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Please Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults” is a new children’s book by Gregg Kleiner about global warming. The idea is simple. Imagine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him to be an inventor of some sort, coming up with the idea of making goggles that would allow you to see CO2 as a pink gas. This is all described by the man’s patient but clearly all suffering son, who eventually dons the prototype goggles and sees for himself.

I read this to Huxley, age 5, and he loved it. He kept asking questions, and saying things like, “Is that true? Really?” I knew he would enjoy the book for its witty chatter and excellent illustrations, but frankly I did not expect him to be enthralled. He is fairly laid back when it comes to matters of science, nature, and for that matter, mathematics. He tends to absorb, then, later makes up song about it or comes up with difficult questions. His reaction was unique.

Bill McKibben’s reaction was pretty strong too. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve often wondered what would happen if CO2 were visible. Now I know!” … except he already knew. There would be pink everywhere. At the density of about 400ppm. More than the 350 value that gives his organization its name!

I had only one small problem with the book, and that is the description of what fossil fuels are. The majority of oil probably formed in aquatic, mainly marine, environments as the detritus of mostly small organisms and invertebrates, not dinosaurs and old trees like the book says. Coal is probably most plant matter, but boggy plants and detritus formed in low spots. And so on. Had I edited the book, I would have asked for a sentence or two to broaden the concept of where fossil fuels come from, and maybe a sentence or two to underscore the fact that the fossil fuels we use today were deposited in fits and starts of many tens of millions of years. The process of painting our planet pink over just several decades has released a huge percentage of that Carbon, mainly as CO2. It is like taking five years to fill up a glass of milk then spilling half of it on the sofa in one second. (A proper analogy for the targeted reading age for this great book.)

People often ask me for a recommendation on a book about climate change for kids. This book is great for that purpose. It fits a wide range of ages, but primarily little kids and elementary school. This is not an explainer on global warming, but rather, a great story that gives a sense of the importance of climate change without totally freaking out the audience. The illustrations by Laurel Thomson are excellent.

Of you want to do something about climate change, buy a few copies and give them to your local school’s library (they probably call it a media center) or your local preschool. And your kid, of course. Or to your annoying climate denying cousin’s kids. That would be good.

Gregg Kleiner also wrote Where River Turns to Sky.

The-Senator-With-The-Snowball

“You can believe the United States Navy or you can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

“You can believe the Pope or you can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

“We can believe [great American corporations] or we can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

“You can believe every single major American scientific society, or you can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

Senator_James_Inhofe_And_Willie_Soon_Global_Warming_Deniers

Remember earlier this year when Senator James Inhofe stood on the floor of the United States Senate and displayed a list of supposed climate scientists who question the reality of global warming? That list was produced by the Heartland Institute, who now use the list and it’s infamy to raise money. One of the “climate scientists” on that list was Willie Soon. We’ve talked about Willie Soon before (see: Science Denialists Make Fake Journal, Get Shut Down, Willie Soon Gate, and Willie Soon, will he soon be fired?) and he is now been exposed by the New York Times for ethical violations. I understand that he has testified before Congress before. I wonder if his testimony can now be re-examined.

Anyway, just thought you’d like to know. And that you might enjoy the above meme.

Oh, and there has been some interest in who is on the list. This is the list of “those who can not be challenged!”… Continue reading

Eat_Less_Meat

The US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services, has issued a report recommending that Americans eat less meat. The executive summary of the report is here (pdf), and the web site for the report is here. It says,

The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains. Vegetables and fruit are the only characteristics of the diet that were consistently identified in every conclusion statement across the health outcomes. Whole grains were identified slightly less consistently compared to vegetables and fruits, but were identified in every conclusion with moderate to strong evidence. For studies with limited evidence, grains were not as consistently defined and/or they were not identified as a key characteristic. Low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, nuts, and alcohol were identified as beneficial characteristics of the diet for some, but not all, outcomes. For conclusions with moderate to strong evidence, higher intake of red and processed meats was identified as detrimental compared to lower intake. Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages as well as refined grains was identified as detrimental in almost all conclusion statements with moderate to strong evidence.

