The summer monsoons did not produce the usual rain in l769 and again the crop yields were scanty. By April of l770, over 30 million people in West Bengal and Bihar were directly affected. Estimates of deaths ranged upward to l0 million. The deaths were due to a combination of starvation and disease. Smallpox became epidemic in association with the drought. The death toll was exacerbated by the flood of people that fled the countryside and moved into the cities looking for sustenance. There was little to be found.

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Drought and Famine in Asia, 1875-1879

It was just a little more than a century later that drought and famine struck India with even more lethal results. The atmospheric circulation began to shift as early as 1873 in central Asia. Summer monsoons weakened for a number of years. By August 1877 the Indian government was well aware that a major famine was in progress and was going to get worse. Since rainfall was low there was insufficient feed for livestock. Wells, ponds and streams dried up. The lack of feed and water resulted in extensive loss of animals. Rainfall was so low that there was no measurable summer crop harvested in many districts. Human mortality was high.

Following the poor summer harvest, dysentery, smallpox, and cholera flared up into epidemic proportions taking a heavy toll of the population. In Bombay Presidency (Providence), the excess mortality from the famine of 1876-1877 reached 800,000 lives over the normal death rate. The Famine Commission estimated that by the end of 1878 the loss of life in the Providence totaled 3.5 million.

Indian drought

Global warming raises temperatures around the world.

The Asian Heat Wave of 2015

In May 2015, a heat wave in India claimed at least 2,500 lives. Extremely high temperatures were reached in cities scattered over the country. Power outages were wide spread. The city of Khammam recorded the highest temperature ever recorded there at 48 degrees C (118.4 degrees F). Other high temperatures were:Allahabad 47.8 degrees C (118.0 degrees F) Delhi 45.5 degrees C (113.9 degrees F)Hyderabad 46 degrees C (115 degrees F) Jharsuguda 45.4 degrees C (113.7 degrees F).

In June 2015, the deadliest heat wave known to have occurred in Pakistan took place in the southern part of the country near Karachi. The death toll is unknown for certain but may have reached more than 1000. It was followed by several weeks of the most severe heat wave to strike India. The heat wave struck during the month of Ramadan which made the impact of the event more severe than it might have been. Unfortunately, city services could not cope with the heat.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

The Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced even higher temperatures this year than in 2015. Temperatures were above normal most of the spring. Normally, the hottest months of the year are April, May, and June, before the summer monsoon rains begin. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 117°F (47.2°C) occur. In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 124°F (51°C). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 104 degrees F (40°C) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were New Delhi 47 °C (117 degrees F) Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)Philodi 51.°(124 degrees F).

The impact in India was immense. More than 300 million people have been been adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in the last growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. In places the asphalt on the streets partially melted. At Bikaner, the streets were being sprinkled with water to reduce the heat. 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region.

Fortunately, the government responded in a variety of ways to reduce the suffering and mortality. Forecasts for the summer monsoons are far above average precipitation. The first monsoon rains began in the south in the second week of June. Only time will tell if the monsoons will be enough to break the drought.

As the planet warms it can be expected that: (1) there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places. As cities grow larger in area and population, they will experience increasing heat waves. (2) new record high temperatures will be set across the planet.


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Donald Trump: A Vote Backward for Planet Earth!

Clean Energy Plan

Support a Clean Planet for Future Generations!

“Trump’s view of the environment is dangerously ignorant at a time when our nation, and the world, needs intellectually agile leaders.”

-L.A.Times

By Linn Smith

July 14, 2016—-(Revised from the March 26, 2016 article, “Presidential Candidates 2016: Views and Agendas on Climate Change and Clean Energy”)

Even though the earth has experienced climate change throughout its history, the current rate of warming hasn’t been seen in 1,300 years. Satellites have enabled scientists to see the big picture of how fast global warming is taking place. According to NASA, global sea levels rose 6.7 inches in the last century. Data collection since the 1880’s, reveals that the 20 warmest years have occurred since 1981 and the 10 warmest years have occurred in the past 12 years. 2015 was the earth’s warmest year on record!

Climate Change, Global Warming

Climate Change Affects Everyone!

