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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History Lesson: Microbe-Driven Global Warming Caused Greatest Extinction

History Lesson: Microbe-Driven Global Warming Caused Greatest Extinction indicates a new published study that looked at rocky evidence from the Permian extinction, 250+ millions of years ago, reports the UK Guardian. The rocks indicate a sudden spike in carbon emissions, much greater and faster than volcanism at the time could have created – but an exploding microbe could.

The culprit, they supect, is Methanosarcina, a methane-belching microbe, that proliferated when volcanism fertilized the oceans from the deep depths with a growth-stimulating nutrient, nickel.

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Evidence indicates that global warming, driven by a methane-producing microbe, wiped out most of the larger forms of life, including trilobites, on Earth at the end of the Permian era, 250+ million years ago. Wikipedia.

Methanocarcina sent enormous amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, shooting up temperatures high and fast, too fast for most life to adapt. Practically all macrolife (ie, big enough to be visible without a microscope) on Earth went extinct. Among the survivors were our ancestors.

Far fetched? Actually, it was the evolution of another microbe that made macrolife possible in the first place: microbes that could photosynthesize, pumping enough oxygen into the atmosphere to support the evolution of macrofauna and flora.

Hmmmm… a fast spike in global temperatures… now where have I heard that before?

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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No Real Relief For California Drought; Next Up: Wildfires

OO No Real Relief For California Drought; Next Up: Wildfires

Rain will not alter reality: farms and towns will be hurt, and California continues in its decade-plus drought, which might just be a reversal to the standard weather it used to experience before human populations exploded there. Click on the green O’s for the link.

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Not enough rain has come, so California will be facing more wildfires again this season. Credit Matt Granz at twitter, Sacramento National Weather Service.

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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Whither Weather: Huge El Nino forming, and More!

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Saharan dust flowed northwest and mixed with European and local fossil fuel pollution to create hazardous smog in England (arrow) recently. Source: British Met Office.

WITHER WEATHER

OO Smog Turns Deadly in London - as it is enveloped in a hazardous mix of Saharan dust, European pollution and its own traffic pollution.

OO Australia: Hottest Water Temperatures in 200+ Years Threaten Coral Reefs

OO China: Portable ‘Fresh Air’ Bags Rescue Smog-Ridden City - a new way of life: taking drags of fresh air from oxygen bags…

2014-04-10-ElNino2014adeephotwateracrossdepthsandthePacificNOAA.gif

Look what’s coming our way — literally! What you’re seeing is a mass of hot water (those numbers on the isobars are anomalously warm temperatures in degrees Celsius) stretching across the Pacific Ocean, viewed as a cross section of ocean depth – the top represents the ocean surface. This is shaping up to be one of the strongest El Nino weather cycles ever seen. Source: NOAA

OO El Nino Update: Monster Kelvin Wave Continues to Emerge and Intensify - remember all that global warming heat that the Pacific Ocean has been absorbing since 2000? It looks like it’s about to give some of it back to us, in the form of a giant mass of hot water that, as it travels east and breaks the ocean surface, will create a rippling series of atmospheric disturbances around the globe.

Judging from previous El Ninos (a weather cycle created by buildups of hot water at the eastern edge of the Pacific), this El Nino promises to be a whopper, according to NOAA data. Hang on tight, folks, for more spectacular floods, droughts and higher temperatures unfolding in the coming months!

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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MAKING CLEAN PLANS

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MAKING CLEAN PLANS – headlines with links!

A brief rundown of countries around the world moving in the right direction…

OO US, China And EU Agree To Cooperate On UN Climate Treaty

OO China’s Hubei Province Launches Carbon Market

OO China Wants To Close 1,700+ Coal Mines By The End Of This Year

☼☼☼

OO Norway’s Oil Fund To Increase Clean Energy Investments

OO India Just Massively Boosted Its Solar Target For 2015

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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Food Fight! Food Fight!

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Climate change will increasing threaten our food sources via drought, spreading crop diseases, and harming vital pollinators. Wikipedia.

Food Fight! Food Fight! is what’s going to happen globally, warns the head of the World Bank as global warming increases crop failures, echoing the conservative report on climate change by the reputable Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns of a breakdown of food systems as climate change worsens.

The report notes climate change impacts already on failing crops due to intensifying droughts and spreading crop diseases, and warming temperatures could dry out one third of the planet.

Climate change is also harming bees, important pollinators of food crops. For now, scientists are urging people worldwide to save substantial energy by eating less meat and dairy, the production of which generates a lot of global warming gases.

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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Global Renewables Rise, China Winning the Clean Energy Race

Global Renewables Rise, China Winning the Clean Energy Race says a UNEP report, even as investment drops, writes Sophie Yeo at Responding to Climate Change. Renewable energy grew to produce 8.5% of total electricity in 2013, including 44% of new installations.

As it is, global clean energy investment reached $254 billion in 2013 – no small potatoes. And for the second straight year, China has outpaced the US in annual clean energy investment, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trust. Anyone in Congress listening?

Related Headline

OO One Million Solar Lamps Now Shining Across Africa - and the main company aims to replace all of Africa’s kerosene lamps by 2020.

***** Headline Choice of the Week: Where Would You Rather Live?

A. Pennsylvania: Drilling Company Could Force Landowners To Allow Fracking Under Their Land

B. California To Start Giving Millions Of Dollars Of Climate Credits To Electricity Users

Don’t think too hard on this one…

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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Exxon: the Largest Bipolar Company on Earth

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Too bad for the world that Exxon doesn’t get it: when it comes to climate change, they sound like a bunch of quacks.

Exxon: the Largest Bipolar Company on Earth acknowledges the serious threat of climate change from burning fossil fuels, but plans to mine and sell as much climate-changing fossil fuels as it can, insisting humanity needs it (directly countering the latest and most reputable report on climate change), and that its stock portfolio will thrive.

That depends on whether humanity continues to trust a company dominated by a bipolar mentality. The bad news? The US Congress does trust it, doing pitifully little to protect the US from this insanely suicidal path. The good news? The rest of the world is making other plans – and if the US doesn’t, it will be left in the dust.

Indeed, It’s Time To Slay Zombie Oil says one reputable policy expert, who notes that Big Oil has failed to predict and ignored the meteoric rise of clean renewable energy, which is becoming as cheap as fossil fuels increasingly around the world, and is getting cheaper as fossil fuel prices keep rising. Big Oil is dead and wrong, but that’s the last thing Exxon wants its investors to know.

Relevant Headlines

OO It’s Time To Measure The ‘True Value’ Of Business

OO U.N. Climate Chief Urges Radical Clean-Up Of Oil, Gas Industry

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OO Ex-IPCC Chief: Adaptation Only Works Alongside Carbon Cuts

OO So, After The IPCC Report, Which Bit Of The World Are You Prepared To Lose?

OO Climate Change Action Is The Best Insurance Policy In World History

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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