Monday, January 14, 2008

Global Warming Opinions

I spent the weekend at Rustycon, which is a small local science fiction convention in the Seattle area. I moderated two panels on global warming. Unlike the larger conventions, the panelists were generally bright and well known fans, but not experts on climate change. One of the panels was entitled something like "Climate change, science or religion" and turned out to largely be a rant about people who believe the fact that climate change is caused by humans tending to be closed to any other ideas. I generally agree with that, in the sense that I'm quite open to hearing all sides of the debate. But I have to say that for me, it's a risk/reward kind of thing, and it seems pretty likely that we are at least a large part of the problem. Not only that, but most of the behavior changes needed to reduce our carbon output are a good idea anyway. Almost all the easy first wins are in conservation - whether it's using mass transit, simply turning off the lights, or installing building systems smart enough to turn the lights off for you, and which don't take more energy in their turn than leaving all the lights on), and shifting to renewables, particularly water, sun, and the like. Wouldn't it be nice to get all our energy from home?

Anyway, both panels had a healthy dose of skepticism. Maybe a little too healthy - I left slightly disturbed. Given that the worst downside risk of being wrong is major damage to the only atmosphere we have, and that's there is lots of supporting evidence for the theory that we can mitigate this, why don't we?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Book Recommendation: Storm Chaser

I don't often get sent books to review - I do recommend books that I like on my own writing site, and Glen Hiemstra and I both occasionally recommend books on Glen's site (and I will cross-post this there in the future with comments on a few other books, mostly obtained in the usual way, by paying money in a bookstore). If I don't like a book, it doesn't matter who sends it; I just stay quiet. There are enough critical reviewers. Anyway, publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. sent me two books that deal very directly with global warming, and I liked them. I waited patiently for the holidays to end before talking about them (who wants a Christmas gift about the scariest things happening in the world?).

Anyway, I'm digressing. Today, I want to recommend a stunning narrated photography book called Storm Chaser, A Photographer's Journey, by Jim Reed.

Storm Chaser relates well to my last few posts, where I discussed weird weather. The book is a series of beautifully presented professional photographs of storms, and might be worth buying just for the photos. But it's real strength is in the straightforward narrative about global warming and climate change. Storm Chaser is organized by season, and each season includes a discussion of storm chasing and of the beauty and mystery of that season. This discussion - and the accompanying photos - show how climate change is now a central thread for people fascinated by powerful weather. It is the elephant in the sky that can't be ignored.

Amazingly, I still run into skeptics when I talk about global warming. Most of the skeptics have desk jobs. People who are close to the land - farmers and cowboys and hikers and outfitters -are not skeptical. A storm chaser is close to land and sea and sky, to wind and rain and flood and drought, to tornado and squall and rainbow. So who better to understand and document our changing atmosphere than a storm chaser?

Anyway, Jim Reed did it well. Consider Storm Chaser recommended reading.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Weird Weather

Well, two days ago, I predicted the weird weather would continue this year. Here, it's cold and wintry, and kind of normal. But they've had tornadoes in the Midwest this morning. This is not a normal winter event, and it ties in really well with the book recommendation I'm hoping to find time to write up tonight.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Year End/Beginning - Personal Review and Goals

sWell, in 2007,

I started taking the bus at least a few days a week
We changed out the washer and dryer for energy star appliances
We changed out half of the windows for more efficient ones
When we replaced some carpet, we used green carpet
We tried out green paint in the laundry room
I switched to much less use of bottled water (using sigg bottles and a britta filter instead)
We changed the holiday lights to all LED's
We worked on habits, like unplugging chargers when not in use. Some habits changed more than others.
Not everything was positive - we installed automatic sprinkler systems, and watered more. The garden loved it, but I'd bet our water use was up instead of down (even with rain sensors).

So for 2008,

I think conservation habits like turning off lights will be important
I want to pare down my consumption
We'll change out the frig and the heating system (both are struggling anyway, so it's not purely altruistic like the washer and dryer)
If I can stick to my bus commutes that will be good enough
I want to actually compare energy use in 2006 with 2007, and in 2007 with 2008

We already had the fluorescent light bulbs and bought Terra Passes with air flight.

The hard ones on that list will be keeping lights off (I tried, but didn't get a lot better in 2007) and reducing consumption. I'm like a lot of other Americans -- retail therapy seems to sorta work, or at least get practiced. So I want to buy less. Which would also be good for my finances. But consumption is like an addiction.... I'll report back from time to time.

Anyone out there have other interesting stuff they did or plan to do?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Predictions for 2008

Sorry for the long hiatus. I was busy finishing a book, which always takes a lot out of me, and we had the lovely chaos of the holidays (yes, we put up lights, but only LED lights, even on the tree). But I've got a pile of a subjects and a few book recommendations coming your way soon. I wanted to start out with my 2008 predictions around climate change. First - an overall observation - we're holding our breath for the elections to be over. At least in America, and maybe worldwide. That's the overall statement about the year - a year of holding our breath, of halting progress, of growing hope and idealism....

- There will be more wild weather. That includes extreme cold as well as extreme heat. Climate change is not a gentle process, and we’ll be reminded of that yet again.
- Some key indicators, like sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, will continue to change faster than predicted.
- Climate Change will be an issue in the American presidential election, but not one of the top three even though it should be.
- Signs of fatigue will set in. The green movement has so far resulted in some real and lasting change, but this year won’t see as great a rate of change as last year. Partly that’s because many of us have made the easy changes and the next round is tougher. Partly it’s because the economy is stressed and the new Prius in the driveway is still seen as a luxury.
- Gas prices will stay high, maybe dipping in the fall pre-election, but not far, or for long.
- Alternative energy will keep doing well. More venture capital will keep flowing, and real money will be both made and lost.

What are your predictions? Add them as comments....