Concerned? Time has shown that most people won’t care about climate change until it’s in their own backyard—until they are personally affected. People are dealing with day to day living. Most of us have grown up taking our source of energy for granted, flip the switch—the lights come on, turn the facet–water comes out, turn the heat up–furnace kicks in, turn the air conditioner on–we feel cooler……….. gas prices drop and it’s time for a bigger car! But extreme weather conditions are now happenng in our own backyard–and these weather events are likely to become more severe and unpredictable!

Because our next administration in the U.S. will play an important role in whether we meet our goals in reducing fossil fuels, I’ve decided to summarize what each U.S. Presidential candidate’s agenda on enegy would be if they were to become president in 2017. I have taken information directly from each candidates website when available.

Trump and climate change

Although scientists have all the data, Mr. Trump denies climate change!

Donald Trump

The following information is taken from DonaldTrump.com. It states his 100 day action plan if elected, followed by my comments:

1. Trump will rescind the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of U.S. Rule.

The problem with this agenda? If we do nothing the planet will heat up. We need a comittment from all facets of society to make the Climate Action Plan work. “Left unchecked, the human and economic cost of climate change, already evident, is sure to grow. If you doubt that, check out the $19.5 billion price tag for New Your City’s climate program.” (Huffington Post)

2. Trump will save the coal industry (See my article, From Coal to Renewables, June 17, 2016)

Why is this a problem? Millions of dollars have been allocated to develop programs to retrain workers in the coal industry through the U.S. Dept of Labor’s “Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce Grants.” The grant retrains coal workers and workers down the coal production chain. This act will “diversify economies, create jobs in new and existing industries, attract new sources of jobs, create investments and provide a range of workforce services and skills training, resulting in training for high quality, in demand jobs.” Trump’s “Save the Coal Industry,” to put coal miners back to work is obsolete. We need to move forward Mr.Trump!

3. Trump will renew the permit application for the Keystone Pipeline. (See my article “The Keystone XL Pipeline: Why It’s a Bad Idea!” August 6, 2015)

Why is this a problem? Processing the tar sand of Canada and sending it through the XL Pipeline for household use requires a processing that generates 12% more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil. Currently, oil is not produced from tar sand on a large, commercial basis, but the XL Pipeline would change that, opening the spigot to allow the flow of “dirty oil” around the world.

4. Trump will lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas.

Why is this a problem? We can’t drill or mine our way to a healthy planet!

5. Trump will revoke policies that impose restrictions on new drilling technologies

The impact and health of nearby residents where fracking is taking place is still unknown. Research has shown that methane leaking from the fracking wells wipes out any benefit of using natural gas as a cleaner energy. Also, drilling rigs are popping up very close to homes and schools, impacting the quality of life and lowering property values.

6. Trump will cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.

Greenhouse gases escaping into our atmosphere effect the entire planet, not just the U.S. Solomon Hsiang, of University of California, states, “If the U.S. does not contribute reciprocally to global actions, we will be free-riding on the hard work of other nations!”

7. Trump says any future regulations will go through a test: Is it good for the worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.

As Bernie says, it’s time to put clean energy before the profit of billionaires benefiting from the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to retrain workers in clean energy and for the fossil fuel wealthy to ask themselves what kind of planet they want to leave for future generations, for their children and grandchildren. We all need to work together to make the change and we each need to make the sacrifice of what stands in the way of moving forward. Big money needs to stop making the decisions!

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

Hillary Clinton

Here’s Hillary’s energy plan according to her website, “I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.”
Clinton’s goals:

1. Create clean energy jobs, produce enough clean energy to power all homes in U.S.
2. Cut energy waste in homes, schools, and hospitals by 1/3 and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1/3.
3. Continue meeting the goals the U.S. set at the Paris Climate Conference in December, 2015, and back the Clean Power Plan developed by the EPA to meet these goals
4. Launch a Clean Energy Challenge to “partner with states, cities and rural communities and give them the tools and resources they need to go beyond federal standards to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy.”
5. End the billions in tax subsidies for oil and gas companies.
6. Stop the Keystone Pipeline which would pass through the U.S. from Canada.

Our Children’s Future is at Stake–Clean Energy for the Future.

I have tried to summarize each candidate’s views on energy plans, searching first the candidate’s website for information–searching other websites when none available. Hopefully each citizen of the United States will educate themselves, not only on the views of the 2016 candidates for U.S. president, but also on the facts of climate change—and vote for the candidate who fits their values, while being mindful of leaving a healthy planet for present and future generations.

