Bless Their Hearts

REAL CLIMATE COMES THROUGH

I just love those guys at REAL CLIMATE. They keep me informed and keep me thinking. Now they have produced a primer for the conscientious folks of this world that want to:

“. . . get up to speed on the issue of climate change . . .”

They promise to: “. . . amend this as we discover or are pointed to new resources. Different people have different needs and so we will group resources according to the level people start at.” And, they’ve added a major heading at the top of their page entitled “START HERE” for the ongoing updates. Bless their hearts!

I’ve book-marked the page and plan to visit frequently. If you find yourself in a battle of wits with the 1/2 armed, this page will provide you with sources of insight and information. This is very similar to, and includes a reference to, the compilation by Coby Beck in the Grist Series How To Talk To A Climate Skeptic.”

I’m very thankful for people like these that do such hard and detailed work. Bless their hearts!! Keep both of these pages handy and you won’t be unarmed or uninformed.

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Also from Real Climate comes news about the G8 climate declaration.

They say that: “As usual we refrain from a political analysis, but as scientists we note that it is rewarding to see that the results of climate science are fully acknowledged by the heads of state.”

As an inveterate whiner I say check out the cartoon below.

Climate Change & Skeptics

COBY BECK DID THE HARD WORK

hot-world.jpgI’m often asked “How do you know that . . . { pick one: . . . there is climate change, it’s bad, it is real, it’s not a hoax, computer models work, it’s not the volcanoes, etc., etc., etc.”}

I used to take a lot of time with the questions and even thought that I might have had some influence on the thought processes of the questioners. Now I just provide a short & simple answer, avoid arguments, and refer the questioner to the series by Cory Beck in Grist. Somehow it seems to have more credibility than do I.

I’ve grown to rely on this series, not so much because of it’s authority, but because it’s so perfectly suited to dealing with all levels of skepticism – from the stupid to the sublime and from the stubborn to the spurious.

No, it’s not perfect, (nor am I,) but damn, girlfriend, it’s a brilliant piece of hard work. There are a pair of companion pieces by Michael Le Page that need to be mentioned also:

CLIMATE CHANGE: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED,
CLIMATE MYTHS: THEY PREDICTED GLOBAL COOLING IN THE 1970s

There are many web sources that serve to illustrate the situation. One that is current and fairly straightforward is the Global Warming Blog.

I’ve copied the references to Cory Beck’s series on my DISTRACTIONS page under the title Talking To Skeptics, it’s also available in the sidebar. This is just in case Grist goes out of business.

Earth Day – 2007

THANK YOU GAYLORD NELSON

you-are-here.jpgIn 1970 the culmination of an eight year political effort to put conservation on the public agenda came to pass – Earth Day.

From a simple concept to help a president, to the grassroots explosion that took over, this was an idea whose time had come – may it return with vigor in the very near future.

Yellowstone National Park will be ‘officially’ open to the public on Friday, and I’m going get in my civilian car and go for a ride. I will spew some pollutants along the way, and then I’ll stop at the pull-out in National Park Meadows. I’ll get out of the old ‘suuby’ and walk over to one of the little trees and hug it. It won’t do a thing to save the planet – but it’ll make me feel good.

tree-hug-temagami.jpgIf you’d like to do something similar visit the Nature Conservancy web site and find a preserve near you. Or go to the EnviroLink page and search the 2007 Earth Day Activities page, there’s a bunch of them.

I’ve decided to celebrate on Monday with a bit of Bison stew. The staff is invading my humble abode for one final look at the report, then most will scatter to other projects. We have a small follow-up project for the summer, but it’s not going to be nearly as significant as the winter’s work.

I’ll be away from the computer – by design – until next Monday or Tuesday, and I’ll bring back a report on the local Earth Day activities and how the stew turned out.

It’s cold and rainy outside. The 300 or so bison that the DOL hazed into the park are back on the road north of town. The usual gathering of local residents, protesters, law enforcement, and gawkers are jamming the road with themselves and their egos.

A perfect morning to stretch my legs and get in some tennie-time.

A New 100 Year Forecast

A CHANGE IN PARADIGM

tropic.jpgThe IPCC report recently released in X-Summary has produced an interesting spin-off. There may be climate changes that produce weather that humans have not seen before. Perhaps as much as 39% of the earth will have climate that we have no familiarity with.

