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The Heat Is On
Author: BobR    Date: 06/13/2013 18:34:12

Considering the non-stop coverage of the Snowden / NSA "affair", I'd like to change gears a little. I used to do my "Environmental" posts on Friday, but since we changed the schedule, I am going to do one today.

It's been a hard-fought battle, but Republicans (in general) have been dragged kicking and screaming to the point of recognizing that yes - global warming is a real phenomenon. There are still those clinging desperately to their fossil fuel investments, claiming that it's not man-made, but at least we've gotten most of them to admit that it it is happening, and that it is affecting the climate and - thus - the weather.

What's a little scary and urgent and needs more attention is that the planet is warming faster than previously thought:
Scientists have said that the rise in global average temperature needs to be limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century to prevent climate effects such as crop failure and melting glaciers, but that would require emissions to be kept to about 44 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

The IEA said that the world is on a path to an average temperature rise of between 3.6 and 5.3 degrees Celsius.

That increase is mainly because of increased emissions from China (the U.S has actually reduced emissions by converting power plants to run on natural gas, which creates another environmental nightmare, but that's another blog entirely). There are probably multiple reasons for China's increased emissions, but one can guess that our increased reliance on cheap consumer products made there (to sustain our increasingly unsustainable lifestyles) isn't helping.

This increase in greenhouse gasses does have a very real effect on people beyond more severe weather. As expected, low-lying islands in the Pacific are getting smaller as sea levels rise:
The ocean laps against a protective seawall outside the maternity ward at Kiribati's Nawerewere Hospital, marshalling itself for another assault with the next king tide.
[..]
Low-lying South Pacific island nations such as Kiribati (pronounced Kee-ree-bahs) and Tuvalu, about halfway between northeast Australia and Hawaii, have long been the cause célèbre for climate change and rising sea levels.

Straddling the equator and spread over 3.5 million sq km (2 million sq miles) of otherwise empty ocean, Kiribati's 32 atolls and one raised coral island have an average height above sea level of just two meters (6-1/2 feet).

Studies show surrounding sea levels rising at about 2.9 mm a year, well above the global average of 1 - 2 mm a year.

Kiribati President Anote Tong has grimly predicted his country will likely become uninhabitable in 30-60 years because of inundation and contamination of its fresh water supplies.

Beyond consumption of fossil fuels and increase CO2 production, there are other gasses that cause warming as well. When it was discovered that CFC propellants were destroying the protective ozone layer, they were replace with more "environmentally-friendly" HFCs. The problem with HFCs is that once released into the atmosphere, they act like CO2 to trap heat:
Phasing out “super greenhouse gases,” which mass emitters China and the United States have agreed to restrict, could curb global warming by as much as half a degree Celsius by 2050, a report said Wednesday.

Issued on the sidelines of beleaguered UN climate talks in Bonn, the report said a new Sino-US deal to scale back hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) “can make a difference”.
[...]
HFCs are used in refrigerators, air conditioners and industrial solvents as an alternative to ozone-eating chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

Driven especially by production in developing countries, HFC emissions have been projected to grow from today’s one gigatonne (Gt — a billion tonnes) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year, to between four and nine GtCO2e a year by 2050.

The United States and China are the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases — together accounting for more than 40 percent.

The report also warned that global warming appeared likely to exceed, perhaps even double, the 2 C (3.6 F) ceiling set for manageable climate change.

As it stands now, mankind is like a cancer on the body of Mother Nature. Unfortunately for us, her antibodies - in the form of making the planet increasingly uninhabitable for us in our current lifestyle - may well be our undoing.

80 comments (Latest Comment: 06/13/2013 21:56:18 by Raine)
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