Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I had to quote this

From an article by Robert Lee Holtz, for the Los Angeles Times and also printed in today's Seattle Times:
"Based on two years of study, the scientists called for dramatic actions ranging from carbon taxes and a ban on conventional coal-fired plants to an end to all beachfront construction worldwide."

It's the last few words that king of emphasize yesterday's post.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Vacations and Sea Level Rise

First, sorry for the long time between posts. I was vacationing...and as a side note, some of that time was in southeastern Arizona. In one of the hotels we stayed in (The Skywatcher's Inn, or maybe The Astronomer's Inn, not sure which of the two is current, but it's a fabulous funky place with real astronomy gear and rent-an-astronomers to show you how to use it), there was only one trash can, and a sign above that said something like "Throw everything here. The town of Benson doesn't have a recycling program." A good reminder that we one the progressive coastlines in our blue states forget that some of rural America might as well be in the fifties. Sigh. But it was a nice vacation, and I didn't have to think about sea level rise much in the middle of the high desert. If it ever gets that high, we're pretty much doomed to building arks and praying anyway. I wonder if the story of Noah is from a previous global warming period?

Anyway, there was an AP article out yesterday that talked about England abandoning some coastline in Happisburgh. The article says "the government has decided that with the expected rise in sea levels that experts attribute to global warming, some vulnerable coastal areas are no longer worth defending." It's worth reading. There will be American coastlines where the same logic holds true.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I've noticed a lot of "Humans didn't really cause this" talk lately

A lot of the lists that I participate in are populated by pretty smart futuristic people. They are natural skeptics. One bit that I read lately suggests that global warming is more related to the activity of the sun than than to humans. Apparently, this is based on a scientific study that was hard to get published because of it is not politically correct.

That led me to two reactions.

First, no valid research should be suppressed because it's not "politically correct." That's what happened to Galileo. Proof that while our tools and problems and even our hopes change, basic human nature is a tougher nut to crack. So if valid research is being suppressed for lack of political correctness I feel sad about that (yes, I know the Bush Administration did the same thing - but my reaction there is more like anger and did we as a people elect someone who suppresses research that doesn't support a particular view, and a largely religious one at that?).

All right, that rant aside, the second reaction is more like "If true, so what?" We're still learning about the chaotic thing we call climate and weather , and there is probably no single cause or capital "T" truth about the changes (and plenty of evidence that there are changes). There are so many reasons that we should live lighter on the planet, including looking for clean energy, that I can't even begin to list them. We need to get past arguments about cause and work on pretty much everything we know is better - and there's a lot of that. Conservation. Wind and solar energy. Recycling. Health. So on to the work....

Also, I'm working with a few people from my department to host a "tips for saving energy" lunch event. We're open to ideas from out there.....

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Something we can do something about

We need to let our lawmakers know that we care passionately about global warming. Wherever we are. According to the Seattle Times, those of us living in Washington State are behind both Oregon and California. This would be a nice place for us to get into friendly competition. We need to let our legislators at all levels know we want actual, meaningful, painful action on climate change. We may not have the lobby money, but we have the ability to vote people out of office.

I also noticed a political cartoon somewhere (sorry I can't recall where) poking fun at the oil companies, basically saying that "Now that we have figured out how to make money from global warming, we're at the table." Well, duh. Whether we like it or not, this is a largely capitalist society. And while we all need to make changes, urge changes, lobby for changes, accept changes, it's the largest of our global corporations that are in the best fiscal position to make changes. After all, the Federal government didn't make what Exxon did last year.

Lets do three things:

  • Put in place the kind of regulation that punishes corporations for the "business as usual" that we don't want. And it's time to be somewhat draconian about it.
  • Put into place some real incentives for businesses and consumers. We shouldn't be as specific there: we want to reward creativity. The government (us and our taxes) can help fund research directly, and what we should incentivize for both consumers and corporations is actual action, before we run completely out of time.
  • Let the price of oil go up. The higher it goes, the more behavior will change. Yes, it will be hard on some people. But it will be harder to deal with runaway climate change.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Daylight savings time changes may be good for the planet

It hasn't been remarked on much in the media, but this year there are daylight savings time changes going into place in both the US and Britain. For us in the US, we'll be switching to DST earlier, and staying on it later. In fact, it's causing quite a bit of work for those of us in information technology: it's a bit like a mini Y2K as far as needing to check all of our systems so our calendars and timestamps and the like works. Although the consequences are not as bad as failing at Y2K might have been.
I know I'll like having more light in the evenings earlier. Living in the Pacific Northwest in the US, it's just now becoming light when we get off work. And that's the idea - it will be light longer sooner, and we may use less electricity to light up dark evenings. That seems to be the logic in the UK as well, where if I read a recent article right, they're going to switch back an hour all year.
No one knows how much it will save yet, and projections vary, but they are all positive.
I know the news is busy talking about the international report on global warming that is due (where the amount of it they're attributing to us humans is being increased, but by less than recommended due to China), but this is better than a report. It's action. And action is what we need.