Saturday, July 18, 2009

Countering the contrarians on global warming

Just how hot is it going to get?

That’s what everyone wants to know, and the focus of a lot of research. But parsing through the science can present some problems, with plenty of opportunity for mischief.

Aaron Huertas has been in this game for a while, so he figured there might be problems as soon as he saw the headline on the release from Rice University: “Global warming: Our best guess is likely wrong.”

The text of the release, which was promoting a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, noted that climate models can’t explain all of the heating indicated in the geologic record of a warm period some 55 million years ago. And one of the scientists who did the research told Reuters that this could mean current forecasts are underestimating how hot Earth’s atmosphere will get in the future.

But Huertas, press secretary at the Union of Concerned Scientists, figured the initial headline from Rice University might be used by those skeptical about climate change — he calls them contrarians because he feels all scientists are skeptical — to argue that the carbon dioxide generated by human activities isn’t to blame for global warming.

The complete text of the Reuters blog is here.

Comforting the child who fears global warming

(I wrestle with this question myself, so I was happy to see a thoughtful article at addressing the issue. On the one hand you want to tell the truth, and explain a). what the scientists who study this believe, and b). the limits of science, but that can be difficult, especially with a small child. Should you candy-coat it (a little) and be reassuring. I think so - odds are we'll figure it out, even if we go kicking and screaming into a new, green, renewable economy. I thought this was some well-balanced advice. For the complete article click here).

In the car, on the our way to get gas, the 4-year-old asks:

"Dad, how far does outer space go?"

And in the kitchen, while making brownies:

"Mom, what happens to your stuff when you die?"

Good questions, honey.

I know, too, the questions will only get bigger. I'm sure I'll hear the one I fear the most while gardening or some such:

"Mom," she'll start, "this global warming thing? Even if we immediately stop producing C02, the earth will continue to warm, so aren't we in trouble no matter what?"

Even though I won't have an absolute answer, I don't want her to lose sleep on it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Cooling trend" and global warming

(I found this to be a thought-provoking blog from Harry Fuller at ZDNET. To see the original post click here).

I found an interesting fact-based argument on the “cooling trend” that is frequently used to “refute” global warming warnings. Here’s the link, complete with charts. His basic argument: using the 1998 peak makes recent years look cooler, but take a loooooonger look and the curve is distinctly toward hotter times ahead. That means the refuters of global warming may have to fall back on the “bad data from bad thermometer” argument as only a small minority of voters seems to be buying the eco-nuts’ conspiracy theory.

Then there is the nagging issue of the disappearance of the glaciers and ice sheets, from Alps to Greenland to Arctic. If you don’t want to accept global warming, the argument can basically be “hard cheese, some things come and some things go.” But that gets dangerously close to admitting evolution. Be interesting to see survey of global warming deniers and natural evolution deniers and see if there could be anybody able to pretzel his or her mind around those two positions simultaneously.
This verbiage will now be attached to any blog I do about global warming. It’s amazing to me that somebody who can apparently read and then post comments still wonders in public why global warming matters on a technology web site. But I am naive, always assuming everybody’s paying attention.
It’s because of money. If global warming has enough acceptance among corporations, the public and even pols, there will be more money spent on green tech, wisely or unwisely. If oil prices stay low and most people don’t care a fig about global warming, green tech will have a difficult time succeeding, regardless of its merits. Not every good idea succeeds. VCs usually invest where they think there’s best chance for a good return. In greentech as in any tech the winners will often be determined by luck, brilliance, timing, happenstance and even marketing. Behind it all will be the money and behind that: whether the evidence for global warming and curtailing pollution drive action or is written off as claptrap.

Harry FullerA newsman since 1969, Harry Fuller has worked for CBS, ABC, CNBC Europe, CNET and was founding news director at TechTV. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bill Gates envisions fighting hurricanes by manipulating the sea

If you thought domination of the world's software market was cool, get a load of Bill Gates' next technological vision: giant ocean-going tubs that fight hurricanes by draining warm water from the surface to the depths, through a long tube.

