Planet Earth Weekly

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

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The Effect of Climate Change on the Saguaros of the Sonoran Desert

saguaro pic by Linn Smith

Saguaro of the Sonoran Desert

“Saguaros have evolved to rely on the summer monsoons and winter rains that prevail here.”

By Linn Smith
March 4, 2018—-Each morning I ride along the dirt paths in southwest Arizona, my dog in tow, and wonder at the giant Saguaros, towering, as if royalty of the desert. What do I know about these gigantic, human like plants? I know I am truly humbled by their presence. The beauty against the mountains, the size, the human like features of arms lifting to a blue sky above, their age and, while the world moves forward, these mammoth cactuses have survived the elements of a dry arid life in the Southwest…all part of my fascination!

But what about the survival of the Saguaros? What is the future of these majestic desert plants? With climate change comes a hotter, drier desert and with a hotter, drier desert comes a greater risk of fires and drought, making it difficult for the Saguaro to propagate according to the narrow margin of time allotted for seed dispersion that coincides with the monsoons.

And also….there’s Buffelgrass!


Buffelgrass competes with Saguaros for nutrients

Buffelgrass: A Giant Threat to a Giant Cactus

Buffelgrass is native to Africa and was transported to the desert of Arizona to prevent erosion and for cattle forage in the 1940’s. Many volunteers work tirelessly digging up the invasive grass, which competes with the Saguaros for food and water. The grass not only competes for the nutrients and water among the Saguaros, it is also fire-resistant, as the roots are able to survive a fire, allowing the Buffelgrass to endure the elements of nature and return healthier than ever.

Buffelgrass is highly flammable and burns very hot, much hotter than the Saguaros can survive. It changes a fire-resistant desert into a flammable grassland and, as climate changes and fires increase, so does the Buffelgrass. A healthy ecosystem is able to resist changes of climate due to global warming, but the buffelgrass creates an unhealthy environment for the Saguaros of the Sonoran Desert. When it fills in the bare areas between the Saguaros, the grass acts like fodder for fire caused by lightning strikes. states, “Like many such imports, which seemed like a good idea at the time, this one (Buffelgrass) has gone out of control. Approximately 2,000 acres of Saguaro National Park are currently covered with buffelgrass, and can spread at a rate of up to 35 percent per year. There’s no way for one park or its visitors to hold back global warming, but while park employees attack the fire-loving buffelgrass with herbicides, volunteers show up for communal buffelgrass pulls. It’s a difficult battle, but after great effort and thousands upon thousands of buffelgrass clumps yanked from the ground, mostly by volunteers, some land is declared free of the unwanted grass.”
The staff at Saguaro National Park states it like this, “The math of climate change is simple: Hotter summers mean a greater likelihood of fire. Warmer winters mean less chance for buffelgrass to die back in a hard freeze. It all adds up to long odds for the saguaros. If we start seeing buffelgrass come through and we have larger fires, really you can start calling us Buffelgrass National Park. The cacti are not going to survive that.”


Saguaros of the Southwest

The Saguaros and Monsoon Rains

The Saguaros only habitat on earth are the deserts of the southwest. Andy L. Fisher, chief of interpretation for Saguaro National Park says, “Even — or especially — in the desert, water is life. Saguaros have evolved to rely on the summer monsoons and winter rains that prevail here. Their adaptations to this regional weather cycle are so specific that the species is found in the Sonoran Desert and nowhere else on Earth. The saguaros have got it dialed in. They know exactly when they need to put up the fruit to put out the seeds, to get the seeds carried by the animals, to get seeds deposited just in time for the first monsoon rains.” If the monsoons fail to bring the needed rains within their usual timespan, these cactuses could soon become extinct, along with the many other species of plants throughout our planet dependent on timely conditions for survival.

Saguaro Population Regeneration

A seventy-five year study of the Saguaro cactus by the National Parks Conservation Association titled, “Saguaro Mortality and Population Regeneration in the Cactus Forest of Saguaro National Park: Seventy-Five Years and Counting,” created maps showing the percent of population change of the Saguaros according to sections. The study shows that only 12 of the 64 four-hectare (one hectare equals approximately 2.5 acres} plots had a population increase over the past 75 years in which the Saguaro was studied. The other 52 plots decreased in Saguaro population. Other studies document the same degree of regeneration.

Weiss, Castro, and Overpeck , who headed the study, contrasted the drought of the 2000s with the drought of the 1950s and point out the following. “Temperatures during the drought of the 2000s have been generally higher than during the 1950s drought due to climate change. They note that the higher temperatures increase the evapotranspiration especially in the foresummer prior to the monsoons. Hence, we suspect drought, not reproductive potential, is primarily responsible for the lack of regeneration in this population in the current era.”

