Planet Earth Weekly

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


1 Comment

Making a Difference: President Obama, Marine Preserves and Monuments

Obama and  coral reefs

Obama Preserved Many Coral Reefs

“President Obama established the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

March 19, 2017—-President Obama joined an elite group of people that led to the establishment of our national parks and monuments. Two of those men were John Muir and  President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906 under which many of our national parks and monuments were established. The Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to set aside sites that are historically or scientifically important.

The Antiquities Act of 1906

Since Roosevelt signed the act more than a thousand different marine protected areas have been created. President Obama used this act to further our federal park system 29 times during his eight years in office. Some of the area is on land and some is in the global ocean. President Obama set aside more ocean environments, as monuments and reserves,  than any other person in history. Altogether he added more than 850 thousand square miles (1.3+ million km2) of ocean for new reserves and additions to existing one.

Seamounts and ocean monuments

Seamounts preserved by President Obama

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument

Under American law oceans existing within 200 nautical miles of land can be included in protected reserves. On September 5, 2016 President Obama established the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. It is the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States. It covers approximately 4,913 square miles (12,725 sq km) and includes two separate sections that are near each other. One includes three canyons cut into the continental shelf,  and the other includes four extinct volcanoes or seamounts that exist on the deep sea floor off the shelf.

Coral bleaching and reefs

Coral bleaching is happening along many reefs today.

Seamounts of the Oceans

Along much of the Atlantic coast of the United States there exists an underwater shelf that extends out to sea for a great distance. Scattered along the edge of this shelf are deep canyons cut into the edge. The canyons drop thousands of feet. The exact origin of these canyons is unclear. One section of the monument includes three of these canyons. The larger section of the monument includes four seamounts. A feature of this section is that approximately 50 species of deep sea coral reside nearby. Some at depths of more than 12,800 feet (3900 meters). Commercial fishing and the taking of any physical or organic material from the site is prohibited. Some crab and lobster harvesting will be allowed for several years but then terminated.

Marine monuments and Obams

President Obama set aside marine monuments.

Papahänaumokuäkea Marine National Monument includes the Hawaiian Islands and extends to the northwest to include Midway and other islands. This monument was first created by George W. Bush. In 2016 Obama quadrupled the size of the reserve. It now includes nearly 600,000 square miles (966,000km2) of ocean islands making it the largest marine reserve in the world. It is also the largest single area protected by the United States and is a United Nation Heritage Site. It contains thousands of marine species, half of them unique to the Hawaiian Islands.

Seamounts and the Tropical Oceans

One of the significant aspects of the marine monuments and preserves that Obama set aside is that they are north of the tropic of Cancer. Most coral reefs are in the tropical oceans. These reefs are being destroyed by bleaching due to warming water. The most severe damage to coral reefs is between the equator and 30 degrees either side of the equator. More than 30 countries in this region have reported bleaching to offshore reefs.

The establishment of the reserves and monuments in higher latitudes not only stops damage by fishing and collecting but promises to provide time to study the reef life before the seas have a chance to warm enough to destroy them. Thanks President Obama!


Leave a comment

The Trump Administration and the Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

What kind of planet will we leave our children?

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines!”

By Linn Smith

March 9, 2017—-Mike Pence, now Vice President of the U.S. under the Trump administration, has had a long history of denying climate change. In 2001, Pence wrote in an article titled, Global Warming Disaster, “global warming is a myth, the earth is actually cooler today than it was 50 years ago,” and in 2009 he stated it was not clear whether our changing climate was due to human activity, saying there was a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.

Pence and the Clean Power Plan

In 2009 Pence led 27 states, along with Indiana, where he governed between 2013-2017, in a fight against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a “commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, while maintaining an affordable, reliable energy system, which would cut pollution and protect our health and environment now and for future generations.” In a 2014 speech Pence stated that Indiana is a pro-coal state which will continue to fight “overreaching schemes” of the EPA until the war on coal comes to an end.