And, It’s going to come in the tropical and subtropical portions of the world as we know it. This is a call for some serious consideration.

As pointed out at ScientificAmerican.com:

. . . ecologists John Williams of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Stephen Jackson of the University of Wyoming, along with U.W. Madison climatologist John Kutzbach compared global climate projections published last month by the fourth IPCC with current regional climates, looking specifically at average summer and winter temperatures and precipitation. They considered scenarios of either unchecked greenhouse gas emissions or a global reduction in the rate of emissions growth.
. . . Jackson says that prior studies have concentrated on ecological changes closer to the poles, but the tropical changes might be more dramatic. “If [the climate of] Memphis moves to Chicago, we have a Memphis there to say what Chicago will look like,” he says. “For an area where we don’t have a modern analogue, there’s really nothing to look at to say, this is what the environment will look like.”

So, it looks like there will be some interesting times ahead – even if we remove 100% of the anthropogenic component of global warming tomorrow. [If that happened the direction and magnitude of the current changes would continue for at least a century and probably more!]

One interesting aspect of the changes to come is the way we plan our social adaptive strategies. Everything from snowmobiles in Yellowstone to cropland for agriculture. And this completely side steps the concerns over the oceans, not to mention energy supply and distribution — to what new places?

For instance, the current debate over snowmobiles in Yellowstone is about to become irrelevant. What if there was not enough snow to support sleds and tanks? What would the planners come up with? Would they reinvent the wheel? Of course!

Or, what about the continued population growth in the United States of America? With each person requiring about 12 acres to be removed from the ‘natural’ setting, (for the necessary food production,) it will be interesting to see where these acres come from. Take a peek at The American Chronicle series, The Next 100 Million Americans.

And as the seas warm, and activate the supposedly dormant pollution that we have spewed into them what will the fishing industry do? Who will figure out this problem? Look at the IPS article about the disappearance of sharks and the collapse of the ocean’s food web.

dans-hans.jpgThen too, climate and weather are so tightly married in the popular mindset that maybe we won’t have any organized response. Perhaps we’ll just continue to ‘muddle along’ and hope.

Real Estate developers should look at the current conflict between Canada & Denmark. What’s that? They are peace lovers.

Well now, Hans Island, (go ahead and Google this for a bit of insight,) is smack in the middle of new arctic shipping routes and is currently uninhabited.

jams-hans.jpgIf it were not so serious it would be laughable. There is a rush by all manner of groups to claim the island. Will there be a war over this Frisbee – shaped island? Hells’ bells guys, the icebergs are bigger than the island.

From a personal point of view, I wonder about the following things: Where will the best California Cabernet come from? Where will the best Burgundy come form – certainly not Burgundy. Will the Firehole River become a world famous Blue Gill fishery? Will I have to go to Barrow, Alaska to catch a Brook Trout? Will ballistics change with the different densities of the atmosphere and will my current rifles still shoot their current loads? How long will it take to hard-boil an egg at this elevation? Will the rich of Malibu, California build sea walls? Where will the new Wall Street be? I, have many more, but you get the idea. The trivial and the not-so-trivial will be changing in the very near future.

===================

Interesting Reading

Antarctic Melting May Be Speeding Up, Scientists Say,
Global Warming and New Technology Heat Up Race for Riches in Melting Arctic
As Sharks Vanish, Chaotic New Order Emerges
The Ladonia Commonwealth
It’s Mine! No, Mine!
Canada island visit angers Danes
Man bites shark

Static & Iconic Yellowstone

LETS FREEZE TIME
AND
‘OLD FAITHFUL’ WHILE WE’RE AT IT !

A delightful little post in National Parks Traveler gives, (at least me,) insight into the enduring values of some key players in the Grizzly Bear delisting drama.

Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlet is quoted as saying:

“The grizzly’s remarkable comeback is the result of years of intensive cooperative recovery efforts between federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and individuals. There is simply no way to overstate what an amazing accomplishment this is.”

On the other hand, Louisa Willcox, who directs the NRDC‘s Wild Bears Project, is quoted as saying:

“Grizzlies are part of the natural heritage that is shared by all Americans. Yellowstone and its wildlife have a special place in our history and in the hearts and minds of millions of people. If the grizzlies die out, it would be like Old Faithful running dry. Healthy bear populations mean that the land is healthy. It means that remaining pieces of wilderness will be here for our children and our grandchildren.”