The observations made during the past 75 years of this study suggest that the success of the Saguaro’s regeneration in the 21st century will depend on a combination of factors including climate and fire associated with the invasive non-native buffelgrass. Climate change may benefit some species, such as Buffelgrass, and cause extinction of others….the Saguaro, which is at risk of disappearing in the future!

If you are in the Southwest or just visiting and would like to spend a day for a worthy cause….digging Buffelgrass, contact the Desert Museum:

One last note, don’t try to poach a Saguaro to sell or relocate to your yard, as many are microchipped!

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Extreme Climate Change: The Pleistocene Ice Age

climate change

Climate change through geological time

“Today the total mass of ice on the planet is continuing to decline as global warming increases the melting. Sea level is rising in response.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

February 23, 2018—-Planet Earth was formed from cosmic debris approximately 4.5 billion years ago. For almost its entire history the planet has been warmer than it is today. Over the past 540 million years relatively warm conditions have existed on our planet probably 90 percent of the time. Temperatures have averaged 5 degrees C (9°F) higher than at present. However, there have been times when the planet cooled enough so that massive amounts of ice formed on the land masses.

The Pleistocene Ice Age

Probably the most important single global environmental event since the human species has been on Earth was the Pleistocene geological epoch. Large areas of the land masses were covered by sheets of ice and mountain ranges supported many individual glaciers. Geologists have dated the Pleistocene Epoch as beginning about 2,588,000 years ago and continued until about 11,700 years ago.

The Pleistocene ice age was not a single glacial expansion followed by warming. It included several large advances and retreats. Each period of expansion included many minor advances and retreats. Significant fluctuations in the last million years averaged about 100,000 years in length. Of the 100,000 year periods, extreme cold prevailed about 90% of the time. The warm periods, or interglacials, were relatively short, averaging approximately 10,000 years.

Areas Covered by Ice

During this epoch large ice sheets formed in both hemispheres on land masses near the poles. At the maximum some 30% of earth’s land surface was covered by ice. The ice sheets reached a thickness of 1500 to 3000 meters (4950-9900 ft). The impact of the ice sheets extended well out from the edge of the ice. Permafrost (permanently frozen soil) extended outward several hundred kilometers in both North America and Eurasia. In North America the present path of the Ohio and Missouri Rivers mark the approximate southern limit of the ice sheet. These two rivers were formed by the melted water at the edge of the ice.

Mountain ranges developed glaciers that extended into the surrounding lowlands and in many cases into the nearest ocean. Pack ice covered the polar seas, and icebergs floated far into the tropical oceans being carried by cold ocean currents.

climate change

Climate Change over geological time


During the time when ice was most extensive over Earth, temperatures averaged 4°C ( 7.2°F) less than at present. In the northern hemisphere it was perhaps 8 to 12°C (14 – 25º F) lower than the current mean temperature. At the edge of the ice the temperature was about -6°C ( -21º F). At the edge of the permafrost is was 0°C (32º F).

The Wisconsin Glacial Advance

The most recent major glacial advance in North America is known as the Wisconsin. It has other names in other geographical regions. It took place about 30,000 to 12,000 years ago. The peak of the advance was about 18,000 years ago. Huge ice sheets extended as far south as 50º N in Scandinavia and to 40º N in North America. Polar ocean currents extended in the North Atlantic as far south as 45º N. The ice mass was great enough to lower sea level approximately 125 to 140 meters (413 to 462 ft). As the ice accumulated the continental margins changed and the landmasses became more extensive. It was during this time that there may have been a land bridge between Asia and North America, allowing humans to cross into North America.

The Pleistocene ice age had a tremendous effect on Earth. The ice sheets and mountain glaciers changed the surface of the land over large areas. There are still visible features on the continents resulting from the moving ice. There was also a mass extinction of species. Large numbers of species of plants and animals disappeared. The melting of the ice continues to impact life including our species.

The ice has been retreating irregularly since its peak. Over the last 6000 years, sea level has been within a meter (3.3 ft) of that of the present. Today the total mass of ice on the planet is continuing to decline as global warming increases the melting and sea levels is rising in response.

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 Biophilic Design: Creating a Healthy Environment

biophilic design

Biophilic design accelerates the healing process of patients.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks!”

By Linn Smith

February 18, 2018——-Growing up in rural America I was always connected to nature. I knew from an early age that I could find peace somewhere out of doors, sometimes laying back on my saddleless horse pondering the clouds or walking the farm fields with my dog. Peace in nature was always close at hand. John Muir said it best, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks!” Biophilic design recognizes this.

What is Biophilic Design

Biophilic is derived from the term, “biophilia,” meaning “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” 

Biophilic design in architecture creates environmentally friendly, energy-efficient buildings and developments by effectively managing natural resources. It recognizes the human need to be close to nature by replicating it in architectural design. It seeks a healthier, happier way of life through creating sustainable buildings and cities.

