Planet Earth Weekly

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


Leave a comment

Americans Still Support The Paris Climate Agreement

building green

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

“People are publicly demanding that their local governments cut energy use and change to less carbon based sources of energy.”

By John J. Hidore

June 10, 2017—-Evidence indicates that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Data also indicates the 20th Century was the warmest century in the past 1000 years. Most of the warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000. Climate change is now taking place faster and faster and is responsible for historic catastrophes around the world. It is clear to the majority of human beings inhabiting this planet that there is a serious change taking place in our weather and climate.

The Paris Climate Conference

In the fall of 2015 the historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21 was held. Out of that conference came what is generally known as the Paris agreement. The main goal of the group is to keep the mean temperature of Earth from increasing less than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above the pre-industrial average temperature. It has already risen about half that. This means keeping the global temperature from rising no more than another 1 degree C (1.8 degree F). Reducing it this much would bring the level of carbon dioxide back to where it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

An agreement was finalized on December 12. The group committed to keeping the global temperature rise to 1 degree C (1.8 degree F) by the year 2100. A key difference in this agreement from previous agreements is that each individual country could set its own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement imposes no penalties for countries which do not meet their own goals.

Prior conferences wanted to set the goals for each country. Some poor countries still wanted the richest countries to bear the biggest share of the cost or to make the biggest cuts in carbon emissions. The wealthier countries did commit $100 billion a year to help pay the costs for the poorest countries.

climate change

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

America Withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement

Donald Trump stated he would take America out of the agreement. During the presidential campaign, he declared that climate change was a hoax. He also stated that if elected he would take the United States out of the 2015 Paris Accord. On Thursday, June 1, 2017, the president of the United States announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement. The reason he gave was that the agreement was unfair to this country. That this decision on his part has trashed America’s image abroad is an understatement. The United States, up to this point, had been leading the effort to take action to reduce or halt the human induced portion of climate change.

Americans are Supporting the Paris Agreement

Millions of individuals have now become activists on reducing climate change. People are changing their life styles to use less energy. They are publicly demanding that their local governments cut carbon emissions and change to less carbon based sources of energy.

The ranking United States diplomat in China, David Rank, resigned after 27 years in the State Department. He indicated that his conscious would not let him continue in light of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The governments of a number of states have publicly declared they will support the agreement. They will move ahead on measures to reduce greenhouse emissions and climate change. California, which is the sixth largest economy on the planet, is pushing ahead to become a carbon free region. Other states are following suit even if they do not officially support the Paris agreement. The number of states actively participating in cutting carbon has now reached about a dozen at the time of this writing.

Also many non-governmental environmental organizations, with millions of members, are supporting the Paris agreement. They are devoted to reducing energy use and to switch to non-carbon sources of energy. Many cities are actively working to reduce greenhouse emissions. As of June 6, approximately 250 mayors of American cities officially adopted the Paris agreement. These cities contain approximately 60 million people. They are part of a group called Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

Among the cities that have agreed to support the Paris Agreement is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the very city which Trump stated he represented when withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. There is no doubt that the decision of the current president of the United States has shocked  the rest of the world, let alone the majority of the people in this country. However, the people of this country will not turn their backs on the rest of the world. They will stand with all nations that are committed to reducing the extent of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

Results of our Changing Climate

Our changing climate is currently resulting in catastrophes. Island nations are being force to move or cease to exist. Inland rivers are undergoing record floods. Extreme high temperatures are doing tremendous damage to plants and animals. How great these catastrophes are in the future depends on what our nation, along with all others, do prevent climate change. Let Americans lead the way with or without our government!

Preventing Climate Change


Leave a comment

Hidden Diseases in the Ice: What Could They Mean to Us?

diseases and melting ice

Diseases may surface with global warming.

By Linn Smith

“Microbial diseases are normally unable to survive for long periods outside of their hosts. But the soil under permafrost offers a unique habitat to preserve bacteria and viruses over thousands of centuries.”

—Claverie

May 30, 2017—John Piscu, a Biology professor at the Montana State University said, “You put something on the surface of ice and a million years later it may come back out.” And this is about to happen. Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are rapidly rising, three times faster than the rest of the world!

Scientist have discovered evidence of RNA which caused the Spanish flu virus in 1918. Smallpox and bubonic plague are also thought to be buried in Siberia. Is it possible these diseases could again raise their ugly heads? The answer is, unfortunately, yes! NASA scientists have successfully revived bacteria frozen in an Alaskan pond for 32,000 years.

