Showing posts with label Climate change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Climate change. Show all posts

September 20, 2008

Old-Growth Forests Do Keep Storing Carbon

I have heard it preached as gospel that old-growth forests do not accumulate carbon as rapidly as new forests (or at all).

A new article in Nature, however, says that they do.

From the abstract:

Thus, our findings suggest that 15 per cent of the global forest area, which is currently not considered when offsetting increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, provides at least 10 per cent of the global net ecosystem productivity.

Via Climate Feedback, which also links to this news story.

July 07, 2008


Here is a screen grab from the BBC's Science/Nature news web site two days ago.

Is it any wonder that people are confused about what to believe on the climate-change issue?

"Believe" becomes the operative word. Faced with seemingly contradictory information, people tend to adopt one of two quasi-religious belief systems.

1. Human-caused climate change is an obvious fact, obvious just as it is obvious that the universe must have a Creator. "90 percent of scientists agree." ("All great religions agree.") And George W. Bush is the Devil.

2. Human-caused climate-change is just a political plot to force us to surrender our liberties to socialists and nanny-state big-government schemes. Ignore it. Keep driving your V8-powered 3/4-ton pickup truck with the duallies, even when you're not hauling anything.

June 05, 2008

Yes, May Was Chilly

Did May seem chilly to you? Apparently that was common.

Too dry here in southern Colorado though, although the good snow pack makes the rivers high.(Via Glen Reynolds.)

February 27, 2008

Blog Stew with Perennials

• The Rocky calls the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel problem overblown.

Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott said he is furious at [state Senator Tom] Wiens and the commissioners, saying they "grossly mismanaged" the matter and accused them of "staging" the emergency.The fallout, he said, includes skiers canceling trips, collapsed real estate deals, and another black eye for a town still reeling from its inclusion as part of a Superfund cleanup site in the 1980s.

The trapped water is still in the tunnel, but the squabble seems to be over the urgency of removing it.

I have had the feeling before that Lake County politics can become fairly overheated. How many recall elections have there been in the last decade or so? (Hat tip: Colorado Confidential.)

• Where is the tamarisk problem? Right here in the Arkansas Valley.

• This announcement about global cooling has been getting lots of attention, especially from people who see it as a club to beat up on Democrats and environmentalists (not necessarily the same thing).

At Natural Patriot, Emmett Duffy correlates climate change with wars, etc.

February 20, 2008

Environmentalism and the Politics of Fear

In his comment here, Mike at Sometimes Far Afield worries that if the environmental apocalypse does not arrive on schedule, legitimate environmental concerns may be devalued.

Political blogger Andrew Sullivan also wonders if environmental politics are producing a "totalizing ideology".

All of them more or less resort to arguing that Gourevitch may or may not be right, but it doesn't matter because (cue thunderclap) global warming is coming to get us! As Gourevitch suggests, environmentalism, when it relies on strong appeals to fear, becomes a form of antipolitics, one intended to supersede both the collective and individual choices that are part of modern politics. In this conception, environmental fear politics become a threat to both democratic populists and libertarian individualists. Gourevitch, I think, was extremely smart to frame the issue as a corollary to the war on terror.

Yeah, let's take away all their big houses/cars/babies/electricity/plastic bags/greasy food/whatever. Then humanity will live in harmony!

I do worry that more people will want to play the coercion card ("for the children," of course) instead of the education - and - economic - incentives card as a way to avoid environmental destruction.

The scientific study of climate change is needed and necessary. But I hate to see it become twisted into ideology with Our Group (good) and Their Group (evil).

February 18, 2008

Where are the Sunspots?

Spend much time looking at the surface of our Sun? I don't, but those who do report a lower-than-average number of sunspots.

Such a low number was associated with the "Dalton Minimum" (which has its own blog), a period of low solar activity and lower temperatures from about 1790-1830.

The big "minimum" was the Maunder Minimum, also known to historians as the Little Ice Age, roughly 1645-1715.

Since we hear more about "global warming" (a misnomer, since projected warming is not uniform), people talking about sunspots feel like an embattled minority.