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How do you know you are in a “third world” country with a militaristic dictatorship? There are a lot of clues, but one of the easiest methods is to drive around and see how often you go through police or military checkpoints. You can practice this method by going to Florida.

And, while you are there, go ahead and express your rights. Like this:


From here.

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I don’t have a strong opinion on dog sledding, but if you are a musher you need to know that, like ice fishing and hockey, dog sledding is at risk from climate change. From Vice News, about Alaska’s Iditarod:

…on Tuesday, race organizers announced that the starting point of this year’s race will be moved due to a lack of snow, a change that has happened only one other time in the race’s 43-year history, in 2003.

“While some snow did fall east of the Alaska Range over the past couple of weeks, other parts of the trail, in very critical areas, did not get much or any of it,” Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley said.

Meanwhile, it appears likely that global warming is causing Grizzly Bears to come out of hibernation early, so be careful if you are in or near Yellowstone:

On Monday, park officials confirmed sightings of a grizzly in the center of the park, feeding on a bison carcass. The bears don’t usually begin to emerge from hibernation until the beginning of March, making this bear’s arrival about three weeks early.

“We have had bears observed in February before, in a few other years,” Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone National Park’s bear management biologist, told VICE News. “But this year, lately, it’s been unseasonably warm. Certainly springlike temperatures, almost summerlike temperatures.”

Several grizzlies have also been spotted beyond the park’s boundaries in Montana and Wyoming.

And if you are a ski bunny, Climate Change Could Decimate the American Ski Industry

…The Summit at Snoqualmie, near Seattle, closed its highest and last remaining open slope last week because of poor conditions. The situation there hues closely to what’s happening all across the West.

“Based on a 60-year record, the total amount of snow that we’ve lost in the West varies anywhere from 15 to 60 percent,” Noah Molotch, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, told VICE News.

… winter sports recreation generates $67 billion annually for the US economy, propping up 900,000 jobs. Its collapse could kill entire local and regional economies across the West or in New England.

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From Birdwatch:

A new study has suggested that migratory songbirds in East Asia are in trouble, and has called for national action and international co-operation to deal with the threats posed.

The study reveals that several migratory songbirds are declining in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, owing to a range of threats across many countries. …

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, running from Siberia and Alaska down to South-East Asia and Australia, supports the greatest diversity of migratory birds on the planet, with 170 long-distance migrant songbirds and more than 80 short-distance migrants…..

Currently available evidence suggests that habitat loss and hunting are the two most significant threats on the East Asia flyway. Other problems such as invasive species, climate change and collision with man-made structures can also have a big impact.

Some species, like the Vulnerable Izu Leaf-warbler and Pleske’s Grasshopper Warbler, are particularly at risk due to their small breeding ranges and because their entire wintering ranges remain unknown to scientists – thus hampering effective conservation. The Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting used to be abundant, but has drastically declined as large numbers are trapped annually for food in South-East Asia and southern China.

You can see the original study here.

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Apple Computer had earmarked $850 million towards the construction of a solar energy plant in Monterey County to cover all of the electrical power it requires for all of its facilities in California. CEO Tim Cook is quoted as saying “We know at Apple that climate change is real. Our view is that the time for talk is past and the time for action is now.”

From Mercury News: Continue reading

California Drought

There is reasonable hope that the California drought will diminish in intensity as the winter progresses, but there is also a reasonable concern that it will persist. See this recent post by Peter Gleick for a good summary. Since the drought is almost certainly linked to climate change, even if the drought diminishes over the coming months, having a major drought in California with increased frequency may be expected.

