Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ice Shelf Separates

A large part of the Canadian ice shelf has separated from the mainland, but remained trapped in offshore ice. Apparently, it splintered away to become an ice island last August, but one fear is that it will float into oil fields. I had always imagined some threats from this kind of event, such as the ice melting and making sea level rise. The idea of the danger presented to both shipping lanes and to fixed oil platforms had not crossed my mind directly. I don't think such things are easy to control, and truly hope we don't add oil spills and further contamination of the sea to the damage we're doing it by changing the climate. The sea is already reported as sick, and it doesn't need new ailments added.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Three Bears

Or at least, three global warming bits about bears.

Earthweek noted the potential listing of the polar bears. It also noted that bears in Spain have "stopped hibernating in the country's northern mountains in what may be one of the strongest signals yet of how much climate change is affecting the natural world."

Discovery Channel article on bears being sleepless in Spain

That's two. The third is also the polar bears - a good editorial from the Seattle Times that basically says it took threats to a big icon like the polar bear to get movement out of the Bush administration.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


The global warming conversation sometimes pursues chimeras (illusions, or mental fabrications). I came across one today on an email list I subscribe to (which actually has nothing directly to do with global warming). At any rate, one of the contributors was mentioning hailstones in Armidale, Australia as a sign of global warming. Turns out they are arther common, and seem to have a long history.

Noise in the conversation.

There is a lot more signal than noise, more real information than false, by far. At least as far as I can tell. But fear and fascination are likely to make more chimeras in the conversation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Polar Bears

The front page of today's paper suggests the US may be ready to list Polar Bears as an endangered species, and cite global warming as the cause.

Talk about a potential poster child for change.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like there has been a lot of pressure from a lot of people to get this to happen. I know how much money, energy, and actual change has happened has a result of salmon being listed. Nope - not enough - yet. But so much more than if they hadn't been....

Listing the polar bears - a top predator - and blaming global warming? Think about it.

There's bound to be a fight about the listing. Energy companies aren't likely to applaud. But people will want to save polar bears. Lets make sure they get listed.

It may be too late for the bears to win (define winning as getting out the other side and getting de-listed - the Bald Eagle won). Hopefully not.

An old article about this in National Geographic

Today's Seattle Times article

UN Works page about polar bears

Monday, December 18, 2006

Personal Changes

There was an article in yesterday's Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine about the family that is trying to be carless in Seattle. I'm impressed: that's tough here. It shows a commitment to real change.

At the core, this is a design issue. In the last few years, I have been in three cities where cars are pretty much more trouble than they are worth: London, New York, and Paris. They are denser than Seattle. They have much better public transportation systems than we do. More and more cities are starting to design for multi-modal and more public/shared transportation. We should consider accelerating those efforts.

I promised I'd report back on two of our family efforts: dry cleaning and windows. The new eco-friendly dry cleaner in turning out to be cheaper and the clothes softer. I don't feel like I'm wearing poison. They're slower, so I had to go get a few more pairs of work pants or cancel out my good by making more frequent trips, but I'm glad we did it. Easy.

I don't know how to tell if the windows really do a better job yet. The house was really cold without power and since we have no window coverings up yet, my guess is that it was not particularly a good thing to have brand-new windows (we would have closed the drapes on the other ones). But they are beautiful and once we get them covered, I think they'll be a lot better.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fragility and Preparedness

After just emerging from three days without power due to a windstorm in Washington, State, two things stand out.

One is how fragile the infrastructure of our civilization actually is. We mostly stuck together through this one, neighbors helping neighbors and not many deaths from cold, even with one million houses out of power at the height of the problem here. Sporadic and minor civil unrest did occur, mostly fights at the few gas stations that were open. But by the end of three days we were tired of it, and while we well prepared and basically fine our tempers were fraying a bit at the edges. I think it might have gotten tough around here if the outages had lasted much longer (and many customers are still cold). City-dwellers are just not used to being without major portions of the infrastructure that keeps us going. If you think back to Katrina, there were spots of heroism, community, and unrest there, too. For at least a while, it looked like civilization frayed to breaking in New Orleans. We should acknowledge the fragility of our civilization, even though there is also much to celebrate in its -- and our -- resiliency. The severe weather patterns may not all be attributable to climate change, but climate change will include severe weather (from drought to heat to cold to storms). We need to understand it may take a Herculean effort to get through the effects of the next decade and maintain a civil society at all times.

Which brings me to the second thing: preparedness. We fared pretty well, and had what we needed (ground coffee, creamer, flashlights, radio, emergency candles, extra blankets, available food that didn't need to be refrigerated). But how many people in the Pacific Northwest were less prepared? I bet it was a bunch. Another Katrina lesson: have seven days worth of emergency supplies. Not three (the old guideline) but seven. Be able to drag your supplies into your house or your attic or put them into your car.

Let's acknowledge our fragile infrastructure and the effort required to be prepared to live without it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A heartening conversation

I was talking about global warming to one of my staff, Gillian Bozanic, who does our TV reporting for the city channel. She said something like, "I feel a little hopeful. This is a problem that transcends our differences - it's not about racism or gender or what country you're from. To solve this, we all have to work together, right?"


Monday, December 11, 2006

Building Major Infrastructure? Plan well.

There's a full page paid advertisement in today's paper about the Alaskan Way Viaduct (an aging elevated road that runs along Seattle's waterfront). The advertisement making the case against an elevated viaduct and for a tunnel. Think Big Dig, but is soft soil on the waterfront.

I agree with the main point: a big elevated road is a silly thing to have as the largest single features on our waterfront. If we can figure out how to get rid of it, there's views and economic development and just plain beauty to be had.

I do not think we should bury it under the waterfront. Sea level rise is almost inevitable. How much is not clear, but it wouldn't take much to stress Seattle. Has anyone done the engineering to determine how well the road would do if we buried it, and then sea level rose five feet? Or ten?

That kind of sea level rise is actually possible in the short term, although I'm still on the side that thinks it unlikely to happen in the next few years. But in our lifetimes? You bet. The current viaduct is over 50 years old. I doubt sea level will remain static between now and 2057.

Planning for other large engineering projects should take climate change into account. At least mitigate the more likely issues in advance. Pick a sea level to engineer around. Build to withstand weather extremes and more frequent storms. Make climate change part of the conversation.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Today's news: All about biodiesel

Two interesting articles in the Seattle Times today. One suggests that an old scourge, prairie switch grass, might be a good fuel for biodiesel. Apparently switchgrass needs little in the way of fertilizer or insecticides, and it also bypasses some of the questions about corn's usefulness.

