For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Partial book review

Obligatory disclaimer...

The Satanic Gases

Written by climatologists, Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling, Jr., who are also part of the climate blog, World Climate Report.

I actually just returned this book to the library half read, which is why this is only a partial review. I'm going to have to take it out again later and finish it.

This book is highly informative. In fact, that's part of the difficulty I had in reading it! Where my biggest complaint about AIT was the total lack of references, etc. to back up statements, this book was the complete opposite. There is so much detailed information, it becomes difficult to grasp it all! There are countless graphs and charts, all meticulously sourced, and even more references and discussions of studies on both sides of the climate change arguments.

The problem is that it makes for rather dry reading, and I really need to be in the right state of mind to be able to absorb it. With so many other distractions in a busy household and only being able to snatch moments of reading, it became difficult to keep track of what I was reading. I found myself re-reading the same passages over and over again, trying to make them stick. When I do borrow it again, I'm going to have to make sure to take the time to immerse myself in it with as few distractions as I can manage.

One thing for sure is, the authors know their stuff! Some of the subjects I found of particular interest included the pros and cons of computer models to predict climate change. Did you know that, with even the best models, a spring shower shows up as a huge, state-covering thunderstorm (Iowa sized, if I remember correctly)? That's because the computer models have a resolution of about 3 degrees x 5 degrees, or 2 degrees x 4 degrees for the newest versions, latitude/longitude. This, among other issues (like the sheer volume of data) make computer models useful tools for many things, but not for predicting future climate. They can't even accurately model known climate scenarios.

They also discuss other greenhouse and atmospheric gases that are typically ignored by the AGW proponents, who focus so tightly on CO2, and the roles of sulfates and aerosols. Methane and it's reactions with jet plane emissions in the upper atmosphere is particularly thought provoking - who knew that planes are actually contributing to the ozone layer?.

Temperature readings in the various levels of the atmosphere are also thoroughly discussed, including the conundrum of satellite temperature readings of the troposphere contradicting what "should" be happening with increasing surface temperatures. Again, everything is thoroughly explained, referenced and backed up.

It becomes clear in this book that global climate is far more complex than we currently have the ability to comprehend. We can make educated guesses based on the information we have, but that's about it!

All in all, it's an extremely balanced book. It most definitely isn't "anti-global warming," or even anti-AGW, yet challenges many of the claims made by the AGW crowd. This book is about the science of climate change, not the emotional moralizing of AGW proponents.

Whichever side of the issue you're on, I definitely recommend this book. My only problem with it was that I found it dry and difficult to read, but I blame that more on my frame of mind than on the book itself.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Interesting article

Obligatory disclaimer...

This is worth a read.

Arctic players poles apart on bears, caribou

Inuit fight Canadian, U.S attempts to declare species endangered

Archie McLean, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: 7:28 am

In December, the United States announced it would consider listing the polar bear as "threatened" under its Endangered Species Act.

Six months later, federal Environment Minister John Baird took the first steps towards putting the Peary caribou -- a small, pale Arctic ungulate -- on Canada's list.

Inuit were outraged. Pitseolak Alainga, a hunter based in Iqaluit, has a message for the Americans and others who would tell the Inuit how best to manage their wildlife.

"Don't worry about it," he says. "They are being taken care of by the people who have looked after them for hundreds of years."

Check out the rest of the article. A prime example of just how 'not-simple' things can be!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

final book review

Obligatory disclaimer...

So I finally managed to work my way through the rest of the book, An Inconvenient Truth. Not much has changed from my earlier review of the first half. As I wrote before, the book is heavy on emotion, light on facts. Readers are supposed to take Gore at is word.

One of the things that had been brought up to me by someone defending Gore's integrity was that his family had stopped growing tobacco for the cigarette industry. This was proof of their ethics. In the second half, Gore spends some time describing his sister and, eventually, her loosing battle to lung cancer. After she died, his family stopped growing tobacco.

This may be crass of me, but if they felt they ethically couldn't grow tobacco because of what happened to his sister, I couldn't help but be startled when he said they stopped *after* she died. That one detailed really jarred me. Especially after so much text was spent going on about how saintly she was, and how her inability to quit smoking caused her death. I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't stop as soon as they found out her cancer was linked to her cigarette smoking? It may be a totally tactless question to ask, though with him using his sister's death in the same way he used his son's near death earlier in the book, I figure the subject is fair game.

