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Getting It [Apr. 17th, 2007|03:41 pm]
On Friday, I went to two talks about global warming. The first was over at CU, part of the Conference on World Affairs, by former congressman Tim Wirth. What I found really interesting about it was that he spent a few minutes at the beginning going over the whole (by now very tiresome to me) "global warming is bad" thing. What I found remarkable is that he then stopped talking about it, and spent the rest of his time talking about what we can do about it. Moreover, he really emphasized that we need to not regard it as an insurmountable challenge, but as a situation where necessary change is also an opportunity.

The second talk was here at work, by Amanda Staudt, who works for the National Wildlife Federation, and was about the recent dramatic shift in U.S. attitudes toward climate change. Among other things, she talked about hearings about the subject on Capitol Hill, and already this year there have been, like, ten times as many congressional hearings on the subject as there used to be in a typical year. (I know of three people in my department who are flying to DC this week for hearings.)

So, that's an impressive and dramatic shift.

More impressive? Even folks like Newt Gingrich get it now. (Boston Glob article, registration and linkrot warning)
"Gingrich praised Kerry's recently released book about environmentalism, acknowledged that global warming is real, and offered what amounted to an unexpected apology for his party's inaction on curtailing greenhouse gas emissions."



I think it's going to take a little while to get over the shock and move on to discussing what to do about it. We're not used to having people actually listen...

[User Picture]From: zalena
2007-04-17 10:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, but that's because Gingrich wants to pick up all the people who previously voted for Nadar.

Plus, Western Republicans care about environmental issues.

But go Gingrich, anyway. There's plenty of ways to exploit the environmental movement for profit.

BTW - how to do you feel about compact flourescents? I'm cranky about the quality of light (though I know there are some shopping options there), but am very concerned about the mercury.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-04-17 10:44 pm (UTC)
CF lightbulbs are kind of tricky, because manufacturers and environmentalists seem reluctant to acknowledge that they flicker and the color spectrum sucks, and that those are serious problems for most consumers. (I'm with you on that topic.)

But I understand that they have improved quite a bit over the last few years. We have one lamp that's CF, and I don't totally hate it. (The others are mostly halogens...)

The Intarwebs tells me that although CF bulbs have mercury in them, it's less than the amount of mercury that would be put into the environment from burning coal to power an incandescent bulb instead, which I believe. (The same is true of nuclear power plants vs coal plants with regard to radiation emitted.)

I think we'll all start switching to CF bulbs just in time to start using LEDs for lighting instead.
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[User Picture]From: goobermunch
2007-04-17 11:10 pm (UTC)
We've almost completely switched to CF bulbs, except in the bedroom.

We're pretty happy with them. The spectrum's not nearly as bad as you'd think, and the flicker is not really noticeable.

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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-04-17 11:19 pm (UTC)
Experience suggests that I'm a lot more sensitive to spectrum and flicker than most people are. I know the newer ones have gotten better, but I'm reserving judgment until I have more personal exposure.
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[User Picture]From: goobermunch
2007-04-17 11:39 pm (UTC)
Well, you know, you could always, say . . . COME VISIT!!!!

. . . or something.

I'm just sayin' is all.

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[User Picture]From: k8cre8
2007-04-18 12:07 am (UTC)
We're at 50% of the lights in the house right now (waiting on a few of the old ones to die), and I rarely even notice. Honestly, even if there weren't environmental concerns, I dislike changing light bulbs enough that it's worth the cost to not have to change them so often. I know, I'm weird.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2007-04-18 01:10 am (UTC)
I have heard good recommendations about the GE branded CF bulbs, particularly the daylight-mimicking ones. I've heard tepid to mediocre reviews about other brands, and of at least one case where a person got a dud GE. So I think the idea is to get some and test them.

We've got some CFs in our dual lightbulb fixtures (one CF, one oldstyle) because we were worried about the flicker; given how often we've had to replace the regular, I think I'll try some GEs the next time around and see if there are any flicker concerns.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2007-04-18 01:29 am (UTC)
D. has switched his bedside lamp to CF, and then switched mine, too. And I didn't like it. (The humming annoys me, too.)

We have lots of them elsewhere in our house. I think we're pretty much at carrying capacity, now. (And we have a pile of leftovers with no home. :-(
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[User Picture]From: joebehrsandiego
2007-04-17 11:19 pm (UTC)
How cool is that!

This past Sunday, David, Patrick and I toured the new EPA building in LODO as part of Doors Open Denver. I had the thought "wow, Bush will be gone soon - I could imagine working for the EPA and in this cool building now" ...
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[User Picture]From: beartech420
2007-04-18 04:01 am (UTC)
I've been using the CF lights for a few years and have had no problems with them. The only time when i need the old lights or the halogens are when I'm working in front of the montor because the flicker combo of the 2 make my eyes tired really fast!

You know all I hear is restricting our carbon footprint. Isn't there proactive stuff we could do like plant more plants for biomass or something. Or build light rail in our cities and fast rail like europe so we use our cars and planes less?
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[User Picture]From: sunsmogseahorse
2007-04-18 04:25 am (UTC)
The hard part is, with even present levels of carbon in the atmosphere warming and changes in sea-level are going to become all too apparent within our lifetimes, even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today. It's all going to be about amelioration. But the scientific community has been warning about this for some time, and no one is a hero for recognizing this just now.
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2007-04-19 03:24 am (UTC)
Anything that gets people out of the habit of dumping crap into the environment is good.

To push you on a tangent for a second, what's your opinion about the order of magnitude for the climate change being caused by human activity vs. "unknown"? I ask this because someone had recently pointed out something I found very interesting: The martian polar caps are melting.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-04-19 05:07 am (UTC)
A fine question!

I'm not really qualified to throw numbers around, but I'll take a stab at it. What I can say with confidence is that I believe these figures are a pretty accurate representation of reality.

Of the climate forcings listed there, the only one not affected by human activity is the sun's output. There are varying levels of uncertainty about exactly how much we affect all the others, but the most clear-cut component is CO2. Increases in CO2 levels are clearly the result of human activity (history of industrialization, isotope ratios, and raw quantities all line up quite nicely), it's the biggest single climate forcing factor, and we're well on our way to doubling CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. (Doubling is the target for stabilization, and it's an ambitious target that will take a lot of work.)

So, okay, there's a lot going on there, but let's look just at CO2 and solar activity. Solar variability for the 20th century is less than 1%, I gather, so that's about 0.03 W/m2, while doubling the CO2 component would bring you from 1.5 to 3. So that looks like about 2 orders of magnitude to me, give or take. And that's just CO2; add in the other greenhouse gases and it's even more imbalanced on the side of human activity.

There is definitely a solar component to climate change, but it's comparatively small. This is a question that's been resolved only in the last few years, so there was a lot of argument about it not too long ago. I remember a presentation at work a couple years ago where they were talking about the famous "hockey-stick" graph, and explaining that even including solar variability, the only way the modelers could get the models to track with the observed data at all was by including anthropogenic effects.

Does that summarize pretty well?
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2007-04-20 01:28 pm (UTC)
It does, thanks. People were throwing around a lot of opinions - some with data, but not very good about pointing out their sources. This looks like the source for at least 1/3 of the opinion on that particular list.
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