The business section has an article, Can Biodiesel Compete on Price. It supports my argument that higher gasoline prices will give alternative fuels more opportunity to get through the start-up phase and be able to make money. The article discusses a Seattle biodiesel startup, Imperium Renewables, in detail.

The largest users of biodiesel at this point appear to be fleets, largely government fleets. That's a good start.

I recall the CNG fuels (compressed natural gas) that we started using in local government years ago. We've now pretty much all phased out our CNG modified police cars and are adopting hybrids at this point. Unlike CNG and biodiesel, hybrids have no fuel distribution problem. Admittedly, the biodiesel distribution problem is much simpler than the CNG problem: CNG never made it to any even noticeable percentage of the consumer market since there were no corner gas stations for it. There are a few good things going for biodiesel: newer diesel cars and trucks can run on it and older ones can apparently be converted. Still, I can't use it without buying a new car, and I only recall seeing one station advertising it when I stopped for gas. I hope that rectifies itself, since like hybrids, biodiesel has a lot to recommend it. It can be produced domestically, it doesn't rely on a single sources of raw materials that can't be easily replaced, and it is cheaper to produce than oil has generally been to buy this year.

My belief? Biodiesel will be one part of the actual solution to getting us to switch to alternative fuels. Hard to tell how big a part yet, but enough to matter.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A fun way to get your global warming news

An offering that came from a comment on this blog - a fun little newsfeed on global warming. Be patient - it takes a few moments to load.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why Businesses Need to Plan for Global Warming Now

I posted a blog entry at entitled "Why Businesses Need to Plan for Global Warming Now."

Part of why I started this blog is to have a place to talk more about global warming, since, the futurist site that I work on in support of Glen Hiemstra, is really a generalist site. But as I was wearing my futurist hat and thinking about predictions for 2007, one that I'm sure of is that global warming will be the single most defining political issue except for the Iraq war. So we have a responsibility to talk about it there, even though we also get to play in technology and science and business and other topics.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Post 2 on Global Warming Talk

First, a little contrast. I bought two tickets to the Seattle Arts and Lectures series this year - Steven King and Elizabeth Kolbert. The Steven King reading was packed, the patron section (the expensive seats) was at least twenty rows deep from the stage, and people had flown from all over the country to see him.
Seattle is the originating point for the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. Many people consider us one of the most activist cities in the US on global warming. Yet the auditorium was not full, and some of the people there were sleeping. It appeared to have been assigned as homework. The patron section was about seven rows deep.

It's too bad that the talk didn't sell out.

One of the most interesting parts of Elizabeth's talk was not new, but was very well-framed. Climate change had many positive feedback loops built into it. That means that global warming begets more global warming. Take, for example, the melting of arctic ice. Ice reflects sunlight and water absorbs it. More ice means cooler temperatures and more water means warmer temperatures. As the ice melts, and there is less ice and more water, the temperatures rises. She gave a number of other examples.

One of her quotes that I like a lot was "People think global warming is just beginning because we are just beginning to see it." The point is that global warming is, in fact, beginning to have consequences that we can see all around us. But those consequences are the result of Co2 level increases that began years ago.

When she went back to update her book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, in the one year that had passed from hardback to paperback publication, not one change was happening more slowly than predicted in the hardback, and many were happening faster.

I bought a copy of her book and I'll review it when I get it read. Since I'm in the middle of a research intensive novel, it make take a little while.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Post 1 on the Global Warming Talk

I'll do something a little more substantive on this tomorrow night, but I had a powerful image come up early in the talk that seems worth relating.

Elizabeth was talking about the Greenland Ice Sheet. It's too warm, now, for the ice sheet to form. It has sustained itself because it is cold enough that it doesn't melt away, and enough new snow falls onto it to actually build some parts of it each year (although we are suffering net loss of ice there). But in today's climate, and the climate of the last ten thousand years,it would not get built.

Last week, it snowed on us in Washington, and we experienced very low temperatures for a few days after that. Well, snow is rare for us, and so we played in it and with it, and made snow sculptures and snowballs. Some of that snow we'd sculptured -- and turned into ice balls -- stayed with us for literally days after the untouched surface snow was melted and rained off.

But it's not there now.

The ice sheet holds so much water that if it all melts away, we could see a twenty-foot rise in sea level.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Suggested Talk

Global warming actually hasn't been a topic in my life much for a few days, unless you want to count getting the house ready for new energy-efficient windows, or seeing copies of "An Inconvenient Truth" for sale at Costco. But tomorrow night, I'll be going to a talk on climate change at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. It's part of the Seattle Arts and Lectures tour and features Elizabeth Kolbert. I'm quite looking forward to it, and I noticed that it isn't sold out yet. So maybe I'll see some of you there.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Today's News on Global Warming

In this week's Earthweek, Western Europe has had such a warm autumn that birds are not flying south, and frogs are not sleeping. I wonder if you could do a GlobalWarmingWeek? At least one of the items they pick for this seems to be related every week now.

This morning's Seattle Times has an editorial, Greenhouse innovation: bury the carbons in rock in support of carbon sequestration in rocks. A paragraph part way through the editorial says, "While many environmental groups support this technology, some worry its use will dampen the sense of urgency to reduce greenhouse gases."

This is the same argument I hear from people about carbon credits (investment in clean energy to offset personal or corporate creation of greenhouse gases). There is no single change to help with global warming. Its going to take personal changes on all of our parts, which are coming gradually. We are also going to have to apply scientific and technical tools that will help us transition from our carbon dependency. The best way to transition is going to be to both help the old industries that we still need for a robust economy --through solutions like this and through a strong mix of incentives and regulations -- and to actively foster investment in clean energy.

If there is a way to succeed in at least mitigating global warming, we need the resources to do it. And all of the tools available to us now, plus more that are in development. The Seattle Times editorial is a good one.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A side conversation, and a High Court conversation

At a wrapping party at work today (wrapping boxes for people to put donations in for charity), someone mentioned global warming in context with the severe weather we've had up here this November (the wettest month, ever, on record in Washington State). One of the women helping said something like, "Global warming. It's too overwhelming. I can hardly even think about it."

The Supreme Court is considering a case that is very tightly linked to global warming. This will be an interesting look at how the new Court acts on a critical environmental issue, and it is expected that the vote will be close. The basic story is that this is an attempt to force the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. I'm hoping that the Court finds that this is a good thing. Effective regulation might go a long way to helping reduce some of our major sources of global warming gas emissions.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kudos for Public Transit

We're iced in up here in the Pacific Northwest. That, and Christmas shopping traffic over the holiday weekend got me taking the bus.