I see three possible takes on this situation:

1. We are entering a solar-caused cool period, but human-caused climate change will override it.

2. There is no cool period coming. Please continue cutting carbon emissions.

3. There is a solar-caused cooling period that will override human-caused changes.

Still, inveterate moderate that I am, I keep thinking that cutting pollution and using renewable energy are Good Things regardless of what the Sun does.

January 14, 2008

Pikas 'Blinking Out'?

Some scientists want to use the Endangered Species Act to force action on climate change, reports the Denver Post

Their fulcrum species is the pika, a high-altitude version of the rabbit, a/k/a coney or "little haymaker." (It's not a rodent.)

Pushed by warmer weather to ever-higher elevations, the tiny pika is losing real estate at an alarming rate, according to scientists, and is disappearing rapidly from much of its historic territory in the West.

"They've been driven upslope a half mile since the end of the last ice age," said Donald Grayson, an archaeologist and paleontologist with the University of Washington who has documented the presence of pika over the past 40,000 years. . . .

The [Center for Biological Diversity] is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the pika — along with the polar bear and the ribbon seal — as imperiled by global warming, marking a new legal approach to the Endangered Species Act.

One of my father's and my first backpacking destinations was Shelf Lake above Georgetown, Colo., where while he fished I pursued pikas with a camera.

I was maybe 13 or 14, and the camera was an old Kodak, complete with leather bellows. In fact, it had been his graduation present when he finished forestry school at Fort Collins.

Given the lens available, pikas were good quarry because I could sneak up on them in the boulder fields above the lake.

I haven't given them much thought lately -- and the Southern Rockies populations may not be as threatened -- but maybe next summer I should go looking for them in the Sangres -- with a better camera.

September 19, 2007

Climate Change and the Spread of Astroturf

Climate change, whatever its causes, is increasing the spread of astroturf.*

For example, I get an email offering an opportunity to swap links with a blog on climate change and governmental responses thereto. The blog looked so slick that it made me suspicious.

What a surprise. The chief blogger, Kevin Grandia, is a former "provincial government event coordinator" and now on the staff of a big Vancouver, BC, public-relations firm, James Hoggan & Associates.

He has involved himself in public disputes over climate science. Some of his statements seem to be mainly about bashing Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. Here in the US, of course, we know that climate change is the personal fault of George W. Bush. In Canada, however, it's all Harper's fault.

We are supposed to believe that the firm's "blog initiative" is done from the goodness of its corporate heart, but, having worked in that field, I really doubt it. Some client has to be paying the bills -- or this is all connected with B.C. electoral politics -- or both. Apparently the firm does work for the David Suzuki Foundation, so there is one clue.

What cracks me up is their claim to be "Clearing the P.R. pollution that clouds climate science" when, I suspect, they are generating their fair share of it. It's a case of do as we say, not as we do, or "deception is OK, because we're the good guys."

It all feels like astroturf to me.

As Colorado Central publisher Ed Quillen wrote, Some people act as though it's a religious issue and ask "Do you believe in Global Warming?" with the same fervor as others ask "Do you believe in God?" or "Do you believe in UFOs? . . . .

Whether we're actually in the midst of Global Warming or Global Cooling or Global Stasis, we know what we ought to do. We should be embracing healthier actions and habits so that we can enjoy living in a healthier society, with a healthier economy and healthier lives.

The global warming activists urge us to walk more and drive less, to drive slower on highways, to use energy efficient light bulbs, and unplug appliances when they're not being used. They want us to turn off lights when we leave a room, and use passive solar techniques and curtains and caulk to save on home heating, and keep our cars well-tuned and our tires properly inflated. In essence, they want us to live a little more frugally.

And you certainly don't have to "believe" in global warming to see the advantages in wasting less and spending less; or in developing cleaner technologies and establishing energy sources which don't require foreign oil; or in old saws like "Waste not, want not."

But that sort of frugality would not heat up political campaigns and put money into the bank accounts of slick PR firms.

*Astroturf is artificial grass, so it has developed a secondary meaning of "bogus grassroots political organization."

August 27, 2007

Another Serving

¶ From the Fishing Jones blog: A collection of six-word fishing stories.

¶ I have seen this mentioned before, but it has not reached the public consciousness -- some of that "early runoff" problem here in Colorado might better be blamed on dust than global warming. And with the dust, the human role is obvious.

