Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

Today is yet another Blog Action Day, and the topic this time is climate change. I went on-line to find out the origins of the phrases "global warming" and "climate change". People on both sides of the debate blame the other for using "climate change" more often than "global warming" nowadays. The late William Safire did a little research on the phrases and dates the use of "global warming" back to at least 1969. He didn't do due diligence on "climate change". The earliest usage I found is from the mid 1970's.

People who believe humans have something to do with changes we are definitely seeing think the other side is using "climate change" because it sounds less scary, some Orwellian euphemism. Those who deny any human cause think the other side (let me say it, our side) is using the phrase as an admission that the world is not getting warmer.

Here's the situation in a nutshell. Climates are changing. Some are getting warmer, but not all. There are many causes, not least of which is the sun. But humans are adding to this as well. Science Daily reports on the finding of Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA scientist whose work has found that CO2 levels are higher than they have been in fifteen million years.

Deniers are fond of saying that CO2 is natural. It certainly is. So is arsenic. We definitely need both CO2 and oxygen in our air. Animals need the oxygen and exhale CO2. Plants need the CO2 and exhale oxygen. Sweet little system. But like all systems, it needs to be in balance.

Let me show some snapshots of the climate in Oakland, California over the past forty years. The East Bay of San Francisco has some of the mildest weather in the world, rarely going below freezing and rarely getting above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But even this mild climate is showing changes, as the charts below will indicate.

September 1969: The end of the sixties had very mild weather in the Bay Area. These red marks each correspond to a day in September, the left-right position to the high temperature during the day and the up-down to the low temperature during the night. The highest temperature all month was 80. There is one mark high above the rest of the data, a day when the evening temperature never got below 68. The red circle means this point is an outlier, far away from the rest of the data. The outlying part is the low temperature.

The line shows the correlation between day and night tempertures. The correlation in 1969 was very strong. A warm day would be followed by a warm night, a cool day by a cool night.

Northern California at its mildest and most predictable.

September 1979 is a different story. There is one really warm night, that circled diamond above the rest, but there was also a three day heat wave, the hottest day getting to 98, which in Oakland is considered a sign of the apocalypse.

1989 goes back to being predictably mild, but now the evening temperatures are cooler than they were in 1969. Also the correlation between daytime and nighttime temperatures isn't as strong.

1999 warms up some from 1989, though there aren't any days over 90 degrees. There is one outlying hot day and one outlying warm evening.

Then we have this year. The average daily temperature was close to as hot as 1979, but there was no one day remarkably hotter than the rest. The temperature got over 80 nine times, far more often than any other September on this list. The only outlier is an outlyingly cool evening at 47 degrees. Notice that the line slopes downward from left to right. The correlation between daytime and nighttime temperatures is very weak, and there are enough odd days that we actually get negative correlation.

Let me reiterate. Oakland has very mild weather. Even experiencing climate change, there is nothing catastrophic happening here yet. The problem with climate change is twofold.

1. Humans are the species that burns the world to stay warm. It used to be forests destroyed for firewood. Now we turn mountains into craters to get at coal, or suck a place dry of its oil or natural gas deposits.

2. We are the opposite of nomads. We are a worldwide infestation. If we need stuff, we take it, even if that stuff is in the most inhospitable place on earth. Some of those unwelcoming places are getting worse, and getting worse faster than we would have predicted.

We can change, though we are almost always resistant to it. We can think about the ways we live, the energy we use, the energy expended by others on our behalf to make our lives more convenient in acts we don't even think about. What do we purchase? Where was it made? How was it transported from where it was made to where we bought it?

Climate change is real. No sensible person says otherwise.

Humans are part of the reason. There are those that argue otherwise, but the best science says they are wrong. Some are getting paid to lie. Others are just human and resistant to change.

We have to change. Think about what you can do.

Thank you for reading this post.


Amy said...

I am not sure if we have any effect on global warming but I think we still need to be energy efficient and help the environment.

no_slappz said...

There are roughly 750 million cars and trucks in the world today. That number is expected to quadruple to 3 billion by the middle of the century when the global population is expected to hit 9 billion.

In other words, aggregate energy consumption is on a one-way trip to the moon. The increase is unstoppable. Hence, those who believe there's a problem need to develop workable and affordable solutions -- like planting a lot of leafy trees and re-routing a lot of fresh water.

All of this pointless worry about what might happen a century from now is a quaint way of ignoring today's real problems. Like the fact that every year about 5 million Africans die from drinking unclean water.

They use very little, if any, oil, coal or natural gas, which is another way of saying they live in primitive nations. As a result of living as do -- the fault of the corrupt thugs ruling African nations -- millions die and the average life span for many African nations is below 50.