The New York Times reports how the current administtation inserts distortions of credible environmental scientists into government climate reports. This is made possible by the people he has appointed to head government agencies, people who are loyal to the president, not to the principles of the agency that they head.
This is just one more example of how the United States is moving away from democracy to a more Orwellian state.
I’ll continue to review reports that I cite in this blog for these distortions. However, if you find something you question, do let me know.
Okay, what’s going on here? We know you can reduce the risk of cancer and coronary artery disease by eating vegan (i.e., high fiber and low saturated fat), but what’s my grandkids got to do with it? Raising animals takes up far more land and water than raising plants, and it also releases far less greenhouse cases.
This is one example of how the sixth extinction is playing out. Although this sounds contradictory, the turtles swim further north during the summer, given warmer water temperatures. However, temperatures drop below what the turtles can withstand as winter arrives.
The waters off Cape Cod and the Gulf of Maine are warming twice as fast as the oceans, for reasons not yet understood.
By the early 1980s cold war tensions were at their peak. The so-called “throw weight” of nuclear warheads was at an all-time high. Nevertheless, like ostriches with their heads in the sand, people just didn’t think too much about it. Gone were the days of “duck and cover” and the building/designation of air raid shelters—mostly useless anyway.
It wasn’t until Carl Sagan and some of his colleagues released a report on the results of nuclear war leading to nuclear winter that people were shocked into action. They learned that nuclear blasts were just the “tip of the iceberg.” Not only would radiation slowly kill many more around the globe, but all the soil sucked up into the atmosphere would create a global dust cloud blocking the sun, thus lowering the global ambient temperature. This would lead to the destruction of most plant life. This is essentially what happened when the asteroid of 65 million years ago took out the dinosaurs; dust blocked the sunlight and it got cold.
I first read about nuclear winter in the Boston Globe. As powerful as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were (15 and 21 kilotons, respectively), these were nothing as compared with hydrogen bombs up to 30 megatons and the multiply independent reentry vehicles (MIRVed) warheads that would deliver these atop ICBM missiles. The initial blast and fireball from just one of these bombs detonated at about 5000 feet overhead could completely destroy all of the New York City metropolitan area. Of course, the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R had hundreds of these bombs.
The result of this report shocked American, European and Soviet people into action. There was extreme pressure placed on leaders of both sides to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war. This pressure led to SALT (strategic arms limitation talks) and the eventual signing of START (strategic arms reduction treaty)—based on trust but verify.
With some growing exceptions, mostly among our youth, we now see the same “head in the sand” approach to climate change. In fact, we see climate change more as an annoyance than as something catastrophic. We go about our daily business as the oceans warm, becoming more acidic as their oxygen levels decline. Meanwhile, the Tundra, Amazon, Australia and the American West are consumed by wild fires, sea levels rise, and coastal cities are flooded. Eventually, famine, disease, and political conflict will drastically reduce the human population (and many other species).
Although climate change is taking place in the blink of an evolutionary eye, it is far too slow to shock us because our brains are designed to focus on immediate threats.
As the sun sets lower in the sky the days get shorter with the approach of the winter solstice. Last night finally brought the snows, about seven inches of the wet stuff so far. The landscape now a monochrome, is one of the best times
to shoot in B&W. The landscape blurs with the whirl of falling snow.
But wait! There’s also the opportunity for high contrast and pronounced lines, interrupted by, what?
On Monday, the United Nations Climate Action Summit gets underway in Madrid, Spain. A just released U.N. report found that we are not making very good progress towards keeping global temperature rise below 1.5⁰ C by 2050.
This is because global warming is not a linear process, but rather an exponential one; the planet is warming at faster rates over time. We are reaching what some social scientists have called a “tipping point.”
This can also be applied to the natural sciences. For example, wild fires put particulate in the air which eventually settle on glaciers. Now, in addition to warmer temperatures causing ice melt, there is a second factor, particulate, which absorbs additional heat. Another example is that warmer air not only melts the tundra’s
permafrost, but as it does, methane, a much stronger greenhouse gas, is released, further warming the planet.
The basic cause of climate change is too many people producing too much GDP with fossil fuels. The only very unfortunate solution is to stop using fossil fuels and transition to renewable energies. Since these cannot provide as much energy as fossil fuels in the foreseeable future, post-industrial societies would have to transition to micro-industrial production. This would entail giving up many of our amenities and creature comforts that we have become so used to over the past 100 years. But you and I are not going to do it. Buying a Prius just won’t cut it. The only way this can be done is by inter-governmental cooperation among the G20 countries. What we can do is pressure our political leaders.
Watch any of the business news and what do you see? All the emphasis is on growth; very little attention is paid to environmental issues unless it’s regarding regulations. As I walk down along Commercial Street in Portland, Maine, the renaissance of the last 15 years continues. High-rise buildings proliferate, some of which have condominiums ranging from about $500k to $2.5m. Though a small city, Portland has diversity, it has restaurants that can compete with those in Boston and New York, it has investment houses, and it has an outstanding art museum. All this takes energy to construct and maintain. Sad to say, this is not sustainable, not here, certainly not in London, New York, or Beijing.
The other night while driving to my friends’ on Peaks Island I saw thousands of winter moths in my headlights. When I returned home there were dozens on the outside wall by my lighted front door. I told my friends about this who said that southern Maine is loaded with these pests that became established in the area around 2012.
A little research on my part found that they are native to Europe and the Near East; they were inadvertently introduced into Canada in the 1930s. They have no predators in North America and are now established in New England and the Pacific Northwest.
They are highly destructive of deciduous trees, as they eat the leaves during the caterpillar stage of their life cycle. The tree will die if it is infested with this caterpillar for several years in a row.
Remedies to limit these moths have included spraying plants in the spring before the ambient temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and tying sticky strips around tree trunks so the wingless female cannot climb up to lay her eggs in the tree’s crown. However, a more effective strategy is to release its natural predator, a wasp (Agrypon flaveolatum) and a fly (Cyzenis albicans). The latter has worked particularly well recently in Massachusetts, but not so well in the Portland, Maine area where there have been at least two major fly releases, as reported in the Bangor News and by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry.
The infestation of winter moths does not seem to be related to climate change, but rather global shipping and travel. You can read more about this pest in a Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry document.