A microbe, a term for tiny creatures that are too small to see with the naked eye, can invade our body and make us very ill. Microbes, including bacteria and fungi, can cause infectious diseases such as flu and measles. Microbes that cause diseases are called pathogens.

dormant diseases in arctic ice

Microbes in ice are resurfacing.

Survival of Microbes Within Ice

An article, “Microbes Can Survive Deep Freeze for 100,000 Years” at newscientist.com, states the theory that microbes can survive trapped inside ice crystals under 3 kilometeres (about 1.9 miles) of snow for more than 100,000 years. “A tiny film of liquid water forms around the microbe. Oxygen, hydrogen, methane and many other gases will then diffuse to this film forming air bubbles nearby and providing the microbe with sufficient food to survive, thus any microbe can remain alive in solid ice, resisting temperatures down to minus 55 degrees Celsius (-67 degrees F) and pressures of 300 atmospheres.” The microbes would not be able to grow or reproduce but would be able to repair molecular damage, keeping them intact for more than a thousand centuries. The study used ice in both the Antarctic and Greenland, detecting isolated microbes.

Disease and melting ice caps

Consequences of Global Warming

Pathogens Come Back to Life

According to an article on BBC.com by Jasmine Fox, “Not all bacteria can come back to life after being frozen in permafrost. Anthrax bacteria can do so because they form spores, which are extremely hardy and can survive frozen for longer than a century.
Other bacteria that can form spores, and so could survive in permafrost, include tetanus and Clostridium botulinum, the pathogen responsible for botulism, a rare illness that can cause paralysis and even prove fatal. Some fungi can also survive in permafrost for a long time.”

The threat of disease causing microbes resurfacing is not entirely due to melting of the ice and permafrost. An indirect result of melting ice allows for drilling of gold, minerals, oil and natural gas. The layers of permafrost containing microbes can be exposed by drilling, as opening up previously pristine areas of the arctic becomes profitable.

melting arctic and diseases

Diseases resurface with melting of Arctic.

Frozen permafrost soil, which was previously untouched by humans, is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time. Some microbes may have been embedded in the ice and frozen soil as long as a million years! That means melting ice and drilling for its natural resources could potentially open a Pandora’s box of diseases!

Microorganisms Disrupt Oceans

Even if these potential diseases would minimally affect humans, masses of microorganisms melted into the oceans will disturb the present marine systems and the balance of ocean life, flooding the oceans with long absent organisms. “Earth’s glaciers and sub-glacial sediments contain more microbial cells and carbon than all the lakes and rivers on the surface of the planet, a huge load of organic matter that, if thawed, would end up in the sea,” said Brent Christner, professor of Biological Sciences.

Release of Carbon with Thawing Biomass

The release of carbon from thawing biomass could cause an additional problem. As decaying biomass embedded in the ice is uncovered, it will convert into carbon dioxide which will add to our greenhouse gases, expediting global warming.

John Priscu, a professor studying Antarctic microbiology, states his concern for melting Arctic ice and permafrost, “If you hold that light switch right there before it flips, the lights begin to flicker. I think that’s what we’re seeing now. We’re pushing it and it’s becoming more variable, and pretty soon it’ll pass a threshold and reach a new state. Whether or not it can go back to a previous state, we don’t know. We may end up not ever being able to go back.”

We’re treading in unforeseen territory!

Melting of Arctic and Diseases Awakening


3 Comments

Global Warming is Speeding Up

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

“May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 21, 2017—Nearly three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean and it is ocean temperatures which control global atmospheric temperatures. Approximately 90% of the energy absorbed by Earth goes into the oceans. The other 10% is absorbed by the land masses.

In the early years of keeping weather records there was very little data available concerning the world oceans. Now there is much and the data is constantly increasing. The oceans are absorbing heat energy at a faster rate now than in the past. A recent study indicates that the amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans has doubled since 1997. The oceans are estimated to have absorbed as much energy since 1997 as in the previous years of record.

Most of the heat added to oceans is absorbed near the surface. The actual change in temperature in the ocean surface is extremely small due to the high heat capacity of water. It takes more heat energy to change the temperature of a given unit of water than to change the temperature of air or earth materials.

The amount of energy it takes to change the temperature of a given unit of water one degree Celsius will change the temperature of a unit of dry air by four degrees. The same amount of energy will change dry land by about five degrees. This helps explain why the atmosphere and bare land get so hot.