Recent research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, suggests that the present drought is the worse in a very long time. From a summary in Science:

…Griffin and Anchukaitis use tree-ring records of past climate conditions to determine how the current drought compares to other droughts since 800 CE. Based on metrics for soil moisture and for precipitation, they conclude that 2014 was the worst single drought year in at least the past 1200 years, caused by very low (but not unprecedented) precipitation and record high temperatures. The 3-year period from 2012 to 2014 was the worst unbroken drought interval in the past millennium.

A key finding is this: While rainfall rates per se over the last few years are not the lowest ever, and such low rainfall periods have frequently happened, the present drought is made much worse by exceptionally high temperatures.

Added: We are comparing California to California here, not California to everything.

maddow_earthquakes_1

Good question! It depends. And I’m not an expert, but Amy Bickel had details for you. For instance,

At least one policy endorsement obtained by The News showed that earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” were excluded from earthquake coverage.

It could mean potential litigation if a claim was ever filed and denied by the company, Kansas’ former insurance commissioner noted.

While hydraulic fracturing isn’t suspected as the cause of Kansas quakes, state geologists have linked southern Kansas’ earthquakes to the saltwater injection wells used by oil companies. The hydraulic fracturing process creates more wastewater, which, in turn, is injected into the Mississippian formation.

The endorsement also notes that “sequestration of carbon dioxide or any other gas, solid or liquid” is also among the exclusions listed. It’s unclear if that definition could include wastewater disposal.

Other companies, however, said they had not heard of that exclusion in their own policies.

In a way, this makes sense, because earthquakes are an act god. In this case, I assume Hades or Pluto (gods of the underworld).

Or the god of hell perhaps. Which suggests that if you want insurance for human caused earthquakes you will need to see Ms. Waite, who is in charge of such things. First name Helen. If you want damage to your property caused by Big Fossil to be covered you’ll have to to go Helen Waite.

The Star Tribune (can’t give you the link because they have anti-link mojo) reports that Xcel Energy mismanaged an upgrade to the nuke plant in Monticello (this is one of two plants in the state) that cost 402 extra million dollars for an upgrade. This was part of the “life extention” upgrade approved a few years ago to allow the aging plant to continue operation beyond the originally planned number of years. The plant has had an impressive safety record; last time I checked it was actually number one in the country, having only one death (not nuclear related) and a couple of valve failures with moderate or no release of radioactive substance.

The project with the cost overrun increased power output by over 10%, in theory, though that actual output has not happened yet.

The state has investigated the overruns, the investigation overseen bvy a judge, who concluded that Xcel “mishandled the project from the beginning, failing to recognize the complexity of the upgrade and the resulting higher costs.”

It is expected that rate payers will foot the bill, or some of it, but this is yet to be decided.

spinning_beachball_of_macYou can google and hunt and search and read and find all sorts of ways to speed up your iMac, but I have here one small suggestion that may help you if you have a specific problem.

The problem arises when you invoke a dialog box that access the file system, perhaps by right clicking on a graphic on a web page and choosing to save it, or a save or save-as menu item in any piece of software. Then, the dialog box does not appear instantly, and instead you get the Spinning Beachball of Wait, and after several seconds, the dialog box finally appears.

This is a bug. It should not happen. But when it does happen, it appears based on my perusal of the Intertubes and some experimentation, it may be related to your computer being hooked to a network drive, or even a simple USB external drive. If you can just eject/disconnect all of that, you’ll have faster response.

That may not be an option, and if that is the case, you are screwed. Maybe.

There is a second kludge that may also work. Temporarily disconnect said drives. Your computer’s use of the file system will go to normal. Then, later, reconnect. Your computer may continue to be normal. Eventually, possibly later that day, the problem will return. This is obviously not a great solution but it may be good for some people who only occasionally use such drives.

This problem is annoying and I wish it would go away. If you have any other suggestions pleas add them to the comments!