Having said that, I see no moral superiority to someone who's chosen to stop growing tobacco. Most farmers wouldn't have had the financial luxury to drop a cash crop like that. My own father, as a boy prior to WWII, helped his father produce their tobacco crop. Even with the draconian quota systems of the time (bales had to be within precise measurements - if they were larger, the farmer would be fined, if they were smaller, it would effect their allowable quota for the next year. Sounds a lot like the dairy quota system here in Canada), the money they made helped put food on the table. I hold nothing against a farmer growing a profitable crop. Heck, I don't even hold anything against Afgani farmers growing opium poppies. Opium poppies, while illegal to grow here, have for centuries been used medicinally. The syrup derived from the poppies were used to relieve pain, induce calm and/or sleep, depending on the dosage. Today, it's still used, refined into the powerful painkiller, morphine. Tobacco, still considered a sacred plant by NA native peoples, was used medicinally (a great many herbs were smoked as medicinal treatments) and even as an insecticide. It's not the plant that's the problem, nor is growing it. It's how it's used - and cigarettes have little in common with smoking the unadulterated leaf, as it had been originally.

As you can see, I'm singularly unimpressed by the fact his family stopped growing tobacco, though it's used as yet another step to Gore's sainthood.

Which leads me to my biggest problem with this books. Especially as it got towards the end. Gore makes a big deal about how combating global warming is a moral issue. There's a very strong religious feel going on here. After reading this, I can easily see why people have started referring to him as a prophet, or call him the Goracle. That's exactly what he sets himself up as! Amazingly, he even blames the politicizing of global warming on others - especially Bush/Cheney, but essentially any politician that didn't agree with him seems to be included in his blanket statements. Never mind that he, himself, has been the linchpin to politicizing the AGW concept.

His derision of anyone who disagrees with him is palpable. He brushes them all off as being in the pockets of oil companies and industry. All of them. He seems to imply (ok, more than imply) a vast conspiracy of oil soaked evildoers who've been working diligently in the sidelines to stop him in his crusade to save the earth. But he, in all his saintliness, will persevere!!! Messianic tendencies, indeed!

With all his urgent doom and gloom prophesying throughout the book, his "hopeful" descriptions of how great things will be if we just listen to him and do what he says, and the list of solutions at the end are downright tepid. They feel almost like and afterthought - especially since he uses the same chapter to counter the "misconceptions" of global warming in the same chapter, all in coloured boxes that draw the eye away from the "solutions." They are? Drive less. Use energy efficient appliances. Recycle. Compost. Oh, and buy carbon credits.

He neglects to mention that he's got his very own carbon trading company. He stands to make a very tidy profit on other people's guilt.

Oh, and I really got a laugh out of the paragraph on the very last page. It goes on to say the the book is made with X amount of recycled paper, etc., and that carbon offsets were used to render the making of this book carbon neutral.

I wonder if he bought them from his own company?

Final say: As you've probably guessed, I'm not impressed with this book. It's filled with misleading, exaggerated and erroneous information. Even where he gets it right, he gets it wrong. The book is passion over reason (ironic, considering the title of his most recent book), with a lot of dramatic claims, lots of pretty charts and graphics, but nothing to back them up. No footnotes, bibliographies, references, indexes - nothing. It's well written, dramatic, and passionate. Too bad it's so full of BS.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Global Warming is causing Antarctic glaciers to grow!

Obligatory disclaimer...

Think I'm kidding?

Check this out...

A partial quote. Note the dates between the two lists of headlines.

Like we said, this should shock no climatologist. But consider the “profession” of environmental journalism, which ran these headlines just one teensy month ago:

“Antarctic glaciers shrink” –The Baltimore Sun, April 22, 2005

“Study shows Antarctic glaciers shrinking” –Associated Press, April 22, 2005

“Vanishing glaciers: Antarctica’s big melt” –The Australian, April 23, 2005

“New study points to big melt in Antarctica” – Sci-Tech Today, April 22, 2005

“Antarctic glaciers in mass retreat” –, April 21, 2005

“Antarctic glaciers at risk of global warming” – All Headline News, April 22, 2005

“Antarctic glaciers are getting smaller faster” –The Times On-line, April 22, 2005

“Shrinking glaciers confirm the worst” –New Scientist, April 27, 2005

Suddenly the tune has changed:

“As climate shifts, Antarctic ice sheet is growing” –Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2005

“Scientists link global warming to Antarctic’s ice cap’s growth” –Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2005

“Antarctica ice cap thickens” –Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 20, 2005

“Warming is blamed for Antarctic’s weight gain” –New York Times, May 20, 2005

“Ice sheet confounds climate theory” – The Telegraph, May 20, 2005

“Antarctica ice cap thickens, slowing rise in sea levels” – Pioneer Press, May 20, 2005

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The real obesity crisis.

