Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sums It Up

By Joel Pett, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Cartoonists and Writers Syndicate, for USA TODA
Amazing how political cartoons can sometimes say so much!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Local Cooling, Global Warming

This explanation from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, about how a colder North Atlantic can be consistent with a warming planet is revealing. There are many such examples of why one region can experience long term or temporary cooling while the earth is warming. Oscillation's like the ENSO, or El Nino cycles,(currently in a mild postive phase) and volcanic eruptions, etc., are a few. This, in addition to the obvious differences between climate and weather, is why the arguments of cold snaps or heat waves as evidence in the climate change debate are really just silly. I still hear these arguments, even in settings where people should know better. Perhaps it is a human trait to put more weight on what is happening now, near our homes, that clouds judgment on this issue.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Climate e-mails really just petty?

This rather lengthy MSNBC piece details the recent issue of leading climate scientists possibly covering up or intentionally misrepresenting some data. Some of the referenced discussions in the e-mail do seem like normal petty bickering by scientists, though it is difficult for me to completey dismiss certain aspects of these e-mails. My biggest issue is with the sort of glossing over of the paleo-climatological data. I already had an issue with using this data and extrapolating it to a global level with the level of confidence that was being done and this certainly reinforces the doubts I had about this data. Anyway I will be mulling this over a bit, as there may be previous examples of such things in different scientific arenas that this can be compared to. My meanderings on this are to be continued...

Friday, December 11, 2009

What if Climate Change Is Not Caused By Man?

With the Copenhagen summit taking place as I type, the climate change debate is full steam ahead here in the U.S. So what if humans are not warming the Earth? After all,"there are no proofs in science". With something as complex as the atmosphere, which can not be replicated, even on a small scale, the question is certainly reasonable no matter what side of the debate you may fall on.

My answer is simple. Who cares? The only question of any significance to humans is whether the Earth is warming or not. There certainly is debate about this and while I am of the belief that it is indeed warming, I do not deny there is no possibility of data manipulation or errors in comparing present and past data by those such as NASA and the various organizations around the world that track temperatures. Even if you believe that the data is flawed, it is difficult to account for the melting glaciers, both at the poles and in mountain ranges all over the world. Stories from locals in regions such as the Andes and the Himalayas are certainly consistent with a warming world, and these stories are seemingly endless.

So, with the understanding that the world is indeed warming, we as humans really do not need this to occur. I say anything that can be done to stop oceans from flooding coastal cities, droughts from causing massive water shortages, etc. should be done. Reducing "greenhouse" gasses, even through "natural" methods such as preventing methane hydrate releases is just logical for a species accustomed to certain temperature ranges. Humans have drastically altered the environment for less noble reasons than our own survival. Let us do it in a manner that is as close to just as our leaders will allow!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Point Source Energy

A sustainable planet that allows humans to flourish involves more than new technologies to rid us of environmentally destructive processes. It includes a new approach to how we think of the operations of our systems in general. It is popular to note how the current American economic crisis is the result of unsustainable financial practices. My thought is that lack of individual responsibility and the lack of the possibility of this responsibility is often a characteristic of human systems which are unsustainable. Considering this, I support clean energy that gives at least a degree of energy creation back to the consumer, thus limiting the need to pay energy companies who are part of the intricate pay to play political system of the U.S. Solar photovoltaics, domestic sized wind turbines and digesters that create fuel are all technologies which can bring cleaner energy while empowering individuals. I say support feed-in-tariff rules and any measure that makes these systems competitive not only with conventional energy producers such as coal and oil but with big wind and solar. The directives and money being thrown at the anticipated energy revolution can serve to further entrench utility companies and their associated corporations hold on people or invite a new freedom which could offer a glimmer of what a truly sustainable society looks like,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Indiana Governor On Carbon Cap and Trade

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels wrote a scathing critique of the proposed carbon mitigation plan in the Wall Street Journal One fear of implementing a carbon cap and trade in the U.S. is the potential to disproportionaly drive up electricity costs in states such as Indiana which rely almost entirely on coal as their primary source. It could also have huge effects on middle to lower income people, which is the last thing the country needs at this tme. The Waxman-Markey Bill considers these possibilities in its' proposed allowance allocation "Local electric distribution companies, whose rates are regulated by the states, will receive 30% of the allowances, which they must use to protect consumers from electricity price increases." As for hurting the pocket-books of those less well off financially:"15% of allowances will be auctioned each year and the proceeds of these allowances will be distributed to low- and moderate-income families to protect them from other energy cost increases. These allowances will be distributed through tax credits, direct payments, and electronic benefit payments and will not phase out."
Another problem Daniel's states in the Journal article is "This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers -- California, Massachusetts and New York -- seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies..." The governor even calls these states "imperialists". This, as pointed out very well by Dr. Bill Chameides' Huffington Post Response, is laughable, considering the federal funding Indiana recieves.
All this talk it neglecting the one issue on my mind, which is individual empowerment over one's own energy use and costs. The real "imperialism" element is the lack of feed-in-tariffs or other consumer protection measures in the bill. The "imperialists" will once again be the utility companies and the entire government itself without such provisions. Daniels wants to simplify a complex issue to scare Hoosiers away from carbon mitigation and Democrats who support it. With Secretary Chu himself reportedly saying we will reach 450ppm, our future may indeed be bleak without action!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Largest Geothermal Heating and Cooling Plant in U.S.