¶ Pluvialis continues the explore new links between falconry and academic privilege. If we updated the old rules at my university, they would be saying that adjuncts could fly only kestrels, etc. Might I rate a goshawk?

¶ Not unrelated to the dust issue: the Forest Service might be taking a harder line on ATV use.

July 18, 2007

Where Did You Locate the Thermometer?

The Surface Stations project seeks photos of climate-monitoring stations around the country, pointing out that many are located, for example, next to air-conditioning units or exhaust fans. Others are located in more open areas. The viewer (in some cases) may contrast the readings obtained in each location.

Related: The author of Eco-Scam says he is no longer a skeptic.

UPDATE: It looks as though this paper from a meteorological journal addresses the siting of monitoring stations.

May 07, 2007

New Blog on Climate Change

Via Instapundit, I learned of a new blog tracking climate-change issues and arguments: Climate Feedback.

It is one of a group of blogs associated with the journal Nature.

The bloggers are trying to sort out some of the human-caused versus natural-cause arguments, as they do here, critiquing the New York Times for getting it wrong on plant-hardiness zones and what they mean.

Even the venerable New York Times is prone to completely botching a discussion of the science of climate change. In a front page article today, the NYT reports on how the National Arbor Day Foundation has updated plant hardiness maps to reflect recent changes in climate. (A plant hardiness map presents the lowest annual temperature as a guideline to what plants will thrive in what climate zones.) The NYT misrepresents understandings of variability and trend and in the process confuse more than clarify.

This blog will now be in the sidebar blogroll.

April 18, 2007

Swallows, Aristotle, the Clothesline, and Piñon Canyon

Barn swallows
¶ I said in nature-writing class yesterday that they would return around the 22nd, but today, April 18th, the barn swallows were zipping around the CSU-Library building, their favorite nesting site.

Maybe some of the students who pass through its doors, oppressed by oncoming deadlines, will look up and notice them. Followers of Aristotle may note that there was more than one.

¶ Fighting global warming, one piece of rope at a time. Further comments at Tim Blair's blog where he draws a line.

¶ More on hummingbirds: after the last snow melted and the air temperature went above 60 F., a pair of broad-tailed hummers were at our feeder on the 15th No way of knowing if that was the same male that M. heard on the 5th.

¶ The Colorado legislature is now on the record in opposition to the Army's desired expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS)--if it involves using eminent domain to get the land.

I mentioned some of the ironic aspects before.

Another might be that PCMS' public access--plus the Army's giving the Forest Service management of the "Picketwire Canyonlands" and the famous dinosaur trackway--have helped drive tourism in SE Colorado, where there never was much before.

So now when the Army wants to expand, there are more Coloradans who know the area and its natural attractions and who thus are more likely to opppose the expansion.

By contrast, back in the late 1970s when PCMS was envisioned, most people on the Front Range thought -- wrongly -- that "it's all flat out there." Now at least some know different.

January 31, 2007

A stronger climate-change consensus?

USA Today featured today an article on a growing--but not completely solid--consensus that human doings have more to do with current climate change than changes in solar radiation and other fluctuations outside of our control.

Climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder has suggested that development and deforestation, rather than the burning of fossil fuels, are the main drivers behind global warming. He says on his climate-science website that the IPCC should recognize the importance of these other factors.

In contrast, Australian scientist Tim Flannery has complained in his 2005 book
The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth that IPCC estimates downplay the impact of warming.

On a related note, I am glad to see that the Democrats in Congress have started hearings on political interference with government scientists working on climate issues. It is bad enough that the issue becomes politicized. ("Global warming is a hoax!" "Global warming is the personal fault of George W. Bush!")

Pielke's group has a climate-change blog, which I am adding to the blogroll for occasional study.

December 12, 2006

The irony of climate change forecasting

According to The Telegraph, a generally conservative British newspaper,

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent.

After my earlier post on the climate change issue, I was "corrected" by a couple of people near and dear to me for allegedly going over to the other side. It was suggested that I would next be hanging a photo of George "The Decider" Bush on the wall or something.

Not so fast. Here is how the issue breaks down in my mind right now:

1. Some sort of climate change is happening.

2. But is it all due to human activity, or is some due to changes in solar radiation or other factors? That, to my mind, is where the debate seems to be.