Planet Earth is warming.

Record temperatures around our planet.

Evidence of Global Warming

The majority of people, including both scientists and non-scientists around the world, understand that our planet earth is warming. There is overwhelming evidence that this is the case. Geological evidence indicates that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Data also indicates the 20th Century was the warmest century in the past 1000 years.

The year 1880 marks the beginning of the modern historical record. Analysis of the collected data indicates the temperature on the planet has been increasing rapidly in the years since the global record was established.

The number of weather stations collecting temperature data has increased rapidly with time. There are now more than 6000 sites where data is being collected. Satellites are now also contributing data.

Global warming

Records are being broken around the world.

Global Temperatures for the 21st Century

Since 2000 global monthly temperatures have broken records more than 30 times. The average global temperature has increased about 0.8ºC (1.4ºF) since 1880. About 2/3 of this increase has been since 1975. Most of the warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000. It is significant, that in comparison to all the record warmth, the coldest year on record was more than one hundred years ago in 1911.

Record Temperatures Since 2000

Regions where record high mean annual temperatures occurred since the beginning of the year 2000 are:

Africa, 7 countries
Antarctica Asia, 21 countries
Europe, 23 countries
North America, 4 countries
Oceania, 2 countries
South America, 5 countries

Global Warming: 2015 to Date

The year 2015 was the warmest year on record up to that date. The mean temperature was 14.7 ºC (58.62degrees F). This was 0.9 ºC (1.62degrees F) above the mean of the 20th Century and 0.2 ºC (0.29degrees F) over 2014. It was the largest annual temperature increase on record. All months in 2015 set new records with the exception of January and April. December of 2015 was unusually warm, even for 2015. It was more than one degree Celsius warmer than the 30 year normal. Climate normals are set by 30 year intervals. The current normal is the period from 1981 to 2010.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Record Breaking Temperatures

Many global temperature records were recorded in 2015 and the trend continued into 2016. February 2016 continued a string of nearly a dozen straight months of record monthly temperatures. The winter season, December through February, was also a record.

In February 2016 global temperatures were not only record temperatures, but they rose drastically. The increase over the previous year was also the most since records began in 1880. May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began. July of 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded since 1880.

Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced extreme high temperatures in the spring of 2016. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 47.2°C (117°F) occur.

In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 51°C (124°F). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 40°C (104 ºF) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were:

New Delhi 47 °C (117 ºF)
Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)
Philodi 51.°C (124 ºF)

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Global Warming and Population

High temperatures in India had a huge effect on the human population. The impact on the country was immense. More than 300 million people were adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in during the growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. Approximately 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. It has been classified as one of the deadliest heat waves in modern history.

The Hazards of Extreme Temperatures

It needs to be understood that temperature numbers are just a measure of atmospheric heat. What is truly important is the impact of the greater heat. Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur. What future temperatures will be is unknown. Since record high temperatures are occurring more and more frequently it seems highly probable that new and more frequent high temperature extremes will occur and that the effects will become more hazardous to life on the planet. The only real solution to the problem is to reduce the emissions producing the warming and curb population growth.

Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur!


2 Comments

Global Warming Facts: 2016/2017

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

By Linn Smith

April 27, 2017–New data put out by the EPA shows the current trend toward global warming….it’s not improving! Our planet is continuing to heatup!

2016 Climate Facts

* 2016 marks three consecutive years of record breaking temperatures for our planet.

* Our planet experienced 8 consecutive months, January to August, of record heat. The highest since recording began in 1880.

* The average temperature of land and ocean surfaces was 1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average.

* The 2016 global ocean surface was highest on record–1.35 degrees F above average.

*The 2016 global land temperature was the highest on record–2.57 degrees F above average.

* North America had the warmest year on record.

* The area of Arctic sea ice was depleted to a new record low since recording began in 1979.

* The average mass of Antarctic sea ice was 2nd smallest since recording began in 1979.

* All 6 continents have recorded record breaking temperatures in 2016.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

The Trend Continues for 2017

* The global average temperatures over land and ocean surfaces for March 2017 were the 2nd highest for the month since recording began, 1.89 degrees F above 20th century average of 54.9 degrees F.

* The year-to-date global temperature was the second warmest on record.

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

Other Climate Facts

* To date, all 16 years of the 21st century were among the warmest ever recorded. The 5 warmest have been since 2010.

* The average annual temperature for ocean surfaces around the world was 1.35 degrees F (.75C) higher than 20th century average.