Be mindful of leaving a healthy planet for present and future generations. Clean Energy.


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Another Pragmatic Use for Solar–The Solar Bus!

The solar bus!

A prototype of what is to come in Uganda–the solar bus!

“It’s environmentally friendly, green and clean—the solar bus!”

By Linn Smith

July 3, 2016—In February of this year, Africa’s first solar bus, a prototype, hit its highways thanks to engineer, Paul Isaac Musasizi, CEO of Kiira Motors. The Kayoola Bus, as it is called in Africa, is an environmentally friendly, green and clean, 34 seat alternative to current buses. The system consists of two batteries charged by solar panels on the roof.

Creating Jobs for Uganda

When manufacturing of the bus is in place the company hopes to create 7,000 jobs, and by 2039, be able to manufacture all the parts for the bus in Uganda. Pricing the bus at $58,000, Musaisizi currently has some government funding, but is still looking for investors to get his project off the ground.

The solar bus

The Solar Bus–ride free!

Australia’s Tindo

Uganda does not boast the first solar bus. Australia has what they call the Tindo, powered 100% by solar! The Tindo was created by a New Zealand company called Designline International which “leads the world in vehicle design, hybrid propulsion systems and electric drive systems,” striving to keep New Zealand green through being environmentally conscious. The batteries of the Tindo are charged by a solar system on the roof at the city bus station instead of panels on top of the bus. This bus has been in operation since 2007 and accommodates 40 passengers–and cost to ride? Totally free!

China's hybrid bus

China’s hybrid bus–keeping in green!

China’s Hybrid Buses

China put solar hybrid buses into operation in 2012. These buses have solar panels installed on the roof which power lithium-ion batteries.

Solar Bus

Austria’s Solar Bus

And Solar for Austria

In Austria the first solar bus was put into operation in 2011. This is a bus developed to transport students between the university campuses.

“Solar buses—solar energy applied in another pragmatic way!”


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Global Warming is Changing Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Global warming is causing disappearing glaciers.

“With the rapid rise in temperatures it is probable that most national parks will see substantial changes.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

June 24, 2016—June 30 is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service in the United States. This year attendance in the parks is expected to be the largest ever. Many of the parks are now quite different from what they were when they were established on August 25, 1916. Perhaps none has changed more than Glacier National Park in Montana.

Glacier National Park and Waterton National Park

Extending from interior Canada south through the United States is a great range of mountains. The mountains were thrust upward 65 million years ago. The rugged mountains and deep canyons that now exist have been created over the long period of time since the mountains were uplifted. The Continental Divide runs along the crest of the mountain chain. From the crest eastward rainfall and snow melt end up in the Atlantic ocean and, west of the crest, water eventually reaches the Pacific Ocean. Part of the mountain system is in Canada, and the southern sections are in the United States.

Glacier and Waterton National Parks

Rapidly melting glaciers of the northwest U.S.

In 1895 the Canadian government recognized the unique character of the mountains, creating Waterton National Park in the Province of Alberta. In 1910 the United States responded by creating Glacier National Park in the state of Montana. The park contains about 1400 square miles (3626 square kilometers). Since the two parks occupied part of the same mountain system and the two countries have such a good relationship, they joined the two parks to make the Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park.

Glacier National Park

Glaciers are disappearing in our national parks.

The Vanishing Glaciers

The distinguishing characteristics of Glacier National Park are the large number of glaciers that existed inside the park, but the very features for which the park is named, will soon be gone. At the time of its founding, it is estimated there were about 150 separate ice fields. Today there are perhaps 25! At the time the park was established, it was possible to walk a short path to reach a glacier. Now it is a seven mile hike over rough terrain to reach the ice. A few years ago it was predicted that by 2050 all of the glaciers may be gone. That forecast date was later moved forward to 2030. Now a study reports the glaciers may be gone by 2020, just four years from now!

The demise of the snow and ice is due to the warming climate. The climate of the region has been on a slow warming trend since the end of the last ice age thousands of years ago. However, in the past few decades, the temperature has been rising faster and the ice melting at an accelerated pace.

