Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 5, 2020

Very Tough Times

It’s difficult to know what to say during these dark times – which involve not only the unchecked advance of global warming, but also now the more immediate concerns presented by the global spread of the Covid-19 virus. And in the meantime, we have also witnessed the undermining of our traditional democratic institutions of governance in the USA – including all of our federal agencies dedicated to the preservation of our natural environment and public health. In addition, we have seen an alarming increase in the use of our military for political purposes, and a deterioration of our relationships with the other democracies of the world. And perhaps worst of all is the fact that all of these setbacks have been facilitated by our very own president and his Senate-controlling enablers of the GOP who seek to divide rather than unite Americans.

The simultaneous occurrence of all of the above problems demands that we think broadly about the solutions required for the preservation of our republic and the Earth, itself – and it is unlikely that such thinking can occur with the mix of politicians presently in our executive and legislative branches of government. For these reasons, I agree with the conservative commentator, George Will, that both President Trump and his enablers in the Senate must be removed from office as soon as possible (see Will’s column bearing this title in the Washington Post of June 2, 2020).  Using his term, our “Crybaby in Chief” and his GOP caretakers simply must go if we expect to successfully address the myriad problems before us.  

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 22, 2020

Democratic Visions video for Earth Day

The following video was made 3 years ago by Jeff Strate of Democratic Visions, Eden Prairie, MN.  Jeff is a St. Olaf College classmate of Kathy and me (class of 1966).  The video contains some serious science along with a good dose of humor (of the dark variety).  Learn and enjoy!

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 14, 2020

Informative film on Global Warming

This is a heads up notice of the upcoming BBC film “Climate Change – The Facts” by David Attenborough.

It’s going to be shown nationally on public TV with the “premier” being broadcast on most PBS affiliates on 4/22 at 7pm central time, 5 pm pacific time.  After that date, it can be seen at https://www.pbs.org/video/climate-change-the-facts-ua6lmf/

It is a very impactful film, and I’m hoping that you can also spread the word of its broadcast time far and wide and get lots of people watching it.

After watching this film, you will realize that our future well being is all based on adhering to the science involved – both the scary parts about the damage we have already done and are still doing to our planet and the uplifting parts concerning the solutions we know exist and are attempting to put in place. Hopefully, our present battle with the corona pandemic is teaching us that we absolutely must adhere to the dictates of science in our environmental problems and not so much the “wish-lists” of our preferences.  Mother Nature does things one way – Her way – and we must figure out how to survive in Her world.

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 9, 2020

Will pandering again trump straight-talk in 2020

Over the last half century, we have witnessed the triumph of pandering over straight-talk in many of our presidential elections. One of the clearest examples of this was provided in 1979 when the presidential incumbent, Jimmy Carter, was running against Ronald Reagan. During the Middle Eastern oil embargo of that era, the USA was struggling to meet its energy demands when President Carter gave his famous “malaise speech” in which he provided an unusually frank and somber assessment of the problem.

While that speech squarely addressed the energy crisis of that time, it went beyond by addressing some faults he perceived in the character of the American public. It showcased Carter, the former Baptist preacher, as the nation’s “minister-in-chief”, beginning with some self-flagellation as he recounted criticism of his leadership, and then addressed what he believed to be a growing loss of confidence by the public in its nation’s leaders and institutions.

I thought both then and now that Carter’s message was appropriate for that point in time and the speech did immediately generate some positive reactions. Its longer-term effect, however, worked against President Carter. Soon, Ronald Reagan, with his sunny disposition and meaningless references to our “Shining City on a Hill”, was successful at portraying Carter as the nation’s “scolder-in-chief” who was too willing to blame Americans for the nation’s ills.

Although polling suggested that many Americans’ views on energy conservation were closer to Carter’s than to Reagan’s, that did not prevent Reagan from winning that election (with the help of Reagan’s traitorous interactions with Iran concerning the US hostages being held in Tehran).

So, off we went again down the merry road of fossil fuel consumption. Upon arriving at the White House, Reagan removed Carter’s symbolic solar panels from its roof and encouraged Americans to buy more gas-guzzling vehicles, which we did. The rest is history – a couple of lost decades during which our efficiency of energy use could have been greatly improved.

