Chasing Ice: A Must-See Documentary

“At a time when warnings of global warming were being dismissed by broadcast blabbermouths as “junk science,” the science here is based on actual observation of the results as they happen. When opponents of the theory of evolution say (incorrectly) that no one has ever seen evolution happening, scientists are seeing climate change happening right now — and with alarming speed. Here is a film for skeptics who say ‘we don’t have enough information.'”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

With the eastern seaboard in the US still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, a documentary about changing climate seems particularly apt. James Balog, an environmental photographer who works for National Geographic took on an assignment back in 2005 to try to document images of climate change. The documentary Chasing Ice is the culmination of his work on that assignment. Continue reading

The US and Canada Reduce Vehicle Emissions Even More

It’s the right thing to do.”
The Hon. Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment

There’s an old saying in Canada: When the US sneezes, Canada catches cold. The implication obviously being that little ripples south of the 49th parallel have the potential to lead to rather dramatic results up here in the Great White North. (This is one of the reasons Canadians tend to follow American politics and the American economy so closely.) This old adage is usually used in the context of things that will have a negative impact on our country, but there’s no reason it couldn’t apply to the positive as well.

President Barack Obama’s administration has announced tougher emissions standards for automobiles and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that Canada is following suit as part of the “Beyond the Border” agreement the two nations share on North American perimeter security and competitiveness. It’s expected we’ll see a reduction in vehicle emissions of about five percent per year on average. By 2025, automobiles will have about 50 percent less emissions than 2008 models. Continue reading

Visualizing Carbon Dioxide Might Help

“To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act!”
—Alfred A. Montpert

We’ve heard it many times before: a picture is worth a thousand words. One of the problems people have with becoming motivated to do something about their greenhouse gas emissions is that they’re invisible and, thus, easy to ignore. We’re already experiencing the effects of global warming and climate change due to all of the carbon dioxide we’re spewing into the air—what amounts to 90 million tons a day, about 35 billion tons a year—but the emissions themselves aren’t so easy to appreciate; because carbon dioxide is odourless and colourless, it’s a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.”

When we saw factories spewing out tons of pollution into our lakes and streams in years past, we did something about it. Now such actions are better regulated. Pollution from factories may not be as well controlled as we might like, but it’s easy for anyone to be disgusted by large smokestacks and all of the pollution coming out of them.

But what if we could see carbon dioxide itself? Might that have an impact on how we felt about it? The folks at Carbon Visuals have created a great video showing how much carbon dioxide is emitted in New York City alone. Continue reading

Changing Attitudes Toward Global Warming: Can History Teach Us Anything?

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
—Karl Marx

I’m a firm believer that the study of history is important. It’s hard to understand where you’re going if you haven’t figured out where you’ve been. And as George Santaya the Spanish philosopher wisely stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat [its mistakes].

Although this blog is all about global warming and climate change, as a cardiologist medicine plays a huge part of my life and I love to study its history. I find most of it fascinating. It’s particularly interesting to look back to ancient times and realize how people essentially made up explanations for what they didn’t understand. For example, once upon a time people blamed angry gods for health ailments. This explanation was ultimately replaced by the imbalance of the four humours (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) to explain diseases, a rationale that persisted for many centuries. That’s why doctors made everyone bleed or puke, depending on what they thought patients had too much of. Continue reading

Civilizations Rise and Fall: Are We Any Different?

“This is our fate. All the more reason to appreciate what we have while we have it.”
James Atlas

I love New York. (That phrase is so catchy, someone should use it as a slogan for a tourism ad campaign.) I try to get to Manhattan at least once a year. Most times I’m there in December when a fantastic annual cardiovascular meeting is held at the Hilton. (I’ll be there in two weeks’ time in fact, and look forward to the opportunity to catch up with an old friend currently living in Massachusetts.) That time of the year the energy of the city is at an even higher peak than usual because of the holidays which are just around the corner.

So I’ve been sad for NYC lately because of Hurricane Sandy. It devastated a lot of the city. And of course for those who believe in science and are listening to what the world’s brightest climatologists are telling us, NYC is going to be hit harder and harder in the coming decades. In just a few centuries it’s likely that much of it will be under water. The doom-and-gloom portrayed in An Inconvenient Truth is sadly a reality future generations are going to have to contend with.

I’m not the only one who’s sad for NYC. This past weekend the New York Times included an op-ed written by James Atlas entitled “Is This the End?” Reminding readers that Indonesia was devastated after the tsunami of 2004 and New Orleans was underwater after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Atlas argues that history is in fact ripe with examples of civilizations coming to an end, often blindsided by unforeseen circumstances. Continue reading