I'm not usually a bus person - I believe in them, but my schedule always seems to make it a tough idea. I suspect I'm not the only one out there thinking this is a good idea, but hard to implement. Partly because I'm doing this (there are a lot of reasons to do this blog, and one of them is to remind myself about habit changes I can make), I decided I should try it out the day after Thanksgiving when I needed to go to downtown Seattle on Black Friday. I have a flex-pass provided by my work as part of the commuter program. I hadn't used it in over a year. So I looked up the bus routes and discovered that if I drove a mile to the park and ride, I could get an express bus to one block from my destination. It worked perfectly.

I'm a horrible snow and ice driver. So I tried again when I needed to get to work yesterday. There's a bus stop across the street from the entrance to my neighborhood. I used it. It takes the same route I would have taken driving, and about two minutes longer than driving on a clear-road day. That's faster than me driving on ice. The bus, and my return bus, were both on-time, safe, warm, and the bus driver was friendly so I got a greeting and a "Have a nice day" out of it.
I'm going to take the bus again today. Better, even though my schedule really does stop me some days when I have mid-day meetings all over town, I suspect I'll start sorting for days that I can take the bus instead of making it so hard in my head.

Let's hear it for the bus-drivers and this excellent use of our taxes. The only sad part was that the busses weren't very full.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More Species Change

According to a CNN article, Global warming already killing species, we've already lost about 70 frog species. Frogs seem to be the canaries of our world. Remember a few years ago there were so many deformed frogs? The most interesting number I saw was that emperor penguins in the western Antarctic peninsula have gone from 200 breeding pairs to 9. It's a good, if disturbing article.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sprinkler Controllers

A small tip. We had our sprinklers winterized today, and the sprinkler company that did it asked if we'd like our old controller replaced next spring with a brand new one with a rain sensor. According to the company, the city will pay us back for the cost except labor.

I told them we'd take the deal. We've been doing all the sprinkling manualy (either literally with a hose or by turning on one bit and then another) so we could only water when its dry. Logical, if you live in the Pacific Northwest. I'll report how it goes next spring.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Global Warming and Water

Right now, we're about drowning in the Pacific Northwest. We already have the wettest November on record, and may have the wettest month ever on record.

There was an interesting Seattle Times article today on the Yellow River in China, which is shrinking. Part over-enthusiastic industrialization, part over-grazing at headwaters, and part global climate change. At least that's what the article said. Think about the problems that could be caused with a water shortage in busy, growing China. Or anywhere else for that matter. Climate change means change in water supply. Maybe not less water, but water in different places, and no water in some that are used to it.

Think migration, and change. Think a lot of moving water from place to place. It's heavy, and sometimes recalcitrant. Strong.

This could be hard.

Note - I also though it worthwhile to provide a link to a post from joec, who commented on another entry and nicely left his url.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Carbon Dioxide Surge and Ambitious Science

From this weeks Earthweek, there are icebergs floating off of New Zealand. I also saw a post about this from a member of a list I'm on who lives there and was somewhat dismayed. They pointed the bergs out as a direct result of global warming. Also, at least in the newspaper version, a comment that the "rate at which carbon dioxide is entering the atmosphere is increasing four times faster than it was in the 1990's."

Makes it tough to believe that simple things we can do are enough. Mind you, we should still do them.
It may take some ambitious global engineering to help.
I read an article last week about a proposal to put a giant shield over the Earth. In fact, one blog entry on it from the journal Nature mentioned a story Larry Niven and I wrote called "Ice and Mirrors" which suggested a planet was thrown into a deep freeze through a vaguely similar technique. Today, I read an article that talked about putting extra pollution into the atmosphere to shield us from the sun. I don't much like either of these choices - the shield idea is incredibly expensive and the pollution idea just seems wrong (likely some unanticipated consequences there, or just bad trade-offs). But I like it that people are thinking this way. Anything about us doing this kind of grand engineering is scary given the chaotic nature of the climate and the large gaps we still have in our knowledge of it, but we may be doing enough damage that the only solutions are grand.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moving things closer

I gave a talk at the Pacific Northwest Entrepreneurs Network about demographics last night, and two of the statistics I used were:

  1. According to CNN, the purchase of “green” building products and energy has almost doubled in the last two years.
  2. The organic food industry grew by 16+ % in 2005, and is now near 14 billion dollars.

One of the things I like to do when I give a speech is to make a conversation. Its good for an audience to be involved, and I can then learn from them. In this case, I probably asked my first question too early, or asked the wrong question since the audience returned silence. But when I asked a question later about "What have you/are you doing about global warming" there were more people willing to talk, and happy to talk. I could hear a hint of pride in their voices. A really simple and great response was from one audience member who mentioned moving all of thier services (think dentist, doctor, dry cleaner, etc.) closer to home. What a nice, easy thing to do. An adjustment that doesn't take a lot of work, saves you time, and reduces driving.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Carbon Offsets and Our Report Card

The Seattle Times ran an article today about carbon offset programs, such as TerraPass, that I've blogged about. The gist of the article was that this is a fledgling industry with companies that are doing well and others that may not be figuring out how to get the money into real carbon offset. Some, including TerraPass, are willing to be audited and are doing a good job of trying to make a real difference. For others, success is not so clear. So I guess the bottom line to that is to be careful about where you invest your money. That's about the same as any charitable organization...its always a bit useful to do some homework. I like the idea. Philosophically, carbon offsets (buying an investment in clean energy to make up for your carbon emissions) make sense. They are no excuse for not changing our own carbon emissions profile. The current bottom line to mitigation in the climate change game is reducing carbon, so offsets are not bright when your plan is to just keep on consuming at our regular rates and offsetting for guilt reduction. But they make good sense as a way to help mitigate those things we can't help or change.

Top of the AOL news today, Countries Ranked on Climate Change Efforts
. We're way down at the bottom of the list. We should be leading, and we're lagging. Shame on us.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thoughts for the Next Congress

Well, it's amazing how much better I feel since the election. On a lot of fronts, but there should be a good chance for progress on global warming. So here are some thoughts for the next two years:

On Oil:

  1. Let the prices rise. It makes other technologies more cost-effective in comparison, and prices on new energy sources will fall after initial development and with consumer support.
  2. Stay out of ANWR. We're tired of having pretty and wild places cluttered with the machinery of oil. Stay out of other pristine places, too. We might need to stay where we are, and develop shale oil techniques etc. as a bridge. I mean, we get it that this change won't happen overnight. But let's get the train rolling.
  3. Figure out how to live without so much dependence on Middle Eastern oil, so we can get gracefully out of Iraq. This one will be the hardest.