Letter to Pence from Scientists

Indiana scientists sent a letter to Governor Pence in 2015, pleading with him to call on their expertise, a letter which went unanswered. Part of the letter states:

“Dear Governor Pence, Our understanding of the Earth’s climate has come a long way in the past 100 yrs. and the role of greenhouse gases is now well documented. The Earth’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat from the Sun that would otherwise be transmitted back out to space. Changes in the carbon dioxide concentration strongly influence Earth’s climate. In the past century, the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere has increased by 30%. This increase, in large measure, is the result of human use of fossil fuels for energy. This carbon transfer has increased global temperatures in our lifetimes, with a set of secondary effects such as weather patterns that are more erratic and extreme. Like the overwhelming majority of scientists, we project that this human-produced effect will continue to grow into the foreseeable future…….Our challenge today is to explore opportunities to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies in Indiana that reflect our interests to protect energy and transportation infrastructure, the health of the public economic development. We would be privileged to help you in this effect……..” Again, this letter has remained unanswered.

clean power plan

Is Trump good for the environment?

Clean Power Plan and the Lawsuit

The Trump administration is currently attempting to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which was part of Obama’s effort to fight global warming. The lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is currently in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, waiting a decision. The court decision could be made anytime between now and several years down the road.

The clean power plan

The Clean Power Plan for the health of our planet!

According to an article by Brad Plumer on http://www.Vox.com, the court process could take years as the EPA will have to write a new coal power plant rule, along with a legal explanation of why it’s changing its mind, followed by responses from the public. Because of regulations regarding the court battle, the Clean Power Plan is currently not in effect while the decision is being made. The court could rule: A) that the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under Section 111(d), B) It does not have the authority, or C) the law is ambiguous and its up for interpretation. Matt Pilon says in, “Clean Power Plan Repeal could have Mixed Impacts”, the short-term impact of a Clean Power Plan delay would be that utilities would be able to lower emissions more gradually, relieving them of some potential costs.

Clean Power Plan

Keeping our nation clean.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines! The jobs have been lost to natural gas, renewable resources, open pit mining and mountaintop mining, which is less expensive and requires less manpower—even though it is environmentally devastating. The answer? Retraining coal miners and rebuilding the infrastructure of coal mining country.

Retraining Coal Miners

Wind technician is one of the fastest growing fields in today’s job market. President Obama allotted $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out of work coal miners and to develop the economy of coal country.

Change must be accepted! It was also devastating for small farmers in the midwest to lose their family farms to large corporations. But all the Willie Nelson farm aide concerts that took place couldn’t save the small farmer. Change happens!

Clean Power Plan


Leave a comment

Overpopulation Results in Global Stress

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region.

By Dr. John Hidore

February 23, 2017—The human population has been growing in size and spreading out over the planet ever since its origin in Africa long ago. It is currently growing faster than at any time in history. Today it is equivalent to adding the populations of the earth’s three largest metropolitan areas each year…or between 80 and 90 million people every 12 months. Various estimates place the global population at between seven and seven and a half billion. Of this two billion has been added in just the last 24 years.

Overpopulation Defined

There are a number of concepts being used today in relating the size of the human population to the environment. These are population growth, limits to growth and overpopulation, and they are each related. The basic resources people need are food, water and essentials for clothing and shelter. Ideally, in any region the size of the human population remains below or in balance with the resources available to support it. When in balance it results in the population being sustained for long periods of time. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the sustainable population seldom exists.

Population growth in any region may result in the area no longer having enough resources to sustain the growing number of people at a healthy level. When this occurs either the people, the environment, or both become stressed. The symptoms of population stress include human health problems, resource depletion, migration, and violence. Environmental stress includes a variety of processes, including deforestation, soil erosion and climate change. In any event when human stress or environmental stress takes place the region is overpopulated.

Carrying Capacity and overpopulation

What is Carrying Capacity?

Processes That Create an Unsustainable Population

Even if the population in a region stays fairly constant it can become overpopulated by environmental changes. Climate change can increase the number of people a region can support. Rainfall may increase in a dry region, or temperatures may get warmer or cooler to favor plant growth.

Carrying capacity is the number of organisms a region can support without environmental degradation. Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region. During the last ice age, large areas of what are now dry lands or deserts received more rainfall than they do now. The Sahara Desert and much of the middle east contain the remains of cities that flourished during wetter times, but are abandoned now due to climate change.

Changes in technology can also change the carrying capacity. As technology has progressed through time many regions have been able to support an increasing number of people. However, the effect of technological change tends to be short-lived and ultimately encourage overpopulation. Even with a more favorable climate and the addition of technological advances there is still a limited carrying capacity and overpopulation can occur.

The green revolution of the 20th Century is a good example of how the carrying capacity can be increased. Modifying plant species allowed crop production, particularly grain, to greatly increase and feed a growing population. 