Rush Limbaugh, leader of the Republican Party, fires Mitt Romney

Rush Limbaugh In Charge Of GOP

Rush Limbaugh, the de facto leader of the Republican Party, fires Mitt Romney

We all know Rush Limbaugh is the Godfather of the Republican Party. You listen to him, and do what he says, or you’re out. People often say that the President of the United States is the “leader of the free world.” No, sorry. If the POTUS is a Republican, Rush Limbaugh becomes the leader of the free world. Can you think of a scarier thought than Rush Limbaugh calling the shots for the entire planet Earth?

(I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. But I digress.)

Anyway, even when the President is not a Republican, Rush still runs the Republican party. He is now in charge of both the Senate and the House, because if you are a Senator or a House rep, and a Republican, you do what Rush says or you are out.

Similarly, Rush Limbaugh is the gatekeeper for the Republican Party’s process of putting up candidate for president.

Not long ago, Mitt Romney seemed to be indicating that he was thinking about running for President. Shortly after that, he indicated that he thought Anthropogenic Global Warming was for real and important. Then Rush said this:

Rush Limbaugh Ends Mitt Romney’s Presidential Aspirations over Global Warming


Then, Romney said this:

‘After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”

And so, in this manner Rush Limbaugh has fired Mitt Romney.

I hate the expression, “Grow a pair.” But, really, Republicans, do grow a pair when you get a chance. This is embarrassing.

Peter Sinclair has the whole story and more, here: One Week after Acknowledging Climate – Romney Out of Race

Elections matter!

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.01.18 AMA bunch of biological activity happens, organism reproduce, grow, die. Some of this biomass turns into oil, natural gas, or coal. I’ve left out few details.

During certain periods in the Earth’s history, this happened at a much larger scale that usual, and in certain geographic and geological settings, leading to the eventual formation of huge underground oil reserves, coal fields, gas reservoirs, or bitumen deposits. By the way, some of these 10 million year or so long moments in geological history were probably regional extinction events.

That is how we get fossil Carbon based fuels, for the most part (again, I oversimplify).

An alternative, it seems, is to intervene early in the process. Take the organisms out of the system early, when they have just grown, and turn them into biofuels. Trees or other material can be burned, plant tissues can be converted to liquid fuel or gas, etc. This method is inherently limited compared to using fossil fuels because the fossil fuels were generated over tens or hundreds of millions of years, while this form of biofuel is being generated real time. In order to continue to use energy at the rate we currently use it, with all the energy coming from biofuels, we’d have to be scraping a huge percentage of the output of photosynthesis every day.

To put this in perspective, consider that the total amount of energy that natural systems using photosynthesis on the Earth produce is about six times of what we humans use in energy, from fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, and various clean energy sources. In other words, if we used only biofuels for our energy, we would have to use one sixth of the energy the entire natural world currently produces, assuming efficiency matched to what nature does. It is likely that some of that use would enhance natural production, or could be used harvested more efficiently, but the differences can’t be large. Maybe we’d only need a seventh, instead of a sixth, of the Earth’s natural photosynthesized production. Or, maybe we would be using it less efficiently and thus need more.

Having said that, there is a certain amount of potential biofuel that goes from some use or another into the trash (or sewer effluence). When we capture that energy, we might be reducing a carbon sink, but we are at the same time using a non-fossil Carbon based fuel source. This includes using discarded cooking oil, or burning sawdust or trash in waste to energy plants.

Justin Gillis at the New York Times has a writeup on a recent report that seems to confirm that there are severe limitations to the use of biofuels. You can read Gillis’ writeup here. The report is here. Following are a few excerpts from the NYT piece.

Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.

Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population….

The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.

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Who is Willie Soon?”

(ADDED: Since there have been so many wonderful questions about the controversial research and related issues, let me point you to this post, which is essentially a link farm to myriad resources for you to read and enjoy.)

According to DeSmogBlog, Willie Wei Hock “Soon is a prominent climate change skeptic who has received much of his research funding from the oil and gas industry.” He thinks the sun causes the climate change we’ve been observing over the last few decades: Continue reading