A second tube could simultaneously suck cool water from the depths to the surface.

Microsoft founder Gates and a dozen other scientists and engineers have a patent pending for deploying such vessels, which they say would collect water through waves breaking over the walls of the tub. Some variations have the water moving through turbines on their way down, which would in turn generate electricity to suck up the cooler water. The article is here.

Could we be wrong about global warming?

Could the best climate models -- the ones used to predict global warming -- all be wrong?

Maybe so, says a new study published online today in the journal Nature Geoscience. The report found that only about half of the warming that occurred during a natural climate change 55 million years ago can be explained by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What caused the remainder of the warming is a mystery.

"In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record," says oceanographer Gerald Dickens, study co-author and professor of Earth Science at Rice University in Houston. "There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models."

The article in USA today is here.

Cooling trend does not refute global warming

With the current Cap and Trade legislation pending in Congress many commentators have been presenting the argument that global temperatures have actually been cooling over the last ten (10) years and global warming is not really occurring. While I think that the Cap and Trade bill should not be passed, this argument of cooling temperatures is very misleading.

Let’s take a detailed look at the argument that temperatures are actually cooling. The temperature data from NOAA does show that the average temperature peaked in 1998 and each year since has been cooler than the 1998 peak. This does not, however, represent a cooling trend. Just take a look at the chart of the data. The moving average temperature has clearly been rising. The ‘cooling’ is simply temperatures that have not exceeded a one year spike.

The complete article is here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Does global warming threaten national security?

The Pew Environmental Group, aided by conservative ex-Sen. John Warner, is launching a new effort to listen and share with the public information on the "critical link" between national security, energy and global warming.

The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate Change will bring together scientific and military experts to assess possible impacts of rapid warming in various parts of the Earth.

"I spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate working on behalf of our men and women in uniform and on issues related to the impact of climate change on their future military roles and missions," said Warner.

"Leading military and security experts agree that if left unchecked, global warming could increase instability and lead to conflict in already fragile regions of the world.

"We ignore these facts at the peril of our national security and at great risk to those in uniform who serve this nation."

The complete article at is here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Report predicts even hotter southeast in decades to come

Are Middle Georgia summers hot enough for you?

Because according to the U.S. government, they’re going to get hotter.

Due to global warming, the Southeast is likely to see twice as many days a year with temperatures hitting the 90 degree mark or hotter, according to a federal report released last month. The report also predicts that the hottest days will be more than 10 degrees hotter.

The report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program synthesizes the results of research assembled by 13 federal departments and agencies including NASA, the departments of defense and energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Research Council. It is the second report ever issued by the federal government on the predicted impacts of global climate change on the United States, and the first one to break down impacts by region.

Click here to read the complete article in

Among other things, it shows a sweltering Southeast. The report predicts that by the 2080s, the region will see an increase of 4.5 to 9 degrees in its average temperatures, depending on carbon dioxide emissions. But the extremes of heat will be greater and the heat index higher.

Engineer studying hurricane damage

Photo by Julio Cortez//Houston Chronicle/AP

Kara Bridwell, 26, left, and her brother Paul Bisso, 17, stand on the roof of a neighbor’s house on Sept. 14, 2008, in Surfside Beach, Texas, after Hurricane Ike washed away the home. ORNL aeronautical engineer Andre Desjarlais went to Houston last year as part of a team from the roofing industry to study the damage left by Ike.

OAK RIDGE - As we enter the hurricane season for 2009, building researchers are still learning from hurricanes of the past - including last September's Hurricane Ike.

Andre Desjarlais, an aeronautical engineer who heads Oak Ridge National Laboratory's building envelopes research group, traveled to the Houston area last fall as part of a team from the roofing industry to study damage from Ike, which hit Texas.

Desjarlais' work focused on the vulnerability of buildings with large open areas, such as a garage or loading dock.

The ORNL researcher said high winds may cause those buildings to lose their roofs or suffer unusual damage, even if the construction meets up-to-date building codes. The door to a garage or other open spaces is usually the first to fail, creating additional stress on the building, he said.

The story at is here.