Category Archives: Environment

Climate Change Case

Temperature and CO2 have always correlated closely, for at least 400,000 years. Here’s a graph of that correlation:
Most climate scientists believe the reason is the “greenhouse effect,” that is, heat is retained more by air with higher levels of greenhouse gasses. CO2 can be absorbed both by land (plants, mostly) and oceans (direct air to water transfer). However, though the oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the carbon we put in the air, ”
There is no hope that this process will take place fast enough to help control the build-up of CO2.” says Michael McElroy, Harvard’s Butler professor of environmental science.

There is no doubt that we have increased the CO2 content of the atmosphere. The carbon in Oil and coal deep underground are permanently sequestered. They only enter the atmosphere if we bring them up and burn them. All combustion of carbon-based fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere. This is indisputable. Every carbon atom burned (oxidized) creates a molecule of CO2. (Burning wood also releases CO2, so clearing of forests also contributes.)

Here’s how atmospheric CO2 levels have increased. Note the rapid rise since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

“Today, CO2 levels are higher than at any time in at least the past 650,000 years because of increased fossil fuel burning.” Thomas Marchitto, University of Colorado

. Here’s a view of the last 1,000 years:

Carbon dioxide record

Here’s a chart of the rising CO2 since 1958:

Recent carbon dioxide record
How do we know we’re responsible for that rise, other than the correlation with our use of fossil fuels? That’s explained HERE. 1) Historical records and calculation of carbon released by our burning of fuel.

The roughly 500 billion metric tons of carbon we have produced is enough to have raised the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to nearly 500 ppm. The concentrations have not reached that level because the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere have the capacity to absorb some of the CO2 we produce.* However, it is the fact that we produce CO2 faster than the ocean and biosphere can absorb it that explains the observed increase.

Independent of that analysis, we can tell how much we have contributed by measuring isotopes. Since carbon isotopes decay very slowly(that’s how carbon dating works), we can determine how much CO2 in the atmosphere was from plants (last year’s CO2) and how much from dead dinosaurs (millions of years of decay). All the calculations are available at the LINK.

Here’s the rising methane level, an even more potent greenhouse gas:

Methane Record

Biofuels Technology Update

Here are some recent advances in biofuel technology. I’ve long held that if we apply ourselves to innovating in the area of alternative energy, we can and will succeed. Jazz, over at TMV highlighted a new technology involving bioengineered bacteria that produce petroleum oil. It is yet another example of how American ingenuity can free us from dependence on foreign oil if we really set our minds to it. More importantly, if we really allocate our resources to innovation rather than continuing to pour them down the same big oil rat hole that we are currently feeding.

While this new bioengineered bacteria is interesting, we are much closer to application with biodiesel from microalgae. This does not have to be done in big fermentation tanks, and uses current technology such as that used to grow spirulina. It will yield more than 30 times the oil per acre than corn or soy and does not require clean freshwater (in fact, salt water will do, something we have plenty of). Take a look at the first facility, which will produce 4.4 million gallons of oil and 110 million lbs of biomass a year. Better still, such algae production facilities could be placed at the mouths of big polluted rivers like the Mississippi, and could convert nutrients from agricultural runoff into fuel. Currently these nutrients create an enormous “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, the algae can be used to consume CO2 from power plants. Cleans up the river, sequesters carbon from polluting industries and turns it all into fuel. Oh, and the exhausted algae can be used as fertilizer after extracting the oil.

Another exciting technology in this area is a starch to hydrogen technology developed by Virginia Tech, that can convert a safe, non-toxic and nonflammable starch and water slurry into hydrogen to drive a vehicle. These are only the tip of the iceberg. We can lead in green energy and clean tech if we commit to doing so instead of bowing down to petroleum and coal interests.

We limit ourselves when we think that every problem has to be solved with current technology. This is a great failing of our current energy policies. We have shortchanged research budgets into alternatives and still, our tenacious scientists come up with new leads all the time. Meanwhile, the GOP and some of their supporters wail that the sky will fall if we don’t start drilling in Alaska today. That’s not the solution. Let’s turn the page on that old thinking.