Mindful of the purported lesson of Carter’s “malaise” speech, no successful national candidate has ever again made the mistake of speaking so candidly, and in such critical tones, to the American people. Instead, candidates on the hustle are much more likely to take a page from the Reagan playbook by emphasizing the indomitable American spirit, can-do work ethic, etc., while ignoring the tough bits related to reality.

While there are many other examples of successful pandering, the most blatant of these, I suspect, has been provided by our current President, Donald Trump. His use of it – mixed in with generous doses of ignorance, deception, falsehoods, and “alternate facts” apparently appeals to his so-called “base”. Trump has become the ultimate creation of our gullible, pander-loving, Reagan-trained citizenry and there is no one to blame but ourselves for being duped again by a master glad-hander who can help us believe that there is “no problem” when, in fact, we are now on the verge of a virus catastrophe that must be addressed along with the much greater problem of global warming.

Given that one of the greatest American panderers of all times is likely to be the Republican candidate in the presidential election of 2020, we should be very concerned about our future. Sorry about that, but that is what the historic American model suggests – pandering usually beats straight talk. In that case, God help our democracy because our only hope of saving our environment then will be to adopt a different model of governance, such as that of communist China, where their leaders don’t have to accommodate a scientifically inept public in their decisions.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 26, 2020

We need more brains, not egos, in the White House

In order to effectively meet the environmental challenges we are faced with today, we simply must get President Trump completely out of his high office as soon as possible and let some grown-ups and first-class scientists back into positions of leadership. This step, if taken immediately, would provide an appropriate beginning to our upcoming presidential election this fall in which Republicans could then also have time to choose another candidate who is not a complete scientific and public health novice. During the critically important months of January and February, 2020, President Trump assured Americans that the coronavirus was merely a common flu that would pass soon without requiring special actions on our part. While health alarms are now blinking red, our president still hesitates in taking the now even more drastic actions that are belatedly required. Such actions can be effectively addressed only by the overall direction and coordination of our federal government.

Every day we drift closer to the precipices of both the corona pandemic and the irreversible tipping points of global warming, while our president focuses only on damage control related to his now shredded personal reputation.

While Donald Trump has managed to fool a lot of Americans, he has met his match with Mother Nature. And, She is, indeed, one tough Mother when challenged by those who don’t know how She does things (that field is called science, of course). She always wins and does things one way – Her way.

During WWII, several efforts were made by the citizens of Germany to remove Adolf Hitler from his high office after it became clear in 1943 that the war would be eventually won by the Russians and their allies and, furthermore, that Germany’s persistence in that war was then being driven primarily by Hitler’s irrational ego. Since all of those removal attempts failed, Hitler’s Germany continued its downward spiral until it was literally reduced to ashes. Let’s hope that we can manage to successfully remove our self-proclaimed “genius” much more quickly by legal means before a large fraction of our population finds itself in body bags.

make Am intelligent

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 15, 2020

The virus and our intergenerational responsibilities

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, I suspect that the elderly among us (say those over 60; I am 76) are feeling a bit more threatened than the younger segments of society who we have learned are less vulnerable to its worst effects. While I am not suggesting that this is a beneficial aspect of the epidemic, it does carry with it an appropriate and useful message for us elderly.  That message is, how do we like being subjected to a human-facilitated phenomenon that specifically targets our older portion of the population? Our collective response to that question, I suspect, is that we do not like it at all, thank you very much, and, furthermore, are totally in favor all international efforts that can be made to solve this problem – no matter how much the required solutions make life inconvenient for the rest of the human population. For example, while the infection rates of children by this virus are very low, we are substantially disrupting the educations of those children so that their viruses are not passed on to the total population and especially we elderly.

When their time came, I understand that the elderly of some Eskimo communities used to be put out on the ice for whatever fate waited them there – preferably a return to the food chain via their consumption by a passing scavenger. The prevailing belief was that this provided a net benefit to the viability of their community.  In our culture we tend to do the opposite – prolonging the lives of our elderly as much as possible.  At my age, I happen to like that attitude, of course.