“Passive biophilic architecture produces buildings that use less energy to operate because they feature efficient designs, materials and systems. The majority of biophilic architectures have highly competent heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting systems, and appliances. In addition, these biophilic restructures are built of energy-efficient materials. Green building elements contribute to a better microclimate through evaporation, filtering of dust from the air and reducing the temperatures at the rooftop,” as stated in the article “Towards a New Potential of Healthy Architecture”

Examples of Biophilic Design

Biophilic Design

Live oak trees extend through the deck of an internal courtyard. Natural bark lines the back walls

WHR Architects, Inc

Christus St Michael Health Care Center in Texarkana, Texas where nearly every hospital room looks out on trees or other elements of nature.

The impact of these designs? Studies show that Biophilic designs have a positive effect on our health and well being. Also, using sustainable materials in the construction of biophilic designed buildings has a positive effect on our environment. Biiphilic design provides another example of creating a healthier planet for future generations. 

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Jostein Gaarder on Climate Change

“Human activity is draining resources and destroying natural habitats.”

By Linn Smith

February 6, 2018—–Besides being a successful author, Jotstein Gaarder works to support both human rights and a sustainable environment. Gaarder clearly states our current world condition concerning the cause and effect of climate change in the following article, which is the foreword to his 20th addition of Sophie’s World. Sophie’s World is a novel he wrote in 1995 which became a best seller around the world. 

This exerpt is from the article, “Sophie’s World in Danger: Living as though everything centres on our time is just as naïve as thinking the Earth is flat” from

“Two decades ago, a history of philosophy by an unknown Norwegian teacher became a most unlikely phenomenon. But how has time changed the writer? And how might he change his book now, if he could? Jostein Gaarder takes up his own story. However, by far the most important philosophical question of our time must be this: how are we going to save our civilization and the basis of our existence?

From time to time I am asked a question. If I had written Sophie’s World today, is there something important I would have added? Is there something I would have placed more emphasis on? The answer is a resounding yes! If I were to write a philosophical novel today, I would have focused a lot more on how we treat our planet.

It is strange to look back after only 20 years and realize that Sophie’s World doesn’t really address this question. The reason may be that over the course of these 20 years we have gained an entirely new awareness of climate change and the importance of biological diversity. An all-important principle in the study of ethics has been the golden rule, otherwise known as the reciprocity principle: do to others what you would like them to do to you. Over time, we have learnt to apply this rule more widely. In the Sixties and Seventies, people came to realize that the reciprocity principle must apply across national borders, both to the north and to the south.

But the golden rule can no longer just apply across space. We have begun to realize that the reciprocity principle applies across time, too: do to the next generation what you would like them to have done to you, had they lived on the planet before us.

It’s that simple. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Obviously, this rule must apply to the next generation and to everyone who lives on the planet after us. They are human beings, too. Therefore, we should not leave behind a planet which is less valuable than the one we have enjoyed. A planet with fewer fish in the sea. Less drinking water. Less food. Fewer rainforests. Fewer coral reefs. Fewer species of animals and plants… Less beauty. Less wonder. Less splendor and happiness.

Jostein Gaarder

Climate change and responsibility

The 20th century has taught us that people need conventions and obligations which go beyond national boundaries. 

The question we are left with at the beginning of the 21st century is: for how long can we claim human rights without accepting they come with fundamental obligations. The time is ripe for a Universal Declaration of Human Obligations. It no longer makes sense to think about an individual’s rights and freedoms without also thinking about the responsibility of individuals and individual states – not least our responsibility to safeguard the rights of future generations.

At this very moment we are experiencing the consequences of man-made climate change. They are dramatic. However, opinion polls indicate that the people of this world are not particularly concerned. One day in the future, global-warming denial may be considered one of the greatest conspiracies of all time.
The era we live in is exceptional in every way. On one hand, we belong to a triumphant generation, which can explore the universe and map the human genome. On the other, we are the first generation seriously to lay waste to the environment. Human activity is draining resources and destroying natural habitats. We are changing our surroundings to such an extent that people think of our time as an entirely new geological era.

Climate change and sustainable living

Jostein Gaarder

Huge volumes of carbon are contained in plants, animals, the sea, oil, coal and gas. The carbon is just itching to be oxidized and released into the air. The atmosphere on dead planets such as Venus and Mars is mostly CO2, and that would also be the case here if the Earth’s processes didn’t hold the carbon at bay. But from the end of the 18th century, fossil fuels have tempted us like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. “Release us,” they whispered. And we gave into that temptation. Now we are trying to force the genie back inside the lamp.

