The Rising Temperatures of the Arctic
February 22, 2014—World temperatures are warming at a record rate and the global climate is changing rapidly due to rising temperatures of our planet. Though the planet is warming, the rate at which it is warming is inconsistent from place to place. Temperature changes in the Arctic are taking place faster than anywhere else on the planet. The warming is affecting both the physical and biological character in this region. The most widely known affect is the melting of sea ice. The melting of the sea ice is significant, but the melting has many side effects.
Climate Change and the Walrus
The changing arctic climate has started to change much of the arctic wildlife. Among the species affected is the walrus. Walruses are large marine mammals that may weigh up to 2700 lbs or more. They spend nearly two-thirds of their lives in cold water. A walrus carries large tusks which are used to root out food living on the ocean floor. The tusks are also used to help move around on the slippery ocean floor. Off shore of the land masses surrounding the Arctic Ocean. the ocean floor drops slowly on what is generally referred to as the continental shelf. Beyond the edge of the continental shelf the depth to the ocean floor drops to several thousand feet in places. Walruses mainly feed on the continental shelf in water less than 300 feet deep. They will, however, feed as deep as 600 feet.
Declining Sea Ice
Sea ice plays a critical part in the lives of the walrus. Walruses cannot swim indefinitely like some seals, and must rest between forays searching for prey. They use sea ice as a platform for searching for food and as a place to rest during their annual migration. Females also use the sea ice during the summer as a place to give birth and nurse their infants. When the walruses are on the sea ice they tend to spread out over large areas. In late summer they migrate to warmer waters. In the past they tended to move onto land in late August during their migration. There are two species of walrus in the arctic. One is the Pacific walrus which inhabits the Bering, Chukchi, and Laptev seas. The other is the Atlantic walrus which is found along northeastern Canada and Greenland.
The Arctic region is now the warmest it has been in 40,000 years. The sea ice has melted to record lows. This has limited the area where walrus can haul out on the ice if it melts too far from land. When the sea ice retreats beyond the edge of the continental shelf and over deeper water, instead of hauling out onto the ice, the walruses head for land and congregate.
Walruses: Herding On Land
Huge gatherings of Pacific walrus have taken place in the last decade. In 2007, an estimated 6,000 walruses gathered along the Alaskan coast. In the fall of 2008, few walruses came on shore as some sea ice remained near shore. In September of 2009, some 3,500 Walruses were near Icy Cape on the Chuckchi Sea 140 miles southwest of Barrow. In 2011, some 30,000 congregated on a beach about a mile long. Large numbers of walruses have also been seen on shore at Cape Lisbourne. Large congregations have occurred in the years since. The same phenomenon is taking place on the Arctic coast of Russia near the Chukchi sea. Herds of tens of thousands were gathering on this coast. Near Point Schmidt, a herd of some 40,000 was sighted. The total population of Pacific walrus is not known, but estimates place it at about 200,000.
The large herds on land are a threat to the walruses. The threat comes from several sources. One is that they tend to stampede when some unusual event startles them. Individuals are often killed during the stampede. Russian biologists reported several thousand, mostly young, were crushed to death in one stampede. For example, noise from hunting weapons and polar bear attacks can cause a stampede. Pilots of small, low flying aircraft are being warned to stay away from the herds as the noise can cause them to stampede. Large gatherings in a limited space also are more favorable for the outbreak of disease. The concentration of such large numbers also has a severe effect on the clam population offshore from the herds. This extensive harvesting may result in an unsustainable population of their food supply.
The decline of sea ice and the changing environment are not only a threat to the walrus population but serve as further evidence of a warming planet. Biologists are asking for the walrus to be declared an endangered species since the outcome of declining sea ice on the species is not yet clear.
By Lin Smith
The Safe Limit of CO2 for Humanity
January 20, 2014-–The science of 350: Scientists say that 350 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere is the safe limit, and unless we rapidly return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts, such as the continued melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.
Up until about 200 years ago our atmosphere contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide, which gave human beings the environment necessary to exist. It provided us with just enough warmth on Earth–not too hot, not too cold! Parts per million (ppm) is a way of measuring the concentration of different gases. It means the ratio of the number of carbon dioxide molecules to all of the molecules in the atmosphere.
Atmospheric CO2 and the Industrial Revolution
Beginning in 18th century, people began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. This was the Industrial Revolution of Britain, Europe, and the U.S. During this time period, CO2 began to rise in our atmosphere. The production of goods transitioned from hand made to machine made. The transition also included changing from wood and other biofuels to coal.