There is, however, something that bothers me a great deal about the collective attitudes of our elderly generations.  That is, our elderly have not shown sufficient understanding and commitment to the future of those children I mentioned above and to all non-elderly human beings. What I am talking about now, of course, is the “virus” of global warming. For the last 30 years, we have had the capability and knowledge required for the prevention of this menace but lacked the will and determination to bring that action to fruition. As a result of my generation’s preference for a cheap, but poisonous source of energy, we have created a carbon-overdosed world that will prove to be far more difficult to cure than that created by biological viruses. While we can learn how to kill viruses, we can’t do that to CO2 molecules. Hopefully, we elderly will learn from the upcoming battle against the corona epidemic what it will feel like for today’s non-elderly to be facing a climate change calamity that is tuned to the destruction of their generation.

My generation was fortunate to live during a “Goldilocks” period of the USA in which almost everything was “just right”.  The Great Depression and WWII were over by the 40’s and carpets of opportunity were then laid out for us in all directions.  We are now also being well taken care of during our senior years by myriad benefits including an extensive government-subsidized medical program. In return, we now owe it to all people younger than us, to do much better than we have on the preservation of our planet’s assets for our descendant’s use in the coming decades. This will have to be both an international and intergenerational effort that will require considerable sacrifice and support by all of us.

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 9, 2020

Heat content of the Earth is rising by 5 Hiros per second!

As the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere continuously increase, additional heat is being forced into our planet by the insulating effect of those gases (even though they are minor constituents).  Since most of that heat goes into our oceans, we can get a good approximation of the rate of the Earth’s heat increase simply by observations of the total heat content of our oceans (which is given by the known mass and heat capacity of the oceans times the temperatures measured at all locations.  Since the proper scientific unit used for expressing the magnitude of that heat energy (zettajoules per year) is difficult for the non-scientist to envision, an equivalent term is often used instead.  That term is the “Hiro” and is equal to the heat energy released by one Hiroshima-type atomic bomb.

When I have previously used that term in presentations to the public, the magnitude of heat energy increase was then estimated to be about 4 Hiros per second.  More recently, it has increased to 5 Hiros per second and shows no sign of decreasing.  There is absolutely no doubt that the warming of our planet is occurring and is doing so on a massive scale.

For more detail on the subject of the Earth’s increasing total heat content, see skepticalscience.com/earth-warming-5-atomic-bombs-per-sec.html

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 12, 2020

Carbon offsets do not help reduce global warming

Carbon offsets are increasingly being paid by individuals and organizations in order to compensate for their carbon emissions when indulging in various carbon-intensive activities.  This method of offsetting one’s CO2 emissions is becoming especially popular for the compensation of the carbon emissions invariably produced by aircraft travel.  A large scale example of this was provided on this website in a July post called “Rick Steves needs to reconsider”.  These schemes rarely compensate for the warming effect of the original activity, however.  And, in many cases, have net effects that are worse than doing nothing.  The main driving force behind carbon offsets appears to be merely the soothing the carbon emitter’s conscience.

Kevin Anderson, an international leader of climate change research has thoroughly explained all of this in a recent article which I’ll simply refer you to here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223987421_The_inconvenient_Truth_of_Carbon_Offsets

In the next two paragraphs, I have provided a specific example he cites which clearly conveys his message.

“Assume I broke my (self-imposed) seven-year refusal to fly, paid my £35 offset and boarded a plane from Manchester to London for the conference. In doing so, I add to the already severe congestion at airports, causing delays and allowing politicians to argue for greater airport capacity, arguments only reinforced by the rise in passengers turning to offsets. To meet increasing demand, airlines are encouraged to order new aircraft, which they promise will be more efficient. Feeling pressure, a future government approves new runways, but the extra flights and emissions swamp efficiency gains from the cleaner engines.

Meanwhile, in an Indian village where my offset money has helped to fund a wind turbine, the villagers now have the (low-carbon) electricity to watch television, which provides advertisers of a petrol-fueled moped with more viewers, and customers. A fuel depot follows, to meet the new demand, and encourages others to invest in old trucks to transport goods between villages. Within 30 years, the village and surroundings have new roads and many more petrol-fueled mopeds, cars and trucks. Meanwhile, the emissions from my original flight are still having a warming impact, and will do for another 100 years or so.

