Global Warming for Dummies — Climate Change for Dummies

Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for our energy has increased levels of heat-absorbing gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. So, our planet has warmed over one degree Fahrenheit, and will continue to heat further and faster, as more of these gases build up.* Most climate scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences, agree this is what’s happening, and that something must be done soon to stop the heating, before climate change starts accelerating.

The heat doesn’t sound like much, but a little goes a long way towards changing climate. Scientists predict that our planet could heat up another 6 to 11 degrees by the end of this century, roughly the same DIFFERENCE in temperature that separates our climate from the last ice age, when 300-foot thick ice sheets covered the northern US.

Think of Earth as a big ball, covered with water and air. The sun heats up the water and air, and some heat becomes motion, moving the mix around the ball, just like heating moves water in a pot. The long-term patterns of this heat and these movements are our climate, changing slowly enough over the eons so that most life can adapt to it. But add to this water-air mixture a sudden jolt of heat,* and the planetary water cycle speeds up, something scientists are seeing now. This results in bigger and stronger storms and floods. The extra heat also creates more extreme heat waves, droughts, and melts ice globally, which raises sea levels.  All this is threatening our sources of food, water and shelter, the basics of our survival.

The good news is that we can stop too much harmful climate change if we act fast. We just have to stop emitting global warming gases. We can do this mostly by: a. using energy more efficiently; b. switching from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy — like solar, wind, and geothermal energy; and c. stopping deforestation. We’ve got the technology to do all this, and doing so would create more jobs and improve our economy, as other countries have already shown. So would another important solution: bringing our populations to sustainable levels.

Changing energy sources won’t be easy or cheap politically. But it’s cheaper economically than what we’re doing now. We’ve spent trillions defending foreign oil sources. Furthermore, fossil fuel pollution and mining inflicts heavy damage on human health and our environment.  So, even if climate change wasn’t happening, it pays for us to switch to clean renewable energy anyway.

How do we solve this?  MOVE THE MONEY. Our government must stop supporting fossil fuels and tax breaks for the rich, and start creating tax breaks for clean energy and energy efficiency in the marketplace.  But fossil fuel lobbyists are strong and influential.  So, it’s up to you, the voters, to elect strong leaders who are going to pull the plug on fossil fuels, and promote clean renewable energy and efficiency, as fast as possible.

It’s all about our economy, our future.   

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You can help the planet by making this go viral — please spread it far and wide!

Another way to help? I  started a Clean Energy Voting pledge online, to let Congress know many voters are monitoring their action on climate change. When we can show Congress that a large voting bloc consider this an important voting issue, Congress will act seriously on it. You can pledge here:
http://signon.org/sign/we-are-the-clean-99?source=c.em.cp&r_by=487176
Please help make THIS go viral, too — spread it far and wide! Thanks!

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*SOME BASIC SCIENCE:

for a summary of the science behind climate change that uses the simple analogy of boiling water, see my posting: Climate Change for Dummies: Go Boil Water at the HuffingtonPost

Why do some gases absorb more heat than others?

 All gases can absorb heat, but some absorb more than others. Why? Different gases are made up of molecules of varying complexity. Since the building blocks of molecules are atoms, the more atoms in the molecule, the more complex it is.  More complex molecules can hold, or absorb, more heat than simpler ones, just like larger houses can hold more heat than smaller ones.  So, the more heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere are ones that have more than 2 atoms (#)  in them – carbon dioxide (3), water vapor (3), methane (4), nitrous oxide (3), and so on. Lucky for life on Earth, there are relatively small amounts of these more complex molecules in the atmosphere.

Large amounts of simpler molecules make up the bulk of our atmosphere:

Nitrogen (2) makes up about 78 percent,

Oxygen (2) makes up about 21 percent

Yeah, that’s right!!  All those bothersome, heat-absorbing, so-called greenhouse gases that are creating climate change make up only about 1 percent of our atmosphere, but boy are they potent, especially in terms of the climate change they can affect when their levels are changed!

Physical and Ecological Feedbacks Mostly Speed Up Global Warming

Relatively little global warming is caused directly from the heat trapped by the gases emitted from burning fossil fuels — it is what comes next that really creates an ultimately unsafe situation. The initial warming creates physical and ecological effects that usually, in turn, speed up global warming and reinforce themselves. These reinforcing processes are known as positive (as in reinforcing) feedbacks. Remember, all an effect needs to do is to cause a further increase in heat absorption or in atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which, in turn, reinforce that effect, for it to be a positive feedback.