So those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

Stand up to coal and oil

Fight to against global warming!

Fight Against Global Warming


1 Comment

The Creation, Growth, and Limitations of Coal as an Energy Source

Fossil Fuels, Coal

Formation of Fossil Fuels

“It is time to drastically curtail coal’s use and leave it in the ground!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

March 23, 2016—-In today’s energy conscious world, greenhouse gases are a target in the efforts to reduce global warming. The primary greenhouse gas is CO2, largely a product of burning fossil fuels. The term fossil fuels implies that these fuels are of ancient origin and such is the case. The climate of Earth has oscillated widely over the past 570 million years. Vast ice sheets covered the planet at times. At other times the earth was warmer than it is now and species of plants and animals diversified rapidly.

Paleozoic Era: Developing Coal and Petroleum

There are three main forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. During the Paleozoic Era, coal and petroleum formed. The Carboniferous period (late Paleozoic Era–36-286 million years ago, ) was dominated by widespread warm climates with intermittent glaciation. As the Southern Hemisphere ice sheet expanded and contracted large changes in sea level took place. During periods of glacial retreat, sea levels rose, drowning vast areas of tropical forests and burying them in ocean sediments.

Coal and Oil

Fossil Fuel Formation

Many of plants living at this time were representative of a marsh or swamp environment. Some plants showed layered roots, such as those found in modern bogs and some of the plants actually floated on open water. Trees of this period show a lack of development of growth rings, indicative of a climate without marked seasonal differences. In all, the representative vegetation suggests a warm, moist climate that favored a luxurious plant growth. These buried layers of ancient tropical forests are the coal and oil deposits of today.

Microorganisms buried in sediments were the raw materials of petroleum. The search for petroleum has provided most of our current information about the earth’s crust we have today. In 1859, in Titusville, Pennsylvania, the first producing oil well was drilled. This well tapped a petroleum saturated sandstone that was just 10 meters below the surface.

The Formation of Coal

Coal is essentially fossilized carbon. The essential ingredient in coal is carbon but it also contains varying amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfer. The term coal covers a wide range of carbon. The carbon content of coal varies a great deal and so there is, in fact, a great variety within the general category of coal.

The beginnings of coal are the great peat bogs which often contain large quantities of dead organic matter. In the northern hemisphere the last glacial advance left large, relatively flat areas which became large swamps, particularly in the spring. They gradually turned into peat bogs. The dead, organic matter from these bogs burned when dried out or drained. Such fires, probably started by lightning, can burn for months. When dried some of these regions have become the most productive grain producing areas of the world.

Grades of Coal and Greenhouse Gases

Peat is a forerunner of coal. When conditions are right it can become coal, given a great deal of time. Peat is used today as an industrial fuel in parts of Europe and Asia. The lowest grade of coal is called lignite or brown coal. It contains a little more than 50% carbon. The middle grade of coal is classified as bituminous and contains from 75%-90% carbon. Bituminous coal is the most widely used fuel for industrial use today. The highest grade coal is Anthracite and it is used mainly for central heating.

What is significant about burning different grades of coal is how much waste gases are given off when burned. The lower the carbon content the greater the amount of waste gases, which constitute what we call greenhouse gases. Compared to oil and natural gas, the carbon content in coal is much lower so it is often called dirty coal. All fossil fuels contain some greenhouse gas components. It is for this reason that there is now a focus on renewable fuels.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Coal and the Industrial Revolution

From the beginning of the industrial revolution, 200 years ago, coal has propelled industry to tremendous growth. This same industrial growth supported a rapid growth in global population. The growth in industry has not been without serious consequences to both the environment and to the human population. Current changes in the environment are rampant. The use of coal has taken a tremendous toll on many species of plants and animals including, directly or indirectly, extinction! While coal has been a tremendous asset in economic growth, it has reached the point where its use as an energy source is a hazard to life on earth.

It’s time to drastically curtail coals use and leave it in the ground!


Leave a comment

The Historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21

cop21

A promising outlook for the future’

The concern over global warming and climate change is so universal that 196 countries signed the agreement.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

Ban Ki-moon of South Korea became secretary general of the United Nations in 2007. He surprised many by announcing that he would make climate change a main priority and added a climate change summit meeting at the United Nations in July 2007, with another set of negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 expired in 2012. Two of the countries which led in greenhouse gases, the United States and Australia, did not sign it.