Where is the offset in that?” Anderson then asks.  The answer, of course, is that there is none.

I will add that an additional concern in using carbon offsets would be that extensive monitoring of the subsequent effects of the original offset payment would be required in order to ensure that each offset would not be misused leading to additional warming – as suggested in Anderson’s example.

 

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | August 6, 2019

Climate Science and Religion

The relationship between science, in general, and religion has been pondered continuously since and probably before the development of human civilizations several thousand years ago. Therefore, what I am about to say concerning the relationship between climate science specifically and religion will certainly not be new. It will simply be my own personal feelings about what I think this relationship should be. At the same time, I believe my thoughts are of a “common sense” nature and are possibly shared by many religions and cultures.

At the very top of this web site, under the tab called Scientific Basics, I have provided a brief account of what I think are the basic and most important scientific points regarding global warming. Therefore, for that scientific information, I will simply refer you to that tab. How religion is related to this subject requires some additional basic assumptions, however, to be made concerning the tenets of the specific religion chosen for this comparison. While there are perhaps hundreds of different religions to choose from, I am going to take the author’s privilege here of choosing the one that I was raised under – that of Christianity as it was typically offered to the descendants of Norwegian immigrants to the midwestern states of America when I was a young man. A convenience of this choice is that the basic tenets of the American Lutheran Church were then and still are very similar to those of many other American synods, including those of the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Baptists.

So, what were those messages that are still pertinent to the subject of climate change that I received from my religious instructions? First of all, those messages were not limited to issues concerning my own personal benefit. That is, “it’s not all about me” was a central theme. Any religion whose beliefs are limited to “self” would obviously be of no assistance to a “community” problem such as global warming and, I am glad to say, my religion was not of that variety.

In addition, I will clearly state at the onset that the messages I received did not suggest that we should leave complex global phenomena – especially if partially caused by mankind – in the hands of the Lord – with the excuse that those issues are just too complex and too far beyond our comprehension to deal with. To that suggestion, I say “no way!”, that is also not the religion I signed on to. Instead, I was taught that the problems we create in our lives are ours to solve – with God’s assistance, hopefully, and not simply by watching “God’s will be done”. There was much more to the lessons I was learned than that.

I did learn, for example, that God is likely to help those who do their best to help themselves and their fellow man (note that this statement carries essentially the same meaning as that promoted by Charles Darwin, the survival of the fittest species).  And just think for a moment about the fantastic tool He has given mankind specifically for addressing difficult tasks. That tool, of course is, our remarkable brain – that has been shown to be capable of understanding and addressing exceedingly difficult problems many of which have been more scientifically difficult than those affecting our climate. In view of the enormity of this gift of human intelligence, in my book, at least, it would be nothing short of a monumental Sin to not use that gift for preserving another great gift, that is our planet Earth – as opposed to letting it degrade by scientifically ill-advised misuse.

And, we now know that we are on the very edge of committing that unforgivable Sin. We are, indeed, about to hand off to succeeding generations a planet that is horribly damaged, at the very least, and might not even be sustainable for our grandchildren and their families.

The most unforgivable part of this Sin is that we did, in fact, know better. The science associated with climate has been steadily revealed for about two centuries culminating in 1988 with the testimony by leading American scientist, Dr. James Hansen, before the US Senate concerning evidence for the rapid warming of our planet by the combustion of fossil fuels. While Hansen’s testimony prompted extensive additional research which consistently supported and enhanced Hansen’s dire predictions, that science has also been largely unheeded by the leaders of our country, who have continuously succumbed to the appeals of our business-as-usual commercial interests and the fossil fuel industries.

Thus, for the last 30 years since Hansen’s testimony, we have used our brains appropriately to understand what’s happening to our planet, but not for responding to that information. That is, we continued to sell out the interests of future human beings so that we could enjoy ever more material extravagances. Thus, our two unforgivable Sins have been the misuse of our God-given gift of intelligence and our shameful disregard of our intergenerational responsibilities.