Physical effects include decreasing the ability of the planet’s surface to reflect light and heat. When the warming causes ice to melt, for example, the light surface of ice is replaced by the much darker surface of water and soil, decreasing its reflective ability, or albedo. This new surface will absorb more heat, causing adjacent areas to melt faster. And so, the albedo effect reinforces itself as it adds to global warming by absorbing more heat.

Warming in the Arctic melts frozen methane deposits in the soils, lake beds, and sea beds. Once melted, the methane rises into the atmosphere, significantly adding to the global warming effect that will help melt more methane deposits. There is a huge amount of methane stored in these Arctic deposits.

Ecological feedback effects occur because many ecosystems store carbon, keeping it from becoming greenhouse gases. Huge amounts of carbon are stored soil and in forest trees, for example. As soils warm, soil microbes start releasing the carbon as carbon dioxide. Global warming also results in warmer drier seasons and more extreme droughts. These create longer fire seasons, increasing the frequency and size of wildfires, which release large amounts of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

These are just some examples of physical and ecological feedbacks, the overwhelming majority of which are positive feedbacks that result in further warming of the planet and further climate change. There are plenty more.

About that “Sudden” Jolt of Heat

 “Sudden” is a relative term in time, of course.  What’s sudden for the planet can be nonexistent for us, who usually live less than a century.  The planet as a whole usually changes so slowly that to see its changes, we have to look at the history of how it changes geologically (like how mountain ranges form or continents drift) over millions of years, or how it evolves biologically over the same time scale.   Most atmospheric changes on the planet have happened slowly, over thousands of years.  The rate at which we are changing the atmosphere is SO fast on that timescale, however, that it constitutes a veritable explosion. So, jolt is actually a pretty conservative term.

Although the total average increase in temperature is small so far, this constant infusion of extra heat represents an energy inbalance in our planetary system, points out NASA climate scientist Pushker Kharecha.  “No question about it, it’s a lot of energy,” says senior climate scientist Warren Washingtion at the National Center on Atmospheric Research.  Just how much?  250-500 million Megawatts of energy. It’s like having up to half a million EXTRA, large coal burning plants on Earth. Yeah, a half million….

Sources:

1. Cool The Earth, Save the Economy: Solving Climate Change Is EASY , a free, downloadable book available at: www.CoolTheEarth.US . Readable, and comprehensive, with lots more information and detail, accrued from hundreds of reports, peer-reviewed scientific studies, and informative articles, listed in the Bibliography. Published in 2008 by an award-winning environmental scientist and a biologist (that’s me), online only. Although the sections on technological advances are already outdated, the relevancy of the bulk of it is pretty much unchanged. Am still trying to work on an updated edition.

2.  250-500 Million MW of Extra Energy Now Roiling the Earth’s Climate System

Posted: 29 Jul 2011 09:30 AM PDT.  As extreme weather events multiply, scientists are still in the early stages of understanding how more energy is influencing complex weather phenomena.  By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News

3. Wikipedia, Composition of the Atmosphere:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth

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Welcome to the Climate Change Reports Blog

Welcome to my blog.  Here you’ll find the Climate Change Reports — newscasts  being uploaded every weekday for those of you who want to keep updated with developments, both good and bad, related to climate change and global warming.  The reports are basically compressed newscasts about events, studies, reports, and more that are being churned out around the planet about the consequences of and solutions to global warming EVERY DAY, but rarely see the light of day, especially in US broadcast media. If you want to listen to most of them, go to http://cooltheearth.us/climate-report.php which features downloadable podcasts, suitable for rebroadcast on radio. While you’re at that website, check out the free, downloadable book co-authored by an internationally recognized climate change scientist and ecologist, John Harte, and myself, Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte.

Why don’t more people in the US recognize that global warming exists and is creating harmful climate change?  I don’t buy the argument  that it is “because people tune out news they don’t want to hear.”  Nah. US voters are hearing bad news every day — about jobs, the economy and more — and not tuning out, as the Occupy movement shows.

Rather, I think the lack of recognition of global warming is because mainstream US media rarely mention it or connect it to the every day news events that affect our lives — such as the weather and its consequences, or the latest advances happening in clean renewable energy. Did you know, for example, that the first big heatwave in Russia in 2010 was actually part of a giant continental heatwave that extended across Eurasia, from Europe to Japan?  And which of these facts are you more aware of — the failure of a solar company, Solyndra, or that the solar industry is the fastest growing industry in the US today? And when was the last time you heard a TV meteorologist mention global warming in the context of the record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and floods we’ve been having?