What is a Biofuel?
A biofuel means a fuel derived directly from living matter, such as wood, corn, ect. The CO2 released from wood and other biofuels has minimal impact on greenhouse gases. When we burn wood and other biofuels, the energy the biofuels took from the sun for photosynthesis, (remember your science classes?) is released back into the atmosphere. It takes and gives back about the same amount, thus maintaining the 275 ppm of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere-just enough for us to exist –comfortably, up until now! When we burn fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, we put more CO2 in the atmosphere than is used by earth’s vegetation. The earth then warms and that warmth is absorbed by the CO2, which does not allow it to escape into space. When CO2 is too high, climate change occurs, as it is doing today.
Reliance on Fossil Fuels
Many activities we do every day, like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating and cooling our homes, rely on these fossil fuel energy sources that emit carbon dioxide, trapping gasses into the atmosphere. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. The planet now has above 400 parts per million of CO2, and the number is rising every year. That is more than this planet has seen in its history! Scientists say the highest safe level of CO2 is 350 parts per million. This is the safety zone for planet earth!
Preserving Our Planet
James Hansen, of NASA, says if we wish to preserve a planet similar to that we are inhabiting, we need to reduce the CO2 above 400ppm to, at most, 350ppm. We need to stop taking carbon (coal) out of the ground and putting it in the air. We need to start using solar and wind and other sources of renewable energy. If we do this, then the earth’s soils and forests will slowly cycle some of the extra carbon out of the atmosphere and eventually CO2 concentrations will return to a safe level. By doing this we could go back to the 350 by 2050. But the longer we remain in the danger zone, above 350, the more likely that we will see disastrous and irreversible climate impacts!
Cutting Fossil Fuels
1. Recycle your waste. Many household wastes, including most plastics, are made from fossil fuels. Most prepackaged foods and goods use fossil fuels for their production and disposal. Try to reduce your overall consumption of things you don’t really need, and recycle everything!
2. Drive less, walk, cycle, take public transportation, or drive a hybrid vehicle. I know hybrid vehicles aren’t an economic choice for many people, but there are a growing number of older hybrids on the market, and if you weigh the cost of purchasing one with the amount you could save in gas, it may be a good choice, for you and the environment. An older Prius may get 60 mpg, and, no, the batteries aren’t wearing out like predicted.
3. Cut your household power consumption, turn off lights when not in use. Most of the electricity in your house is likely to come from coal-fired power stations, not renewables. Insulate your home, use a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning, hang your clothes instead of tumble dry. I know–who has clothes lines anymore?? BUT they can be inexpensively installed in the back yard–just like the old days! Just put ‘em back!
4. Install a solar panel. They are getting less expensive to install and will save you money in the long run.
The Science of 350 states we must lower the CO2 in our atmosphere, even doing something small will be a start towards saving our planet for future generations!
By John J. Hidore
Denying Global Warming
In 1998 an international conference on global warming was convened in Kyoto, Japan. Many nations were represented at the conference, indicating a global awareness that there is a real problem related to adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. As it turned out, the largest contingent at the conference was that of corporations, mainly those related to fossil fuels. They lobbied hard for the concept that global warming was a natural event and that human activity had nothing to do with it. These deniers nearly prevailed. Only the efforts of then Senator Al Gore and a few others brought about a plan to reduce the problem. At that conference many countries set goals for reducing their contributions of dumping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.
Human beings use the concept of denial in order not to deal with threats they cannot comprehend or understand. The majority of the people in the United States, and probably in the world, believe that global warming exists. However, there is a tendency in some to deny it. They deny it because it is simply beyond their ability to understand why it is taking place or that they could be part of the cause. Dan Brown stated very clearly the characteristics of denial in his recent book entitled Inferno (New York: Doubleday. 2013).
Denial is not limited to individuals. Corporations have long used denial to hide negative impacts of their policies and products. Energy corporations deny global warming for fear it will lower profits. Those in denial in the past relied heavily on the lack of scientific evidence to back up the theory. Now the data is in from almost every aspect of the environment stating that our planet is heating up.
The Denial of the Kyoto Protocol
Since the Kyoto Conference there has been a well-organized and vigorous campaign to deny the findings and actions of the conference. Of the active deniers of global warming, the majority are not scientists. They are people paid to prepare literature, TV adds, and newspaper ads. They are also representatives of corporations that want to protect profits. With decades of rising temperatures they have grudgingly admitted that the planet may be warming, but insist it is due to natural causes. Instead they try and convince us that it is useless to try and do anything about it.