Rising temperatures create earlier snow melt and warmer and drier summers. Today the spring floods from snow melt and the low flows of summer are occurring earlier by several weeks. As temperatures rise more precipitation in spring and fall comes as rain instead of snow. In the summer, temperatures of 90°F are now occurring in July and August. Since the park was established the number of 90 degree days have tripled. Like the rest of the United States, winter temperatures have gotten warmer as well. In the area outside the park, privately owned ski resorts have closed due to the shorter ski season.

Impact Of Vanishing Glaciers on Vegetation and Wildlife

The changing climate has had a huge impact on the vegetation and wildlife. The forests in the park are being affected in many ways. First, the treeline is moving upward in many areas of the park and there are more forest fires. Next, infestations of pests and diseases attacking the forest are on the increase. Finally, native fish, birds, and other animals are seeing their habitat changed.

Many, if not most, other national parks are changing due to global warming. Yellowstone, Mt, Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Redwood, and Joshua Tree are among those also being affected. With the rapid rise in temperatures it is probable that most national parks will see substantial changes.

Our rapidly disappearing glaciers!


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From Coal Mining to Renewables

Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

By Linn Smith

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)

June 18, 2016—-Much has been publicized in the past year concerning the loss of coal mining jobs, often blaming the loss on the move toward renewable energy. Recently on NPR, coal mining families stated this transition would lead to losing a “tradition,” saying the coal mining culture has been part of their families for generations.

Change is a Fact of Life

It’s true that for generations coal mining has been the only job available in many parts of the U.S., such as West Virginia. But change is a fact of life, as farmers in the Midwest experienced, losing many of the small family farms to giant agribusinesses.

I grew up on one of these small family farms, baling hay and milking cows. “Gone, for the most part, are the times when farmers would work together with wives and kids to feed the cows or harvest the year’s crop.” And that’s how it was for our family. If we were still short handed my dad would hire a cousin or two.

Ranchers on the BLM land in the west are also being forced to change. They have grazed on BLM land for generations, often claiming the land as their own, but in fact, it’s land that belongs to the citizens of the U.S. I have had many discussions about the BLM land with people in the Southwest and I have ridden horseback among the grazing cattle, which sometimes look healthy, but often look so thin you can count their ribs, and often riding past fresh carcasses of the not so fortunate cattle.

Underground mining

Today mountaintop mining is replacing underground mining.

Maintaining Traditions: At What Cost?

My point? People don’t always get what they want just because it’s been the tradition of their families for generations! Their way of life can attempt to be saved, as Willie did with the Farm Aid concerts, but often change will happen in spite of our hard work to keep things as they always have been. Today, for the most part, the small farmers are gone and ranchers are sometimes getting challenged by environmentalists and the Bureau of Land Management.

The same is happening to the coal miners! When change happens we all have to be flexible, it’s part of life. And our planet needs everyone to pitch in!

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

The move toward renewable resources is not the only reason for the decline in underground coal mining. According to http://www.greenbiz.com, coal jobs have been trending down for decades partially because of mountaintop mining (see Planet Earth Weekly article “Mountaintop Coal Mining: The Destruction of Appalachia” http://www.planetearth5.com). Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and it requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.

Mountain top mining in itself is an abuse to our environment, using dynamite to blast the top of the mountains to get to the coal seams–explosives and heavy machinery replacing jobs! In Kentucky, mountaintop mining has caused the decline in over 60% of coal mine workers from 1979 to 2006—over 60,000 workers! Mountain top mining has not only caused the loss of jobs, but it has destroyed the environment, causing erosion and leakage of metals and byproducts into nearby streams which provide drinking water for the local communities. Even mitigation isn’t addressing the environmental problems!.

The Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce Grants

In 2014 the U.S. Dept of Labor began giving grants to help train coal miners for clean economy jobs. The following year $35 million went to the POWER program (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative). These grants included retraining workers on down the coal production chain, from manufacturing to transportation. In 2016, the coal communities were provided with $55 million more in grants to “assist communities that were negatively affected by changes in the coal industry and help communities plan their economic future and develop a workforce based on plans.” Their goal is to “diversify economies, create jobs in new and existing industries, attract new sources of jobs, create investments and provide a range of workforce services and skills training, resulting in training for high quality, in demand jobs.”