3. Even if the answer to #2 were "not all," the push towards greater conservation, less reliance on fossil fuels, etc., is generally a Good Thing, unless . . .

4. It produces suppression of dissent or some kind of horribly totalitarian society.

Never forget the Law of Unintended Consequences. For instance, non-polluting, efficient cars would probably mean more urban sprawl, as it becomes cheaper and cleaner to drive more.

Dispersed wind farms in rural areas--like those in southeastern Colorado--mean more power lines across the landscape to carry electricity to the users, who are in cities.

And I am sure there will be more.

October 27, 2006

Trying for a personal response to climate change

As the proprietor of a blog called "Nature Blog," I keep thinking that I ought to say something about climate change.

The problem is that I do not know what to say.

Something is happening, I am sure. But I am disgusted by politicization of the public discourse.

For instance, the National Academy of Sciences offers a free summary of their report, "Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the last 2,000 Years."

The report states, "It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies."

(Read the news release here.)

Humanities guy that I am, I am impressed by the idea of researching climate change by studying old paintings of natural features such as glaciers, for instance.

Skepticism continues, of course, as in this Canadian news item.

But I'm still thinking about Greenland. You may know the story--reconstructed as fiction in Jane Smiley's novel Greenlanders--how the early medieval warm period collapsed around 1400 (?) as the world moved towards the Little Ice Age. (More on ups and downs of the Little Ice Age.)

They are farming in Greenland again. Weird.

What if . . . what if . . . this was something outside our control, in other words, not George W. Bush's personal fault? You can't blame the "Medieval Climate Optimum" on coal-burning power plants or eee-vul sport utility vehicles.

What if climate change was controlled by solar radiation or by cosmic rays' influence on cloud cover?

We could still save money and energy by emphasizing conservation and new technology more, whether doing so had any effect on the climate or not.

In fact, even as "recycling" became the save-the-planet mantra of the 1970s, I suspect that the screw-in fluorescent lightbulb will become the poster child of the current effort. I am typing this post by the light of one of them, screwed into a draftsman's lamp at my computer table. ("Anglepoise" lamp to my UK readers, both of you.)

And then I walk outside and look at the pine trees, thinking, "I must continue to love this place."

August 31, 2005

No, Blame Bush for Katrina

A political scion shows his lack of historical knowledge. Perhaps he could blame the flood of 1978 on Jimmy Carter. Speaking of which, this is prophetic:

The average New Orleanian housewife, as Bunny once noted, has an internist's working knowledge of every possible disease that can be caught in these parts. The man who holds the attention of the barroom is the guy who can top everyone else's hard luck stories. The Great Flood of May 3, 1978 was the most exciting of recent times, at least until another Hurricane comes. Even Carnival is talked of by the Yat in the most matter-of-fact ways, only the abominations of tradition being noteworthy.

A few years ago, the "lost city of New Orleans" was being compared to Atlantis.

UPDATE: For news junkies, try the Times-Picayune's breaking news blog.

Blame the French for Katrina

A writer for the Los Angeles Times works the blame-the-French angle into coverage of Hurricane Katrina. (Registration required.)

In 1718, French colonist Jean Baptiste LeMoyne de Bienville ignored his engineers' warnings about the hazards of flooding and mapped a settlement in a pinch of swampland between the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, and a massive lake to the north [Lake Pontchartrain].

On the other hand, reading some of the comments to hurricane stories on the BBC's web site, I learned that Katrina apparently is punishing the United States for not spending more on foreign aid.

Ok, so Bienville picked a risky site. Who in 1718 would have guessed that more and more levees would have been built all up and down the Mississippi River and around New Orleans to regulate the water that used to spill into swamps and wetlands and to protect a growing industrial city? I wonder if anyone will have the political guts to say, "Let's rethink the whole plan before we rebuild."

August 30, 2005

The God and Nature Blame Game

Terry Mattingly of GetReligion [as in, "the press just does not get religion"] summarizes coverage of religious responses to Hurricane Katrina. God hates New Orleans? God spared New Orleans? God hates Biloxi? Whose God is punishing America for whose sins?