Despite the fact that gas prices have taken a precipitous fall to around the $2 per gallon level the moribund US auto industry is working hard to retool for a greener, more energy efficient hybrid future. Leading the parade is the recently revealed Chevy Volt from GM, now sporting what is rumored to be production bodywork. General Motors, the company once accused of killing the electric car, is now in the forefront of the plug-in hybrid revolution. And yes, revolution is not too strong a word for the effect that plug-in strong hybrids will have on the energy landscape of America and other developed countries.
You really must admire the staunch, muddle through regardless attitude of the British Parliament. With the UK stock market plummeting and facing severe energy shortages in the near future Britain's Parliament went ahead and passed one of the most restrictive pieces of “green” legislation to ever emerge from a developed country's government. Over the last few weeks Ministers have bowed to pressure from the public and Members of Parliament (MPs) to strengthen the bill by increasing the target for cutting emissions from 60 per cent to 80 per cent by 2050 and closing a loophole that would have left emissions from international aviation and shipping emissions unregulated.
This past weekend I had the displeasure of watching the documentary “Six Degrees That Could Change The World,” shown on the National Geographic channel. The two-hour documentary, narrated by the lugubrious Alec Baldwin, depicts the drastic consequences we face if the earth warms even a few degrees and certainly fit in with other Halloween weekend “fright theater” programing. Taking its tone from the disaster movie genre, the show paints a future where extreme weather is the norm: full of catastrophic brush-fires, hurricanes, heat waves, and continent ravishing droughts. All of this destruction is accompanied by the sonorous narration of Mr. Baldwin. The take-home message is “be afraid, be very afraid.”
A few weeks ago we gave the Crank of the Week award to John Latham for suggesting the creation of a fleet of 1500 robot sailing ships to combat global warming. This week the award goes to Tom M. L. Wigley, Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and an aspiring geoengineer, for suggesting that global warming be curbed by releasing sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the stratosphere. There it would react with oxygen and water to form minute sulfate droplets made up of water, sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and other particles thus increasing Earth's cloud cover.
Noting that neither Republican John McCain nor Democrat Barack Obama has discussed climate change research on the campaign trail, an article in the October 10 issue of Science attempts to drum up support for more government funding of climate change. In particular, the article author Eli Kintisch argues that not enough funding is available in the $1.8 billion U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) budget to study the impacts of climate change. With the presidential election looming, activists are angling for political commitments in the form of campaign promises. The presidential candidates have promised to strengthen Earth monitoring and efforts to understand climate change but are short on specifics.
Faced with the very real prospect that the current world wide economic meltdown will totally eclipse the global warming “crisis,” the eco-activist British magazine New Scientist has issued a special report titled “How Our Economy Is Killing The Earth .” Ms. Marchant, the opinion editor, leads off the string of anguished articles stating: “personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.”
There have been a number of near hysterical reports that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting much faster than anticipated. This has been trumpeted as prima facia evidence that Global Warming is accelerating and we will soon see marked increases in sea levels world wide. The surging glaciers from both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets have alarmed scientists, eco-advocates and the news media alike. However, two new studies point to random, wind-induced circulation changes in the ocean—not global warming—as the primary cause of the recent glacial ice losses.
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.
This week's crank is actually shared among a number of parties, including General Motors, CNN and the “environmentally conscious crowd.” It seems that CNN is reporting that GM is a bit conflicted with regards to its marketing plan for the upcoming Chevy Volt plugin hybrid. In the article, author Beau Estes draws a vibrant image of a future NASCAR race where the competitors are racing in electric cars.
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 major measurements that paleoclimatologists and other scientists who try to figure out Earth's climate in the distant past rely on is the ratio of two different isotopes of carbon, 13C/12C. This ratio, also called delta 13C (δ13C), has been used to estimate the carbon content of Earth's going back more than 150 million years. Now a new study, appearing in the pages of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has cast the accepted interpretation of δ13C into doubt.
For a change this week we have left the realm of political inanity and selected a new Crank of the Week from the ranks of those who should know better—scientists. This week's crank is John Latham of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, for suggesting the creation of a fleet of 1500 robot sailing ships to combat global warming. These autonomous vessels would sail the world's oceans creating artificial cloud cover by spraying salt water into the air.
With the US storm tossed in the midst of the 2008 Hurricane season the predictable has happened: the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has released another report claiming that global warming is boosting the strength and number of storms around the world and in the Atlantic. In a press release dated September 4, UNEP blames climate change for the rising cost of natural disasters around the world.
We have our first two time Crank of the Week winner: Senator Harry Reid. The befuddled and bombastic Senate Majority Leader has managed to sum up the cause of all human conflict in one word—OIL! That's right, crude is evidently the cause of all evil. “The history of the last hundred years has been a toxic mix of oil and war,” proclaimed Reid. In remarks delivered to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Reid went on at length: