Year 3, Month 8, Day 4: In This Issue Of Tiger Beat: Meet Stephen Hawking!

The New York Daily News reports on a finding from the Neils Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. Hence the headline. Note:

Copenhagen, July 24 — The greatest climate change ever recorded by the world over the last 100,000 years has been the transition from the ice age to the warm interglacial period.

New research from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen indicates that, contrary to previous opinion, the rise in temperature and the rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) follow each other closely in terms of time.

In the warmer climate, the atmospheric content of CO2 is naturally higher. CO2 is a green-house gas that absorbs heat radiation from the Earth and thus keeps the planet warm. In the shift between ice ages and interglacial periods the atmospheric content of CO2 helps to intensify the natural climate variations, the journal Climate of the Past reports.

Too many big words for the Daily News, I suppose. Sent July 24:

The close correlation between a warming planet and increased levels of atmospheric CO2 should surprise no one who’s paid attention to the past several decades of climate science — no one, that is, who hasn’t entirely swallowed the zany paranoid fantasy that the world’s climatologists are part of a massive planet-wide plot to confiscate our SUVs.

Research from the Neils Bohr Institute confirms that in the past, CO2 levels have followed planetary warming — a reversal of the present-day situation, in which our industrialized civilization has dumped gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere in a geological instant, putting the Earth on a drastic and potentially devastating course towards climate chaos as the greenhouse effect makes temperatures rise.

There’s no longer any possible excuse for inaction. To reject science on the grounds that it is ideologically inconvenient is to sacrifice the future of our nation on the altar of electoral exigency.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 11: We Are The Great Four Hundred

The Columbus (IA) Republic, on hitting 400:

For more than 60 years, readings have been in the 300s, except in urban areas, where levels are skewed. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal for electricity and oil for gasoline, has caused the overwhelming bulk of the man-made increase in carbon in the air, scientists say.

It’s been at least 800,000 years — probably more — since Earth saw carbon dioxide levels in the 400s, Butler and other climate scientists said.

Until now.

Readings are coming in at 400 and higher all over the Arctic. They’ve been recorded in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and even Mongolia. But levels change with the seasons and will drop a bit in the summer, when plants suck up carbon dioxide, NOAA scientists said.

So the yearly average for those northern stations likely will be lower and so will the global number.

Globally, the average carbon dioxide level is about 395 parts per million but will pass the 400 mark within a few years, scientists said.

The Arctic is the leading indicator in global warming, both in carbon dioxide in the air and effects, said Pieter Tans, a senior NOAA scientist.

“This is the first time the entire Arctic is that high,” he said.

A rehash of yesterday’s letter. Sent June 1:

I vividly remember the excitement we experienced as kids when our station wagon’s odometer turned over; on the day we passed 100,000 miles, Dad decelerated a bit and my brother and I called off the tenths of a mile until all the zeroes lined up on the dashboard and the family broke out in cheers. We did a lot of driving in those days — unwittingly, it turns out, making our contribution to a far more ominous numerical landmark.

400 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 is nothing to celebrate. We long ago passed the critical level of 350 ppm, the concentration climatologists consider the maximum level consistent with the continued survival of our civilization, and even if we stopped burning fossil fuels completely, things would still keep getting hotter for decades. The next few centuries are going to be a rough ride for life on Earth. Why are the climate-change denialists in media and politics working hard to keep us from buckling up our seat belts?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 28: Great. Really Great.

Great Britain does the right thing:

BRUSSELS — Britain is poised to announce some of the world’s most ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — a striking example of a government committing to big environmental initiatives while also pursuing austerity measures.

Chris Huhne, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, is expected to release a statement on Tuesday that the British government will set in law a goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions about 50 percent by 2025.

That reduction, based on 1990 levels, would be far deeper than the European Union’s goal of cutting emissions 20 percent by 2020, and it would mean that Britain would make faster emissions cuts than other similar size countries, including Germany. The goal could require households to spend on new energy-saving devices for the home. It could also revive stalled government support for large projects, like those that capture power from tides and that bury carbon dioxide emissions.

