Even Skeptics are Becoming Convinced of Global Warming and Its Cause

The path of sound credence is through the thick forest of skepticism.”
—George Jean Nathan

The hallmark of science is to first generate a hypothesis, and then to design an experiment that will either confirm or refute that hypothesis. Repeated experimentation with consistent results helps to further strengthen the conclusions that are made. And although some people believe some “facts” do not require scientific study, history has shown us that we don’t always understand Mother Nature. For example, Galileo helped to prove that all things fall at the same speed and with the same rate of acceleration unless affected by air resistance. Until those experiments were completed, everybody simply assumed that heavier objects fell more quickly.

Sometimes you can’t do experiments to investigate a hypothesis, however. One reason would be that it’s unethical to do so. We’ve proven that smoking causes cancer because of careful observations over many decades, but it would be difficult as well as unethical to design a clinical trial where nonsmokers were randomized to either become smokers or remain nonsmokers, and then follow their health over the years. When such data needs to be obtained, we do our best to observe smokers and nonsmokers and compare how they do, and try to account for any other possible confounding variables that might affect the outcomes such as level of education, socioeconomic status, etc… Continue reading

Greenland: Record-Breaking Ice Melts

This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?
—Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Satellites have been giving us useful information by providing images of our planet for over thirty years. One of the best ways we have to track changes in melting ice patterns is by imaging them with satellites. By watching what happens with the Arctic ice cap for example, we’ve been able to prove that it’s been getting smaller each summer to a significant degree in the span of one generation, one of the best sources of evidence that global warming is indeed happening.

Another large source of ice on our planet is the ice cover over Greenland. Unlike the Arctic ice cap which is a large floating ice cube floating in the Arctic sea, Greenland is a land mass, but it’s almost entirely covered in ice. Near the coasts the ice is very thin, but in the center the ice thickness can reach two miles. Continue reading

Another GOP Member Supports Green Energy

“Renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth and the creation of good-paying jobs for the people of our state.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

From time to time—although not frequently enough—I get to point out on this blog that some Republicans support concepts that either tackle global warming or support green energy. This is especially true when these Republicans realize that it can support conservative ideologies by creating jobs and supporting businesses.

The latest GOP member to make such a move is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. One of the best parts of this story is that he’s sticking to what he promised he would do when he campaigned for the job of Governor back in 2009. He supported green energy Continue reading

ER Physician Speaks Out About Health Concerns from Fracking

You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.
―Mahatma Gandhi

I take words like those above to heart. I think it’s important that we speak up and take action about things that we believe are important. It’s the reason I wrote my book and maintain this blog.

I’m not the only physician who speaks out against some of the problems associated with fossil fuels. Most physicians who do speak out address specific health concerns that affect the public when we protest against such things as offshore oil drilling, development of the Alberta tar sands, and fracking for shale gas.

One such physician is Dr. Angela LeGresley, an emergency doctor in Moncton, New Brunswick. She investigated the information around fracking for shale gas and found that there were substantial health concerns. Despite requesting information from the oil and gas companies to supply her with facts to the contrary, neither of those industries were able to provide her with any such information.

So Dr. LeGresley is doing the best thing that she can. She’s speaking out on the subject. You can see a seven-minute video below and hear her message first-hand.

Often, global warming skeptics and deniers argue that those who speak out against fossil fuels are doing so for ulterior motives that they’re keeping hidden. Pushing leftist agendas is a common one I hear. This week I received a blog comment suggesting I’m doing what I’m doing—writing a book and maintaining a blog—to cash in on global warming. In response I pointed out that I can make excellent money working as a cardiologist, and that writing a book and maintaining a blog don’t break even, let alone make me any money.

No, there are no ulterior motives here. Just like Dr. LeGresley, we both speak out for no other reason than we think people need to hear these messages. We have nothing to gain by this but the hope that perhaps we’ll help our planet and the health of the people living on it in some small way.

Doctors care about the health of people, and not just those who step foot in our offices. In the same way that we speak out in support of smoking bans in public places or mandatory helmets for cyclists, we care about many health issues in general. The most significant way that global warming is going to hurt our species is with adverse effects to our health.

I think Dr. LeGresley provided a great message about her own personal study into fracking for shale gas and the health concerns associated with it. She and many physicians have supported moratoriums on the development of fracking for these reasons.

Deep down, doctors care.

Windows That Generate Electricity

“An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: What does happen is that the opponents gradually die out.”
—Max Planck

Sunlight is everywhere. Not all the time of course, but even places that get a lot of cloud cover still receive a lot of energy from the sun, enough to make solar power a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

That’s why solar energy is one of the main sources of renewable energy being developed today. Along with wind and geothermal, getting energy from sunlight is one of the best ways to provide us with electricity without creating significant greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

Mostly, people think of two types of solar energy. The first is photovoltaic (or solar) panels, where a direct current is generated by a photon hitting a photoelectric cell. The second is concentrated solar thermal (CST) energy, where a number of mirrors reflect sunlight onto a tower where a liquid such as sea water is superheated, producing steam which can rotate a turbine and generate electricity as a result. Both of these technologies continue to develop, and are commercially viable in regions of the planet with consistently good sunlight such as Spain.

But the vast majority of people live in parts of the world that aren’t quite so sunny, yet there is still enough energy from the sun to make solar power a viable alternative to consider. All we have to do is harness the sun’s energy in simpler ways than the solar farms needed for solar panels or CST do.

One method that has been in the works for a number of years is something referred to as a polymer solar cell (PSC). Most of the photovoltaic solar cells are made from purified silicon crystals, similar to those used in computer silicon chips. These types of solar cells are rigid, complex and expensive to make. In contrast, the PSC is much less expensive to manufacture because it can use printed electronics, it’s lightweight, flexible, and possibly even disposable. They have been less efficient than conventional solar cells made from silicon crystals but have been heavily researched and developed because of the advantages listed above.

Last week, a research team from UCLA have come up with a version of PSCs that can be applied to windows. They generate electricity but people can still see through them. They’re about 70 percent transparent because most of the energy they absorb is from infrared radiation rather than visible light, one of the groundbreaking achievements over earlier prototypes making this news particularly exciting.

The leader of the PSC research at UCLA is Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering, as well as director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). He stated “These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications.” Their work was published in ACS Nano.

Obviously an announcement as recent as this means there’s a way to go before commercially viable PSC windows will be part of mainstream building materials. But any concerns about the 30 percent loss of visibility associated with this type of window will only diminish as further research and development will lead to even further improvements.

But this type of development is just one of the many ways to think outside the box and look toward innovative ideas that generate electricity in ways other than fossil fuels. What a brilliant way to help buildings generate their own electricity and minimize their emissions.

I applaud Yang Yang and the research team and wish them continued success in their efforts.