clearly outside the range of natural variability

I saw this article linked from a comment on Bryan Alexander’s blog. This part jumped out at me:

e360: I understand that the Dome C record shows very clearly that we’ve got more CO2 in our atmosphere now than at any time in 800,000 years.

Mosley-Thompson: Oh yeah. Very clearly. If you look back over the eight glacial/interglacial cycles, you essentially see that CO2 never rises above 300 parts per million and we’re at about 389 now. Methane never rises above about 800 parts per billion, and I think we’re at about 1,700 parts per billion. So we’re clearly outside the range of natural variability. I personally think that graph simply showing the natural fluctuations in those two important greenhouse gases, over almost a million years of Earth history — and then you see the two dots [today] that are so much higher than anything that we see in that near-million history — tells us very clearly that we have a serious problem.

Um. Yeah. But please feel free to continue denying climate change as scientific fraud or something. Significantly higher CO2 levels than at any point in the last 800 THOUSAND years. (update: oops. I’d typed MILLION. it was clearly not 800 MYA. I must have been thinking “almost a million” and the fingers just followed…)

More info and graphs from NASA, including this gem:

NewImage.jpg

The recent increase in CO2 levels is so sudden, it’s a simple vertical line. That’s not a natural increase.

interviewed

I was interviewed by Reg Sherren for the CBC National News. He called me about a blog post I wrote in 2008 on my dislike of Earth Day, and we talked about some of the issues (greenwashing, real sustainable change, how a one day event may be short circuiting real change, etc…)

Then he had me read the first part of the post. I hope that’s not the only segment of the interview they use – ranting blogger rants! Film at 11!

the new dark ages in copenhagen

I’d actually held some hope for meaningful change brought about by the discussions in Copenhagen this month. But everything I’m seeing and reading lately sounds like it’s pretty much just political greenwashing and crushed peaceful protests.

Elizabeth May has been blogging from Copenhagen (see comments by Hugo Chavez – who would have put him in the role of speaker-of-truth? – and Prime Minister Zenawi of Ethiopia – a country that has committed to carbon neutrality by 2025, not just a slight de-escalation to 2006 levels). Things don’t sound good. Non-G8 nations are super-pissed about the lack of transparency, and about the non-democratic nature of the whole process. And they have every right to be super-pissed. We all do.

Canada’s contribution is pretty impressive. The Calgary morning papers are blaring in large type that we’re going to be OK – there will likely be concessions to allow the Alberta Tar Sands to continue relatively unchecked. Whew. Thank Xenu, we won’t have to slow development of the single dirtiest source of atmospheric carbon on the planet. That’s the kind of change we can hope for here in Canada. Screw the rest of the planet, we need our oil! Actually, screw Canada, too, because much of the north half of the country is about to melt. But that’s OK. There aren’t many white people up there, so it’s an acceptable loss. Or something.

Kris Krug is there covering the talks with Press credentials. His photos are incredible, frustrating, and scary. I hope there is more going on than back door deals, but I fear that’s all we’re going to get.

And this cellphone video of the stellar treatment of peaceful protestors. Batons ready!

It’s not like this is the first time peaceful protests have been squashed, either.

Home Grown Alberta

I had a meeting with a prof last week about a very interesting project she wants to set up (to run the course as a series of blog posts resulting in a science magazine published by the students – I’ll write more on that later). During the discussion of the project, we got to talking about blogging in general and she mentioned that she had recently started a blog of her own.

Gwendolyn Blue started blogging less than a month ago at Home Grown Alberta, and already has some great posts up about sustainability and local food sourcing. 100 mile diet? In Calgary? Apparently, it IS possible (just a little more difficult due to the insane sprawl of this city…)

I’m looking forward to seeing what Gwen comes up with, and really excited to have discovered her blog!

earth day sucks.

There. I said it.

Earth day sucks. It’s harmful.

It provides a cop-out, marketing-based, feel good way for people and companies to feel good about half-assed lame excuses for making a real sustainable difference.

Every day should be earth day. This one-day-per-year stuff is garbage. This “oh! what did you do for earth day?” feel good crap doesn’t help. Frack off. Every fracking day is earth day. What did you do for EVERY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR earth day?

Calgary NW Landfill - 3

Just like striving for “carbon neutrality” isn’t going far enough. We’ve got to start undoing a half century of crapping all over this planet, and these silly Hallmark™ sound bite gestures just don’t cut it.

Yeah, awareness is good. But, really, who needs to have their awareness raised? This is 2008. This is post-Inconvenient-Truth. This is not news to anyone who can or will do anything about it. Can we stop the silliness now, and just assume that saving the earth should be a mainstream, full-time activity and not some stupid annual event? The “Green” issue of Vogue. The “Green” episode of $stupidTVShow. The celebrities touting their guilt-salving charity work. Ridiculous.