Now is the time to accept change and meet the needs of the planet!

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)


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Coral Reefs Succumb to Global Warming

Bleaching of the Coral Reefs

Oceans warm and the Coral Reefs die.

“During a visit to St. John a couple of months ago I was able to see the damage first hand, snorkeling over a reef at Salt Pond Bay where there was essentially no living coral visible.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

June 10, 2016—Coral reefs are one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. They differ from land ecosystems in that the major populations making up the system are animals rather than plants. Land ecosystems include forests, grasslands and deserts. Coral reefs essentially consist of animals. The huge variety of animals includes those with backbones and those without. The most prevalent animals are those without backbones such as sponges, snails, clams, scallops and squid. Better known animals are starfish and sea urchins. The primary food for the animals is algae. The algae supply the animals with sugars and oxygen in return for shelter and carbon dioxide. These microscopic algae produce the basic color for the reefs.

Dying of the Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented rate. The dying of the reefs is attributed to a process known as bleaching. The bleaching is actually the result of the death of the microscopic algae that both color and feed the coral. When sea water gets too warm for prolonged periods of time, corals become stressed, causing them to expel the algae. This expelling of the micro-organisms leaves the coral appearing bleached or whitened. Coral can survive for a period of weeks without the algae but, in longer periods of time, the algae begins to die. A number of factors can cause the algae to die but only warmer than average water temperature can cause widespread loss. It can occur with sea temperatures being as little as 1°C (2°F) above normal monthly temperatures.

Climate Change and Reef Bleaching

Climate Change causes warming of the oceans leading to dead coral reefs.

Coral bleaching in the Caribbean Sea

Ocean temperatures are rising due to global warming. Other events such as El Ninos can further warm the water. It often takes only a small increase in water temperature to start bleaching. Records show the water temperature in 2005 was the warmest in the last century. In the fall of 2005 there was massive bleaching in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. At Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, up to 97 % of the coral colonies surveyed bleached when water temperatures rose to 32°C (89°F). Since it is this algae that gives the coral its basic color when the algae dies the coral begins to whiten. It takes only a week or so of bleaching to kill coral.

The Reefs of the Virgin Islands

One of the Caribbean islands which has suffered major losses to coral reefs is St John, one of the the U.S. Virgin Islands. There have been two major bleaching events so far in the 21st Century. The first was in 2005. This event was the worst on record to date. Bleaching was first noticed in July of 2005 and it continued into 2006 as disease also took a toll. Most coral around the island showed some bleaching and more than half of the reefs died. The most recent event was in 2010 when average sea water temperature was unusually warm from August through October.

Warming of the oceans cause dying of the reefs.

An example of a dead coral reef.

During a visit to St. John a couple of months ago I was able to see the damage first hand. Snorkeling over a reef at Salt Pond Bay where there was essentially no living coral visible. There were occasional living organisms visible but for the most part it was simply without life. Nearby was Trunk Bay which faced the open ocean and the rocky beach was covered by bits of broken bleached coral. An interesting feature on this beach was that visitors have used the broken bits of coral to create images of all kinds. These reefs have the ability to regrow if water temperatures would remain below 89 degrees F. However, since average ocean temperatures are rising it seems most likely that there will be more losses in the future.

Pacific reefs suffer again in 2016

The Great Barrier Reef lies off the coast of Australia. It is the earth’s largest system of coral reefs and, in 1981, was listed as a World Heritage Site. It is one of the largest heritage sites covering an area of more than 336,000 square kilometers (130,000 Square miles). It consists of nearly 3,000 individual reefs of varying sizes and almost 1,000 islands, also of varying sizes. At the time of this writing, a greatly expanded area of coral bleaching has been detected off the east coast of Australia. Almost all of the reefs, from the city of Cairns northward, show evidence of bleaching.

Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere water temperatures are the warmest on the north end of the reef, but decrease southward. In all, nearly half of the reef is suffering bleaching. In the northern, where the water is the warmest, bleaching is affecting nearly 93% of the great barrier reef. Southward to the region offshore from Cairns, the bleaching is affecting an average of 25 t0 50 percent of the reef. In recent months water temperatures have been warmer than usual and the area of bleaching is expanding southward.