Common Characteristics of Global Warming Denial
Those that deny global warming tend to have several things in common:
1.They do not believe Earth is heating due to man made causes
2.They maintain that if it is heating, it is due to natural causes.
3.If they are politicians they repeatedly vote against limiting carbon emissions.
4. They are anti-science
The seriousness of climate change has brought the issue into national and international politics. The G.W. Bush administration repeatedly tried to keep NASA scientists from delivering data on temperature increases to the press. In 2012, Senator James Imhof, Republican from Oklahoma stated that climate change was a hoax perpetrated on the American people. He insisted that there is only a debate whether global warming exists.
After 30 year of steadily warming temperatures, the 113th congress mostly consists of anti global warming members. In the Senate 30 of 46 members are climate deniers. All senate democrats are advocates of global warming. In the house 128 of 233 members are global warming deniers. The Republican Party leadership consists of 90% global warming deniers. Among 200 democrats in the house all are supporters of global warming and climate change. Corporations have intensely lobbied congress to prevent legislation that might adversely affect their operations. Corporate America has, and is, spending huge amounts of money to cover up global warming. Whether it is cause or effect, large donations from energy industries flow accordingly. Campaign contributions to climate change deniers in the house and senate are more than three times that for the supporters of global warming. Campaign contributions in the senate are more than four times as great for the global warming deniers as for the supporters. ThinkProgress maintains an up-to-date- list of the deniers and their donations at thinkprogress.org/climate-denier-caucasu.
The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act
Beginning in January of 2013, Heartland Institute and a group called American Legislative Council started introducing a bill in state legislatures called the “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act”. This act demands that global warming not be taught in schools. They insist there should be a neutral treatment of climate change, which suggests the evidence for global warming is debatable. The act has already been legalized in a number of states. They include Texas, Lousiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee. It is currently being considered in other states including Colorado, Arizona, and Oklahoma.
U.N. Conference on Climate Change-Warsaw
In November of 2013 a UN conference on climate change negotiations was held in Warsaw, Poland. This conference was to prepare for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to be considered and hopefully adapted. Unfortunately, vested interests resulted in fairly weak proposals that can ill be afforded. The emission of greenhouse gases will likely continue, led by China and India.
The fight for action to slow
is clearly just beginning!
By John Hidore
October 5, 2013—A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus (c. 500 BC) is reported to have stated “there is nothing permanent except change.” Nothing could be more certain than continuing change in the global environment. It has been changing since the formation of the planet some billions of years ago. What is significant about change today is the rate at which the planet is changing. Now hardly a day goes by without world news focusing on some event on the planet marked by changes in our environment. These events include global warming, acid rain, ozone depletion, deforestation, and the elimination of species. Any change in our environment has an impact on the human species and changes effect more people each day than ever before in history. The reason is simple. The global population is growing at a tremendously rapid rate. Next to the exploding number of humans on the planet, global warming and climate change is in all likelihood the most pressing problem facing every living species on the planet.
In 1896 Svanti Arrenius revealed that the likely effect of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would warm global temperatures. Carbon dioxide has now reached the highest level in the past million years and growth has exceeded the forecasts made just 13 years ago. As a consequence global temperatures are climbing faster than at any time in history. The decade of 2003-2012 was the warmest ever recorded in the United States and June 2012 through August 2012 global temperatures were the warmest ever recorded.
The volume of climatic data documenting the warming of the planet has exploded. Automated weather stations are now present in many isolated areas of the land masses. Data from the atmosphere over the ocean has also grown dramatically. Not only is more data available from shipping, but floating buoys record and transmit data to collection centers. The number of satellites that monitor atmospheric data have grown rapidly and the variety of data has expanded. New environmental oriented satellites are sending online data and many are in planning.
A big change in recent decades has been the increasing international concern that Earth’s climate is warming and the impact of that warming. Climate change and global warming are common items in the news media. Global conferences such as the Kyoto Conference, and the work of Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change present a consensus that the problem of climate change is a very serious one. Closely paralleling the prevailing viewpoint of most world scientists was the recent action taken by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This group of scientists developed the Doomsday Clock in 1947 based on the threat of nuclear war. Midnight on the clock is the projected time of global catastrophe. In January of 2007 the clock was moved forward from seven minutes until midnight, to five minutes before the hour. The acceleration towards midnight was made when global warming was added to the nuclear threat.