Though I've been using this blog mostly to discuss the facts and myths surrounding AGW, there's another area that's full of myths and misinformation, and that's the "obesity epidemic." If you already read junkfoodscience or have read The Obesity Myth, then you know what I'm talking about.

There is most definitely an obesity crisis, but it's not what most people think. The following three part series exemplifies the true crisis. Be sure to read the comments that follow each one, as many have shared their experiences as well.

Fat Hatred Kills: Part One
Fat Hatred Kills: Part Two
Fat Hatred Kills: Part Three


Monday, July 16, 2007

A contradition

Obligatory disclaimer...
This story has been in the news lately...

North Pole swim fights global warming

Canadian Press

TORONTO — A British swimmer who says he wants to wake politicians around the world up to the threat of climate change has successfully completed a kilometre-long swim in the freezing water of the North Pole.

Lewis Gordon Pugh swam Sunday for 18 minutes and 50 seconds in temperatures of –1.8 degrees in just a Speedo, cap and goggles.

“I am obviously ecstatic to have succeeded, but this swim is a triumph and a tragedy,” the 37-year-old British lawyer said after coming out of the water.

“A triumph that I could swim in such ferocious conditions but a tragedy that it's possible to swim at the North Pole.”

Since I've seen a strong trend to blame anything and everything on AGW, I decided to do a bit of research on the North Pole. The first article I found I quickly dismissed, as it claimed that melting Arctic ice would lead to increased sea levels, then continued on to predict all sorts of disasters. Melting Arctic ice cannot lead to increased sea levels because it's already *in* the water, just as a melting ice cube will not increase the level of water in a glass. The ice already displaces the water.

Then I found this.

... a powerful new satellite is giving scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory their first close-up view of the tortured surface of the Arctic Ocean. And the initial images released this week are already causing a stir: They confirm scientists' notions that while warming appears to be affecting the entire Arctic region, cracks exposing water at the North Pole are not a clear-cut result of global warming.
The satellite sees through clouds and the long polar night, takes images with a resolution of less than an inch, and allows scientists to view sequential images of the ice like time-lapse films.
"It gives you a picture of how the ice cover is moving about," said Drew Rothrock, a sea ice researcher at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory. "It's amazing what you can figure out looking down from space."
What do they see? Cracks. Lots and lots of cracks. Some more than 1,200 miles long and most several miles wide. "They go from one part of the Arctic to another," said Ron Kwok, who heads the polar remote sensing group at JPL. "There are thousands of them all over the place."
Though dramatic and longer than previously believed, the cracks are not clear evidence that global warming is occurring, he said. Scientists have long known that such cracks fracture the Arctic ice, a skin that ranges from a few inches to 10 feet in thickness.


Passengers on a tour ship returning from the North Pole last week reported a mile-wide patch of open ocean at the very top of the Earth. The open water prevented the tourists from having their pictures snapped at the geographic North Pole, and astonished the veteran Russian captain piloting the icebreaker carrying the tourists.
But scientists who have been studying North Pole ice and its vagaries for decades found nothing astonishing in the report.
"There are mile-wide cracks all over the Arctic in the summer," said Rothrock.
JPL's Kwok said there is "nothing special" about cracks at the North Pole, because they can occur anywhere within the Arctic ice. Members of his group had not seen current satellite images of an opening at the pole this summer because they had not yet processed recent images. They hope to check the new images in coming weeks.
Kwok's team will continue monitoring changes in the sea ice, particularly patterns of cracks, to look for evidence of global warming. He hopes the time-lapse images of ice forming will allow his team, for the first time, to estimate ice thickness from space. Although the polar oceans may seem static, they are actually violent places with ice shifting, groaning, breaking and piling up on a daily basis.


The main question, still unresolved, is whether warming seen in the Arctic and elsewhere is prompted by human or natural causes. The answers from these remote and inhospitable regions will still be difficult to find.
Even the current satellite technology, for example, has trouble distinguishing melting spring sea ice from water--a problem that can make readings of spring and summer ice less reliable than those of winter ice. The shifting pictures are also complicated by winds and storms that affect the ice pack. Another mystery: While ice cover has decreased at the North Pole, it has increased around Antarctica.
"Today, with all our capability and technology, we really don't know that much about Arctic sea ice," said Serreze.
In the meantime, he said, observations such as the one made by tourists at the North Pole are interesting, but not much more than that.
"An observation has to be taken in context," said Serreze. "The point is, we don't have the context."

