Category Archives: earth

Is Geo-engineering Urgent?

You might first ask, what the heck is “geo-engineering”. Good question. I would answer this way — it is what humans are already doing to the planet. We are changing its ecology by our use of its resources. The effects are inadvertant, but they are real – we are re-engineering the world’s climate with CO2 emissions.

Some think we might find ways to reduce the effects of these CO2 emissions. That is also geo-engineering.

Is it urgent? Al Wenger thinks so, and if you look at the charts he offers, you get the point.

So, what say you?

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Why Trees Matter

From Vox

There were many glaring signs this year of how serious the climate crisis has become. As heat waves crested around the world, we saw temperature records smashed. In the wake of two major climate reports, we learned that global carbon emissions reached a record high.

Yet we also got a much better idea of just how much heavy lifting the natural world is doing to offset our greenhouse gas emissions. It turns out only about half of human carbon dioxide emissions reach the atmosphere; the rest is soaked up by forests, grasslands, and mangroves.

In particular, there was new research on how trees serve as extremely efficient carbon dioxide absorbers, with a single tree in the Amazon rainforest taking in 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. That means a forest can take in as much carbon dioxide as some entire countries emit. Researchers reported this year that the Amazon rainforest over the past 30 years has more than offset the emissions of every country in South America it runs through, with the exception of Venezuela.

It’s a powerful argument for preserving natural ecosystems, restoring those that have been degraded, and even planting new forests. It means the way we manage land and natural resources is just as vital to the climate as closing coal-fired power plants or switching to electric vehicles. But it also shows how important it is to come up with a way to value these functions that benefit the whole world.

What if the World is Your Village?

There is a certain feeling you get when you go somewhere and feel pat of what is going on. That can be bad if you hate what is going on. That has happened to me in various places for various reasons in my life. And each time, I moved on, promising myself that I would not return.  I had that feeling, for example, sitting in my dad’s car while a Delaware State Policeman was writing me a $100 ticket for making a mistaken turn on Route 202. Jerk! Get me out off there!

But when the “going is good” in a given place, you feel a special warmth about  things. You want to linger or if you have already left, to go back. And there are lots of places like that. Perhaps most famously, Hemingway fingered 1920’s Paris as such a place for a young man(who had a big ego and wanted to write novels about how unhappy he was). I think of London as such a place for its love of history. And what a history it has! My nephew seems to see Hanoi as such a place now. And Tartu is such a place for me now.

But what if … drum roll please … the whole world were such a place for you? What if you could “plug in” wherever you go. Or even better, if you could plug in from where you are, getting inspiration from location while you are still sipping your coffee and deciding to be late for work? What if it were that way for all of us? Or at leas for some of us?

What if?

Hmmm … could this happen via a blog? Could I help build such places through this blog?

Nah. Just a thought.

But I will try! Stay tuned!

There is Some Good News on Climate Change

First, the bad news. Apparently there has been a spike in oil consumption, leading to a spike in carbon emissions.

After several years of little growth, global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide experienced their largest jump in seven years, discouraging scientists.

Now the good news. The economics of energy use by utilities in the US is changing faster than people expected. The change is to carbon neutral. There are lots of reasons for this, but most relate to economics rather than being nice people. The price of using renewable energy continues to trend down, down, down.

The latest —– on of the largest utilities in the US; Xcel, has committed to be 100% carbon free by 2050, and 80% carbon free by 2030. Check out the linked article to get into the reasons.

There are some who argue that this will translate into a massive shift from ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles to EV’s (electric vehicles) very soon. That would be a major step forward in reducing our human carbon footprint on the planet.

So all is not lost. But the race is on. Will we shift out of fossil fuels before mucking up the planet beyond repair? Stay tuned on that one.

That Hot African Air Has Been a Whopper!

I read today that “hot African air!” has been the cause of the recent European heat wave. Whatever the cause, the weather here in Tartu has been very hot for the last month or so. Very hot and very dry.  Over the twenty plus years I have lived here, I have not seen this type of weather.

What is hot? For us, that would mean around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not sound too bad, but for us it is murder! We are not prepared for this kind of heat. Cold weather? We are ready for that, yes. Snow? No problem. But few people up here have good strategies to deal with extended periods of hot and dry air. Most homes, for example, do not have air conditioning. Ditto for the Finns and Swedes. I read that one air conditioned food store is allowing customers to “sleep in” to escape the hot nights. Nice!

What to do? Daily excursions to the nearby lake are a must – just to cool off a bit.  All windows are open. No cooking in a hot kitchen. And more lounging in air-conditioned malls. Lots of folks have fled the cities to hand out in the country where they are closer to water and cooler forest air.

The forecast is for rain today or tomorrow. Finally!

A Reality Check about Plastic and the future

Here it is

Plastic has been much demonised recently, thanks to its impact on wildlife and the environment, which is starkly illustrated by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and pictures of seahorses clutching Q-tips or dead albatrosses with stomachs full of plastic.

Despite the increasing concern about the issue, there is little sign that plastic use is falling. Half of all the plastic ever made was produced in the last 13 years, says investment house Hermes, while output is set to increase by 40% in the next decade.

We might think of this as a paradigm for our modern “linear economy”. The line goes from resource to product to consumption to waste. And so we are overloaded with waste while we wonder about resource scarcity.

The answer? A circular model. Designing products that are meant to be used and the materials in them to be re-used.

New York to Donald Trump: Enough CO2!!!!

Did you know that

… just 2 percent of buildings(in New York) produce nearly 50 percent of the city’s climate-altering emissions …

Wow! And who owns those CO2 belching behemoths?

The 90-floor tower nicknamed the “Oligarch’s Erection” is the gaudy centerpiece of Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row ― a place where a corrupt Nigerian oil tycoon set a $51 million record for the biggest foreclosure in the city’s history in 2017 and a Silicon Valley tech mogul bought the most expensive home ever sold in New York for $100.5 million in 2018.

But 157 West 57th Street is part of another, equally exclusive club that includes Trump Tower, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the Kushner family’s 666 Fifth Avenue, the ritzy Baccarat Hotel and Residences and 15 Central Park West, where Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein lives.

The club belches out that 50%. How interesting!