On carbon emissions in general:

  1. Either sign Kyoto and get on with it, or commit to something even more aggressive
  2. Fund research into alternative energy. Both new companies and the existing energy giants. Help turn the oil companies into something else.
  3. Encourage consumer adoption of hybrids and good gas mileage.
  4. Regulate the auto industry on MPG. They can do it.
  5. Use the UN (without John Bolton), and every other international leverage you can get to encourage others as soon as we start setting a good example. Maybe we should partner with Britain to model how to build strong economies in first world countries while shifting away from oil and other egregious fuels. It's possible to get an economic boost out of this, no matter what the oil companies say.


  1. Let's add a national discussion on this topic. Get people involved. Hire Al Gore, too, if we need to. Or more. Hire people who care, and fund them. See below.
  2. Cut the amount of money we're throwing at Homeland Security in half, and spend the other half on climate change. Spend at least 90% of that half on action. We know some of what we need to do. Take the half you leave in Homeland Security and focus it more on "all hazards" training than on terrorism. Significant weather events are going to get worse. Help us out.
  3. Find ways to encourage local governments to do more. They are already doing more than you all are.
  4. Build an Americore model, or shift the current one, to help with this. Get the young people and the retired people involved. You won't have to pay them a lot, but you'll get energy and know-how. I bet you get enthusiasm, too.

I know there's more. But that's a start.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Two Waves Hit the Northwest

The Pacific Northwest was swamped by two waves this week. One the nation is familiar with, the Blue Wave of the Democrats as they take over the Congress. We hope this means greater attention to global warming and energy policy, among all the other priorities they will have.

The second wave you may have missed, unless you live here. In my book I tell the story of spending a day with insurance company executives two years ago, during a torrential downpour, and trying to get them to comment on how normal these kinds of heavy rain storms were becoming. They were not interested, then.

A key expectation of global warming scientists is that the weather will get more wild. We see that here in the Northwest. This week alone we saw:

Rainfall records across Western Washington. Some measurements from the National Weather Service:
-- 8.22 inches at Stampede Pass, breaking an all-time rain record of 7.29 inches set on November 19th, 1962.
-- 3.29 inches at Sea-Tac Airport, breaking the record of .99 set in 1980
-- 4.31 inches at Olympia Airport, breaking the record of 1.74, also set in 1980

And, in Oregon similar records were set.

People shrug this off of course. It is the Northwest. It rains. What else is new?

But now when I see entire valleys flooded, rather than being amazed at a once-in-a-lifetime event, I wonder whether this will become normal.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Probable Good Election for Global Warming

The democrats are generally friendlier to the Earth. And they're winning. This is a very good thing. It's an uplifting moment on the uphill (but winnable) battle to change our behavior to something easier on our environment.

The energy bill here in Washington State in less clear - we may not win that one. It will be too bad if we don't - imperfect initiative or not, a demand from the electorate for alternative energy sources would be a good thing.

Let's hope we wake up in the morning and discover that the election results stayed good for the Earth. Which is good for us.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Concert Reaction

I went to an Indigo Girls concert last night. At one point, the lead singer from the opening act, B*tch and the Exciting Conclusion, stepped up to the mike during a rap and said something like "We're using all this oil for driving, and we don't need it any more," and a ripple of enthusiastic applause went through the audience even though she was mid-song.

I would be willing to bet almost all of us at the show still need oil because we don't have the infrastructure to do anything different reliably yet. I would also be willing to bet that as soon as there is a reliable alternative, people will be willing to move fast, and a wave of early adopters will change the economics. There is a growing swell of pent-up demand for a different solution.

It was nice to see the heartfelt and instant reaction to the singer's statement. Art connects with people.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Climate change has a history

I'm working on a book set partially near the collapse of the Mayan civilizations on the Yucatan peninsula. In my research, I've come across numerous references to climate change as a probable cause for the quick decline of rich, vibrant civilizations. Yes, there are others, including a significant asteroid strike (which could have also contributed to climate change).
Like we are now, that civilization was one of the historically ascendant and stable populations of its time, with a rich economy and ready access to resources.

The climate change in that time (a shift to a dryer climate) appears to have been largely local. The one we are in the midst of now is not. It is global. We should take the history lesson to heart.

I'd also like to link to Glen Hiemstra's excellent blog post about the meaning of the Gore appointment to help England deal with it's global warming actions.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Young People

I had a very pleasant lunch yesterday with a gentleman who's son, a college student, wants to devote his life to solving/mitigating global warming. I recently read an article about top majors for college students, and one of the top ten majors for Washington students is organic agriculture.

It feels as if at least a large number of the young people coming up now want to do something good for the world. They are rejecting our choices (which is their job), but unlike the 60's and 70's generation, this group truly wants to act from within the system to change it, a more effective tool than protesting against it.
The Seattle Times ran an article entitled "Hot majors: Sift through the popular to find your passion," by Carol Tice, that said, "One growing area of student interest isn't reflected in a single major category. But students' urge to do social good is showing up in courses in many majors..."

We, of course, can't wait for them to fix the ills we caused. But perhaps they will help us figure out how to rectify our mistakes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Losing the cold

Its cold and crisp this morning, the colors out my window a pale blue sky with the dark reds and brownish-yellows of a northwest fall lit with sunshine.

The Seattle Times front page article this morning is on our glaciers, or rather on our smaller and smaller glaciers. It made me think about Alaska, and how I want to do the inside passage some day (the only way I can think of to willingly join a cruise). It would be nice to see glaciers in all their sharp diamond beauty before we melt them all.

Think I'm over-reacting?

Google "Glacier global warming" or some similar term set. It's scary. I'm not reproducing a list of url's with this post because there's too many, and the simple experience of seeing that, and reading a host of articles on the topic is visceral. This isn't controversial science. It's not theories and computer models and tracking animal migrations - not, in other words, the minutia of science. It's empirically measurable by normal people. We can see it with our eyes. Many of the articles you'll find on your Google search have a series of picture - glaciers 50 yeasr ago, glaciers 30 years ago, glaciers 10 years ago...glaciers now...(or not).

I'm going to try and enjoy the cold today. It feels good.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Good for Britain

On the Seattle Times front page, a sight for sore eyes. "British turn up heat on U.S. over global warming, By William Neikirk."

I still don't much like Tony Blair, but I like it that he hired Gore. I also like it that the companion article to this one says being green is seen as good by all parties in Britain.

If it weren't for the Iraq war, I think we'd be exactly there. We need to be. That means its up to us - the electorate.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What we affect

According to an AP article by Thomas Wagner, "global warming could cost the world's economies up to 20% of their gross domestic product if urgent action is not taken to stop floods, storms, and natural catastrophes."