Let’s look at a more explicit recent example.  Despite all the coverage of Hurricane Irene, the media, for the most part, once again managed not to say the words “climate change” or “global warming”.  Apparently, these words are the Potterian “Voldemort” of the daily news media when extreme weather is reported. Media hawks are noticing, as the slate of extreme weather events continues to pile up, and the words are rarely spoken.[1]  Amy Goodman herself noted as much on Democracy Now as she introduced Bill McKibben,[2] who advocates averting climate change.

This surreality reminds me of a Jon Stewart segment in which Samantha Bee tried, without saying the word herself, to get Republicans to utter “choice” at a convention a while back.  Similarly, my husband and I play a spectator form of this game with one of the most liberal mainstream broadcast media, National Public Radio. (There is no sport in even attempting this with the lalaland of Fox et al.) In fact,  we think a record of sorts occurred as we listened one warm morning in July 2011 to a slate of NPR headline topics. It started with the huge wildfires burning in the west, then smoothly segued into US heat waves, and finally discussed the plight of polar bears watching their habitat literally melt away. All of these events are intimately tied to climate change, as our free online book explains.[1] Each time, we slyly speculated if we would hear the forbidden words – would we? would we? — but they remained forbidden, even with polar bears. We laughed through tears of hilarious sadness.

How are we going to vote for leaders who will act on slowing global warming, if we aren’t being reminded every day how global warming is intimately tied to our economy and jobs, our health, and our future?  Just remember, folks, that if we don’t roll on this soon, all those other important voter issues will go out the window as things turn catastrophic. It already has been for farmers (and food prices) affected by drought, and people affected by extreme weather, such as heatwaves, floods and hurricanes.

So, I’m hoping US media coverage will improve, but in the meantime, welcome to my blog.  My reports come from items I find, sifting through feeds from:   The Daily Climate,   World Environment News (Reuters),    Inside Climate News,    GreenTech Media,    EnvironmentalResearchNews,  and RSOE EDIS – Climate Change News, among others. And they represent just my personal highlights. I welcome yours.

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte

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Keeping Carbon Stored: Forests Update

KEEPING CARBON STORED: FORESTS UPDATE

Forests are the cheapest way we can store carbon in living systems, and prevent it from forming greenhouse gases; the cheapest nonliving way is to not mine fossil fuels.

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Ever look an orangutan in the eye? I have – and their gaze is filled with human intelligence. They are going up in flames with their forests homes. Credit Rhett Butler at www.mongabay.com

OO Forests in Indonesia’s Concession Areas Being Rapidly Destroyed

OO To Conserve Forests, Empower Everyone To Watch Over Forests

OO Indonesian ‘Legal’ Timber Scheme Could Be Greenwashing Illegal Products

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When the magnificent biodiversity of a carbon-storing rainforest is destroyed for growing oil palms, which produce an unhealthy cooking oil, the climate future of our children suffers. Wikimedia commons.

OO Honduras: How A Small Co-Op Is Changing The Palm Oil Industry - following the “no new deforestation” production plan, and even giving land back to the forest.

OO Africa: Nearly 90 Percent Of Congo Logging Is Illegal

OO Australians Plan to Devastate Borneo Forests with Open Pit Coal Mine

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One of the many gifts of carbon-storing forests. Credit Rhett Butler atwww.mongabay.com

OO Selective Logging Emissions Average Just 16% Of Those From Deforestation

OO City Lights Threaten Rainforests By Deterring Bats important to their functioning.

OO Salamanders Help Store Carbon in Forests - by eating a significant number of insects that would otherwise eat the leaves, releasing carbon to the atmosphere.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Climate Change Drying Out Southwest Now, Will Dry Out A Third Of Earth

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This could be a much more common picture for the Southwest and much of the world.
Wikimedia commons

Climate Change Drying Out Southwest Now,
Will Dry Out A Third Of Earth by 2100
 according to 2 new peer-reviewed, published studies, reports Joe Romm at Climate Progress. The first study confirms that climate change is contributing to drying out the southwest’s soil, worsening natural droughts by making them longer and more severe. That larger drying out will include two of the world’s greatest agricultural centers, “the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China.”