So it turns out open water on the North Pole isn't unusual after all. (Hmm... I wonder what happened to the barber's pole that marked the North Pole? If a crack is there now, I guess it sank?) Automatically blaming it on AGW turns out to be more irresponsible sensationalism, and we don't actually know how or why changes are happening in the Arctic. Especially in light of the fact that the Antarctic ice is increasing.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

This is interesting...

Obligatory disclaimer...

I decided to look up exactly what is in vehicle exhaust, other than CO and CO2. Having already blogged about my confusion over CO2 in exhaust being the deadly buggaboo right now, I found this particularly interesting.

To quote from the Transport Canada website...

Motor vehicle exhaust gas contains carbon monoxide, which is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced by the burning of carbon-based materials such as coal, wood, paper, oil, gasoline, and cigarettes. When inhaled in sufficient quantities, carbon monoxide can cause symptoms that include sensitivity to light, headache, nausea, dizziness, and general disorientation. Visual perception and manual dexterity may also be affected, which can impair driving performance.

In 1971, the Government of Canada imposed limits on exhaust gas emissions at the tailpipe. The initial permissible limit for carbon monoxide was 24.1 g/km, which was lowered in 1975 and then again in 1987 to 2.1 g/km, where it remains today. As a result of emissions controls, motor vehicles were equipped with catalytic converters, which convert carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide, a harmless gas.

Although the reason for imposing emissions controls was to protect the environment, an unanticipated benefit has been a steady reduction in the number of deaths from accidental exhaust gas poisoning each year. From a high point of 162 deaths in 1973, accidental poisonings declined to 20 fatalities in 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

So today, we're supposed to be freaking out over the CO2 from our cars, but the CO2 is there because it's been converted from the deadly CO, reducing pollution and accidental CO poisoning.

How ironic is that!

I did find out the components of vehicle exhaust in this pdf file.

The major components of vehicle exhaust gases include carbon (as very small particles),
unburned hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides,
water vapor, and thousands more “low-level” chemicals. The peculiar odor of diesel exhaust is
due to aldehydes, acrolein, and sulfur compounds. Gasoline engines generally produce more
carbon monoxide than diesel or turbine engines; diesel and turbine engines produce higher
levels of nitrogen oxides.

The use of emission control measures from fuel regulation, to air injection and catalytic
conversion of the exhaust gases, greatly affects the types and amounts chemicals found in the
exhaust gases.

You find find out more about the individual components at this Alberta Government website.


A site and book to check out.

Obligatory disclaimer...

I've been working on the book, An Inconvenient Truth, for a while now, and will continue to post my thoughts on what I'm reading later. For now, though, here's a site that deals very specifically with the claims made in the AIT book that briefly confronts specific claims made in the book. Or, you can download the book, A Skeptics Guide to an Inconvenient Truth by chapter, in pdf format.

Which is what I'll be doing for the next few minutes.

I *so* live high speed internet! ;-)


Monday, July 09, 2007

Movie review: episode three

Obligatory disclaimer...
Today, the kids and I watched The Great Warming, Our Children's Planet, the third and last disc of the series.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't anywhere near as depressing as the others. LOL Actually, it was almost hopeful, and acknowledged a lot really great things.

Among the things they covered was an almost humorous look at the Future Truck Competition. Universities from all over send teams to this competition, all trying to build the greenest SUV, while still maintaining the power and usefulness of the vehicle. The Canadian team from the University of Alberta got quite a bit of air time - their vehicle's engine had caught fire the day before the competition, and on the day itself, the SUV still wouldn't idle right, and the clutch got fried. The winner used a combination of diesel and another type of fuel I can't remember anymore. All the teams had major problems. I found it interesting that the gas/oil consuming internal combustion engine is still the only one that really works. Mind you, none of the teams had anything like this.

They also featured an architect/real estate developer that specialized in building energy efficient green homes. I believe the total energy costs for a unit was something around $77 a year.

Among the other things discussed:

radiant heat.
active and passive solar
geothermal - which is totally cool! though limited by geography, of course.
the use of energy recovery techniques, that reclaim energy that would otherwise have left the home
roof top gardens - now that's an idea I really like, though their implication that if all city roofs had wildflower gardens on them, it would eliminate the Urban Heat Effect was a touch optimistic.
The also covered the use of ethanol, hydrogen and harnessing the tides.

Now for the not so good.