If all the remaining oil, coal and gas on this planet is extracted and burnt, our civilization will not survive. But many people and many countries see this as their divine right. Why shouldn’t they use the fossil fuels on their land? Why shouldn’t countries with rainforests chop them down? What’s the difference? What difference will it make to CO2 levels or to biodiversity if one country stops while the rest carry on?

Over the past few centuries, most people here in Norway have been lifted out of poverty. The same is true in many regions of the world. We should not forget that. But this prosperity has come at a high price, a debt we are only now beginning to pay off. Before the Industrial Revolution, the atmosphere contained 275 CO2 parts per million. At the moment of writing, that figure is 400 ppm and it is still rising. Devastating climate change is unavoidable at this rate. Sooner or later we must attempt to return to pre-industrial CO2 levels. 

According to Dr James Hansen, considered by many to be one of the world’s leading climate researchers, we must – initially at least – get this level down to 350 ppm. Only then can we feel reasonably secure that we will escape the worst catastrophes for this planet and for our civilization. But the figure is not going down. It is going up.

If we are to save biodiversity, we need to revolutionize our thinking. Living as though everything centers on our time is just as naive as thinking the Earth is flat. Our time is no more significant than future times. It is only natural that our time is the most significant to us. But we cannot live as though our time is also the most important one for those who come after us. We must respect future times as we respect our own time.
In relationships between individuals and between nations, we have emerged from our “natural state”, characterized by the survival of the fittest. But when it comes to the relationship between generations, unbridled lawlessness still reigns.

Everyone has the right to practice their beliefs, and everyone has the right to hope that our planet can be saved. But that does not guarantee that there will be a new heaven and a new earth awaiting us. It is unlikely that supernatural forces will bring about a Judgement Day. But it is inevitable that we will be judged by our descendants.

Climate change comes down to greed. The destruction of biodiversity comes down to greed. But greed does not trouble the greedy. History is our witness. 

The ethical question is not difficult to answer – what is difficult is living by the answer. But if we forget our descendants, they will never be able to forget us. The question of how widely we should apply the reciprocity principle comes down to identity. What is a human being? Who am I? If I were merely myself – that is, the body sitting here writing – I would be a creature without hope. But my identity goes deeper than my own body and my own short time on Earth. I am a part of – and I take part in – something which is bigger and greater than myself. Humans tend to have a local and short-term sense of who they are. We used to have to scan our surroundings, wary of dangers and prey. That gives us a natural tendency to defend ourselves and protect our own. But we do not have the same natural tendency to protect our descendants, not to mention species other than our own.

Favoring our own genes lies deep within our nature. But we don’t have the same instinct to protect our genes four or eight generations down the line. That is something we must learn – just as we had to learn to respect human rights. Ever since our species emerged in Africa, we have fought a determined battle to prevent our branch of the evolutionary tree from being cut off. That battle has been successful, for we are still here. But we have become so prosperous that we are threatening the basis of our own survival. We have become so prosperous that we are threatening the basis of every species’ survival.
As clever, vain and inventive as we are, it is easy to forget that we are simply primates. But are we really so clever if we put our cleverness and inventiveness ahead of our responsibility for the future of the planet?

No longer can we think only about one another. The planet we live on is an essential part of our identity. Even if our species is destined to die out, we still carry an important responsibility for this unique planet and for the nature we leave behind. Modern humans think we are almost entirely shaped by our cultural and social history, by the civilization which produced us. But we are also shaped by our planet’s biological history. There is a genetic heritage as well as a cultural one. We are primates. We are vertebrates.

It took billions of years to create us. Billions of years to create a human being! But are we going to survive the next millennium?

What is time? First we have the horizon of the individual, then of the family, of culture and of literary culture, but there is also geological time – we come from tetrapods that crawled out of the sea 350 million years ago – and finally, there is cosmic time. Our universe is almost 13.7 billion years old.

But in reality, these periods of time are not as distant from one another as they may seem. We have reason to feel at home in the universe. The planet we live on is precisely one third of the age of the universe, and the class of animals to which we belong, the vertebrates, has existed for a mere 10 per cent of the time our solar system and life on Earth have existed. The universe is no more infinite than that. Or conversely: our roots and our kinship are intricately and deeply woven into the universal soil.

Human beings may be the only living creatures in the entire universe who have a universal consciousness. We have a staggering sense of the immense and mysterious cosmos we are part of. Therefore, not only do we have a global responsibility to save our planet. We have a cosmic responsibility.”

This is the foreword to the 20th anniversary edition of ‘Sophie’s World’ (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £8.99) published 8th October 2015. Translation © Paul Russell Garrett 2015 is published 8th October 2015.