Global Climate Change

by GreenDreams

The correlation between atmospheric carbon and average global temperature is solid and based on data covering millions of years, recorded in ice and elucidated by drilling and studying core samples. There is no conflicting data; that is, there is no time at which carbon level and temperature failed to confirm this correlation.

Why is it so important for some to deny the very strong evidence and common logic of this theory? It’s not a complicated theory.

  • Burning carbon increases atmospheric carbon.
  • Atmospheric carbon levels are, without fail, associated with higher global average temperatures.
  • The current carbon level in the atmosphere is higher than it has ever been.
  • Putting less carbon in the atmosphere and taking steps to re-sequester existing atmospheric carbon will reduce that level.
  • Returning to a normal carbon level is better for the planet and temperatures will decline along with carbon level.
  • These two always track and it does not make sense to posit that increasing carbon is the result of increased temperature (which would extend the growing season and increase the uptake of carbon by plants.) Continue reading

Green is the New Red White and Blue

by GreenDreams
This is a powerful video in which Thomas Friedman explains to Tim Russert, why “green is the most geopolitical, geoeconomic, capitalistic, patriotic thing you can be today.” Please watch it. send it to your friends.

Global Warming Warnings

The Rising Sea Level
Click here to view full image

We know that no readers of Green Dreams are dismissive of global warming, but the risks are rising, they’re real and “Most scientists agree that global warming presents the greatest threat to the environment.”

The melting of the Antarctic ice sheet is a big concern, is is the melting of glaciers worldwide.

No one knows better about the rising sea levels than those living in low-lying areas and islands. The tiny country of Tuvalu in the South Pacific has given up. They’re abandoning their homeland. Continue reading

Targeting Agricultural Subsidies

We all like to talk as if we are dedicated free marketeers. The reality is that we dispense billions in subsidies, tax breaks and other forms of corporate welfare in schemes that are not only “protectionist” but in many cases destructive and nonsensical. Here are two examples of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, from the world of agriculture.

1. The American cotton industry is worth $5.9 billion. The federal government subsidizes it to the tune of $4.5 billion. That’s not a business. It’s a federal corporate welfare scheme. The cotton we grow is shipped to China (and other cheap labor countries) to the manufactured into clothing, since we no longer have a viable manufacturing sector in garments. And the tax dollars? They go mostly to Texas agribusiness, not family farmers.

2. Americans pay twice the world market price for sugar, in order to protect sugar cane producers in Florida, Hawaii (which finally gave up on sugar), and sugar beets in the Midwest (which also didn’t fly economically, even with the supports). Because of this, our soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, now the leading suspect in our epidemic of diabetes. In the process of supporting an unviable sugar industry, we helped to destroy the economies of Cuba, Haiti, the Philippines and many other countries that produce sugar by the labor-intensive, and environmentally sound, methods appropriate to “emerging economies”.

I appreciate how complex these issues are, and cannot offer any pat answers for addressing them. My first suggestion, though, is that we take a serious look at all of these subsidy programs, all government price supports, and all forms of government corporate welfare, and assess exactly how the composite of all of these federal state and local dollars could best be applied to meet our goals: how much money, how many jobs, what contribution to the economy, what strategic goals are supported, etc. For example, what if we give up on homegrown cotton and shift that subsidy to homegrown energy crops to replace fossil fuels purchased from hostile regimes? Or what if we target specifically family farms for support and select those crops that provide more jobs per federal subsidy dollar?

Dragging this back to the beginning topic, why not apply this same scrutiny to all federal assistance, whether through subsidies, tax breaks or whatever. Let’s target them to specific strategic goals, and not just to a general pumping up of the economy with tax dollars.

Hostile Petropower or Homegrown Green Fuels ?

Enery poster

I have long thought the Dems need to articulate a compelling plan that ties together our biggest issues, the war, terrorism, energy, environment and economy in an easy, iconic way. That’s what I tried to do in the poster. I’m including a reduced size picture file in jpg format. I’m happy to send the full resolution file as jpg, pdf or psd file if you have any use for it. I just want people to start connecting the dots and see where regime change at home could take us.