Our view of the episode did a nose dive right at the start, when it opened with what was probably the most horrible rap group I've ever heard. It was barely audible, but they were rapping about all the terrible things happening to the earth. It took a while for the video to recover from that particular start. *L*

Once again, the terms "carbon" and "carbon dioxide" were used interchangeably. I've asked around a group that is far more knowledgeable about climate than I am, trying to figure out what I'm missing. Turns out I wasn't missing anything. Carbon, being particulate matter, is completely different from CO2 and does not have a green house effect of any kind. It does, however, play a part in smog - which again, has nothing to do with global warming. One of the people who responded to me mentioned that AGW advocates like to use images of industrial smokestacks to "show" CO2 and give a visual representation of global warming. When that was mentioned, I did realize that these discs were all full of images of smokestacks. CO2 is invisible and relatively harmless, but carbon in the air can be both visible and harmful. So the two are equated, even though the two are completely different and have different effects on the environment.

Another thing I noticed was how the term "climate change" was used. Global warming and climate change were terms also used interchangeably, plus climate change was also equated with tornadoes and other massive weather events.

All those good things I'd listed before were also tightly focused on reducing "carbon emissions" and CO2 levels. Just as an example. They featured a semi-nomadic goat herder in the mountains of Peru, who was also working to establish a tourism business - I felt he was a wise man to want to diversify his income in creative ways. He was interviewed through a translator, and he sounded very positive and hopeful.

Alas, according to the voice over (Keanu, at this point), our goat herder was also contributing to global warming! Along with his herd of goats, he had 6 tents, 2 refrigerators and a tv. Electricity was provided through the use of expensive diesel fuel. His wife cooked their meals on fires fueled by wood and dung. But, thanks to foreign investors, they were provided with a portable solar array and wind turbine. I don't know that these two items alone would be reliable enough to power his electrical needs - and there was no mention of his wife getting a stove of some sort to cook with instead of a wood and dung fire. No matter, with this new technology, our goat herder was no long contributing to global warming through his carbon emissions!

No mention that he would save money, which he could reinvest into his budding tourism business.
No mention of the improvements in living conditions by not having to breath in the particulate matter in the smoke of a dung and wood fire.
Nope, the *only* advantage to this guy having solar and wind energy is that he's no longer contributing to global warming!

It was the same with the green, energy efficient homes, or the farmer using no-till planting methods. Everything was about reducing "carbon overload."

They then went on to discuss other fascinating technology, from the Thames Barrier, to massive underwater barriers being built in the effort to reduce water damage to Venice.

Alternate technologies to fuel our home and vehicles were discussed, including the familiar ethanol and hydrogen for cars. Some had me worried. One used a sort of solar array that converter CO2 to CO, which would then be used to make hydrogen, which would then be used to provide power for homes. I'm somewhat concerned about converting the benign and essential CO2 into a poisonous gas to heat our homes.

It was the last example that really had me shaking my head. This technology would not only reduce global warming, but reverse it! Now, first off, I question that we actually want to stimulate global cooling, but that's another story. This is the idea.

Giant towers, which would act as artificial trees, would be built. A special coating on the surfaces would trap CO2 from out of the air. The CO2 would then be converted to calcium carbonate, which is the same thing seashells and corals are made out of.

Then, get this, the calcium carbonate would be collected, the captured CO2 is then "harvested for safe disposal underground, or for conversion into stable substances."


First of all, since when was CO2 not a stable substance? And burying it? CO2 is being treated like some sort of dangerous, toxic substance, like nuclear waste!

It would be laughable, if they weren't actually serious.


An interesting read...

Obligatory disclaimer...

This is something worth checking out.

Climate Change in Disarray - An African Perspective.


Climate Change in the Recent Past

Both are in pdf format.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Movie review: episode two

Obligatory disclaimer...
The Great Warming: Age of Uncertainty

The girls and I watched disc two of the series yesterday, and here are our thoughts.

In contradiction to the title, this episode shows no uncertainty at all. It begins with a projection to the year 2050, and proceeds to describe a world of climactic chaos and destruction. The language is in present tense. Had I not caught the reference to the year at the very beginning, I would've thought they were talking about right now. As it is, several moments of distraction had me make that exact error, sending me to the rewind button trying to figure out what why this was making no sense.

There was one section that seemed out of place to me - as much for what I found to be a bizarre statement made by the expert talking about it - was human sacrifice by the Moche. When he said that we "rarely find evidence of human sacrifice," I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Evidence of human sacrifice is plenty, especially in South America. These links are just a few of the ones I was able to find online. If they could miss such an obvious error, how sloppy is the rest of what is being said?

It is believed that the Moche disappeared after what seems to have been a period of 30 years of floods, followed by another 30 years of drought. I'd seen a documentary show about them several years ago, and there's plenty of physical evidence of their ritual sacrifices. Their temples were literally awash with human blood. The Moche apparently believed that their sacrifices would appease the gods and provide stable weather conditions. For a moment, I thought they (the makers of this movie) were going to find some way to blame this period of climactic variance on AGW somehow, but instead a connection was made between the practice of human sacrifice to appease weather gods 1500 years ago, to what we're doing now. I didn't quite get what they were trying to say and, to be honest, I have no desire to re-watch the movie to figure it out.

