Climate Change Will Hurt Crops More Than We Thought

“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”
—Dan Quayle

Have you ever noticed that when it comes to climate change, the bad news is often proven to be worse than we originally predicted it would be? Like we underestimate the severity of the problem more than we should, even though many of us are declared alarmists by skeptics and deniers?

Here’s a case in point for you to consider: A new study published inNature Climate Change indicates that global food production is going to suffer more from a warming planet than we’d previously thought, not only from rising temperatures but also from increased air pollution with higher levels of ground (or tropospheric level) ozone that goes with it.

Remember that ground level ozone is bad and contributes significantly to cardiac and pulmonary disease, and results directly from the use of fossil fuels resulting in a particularly dealt form of pollution. This is in distinct contrast to the beneficial ozone layer high up in the stratosphere that protects us from deadly ultraviolet radiation.

This is the first time that warming temperatures and air pollution have been looked at together in such a study, helping to explain why things are worse than we thought when previous studies assessed them separately. It’s anticipated that the ten billion or so people living in 2050 will need about 50 percent more food that we require in the present day with our global population just over seven billion. The problem is that global warming is predicted to reduce crop yields by about ten percent by then, and that the increased air pollution that will go along with it will likely make that number even higher. Continue reading

Climate Change Negotiations in 83 Seconds

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes it’s frustrating to realize that the world’s political leaders seem unable to come to some agreement about how to tackle emissions. Despite an abundance of skeptics and deniers out there, the various heads of state seem to appreciate that something needs to be done but can’t figure out how to do it.

This video very succinctly summarizes the history of the efforts made up to the present time. The tune may be a little annoying (you can turn down your speakers and not miss a thing if you’d like), and for some reason the video is displayed twice back-to-back, but the lack of progress it displays seems almost silly when it’s seen in this context.

What we need are political leaders all over the world who are capable of coming to the consensus we need. Such leaders are one of our planet’s most precious—and rarest—resources.

The Records Keep on Breaking!

May 2014 was the warmest May ever since accurate records began in 1880. So how do you top that? With the warmest June on record, of course! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its latest report earlier this week highlighting the details.

According to the report:

The June global sea surface temperature was 0.64°C (1.15°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), the highest for June on record and the highest departure from average for any month. Parts of Greenland were record warm during June. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), Kangerlussuaq in southwestern Greenland recorded its record highest maximum June temperature of 23.2°C (73.8°F) on June 15. The last below-average global temperature for June was June 1976 and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985. Continue reading

Five Minutes to Understand the Science Behind Greenhouse Gases

I thought I understood the science behind greenhouse gases. How James Tyndall figured out that certain gases absorb infrared energy, how Svante Arrhenius figured out the equation (now known as the Greenhouse Law) which allows you to calculate just how much infrared energy those gases absorb. And even how Guy Callendar predicted the carbon dioxide we were adding would like to a warmer planet one day.

But every once in a while, something comes along to help fill in some little gaps. Like this brief TED talk which explains scientifically just how greenhouse gases absorb infrared energy. If you have five spare minutes, I strongly encourage you to watch this excellent video. You’ll understand the science behind what’s changing our planet’s climate even better.

State of the Climate: (Hint: It Ain't Good!)

“The planet is changing more rapidly … than in any time of modern civilization.”
Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center

Many people struggle with the question of whether our planet is actually experiencing global warming or not. Mostly this is because Earth’s surface temperatures are dynamic and chaotic, and it’s easy to confuse climate with weather. A cold winter in North America leads many North Americans to believe the planet isn’t warming despite the fact that Russia, Argentina and Australia experience surprisingly high temperatures at the very same time.

And of course people often ignore the other telltale signs of warming such as melting ice in the Arctic, Greenland and glaciers all over the world. One piece of evidence that is also often ignored is our warming oceans. All of these signs are much less chaotic than surface temperaturess, and yet they get much less attention, particularly among skeptics and deniers.

A recent report from the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center entitled State of the Climate in 2013 states that not only is our planet warming, but it’s doing so at an ever-increasing rate. One of their findings is that the “upper ocean heat content has increased significantly over the past two decades” as their graph shows:  Continue reading