Just as humans can increase the carrying capacity they can also decrease it. Over-grazing by livestock, soil erosion, salinization of soils, deforestation, or human induced climate change can reduce the carrying capacity. This lowers the level of the sustainable population so that overpopulation occurs.

overpopulation

Overpopulation and climate change creates environmental stress.

Overpopulation: The Big Question

The big question, “Does overpopulation occur regionally or globally?” Clearly on a regional basis the answer is yes. All the symptoms are there. Whether it is occurring on a global basis in today’s world is not clear. There are symptoms of overpopulation on every continent except the Antarctic.

Many scientists say the evidence of overpopulation is severe. For example: more than a billion people are undernourished. Another billion do not have clean water to drink.

 Climate change is taking place at an astonishing rate. The extinction rate of plant and animal species is the highest in recorded history. It may be that the resources available to us will support a population of only half what it is at the present time. If the latter is the case, immediate, and perhaps extreme, measures must be taken if world stress and turmoil is to be avoided!

The evidence of overpopulation is severe!


1 Comment

Greenland: Human Settlement has been Dictated by a Changing Climate

Melting of the Arctic

The Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate.

“The year 2016 was the warmest year globally since records began in 1880!

By Dr. John J Hidore

January 25, 2017—–Since Greenland was first settled by arctic people and Europeans, climate has played a huge part in the ups and downs of the human population. The first European colonization took place during a relatively warm period in the Arctic. The global climate during the years 950 AD to 1250 AD is known as the Little Climatic Optimum. Weather was unusually warm for several centuries and human settlements spread toward the Arctic. Iceland and Greenland were settled as were other islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Eric the Red is believed to have discovered Greenland in 982 AD. In 984 AD, the Norse founded the colony of Osterbygd on the island. Evidence of agriculture and other activities serve to indicate what the climate was like at this time. While it was a cold land, it supported enough vegetation (dwarf willow, birch, bush berries, pasture land) to make settlement possible. The settlers brought cattle and sheep that not only survived but thrived for a considerable period. The Norse established two colonies and began to farm. The outposts thrived and regular communications existed between Greenland and Iceland.

The Little Ice Age and the End of Norse Settlements

Between 1250 AD and 1450 AD climate deteriorated over wide areas around the North Atlantic in what is known as The Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age was the coldest period in historic times. Areas bordering the North Atlantic Ocean experienced drastic cooling. Mountain glaciers expanded and in some cases reached their maximum extent since the end of the Pleistocene glaciation. Iceland’s population declined. Greenland became isolated from outside contact, with extensive drift ice preventing boats reaching the settlements. Grain that grew there in the tenth century would no longer grow. In Europe storms resulted in the formation of the Zuider Zee, and the excessively wet, damp conditions led to a high incidence of the disease, St. Anthony’s Fire (ergotism).

The little ice age marked the end of the Norse settlements in Greenland that had begun in the tenth century. After flourishing for more than 400 years the colonies disappeared about 1410 AD. A Danish archaeological expedition to the sites in 1921 found evidence that deteriorating climate must have played a role in the population’s demise. Excavations show that at first the soil permitted burying bodies at considerable depth. Later graves became progressively shallower. Some graves were in permafrost that had formed since the burial. Tree roots entangled in the coffins showed the graves were not originally in frozen ground. It also showed that the permafrost had moved progressively higher. Examination of skeletons indicated that food was becoming more and more scarce. Most remains were deformed or dwarfed. There was clear evidence of rickets. All the evidence points to a climate that grew progressively cooler, leading eventually to the isolation and extinction of the settlements. It is not certain the colonies failed due to climatic reasons, but it seems likely.

By 1516 the settlements had practically been forgotten. In 1540 a voyager reported seeing signs of the settlements, but no signs of life. The settlers had perished.

Resettlement of Greenland

There was no European settlement on the island of Greenland for 200 years. In 1721 Denmark sent an expedition to the island to form an outpost, starting the Greenland resettlement.

Glacier National Park

Global warming is causing disappearing glaciers.

The Warming of Greenland

In recent centuries the climate of the Arctic basin has warmed a great deal. The average temperature over land in the Arctic for the year ending in September 2015 reached the highest since recording began in 1900. The temperature was 2.3 degrees F above the mean for the last 114 years .