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 Agrivoltaics: Growing Food for the Future


Agrivoltaics: Food and Solar

“Agrivoltaics combines agriculture with energy efficiency while growing plants beneath solar panels.”

By Linn Smith

January 28, 2018—- Co-location means two or more groups, sharing the same place. Agrivoltaics, also known as Agrophotovoltaics, means using the same piece of land for solar power plus agriculture. Agrivoltaics, or solar farming, is a new way of growing plants, combining agriculture with energy efficiency while growing plants beneath solar panels.

Agrivoltaics: Dual Use of Land

In 1981, Adolf Goetzberger and Armin Zastrow developed the idea to improve overall production of crops. Dr. Goetzberger founded the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany. His work involved making solar an alternative to fossil fuels. In 1981, he published a paper titled, “Potatoes under the Collector,” which proposed a setup for solar energy systems in combination with agricultural land use.


Growing food with solar

Dr. Eicke Weber, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute stated, “In view of the dynamic worldwide growth of solar installations of the last decade and the increase in land usage resulting from solar installation systems, innovative concepts, like agrophotovoltaics (agrivoltaics) which facilitates the dual usage of agricultural land, help to further and accelerate the transformation of the global energy system.”

Dr. Goetzberger used the term Agrophotovoltaics or APV, as a method of harvesting the sun for both power and production of crops. APV is currently an ongoing project in Germany which demonstrates that land for both growing crops and solar electricity are compatible. Dual use of the land is resource efficient, reduces competition for land and opens up a new source of income for farmers.

The APV System

The APV system was installed on organic farmland in Germany in 2015. Approximately seven acres were used to produce crops under the ground-mounted solar panels, which were built about 5 yards off the ground. Four different crops were planted. The land in use not only generates electricity from the solar panels but is also growing food. The solar panels provide a uniform light distribution on the crops using reflection. To prove their theory, they also planted a control plot nearby using the same 4 crops, excluding the solar panels. The scientists wanted to determine which crops would grow best. Result: The crops under the APV system produced about 80% of that of the control crop. This experiment is ongoing and data will be analyzed in 2018.


Agrivoltaics: Growing food to feed the planet.

Agrivoltaics and Biosphere2

A similar experiment was being conducted at Biosphere2 when I visited several weeks ago. This research, headed by Barron-Gafford, Assistant Professor, revealed that the solar system above the crops created a warmer environment than normal when no plants were beneath , similar to the heat-island effect that happens in cities surrounded by cement and asphalt. He stated, “So think about it, if you get rid of all the plants when you put in renewables energy, you’ve gotten rid of that cooling potential… plants under the panels would allow the air to circulate and would take up carbon for photosynthesis by opening up their pores, or stomata, while letting water escape from their leaves and you get a warmer environment. We wanted to see if you put the cooling effect back into the system by growing plants beneath the solar panels, you can actually cool those panels back down and mitigate that heat island effect.”

When solar panels get too warm they start to lose their efficiency. By growing plants beneath the panels they can cool down and retain that efficiency, which makes for more renewable energy per parcel of land. The panels also shade the plants, reduce evaporation and the crops require less water to grow underneath.



In the future, as world population grows, solar and land for food must not be in competition. The world population today is approximately 7.6 billion. Two hundred years ago it was 1 billion. At the close of the 21st century the population will be more than 11 billion. The question remains…will we be able to feed our planet’s population and meet the demand for clean energy?

Agrivoltaics and Clean Energy

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Recent Events of Note—January, 2018

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

“Jerry Brown led the planning for a Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2018.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

The Politics of Climate Change

President Trump stated campaigning that he would take the United States out of the Paris Agreement of December 2016. He began the process soon after elected. As a result, two things happened. It rallied the rest of the world governments to act more decidedly to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In the summer meeting of the G20 countries, all except the United States confirmed their commitments to the Paris Agreement. The country of Sweden has committed to carbon neutrality by 2045. Germany has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

The second thing that happened as a result of the U.S. backing out of the Paris Agreement… united many cities, states, and people to join the forces to slow global warming and climate change. It also lead to the formation of new non-governmental organizations pledge to fight climate change. In the United States new groups include America’s Pledge and We are still in. A recently formed group known as the Global Covenant of Mayors has more than 7000 members worldwide. In the summer of 2017 governor Jerry Brown led the planning for a Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2018.

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Climate Events of Note

A number of environmental events occurred recently that made climate change real to many who had questioned it. They include unusually high temperatures. Evidence indicates the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. The winter of 2016-2017 was unusually warm. Temperatures were as much as 35°F (19.5°C) above the 30 year average. Record high temperatures occurred in many countries including the United States. In 2017 a record high of 129 °F (60°C) was recorded in the city of Ahvas, Iran.

