Monday, April 17, 2006

Global Climate Crisis

I saw Al Gore give a talk at Google on Friday, April 7th, and even got to shake his hand afterwards. It was a great talk about the state of the climate changes and global warming. I was incredibly impressed with the fact that his talk concentrated on the facts, and was not political. There were of course political jokes here and there, and slight pokes at the current administration, but I do not feel that they detracted from the point he was trying to get across. The Q&A session afterwards had more of a political agenda due to the questions that were asked, but overall I think it was very well done.

Below is a summary of what he talked about, including quick facts. All of this information will be in the movie coming out this year entitled An Inconvenient Truth, which I recommend seeing and plan to see myself.

  • He calls it the "climate crisis" because "global warming" doesn't truly encompass the issues, and makes it sound less like a local problem
  • The word "crisis" is written as a combination of 2 characters in Chinese, one for "danger" and one for "opportunity" -- this tidbit of information is a good summary of the talk
  • There are a lot of global places that are showing signs of global warming: Mt. Kilamanjaro is out of glaciers, and Glacier National Park is out of glaciers, for 2 examples.
  • You can compare the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by checking the amount in glaciers (they save the gas in pockets of air) and comparing it to numbers taken over the past 40-some years. The amount of CO2 has never gone over 300 ppmv (parts per million), but is now at 400 ppmv. 45 more years of following the same increase trend as the past 40 (there was a graph) would be catastrophic due to the large amout that would then be in the air. We are talking exponential growth here.
  • The actual temperature of the ocean is higher than predicted by an actual computer monitor taking only natural causes in to account. A computer model that predicted the increase based on human interference from 30 years ago has accurately predicted the temperature up until now. That model shows it to continue to increase at a rate that will probably kill off most of the sea life in our lifetimes.
  • In March 2004, Brazil had the first typhoon in South America; a very big sign of changing global climates and ocean temperature.
  • We are having more flooding and more drought: the heavy rains cause flooding, but due to the rains all coming down at once the aquifers do not have time to refill, causing drought in the non-rain time.
  • Glaciers:
    • We have lost 40% of the thickness of hte arctic glaciers
    • There is currently a higher temperature increase at the north pole than at the equator. If these glaciers melt, the ocean will be warmed a great deal because these glaciers currently reflect a majority of sunshine in the winter months. If this warming occurs, the therma-haline pump between Canada and Europe could stop working, which currently helps control the ocean temperature and warms Europe. Europe could be thrust in to an ice age if this happens, with high consequences to the rest of the planet as well.
    • Larsen Ice Shelf in Antartica disappeared. It is just completely gone, this huge piece of ice. The small melting areas tunneled to the bottom of the glacier, heating the water and causing the land based ice to fall.
    • Land based ice melting causes the ocean height to rise, because that water was not part of the ocean previously. Water based ice melting does not cause the ocean height to rise, because it was part of the ocean to begin with.
    • Greenland melting (which it has already begun to do visibly) will raise sea levels worldwide by 20 feet, as all of those glaciers are currently land based. Currently 50 cubed miles are lost a year from the Greenland glacier. If this melting is not stopped, all of the Netherlands (not to mention most of Florida and many other regions) will be entirely under water in our lifetime.
  • Due to this warming, there is less frost on the ground during winter, and therefore invasive speacies come sooner. This is causing devastation to whole forests and other natural habitats.
  • Coral has died in the Caribbean because of warming ocean temperatures.
  • There will be more infectious diseases and mosquitos due to this warming, as they will be able to survive easier.

The year to fear is 2050...yes, if things keep going as they are, we will have a flooded and possibly uninhabitable planet by that time.

If you take nothing out of these bullet points, there are 2 things I want you to remember. First, 53% of the news puts global warming in doubt, whereas 0% of actual scientists doubt it. Big oil companies and others are literally paying people to act as specialists and claim that global warming is fake. Two, we are basically the one big country that has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and it cannot succeed without us because we output much more CO2 than the other countries, even per person. The rest of the world understands the problem, and wants to fix it but for some reason we are too worried about what it will do to the economy. But by not following the Kyoto Protocol and decreasing our emissions, we are losing some of our economy. For instance, our car makers are suffering right now; if they made more fuel efficient cars they could sell them to other countries, but right now they can't because their cars are not up to the standards required!

There's no reason not to try to fix our mistakes and save the Earth. Otherwise, our children might be the last generation before we plunge back to the dark ages or become extinct. It really is that imminent, and something really does need to be done about it.

If you are unsure of terms or why I think something matters, just ask. I did a semester project on global warming when I was an undergraduate, I took a geology class where we discussed much of this, and I have a full year of college level chemistry behind me. I could write a post on each of those bullet points I think, but I will refrain from doing so for now. However, it really is a very important topic, and we really need to take care of our planet because IT'S THE ONLY ONE WE HAVE!

Please see his movie or research more on this topic (preferably not in the american news, as there are many lies there) if you are not already familiar with the key points. If we do what we are capable of doing with the technology we have now, we actually CAN get our CO2 levels down to that of 1970! It's only a matter of trying and making the government know that it should be a priority! Because really, what's the point of fighting terrorism and finding cures to diseases if we aren't even going to have a planet in 50 years?

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