The year 2016 was the warmest year globally since records began in 1880. The average temperature for 2016 was 58.69 ºF. Temperatures on Greenland followed suit. In June at Nuuk, the capitol city, the temperature reached 75º F (24º C). As temperatures continued to warm the population of the island has been growing. The current population is now above 55,000. Many small settlements have sprung up and agriculture is returning. Until recent years fishing was the primary industry, but now tourism is a growing source of income. Unemployment is relatively high, but with increasing temperatures and more varied employment sources the population is expected to continue to grow. Human settlement in Greenland has been dictated by a changing climate!

Climate change effects Greenland!


Leave a comment

International Action on Climate Change Surges in 2016

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“In order to halt global warming, all countries need to participate including the U.S. under the new administration!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 7, 2016—–There have been a number of events this year which have both indicated the growing awareness of the extent of climate change and also a willingness for nations to work together to solve the problems of climate change. Among them are two of particular importance. They are the actions taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to reduce or eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

Implementing the Paris Agreement on Limiting Greenhouse Gases

In December of 2015, a conference was held in a suburb of Paris, France to discuss the effects of global warming and actions to take. Attending were more heads of state than had ever before attended a single conference in world history. The outcome was that nearly all of the countries presented plans to reduce greenhouse gases in the near future. But in order for this agreement to become a working document enough countries must sign up, sharing the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an additional 55%. The goal is to keep global temperatures from rising 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. The goal is to keep the level below 1.5ºC. Enacting this agreement would be a huge step forward in slowing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

The time table for implementing the agreement was the year 2020. In a surprising show of support for the agreement it took just 10 months for the requisite number of countries to sign on. This meant the participants wanted action now, not four years from now. So far more than 75 countries have signed on. If these countries meet their goals it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions more than the required 55% set out in the agreement.

There is, as one might expect, some opposition to the Paris agreement. Donald Trump, the president elect of the United States has said that he would cancel the U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. This is in spite of the fact that the U.S. is one of the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. If the U.S. pulls out of the agreement it will be more difficult to reach the goals of the plan. The president of the Philippines has also indicated that he would not honor the agreement. Politics in Brazil may result in that country pulling out as well. Only time will determine how dedicated the international community is in reducing greenhouse gases and global warming.

Cop 21

There is a lot of hard work to be done after the Cop21 agreement.

International Action on Hydroflourocarbons (HFC’s)

In 1974, scientists warned there was evidence to suggest that compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have a depleting effect on stratospheric ozone layers. They first came into use in refrigerators in the 1930s. Since World War II, they have been used as propellants in deodorants and hair sprays, in producing plastic foams, and in cleaning electronic parts.

Chlorofluorocarbons rise into the upper atmosphere where they break apart and end up reducing 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 1970s. Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment. The U.N. Environment Program called for a conference in Montreal, Canada, in September 1987, which drafted a treaty restricting the production of CFCs. The agreement is officially termed the Montreal protocol. International support for the treaty led to a substantial reduction in CFC production. 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.

Save Planet Earth

In an extremely important event with implications for global warming took place in Vienna, Austria in July of 2016. Most countries that took part in the Paris conference attended the meeting. The participants in this conference reached agreement to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals used as refrigerants in place of the Chlorofluorocarbons that resulted in the Antarctic ozone hole. HFCs are not a large percentage of greenhouse gases, but they are perhaps the most effective in terms of absorbing earth radiation. Use of these chemicals has grown rapidly in the last decade due to the increasing use of air conditioning and refrigeration. It was hoped that an agreement would be reached before a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in October. The proposal would result in an amendment to the Montreal protocol that limited the use of CFCs. The main problem holding up the agreement was the date when the participating countries had to begin reducing the use of the HFCs.

The Kigali conference was major success, 170 countries sent representatives that worked for four days to negotiate the amendment. The result was a document that would eliminate 90% of the current usage of HFCs. A compromise was reached on when countries would start the reduction. The reduction efforts would begin for some of the wealthier countries in 2019. More than 100 countries, including China, have a beginning date of 2024. A few others, including India, committed to a 2028 start. Making the change is more difficult in developing countries which are tied to older technology. The reductions are based on changing corporate usage and in new alternate chemicals becoming available. There are already alternate chemicals available and new ones in development. If the countries met their goals it would reduce the forthcoming temperature rise by a half degree Celsius.

In order to halt global warming, all countries need to participate including the U.S. under the new administration!