Ban Ki-moon was a leader in making the Paris conference on climate change a success. The conference on climate change brought together the greatest number of heads of state (approximately 150) of any conference in history. The climate conference convened in Paris on December 1, 2015 and concluded on December 13. Cop 21 was the twenty-first meeting of the “Conference of Parties.” These are the same countries that signed a treaty called The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

Cop 21

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

The Primary Goal: Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The main goal of the group was to keep the mean temperature of Earth from increasing less than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above the pre-industrial average temperature, even though it has already risen about half that: 1 degrees C (1.8 degrees F). What this means is moving forward in our effort to keep the global temperature from rising no more than another 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). This would bring the level of carbon dioxide back to where it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. To reach this goal greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced essentially to zero by 2070.

An even more optimistic goal is to keep the temperature from rising only half that of the primary goal. To reach this goal of 0.5 degrees C (0.9 degrees F), it will be necessary to have negative emissions. Negative emissions means taking more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than are being added to it. Theoretically this could be done by adding technological means to natural means of removing carbon from the air. Natural means would include expanding areas of forest. Many technological means have been suggested, including seeding the ocean and direct removal of carbon dioxide from the air.

Cop 21

Hopeful that we have turned a corner as a planet.

It may already be too late to limit the warming to the lower level. To reduce the rise to 0.5 degrees C, greenhouse gases need to be reduced to zero by 2050. This is probably politically impossible, if not physically impossible. The cost of this radical program would be too high and it would be necessary to take funds away from other critical programs. Any significant measures taken would be expensive. Estimates of costs to bring emissions into a negative level are as much as $100 a metric ton.

The Second Goal: An International Agreement Supported by All Countries

A second goal was to have a united climate change agreement accepted by the end of the conference. The leaders of nearly every country signed on in the end. The agreement was finalized on December 12. The group committed to keeping the global temperature rise to 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) by the year 2100.

This agreement imposes no penalties for countries which do not meet their own goals. A key difference in this agreement from previous agreements is that each individual country can set its own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Prior conferences wanted to set the goals for each country.

Some poor countries still wanted the richest countries to bear the biggest share of the cost or to make the biggest cuts in carbon emissions. The wealthier countries did commit $100 billion a year to help pay the costs for the poorest countries.

The concern over global warming and climate change is so universal that 196 countries signed the agreement. It is worth noting that both Australia and the United States supported the goals of this agreement.

What will actually be done to limit the emission of greenhouse gasses remains to be seen. However, if actions already being taken by countries, cities, and other institutions are any indication, there will be major changes!

COP 21: A Response to Climate Change


Leave a comment

Coal: A Boon and Bane

Coal is the major CO2 emitter.

Coal must be reduced as a means of energy.

Carbon dioxide currently makes up about 84% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity

By Dr. John J. Hidore

December 23, 2015—The industrial revolution took place in what is now Britain from 1783 to 1812. At this time the global population had passed the 500 million mark. The pressure of the growing population had severely reduced the supply of wood for fuel and as a building material. People began burning chunks of coal in Britain which were found scattered on the surface of the land or very close to the top. Mining began soon thereafter and the use of coal as a fuel rapidly expanded.

When the steam engine was invented the demand for coal grew even faster. Coal supplied a seemingly unlimited source of non-renewable energy. It was a boon to economic growth!

The use of coal has increased rapidly since the onset of the industrial revolution and today is the most used fuel for generating electricity, increasing by more than 50% in just a few years. From 2001- 2011 India doubled its coal consumption and Australia, one of the leading users of coal in 2011, consumed more than five times the world average per capita consumption. Also, China now burns almost half of all coal consumed each year.

Smoke from Burning Coal

Human beings have suffered health hazards from smoke ever since they gained control of fire. Coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. Burning coal emits soot, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. As a result, it causes more illness and fatalities than other fossil fuels.

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

It is particularly severe in large cities under certain weather conditions. Severe pollution occurred the last week of November in Beijing, China. The concentration of particulate matter in the air reached a level 40 times the limit recommended by the world health organization, making it the worst event so far this year in China

In 2013 China set up a color code to announce bad air quality. The worst conditions are signified by code red. An alert is issued whenever a period of three days or more of hazardous air quality is forecast. On Sunday December 6, the government issued an alert. On Monday, December 7, the government of China declared a state of emergency due to severe smog. Schools and factories were shut down and cars were ordered off the roads. More than 3000 schools closed. On Tuesday, December 8 the air index in Beijing reached 108. At this level people were told to stay inside. Just a little more than a week later another alert was issued.

