Today Al Gore Educates More Climate Leaders

“There’s an old African proverb that says ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We have to go far—quickly.”
Al Gore at his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007

This week, close to fifteen hundred people have congregated in Chicago to receive training from the Climate Reality Project, becoming members of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Spanning three days, today is the day when Mr. Gore takes centre stage and educates trainees about his slide show, first made famous in the Oscar-winning movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

If it’s anything like it was with my training last August in San Francisco, he’ll go through an updated version of his talk once, the way he would for any audience. Following that, he’ll spend the rest of the day going through sections of the talk one at a time in much greater detail, slide by slide. After each section there will be Q&A sessions first discussed at each table which is made up of about eight trainees and one mentor. Then as a much larger group, questions from the tables are advanced to the podium for Mr. Gore and his scientific advisors to address. Continue reading

The Trillion Tonne Budget

“A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.”
—William Feather

We’ve heard many times before that we need to keep below certain targets if we want to maintain a climate that’s at all hospitable for the majority of people living on this planet. The most common target we hear is that we need to prevent global warming below two degrees Celsius or it will make the more recent extreme weather phenomena look like a light summer rain.

Another target often mentioned is related to the two-degrees-Celsius one is preventing the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from reaching 450 parts per million (ppm). For context, our current monthly average globally is 398.58 ppm according to CO2Now.org. (You’ll recall that we just cracked 400 ppm this past spring, but now with summer in the northern hemisphere, the levels are slowly dropping thanks to photosynthesis until they reach their nadir in the fall and start to climb again.) A level of 450 ppm of carbon dioxide is predicted to be associated with two degrees Celsius of global warming, so that’s the reason these two levels are related.

But there’s another way to think about it, and one that might be a little easier to grasp: the global carbon budget. Given that most carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for centuries because photosynthesis isn’t keeping up with what we’re adding, this concept states that it doesn’t matter at what rate we add carbon dioxide, it matters how much we add in total.

Physicist Myles Allen and a team of six other scientists at the University of Oxford came up with this idea after taking the emissions we have been generating historically and plugging those data into computer models to predict what it will take to get us to 450 ppm and thus two degrees of Celsius.

The number they came up with is an easy one to remember: one trillion. Continue reading

You, Me, and Our Emissions

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”
—Bill Gates 

You and I are currently adding greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere right this second. Me as I write this, you as you read this.

“But how can this be?” you ask. If you’re particularly aggressive at living a carbon-neutral existence, you may list all sorts of activities that argue against my claim: “I use green electricity, I purchase carbon offsets for my gasoline, and I bike to work. Heck, the laptop I’m using is even powered by my solar briefcase!”

But it’s true. There are hidden emissions most of us don’t think about. And one in particular is continuing to take the world by storm: Continue reading

Fun Friday: Robots Building Teslas

“What’s casual for a robot isn’t necessarily what’s casual for a human.”
—Alan Tudyk

After a week of some negative climate information, I thought I’d lighten things up for the weekend. I love electric cars. I currently drive a hybrid (a Lexus RX450h to be precise), because I need all-wheel drive to contend with our Canadian winters. I purchase carbon offsets for the fuel I purchase. But I’ve been dying to get my hands on an electric car. Only problem was that I had to wait for a Tesla that’s all-wheel drive.

Thank goodness the Tesla Model X is coming next year. I’ve been very impressed with Tesla vehicles, and their champion Elon Musk. And I’m not the only one: fact is that the Tesla Model S won Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” award for 2013, the first time an electric car ever got that distinction.

This brief video shows how robots puts the Tesla Model S together. The innovation isn’t just in the design of the vehicle, but also in its manufacturing. Watch the dance and behold our future. Not just the future of robotic manufacturing to the extreme, but the future of the electric vehicles we will be driving exclusively one day.

Climate Change Means Global Economic Disaster

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”
—former NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco

You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect before. Coined by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz—a pioneer of chaos theory—it helps to illustrate an important principle: minor change can have a major ripple effect. What might seem like a minor thing such as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can lead to a major thing such as a hurricane weeks later in another part of the world.

Most of the world is aware of the effects that global warming is having on the Arctic. Melting sea ice is the most obvious. Some people (i.e. people who want to continue business as usual and burn every last fossil fuel making themselves richer in the process) refer to the economic benefits that arise from the loss of Arctic sea ice. Some of these benefits include increasing shipping lanes, greater fishing, and easier access to more fossil fuel reserves leading to even more places to drill for oil.

But there are other effects from global warming in the Arctic such as loss of permafrost and the associated release of methane that is less well know but no less consequential. A new report in Nature by economists and polar scientists from the University of Cambridge and Erasmus University Rotterdam indicates that the economic cost of a warming Arctic far outweighs the benefits. Whereas economic gains might be as much as $100 million within ten years, the cost could be $60 trillion! (That’s close to the total global economy of $70 trillion last year!) Continue reading