Read that sentence again. Think about the words "urgent action is not taken to stop floods, storms, and natural catastrophes." Us. Humans. Even when I grew up, even ten years ago when my son was growing up, floods and droughts and hurricanes were things that happened to us. Depending on your viewpoint, they were accidents, acts of god, or acts of nature. They were bigger than us; grand mysteries.

They were not things we affected directly.

And now, we are not only the probable cause agent for many of these events, but we are also the only entities (spiritual choices aside - handy, that. Hope it works.) able to mitigate it. Yipes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

An Animal Post: Penguins on Thin Ice and Animals Migrating

I’d mentioned the Penguins on Thin Ice benefit I heard about last weekend. Here’s a link to it. It’s a fair distance away, on San Juan Island. But a nice destination and the Washington State Ferry lines are not too bad this time of year (I know - I've been on four of them in the last week, or more accurately, on the same exact boat, the Yakima, four times last week). It’s a climate change musical, and I’ve heard good things about it. It was created by Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz (links to various pages on the benefit flyer I linked to).

I came home, having survived my last trip on the Yakima for the week, and found today's Seattle Times sitting on my doorstep. The Seattle Times runs Earthweek every Friday on page three, a sort of diary of the planet that highlights weird and interesting things, and events of note. Among this week's entries is one on warming migrations. Note that Glen Hiemstra, my futurist colleague, predicted that we would see the first large-scale migrations resulting from global warming beginning this year. I think he meant human migrations. This article suggests that 80 percent of a group of 300 animal species "have abandoned habitats they occupied for thousands of years to move to areas 40 to 60 miles further north."

In addition to being syndicated in newspapers like the Times, Earthweek can be found at

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Work to do with Local Elected Officials

I tend to talk about how well cities are doing with global warming. I mention (and admire) Mayor Nickel's stance on it, and how our own Council in Kirkland is stepping up.

I'm at a conference full of City and County IT people, and I heard a story that reminded me there is still work to do. The story goes something like "We were at a Council meeting, talking about how poor the water quality is getting, and you know, our Council - only one of them even thinks global warming MIGHT be happening and MIGHT affect us, and so he suggested we start a program to plant trees..." Insert roll of eyes here...

So talk to the people you elect.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cool Tool: Sea Level Rise Map

An overlay on Google Earth where you can set how many feet of sea level rise you want to look at. I found it doing research to answer a question about my next book. "Will global warming flood the Yucatan peninsula?" Not if I control my future sea-level rise to about 4 meters. :)

If only the real world were as easy to control as a fictional one.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What if the bicycles are traffic?

What if we treated bicyling and bicycles as if they had as much right to the road as cars do? I know we're, sort of, legally supposed to do this. But I also ride my bike to work once in a very rare while, and I know many car drivers don't treat bicyclists equally. I'm sure some of them find bicyclists downright annoying. But if we really want to change our carbon expenditure, more bicycle commuting is one sure way to come down on the positive side. I've linked the title of this post to a great article in Pacific Northwest Magazine. A quote from the article (by Paula Bock) is " could see our city at a cultural crossroads — the conflict, really, over how to deal with congested streets, global warming, an obesity epidemic." If you are a bicyclist, or a driver, or like me, both, I recommend at least skimming the article.

I also recommend riding your bike more. I'd like to do that myself.

No posts this weekend because I was attending a songwriting workshop on Shaw Island, where some discussion of global warming occurred. No one doubted it, or failed to worry about it. Now, this was a naturally liberal group of all women. But more and more, I have the experience that almost everyone, everywhere I go, believes that global warming is happening. During the discussion, one woman mentioned sticks in the ice that show how much ice pack we're losing every year. Another commented on the large ecological footprint of cruise ships. I found out about a show called "Penguins on Ice." I think. I couldn't find information about it on the web, so maybe someone can fill me in? The show is supposed to be somehow about global warming.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More Carbon Offset

Last weekend, I bought a copy of the October 11-17 issue of Real Change, the Seattle homeless newspaper, meaning to read it since it had a green headline. Well, I was looking for a charger that had buried itself deep in my briefcase, and found the newspaper.

A front-page article by Amy Roe wrote about a single Seattle neighborhood that is working to cut carbon dioxide and offset what they can't, or don't, cut. They're using NetGreen, which looks similar to the company I wrote about yesterday, terrapass.

Even better, there's a button right on the front where you can buy carbon offsets for others as a Christmas present. Pretty cool!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Terrapass, and the actions of a kid

My partner and her daughter are flying to Kansas for Thanksgiving. Toni handed me a blue sticker with the words "terrapass flight" on it. She bought essentially 1,000 pounds of offset for thier flight expenditure in CO2 - as she bought her flight ticket. "Just a few dollars," she said, and "You might like to blog this." So I looked it up. Terrapass said that to offset driving my CR-V would cost me about $49 a year:

Your car emits 8,158 lbs of CO2 per year.
You should get a Standard TerraPass.
A Standard TerraPass offsets 12,000 lbs of CO2,
enough to balance one year of your driving.

How does it work? Terra pass funds go fund building renewable energy alternatives like wind farms. So it's a way to offset the amount of carbon expenditure we use for living. It doesn't let us off the hook for using less energy, but it's a way to give back.

A clever thing -- I can assuage some of my guilt for a trip by donating the carbon cost of that trip to a a company that aggregates those funds and plows them into some part of the solution. This is a great example of a business model that supports being green.

And the conversation? The ten-year-old in our house asked about the terra pass, which we explained. Then we went on to talk about how we were trying to find ways to help with global warming. So she got up and wandered around the house turning off unused lights. Let's hear it for the next generation! Of course, she still sleeps with a light on, but every step matters.

And why didn't we notice which lights we weren't using?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An endorsement

The City of Kirkland City Council supported initiative 937, which requires utilities to provide more 'alternative' energy. See my earlier post.
Formal endorsements are refreshingly wide-spread, from elected officials to non-profits to faith-based organizations and public utility districts. There's a full list on the web.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A conversation with staff, a really nice local site, and a disappointment

Two weeks ago, I posted that I dropped a "green computing" thought bomb on my staff (the computing folk at the City of Kirkland). Well, we did our brainstorming on it today and came up with a bunch of good ideas. Unplugging chargers (did you know they're called wall moles? I didn't), turning of monitors, more incentives not to print, information scrolling on the TV about energy conservation...

More on those as we implement them. Best of all, nearly everyone was engaged. A lot of the ideas will take some change in business practice. For example, we run all kinds of programs at night so we have people leave their computers on so we can sneak virus pattern file upgrades into them at 3:00 AM when no one is looking. Can we do that differently? It would save a lot of power. And I could turn my computer at home off - I only use the desktop once or twice a week, but I leave it on all the time. So many bad little habits.