Emission of Greenhouse Gases

Earth has warmed an average of 1.5 degrees F since the 1880’s. The biggest share of the warming has occurred in recent decades. The last decade has been the warmest on record. The year 2014 was the warmest year to date and indications are that 2015 will be even warmer.

In the past several decades the concentration of greenhouse gases has accelerated. Carbon dioxide currently makes up about 84% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. In 2012 the burning of fossil fuels emitted a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. The burning of coal was the major source of the carbon dioxide accounting for 45% of the total amount. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has now surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm). This is the highest level in approximately 800 thousand years and perhaps in the past three million years. At this rate it could reach 450 ppm in the next 20 years. (In 2014, however, for the first time in 40 years, global carbon emissions flatlined, which was possibly due to changing patterns of energy consumption.)

To keep the total carbon emissions at or below the critical temperature increase of 3.6 degrees F, a total of one trillion tons is the maximum amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere over time. As of 2015 it is believed that half this amount has already been dumped into our atmosphere. Carbon emissions could reach the one trillion mark within 30 years. To keep it at or below the threshold means an 80% or more reduction within the next 30 years.

The Future Role of Coal

The future growth of the world economy is dependent on an increasing supply of energy available to power the system. The use of coal as a fuel has now become a bane to people and the environment. It is imperative that burning coal as a fuel must be reduced. This does not mean eliminating coal as an energy source—but the amount must be reduced. There are a number of ways to accomplish this including: Replacing coal by oil or natural gas, sequestering carbon dioxide from power plants, changing to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and increasing the use nuclear energy.

The responsibility is ours today!


Leave a comment

The Irresponsible Practices of the Palm Oil Industry

Palm oil and negative environmental impact

Palm oil plantations are in demand as the world uses more palm oil

The use of palm oil products, that further the destruction of our planet, its people and wildlife, is not acceptable!

By Linn Smith

December 4, 2015—Being curious about palm oil and its devastation to wildlife habitats and the environment, many questions have lingered in my mind. What are the various kinds of palms and what palms are used as oil palms? What is the relationship of oil palms to coconut palms? (I use a lot of coconut oil!) How is the harvesting of products from palm trees effecting our environment? So I decided to investigate and here’s what I found:

Palm Oil Products

According to Philadelphiazoo.org, a zoo currently working towards spreading awareness of the negative impacts of palm oil, the oil can go by many different names in many different products, such as foods, cosmetics, hair and lotion products, cookies, toothpaste, cleaning products, and the list goes on. Here are some of the different names for palm oil you may find on these products: Cetyl Palmite, Ethyllhexyl Palmitate, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Octyl Palmitate, Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol, Palmolein, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palmate….and more!

The Arecaceae Family

Oil palm and other palms, including coconut, come from the family Arecaceae which means “palm”–but there are thousands of different species of palm trees which grow a variety of different fruits, from dates and acai to coconuts. The fruit of the palm oil tree has kernels which are pressed to make palm oil. Most palm oil comes from the species Elaeis Guineensis. Coconut palm is from the species Cocos Nuciferas. A website, davesgarden.com, describes many of the various fruits of the palm family.

The Palm tree, which we get our coconut oil from, is mostly cultivated in Indonesia, the Philippines and India on a very small scale. The coconuts, harvested by local farmers, are a renewable resource. The coconut palm is known as a “three generation tree”, as it continues through three generations, supporting the farmer, his children and his grandchildren. The farmers produce coconut for coconut milk, coconut oil, fibres for rope, mats, mattresses, and paint brushes.

Removing tropical forests for palm oil

Tropical forests are burned to make room for palm oil plantations.

The Negative Impacts of Palm Oil

Quite the opposite of coconut production is the environmentally unfriendly production of palm oil. The oil palm is mass cultivated on large plantations that have been created by removing not only the indigenous people from their homes, but also have devastated the habitat of wildlife, mainly the Orangutan and Tiger in Indonesia and Malaysia. Tropical forests have been cleared to create plantations. This clearing has added to the warming of our planet as the valuable trees are cut and sold, leaving the rest to be burned down. Burning of the tropical forests emits large quantities of smoke into our atmosphere. Oil palms are then planted.

When the forests are cut they release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, driving up temperatures by the greenhouse effect. Indonesia is the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. It is estimated that 714 million acres of tropical forests will be cleared by 2050 adding another 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the the atmosphere, significantly raising global temperatures.

