Friday, May 11, 2012

350.org and climate change

Update 1:50 pm: Here's a link to Derek Thompson's blog on theatlantic.com, with charts from Hansen's paper showing areas where temperatures are more than 3 standard deviations above recorded normals. There's no question that it's human caused global warming.

Yesterday's New York Times had an Op-Ed by James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, arguing that by using tar shale, or tar sands, for fuel, instead of finding other, less damaging energy sources, we make what is now a risk of of keeping earth's carbon concentrations below 550 ppm (parts per million) a certainty. (Hansen addresses tar shale in the US and Canada, though there are also tar sands in Venezuela.) It's a depressing prediction, and one worth thinking about.

As Hansen points out, we are already seeing extreme weather events caused by our heating planet. The photo at the top, from Climate Central, shows waterspouts (essentially tornadoes over water) in the Gulf of Mexico off of Louisiana on May 9th, 2012. You can see more at the Climate Central's website, here.

But there are some grounds for at least minimal hope. The author Bill McKibben and a team of 'university friends' has started a website called 350.org intended to build grassroots understanding of the need to reduce the carbon concentration to, you guessed it, 350ppm. Here's their introductory video:


And I know it's behind a paywall, but this New Yorker article by David Owen about a search for an artificial photosynthesis, is interesting, first because of the science (an artificial leaf) and second because of the approach (limiting the increase in energy needs of developing countries while bringing up the standard of living, instead of focusing only decreasing demand in developed countries).

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