The current hot phrase bandied about by talking heads and parotted by news pundits is “tipping point.” We are told that the climate may be near a tipping point, if it has not crossed one already, and that can't be good. But what is a tipping point, where do they come from and how can we identify one when we see it?
At the beginning of chapter one of The Resilient Earth, we opened with a quote from Meg Urry: “Nature is what it is.” It seems that this statement has troubled one of our readers, who has written us criticizing our “total disdain for species.” While Professor Urry's statement was not specifically referring to the inevitable extinction of all species, that is a scientific truth that we put forth in the book. It seems that this nugget of scientific knowledge doesn't set well with the green crowd.
NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite failed to reach orbit after its 4:55 a.m. EST liftoff Feb. 24 from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the ocean near Antarctica, according to the program manager for the Taurus XL launch vehicle. The OCO was to bt the first earth science observatory able to create a detailed map of atmospheric carbon dioxide sources and sinks around the globe.
Ross Garnaut, an adviser to the Australian government on climate change matters, is asking people to give up their beef and lamb-based meals and shift to kangaroo meat if they want to help save the planet. According to a new study by the University of New South Wales economist, farming kangaroos instead of sheep or cattle could lower national greenhouse gases in Australia by 3 percent a year. The belching and farting of millions of farm animals is a major contributor to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, Professor Garnaut noted in his report to the government. Methane from the foregut of cattle and sheep constitutes 11 percent of Australia's total greenhouse emissions, but kangaroos produce negligible amounts of methane.
Every now and then you see a statement like “a great future source of energy is hydrogen.” Such statements are lies—hydrogen is only an energy carrier or transfer media and not a substance capable of providing new energy. Hydrogen will never be a source of new energy here on Earth until we figure out how to make nuclear fusion work. This is because chemical uses of hydrogen, be it fuel cells or internal combustion (IC) engines, only work if you start out with free hydrogen: H2 .
People often ask what they can do personally to help reduce energy consumption and humanity's impact on the environment. When global warming or the energy crisis are discussed it is natural to focus on the obvious large targets: transportation, generating electrical power, green buildings, etc. Other than buying compact fluorescent light bulbs or a hybrid automobile what can you do? How about staying home from work?
One of the ideas that gets mentioned in energy policy sound bites is “clean coal,” but what is entailed in cleaning up coal is not detailed. In The Resilient Earth we described coal as the most dangerous energy source on the planet—why? In Chapter 17, in the section titled Coal's False Promise we explain why coal is best left buried in the earth, where the efforts of millions of years of active geology has placed it.