More Astroturfing From the GOP

We have 250 years of coal. Why in the heck wouldn’t we use it?”
—Mitt Romney

With the Republican National Convention now behind us, and Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan officially designated the two candidates on the ticket, we have the Democratic National Convention next week with no surprises anticipated. And then let the games begin!

I watched a lot of the RNC convention and it reminded me of what I don’t like in modern politics (and this happens on both sides of the aisle, so I’m being critical of the process rather than the party here): professionally-written speeches given by professionally-coached individuals reading from teleprompters. It’s like a movie and they’re nothing more than actors. Except that Tom Cruise would do a much better job of portraying a politician than the real ones do. There are lots of motherhood statements with little or no substance, and such puffery as “No one will work harder for you. Or for America.” Sheesh!

With that out of the way, now I have to pick on the party and its dirty tricks. I can’t help but comment on a recent speech Mitt Romney gave at an Ohio coal mine earlier in August. He was surrounded by coal miners which made for great photo ops. Guys in hard hats, standing behind Mitt, showing their solidarity. And Mitt standing there at the podium with the words “Coal Country Stands With Mitt” on it.

Only the show of solidarity was totally fabricated. It turns out these miners weren’t there because they believe in Mitt or the Republican ideology. They weren’t even there because they believed in their jobs or the industry. They were there because the owner of the mine—Murray Energy, the largest privately-owned coal company in the US—made them go. And without pay. Continue reading

Decreasing Meat Consumption: A Great Way to Reduce Emissions

When you factor in the fertilizer needed to grow animal feed and the sheer volume of methane expelled by cows, a carnivore driving a Prius can contribute more to global warming than a vegan in a Hummer.”
Christina Agapakis, synthetic biologist at UCLA

For those of us keen to keep our carbon footprints to a minimum, we tend to think about reducing carbon dioxide by addressing how we burn fossil fuels. We look to renewable sources of energy, minimize electricity use, and sometimes even purchase carbon offsets to cover the carbon dioxide we can’t avoid generating in our 21st century lifestyles.

But of course, carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas. Methane and nitrous oxide play a role too. In fact, methane is about twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is, and nitrous oxide is more than 300 times as potent. Fortunately, they are in such smaller concentrations—for example, methane is around 1,750 parts per billion compared with carbon dioxide’s 394 parts per million—so carbon dioxide still plays a bigger part in global warming, according to most experts. At least for now.

A huge source of both methane and nitrous oxide is the meat industry. The number of cattle on the planet is about 1.3 billion, more than one head of cattle for every five people on Earth. So it would make sense that if we had less cattle and other ruminants like sheep on the planet, we would generate less methane. Continue reading

Arctic Sea Ice Reaches its Lowest Level Ever Recorded

“It is God’s planet – and he’s taking care of it. And I don’t believe that anything we do will raise or lower the temperature one point.”
—Jerry Falwell

Although the late Jerry Falwell had blind faith that our human folly would always be thwarted by a deity who is watching over us, evidence consistently seems to be to the contrary. Many times I’ve reported on this blog about breaking temperature records. Most of those I report are in North America since that’s closest to home for me, but such records are being broken all over the world. Surface temperatures are just one of the many ways to help prove that global warming is real.

Another important type of evidence is the melting of ice on our planet. We have a lot of ice in Greenland, Antarctica, and in glaciers all over the planet. But we also have a lot of ice in the Arctic. And unlike the other sources of ice listed above, Arctic ice is freely floating like a big ice cube. All of the other major sources of ice are land-based.

Over the last thirty-plus years since accurate measurements of Arctic ice have been recorded—primarily from satellite data—we’ve observed a steady decline in the size of the ice cap at our North Pole from year to year. So it only makes sense that we’d see another first with such Earth-shattering (literally!) temperature records being broken these days. Continue reading

Global Warming and the Spread of Disease: We're Seeing it Now

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”
—John Muir

In my book “Comprehending the Climate Crisis,” chapter five addresses the consequences of global warming. The title of the chapter is “Global Warming and its Devastating Effects.” In one subheading, I address the spread of disease. In fact, I previously posted an excerpt from this chapter and you can read it here if you’re interested. Briefly, I pointed out that as global warming continues, disease vectors such as mosquitoes are going to extend their territories, and diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus are going to affect greater numbers of people in regions previously safe from such diseases.

Sadly, we are seeing the evidence: that is precisely what is happening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that as of August 21, 2012, West Nile has been detected in 47 states within the US in either birds, humans, or mosquitoes. A total of 1,118 cases have been documented with 41 deaths among them. Continue reading

Training With Al Gore: A Summary

Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”
—Al Gore

Last week was my training as a Climate Leader for the Climate Reality Project in San Francisco. I’m one of about a thousand new leaders trained by Al Gore to provide versions of his talk all around the world. This was Mr. Gore’s 21st training program that he’s provided. Fifty eight countries were represented, and Canada had a strong showing with 125 Canucks present.

In fact, the Canadian branch of The Climate Reality Project is a strong group in its own right. Currently, more than 475,000 Canadians have heard a Climate Reality talk, which works out to be about one in sixty five. The training was amazing, and if you followed my brief blogs last week, you got a flavour of what it was all about. Continue reading