BLOG: Don't Shrug Off Global Warming

Higher temperatures, rising ocean levels and extreme weather may be in the offing.

It bothers me is that some local people shrug off evidence of global warming and say it’s a fabrication. They say it’s a conspiracy by scientists to get more funding for more studies and a wedge to get laws passed forcing people and companies to reduce gas emissions into the atmosphere.

They don’t read the science literature describing temperature rises, receding glaciers, and sea ice loss and call global warming just a temporary warmer phase in the Earth’s weather.

They look outside every day in California and the weather seems about the way it was 15 or 30 or 50 years ago.

To me, one thing’s sure: 1,000 years ago man (and woman) could hardly affect the weather even in their immediate surroundings. The population was much less then and about the only thing we threw up in the atmosphere was a little smoke and a little heat. Nowadays, with a gazillion engines burning gasoline and diesel fuel and kerosene, we recognize that we do have the power to impact this globe that seems to become smaller and more vulnerable every year. Years back there was a margarine ad on TV in which a woman spoke the memorable words: “Don’t fool with Mother Nature!” How true that is today.

Those who keep weather records say the average global temperature over the past 100 years has increased about 1.4 degrees. To most that doesn’t seem like much, but look at it this way – if you deliberately wanted to increase the worldwide temperature that much, can you imagine how much heat you’d have to generate to accomplish that rise?

And that small 1.4 degrees has been having a big impact. The arctic sea ice has been disappearing at an alarming rate. In the old days, a northern sea route between Alaska and the Atlantic Ocean was blocked by ice year around. I think that route has now opened or is very close to opening, at least in the summer months. Huge hunks of the ice shelf off the coast of Antarctica have been separating and floating out to sea, to eventually melt. I grew up in Wisconsin, and when I was a kid in the 1940s and 1950s, we had full winters – snow piled up on the ground all through the winter. Nowadays, there are periods in the winter up there, I’m told, where the ground is bare because the snow has melted soon after falling.

And this is all happening faster than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted. One contributor is that when sea ice and snow on the ground melt away, more dark water and darkish land are exposed that absorb more sunlight, speeding up the process of global warming. Snow reflects sunlight back into space. It’s a vicious cycle.

The second-largest contributor to the greenhouse effect that is thought to create global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2) from engines and other sources. Back 1,000 years ago, there was a balance. Certain processes created carbon dioxide (forest fires, volcanos, animal breathing and so on) but the CO2 was absorbed by living plants, which in turn gave off needed oxygen. Nowadays, we’re dumping so much CO2 into the air from vehicles and factories and fires that the ocean and plants can’t absorb it all, and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is slowly increasing.

I did some calculations you might find interesting. One morning at eight o’clock I walked out near Freeway 80 and counted the vehicles passing by in both directions. The number was about 100 per minute. Every gallon of gasoline, when burned in a vehicle’s engine, creates about 171 cubic feet of carbon dioxide going out the vehicle’s exhaust pipe.

Getting out my calculator, I figured that every six minutes, vehicles travelling along Freeway 80 between First Street and A Street generate enough carbon dioxide to fill one average single-story home completely with the gas.

If one giant C4 Galaxy cargo jet from Travis AFB were flying over that same short distance of highway, it would generate enough carbon dioxide to fill approximately one-half of that home.

Every year the U.S. generates enough carbon dioxide to cover the 50 states with 13 inches of carbon dioxide. Multiply that by five years and you have a CO2 layer of five and one-half feet!  

There are more and more C02-generating vehicles around the world as more nations join the industrialized bloc. China and India are the most prominent examples. Owning your own car is a sign of having made it.

To try to remedy the problem, the federal and California governments have been keen on mandating better gas mileage for vehicles. Still, the average today is only 21 miles per gallon. My wife and I drive two Priuses, which typically get 45-50 miles per gallon. When we were shopping for our last car, I wanted to buy the all-electric Nissan Leaf, but its range wasn’t quite enough to handle my wife’s daily commute to work. I had hoped to put solar cells on our home’s roof to provide free energy to charge the Leaf (that is, free energy after the solar panels have been paid for).