Therefore, according to the mores instilled in me by my religious training, the inhabitants of our special planet don’t deserve God’s assistance in cleaning up the mess we’ve made of it – because we have made such abysmal use of those two great gifts he has given us. We have paid insufficient attention to the only means – scientific knowledge – we have of avoiding our environmental predicament. In fact, we have done our best to marginalize the messages provided by the most gifted of our scientifically-inclined minds.

The only remaining question is: can our “ship of fools” be overtaken and turned around immediately in the nick of time by our still suspect set of passengers. Not even my religious training provides an answer to that one. One thing I do believe, however, is that the God I envision is not going to do the job for us while the people said to have been made in his image continue to misuse their brains for the trivial purpose of increasing their material comfort well beyond the necessary and points of sustainability .

Throughout the development of the Christian religion a point of discussion has revolved around the question of whether good works or faith is more important in being accepted into the community of God. For those that have preferred the teachings of the Apostle Paul, faith has been considered to be the more important of the two. Unfortunately, this choice might lead some self-professed Christians to put less importance on the preservation of Earth because he or she might consider faith alone to be sufficient to be “saved”. But, not so by my understanding of the Christian Religion. If good works are not considered to be of primary importance by an individual, good works are still expected to follow naturally from of a faith-based conversion – if that person is truly committed to the tenets of Christianity set forth by the example of Jesus of Nazareth. That is, one cannot claim to be a true Christion simply by “talking the talk” of one’s beliefs. One must also “walk the walk” of good works and these, of course, include the fulfilment of our responsibilities to our planet and its future inhabitants. If preserving our planet for its future inhabitants isn’t the most important of unresolved deeds before us, I don’t know what is.

The science of global warming is now essentially complete.  Thus, global warming is now primarily a moral issue to be determined by our collective concern for others. This means that where this issue goes from here on resides more in the domains of religion and philosophy than science.  So yes, indeed, religion and climate are intimately related.

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 27, 2019

Denier’s claim concerning natural climate cycles demolished

The deniers of man-caused warming have made a major issue out of the unusual climates observed in specific regions of the northern hemisphere during the last millennium and have claimed that these unusual climates of the past prove that natural variations of climate are more important than any man-caused changes and are responsible for recently observed warming trends.

As shown in the figure below, two of these periods are known as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)and the Little Ice Age (LIA) occurring over the years indicated in the figure. Also shown are the temperatures observed over the Modern Period (approximately the last two centuries).

T over 2000 years

The deniers have claimed that some of these measurements prove that the temperature variations observed recently during in the Modern Period are very likely due to natural variations such as those that caused the MWP and the LIA, both of which occurred long before large amounts of greenhouse gases were emitted by mankind beginning with the onset of the Industrial Age in about 1850. The blue line, showing the temperatures observed specifically in London region of central England, provided the evidence used by the deniers to argue for the existence of large natural cycles. Note however that the measurements of the average annual temperatures observed over the entire Northern Hemisphere (red line) do not show unusual temperatures during either the MWP or the LIA. Thus, a remaining question has been: do the MWP and the LIA represent periods of total global warming and cooling or were they caused merely by regional weather patterns along with no net changes in the average total global climate.

Three new research papers have very recently been published that directly address this question and each of them provide strong evidence for no anomalous periods of unusually low or unusually high average global temperatures over an extended period from 2,000 years ago up to the beginning of the Industrial Age. That is, these new measurements of total Northern and Southern Hemispheric annual average temperatures most closely resemble those of the red line shown above for the last millennium and also showed no such anomalous periods during the previous millennium. This new research suggests that there have been no significant natural cycles of global climate for the last 2,000 years and that the warming observed throughout our planet during the recent Modern Period is due to a new and different, unnatural phenomenon, such as that caused by the emission of greenhouse gases by mankind.

For an account of and references to the three new research papers that has provided this new insight, I will refer you to an article in the Science News magazine.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/global-warming-today-unlike-last-2000-years-climate-shifts?mode=pick&context=121

 

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