Oil palm industry and child labor

Child labor is used by the oil palm industry.

Violations by the Palm Industry Corporations

Corporations involved in the palm industry are accused of human rights violatons by employing child labor and taking the land owned by indigenous people for their own financial benefit–to supply the world with palm oil! Without their own land, the indigenous people have no choice but to become palm plantation workers, getting paid barely enough to support their families.

Another negative effect of cutting tropical forests for palm oil plantations is the destruction of peatlands, which store carbon. These peatlands, which have developed over thousands of years, are drained and cleared. According to biofueldaily.com, “Draining the peatlands exposes the upper layer to oxygen, raising decomposition rates and soil carbon losses. Most of the carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, speeding up climate change by emitting still more greenhouse gasses.” Clearing a single acre of peatland rain forest can release up to 15,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, (one hectare releases up to 6000 tons of CO2).

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

In 2004 the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by producers, manufacturers, traders, bankers and investors of the palm oil industry, with the objective to “promote growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards.”

Greenpeace and many other environmental organizations have criticized this group as, “Falling short of protecting the rain forests and reducing greenhouse gasses,” because the RSPO which has created the certified sustainable palm oils is not guaranteed to be deforestation-free. The RSPO also allows the destruction of peatlands by the industry. In 2013, 200 scientists asked for stronger standards, but the RSPO failed to respond.

In 2014, 67,000 tons of palm oil was used by Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Nature Valley, requiring 44,700 acres of tropical land to be cleared to grow the palm oil.

According to the Union Of Concerned Scientists there are steps we can take to let the industry know these practices are not acceptable. By going to the website:https://secure3.convio.net, you can sign a letter to the industry to increase sustainable practices.

The use of palm oil products, that further the destruction of our planet, its people and wildlife, is not acceptable! Do what you can to make a difference!


Leave a comment

Climate Change through Early Geologic Time

The Earth's Atmosphere: Increased Oxygen over time.

The Earth’s Atmosphere has changed over time.

“There is still much work to be done to stop global warming and its resulting effects–the possible mass extinction of many of Earth’s species!”!

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 27, 2015—When the subject of climate change or global warming comes up people immediately think of what is happening around us now. The time in which we live is not typical of past conditions. Neither the climatic environment nor current living organisms are typical of those in the past.

The Earth’s Eras

The earth was formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago. Not much is known about the early history of the planet because little evidence remains of this time period, but geologists have divided the history of the Earth into four time periods called eras. They are the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic. Each of these eras were unique in many ways, including climate and the life forms that were dominate. Each boundary between eras created a point in time when there was a drastic change in the global environment.

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Extinction of Species

The earliest, and longest, geological era is the Precambrian which spans 88% of Earth’s history, approximately four billion years. Most of us have difficulty in comprehending such a long period time! If we consider the age of the earth on a scale of a single year, the Precambrian Era covers the first 321 days. Using this scale this places the end of the Precambrian Era in mid-November. Evidence of what took place on the planet in the Precambrian is skimpy but today we know some of the most important events. During this long span of time Earth changed drastically. In the beginning it was a hot molten mass without atmosphere, ocean, or land. It was only after a long time that the mass cooled enough for the solid crust to form.

The Primitive Atmosphere

As the Earth cooled and a solid crust formed, gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen formed. It may have had a composition of 60-70% water vapor, 10-15% carbon dioxide, and 8-10% nitrogen. Temperatures near the surface were much higher then than now being in the range of 85-110oC (185-230o F).

By 3.8 billion years ago, continued cooling caused the water vapor to condense, clouds to form, and frequent, intense, and widespread rain to occur. The large amount of water vapor in the atmosphere must have caused rains that went on continuously for thousands of years. Eventually the ocean basins filled with water. Water began to cycle through the environment as it changed from liquid in the ocean to gas in the atmosphere and back to liquid precipitation again. By 3.5 billion years ago the distribution of water was pretty much the same as today. Sea levels were similar to that of recent times.

