Sunday, September 4, 2011

This is all the earth we have!

Time to get serious

Heat from the sun warms the earth –On a clear night, infrared radiation (heat) is lost from the warm earth radiated out into the blackness of space… By morning the soil and surface air are cool. When the sky is overcast at night the heat that leaves the earth bounces off the cloud layer and is redirected back to earth – the heat is trapped in the same way that heat is trapped inside a greenhouse or inside a car parked in the sun on a summer day… This is the greenhouse effect.

We experience the greenhouse effect in out cars, homes, and atmosphere

Other materials besides clouds produce the greenhouse effect. Most notably carbon dioxide in the air produces the same effect. For more than 100 years we have been extracting vast amounts of carbon trapped in the earth (petroleum, coal), burning it, and releasing carbon dioxide in the air. Forests and jungles have been cleared and burned releasing more CO2. The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the greater the greenhouse effect. Look at the steady rise in OO2 in this century:

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide matches our increased burning of fossil fuels

Climate change is a complex issue but we can not wish it away or say that it doesn’t exist. It isn't as simple as "global warming" - and we aren't talking about vast differences in seasonal weather or temperature . Real shifts in earth climate, however small, have huge impacts on weather patterns, ice packs, ocean levels, and life as we know it on earth. Human activity in the last century have already produced substantial changes in our climate and weather. Common questions about climate change are answered here by UCAR* :

Our atmosphere- clouds - and snow in the Sierras

The climate change issue is of special importance right now because of the proposal to "develop" the Tar Sands in Central Canada…

The Canadian oil sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely thick form of petroleum. This sand mixture contains crude oil, so thick that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter petroleum products.

"Bad air day" - smog

It has become profitable to extract this oil due to higher world oil prices and improved processing techniques. However, making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy for steam injection and refining. This process generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the production of conventional oil. If combustion of the final products is included, this petroleum emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil. It is dirtier than burning coal.

Hurricane cloud pattern

In addition the proposed pipeline would send 900,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil to US refineries. The proposed pipeline would travel the width of America across North Dakota to the gulf waters of Texas, crossing major American rivers and over our richest undergound acquifers that provide for vital agricultural systems and drinking water. The track record for pipeline accidents is not reassuring.

Mid west storm clouds

Damage to the environment from such spills would be catastrophic. If the Alberta Canana tar sands are developed, transported, processed, and used as fuel ... the increased resulting greenhouse gases will have a catastrophic effect on already stressed world climate systems. James Hansen of NASA says that if the development is permitted it could mean ‘game over’ for the Earth's climate.

Once fertile land is now barren - a soccer field in Tanzania

Oil companies would first have to strip off dense Canadian forests to get to oil-rich sands - forests that remove and store some of the excess CO2 from the air. To process the raw oil/tar from the sands into a barrel of oil would require the use of 185 gallons of water, 2 tons of soil and about 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The heavy crude oil produced is still so dirty to refine that most refineries would have to be refitted to handle it.

Many Americans are outraged at the impact of this proposed development. 1,252 people were arrested, including top climate scientists, landowners from Texas and Nebraska, former Obama for America staffers, First Nations leaders from Canada, and several notable individuals. Any jobs that the pipeline would create would be short-lived - and we are missing a golden opportunity to, instead, concentrate on development of pollution free energy sources that would in the future produce an expanding number of jobs.
Migratory herdsmen often travel greater distances to get water and grazing for sheep and goats

Read more:

Editorial of the week:

California Rain clouds over Bay area hills

* University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: