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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Forests Updates: Creating Forests From Remnants, and More!

KEEPING CARBON STORED: FORESTS UPDATE
Forests: the cheapest way to store carbon

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Wikimedia Commons

OO $42 Billion in Economic Damages Yearly
From Carbon-Rich Mangroves’ Destruction
– globally coordinated action and policy needed to stem loss of one of the planet’s most threatened ecosystems.

OO Despite High Deforestation,
Indonesia Making Progress On Forests
, says Norwegian official

OO Indonesia: High Court Denies Appeal By Company That Cleared Protected Peat Forest which store high amounts of carbon.

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When palm oil companies destroy forests, orangutans die. Mongabay

OO Malaysian Palm Oil Company Destroys Borneo Forests, despite buyer’s zero deforestation commitment.

OO Remnant Shrubs And Trees Play Vital Role In Regenerating Forests

There is, of course, much more news on the consequences and solutions to climate change. To get it, check out this annotated resource list I’ve compiled, “Climate Change News Resources,” , at WordPress.com here. For more information on the science of climate change, its consequences and solutions you can view my annotated list of online information resources here.

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 Risks: Extreme French Storm, 4th Largest Lake Dries, CA Ducks Dying, and More!

WHY WE SHOULD ACT NOW: RISING RISKS

Today, the Earth got a little hotter, and a little more crowded.

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Daily Climate Change: Global Map of Unusual Temperatures, Oct 12, 2014

How unusual has the weather been? No one event is “caused” by climate change, but global warming, which is predicted to increase unusual, extreme weather, is having a daily effect on weather, worldwide.

Looking above at recent temperature anomalies, much of the US and the waters surrounding it, are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures: the eastern Pacific warm spot continues to prevent much rain from reaching California, sending it into further drought.

Much of the areas surrounding the North Pole are experiencing much warmer than normal temperatures – not good news for our Arctic thermal shield of ice. Hotter than usual temperatures continue to dominate human habitats.

OO Ocean’s Surface Warming Much Faster Than Previously Thought - as previous sampling is found to be inaccurate.

OO Unchecked Warming To Dust-Bowlify Southwest, Central Plains, Amazon, Europe
For CENTURIES

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The effect on global warming on weather is clearly seen in heat waves and droughts.

OO In Extreme Weather, More Sign Of Human Fingerprints

Australian Heat Wave, Other Disasters Linked To Global Warming says a new study reports Seth Zuckerman at ClimateCast. With the global warming links most clearly connected to droughts and heat waves.

California Dryin’

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Idaho Dept of Fish and Game

Drought Driving Botulism Epidemic Among Waterfowl – Many Thousands Dead reports Nate Schweber at Al Jazeera America. The drought has helped the toxic bacteria to explode, even as waterfowl concentrate in ever shrinking wet habitats, allowing the contagious disease spread that much faster.

OO California Faces A Record-Breaking October Heat Wave

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Folsom Lake: as the lakes in California dry up, so does the hydroelectric power they generate.
CA Dept of Water Resources

OO Drought Dries Up California Hydropower

OO Canada: Climate Change Affecting Forests ‘Faster Than The Global Average,’ says a government report.

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Viva La Blub-blub-blub-blub-blub…. is the new French song, as an extreme storm flooded Montpellier recently.

WxNick at Twitter

OO South France Floods From 10 Inches of Rain in 3 Hours

OO Humans, Climate, Drain 4th Largest Lake on Earth – and replacing a source of moderate climate with salty windblown dust for countries surrounding the inland Aral Sea.

New Max in Antarctic Ice Belies Continued Global Warming reports Andres Thompson at Climate Central. Besides a continually warming planet, the percentage increase in Antarctic ice is outstripped by the percentage loss of Arctic ice. Ice loss has far more climate impact than ice gain, say experts.

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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Since 1970: As Humans Have Doubled, Wildlife Has Declined By HALF!

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

Fossil Fuel Follies:

OO Burning Coal To Blame For US Rising Carbon Emissions in 2013

OO MIT: Global Energy Use, Co2 May Double By 2100

Clueless Leadership:

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OO A Complete Guide To Politicians Who Plead Ignorance
And Oppose Action On Climate Change
– wait, wait, don’t tell me – they’re all Republicans, aren’t they? Just a wild guess.