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

The Origin and Demise of Early Life Forms

The most important event of the Precambrian Era is the appearance of living organisms. Exactly when or where life first appeared on the planet is not known, but several aspects of the appearance of life are certain:
1. All the chemical elements essential to life were present before life appeared and were present in sea water. Early forms of life were bacteria that thrived in a carbon dioxide rich environment.
2. The next step in the process of evolution was the development of organisms capable of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The process takes carbon dioxide and water, and in the presence of sunlight, produces oxygen.
3. Between three and a half and four billion years ago crude forms of algae appeared. They were oxygen-producing bacteria that lived in an oxygen-poor environment. These oxygen producers began to change the atmosphere from carbon-rich to oxygen rich.
4. Most organisms that thrived in a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere perished. This resulted in the first great mass extinction, an event in which the majority of existing life forms disappeared

Unusual cooling result in ice ages

Throughout most of the history of the Earth, the planet has been much warmer than it is today. There have been times however, when the climate became much cooler than now.
At times the atmosphere got cold enough for massive amounts of ice to develop on the surface. Such periods are known as ice ages. The earliest ice age took place two billion years ago. A second ice age took place from 800 to 600 million years ago and was more widespread than the previous one. Ice collected first in the Arctic and Antarctic regions and then expanded outward. The glaciers repeatedly scoured the continents, creating what was possibly the most extensive glaciation period ever to occur on our planet.

The Precambrian Era

This glaciation period also correlates with the boundary between the Precambrian Era and the Paleozoic Era approximately 750 million years ago. The climate changes, which took place during the Precambrian Era, were massive and dwarfed the climate changes taking place today. The Precambrian Era also resulted in mass extinctions. However, environmental changes are now taking place so rapidly that some scientists predict these changes will lead to another mass extinction. Some studies indicate that more than half of all species that existed since humankind first appeared on the planet are already extinct. If this is the case than we are indeed may be responsible for another mass extinction.

There is still much work to be done to stop global warming and the resulting effects–possible mass extinction of many of Earth’s species!

There is still much work to be done to avoid climate change


1 Comment

Turning the Page on Climate Change

Climate Change, Global Warming

Climate Change Affects Everyone!

Millions of people are banding together to demand action on climate change.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 7, 2015—The tide has turned on recognizing global warming and climate change. The vast majority of people and governments now recognize that the earth’s environment is changing, and it is largely due to human activity.

Globally environmental change is real and action must be, and is now, taking place to slow or stop the process. Some recent and forthcoming events support the change in attitude towards recognizing climate change.

The Peoples Climate March

In 2014 the People’s Climate March was held. It was organized to persuade the United Nations to call a conference on climate change. There were public demonstrations in New York City and around the world to support action on climate change. It was billed as the largest climate change action in history. The march in New York drew more than 300,000 individuals and filled the 2 ½ mile route. Participants included people from many nations, Capuchin Franciscan monks, and Catholic nuns. An international advocacy group presented a petition containing 2.1 million signatures which demanded action towards climate change. Among the supporters were former vice-president Al Gore, Ban Ki Moon of the United Nations, and Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. The Mayor committed New York City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.

Earth Day Celebrations

Earth day celebrations have been held around the world to make the case for slowing environmental change and to protect the earth from a major catastrophe. The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970. It is often considered to be the beginning of the environmental movement. I had the privilege to be a speaker on that day at the University of Indiana. Earth Day Network now has participants in 192 countries. The United Nations has declared April 22 as International Mother Earth Day.

Earth Day 2015 was the 45th anniversary of the movement. Seventy-nine organizations around the world partnered in this event with more than a billion people participating in activities on this day. The overall purpose was to modify changes that are detrimental to the planet and the people on it. Many different educational activities took place. In some countries they planted sustainable trees. In Nigeria solar lanterns were made available in schools. Uganda held an International Children’s Climate Conference.

Climate Change summit

The world comes together on climate change issues.

The Coming UN Convention on Climate Change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held in Paris beginning on November 30. COP21, Conference of Parties, will be held in Paris in December. More that 190 nations are expected to take part in this conference, focusing on action towards climate change. It is expected that world leaders will create a strong global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, with plans for action by individual countries and the group as a whole.

Paris summit on Climate change

Supporting the Paris Summit on climate change

24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth: The World is Watching

An impressive group of people and approximately 60 organizations have partnered to persuade the Paris conference to make real progress. This event will be held on November 13-14 and is to be a day of climate action and music hosted by former Vic-President Al Gore. Millions of people are banding together to demand action on climate change, with eight different sections of the event based on geographic location. The program will focus on each section as the day moves along.

There Will Always Be Deniers

In spite of the global recognition that it is time for action, there are now and always will be those that deny climate change.These same people, many of which are in positions of power, propose that we should continue the economic and environmental policies of the past. Those that support this position are rapidly losing credibility. After all, there are still those that believe evolution is not a real process and those that believe the earth is flat!