Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Michael Crichton died yesterday of cancer at age 66. Crichton was a favorite while I was growing up and was probably a big influence in my decision to pursue science as a career. I blazed through The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Eaters of the Dead, Prey, and others. I thought Prey was pretty cool in terms of exploring emergent behavior, though the level of suspension of disbelief was especially high.

A couple of years ago, I read State of Fear. It really played off my cynicism and I started looking into the possibility that the whole global warming thing was bogus. The more I looked, though, the more it became clear that it was Crichton’s points that were bogus. At that point, I lost respect for him. Thinking back now, it’s clear that one of Crichton’s most common themes was the danger of science unhindered by morality and pursued without caution. That’s a good goal, I think. Despite the fact that he went overboard railing against environmentalism, he managed to educate readers about science while keeping them entertained.

On balance, I think it is a good legacy.

Polar bears depend on the Arctic ocean habitat for their survival and things are looking pretty grim for them with global warming, toxins in the food chain, and disturbances due to oil and gas drilling. The US Geological Survey has said that they could be extinct by 2050 if we do not take steps to protect them now.

If you’re a US citizen and you give a crap, I urge you to send a message to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to have the polar bear added to the endangered species list and some lands designated as a critical habitat necessary for the bears’ survival.

The case for nuking Greenland

Posted: 6 December 2007 in Uncategorized
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Why is the US focused on Iran so much right now? I say we focus on the real threat: Greenland. That’s right — Greenland.

Why nuke the poor peace-loving people of Greenland, you might ask. They are not doing anything per se. But they are sitting on a mountain of fresh water locked in their glaciers. And in those glaciers lies the key to temporarily halting global warming.

Nuke Greenland

So we drop a multi-megaton hydrogen bomb over Greenland and detonate it in the air. The heat wave will vaporize some of the ice, but the temperatures will be so hot for miles that much of it will melt (a hydrogen bomb reaches temperatures in excess of 10 million degrees Celsius at the burst point). The melting ice will flow into the ocean as runoff and then proceed to cool down the North Atlantic Deep Water current. The same current was cooled down about 8200 years ago when Lake Agassiz (a giant North American glacial lake 7 times bigger than all the Great Lakes combined) melted and drained into the North Atlantic. That melting event spurred a mini-ice age according to new research.

What about the people of Greenland? Do they deserve to die to cool down the northern hemisphere? Well, there are only 56,000 inhabitants, so we can easily relocate them to more sensible locations like the coastlines of the US. Once this plan is announced, miles of beach-front property will go on the market and will be easily purchased for next to nothing.

As an added benefit, monsoon seasons will be much lighter throughout Asia. All that pesky rain previously used for growing crops and the mosquitoes that pass on malaria will be significantly lessened. This will lead to thousands of lives saved who might have otherwise succumbed to malaria.

Look, Greenland is melting anyway. Do our children deserve to wait decades for it to slowly melt before they get relief from the awful effects of global warming? NO! Nuke Greenland now for our children. Those glaciers and the bears that live on them are the real terrorists.

Not only are honeybees disappearing, but bumblebees are going the way of the dinosaurs too. Bumblebees pollinate roughly 15% of crops, which are worth about $3 billion dollars. While there isn’t a definitive cause yet, the National Academy of Sciences has reported that a combination of habitat loss due to housing developments, intensive agriculture, pesticides, pollution and disease are contributing to a worldwide decrease in pollinators. I wonder how long before global warming is added to that list?

A couple of quotes caught my attention from the article in Discovery News:

“We have been naive,” said Neal Williams, assistant professor of biology at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. “We haven’t been diligent the way we need to be.”

“We are smart enough to deal with this,” said Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership. “There is hope.”

Well, I hope Laurie Adams is right, but I don’t have much faith in the intelligence of mankind. Pollinating insects are one of those things that most people don’t even realize we depend on. Probably given the choice, many people would rather do without bees altogether, except for the honey they make. I know I’ve said something to the effect of “I wish all bees would die” after getting stung. I hate it when trite sayings like “be careful what you wish for” come true. Why didn’t my wishes for no mosquitoes come true instead? I suspect they will only continue to flourish.

Affect on certain landmarks with a one meter rise in sea level

If sea levels rise one meter, we could see a lot of stuff disappear beneath the waves, including Wall Street. Maybe then corporations and certain politicians would listen to reason. A bunch of historical landmarks would be affected as well, including Jamestown.

Well, the Northwest Passage is opening up as the northern polar ice cap melts away to oblivion (photo credits ESA).  The Northwest Passage is the yellow line.  All the trouble so many people went through back in the 19th Century and earlier to find a way through.  So many dead.  All they had to do was wait, it turns out.   Scientists are expecting ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean sometime around 2030.  This summer, the total ice is over 1 million square miles less than the average ice cover.

The Northwest Passage has opened up this summer (yellow)  Credits: ESA

I wonder what Sir John Franklin would say if he could see this.  Probably something like, “Full steam ahead!”  I have an odd taste for folk music dealing with the sea, especially when it deals with stuff from the 19th century or earlier.  This probably is derived from a certain nostalgia I have for when the world of science was young and the future was brighter and less scary.  I suspect this is part of the reason I love steampunk so much.  Anyhow, one song I like in particular, by Stan Rogers is “Northwest Passage”:

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
And make a northwest passage to the sea.”

The National Resources Defense Council is reporting on a study that looked at ten eastern US cities are found they are going to see more red alert days during the summer for air quality. They found that rising temperatures due to global warming will lead to a decrease in the number of good air days (as defined by the EPA).  Two of the cities I have lived in were included in the study: Columbus, Ohio and Greenville, South Carolina.  Another city included was Asheville, NC where Donna and I have spent several anniversaries.  Greenville and Asheville are both very beautiful cities, so it’s really a shame to see that things will be going downhill. The same will be true everywhere, of course. By the middle of the century, the study reports, 50 eastern US cities will see:

  • A doubling of the number of unhealthy ‘red alert’ days
  • A 68 percent (5.5 day) increase in the average number of days exceeding the current 8-hour ozone standard established by the EPA
  • A 15 percent drop in the number of summer days with “good” air quality based on EPA criteria because of global warming


If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve wondered where are all the bees this year?  Normally, they are buzzing around fields here in Pennsylvania, threatening to sting me any time I venture outdoors.  This phenomenon has been witnessed in many states earlier this year and I can only assume it has spread since.  I could count on one hand the number of honeybees I’ve seen this year:  one.  I tried to kill it today, actually.  I’m glad I didn’t because even though I have these violent impulses, I always regret taking something’s life — even something as far down the ladder as a bee.  So far this feeling has yet to manifest itself in the form of vegetarianism, but I’m getting close.  If I had to actually kill the meat myself to eat it, I’d be there.

Anyhow, back to honeybees.  The Discovery Channel is reporting a new possibility for the mass die-off:  Israeli acute paralysis virus, which kills off worker bees and causes the collapse of the colony, aptly named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  Other possibilities include parasitic mites, pesticides, poor nutrition and the stress of travel as beekeepers cart colonies around in search of the best pollen collection areas.  At least it doesn’t appear global warming is to blame, but I wonder what will be the repercussions for flowering plants next year.

Xtreme Weather

Posted: 7 August 2007 in Uncategorized
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Extreme Weather Making History — Discovery News

Of course this comes as no surprise and years like this one are probably going to become the norm. I’m actually kind of hoping for the weather system to do some crazy flipflop and plunge us into an ice age. That’ll show those big corporations and the evil politicians who support them!

There are so many well-meaning conservatives around here who just assume global warming is only presented as a moral issue for political reasons.

(courtesy of the ever-awesome