In the past several decades the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona at the metropolitan airport has reached such high temperatures that air traffic has been curtailed or stopped for some hours. The reason is that the air over the runway became too thin for large aircraft to get enough lift to ensure becoming airborne. In the summer of 2017 such an event took place. The temperature at the airport weather station reached 119°F (84°C).

I experienced a similar incident that occurred at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria many years ago. The asphalt on the field became so warm and soft on a hot day that the wheels of a large cargo plane sank through the tarmac.

The last climate event to note…..the 2017 tropical storm season was marked by severe storms in several regions. Category four or five storms occurred in the North Atlantic region and in the Northwest Pacific region. Two category four hurricanes reached the United States. It is the first time two storms of this severity have reached the U.S in a single hurricane season!

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Factors Resulting in Long Term Climate Change

climate change

Climate Change over geological time

“Long-term climate changes are those changes over Geologic time that may persist for millions of years.”

By Dr. John J. HIdore

December 6, 2017—–Long-term climate changes are those changes over Geologic time that may persist for millions of years. The intermittent ice ages that have occurred through the span of earth history are an example. The processes which have produced these long-term changes, for the most part, also take place slowly.

Earth–Sun Relationships

Regular variations in the motion of the earth as it travels around the sun explain daily and seasonal differences in the amount of solar energy arriving at the surface. However, the angle of the earth’s axis and the distance from Earth to the sun vary over time.

The obliquity of the ecliptic: This term refers to the angle of Earth’s axis in relation to the plane in which the earth revolves around the sun. This angle is not constant. On a cycle of a period of about 41,000 years, the angle varies some 1.5° about the mean of 23.1°. If the earth’s axis were perpendicular to the plane there would be equal lengths of day and night over the globe and result in little seasonal change. If the angle were greater than 23.5 there would be greater extremes in the lengths of summer and winter days and nights and to cause distinctive changes in the distribution of Earth’s climates.

Earth’s orbital eccentricity: The earth moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit; the eccentricity of the orbit is derived by comparing the path to that of a true circle. Currently the orbit is relatively close to a circle. Over the past million years, the orbit has changed from almost circular to a distinctly oblong shape. This change influences the amount of solar radiation intercepted by the earth and modifies the dates at which the solstices and equinoxes occur.

climate change

Climate change through geological time

Distribution of Continents

One set of theories of climatic change deals with the location of continental land masses in relation to the position of the poles and the equator. Reconstructed maps for the Permo-Carboniferous glaciation (250 million years ago) and those of the most recent Pleistocene glaciation show that in both cases there was a concentration of land masses in the polar realms. However, there have been times when such a location occurred, but no glaciation resulted.

Intimately related to the idea of moving continents is the role of mountain building. As an explanation of this theory, one only has to think of the formation of snow and ice on Mt. Kilimanjaro located astride the equator. Geologists have long noted the relationship between times of extensive mountain-building periods and some of the ice ages. For example, both the Permo-Carboniferous and recent ice ages were preceded by extensive mountain-building periods.

Variation in the Oceans

Modern research in climatology is paying increasing attention to the role of the oceans in the climatic system. The oceans have received attention, providing in some cases the basis of entire theories of climatic change. Some of the ways in which the oceans influence the prevailing climates on Earth include the following:
1. Changes in the elevation of the land is a factor. A drop in sea level would increase the heights of the continents and enlarge land masses.
2. The oceans are less variable in temperature than the continents, and changes in the relative temperature of oceanic waters influence world climates. Variations in the energy storage in the oceans can occur because of changes in salinity, evaporation rates, and relative solar penetration.
3. Oceans play a significant role in the redistribution of energy over the earth’s surface. Ocean currents transport large amounts of heat, and any changes in their relative extent and direction of flow have a great impact on climate.

Extraterrestrial Impacts

At intervals throughout the history of Earth, exceptionally large objects from space have struck the earth. When these objects struck Earth, some altered the climate tremendously for short periods and in some cases for periods of thousands of years. The boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary geologic periods was approximately 65 million years ago. Much evidence now points to a large object impacting the earth at this time. It certainly altered the climate. The impact produced firestorms over the earth, destroying much of the vegetation. These same fires would have removed much of the atmospheric oxygen and added large amounts of carbon dioxide.
A huge dust cloud was raised that blocked out the sun for months causing temperatures to drop. The fires also contributed a huge cloud of soot to the atmosphere. The sustained cloud of solid particles would have greatly reduced solar radiation to the ground. Precipitation would have turned into acid rain and snow as the highly sulfurous particles combined with water particles in the atmosphere.

Other Theories

The theories presented herein are a partial representation of those that have been suggested. Other researchers have introduced ideas ranging from the possible influence of the periodic passage of the earth through an interstellar dust cloud to variations in atmospheric water vapor caused by both natural and human activities. Despite all of these ideas, there is no single theory that can account for all of the observed events; it is evident that earth’s climates result from a spectrum of causal elements.
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Tesla: What’s New?