In this episode, everything is the fault of AGW, and our spewing carbon into the air (again, the terms carbon and carbon dioxide seem to be used interchangeably).

Water levels rise in one area, it's because of AGW.

Water levels drop somewhere else, it's because of AGW.

The weather is really hot, it's because of AGW.

The weather is really cold, it's because of AGW.

There are a lot of extreme storms? AGW.

No storms? AGW.

Flooding? AGW.

Drought? AGW.

On it went.

There were a lot of stories of past cataclysmic storms. Storms that couldn't possibly be blamed on AGW, but did cause a lot of devastation. These where then somehow correlated to predicted AGW storms, as well as recent extreme weather, which is also blamed on AGW. I have to admit, I didn't quite catch the correlation unless, perhaps, it was to illustrate how devastating these sorts of extreme weather events can be.

They then go on to predict what the weather will be like in the future but, like the beginning scenario painted for 2050, the terms used are ones of certainty. Not, "this might happen," or "we believe this will happen," but "this will happen," and "this is how the world will be like." I used the rewind button a few times in these sections because of the terminology.

And it's all because of carbon/CO2 and AGW.

Even when the odd person they speak to expresses the tiniest bit of disclaimer, such as "I don't know if it's global warming, but..." it's quickly brought back to AGW. You would think that absolutely nothing else effects weather and climate patterns, and that computer model predictions are infallible.

This episode did end on a vaguely positive note. It did acknowledge that people are trying to make a difference and trying to cause less damage to the earth. Which is perhaps ironic, since one of the problems identified was high intensity mono-culture agriculture (from the damage to land, to pollutants from the heavy equipment used), only to include the production of corn-based ethanol as one of the improvements people are making. It was just a tiny bit in the conclusion, but they did acknowledge that humans can actually do good things, too.


Something else I wondered about in the movie. Among the things blamed on AGW is increased health problems, including asthma and other respiratory illnesses, because of smog. They spoke to a woman in Toronto who is a runner, and has asthma. She described how she would run a marathon, then the next day she would be out of breath just climbing stairs. She blamed it entirely on smog. This one had my kids and I looking at each other funny.

She has asthma.

She runs a marathon.

She can't breath the next day.

It's because of smog.


I would guess that, having asthma, if she ran that same marathon in the middle of nowhere, with no smog at all, chances are she *still* wouldn't be able to breath the next day. I'm not saying that smog isn't a bad thing, but... I mean really. She just ran a @#%!$^ marathon and is surprised she can't breath the next day? I know people who run. Marathons, half-marathons, 50k events... all in cities, with smog. They don't have asthma. They can breath just fine the next day. They may not be able to walk much because of the blisters, but they can breath.

It seems that people will find a way to blame *anything* on AGW.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Links worth checking out

Obligatory disclaimer...

When I first started discussing the global warming controversy on an email list I'm on, the topic of environmentalists deliberately trying to keep impoverished countries... well... impoverished came up. Someone had said she'd never heard of any group doing this.

It was touched on briefly in TGGWS, and I know of a few other examples as well. I've found, however, that a documentary has been made about exactly that. Here are the links.

Mine Your Own Business blog

film website

Definitely an eye opener.

Another example, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Calculate your impact

Obligatory disclaimer...
As I was looking at the site for the dvd we were just watching, I clicked on a link to an impact calculator. Here are my results.

My estimated total emissions for our family of four is 7,946 pounds of greenhouse gases per year.
The average US household emissions is 41,500 pounds per year.

There are problems with the calculator, however.

Under transportation, one side is for "Your current transportation energy use and emissions." It assumes you have a vehicle and asks how many miles you drive a year. I left that at 0 since we don't have a vehicle, but what do I answer for mileage? I left it at the default of 22 miles/gallon. On the other side of that section, "how to save energy and emissions," it asks what the mileage of your vehicle is. There's no alternative answer for someone who doesn't have a vehicle. The minimum is 10 miles, but how can I answer that, since *all* our miles are alternative? I left it at 10. Next, it reads "buy a vehicle that gets more miles per gallon." You get to choose from 30, 40, 50 or 60 miles per gallon. We don't have a vehicle to replace, and we're not planning to buy one. So my answers for this section puts me at an artificial high for emissions.