I found a very cool local site today - They have at least a few new articles every day. If you are reading this, read that, too.

The disappointment? The King County budget came out today (King County is the home of Seattle and various other cities, like where I live and where I work). Here is a quote from the Seattle Times article: "The 2007 budget would cut back another initiative Sims had suggested in May: hiring three or four people for a "strike force" that would plan local responses to climate change. The global-warming office would now have a staff of one." The entire article, Sims' '07 budget proposal trims child-health project, by Keith Ervin, can be found online. It would have been nice to have our tax money paying for four people to work exclusively on climate change. I mean hey, we're paying for a bunch of people to fight a war that probably isn't good for climate.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Article Finds Me, Final Train Report, a Stray Thought

When my mom showed up, she brought a copy of MIT Technology Review from August, 2006.
Essentially, most of the issue is a special report titled "It's Not Too Late" and subtitled "The energy technologies that might forestall global warming already exist." Almost all of it is available online. Worth reading.
It also gives me another global warming hero to add - Jim Hansen, of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Mark Bowen wrote the article about Hansen, and the Hansen quote he begins his last paragraph with is fabulous: "No court of justice or court of international opinion will forgive us for what we are doing now, because now we know the problem and we're just pretending we don't understand it."

And we can do something different. An earlier quote from the article says ""Green" building codes, combined with energy-efficient lighting and appliances, would be sufficient to hold electrical needs -- and the number of power plants -- constant for many years."

The train ride back was great - although we got in a half hour late. We had a LOT more fun than driving, didn't have to feel guilty for traveling, walked more than usual on a trip (around our destination city, Portland). Amtrak security is not as personally intrusive as the airlines, and so it also seemed somehow very civil.
The downside? The train was too wobbly for easy reading or typing.

My stray thought for the day? We're talking about rebuilding a major road in Seattle - the Seattle Viaduct. It has be done, or scrapped, and it carries a LOT of traffic. So the discussion is build a tunnel (think big dig) and get the ugly road below our waterfront, giving us a chance to do nice things with the waterfront, or rebuild what we have. Both choices are expensive; the tunnel is more expensive. So I was thinking that maybe we wanted to do the tunnel anyway, since the Seattle waterfront is deplorably ugly for such a pretty city. But I can't help but wonder, if we get a sea-level rise from global warming, which seems likely, is the tunnel going to flood or the above ground viaduct going to be undercut by the waters of Puget Sound? Have we accounted for sea level rise in the engineering? It seems like we should.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Train Report, Small Conversation

Thankfully, the day was spent with a lot more attention to my mom's birthday than to global warming. The train ride down was great, and Amtrak honored the coupon I found, saving me $50. The staff were great. This made it a touch cheaper than driving even with the $25 overnight parking fee at the garage. Maybe next time I'll take the bus to the train depot....

Nice views of the sound and the Columbia River.

After dinner, my little brother asks me "What do you think is happening with global warming?"
This didn't come out of the blue - I mentioned this blog. I say "I think it's happening, and we should pay attention."
He asks "So you don't think it's just a hiccup?"
and I say "no."

and that's real opinion from him. Just those two questions, followed by silence.

Waiting to Act on Global Warming Will Cost More

According to a new study published by the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University (PDF), waiting to act on global warming will cost trillions by the end of century. In fact, according to their analysis, even leaving out such catostrophic possibilities as a shut down of the Gulf Stream, or accounting for species loss, the costs to individuals, companies and governments of mitigation and crisis reponse could be as much as 22 trillion dollars per year by 2100. This would represent as much as 8 percent of global GDP at that time.

Critics of action to avert global warming always conclude their argument with the idea that it would be too costly, that it would "wreck the economy." This study demonstrates that inaction now will more costly later. Wasn't there an old advertisement that said "Pay me now, or pay me later."

By the way, according to a report on this study, on the same day it was released, James Smith, the Chairman of Shell Oil, was quoted as saying, "For business, tackling climate change is both a necessity and a huge opportunity. We have to step up to the challenge."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Global Warming Heroes, NPR, Coffee, and a Train Ride

I just posted an article titled Heroes of the Future at I included AL Gore for his work on global warming, but I have one more that fits global warming particularly. That's Kim Stanley Robinson, who write a trilogy of books about global warming. Those include Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below, and the upcoming Sixty Days and Counting. Kim Stanley Robinson does detailed research and a lot of that research finds it's way into his books. They are a good read, if a little slower than some books because of the information feed, but I love his work. It's a great way to understand at least one plausible take on the facts that has some scientific backing. I'd love to hear your ideas about other global warming heroes - I know they're out there.

NPR had a show today that highlighted one very likely outcome of climate change: No snow in the Pacific Northwest ski areas. Of course, that also means less snow pack for regional water and a tougher life for the already threatened salmon species that use snow melt streams to spawn in.

I had coffee with Glen Hiemstra today in Redmond, and we kicked around ideas for his next book which included thoughts about integrating global warming among other ideas. He mentioned that an amazing amount of the audiences he talks to still discount global warming. That's pretty discouraging since there are so many signs of it all around us.

Last, in the same spirit as the laundry yesterday, my mom and I are going to Portland, OR, to celebrate her birthday. I decided to take the train instead of driving, assuming it would cost about the same and be easier on the environment since whether or not we were on it, the train would go, and this way we'd be off the road. Well, my experience is that the train came in more expensive in actual dollars (although I found a half-price coupon in the Chinook Book AFTER I bought the tickets - figures). Anyway, in direct cost, the driving trip would be about sixty dollars in gas in my CRV. If I use the IRS rate, which accounts for wear and tear on the car and all that, it would be 153.97. The train, in coach, would be $112, but with seats we can actually use (with power etc.) it's over $166.70. So for a little over $10, plus whatever transportation charges we incur on the other side, I get over 7 hours of NOT driving, when I can read, or write global warming blog entries or write fiction. Not a bad deal. I'll report on the actual experience when we get back. I haven't been on a train in a long time!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A clean energy initiative and a small choice

In Washington State, where I live, there is a ballot initiative (I937) to require mid-sized and larger utilities to get at least 15 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2020.

See the Yes on 1-937 page, a Seattle Times article, Does clean energy initiative promise more than it delivers dated today, and the No on I-937 page. Oops - there isn't one, at least not easily visible. The closest I could find was opposition from the Marysville/Tulalip Chamber of Commerce. It made me feel good that there's at least less organized opposition than organized support (a Google search reveals a lot of support).

I'm generally leery of initiatives, but I hope this one is supported. Sure, it probably has some problems, but it's a step in the right direction. Initiatives from the people to drive cleaner energy are a good thing in this day of lackluster federal attention to the same subject.

