Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stop New Coal Plants with Civil Disobedience Says Al Gore

Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City former vice president Al Gore, according to Reuters, had these words of advice for young people:
"If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."

It appears that Gore has given up on the political process producing a moratorium on all new coal plants that do not capture and sequester carbon, an unproven technology. Leading climate scientist James Hansen has said such a moratorium is necessary. If there is a problem with Gore’s call for action it is that the young people who would be carrying out the acts of civil disobedience by and large are probably also excessive consumers of electricity and thereby partly responsible for creating a market for the coal plants. Unless one’s carbon footprint with regard to electricity use is miniscule how do you put your body in front of a bulldozer to stop a coal plant without being hypocritical. Given all the devices in use that require electricity from the grid either directly or through rechargeable batteries such as computers, TVs, iPods, cell phones, radios, dishwashers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and so forth it is going to be hard finding enough young people who have really taken large steps toward energy efficiency and conservation. Unless politicians in office stop worrying about how to meet an increasing demand for electricity and start worrying about how to reduce the demand for electricity it is going to be tough going stopping coal plants from being built, whether by civil disobedience or any other strategy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Arctic Methane Bubbles May Be Sign of Future Troubles

The sleeping giant of global warming, vast sub-sea deposits of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, may be waking up. Preliminary findings of a study along the northern coast of Russia, which were relayed to The Independent, suggest that methane bubbles formed from methane below the seabed are reaching the surface. Past scientific expeditions in this remote area have found increased levels of dissolved methane but not until this most recent expedition have the scientists seen methane bubbling to the surface, an indication that the amount of methane being released is now so great that it can not be all dissolved by the sea before surfacing. It is thought that the methane has been trapped under the permafrost for tens of thousands of years but with the recent increase of temperature in the Arctic due to a build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere openings in the permafrost are allowing the methane to escape.

Are the methane bubbles an indication that a great positive feedback mechanism has kicked in making it essentially impossible to halt global warming before a global catastrophe occurs? This certainly would seem to be a possibility given the predictions by scientists that such a chain of events could happen. We will have to wait for further evaluation of this finding and what its implications are but clearly there is more to worry about these days than an unraveling economic system.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Amount of Greenhouse Gases in Permafrost Double Previous Estimates

One of the most feared positive feedback mechanisms that could propel global warming is the melting of permafrost containing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. It now appears that the vast amounts of greenhouse gases that are stored in permafrost are even greater than previous estimates, in fact, about twice as much. According to an article in scientists have published a report in the journal Bioscience in which they describe arriving at this new calculation by reanalyzing data from Russia and digging far deeper into the permafrost areas than has been done before. The results suggest that the potential for permafrost to melt, release greenhouses gases which further increase the global temperature and thereby melt more permafrost and so forth is even worse than has been thought. This recent finding seems to make it even more urgent to quickly get greenhouse gas emissions under control. Permafrost has been called a ticking time bomb. That about sums it up.

Friday, September 05, 2008

McCain’s Big Speech Omits Climate Change

First John McCain picks a vice presidential running mate that doesn’t believe that humans are causing global warming and then at his big speech at the Republican National Convention he doesn’t even mention global warming or climate change. I guess mentioning either of these two terms to his base supporters of religious fundamentalists and ideologues opposed to government regulation of corporations would have reminded them that only a few days ago they were not too crazy about John McCain. Having recently reversed course on offshore oil drilling will he now reverse himself on mandatory caps for carbon emissions? With regard to the environment it seems unclear what he stands for, if anything. With reductions in carbon emissions being needed to begin almost immediately to avoid a climate catastrophe down the road the US voters only have one more chance to get it right. McCain’s recent behavior is making the choice pretty much a no brainer.