Model Y Tesla

Model Y, Tesla’s car of the future.

“Elon Musk is still at the forefront as a founding father of the rapidly changing electric car industry.”

By Linn Smith
November 26, 2017—-When I happen upon a Tesla owner charging their car at a charging station, as I did recently in Trinidad, Colorado, I usually linger long enough to ask the owner his opinion of the Tesla. The responses are always similar, “Best car I ever owned,” or “Most fun car I ever had.” The people who own the Teslas are the best advertisement for these all electric vehicles. Some of the reviews I have read on line are mixed, but testaments “straight from the owner’s mouth,” have been strongly positive!

Tesla: A Review

The Tesla Model S was introduced in 2012. Several revisions in 2017 have improved the driving range per charge to between 270-335 miles. The 40-amp charger of earlier models was replaced in 2017 with a 48-amp charger, which enables a quicker charge and about 30 miles drivable time per hour of charge.

Tesla electric cars

Charging up at a station

What’s New for Tesla in 2018?

*The Model S 100D has a range of 335 miles with the ability to hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds (if you’re into speed).

The Model 3, with a base price of about $35,000, reportedly is, “Adopting a controversial plan to forgo prototype tooling (a test model design) in an effort to accelerate the launch of the Model 3.” Test drivers, journalists and financial analysts were given hands on demonstrations of the car and loved it! 

AllianceBernstein says, “We found the Model 3 to be a compelling offering, and believe it is likely to further galvanize the overall Electric Vehicle category.”

Though Tesla has struggled getting the Model 3 available to the public, it promises to be available soon. Tesla’s target of producing 5,000 Model S’s by the end of December has been pushed to March of 2018.


All electric semi will change the way cargo is hauled across country.

The Tesla Semi

In the meantime, Musk has unveiled his electric semi-truck and Roadster sports car this week, and may unveil an SUV, Model Y soon.

Tesla will be the first user of their semi-trucks, hauling cargo between its California factory to one in Nevada. “Tesla will be the first customer for the semi. We will use our own truck to carry cargo in the U.S. between our different facilities. We have an assembly facility in California, the Gigafactory in Nevada, so we will use our trucks to carry things in-between.” This electric semi has a range of 500 miles on one charge, which is approximately the round-trip mileage of 80% of the trucking market. The price of the electric semi would compete with the sale of regular gas semis.

The Model Y (Unofficial name) will be a small SUV, which was going to be built on the Model 3 platform but is now back to the original plan in building it separate in order to bring it to market sooner. It will be a more automated production line, bringing it to market faster, as SUV’s are one of the fastest growing vehicles.

So, Elon Musk is still at the forefront as a founding father of the rapidly changing electric auto industry, with the other car manufacturers scurrying to keep pace with his Tesla company! Tesla has confronted many obstacles, but still moves ahead to combat our warming climate.

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Climate Change Over Geological Time

Glacial Ages and Climate

Climate Change Over Time

“Climate change at the present is of great consequence to most species including humans.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 15, 2017—-Planet Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Geologists have divided this long history of the planet into several pieces called eras. They are the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic.

The Precambrian is the longest and each of the other three are shorter than the previous one. When considering climate change through geologic time, two aspects stand out. The first is that for most of geologic time Earth has been warmer than it is at present. How much warmer varied through time. The second feature that stands out is the intermittent ice ages when large portions of the earth were covered with ice.

Major Ice Ages

Relatively little is known about the long period of Precambrian time. Basically it was the period during which the earth cooled from its initial very hot state. The Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras encompass the rest of geologic time, about 570 million years. More evidence, and a greater variety of
evidence, is available about the environment during these eras. The climate of Earth varied widely during this time. However, it has been established that there were three known periods of glaciation in Precambrian time. They were:

Archeozoic 2250 million years ago (mya)
Early Precambrian: 950 million years ago
Late Precambrian: 750 million years ago

There were four major glaciations following that of the Precambrian era. They were:

Early Cambrian: 650 mya
Ordovician: 450 mya
Permo-Carboniferous: 350-250 mya
Pleistocene: 1.8 mya until recent time

Following the ice age at the end of the Precambrian, the earth rapidly warmed. For the remainder of the history of the earth, temperatures have averaged 5 degrees C (9°F) higher than at the present. These warmer conditions existed probably 90 percent of the time over the past 570 million years.

