Archive for the ‘Global warming’ Category

Harvey, and the Aftermath

September 1, 2017

Yesterday I was critical of Governor Abbott for the cheap theatrics of a ‘day of prayer proclamation’; today, reading from a prepared text, he sounded like a different person.
He sounded like what a governor is supposed to sound like, thanking some, telling residents where they could get aid, talking about gas availability, and issuing warnings for another threatened area. He sounded like he was in charge and on top of events, as much as anyone can be.
But getting through this and preparing for the next one is going to take some doing. People are going to need help, and the closest source of labor is Mexico. So will officials stick to the party line (no illegals, restrictions on legal residents and even citizens), or will they pull their collective heads out and do what needs to be done?
Officials in cities like Boston and Chicago understand that the snows will come, and they may well be catastrophic. They maintain a fleet of snowplows and salt/sand dumps to combat the ice.
But along the coast, no such preparation exists. Not nearly enough emergency vehicles, no supply dumps. Not nearly enough boats and high-water trucks. Why?
Development of wetlands and swamps is encouraged; why? Development makes storms and flooding worse. Developers took the profits, left homeowners with the risks. I’m astonished and appalled that so many didn’t have flood insurance. Why?
I’m equally astonished and appalled that voters elect officials with so little forethought. Climate change is here. This is the third ‘hundred year flood’ in the area in less than ten years. The floods and storms will keep rolling in and eventually the ocean will simply engulf the entire Gulf coast. The ice sheets and glaciers are melting, the ocean is rising. Scientists have been saying this for years, but our leaders claim it’s a hoax. They’re instant experts by virtue of winning an election, and people believe them. Why?
The rest of the developed world accepts it and they’re working together. But not us. Trump pulled us out of the climate accords. This time, I know why; money. He’s for drilling, even in national parks and monuments. He understands that he’s in a position to get a chunk of the money for himself, and he couldn’t care less about anyone else. But it doesn’t make sense; we already have enough fossil energy reserves to see us through the transition period to full green power. We don’t need more.
We do need a lot of other things. We need a national water distribution system, where as much floodwater as possible is collected and pumped to the dry west and great plains. We need to recharge aquifers. We need more trees to extract carbon dioxide from the air, and harvested water could be used to develop forests where there are none. We can push back against desertification.
But we won’t, not until we elect real leaders. Leaders who will fight for REAL needs, not a stupid wall. Who will enact programs to benefit citizens, not billionaires.
And we need voters who will insist that elected officials do just that.


On Climate Change, and Wringing of Hands

August 14, 2016

We’ve been changing the climate since we first crawled down from the trees.
And promptly began cutting them down.
Instead of shade, the sunlight went directly to the ground. Re-radiated heat was captured by water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. But there were still plenty of trees, billions of them, so no one noticed.
We built cities. No one knew there was a ‘heat island’ effect. After all, there were still hundreds of millions of trees. The heat island effect wouldn’t be discovered for a few thousand years. Why worry?
We paved over the ground. No one paid attention. Any fool knows better than to walk barefoot on a macadamized highway in the summer; if he forgets, there are blisters to remind him. But there were millions of trees still remaining, so no one noticed.
The deserts grew larger. There had once been trees there, but they had been cut. The rains no longer came. The forest became productive farmlands, which in time became a place called the Sahara. But no one understood, because there were still millions of other trees.
The fossilized remnants of billions of trees, of trillions of tiny plants, were mined and pumped out. Finally, people began paying attention.
There were still a few trees, after all.
But the forests are vanishing. More people need cars, which need more oil, gas, and coal to provide power for them and for the houses. Instead of billions of trees, we have billions of people.
Who are still doing precisely what that first ancestor did, put pressure on the climate.
We could begin planting trees. Trees take carbon from the atmosphere and shade the surface, meaning there’s less energy to be transferred by infrared radiation, which in turn means a reduced greenhouse effect.
But no, all those people need food. Food production takes a lot of land, so we can’t plant trees there. The food needs roads and highways to bring it to the cities where the people live. In their own heat island. Where trees have been cut down to make room for ever higher buildings. To make room for ever greater numbers of people. In an ever-growing heat island. Which is served by more and more highways that absorb solar energy and re-radiate it to the atmosphere, where carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor capture it. In the process we call the greenhouse effect.
How nice! We now know about the greenhouse effect, about heat islands. We have NAMES! Not solutions, but at least we know what’s threatening our world.
The simplest solution, long term, is to plant more trees and let them grow until they’re old. But no; poor people will cut them down and sell the wood for lumber,  or burn it to keep their houses warm and cook their food.
An almost-as-simple solution is to put reflectors alongside all those miles of highway and on all those heat-island roofs. Reflectors send incoming radiation directly back to space, instead of allowing it to be absorbed by the atmosphere.
But that’s ridiculous. Line highways with cheap reflector panels made from sheets of mirror-finished Mylar? Sure, the reflectors would be cheap, but that’s too simple. It would cut down on the greenhouse effect by preventing surface heating, BEFORE the heat is re-radiated and captured by the atmosphere.
Why don’t we wring our hands instead?