Now there’s a pair to draw to. I prefer a more realistic view of our universe and the small bits of it that we call “National Parks.” It is certainly good to try and maintain a diversity of species. And my values suggest that a grizzly is a very important thing to try and preserve.

Dear, dear, Louisa: I would celebrate the occasion of “Old Faithful Running Dry.” I promise you that it will. Is that so tragic?

And if it’s here for your grandchildren, it most assuredly will be different than you remember it. Is that also a tragedy?

The problem with an icon is that it’s static. I don’t like the idea of a static Yellowstone. That would not be the way that I understand how the universe works. I shudder to think that the NRDC wants it that way. Now, that is a tragedy.

Dear, dear Louisa: try to celebrate change, dynamism, interrelationships, complexity, and the joy of the unexpected. If that’s too hard; go see “Yellowstone” at the Imax Theater. Old Faithful is the same every time at the movies. It does not run dry.

Dear, dear Louisa; losing the grizzly would be far more tragic that the drying up of Old Faithful. We can do something about the one, and should do nothing about the other.

My fear is not that Old faithful will run dry, (for it surely will,) rather it’s that the NPS will rapidly install plumbing to “RESTORE” it to it’s once natural splendor. I will rant against that. Many cheerleaders will want the plumbing. Go figure.

old-faithful-geyser-cone-nps.jpg

NPS PHOTO OF THE DRY CONE OF OLD FAITHFUL

Are We Really That Dumb ?

WEATHER & CLIMATE – DIFFERENT CREATURES

ir-image.jpgMy Recent Post: “Yellowstone, Global Warming, & Chicken Little,” has zoomed to the top of the most read posts on this little ol’ blog. For what ever reason, it’s both gratifying and a bit disconcerting, (it’s now included in the Yellowstone pages.)

There is, however, a distinction that must be made in the discussion of global warming. The distinction is one of scale and scope. Weather and climate are related but very different creatures and, yet, in most discussions are, (very sadly,) used interchangeably.

Weather is the set of conditions in the atmosphere that obtain for a relatively brief period. What happens on a daily, weekly, or monthly, basis is the weather. It refers to: moisture, clouds, wind, pressures, temperatures, etc. But this is not climate.

Climate, on the other hand is the prevailing conditions of persistent weather patterns over a much longer span of time. Usually several years, or decades. Or, for that matter millenia. As such it is a bit less precise, and a bit more generalized.

stormclouds-from-breaktaker.jpgWe can go out of our front door and take a picture of the weather but not the climate.

Global warming is necessarily concerned first with climate, then with weather. The time scale under discussion is of prime importance. And, we all know – I hope – that as climate changes, the weather undergoes specific, but not always predictable changes as well.

A post at the end of last month in Demarcated Landscapes led me to an excellent publication about the strategies for foresters dealing with climate change. The publication is FORESTS, CARBON AND CLIMATE CHANGE, and is available on line in PDF format. The publication is a synthesis of science findings by: The Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Oregon State University College of Forestry, and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

chart.jpgThe document is full of insights and responses. It contains a brilliant chapter entitled “Global Warming: A Skeptic’s View,” by George Taylor, Oregon State Climatologist.

Taylor’s exhaustive discourse is very informative and should be mandatory reading before anyone begins to discuss our current place in the climatic history of the earth – including Al Gore. I recommend it highly, and the rest of the report as well.

On a daily basis I hear people discussing global warming in terms that range from simplistic to moronic. Imagine: ‘the weather in San Francisco will soon be like it is in Los Angeles’ ‘I can’t wait to grow corn in West Yellowstone, Montana,’ ‘will all of Yellowstone be a desert?’ – and on and on.

We can’t be that dumb, – or can we? The concept of global warming has been popularized to the point of simplistic stupidity. And, wonder of wonders, it’s believed in that form. Changing your light bulbs will not save the world. Consuming more raw vegetables will not deter the coming change. Driving electric cars is an economic, and social statement – not an environmental statement.

How do I know this? Because the scientific data we have about past environments and climate, is just that – general information. It’s not about weather. It’s about a whole bunch of specific locations over time.

