How Good Are You at Tetris? Earth May Depend On It

Here’s a great TED-Ed video I found that summarizes the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and what they’re doing to our planet. If you’re well-versed in the subject, it won’t teach you anything new, but it offers a simple summary using the familiar analogy of playing Tetris to explain our plight.

In brief: there’s a massive game of Tetris being played on Earth. The blocks that need to be stacked represent carbon dioxide and they’re piling up more quickly than we can cope with as we continue to burn fossil fuels.

Sadly unlike the real game of Tetris, we don’t get the opportunity to start over and try again.

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You Have to Laugh at Politician-Deniers

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”
Bill Watterson

Last week, White House Science Advisor Dr. John P. Holdren had his hands full. Holdren is a theoretical physicist and appeared before the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space and Technology specifically to testify about President Obama’s plan to fight climate change. Rather than questioning the content of the plan however, the Republicans on the committee still felt compelled to debate global warming itself.

Holdren was more than capable of explaining the science to his questions coming at him with their climate denial. Here are a few examples:

1. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) likes to question the uncertainty involved in the Milankovitch cycles (or what he calls “global wobble”) and how much part they could be played in global changes in temperature. He’s also frustrated that he can’t seem to get an answer as to how fast sea level will rise. But then he doesn’t give Holdren who has the answers much opportunity to answer those questions.

2. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)—always a particularly vocal albeit uneducated denialist—wants to debate the point of whether these predicted levels of carbon dioxide are directly harmful to human health, ignoring the indirect harm caused by climate change. Continue reading

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Climate Change Summit Report Card

Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them.
—President Barack Obama at this week’s Climate Change Summit

If the purpose of the nearly 400,000 person march in New York City last Sunday was to to put pressure on the world’s leaders who met on Tuesday for the United Nations Climate Change Summit (held just before the UN’s opening session), how successful were they?

Here are a few things to consider when deciding:

1. We’ve never been more aware of climate change than we are right now.

As the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports have been telling us, our planet is dangerously close to no longer being able to limit future global warming to two degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial global temperatures. We’re already witnessing early effects of climate change with more extreme weather such as hurricanes, severe floods and droughts, as well as an acidifying ocean and melting ice from glaciers and the Arctic ice cap. Based on the number of ordinary citizens speaking out vocally on this issue and the amount of media attention these events received this past week, it seems the world is finally starting to take notice.

2. Despite record attendance, there were some notable absences as well.

More than 120 heads of state were present to discuss possible plans of action, the largest number of world leaders ever to attend a climate conference. But who didn’t show is also important: Continue reading

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If You Can’t Trust Morgan Freeman….

This week I’ve been more optimistic about fighting climate change than I’ve been in a long time. First off, we had the largest march in human history dedicated to bringing attention to the need to tackle climate change in New York City this past Sunday with almost 400,000 participants in total. Many additional thousands also participated all over the world in almost 3,000 additional events spanning 156 countries. (It received a lot of media attention, so you likely heard about it.)

And it was the perfect lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Summit. Obviously with my dedication to this subject, I follow events like this and do my best to help others learn about them. But in this case, it seems I didn’t need to try very hard to get the word out. Every news channel I watch has given great coverage to the event, and in a balanced and factual manner. (Obviously I don’t watch Fox News that much.)

With that spirit in mind, I thought this one minute video was the perfect way to highlight this spirit of optimism. It was presented to the world leaders at the UN Climate Summit and demonstrates that climate change is indeed something we can solve. Its message: We have the technology to harness nature sustainably for a clean, prosperous energy future, but only if we act now. Narrated by Morgan Freeman—one of the most comforting and reassuring voices in the world—it calls on the people of our planet to insist that political leaders get on the path of a livable climate and future for humankind. And hey, if you can’t trust Morgan Freeman….

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rising Faster Than Ever

“A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbour’s.”
Richard Whately

We add 2.9 million kilograms of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere every second. That’s a sobering thought. And new information confirms we’re getting worse, not better.

Last year we human beings spewed out more carbon pollution than we ever have before, this according to scientists from the Global Carbon Project, an international team that tracks our annual emissions. A grand total of 36.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide was added to our atmosphere in 2013 through the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. That’s 706 metric tons (about 2.3 percent) more than we added in 2012.

These results were published yesterday in three different articles in the peer-reviewed journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change. Apparently 2014 is on track to increase another 2.5 percent over 2013. The scientists from the Global Carbon Project predict that our emissions will continue to climb and as a result, our planet will warm by another 1.1 degrees Celsius in about 30 years. This is significant because a mere five years ago the world’s political leaders stated that was a dangerous level and pledged never to reach it. Continue reading

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