Sent on May 16:

What a pleasure it is to read about a governmental response to climate change that takes the threat seriously enough, although it’s too bad that the government in question isn’t our own. Britain’s laudable program for phasing out greenhouse emissions shows that there are still a few places in the world where politicians don’t ignore scientific expertise as a matter of policy. In the US, alas, an anti-reality party controls half of Congress, effectively paralyzing us when it comes to climate issues. If global warming’s effects were simply props for the usual political theater, it wouldn’t really matter — but given that they’re increasingly likely to include what biologists delicately call an “evolutionary bottleneck” for our own species as well as countless others, isn’t it time for American politicians to emulate Britain, and get down to the serious work of changing our national energy economy once and for all?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 27: How Do You Know That You Know What You Know?

The Scripps Oceanographic Institution is starting a new five-year project in carbon emissions tracking, underwritten to the tune of twenty-five million from Earth Networks.

The $25 million project in emissions tracking to be undertaken by the Scripps Institution is important for several reasons. From the perspective of the countries and organizations seeking to mitigate the impact of climate change throughout the world, accurate measurements are essential, since we cannot reduce greenhouse emissions intelligently unless we know where they’re coming from. But there’s another factor that merits consideration and appreciation: cost. Twenty-five million dollars sounds like a lot until we compare it to some America’s larger expenses; based on estimates from the American Friends Service Committee, the entire Scripps program (a full five years’ worth of global emissions monitoring) will cost less than a one hour of the war in Iraq, which exposes Republican eagerness to gut critical climate change programs in the name of deficit reduction as absurd and hypocritical. The GOP appears to think that problems will go away if they can’t be measured.

Warren Senders

26 Dec 2010, 12:13am

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  • Month 12, Day 26: Boxing Day Special Edition

    The Guardian (UK) sounds a call to action:

    On an observatory 11,000 feet high on Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii, a pair of ageing, automated detectors have been churning out details about the make-up of our atmosphere for several decades. This month, they produced their most alarming result to date. They showed that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have touched 390 parts per million – a 40% increase on pre-industrial levels.

    The timing was striking. Just as negotiators were reaching their compromise deal on global warming in Cancún two weeks ago, the Mauna Loa machines showed the problem of greenhouse gas emissions – left largely unresolved in Mexico – have reached an unprecedented level. Humans have procrastinated while the composition of the air around us has changed remorselessly.

    It is a point stressed by Pieter Tans, who heads the US government’s carbon monitoring programme. “I find it shocking,” he said after Republican politicians claimed carbon dioxide posed no threat to Earth. “We really are in a predicament here and it’s getting worse every year.”

    The comments at the bottom of this article prompted this letter.

    Unable to refute the facts, global-warming deniers resort to conspiracy theories of ever-greater intricacy in their efforts to explain away a worldwide consensus of experts. Some paranoid constructions insist that climatologists seek to profit on so-called “green technologies”; others claim that attempts to mitigate global warming’s effects herald an attempt to impose a One-World Socialist Regime. Religious framings often assert the inevitability of the Biblical Armageddon simultaneously with the notion that “God won’t let climate change happen.” Finally there is the claim that humanity will be fine when atmospheric CO2 levels reach 600 or so, since they were much higher at earlier points in Earth’s history. Only this last theory, which suggests scientific misunderstanding rather than willful obduracy, is worthy of response. While CO2 was indeed much higher in the Mesozoic Era than it is today, this accumulation took millions and millions of years, allowing life an opportunity to adapt. Anthropogenic global warming will accomplish the same transformation in a century or so. Abrupt changes can be catastrophic. Just ask anyone whose car has hit a wall.

    Warren Senders

    Month 6, Day 26: It’s going to be hot.

    Please read this. Make sure everyone you know reads it.

    This one is short enough that I’m going to write it by hand and send it to him. Why don’t you do something, too?

    I’m going to Revere Beach mid-morning for “Hands Across The Sand.” How about you?

    Dear President Obama,

    I write to emphasize the urgency of the crisis. According to recently released NOAA data, atmospheric CO2 is now at 393 parts per million. That number by itself is bad news, for it’s well above the safe maximum for a climate suitable for humans. But it’s not the worst news. The worst news is the increase in atmospheric CO2 is getting faster and faster.

    Americans need to relearn a lot of habits of conservation and frugality with respect to nature’s resources. The BP disaster and the hundreds of other oil spills around the world are a sad testimony to the pervasiveness of waste. At this crucial moment in history, we cannot continue our profligate ways — for we are turning our beautiful blue planet into a greenhouse gas chamber.

    The problem of carbon emissions must be tackled with all the resources available. Of all the things we cannot afford to waste, the most precious is time.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Warren Senders