Global warming and our urban future

Tom James @ 28-04-2009

ghg-tables1Worldchanging reports on yet more evidence of urban living being less carbon-intensive than suburban living:

The authors of this study, published in The Journal of Urban Planning and Development, quantified the emissions from building materials and construction, home heating and power demands, and transportation energy, in both urban suburban neighborhoods in the Toronto metro area. And they found that downtown residents use radically less energy, and consequently emit about two-thirds less climate-warming CO2 than their suburban counterparts.

I had been vaguely aware that the suburban lifestyle produced more greenhouse gases, but the extent is surprising.


Coal: fuel of the future

Tom James @ 24-04-2009

geological-carbonThe British government has given the go-ahead to a new generation of coal-fired power plants incorporating carbon-capture and storage technologies in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Clean coal has been met with criticism and the policy seems just a little bit flaky:

Up to four new plants will be built if they are fitted with technology to trap and store CO2 emissions underground.

The technology is not yet proven and would only initially apply to 25% of power stations’ output.

Green groups welcomed the move but said any new stations would still release more carbon than they stored.

Uh huh. According to UK energy secretary Ed Miliband:

Once it is “independently judged as economically and technically proven” – which the government expects by 2020 – those stations would have five years to “retrofit” CCS to cover 100% of their output.

Kind of a glass quarter-full situation then. And it might not even work. But do check out the details.

[image and articles from the BBC and the Guardian]


Climate change: Can’t the media do better than this?

Tom Marcinko @ 23-03-2009

george-willChris Mooney, author of the forthcoming Unscientific America, asks:

Can we ever know, on any contentious or politicized topic, how to recognize the real conclusions of science and how to distinguish them from scientific-sounding spin or misinformation?

Congress will soon consider global-warming legislation, and the debate comes as contradictory claims about climate science abound. Partisans of this issue often wield vastly different facts and sometimes seem to even live in different realities.

In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.

He’s looking at George Will (there’s a link to his column if you want to follow it):

Will wrote [among other things] that “according to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.” It turns out to be a relatively meaningless comparison, though the Arctic Climate Research Center has clarified that global sea ice extent was “1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979.” Again, though, there’s a bigger issue: Will’s focus on “global” sea ice at two arbitrarily selected points of time is a distraction. Scientists pay heed to long-term trends in sea ice, not snapshots in a noisy system. And while they expect global warming to reduce summer Arctic sea ice, the global picture is a more complicated matter; it’s not as clear what ought to happen in the Southern Hemisphere. But summer Arctic sea ice is indeed trending downward, in line with climatologists’ expectations — according to the Arctic Climate Research Center.

Mooney ends with a tall order:

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists — following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It’s also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be — now more than ever.

[George Will picture: Wikimedia Commons]

Along the same lines, now that a volcano in Alaska is spewed smoke and ash at least five times in the last day or so, shouldn’t Gov. Jindal feel dumb about mocking volcano monitoring as wasteful spending?


‘A world avoided’: Banning CFCs 22 years ago paid off

Tom Marcinko @ 20-03-2009

not-spray-can“It is a real horrible place.” That’s how NASA atmospheric scientist Paul Newman describes an alternative world:

A NASA study about ozone-munching chemicals from aerosol sprays and refrigeration used a computer model to play a game of what-if. What if the world 22 years ago didn’t agree to cut back on chlorofluorocarbons which cause a seasonal ozone hole to form near the South Pole?

…In mid-latitudes like Washington, DNA-damaging ultraviolet radiation would have increased more than sixfold. Just 5 minutes in the summer sunshine would have caused a sunburn, instead of 15. Typical midsummer UV levels, now around 10 or 11, would have soared to 30. Summer thunderstorms in the Northern Hemisphere would have been much stronger.

Nice to know that a little foresight can pay off. There must be a lesson. What could it be? Oh:

Newman, the co-chair of the protocol’s scientific panel, said the study provides hope that the world can do the same thing on another looming but even harder to solve environmental problem: Global warming.

[Image: This is not a spray can by badjonni]


Maybe the media isn’t doing such a great job covering global warming

Tom Marcinko @ 05-03-2009

beckLiverpool media researcher Neil Gavin doesn’t think so.

Our research suggests that the media is not treating these issues with the seriousness that scientists would say they deserve. The research company lpsos-MORI found that 50% of people think the jury is still out on the causes of global warming. The limited amount of media coverage – which tends to be restricted to the broadsheets – means that this statistic is unlikely to alter in the short-term.

Bit of a rant: Isn’t “climate change” just a weasel term for global warming? And, regrettable thouhg it is to see newspapers dying, could it be that one reason is that they’re not doing a very good job?

[Image: Fox News host Glenn Beck in 2007 (his low-rated show was on CNN then) by The Rocketeer]


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