One Third of World’s Coral is Dead or Dying

Reefs around the world are being affected by bleaching. More than 30 nations have reported losses to offshore reefs. The United Nations Environment Program indicates that a third of the world’s coral is dead or dying. They also predict that 60% of all reefs will be lost by 2030. Another increase of 1°C (33.8° F) in global temperatures will increase bleaching substantially. Coral bleaching in the tropical oceans by 2030 may alter the entire global ocean ecology. Large numbers of species of fish and other organisms will simply cease to exist.

This year NASA is beginning a new program to monitor the extent of coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. The program is the Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory. It will combine satellite data with surface data for a year and focus on entire reef systems. The demise of the coral reefs is becoming part of the sixth mass extinction the planet is experiencing. The evidence of global warming and its effects keep piling up! It is past time for determined action!


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Fun in the Sun: Camping with Renewables

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

“These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun!”

By Linn Smith

June 3, 2016—-Now that nice weather is upon us, many think about taking tents and equipment into the peacefulness of the wilderness, sitting by a stream with a fishing pole, hiking the path along the scenic terrain and getting out of the city into nature.

Replace Those Batteries with Sun Power!

Have you thought about replacing those battery driven gadgets used for camping with solar ones? There are many products now on the market that are environmentally friendly, many using the free energy of the sun! I have had the same solar flashlight for about 10 years–and it never fails me, even if it has been in the glove compartment for weeks! We have had solar panels for our travel trailer for about 5 years–which keep our DC lights lighting up just fine! (In the article, “Solar Powering Your RV” on our Planet Earth Weekly website, I covered how to set up your RV using Solar.)

Renewable Camping

Every year there are more solar and renewable camping accessories to choose from. Here are just a few that are on the market:

Solar Radio

Know the weather when your camping.

1. Eton Scorpion Multi-Purpose Solar Powered Digital Weather Radio–It retails for about $70. It’s a flashlight, radio, USB cell phone charger, and gives you weather alerts. Reviews say it’s good for short interval uses.

Biolite kettle Charger

Charge phone as you boil water.

2. Biolite KettleCharger–This gadget charges your phone or tablet while you boil water. It retails for about $150 from http://www.BioLite.com and provides 10W On-Demand power, with a charge the strength of a wall outlet. It also stores power for “a quick recharge with no heat or water.” This gadget packs flat, creating power while you boil water for cooking, drinking or cleaning. You can use it on your camp stove, boiling water as your battery stores power. This has excellent reviews.

LuminaAid

Solar Lantern that is waterproof.

3. LuminaAid Packlight Spectra–This is a color changing solar light that inflates into a handy lantern and retails at Luminaid.com for about $25. It recharges in about 7 hours direct sunlight and gives 12 hours of LED light. It weights about 3.5 oz and is waterproof up to 1 meter deep and can float. This has excellent reviews.

GoSun camping stove.

Cook with Solar!

4. GoSun Stove–This retails for about $280. It’s a portable stove that cooks a meal in less than 20 minutes and uses no fuel, only the sun! It weighs about 3.5 pds (1.5 kg), but will cook up to 31 lbs of food at a time. It retains about 80% of it’s sun intake, can bake, boil or fry and collapses to carry. This has excellent reviews.

Yeti Solar Generator

Camp with a Solar Generator

5. Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator–Available at http://www.REI.com for about $230. It’s gas free and fume free, cranking out portable power from sunlight to power lights, phones and laptops. It’s quiet and lasts about 7 hrs on a full charge. The output is 12V, AC, and USB. It weighs about 12 lbs and is rechargeable by solar, AC or 12V. It can be plugged into a Boulder 30 panel for recharging.

scrubbabag: Clothes washing for camping trips

Wash your clothes when camping!

6. Scrubba Wash Bag–Pick it up at REI for around $50. It weighs less than 5 oz, volume of the bag is about 3 gallons. You fill it with water, clothes and soap, your rub it with your hands to wash. Inside it has hundreds of internal Scrubba nodules that clean your clothes quickly and it folds down to pocket size. It has a transparent window so you can see the dirt escaping your clothes! And you can just keep dirty clothes in it until your ready to do your wash. This has very good reviews.

These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun! Have a fun summer! And remember—do what you can, when you can, where you can to create a healthier planet!

Clean It and Green It

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