The Permo-carboniferous Ice Age

An ice age, called the Permo-carboniferous, began at the end of the Paleozoic Era. It began about 325 million years ago and lasted until about 250 million years ago. The South Pole was in the midst of the large land mass called Gondwanaland. Ice sheets moved over about half of this large land mass. What is now Antarctica and parts of Australia, India, Africa, and South America were covered with ice. The glaciation of each of these areas did not take place at precisely the same time, but they were all affected by the same climatic cooling. The Southern Hemisphere suffered widespread glaciation, but the Northern Hemisphere remained warm. The most appealing explanation for this situation is a different relative location of the land masses. The northern continents were nearer the equator and the southern land masses nearer the poles.

Climate Change

Climate Change over time.

The Warming of the Earth

After the glaciation in the Permo-Carboniferous ice age, the earth again entered a long period of warm conditions. The period of warmth continued through most of the Mesozoic Era and the earth was free of glaciation. Temperatures were warm and rainfall was abundant on the land masses. Even the polar regions experienced mild weather. Initially, the warmer conditions resulted from the slow migrations of the large southern hemisphere land mass to the north. This carried areas that had been glaciated into warmer climates.

The Pleistocene Ice Age

The most important single environmental event since the human species has been on earth has been the oscillation between glaciation and interglacials during the Pleistocene Epoch. The epoch represents a large change from much of the last 570 million years. This ice age is the most recent of the major cold periods to occur over the history of the planet. During the time when the ice was most extensive over Earth, temperatures averaged about 4°C (7°F ) lower than those of the present. In the northern hemisphere it was perhaps 8 to 12 °C ( 14 to 22°F) lower than current temperatures. 

There is no question but what the climate of planet earth has changed frequently, and sometimes drastically, over geologic time.

Climate Change Today

Climate change at the present is of great consequence to most species including humans. There is really no way of knowing how much change will take place in the foreseeable future nor how much is due to the activity of our species. What is known is the earth is warming rapidly at this time and that all evidence points to human activity as bearing the responsibility.

Now is the time to take international action and not only support the Paris Agreement, but take even more drastic measures to curtain the warming!

Climate Change

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Migration and Human Overpopulation

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

There are a number of attributes of the human population occurring globally that indicate overpopulation and the need to limit growth”.

By Dr. John J Hidore

October 26, 2017—When the term migration comes up in conversation most people think of migration of wildlife with the seasons. For people living in the northern hemisphere, it is the migration of birds with the seasons that most often comes to mind. 

Flocks of ducks and geese moving south for the winter are common sights in some areas. The longest bird migration is that of the Arctic tern. This bird breeds in the Arctic in the summer and then flies to the Antarctic to spend the summer. The birds make a round trip of 44,000 miles.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Animal Migrations

Others think of the annual migration of herds of African animals that migrate to follow the seasonal rains. The wildebeest is an example of the latter. Huge herds of these animals travel from the Serengeti in Tanzania across the Mara River into Kenya and back.

Human Migration

Humans have been migrating almost from the origin of the species. Although people in many parts of the world move in a rhythmic fashion with the seasons, human migration is not basically movement with the seasons, although some follow herds of livestock that move with the seasonal rains.

Human migration is generally applied to those people that move from one region to another on a long term or permanent basis. Often these migrants cross national borders, but many move from one part of a country to another.

Reasons For Human Migration

There are a variety of reasons that humans migrate:

1. In the past some people migrated out of curiosity. They wanted to explore. This was a viable reason why
early mankind moved about.
2. The decline of basic resources such as food or water in the homeland. There was not enough to support the
existing population, so they were searching for a more fruitful environment.
3. Some migrated to avoid the effects of natural hazards. In the 1930’s a large part of the population of New England. in the United States, fled westward to avoid the destruction caused by hurricanes. Today there is a lot of movement out of areas where recurring drought has made agriculture too great a hazard.
4. To the list must be added migration due to climate change. Migration due to climate change is not new. It has been
around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Island people are moving to escape rising sea level.
5. Today, as in the past, people migrate to avoid violence. There was massive migration out of parts of Europe to avoid the second world war. Millions sought refuge elsewhere.

In some cases, as in Myanmar today, large numbers of people are forced to move from their homes.


Overpopulation and climate change creates environmental stress.

Global Migration Today

Today there is massive migration on several continents. Some of the regions and causes are:

1. Sub-Saharan Africa: Due to resource depletion, civil war, and climate change.
2. Central American: Due to civil war and poverty.
3. North America: Due to poverty and lack of opportunity in rural areas.
4. South America: Due to resource depletion and civil war.
5. In Asia: Due to resource depletion and civil war.
6. Oceania: Due to rising sea level and the increasing severity of tropical storms.
7. The Middle East: Due to war.

There are a number of attributes of the human population occurring globally that indicate overpopulation and the need to limit growth. In addition to health problems and resource depletion, current human migration must be added as a major symptom.

Planet Earth Weekly: Working for a healthy planet!