Almost as soon as the world became aware of the problem of global warming, energy and automobile companies began a major effort to discredit the scientific data. The effort continues today. For years the propaganda was aimed at denying that carbon dioxide was in fact increasing. When in the last few years the evidence became overwhelming, the propaganda changed to refuting the evidence that the increase in carbon dioxide was a function of the burning of fossil fuels. They have taken the position that the changes are natural changes with nothing to do with human activity. Today this campaign is still proceeding with millions of dollars being spent to prevent any action being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Only when enough people demand that energy polices and consumption change will anything be done to stop global warming.
- Global Warming Stopped in 1998 Say Top German Scientists and Friends of Science – No Climate Change Calamity Imminent as Computer Models Fail (prweb.com)
- Southeast climate not following global warming trend (southeastfarmpress.com)
- Global warming is irreversible without massive geoengineering according to IPCC (nextbigfuture.com)
- Can We Trust the U.N.’s IPCC Climate Models? (txwclp.org)
- Global Warming Is Real IPCC Repeats, Now Can We Do Something about It? (scientificamerican.com)
- Bob Geldof : ‘We’re facing a mass extinction event’ (climatism.wordpress.com)
By Lin Smith
August 4, 2013—While listening to NPR this morning I heard a statement on Global Warming, “If we wait 80 years to deal with global warming, it may take 20,000 years to get our planet back to a livable condition. If we deal with it now, we could remain a planet that is habitable.” Eliminating the burning of fossil fuels is the key to reducing greenhouse gases.
Coal is the earth’s number one fossil fuel offender. It’s the main greenhouse gas which traps heat in our atmosphere. Also, a method used in the Appalachian Mountains, mountaintop removal to extract the coal, has created a nearly irreversible devastation to this part of our planet. Approximately 10% of our nation’s coal comes from Appalachia, where mountaintop mining is destroying thousands of acres in one of the oldest mountain chains on the planet–nearly 480 million years old!
Mountaintop mining has been taking place since the 1960’s, destroying more than 500 mountaintops by heavy machinery and explosives in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This type of surface mining accounts for nearly half of the coal mined in these states. Extracting the coal from the mountaintops of Appalachia leaves the mountain tops demolished and contaminates thousands of acres surrounding the surface mines. Toxic mining products are dumped into nearby valleys and streams in what is called “holler fills,” completely buryed more than two thousand mountain streams!
Why use this method of mining? Fewer miners are needed for mountaintop mining because most of the work is completed by explosives and heavy machinery. Also, in the 1990’s, demand for electricity greatly increased, unleashing coal companies to use any method possible to meet the higher demands of our population.
Dominion Resources is an example of corporate greed vs. the welfare of our planet and its inhabitants. Ranking #157 on the Fortune 500 list, Dominion, with headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, has power generating facilities in 11 states. In 2010, Dominion ranked 51st in corporations emitting airborne pollution and land contamination. Coal is “washed” before it is sold to companies like Dominion, releasing toxic, heavy metals by underground slurry injections which poison groundwater and the people who drink the water. Giant slurry ponds, formed by earthen dams, hold up to 8 billion gallons of coal slurry near these sites. Dominion buys and finances mountaintop coal to power its plants that supply electricity to much of the U.S., causing not only an increase in CO2 released into our atmosphere, but a serious disruption to the health and wellbeing of the Appalachian people. Studies show this type of coal mining has been a major factor in a 50% higher rate of cancer, 42% higher rate of birth defects, and millions of dollars a year in health cost increases to the people of Appalachia. ILovemountains.org writes, “There’s a common saying in Appalachia–what we do to the land we do to the people!”
Both the residents of Appalachia and the shareholders of Dominion Resources are fighting back against corporate greed. Ruth Amundsen, a Dominion shareholder, writes,” Dominion must change its current compensation incentives to properly reward executives for making decisions that actually encourage long-term sustainability for its customers and shareholders. Management must use environmental responsibility and long-term stability as guides instead of pursuing short-term profits at the expense of the environment.”
Another shareholder, Seth Heald, states, “It’s past time for Dominion Resouces to join the ranks of responsible corporations that have stopped financing and buying mountaintop removal coal. By continuing to buy this tainted coal, Dominion’s management and board damage the company’s image.”
When a corporation’s shareholders speak out against the corporation, maybe it’s time for CEO’s to quit burying their heads in the sand and look at their policies of “business as usual”—at any cost to life and land!
- End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (forcechange.com)
- Willie Nelson Against Mountaintop Removal Mining (switchboard.nrdc.org)
- Two More Victories in the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (sierraclub.typepad.com)
- Appalachian Families Denied Clean Water Travel to Washington to Demand Action (sierraclub.typepad.com)