As long as we have countries spending a trillion dollars on wars to secure cheap gas for SUVs, all the weak gestures in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans. As long as we have countries willing to strip mine entire provinces to extract petroleum to keep the economy booming, switching a few light bulbs isn’t going to make much of a difference.

climate change as a “world war” level crisis

Take 30 minutes and watch Al Gore’s presentation at TED 2008. It’s an update to his first one, and is simultaneously more depressing because of the sheer scale of new data, and much more uplifting when framing the response as a call for higher consciousness to break out of our current democratic crises that are allowing the climate crisis to take place.

Shut Down…

I’m going to do something today that I have never done before. Ever since I’ve had a “work” computer, starting in 1994, I’ve never turned it/them off. I’ve always left them on as personal testing/staging servers, “just in case” I needed to grab something. It’s often been handy (and occasionally essential), being able to SSH into my work system, or run test web apps on it.

I’ve never given much thought to just how much juice must be sucked up by the systems, even when left running essentially idle evenings and weekends. Apparently, this habit costs US businesses $1.7 BILLION per year.

I really don’t care about the financial cost. My portion is likely just a few pennies per day. The University can afford that.

I do care about the incremental effect this is having on the environment, though. In Calgary, much of our juice is generated by burning natural gas. So my leaving a computer on 24/7 is actually pumping CO2 into the air, and helping suck up more of the petro goo that drives this city.

So, when I leave the office this afternoon, I’m shutting down my quad G5 for the weekend. I’ll have to modify some of my automated backup scripts, which assume they can run at 3am, but that shouldn’t cause too many problems.

I’ve avoided doing the math to see how many watts drive the quad G5 + 20″ Cinema + 17″ Dell LCD + 500GB external drive + power to USB devices…

Baby steps…

Maximum Carbon Load

There has been much talk and hype about Peak Oil – the fact that the global production of petroleum is about to reach its maximum level, after which it will start to decline until it eventually becomes a scarce resource and we all have to scavenge in landfills for decades-old plastic to recycle.

It may not be as soon as some think. The Saudis are estimating about 4.5 trillion barrels left. Here in Alberta, we’re sitting on an estimated 1 trillion barrels locked in the Athabasca tarsands.

So, Peak Oil may be years or decades away. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. As we’re all happily buying Hummers and Escalades to drive through Raunchy Ronald’s Drive Thru, we’re continuously pumping carbon that had been naturally sequestered deep underground, into the atmosphere. The atmosphere can’t hold all of that carbon without leading to the global warming effects we’re observing now. The real, and more immediate, danger isn’t running out of oil. The danger is in not running out soon enough.

The atmosphere will hit maximum carbon load, and then we’ll have to be spending insane amounts of energy working to pump all of that carbon back into stable reservoirs. Sequestering underwater has me just a little bit nervous.

Here’s the parodox. We may manage to delay Peak Oil, at the cost of accelerating global warming. The irony is, if we’d have hit Peak Oil already, our impact on the environment would already be starting to decelerate (not decrease, just slow down for awhile before beginning to reverse).

Unfortunately, I’m not sure we’re (as a species) smart enough to Do The Right Thing any sooner than we absolutely have to, if then. If there’s oil left to burn (even at $300 per barrel) you’d better believe someone will be ready to burn it. Years from now, students will shake their heads in disbelief when they read about what we did with the limited petroleum resource.

There has been much talk and hype about Peak Oil – the fact that the global production of petroleum is about to reach its maximum level, after which it will start to decline until it eventually becomes a scarce resource and we all have to scavenge in landfills for decades-old plastic to recycle.

It may not be as soon as some think. The Saudis are estimating about 4.5 trillion barrels left. Here in Alberta, we’re sitting on an estimated 1 trillion barrels locked in the Athabasca tarsands.

So, Peak Oil may be years or decades away. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. As we’re all happily buying Hummers and Escalades to drive through Raunchy Ronald’s Drive Thru, we’re continuously pumping carbon that had been naturally sequestered deep underground, into the atmosphere. The atmosphere can’t hold all of that carbon without leading to the global warming effects we’re observing now. The real, and more immediate, danger isn’t running out of oil. The danger is in not running out soon enough.

The atmosphere will hit maximum carbon load, and then we’ll have to be spending insane amounts of energy working to pump all of that carbon back into stable reservoirs. Sequestering underwater has me just a little bit nervous.

Here’s the parodox. We may manage to delay Peak Oil, at the cost of accelerating global warming. The irony is, if we’d have hit Peak Oil already, our impact on the environment would already be starting to decelerate (not decrease, just slow down for awhile before beginning to reverse).

Unfortunately, I’m not sure we’re (as a species) smart enough to Do The Right Thing any sooner than we absolutely have to, if then. If there’s oil left to burn (even at $300 per barrel) you’d better believe someone will be ready to burn it. Years from now, students will shake their heads in disbelief when they read about what we did with the limited petroleum resource.