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OO Population Zooming Unsustainably
And Little Is Being Done to Stop It
– which will make it much more difficult to address climate change.

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As the world human population has doubled from 1970,
HALF the number of wild animals have disappeared.

OO Human Activities Have Cut Animal Populations In Half Since 1970

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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Inspirational Activism, Supporting Clean Energy Candidates, and More!

WHAT WORKS

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Speaking Out:

OO Michigan Resident Confronts Gas Pipeline Surveyors
— With A Shotgun
– when they show up unannounced and start planning a pipeline right across his property.

OO Federal Court Backs EPA’s Veto Of Large Surface Mine In Appalachia
“This should send a signal that the tide has turned on mountaintop mining.”

Good Ideas:

OO Trying To Fight Climate Change Without Admitting We Are To Blame - a governor is putting forward a clean energy agenda without mentioning the forbidden words, “climate change” or “global warming.”

OO Embrace Boycott Politics for Climate Action - so you can bypass a moribund Congress.

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OO Make Fighting Climate Change Work For Workers –
Invest In Clean Energy And Energy Efficiency
– when you cut carbon dioxide, workers benefit.

OO Study: EPA’s Power Plant Rules Could Prevent Thousands Of Deaths Annually
The health benefits of the reduced power plant pollution would result in 3,500 fewer premature deaths, 1,000 fewer hospital visits, and 220 fewer heart attacks every year.

Supporting Informed Political Candidates:

OO Greens Take 2014 Fight To States - state elections count, too – so the greens are funding candidates there, too.

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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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Chile to Tax Carbon, Immediate Health Benefits of Cutting Carbon, and More!

GOOD CLEAN NEWS

OO Tackling Global Warming Will Improve Health, Save Lives, And Save Money

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OO Cutting Carbon Emissions Would Have Almost Immediate Health Benefits says new study.

OO Conventional Fossil Fuel Generators Headed Towards Decline says a new report by global investment bank HSBC.

Chile Is First Nation To Announce a Carbon Tax reports Seth Zuckerman atClimateCast. with a $5 per metric ton charge on power plant emissions to begin in 2018. Meanwhile, in the wake of the carbon tax repeal Down Under, Aussie renewable projects sank by 70% compared with 2013.

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Global Clean Energy Investment Makes Strides reports Seth Zuckerman atClimateCast. Bloomberg’s 2014 New Energy Finance Report on global renewable energy trends finds investment ($175B) up 16 percent during the first three quarters of 2014, compared to the same period last year, driven largely by China’s record-breaking investment in solar.Yieldcos (public companies that bundle long-term renewable energy contracts and yield reliable dividends).

OO England Harnessing The ‘Power Locked In Poo’ To Fuel Homes

OO Even Big Oil Abandons ALEC, the Climate Denying Lobby

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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The Oceans Are Warming Faster Than Thought, and Fish Can’t Adapt

OO Oceans Getting Hotter Than Anybody Realized says new data; apparently there were flaws in old measurements…

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Credit D. Dixson

OO Oceans Acidifying Faster Than Fish Can Adapt - says a new study, which indicates it can take several generations for a fish to start adapting.


A new edgy take that punches home the stark message: nature doesn’t need us – WE need nature. Harrison Ford is the ocean. Check out the entire series with other superstars at Nature is Speaking.

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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The New Arctic Climate Change Canaries: Walruses!

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USGS

OO The Latest Climate Refugees: 35,000+ Walrus Mass on Beach as their homes, sea ice, have melted away.

OO Largest Massing Ever a Sign of Warming Arctic

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Wikipedia

Why Does This Threaten Walruses? Walruses are built for sea ice and like to cuddle; on land they are prone to overheating in their thick fat coats while trying to rest between foraging. It also increases the energy they must expend to travel to their feeding grounds.

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Walruses: The Climate Change Canaries of the Arctic

OO Giant Walrus Massing Is New
—And We Don’t Know How Bad It Will Get

*****

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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