Locally, it would seem that the energy generated by wind turbines (windmills) and solar panels would be the best answer to reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, by powering cars that run entirely on electricity.

But getting people to change their driving habits is hard. Only when the price of gasoline gets outrageously expensive will most folks begin to car pool or take public transit or ride a bicycle to work. Or get an electric car.

So what will this rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the air cause, in addition to plain old rising temperatures? Well, as ice melts, ocean levels will rise. In a worst-case scenario, if most of the Antarctic and mile-deep Greenland ice melts, ocean levels could rise as much as 20 or 30 feet around the world. Fortunately, my hometown of Dixon’s elevation above sea level is around 60 feet. Much of the San Francisco Bay Area would be under water, including San Francisco and Oakland.

The rising air temperatures would disrupt current agricultural practices. When my wife and I were visiting Great Britain a few years back, they were experiencing the hottest July in history. We heard that England was now warm enough to grow grapes commercially.

The rising temperatures would also greatly affect the weather. I’ve heard that if the current trend continues, southern California weather could gradually move north, and we would end up receiving the smaller amounts of rainfall that they now receive. Along with that, there would be less snow falling in the Sierra Nevada, and more snow melt would be absorbed into the ground rather than running off into rivers that flow into the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Generally, then, there would be less water available for household and agricultural use. Also, there would be more intrusion of salty ocean water into the Sacramento river and perhaps into the delta area.

Also, there’s much speculation about warmer temperatures causing more extreme weather events that cause expensive and widespread home, business and agricultural damage. There could be more tornadoes, hurricanes, generic high-wind and high-rain storms, plus long-term droughts or flooding. Only long-term weather records will confirm or deny this trend.

If global warming is a fact, and I believe it is, it could cause a degradation of our standard of living. One day we may look back on the year 2012 and realize that these were the good ol’ days, when just about everyone owned a gasoline-powered car and could drive it anywhere they pleased, that agriculture reliably produced a bounty of cheap and wonderful foods, the weather was generally mild and commendable, and government didn’t interfere all that much with our pursuit of happiness.

Too bad we haven’t run out of oil. That would’ve forced us to look at alternative energy sources.