My Alma matter and the university I am currently attending for graduate studies, Ball State University is constructing what will be the largest geothermal system of its'kind in the United States. While there will certainly be some disruptions during some phases of the project, it is replacing an entirely coal fired heating and cooling plant, so the environmental benefits are enormous. Not to mention the economic rewards! With strong U.S. environmental leadership as President Obama's agenda indicates projects such as these should proliferate.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nuclear Energy and its' Waste

The Yucca mountain waste plan will likely never be acceptable to Nevada residents. A holistic energy policy that addresses energy use is needed. The Unites States government can make a choice to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into nuclear or subsidize renewable like wind, biomass, and solar. Point source renewable energy could be used on a massive scale which would allow for less waste in distribution of energy and conservation of energy. It would also address the issue of control, with a power source that originates at a home; the resident is gaining a sense of control that is lost with centralized plants. The sense of dread about nuclear technologies (whether unfounded or not) is not inherent with renewables. While unfamiliarity is and issue with renewable energy a massive education effort seems to already be underway and could easily be expanded on as the technical aspects are more easily understood by laymen than those of nuclear energy. Need for a different source of energy is established throughout much of the American public. The health costs of fossil fuels and reliance on foreign oil are frowned upon for the most part. Technological determinism is a factor for both nuclear and renewables. The nuclear industry has had a time of massive government subsidies and research, with no satisfactory solutions or compromises when it comes to dealing with its’ massive wastes. My overall thoughts on nuclear energy are that the U.S. has been a pioneer for the world on many fronts, why rehash the same attempts of a failed industry?

Friday, May 29, 2009

RFK Ball State University Speech on Environment

Robert F. Kenndy Jr’s speech at Emens Auditorium was primarily a pitch for a new clean energy economy and how it can happen. In making this pitch he discussed the politics that have impeded this transformation as well as how policies should change to pave the way, the technologies he believes will best bring clean energy to the U.S. and how much this clean energy will benefit our environment, quality of life and economics.
In discussing why we have not made more progress RFK blamed what he calls “corporate crony capitalism” that reflects business as usual in Washington. He placed blame on former President George W. Bush for expanding on this damaging Washington culture, even calling out numerous Bush cabinet members and backers as being part of the oil, coal, and pharmaceutical industries that they were meant to regulate. He also argues that a true free market that eliminated subsidies for coal and oil would do for energy what the breakup of telecom giants did for the price of telephone service. He also advocates increasing CAFÉ standards and a carbon cap and trade system...continued

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Human Societies Choose to Fail?

In “Lessons from Environmental Collapses Past Societies” Jared Diamond states “We are the ones who cause the problems, and so we can stop causing them.” He speculates that this can only be done given the proper political will and that we can solve these problems tomorrow if we all agreed to. I speculate that this idea may be true; however I fear that even with the political will it may be too late to prevent collapse. Can we even gain political will on all pressing issues if as Columbia University Psychologist states humans only have a “finite pool of worry?” (American Psychological Association, 2008) Our ecosystem is complicated with many feedbacks, some of which are only partially understood and others which have yet to be discovered. With this in mind, it is possible that infinite political will could be summoned today, and a perfectly sustainable system be implemented only to be undermined by our past follies. In either case success or failure was chosen at some point in our society’s history...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Climate Change, Live and Let Live, and Freedom

The Ethics of Climate Change by John Broom asserts that “some people—chiefly the better-off among the current generation—will have to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases to save future generations…” This is part of the conflicting interests that demand ethical questions involved in climate change response. Broom also states that “those who benefit from something should not impose its cost on others who do not” and most people recognize that you should not do something for your own benefit if it harms others. The issue is then to understand the sometimes complex, domino effect manner in which your actions can harm others. The other and perhaps even more difficult issue is the qualifier “most”. An example of this stems from a conversation with a fellow student, whom I loosely paraphrase as stating, I do not believe in ethics, as my philosophy is live and let live, so we should not be telling anyone how to go about living their lives. John Ehrenfeld may see this as a symptom of “hyper-individualism” which he describes in Sustainability By Design. Lester Brown in a May 2009 Scientific American article points out that when a government can’t provide security or basic services the breakdown of society in these countries overflows and has consequences to other areas such as spreading disease, weapons, and violence. This should appeal to the self preservation side of anyone. The irony of “freedom” is that it can lead to the absence of it....continued

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eco-effective Paper Plates

Using papermaking byproducts with natural pulp chemicals such as resin is the traditional way of making paper plates. Consisting of trees mostly from managed forests and tree plantations the traditional paper plate industry is more environmentally-friendly than in the past. There are still issues such as lack of biodiversity and segmenting of biomes that cause environmental harm. Read entire article!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Home Energy Monitors

The need for these home energy monitors is genuine. There are numerous ways to monitor home energy use. Home energy consumption is reduced when people are seeing their consumption as they consume. So everyone benefits!
Choosing a home energy monitor can be daunting. Home energy monitors have different features and applications. So how do you choose one?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thoughts On U.S. Leadership and Pollution

The U.S. is the world superpower. I argue that the latest world economic troubles only serve to accentuate the extent to which this is true, as economies of the world are suffering due to the domino effect triggered by the collapse of the U.S. housing market. The Kyoto treaty was only a piece of paper without the U.S. on board. The other major polluting nations such as China and India will not take the problem of global environmental change seriously until America does. Copenhagen is a chance to right the ship before it is too late. Our nation is just as capable of steering the ship in the right direction as it is in the wrong direction. This means allowing Earth to take the helm, and remembering humanity adapts to her, not her to humanity.