It’s, consolidated, extrapolated, and generalized. It’s about regions through time and it’s extrapolated from many sources. Deep sea cores, polen cores, ice cores, faunal records, varves, beach levels, dendrochronology, pack rat middens, etc. all provide brief glimpses of the past. Little snippets of weather and environment are combined to provide climate information. This extrapolated paleoclimatology is probably fairly accurate – it does not tell us much about local weather, (except in a few instances,) but it tells us much about climate.

Are we really so dumb that we think we know specifically what to do based on generalized models of the past? We’ll see. The rush is on, and scurrying is taking place. It might be well to remember that our species has endured greater changes in the past and survived, (as have the cockroaches.) I wonder if, in fact, the panicky rush to action is not just a response to a perception of threat against lifestyle as much as a response to an environmental catastrophe?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do find the jabber about the situation interesting, informative, and entertaining. And, although I do believe that the past is key to the present – I don’t believe that the past holds all the solutions to, nor even a clear picture of the specific conditions in the future. Some, however, do.

===================
Reading For Entertainment

Global Warming: A Threat to Midwest Parks, Too,
How Will Parks Cope With Climate Change ?
The Problem With Carbon Offsets,
Texas: Climate’s Anti-Canary,
The Rain In China Falls Mainly on the Plains, Thanks to Pollution,
Membership: House Committee On Global Warming,
Split Over Nuclear vs. Renewables Threatens EU Global Warming Pact.

Yellowstone, Global Warming & Chicken Little

IT’S NOT AS SIMPLE AS IT SEEMS

As this gentle and snow-scarce winter winds down, I was checking the observed vs. expected data accumulation and began to worry that there was not enough cold – or snow to validate the models. Old Faithful experienced temperatures above 40 degrees on two days last week.

dancing-chicken.gifNot to worry, ancillary factors such as cloud cover, reduced visitation, (from 5 years ago,) in Yellowstone, increased NOx, and the robustness of the models have combined to make my ego expand. The models and data showed a gratifying coincidence. There is still a significant amount of pollution along the traffic corridors in the winter.

One byproduct of the current trend in commercialization for winter visitation is the increase in emissions from diesel engines and reduced efficiency of gasoline and diesel engines. This, combined with the near tripling of gasoline engine emissions has not reduced the pollution as much as anticipated by Chicken Little.

The use of tracked vehicles is inefficient and forces snoch-04.jpgthe engines to work harder than if they were propelling the same vehicles on wheels. One example will suffice to illustrate the point. A 15-passenger bus uses about five or six gallons of gasoline to make the 62-mile round trip between the west entrance and Old Faithful when on wheels.

snoch-new-00.jpgThe same vehicle with after-market devices for over-the-snow travel uses between 24 and 35 gallons of gasoline for the same trip, (depending on the condition of the snow and the right foot of the “guide”.) The emissions have to go somewhere.

yelcoach.jpgPushing skis is even less efficient and increases the workload of the engine. This is what the National Park Service sees as “Best Available Technology.”

All is not as simple or as clear cut as it seems. Yellowstone National Park is not going to be much cleaner under the new winter use plan than it was without a plan. It will be quieter for a while though, and the white plumes of 2 cycle exhaust won’t be seen. But, as they say in Los Angeles: “Don’t trust air that you can’t see.”

==================

Global warming is a wonderful catch phrase. It is the ultimate simplistic semantic form for a complex situation. Of course the globe is warming. We know this by measurement and by observation. No longer is there a glacier a mile thick on top of Fountain Flats. Yet the globe is also cooling. It depends on one’s perspective and the time scale involved, and the forces at work. Ultimately this planet will be as dead and cold as the moon, (which is running away from us.)

glacier-gif.gifThe complexity of the situation is similar to, (and greater than,) the situation in Yellowstone Park with winter travel.

The Pliocene was warmer – generally – than now. The Pleistocene was colder – generally – than now. The Hypsithermal was warmer – persistently – than now. The Little Ice Age was colder – measurably – than now.

The warming and cooling cycles of the earth are fairly well known. Their causes are still subject to debate, conversation, investigation, and verification.

The impact on humans has varied from significant to negligible. Extinctions were coincident with parts of several different climatic periods. And, of course, we are beginning to understand that the changes are not uniform around the world in all places and most assuredly not synchronous.