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John Osbourne November 29, 2012 at 03:09 AM
I accept global warming. I do not accept man-made global warming. There's ample evidence suggesting that solar flare activity is the real culprit. Every planet in the solar system is experiencing the same thing we are experiencing.
Bil Paul November 29, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Is solar flare activity related to sunspot activity? I know that we're near solar maximum this year and next, as related to the number of sunspots. But that waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle. Is there historical evidence relating to global warming on Earth connected to the level of solar flaring? Was there a lack of solar flaring during a recent ice age? How are we able to measure cooling/warming trends on nearby planets? Not too hard to do on Mars with all the spacecraft that have landed there, or are circling the planet, but they've been there only a few years.
Racerx Gto November 29, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Quote:{"So what will this rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the air cause, in addition to plain old rising temperatures? Well, as ice melts, ocean levels will rise."} Can you do me a favor? This is pure science, no trickery here; take any size glass or container and fill it completely with large ice cubes. Then take water and fill the glass to the top, add as much ice ratio as you like, the more the better. Wait for all the ice to melt and then tell me what happened to the level of the glass. I'm waiting for global warming to kick in high gear, I'm tired of this current Ice Age(Newsweek 1975). I believe Global Warming is an entertaining notion, as half of the scientific community disagrees with the other half as to the intricate particulars of this theory. No reason to starve people of much needed energy or raise prices on food unnecessarily with food closely associated to fuel pricing, with large uncertainties as to whether we are warming or cooling. I commend the people taking the bullet to alter their life downward and in the process making technological discoveries in addition to what is already out there. As an old friend used to say, "Solar energy has been the next best thing for the last forty years". Carry on men!
Bil Paul November 29, 2012 at 06:27 AM
Most of the built-up ice that could melt actually sits on land -- such as Greenland and Antarctica. The ice averages a mile and a half deep over Antarctica, which holds around 85% of the world's permanent ice . And, there are glaciers sitting on land elsewhere that are melting.
Walt November 30, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I'm not very knowledgeable in this area, but I have read articles from scientist that discuss temperature rises, and melting ice, that don't agree with this theory of man made global warming, and the impending doom that goes with it, so I don't think it fair to assume that people who don't agree with it are ignoring anything. They just might be coming to educated conclusions to the contrary. Based on what I have read and observed, I am skeptical of the conclusions from the global warming camp, but I think there are plenty of other good reasons to use sustainable resources, and conserve and be responsible with those resources. God blesses us with good things. One way to show we are grateful is by taking care of the things we are blessed with. We can save money and reduce air polution by using less gasoline. That's good enough for me. You had me at save money!
Bil Paul November 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I would agree that it's best when there are practical reasons, such as saving money, for lowering gaseous emissions into the atmosphere. Weather is a very complicated phenomena to predict -- there are so many variables -- and many, many measurements need to be taken and records kept. But my worry is that by the time a consensus is reached among the citizenry that global warming is primarily manmade, we may be too far down the road of global warming to backtrack. Solar generation of electricity is a good way to begin to reduce emissions, but already groups are fighting large solar energy farms in southern California. And I've seen a couple places in California where people are fighting the installation of windmills (wind turbines). By the way, an international meeting going on now has said that ocean levels are up about half an inch. That's not much at one beach (!) but when you consider the entire globe it's a lot.
John Herby Hancock December 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I hope we NEVER run out of oil. If we do I'll have to figure out how to power my V8 gas sucking SUV's and Trucks on some other fuel because I will die before I drive an electric clown car!!!
Bil Paul December 04, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Today's railroad locomotives are powered by electric motors. Not quite a clown car.
John Herby Hancock December 05, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Racerx Gto January 13, 2013 at 03:33 AM
We are in week 2 of freezing temps. (That's temperatures less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you in the California public education system) http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/californians-brace-nights-freezing-temps-18197177 I reiterate my last statement, I cannot wait until Global Warming kicks in so we can enjoy a warm, influenza free climate where life is enjoyable in shorts and T-shirts.
Bil Paul January 13, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Your desired global warming may be here sooner than you think. NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released the latest climate report from 2012 and found that it was the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States. The average temperature for the contiguous United States for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 3.2°F above the twentieth-century average. In fact, 2012 beat 1998 as the warmest year ever recorded in the U.S. by an amazing 1.0°F! In general, the United States had the fourth warmest winter, the warmest spring ever recorded, second warmest summer, and a warmer than average fall.
Greg Coppes January 13, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Those electric motors get their electricity from diesel generators.
None January 13, 2013 at 06:30 PM
I have to agree, it’s an interesting subject. I read a couple of books on this subject, “Unstoppable Global Warming, every 1500” years by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery and, “Red Hot Lies” by Christopher C. Horner. Both were quite interesting and I would certainly suggest them to anyone in order that they might gain another point of view on this subject. One thing mentioned was how Greenland got its name. It seems that during one “Global Warming Period,” people could grow crops and graze animals there.
Bil Paul January 13, 2013 at 07:18 PM
I think that one of the differences between this warming period and previous ones is the speed with which the current warming period is proceeding -- even faster than predicted. Another contributor to greenhouse gasses is the large number of cattle, and their methane farts (probably human farts too!) -- and I think that methane is 25% more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Feed 'em beano!!!
None January 13, 2013 at 08:12 PM
I have also read that carbon dioxide is the result of warming climate, not the cause of it. I have also read that the ocean is where there is a lot of carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, which evaporates into the atmosphere during warmer climate periods. This falls to earth with the rain and is absorbed by plants. Is there any truth to this? I also have read that our atmosphere is approximately 77% Nitrogen and 22% Oxygen and all other elements including carbon dioxide make up the remaining 1%. Is this still the breakdown? I understand that Yosemite Valley is the result of a global warming period and there was no fossil fuel or SUVs to cause that activity. I just don’t think civilization has changed our climate. We may pollute and cause environmental damage but I don’t think we change the weather.


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