If any of you out there know of similar initiatives in your states, I'd be interested in hearing about them.

On the small choices front, I dropped our clothes off at a green cleaners today. Tough choice, actually, since I've been using the same dry cleaner for years and we have a great business relationship. They know me by name and get our clean clothes out and ready when my car pulls up. I'm just hoping these new folks do a good job. But I figure I need to change even more things I like to really get better at this. Today, I noticed out washer has an energy sticker on it that suggests it uses way closer to the "most" possible energy than the least. Budget says wait on that after the 25K worth of energy efficient windows we just ordered. But I'll start researching soon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Seattle Metropolitan

Picked up a copy of Seattle Metropolitan magazine at Whole Foods on Sunday, after I noticed it was their "green issue" full of ideas about how to save energy etc. I also found articles on people selling green products and eco-friendly homes. Nice issue - none of the ideas were brand-new, but all well-presented and sensible. Unfortunately, they don't seem to make their content readily available on-line. But if you're in the Seattle area, it's worth grabbing a copy.

There is already a lot of success and money flow occurring as awareness of climate change intensifies (and for lots of other reasons). So last night, an odd thought crossed my mind. How can I use this to make a win-win - what product or service would be interesting to people?

As a speaker, I'm willing to do talks on the topic, and should put together some advertising for that. But it feels like other possibilities are right out there. I can almost taste them.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Air Conditioning in Alaska

The Seattle Times ran an article today: Arctic town isn't so hot on warming, by Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune. The Candian Inuit now need air conditioners in public buildings and have to shop for groceries. The ending quote in the article, from Kalluk, the village elder, is "I think there is global warming because snow that has never melted before is starting to melt now."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

No news, so I went to find some.....

Global warming only showed up in my life in a comic, but interesting, discussion at work about the new scooters the City bought to provide eco-friendly short-distance (and slow) transportation between buildings (but good for us, or more accurately, our Public Works department), and a picture of a bicycle called a "conference bicycle" that looks fabulously fun, but not very good for getting anywhere. So I decided to look for other people blogging.

Real Climate - Climate Science from Climate Scientists Looks like a good spot to drop by for news from people who are actually studying climate change and have a few real credentials.

Climate Ark Nice mix of news, commentary, and thoughts. Feels a little like a bigger version of what I'm trying to do here.

Mark Lynas's Blog Another personal blog designed to spur conversation on global warming / climate change

And, vaguely unrelated except to the conversation at work, but worth a look:

The Conference Bike - I want to try it!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's now a risk management problem

I came across an article from an unusual source today. Since I'm in technology, I spend a little time on C|Net every day perusing the news. There's a global warming article there, of all places, that came up while I was looking for news about a vendor merger that might affect my workplace (let's hear it for the random results from search terms). The article is entitled Climate demands rapid energy conversion, experts say, by Martin LaMonica, a C|Net staff writer. So it didn't even creep in from AP or anything - it was written for the geeks like me who frequent C|Net.

The article describes a session held during a the Emerging Technologies Conference held at MIT, and the most striking conversation reported sums up to something like "stop wondering whether or not this is real. Treat it as real and go to the next step, which is to understand the high risk and act." My emergency management duties at work refer to this as mitigation, the most effective part of emergency management. That's the part that says if you don't build your house in a flood plain, you don't have to prepare for or respond to floods.

A lot of people might be living in new flood plains pretty soon.

On the personal side, I priced switching from my CR-V to a Prius, and in light of the cost of the energy efficient windows we're getting soon, I'm going to need another strategy for the next year or so. Besides, the Prius and a few smaller cars excepted, my car gets gas mileage roughly equivalent to a lot of the hybrids, which seem to be missing the mark on gas mileage as a key driver. Maybe walking or riding my bike to work a little more, although with winter coming maybe the bus will do some days. At least it's not far, even for those many days I have to drive to make off-site meetings and stuff.

I should have started getting serious about this a lot sooner. The more I read, the more convinced I am the speakers at the MIT conference are right - it's time to act.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some action on my part

Generally, I've been recording the ways global warming bubbles up in daily life. When you're sorting for something, you think about it a little more. So I dropped a thought-bomb on staff today. I run the Information Technology department for a City that has signed up for the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement.
Other departments have been shifting fleets, as appropriate, to hybrids and buying electric scooters. But the most we'd done so far was assure the purchasing department that we're following energy star standards. And we're a big part of the problem - computers don't recycle very well, and we use a lot of power in our server room, etc. We have one vehicle in our fleet - an old van with the seats pulled out so we can carry around computers.
So I asked staff to think about what we could do. We didn't actually talk about anything -- just promised that we would. A thought bomb needs a little time to prime. A few staff came up afterwards and said they're really excited about this idea. I thought cool - some positive action!
Watch this space for the results of the discussion in a few weeks.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The topic pops up in weird ways every day

Today, I was part of a panel doing job interviews. One of the candidates made a point of caring about global warming and ecological friendliness, clearly hoping that would help him get hired, and clearly hoping for a job where that mattered, and he could do good. I liked him more for it, although whether or not he gets hired will be related to other issues.

The news article of the day is on CNN...although there were plenty available to pick from in other venues.

The title is Alaskan Storm Cracks Iceberg in Antartica, Study says....

Think about that for just a moment. Talk about the chaos of butterfly wings in one place, or for that matter about how small and precious the world is. Alaska is not exactly close to Antartica. The article suggests global storminess (fed by global warming) may cause more similar events. The article quotes Douglas MacAyeal of the University of Chicago as saying "The iceberg shattered like a gracile wine glass being sung to by a heavy soprano."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Beach and the Bering Sea

Two pieces for today...but I think I'll start with the beach. We spent the weekend in Ocean Shores enjoying great fall sunshine and playing on the sand with the dogs. Often, on vacations, we see cute getaway cabins for sale and fantasize about buying one. We passed homes with fabulous castle-like turrets looking out across grassy dunes to the sea, silly-looking half-an-A-frame houses with the sides made of roofing material, and simple weathered-wood cabins that fit exactly with the surrounding ecosystem. But this time, when the fantasy subject of "Which one would you like?" came up, the answer was, "None of them. They'll probably all be underwater." The three of us on this trip are all smart and college educated; two CIO's and a Human Resources person for I study global warming, at least at an educated lay-person level. We decided that we didn't understand whether the tipping point for sea-level rise from global warming would be in a year or six years or even later, but we did decide the risk made investing in beachfront property a bad idea.