I certainly don’t hear many folks talking about ‘Global Dimming,’ or ‘Darkening,’ or ‘Pollution Reflection,’ or preservation of ‘Angular Momentum(PDF)‘ and, certainly there is seldom heard “Geophysical Impacts of Earth’s Slowing Rotation on Climate.” Regarding our current warming trend: there is more than just a battle against simple foes.

ninonina.jpgWho is busy talking about the oceans & climate change? Try Barron & Thompson, or the American Geophysical Union (AGU), or Mark Powell.

NASA is leading the parade (el nino bibliography,) as is JPL. Of course there are other things to consider too – but you get my point.

The variables are many, and our understanding is just beginning to become clear. Will sea levels really rise 60 meters in New York, or will a bulge of ocean near the equator compensate and preserve the earth’s angular momentum? Will the aerosols really conspire to cook us all, or will the increased cloud cover reduce the absorption of the sun’s rays?

These kinds of questions occupy conscientious scientists – not Chicken Little. An interesting article by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe points us toward some careful thinking, rather than alarmist arm waving. Simplistic thinking is always easier for politicians, journalists, bloggers, and activists. It’s the old “. . . Don’t confuse me with facts . . .” syndrome.

There are a few competent scientists and others that are not in the alarmist camp. Timothy Ball, (Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project,) writes in the Canadian Free Press that we had better get our facts straight before we act or react. Even the Wall Street Journal carried a piece by Richard S. Lindzen about the need for more facts and less lassitude in our popular perceptions of climatology.

Kevin Nelstead’s blog, The Earth Is Not Flat, has several posts that point to our responsibilities in thinking about this matter, (CLICK.)

====================

So, what’s this have to do with Yellowstone? First off, The vegetation and rest of the biota in the park will change with warming; in ways that we may anticipate but cannot precisely predict.

desert-snow.jpgSecondly, the pollution problem in winter is more complex than the just the exhaust of snowmobiles would lead one to believe. The problem is one of constraint & logistics. Total emissions are a function of cubic inches, fuel consumed, and effeciency of transport, (among others.)

As warmer weather continues to make over-the-snow travel more problematic, increasing loads of hydrocarbons will accumulate. Snow packed roads in the ameliorating climate will produce more and more ice crystals as the freeze-thaw boundary gets crossed more frequently. Grooming will be harder, less efficient, and the road conditions will deteriorate more rapidly. (This grooming expense is 100% born by the NPS to subsidize commercial interests.)

Unanticipated factors will come to play in scenarios not yet fully understood. The burden on the National Park Service will grow as it continues to defend the novelty of over-the-snow travel. Snow making machines will be purchased to continue the ‘tradition.’ groomer.jpgAdditional staff and equipment will be required to appease the money hungry gateway concessionaires. Fewer visitors will be allowed in the park in order to “save the snow.”

The length of the ‘shoulder seasons’ will increase to the point that the park will stay open longer for the summer season and shorter for the winter season. Additional fees and higher prices will ensue for the winter season as the NPS allows the over-the-snow crowd to dictate operations.

Current snowmobile visitation is down, (though rebounding,) and only the most wealthy will be allowed into Yellowstone via bus and baby tank. Petroleum products will continue to provide unhealthy levels of pollution – but will be unseen and therefore unregulated.

Finally, by 2070, the park will close in winter – rather than admit that plowing of the roads will reduce pollution, reduce budgets, and enhance the visitor experience.

Yes, there is global warming, it will affect Yellowstone in very short order, and maybe Chicken Little was right.

What about the rest of the planet? We need to know considerably more than we do now. For instance; is it true, as suggested by the Financial Times that we only have 15 – 20 year’s worth of undiscovered oil reserves? Can we count on philanthropy to take up the slack? Will the SLATE 60 come to the rescue?

windy-plains.jpgCan we count on the private sector to rescue Yellowstone and the rest of the parks? Can the government continue to resist cogent planning in favor of novelty transportation? There’s much more to account for in the global arena than in Yellowstone National Park – and we can’t even get that right.

Should you be the sort of person that considers social action, I direct you to STEP IT UP. This grass roots movement has 687 rallies planned for April 14, 2007. A guest post by Cheryl Long, (editor of The Mother Earth News,) provides us with a perfect ending quote.

The Iraq war will cost American taxpayers $2,200,000,000,000—that’s 2.2 trillion dollars—according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. If instead, we had invested that $2.2 trillion in wind turbines, we would now have enough electricity to provide roughly 150 percent of total U.S. energy needs.

 

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