The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

A Warming Planet

Posted by | July 10, 2014

Climate Reality Project's Allen Armstrong visited the Reserve last night to deliver an information-packed presentation for our Climate Stewards Lecture Series. Eight years after Al Gore's award-winning An Inconvenient Truth, Allen provided an updated version of the movie's slideshow. Among the many facts he shared:

Armstrong Prize

  • Most of the sun's radiation is absorbed by the earth, some is radiated back into space, and some is trapped by the atmosphere (the "blanket" over planet earth). With increased carbon dioxide emissions, the atmosphere thickens and warms the planet.
  • Earth's twelve hottest years on record have been in the last sixteen years.
  • Australia's hottest year ever was in 2013.
  • Since World War II, there has been a huge increase in global carbon emissions.
  • The oceans are getting warmer. Much of the carbon dioxide we emit ends up in the ocean, forms carbonic acid, and makes the oceans even more acidic.This has negative effects for marine species and ecosystems.
  • Warm ocean waters feed typhoons and hurricanes, providing them with more energy. Warmer air can hold more water vapor—with each additional one degree Celsius, the capacity to hold water vapor increases by 7%.
  • The winter of 2013/2014 was the wettest on record for the United Kingdom.
  • With harder downpours come longer and deeper droughts elsewhere (the water cycle only has so much water to go around). The 2006-2010 drought in Syria turned 60% of this country's fertile land into desert and killed 80% of the cattle. The government was not able to respond, leading to political instability.
  • The Amazon rainforest greatly contributes to the global oxygen supply, and currently suffers from intense drought.
  • The United Nations expects our global population to reach ten billion people by 2050. With warmer temperatures and drought, crop yields decrease, making it more challenging to feed the world's growing population.
  • The September Arctic sea ice extent has decreased, causing less heat to be reflected off of the ocean's surface and instead being absorbed by the ocean. This in turn is heating up the ocean and melting more ice, leading to sea level rise.

Solutions:

  • Put a price on carbon in the marketplace.
  • Increase solar and wind power production. In 2010, renewable investments exceeded those in fossil fuels for the first time. This has not been the case in more recent years due to fracking and cheaper natural gas.
  • New England is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade program. This is a step in the right direction!
  • The EPA has set limits on emissions for coal fired power plants. This is good news!

What can we do?

  • Support full-cost pricing of fossil fuels. A carbon tax will make renewable energy prices competitive with fossil fuels, and profitable to NOT burn carbon.
  • Speak up! We need to give politicians the sense that people care about this issue.
  • Deepen your commitment with consumer choices that decrease your carbon footprint (use LED lights, hang clothes out to dry, etc.).
  • Don't give up and/or lose hope! Joanna Macy's Active Hope is a recommended read.

Many thanks to Allen Armstrong for his thought-provoking presentation! The next Climate Stewards Evening Lecture, Tar Sands Invasion, will be held in the Mather Auditorium on Wednesday, August 6 from 6-7:30pm. Funding for these programs is generously provided through the NOAA Climate Stewards Education Project.

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