The next section is on how you heat your home, and what your average bills are. We are in an apartment with electric heat. Our bill is extremely low, since we're kept warm as much by the building we're in as by our own thermostat settings. We also don't use oil or natural gas at all, so those were left blank. The other side, on how to save or reduce, reads "replace 75 watt incandescent bulbs with 25 watt compact florescent." It allows you to choose from 1 to 12 bulbs. I have no intention of switching to CFL bulbs because of the mercury in them, as well as the type of light I need. Many of the lights in our home aren't 75 watt incandescent bulbs in the first place. We have halogen lamps, the kitchen is standard florescent lighting, and our bathroom fixtures use the small "chandelier" bulbs. Actually, I don't think we have *any* 75 watt bulbs at all. I've got a couple of 100's, but most are much lower (the chandelier bulbs). I am looking into household LED bulbs, which don't have mercury and are also amazingly energy efficient. If I can find them, and if they really do provide the excellent lighting I've read that they do, I would love to replace those bulbs that can be replaced with them. So my answer of 1 is inaccurate.

Next, it reads "in the summer, turn up your air conditioner thermostat by:" then it gives you a choice of 5, 10 or 15 F. Since we don't have an air conditioner either, I left it at 5.

It also lets you mark check boxes for replacing fridge and windows with more energy efficient ones. Since we rent, we have no control over either and won't be replacing them. I didn't select any of them. Again, my numbers are skewed.

Under consumption, it asks you to check of items you recycle - newspapers, plastic, glass, etc. We recycle all of them, so it automatically checked off the same selections on the other side.

Ironically, the summary suggested the following ways I could do better. I could buy a vehicle (instead of walking or using public transit, as we already do) that gets 40 miles to the gallon, then reduce my driving by 10 miles per week (which is currently at 0 miles per week). I could also buy an air conditioner, then set it to 5F higher than... whatever is isn't right now, since we don't have one. By doing that, plus replacing my one bulb with a CFL, it tells me I could reduce my emissions by 462 pounds per year.

So for our family, the results under transportation are much higher than they should be. Our home energy use is skewed, too. Consumption is as "good" as it gets. Even so, our greenhouse gas emissions are 33,554 pounds less than the average US household.

Can't say the calculator is much use for our family.

Movie review: episode one

Obligatory disclaimer...
The girls and I have just finished watching the first disk (The Human Fingerprint) of The Great Warming, a 3 episode/dvd series.

In other words, we just spent that last couple of hours arguing with the tv. It's not actually that long, but we kept pausing it for discussion.

Just to give you an idea, this is how the episode starts. In the foreground you see faces of a sad little boy, then a sad teenage-ish girl. In the background are images of industries spewing clouds of pollution (at least the sepia tones make it look like pollution) into the air, etc. A child's voice sings

It's raining, it's pouring
The temperature is soaring
The air is thick, the ocean's sick
I won't wake up in the morning.

That pretty much sets the tone for the movie.

Narrated in Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, it seems to be Canada's answer to AIT. I'd originally thought it was older, but from the site, it seems to be quite new. I've yet to find an actual year of release, other than a dated quote from a NYTimes reviewer.

It was aggravating to watch. It's a mix of truth and inaccuracies. Things are being blamed on global warming that never have been before (including a medieval famine, which Eldest pointed out was caused by a combination was a downpour, a late spring, and unusually cool temperatures, leading to crop failure. Population density made it worse with the spreading of disease). I was also perturbed by how they seemed to use the terms carbon and carbon dioxide interchangeably. CO2 is a green house gas. Carbon isn't a gas.

All in all, the movie was pretty much what I expected, though I was hoping for at least some balance. The earth will soon fry to a crisp, and it's all our fault.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

AIT book review so far

Obligatory disclaimer...

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It.

That's the full title of the book I've been working on. I'm about half way right now, so this is my thoughts on it so far.

First, I feel the need to describe the book itself. It's rather different from the others I've been reading. At about 7"x9" and an inch thick, it's a fairly large book. I got to the halfway mark quickly, though, since it's mostly graphics, colour & black and white photos (plus there's a neat little window, where you can see a photo of the earth through the cover). It's even got fold out pages. For the size of the pages and the thickness of the book, there's not a whole lot of text. Lots of blank space. As far as I can see, this book is Gore's slide show in print form - I recognize many of the graphics and charts from the clips of the movie I've seen - plus some extra personal comments and anecdotes from Gore. With so many non-text elements, this was clearly a very expensive book to print and make.

I am trying very hard to read this with an open mind. It's rather difficult. The rest of the family is noticing my aggravated noises as I read. *L* I've had the odd urge to toss it off the balcony a few times. But read it, I will.