After we shook the sand out of our shoes at home, I opened the Sunday Seattle Times to find the headline "Ecological Upheaval on the Edge of the Ice," by Sandi Doughton. The article explores dramatic shifts in species based on the receding ice in the Bering Sea. Nicely done. The Seattle Times has done a lot of thorough reporting on various topics, and this is part one of a series...
The article does a nice job of noting the significant change, and that it has cost some species while benefiting others. Most importantly, it points out the fragility of the area.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What I Didn't See

There was an article about new car models coming out in this morning's Seattle times. I looked closely at it.

I've been feeling guilty about my car. It's a Honda CR-V, so it gets 20-something plus mileage, and it's only three years old and paid off. I thought about hybrids when I bought it, but the only one I liked was the Prius, which had a long wait, and we had a family-pass-down emergency where my son needed my car (or at least a car), and so the Prius wasn't going to work.

The next car I buy will be hybrid or other alternative fuel.

My usual pattern would be buy a car, pay it off quick, and keep it until it starts dropping parts on the road or someone needs it. That should be at least six more years with the CR-V (which is a great car), but I already cringe at driving a regular car. I mean, how can I write about global warming and drive a gasoline car?

This fall, we're re-doing old windows. That cost (high) will make changing cars impossible for a little while, and should reduce our energy use. That's something. But the new windows won't stop me from feeling guilty - their cost will just restrict my choices.

What I didn't see in the Seattle Times article was a single alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric car.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Great News!

Glen Hiemstra, who has been my futurist mentor at, has offered to post here as well from time to time. Like me, he is concerned about climate change, and while will sometimes feature articles about global warming / climate change (the topic may shape much of our future), this is a more casual and intense place to talk about it. So watch for Glen's periodic posts here - he's a great writer, speaker, and thinker.

Seattle Area: Leadership

Seattle Times article this morning: "Mayor urges Seattleites to Help Slow Climate Change" by Arlene Bryant.

Yesterday's entry was about Ron Sims on NPR, and today's is essentially an article about Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels climate change mitigation plans. Mayor Nickels helped drive the US movement for large cities to embrace Kyoto in spite of federal dilly-dallying. That pretty much makes him a global warming hero, in my book.

Mayor Nickels and Ron Sims are both strong personalities. It's beginning to sound they see a lot of political capital in a gently co-operative competition on climate change. I hope so. The importance of local action is the subject of my most recent article on global warming.

Tips readily available on the City of Seattle web page, Climate Action Plan section, by the way.

So that's local. Seattle. I can see it from here. Some times I actually visit. I work for a smaller city, which is even more local in some ways. Our Council has signed up to do this same thing, and I know we are, for example, investing more in alternative fuel cars. It might be fun to gather up all that data and get it on the web page. And from my workplace, which is truly involved (but maybe every other workplace is, too, in some way), we come to home. I notice my blackberry charger is still plugged in. The least I can do is unplug that right now. This was one of the tips on the credits from Al Gore's movie.

There, now I feel better. Every little bit helps.

Sometimes it seems hard not to feel a little guilty just for being human.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Transportation and Global Warming

I heard a discussion on NPR with Ron Sims, the elected head of King County (which includes Seattle, Washington). He was being questioned about transportation options, particularly plane to re-do some major roads like the bridges between Seattle and the Bellevue and the Alaskan Way viaduct. In all cases, he pushed hard for building public and alternative transport - new lanes for high occupancy transport, particularly buses, and bike lanes. The justification that he used was universally global warming. He meant it - a local politician with a big budget demanding that we do the right thing on transportation.
The talk was cut off to allow for a traffic report, which was fairly dismal.
I was listening on my way to a meeting, where everybody drove separately (we all came from very different places), and the traffic was a major source of conversation.
This is going to be a tough one. Ron Sims is insisting that little new money go into roads for single occupancy vehicles, and he's right. We're going to have to figure out how to be personally creative in a region that has little truly excellent public transportation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Worry about a beautiful day

It was sunny and warm today. I sat out on the grass at Bellevue City Hall, enjoying lunch with three co-workers from Kirkland (we were all at an emergency management conference there). Walking back into the building, one of the women said she loves the pretty day, and the unusual clear weather for Washington State. Then a touch of unease crept into her voice as she said something like "I know it's probably global warming, and I don't want that to happen. I worry about it so much."

It felt like she was slightly afraid of the beautiful sunny day.

Monday, September 25, 2006

CNN articles, and a conversation over lunch

Today, what catches my eye is a CNN article that says the Earth may be the warmest its been a million years. The article suggests the area of the ocean that is home to the El Nino's is the hottest, which may presage more extreme El Nino's.
I also had a pleasant lunch conversation over sushi today with a friend, and mentioned this effort. He immediately brought up the idea of the tipping point, and we discussed the possibility that particular events could cause large changes. Some examples are the melting of the permafrost in Alaska or the Greenland ice sheet.
There is a related article that I missed before on CNN that suggests we may be approaching the weather patterns of the dinosaur age, an event likely to contribute to mass extinction. A startling phrase in that article reminds us that these weather patterns disappeared before most life here now evolved.
To me, the most striking observation of the day was from my friend, who said "We don't have the kind of global consensus we had over CFC's." That's an interesting thought. The ozone hole has become smaller since we banned CFC's. We need some consensus.
My reply suggested that there may be more consensus than we think - most of the people I know believe that global warming is happening and would be happy to sacrifice at least some to help stop or mitigate it. The challenge may be figuring out what, exactly, to do.
What do you think?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bark Beetles, encouraged by warmer weather, cause heavy fire damage in Washington

A Seattle times front page article, Forest was Easy Prey for Raging Tripod Fire, by Hal Bernton, suggests that bark beetle damage to forests, encouraged by warmer winters, contibuted heavily to the worst fire year in Washinton State for 22 years.
I have some experience here - on an overnight high-country horse ride earlier this year, the outfitter and guide showed us the rising elevation of spruce bark beetle infestation and worried out loud about fires.

The Idea Came From a Character....

The idea came from one of my characters. Which means from the little lizard brain that isn't always rational but drives creativity.

Why not record what I hear, read, and see about global warming / climate change all in one place?

Global warming is not a new thing for me to think about. I've written two articles for on the issue:

Global Warming: Local Solutions

and, in 2002,

Global Warming

My futurist mentor, Glen Hiemstra, wrote about it as one topic in his new book, Turning the Future into Revenue. He actually emphasizes it quite a bit, but after the book was done, he told me he wished he'd said more. Watch for upcoming articles from either of us.

I'm sensitized to news about global warming / climate change and want to share the news I hear - so posts here will be simple links to news, anecdotes of stories, and occasional stray thoughts.

Feel free to add your own stories in the comments.