The second study emphasizes that greater more pervasive drying in the future will result not only from less rainfall, but because surface moisture will evaporate faster than before, due to changed atmospheric conditions. Faster evaporation will probably tip the marginally wet Great Plains and SE China into arid conditions.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Extreme Weather Increased Power Outages 1,000 % Since 1980s, and More!

WHITHER WEATHER

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OO Extreme Weather Increased Power Outages 1,000 % Since 1980s 
Source: Climate Central

OO California’s Drought Is Not Going Away

OO Drought Is Driving Beef Prices To All-New Highs

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OO Southeast US Hit By Heavy Rains, Major Flooding - the type of extreme weather predicted to occur more frequently under continued climate change. Credit AP photo/Jay Reeves

OO Solomon Islands: Heavy Rains Cause Devastating Floods, Then Form Strong Cyclone - which barely missed devastating Australia.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Melting Permafrost Releasing More Methane Than Formerly Thought

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Permafrost block of coastal tundra collapsed on Alaska’s Arctic Coast. Courtesy USGS Alaska Science Center.

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Melting Permafrost Will Release More Methane Than Formerly Thoughtsays a new study, reports Gerard Wynn at Responding to Climate Change. Thawing northern peatlands are already a net source of methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas, and equivalent to 6-12% of annual fossil fuel emissions of CO2, estimated the new study.

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Frozen Arctic methane bubbles await the spring thaw to be released into the atmosphere. Credit Chip Philllips at flickr.

Researchers thawed some frozen Arctic peatland, known as permafrost, then measured the resulting emissions. Methane, also known as natural gas, has a shorter atmospheric life than CO2, but is about 20x more potent at absorbing heat, which means an increase in methane could speed up and intensify climate change feedbacks, such as further warming.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Sunny Solar Times Continue…

SUNNY SOLAR TIMES CONTINUE

The solar innovations continue, with creating solar powered battery backed microgrids, and using otherwise useless contaminated land for solar utilities.

Global solar roundup: India experiences solar growing pains; Germany evolves beyond a guaranteed market price for solar power; during 2014′s 1st quarter, the UK installs 1+ gigawatts of solar capacity, while Chile installs a record-breaking 150 megawatts, with plenty more planned.

Solar power accounted for 22% of new US generation capacity in 2013. Worldwide, the cheap cost of solar power is driving the growth of renewables, says a UN study.

Finally, the cheap price of subsidized US natural gas is tempering clean energy investments, but as solar technology gets cheaper, investments are going further, and capital keeps pouring into the booming US residential solar market. Let the good times roll…

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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To find out how, check out Pear Energy and Ethical Electricity.

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BP’s Oil Spill Is Still Killing Wildlife, and More!

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Deadly Beauty: Water pollution in the Gowanus Canal, New York; much of it stems from fossil fuels. Credit: Steven Hirsch; see more of his art here.

OO Four Years Later, BP’s Oil Spill Is Still Killing Gulf Wildlife

Bipolar on Climate Change: the World Bank - while the WB urges action on climate change, warning that food battles will erupt worldwide as crops begin to fail dramatically, it still pursues policies that enable more climate change.

WB spent $1 billion in 2013 subsidizing exploration for natural gas, a fossil fuel, even though we can’t burn known reserves without triggering far more catastrophic climate change. Instead of boasting how they spend nearly 4 times more on clean energy than fossil fuels, they should cut the fossil fuel cord altogether.

And 75% of World Bank backed projects don’t evaluate climate risks. What gives, WB?

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To find out how, check out Pear Energy and Ethical Electricity.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Turning Off Ukraine Gas Could Be Good

Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day argues Thomas Friedman at the New York Times, as Vladimir Putin threatens to turn off the gas flowing through the Ukraine into Europe. What better way to promote the switch to clean renewable energy in Europe? Just like the 1970s Arab embargo in the US fertilized the energy efficiency movement, ultimately saving the US mucho money, energy and emissions. Go Ahead, Vlad: make our day.

Fossil Fuel Understatement of the Week:

“…some people lie. And why do they lie? Because some people are greedy.”

Robert Proctor, Professor, Stanford University, who studies the propagation of ignorance in the media, in OO Cultural production of ignorance provides rich field for study.

And sometimes, greedy people are honest: an oil executive once confided in me, in a moment of candor, after hearing a climate change and its solutions presentation, that the main reason their company wasn’t switching to clean energy was, “We make so much money at what we do!” Yes, but at what price for the world, your children and their future?

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

Find this interesting? Please re-post it!

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