My thoughts so far:

One of the first things you learn in this book is that Al Gore is a Really Great Guy. You know this, because he uses a great deal of the limited text in this book telling you all the wonderful things about him. You also know he's really Down To Earth and relate-able because his son was in an accident and almost died.

You also learn that:

The Clinton/Gore administration = Good. Clinton/Gore did great things about the environment. They would've done more and better things, if they hadn't been deliberately blocked by Congress. If they were still in office, the Kyoto agreement would've been signed by the US. I guess he has a short memory.

Congress = Bad. Because they deliberately stood in the way of all the great things Clinton/Gore would've accomplished.

The Bush/Cheney administration = Evil. The moment Bush got into the Oval Office, he proceeded to dismantle all the good environmental things Clinton/Gore had ever done. Bush is responsible for all the evils on the earth today.

The Earth is about to be destroyed, and it's all our fault. And the US's fault. It's everyone's fault except Gore because Gore, out of the goodness of his heart, is making sure we know we're destroying the earth. And, because he's such a Really Great Guy, he's going to tell us how we can save the earth. We just have to listen to him and do everything he says.

... and all this by the end of the introduction.

I'm trying really hard not to be sarcastic. I dislike sarcasm, but as I read what I've written, it does sound very sarcastic. It's not my intention. That's exactly how it felt as I was struggling to read through the 4 page introduction. It was also filled with inaccurate statements, but that's another issue.

I also tried really hard to empathize in regards to his son's accident. As any parent, I can totally understand something like that being a life changing event. But just how many times does he have to refer back to it? Instead of being empathetic, my bulls***t meter started going off.

Ok. Try to read it with an open mind.

Once past the introduction, the book reminds me in many ways of a children's book. Lots of pictures. Two page spreads with nothing but black background, a quote in huge text and a brief credit and comment on the quote in a corner. Interspersed are personal stories about Gore's childhood, his parents, and more references to his son's accident, which he eventually describes in detail, together with a highly emotional and colorful description of how he felt when it happened before his eyes. He eloquently writes about the influence his parents had on him, as well as one of his mentors, Roger Revelle.

As I mentioned before, there are lots of charts and graphs and scientific looking information. This is what usually had me grumbling out loud. Many of them completely contradict information I've seen from other, highly reputable, sources. Others are absolutely wrong, such as his blaming hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes, floods, monsoon - all major weather events, actually, on global warming. Hurricane experts had been saying even that year that Katrina couldn't be blamed on global warming.

By the time I got close to the middle of the book, a glaring omission finally came to my notice. For the most part, the text simply says things in a "this is what's happening, this is why" format, in as few words as possible. Other than that, there's a lot of "scientists say," or "scientists agree that..." phrasing.

There are, however, no references. No footnotes. There are absolutely no sources listed. In contrast, every single book I've been reading that run counter to what Gore has been saying in AIT is riddled with references. Indexes and bibliographies at the back list many resources for the questioning reader to look up themselves, if they wish. Some of them had lists of resources as long as some chapters.

That's when it occurred to me. There are no references because this book (and movie) is not a book of science. It is a book of emotion. It is a passionately and eloquently written book, with nothing to back up its claims. The reader is expected to accept everything at face value.

This realization is deepened by the constant references to the "moral" thing to do, and other evocative, even religious, terms. I can easily see why people call him the "Goracle," and why followers have such religious zeal. Gore is set up to be a modern day messiah, here to save us from our eco-sins. There's also heavy use of words like crisis, disaster, emergency, and similarly fear inducing terms.

Oh, and I did skip to the very end, where Gore tells us how we can save the earth. Most of them are pretty basic, common sense recommendations, most of which I'm already doing, some of which don't even apply for my family (ie: we don't have a car, so no related recommendations apply to us). Space is also given to directly respond to common "misconceptions" on global warming. Again, no references or footnotes. It's just Al Gore saying "I'm right, they're wrong," with a heavy feel of "anyone who believes this is stupid and irresponsible." I'm familiar with all of these "misconceptions." I'm also familiar with the reasons for these "misconceptions." To me, these are not misconceptions at all, but rather legitimate reasons to question Gore's claims and his claims of "scientific consensus."

I have to admit that, had I not had the background information and experiences that I have, this book would probably scare the s*** out of me. It would probably turn me into an activist. I'd probably be out there on the streets in demonstrations because of what I'm reading there.

Because this book accomplishes what I believe is the ultimate goal, and that is to evoke fear and alarm in the readers; to terrify the readers so much, they'd be ready to do whatever Gore tells them to. This book is pure emotion dressed up to look like science.