Posts about global warming

Study of the Colony Collapse Disorder Continues as Bee Colonies Continue to Disappear

I can understand why people get complacent. We have a pretty remarkable run of science and technology finding solutions for whatever peril we face.

Also, quite often, future risks are over-blown. Then, people get habituated to reading ominous predictions, followed by a future doesn’t seem to reach those dramatic predictions. But this is a risky pattern to just expect – that no matter what we will figure out some way to avoid the consequences.

Risks actually do come true. The obvious result of overfishing, just as predicted, has resulted in collapses of fish populations over and over creating great hardship for those who had fallen victim to that prediction. If people don’t vaccinate themselves (and their kids) we will have ever increasing numbers of deaths and sickness. If we fail to use anti-biotics is a long term sustainable way, our actions will result in many deaths.

I am not sure why we find it so easy to ignore the evidence of bad consequences but we do. Partially I would imagine that as problems begin to be manifest countermeasures take affect. So in the fishing example, many people leave that line of work and so the numbers in the industry after a collapse, who are suffering in the present, are reduced. Still I find it odd how easily we ignore the risks in the future.

I do understand if there are short term benefits to ignoring the risks (or pretending they don’t exist): so you have fisherman that don’t want to take steps in advance to avoid collapse. Or you have industries and politicians that want to pretend ignoring global warming is a strategy to avoid the consequences. Or you have parents that say, well today we don’t have many risks of sicknesses people get vaccinated against (yes, because people have been vaccinated – if you stop vaccinating your children they we get to experience the avoidable pain and suffering).

I have been following the honeybee colony collapse disorder for several years (see the end of the posts for links to posts from 2006 – 2010, like this one The Study of Bee Colony Collapses Continues from 2007). It is a great example of the scientific inquiry process. It is messy and confusing and full of studies that have trouble finding what the actually causes are or what solutions will work.

There are occasionally mentions of how devestating things could get if the trend continues. In fact stories that seem so devestating that they just don’t seem real. surely either that won’t happen or if it started to some countermeasure would be found to deal with the problem and avoid the most severe consequences. That is basially how I have felt about it. But that is not because of some scientific understanding but just a feeling that hey that couldn’t really happen. Well that isn’t exactly solid evidence that it can’t.

Honeybee problem nearing a ‘critical point’

In addition to continued reports of CCD — a still somewhat mysterious phenomenon in which entire bee colonies literally disappear, alien-abduction style, leaving not even their dead bodies behind — bee populations are suffering poor health in general, and experiencing shorter life spans and diminished vitality. And while parasites, pathogens, and habitat loss can deal blows to bee health, research increasingly points to pesticides as the primary culprit.

farmers use these chemicals to protect their crops from destructive insects, but in so doing, they harm other insects essential to their crops’ production — a catch-22 that Hackenberg said speaks to the fact that “we have become a nation driven by the chemical industry.” In addition to beekeeping, he owns two farms, and even when crop analysts recommend spraying pesticides on his crops to kill an aphid population, for example, he knows that “if I spray, I’m going to kill all the beneficial insects.” But most farmers, lacking Hackenberg’s awareness of bee populations, follow the advice of the crop adviser — who, these days, is likely to be paid by the chemical industry, rather than by a state university or another independent entity.

I believe this is the latest advise of the Unites States Department of Agriculture (though their web site doesn’t make it nearly as obvious as it should that this is in fact the current advice – the document seems to indicate it is but if someone were to say no, that is outdated, it wouldn’t be hard to believe)

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Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our Planet

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park photo by John Hunterphoto by John Hunter at Glacier National Park.

Tomorrow 56 newspapers, in 45 countries, are taking the unprecedented step of publishing the same editorial. The editorial will appear in 20 languages, as the United Nations Climate Change Conference is set to begin in Copenhagen.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

Most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. Even with the overwhelming evidence and tremendous consequences I don’t expect politicians to make the right decisions. We know full well what the choices are. We just decide to avoid the unpleasant choices. To bad so many that don’t get to choose are going to suffer. The politicians will be weak. They will play to those that pay them money. They will delay taking important steps now. We have chosen to elect non-leaders for quite some time. We can’t really expect them to act with courage, vision, wisdom and leadership given who we elect. The politicians are responsible for their failing but we are more responsible for electing them. Some politicians, even now, do possess fine qualities but not nearly enough. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I doubt it.

Related: What’s Up With the Weather?Arctic System on Trajectory to New, Seasonally Ice-Free StateScientists Denounce Global Warming Report EditsDeforestation and Global WarmingMIT’s Energy ‘Manhattan Project’Global Installed Wind Power Now Over 1.5% of Global Electricity DemandBigger Impact: 15 to 18 mpg or 50 to 100 mpg?Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 202076 Nobel Laureates in Science Endorse Obama

Ethanol Scam

The Clean Energy Scam

The Amazon was the chic eco-cause of the 1990s, revered as an incomparable storehouse of biodiversity. It’s been overshadowed lately by global warming, but the Amazon rain forest happens also to be an incomparable storehouse of carbon, the very carbon that heats up the planet when it’s released into the atmosphere. Brazil now ranks fourth in the world in carbon emissions, and most of its emissions come from deforestation.

Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves. The U.N.’s World Food Program says it needs $500 million in additional funding and supplies, calling the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency. Soaring corn prices have sparked tortilla riots in Mexico City, and skyrocketing flour prices have destabilized Pakistan, which wasn’t exactly tranquil when flour was affordable.

One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol is much cleaner, and biofuels created from waste products that don’t gobble up land have real potential, but even cellulosic ethanol increases overall emissions when its plant source is grown on good cropland. “People don’t want to believe renewable fuels could be bad,” says the lead author, Tim Searchinger, a Princeton scholar and former Environmental Defense attorney. “But when you realize we’re tearing down rain forests that store loads of carbon to grow crops that store much less carbon, it becomes obvious.”

Related: Is Ethanol a Science Based Solution or Special Interest PayoffBiofuels use Could Worsen Global WarmingPeak SoilConverting Emissions to BiofuelsGeothermal Power in Alaska

Deforestation and Global Warming

Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming:

In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 8 million people flying from London to New York. Stopping the loggers is the fastest and cheapest solution to climate change.

Tropical Deforestation, Climate Impacts (NASA by Rebecca Lindsey):

Undisturbed tropical forests may be nearly neutral with respect to carbon, but deforestation and degradation are currently a source of carbon to the atmosphere and have the potential to turn the tropics into an even greater source in coming decades.

Related: Deforestation (from the National Geographic)Deforestation (Greenpeace)Deforestation and the Greenhouse EffectWhat’s Up With the Weather?The Choice: Doomsday or Arbor Day

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