It’s Science!

The Inorganic Carbon Cycle
The Inorganic Carbon Cycle

And I’m just not that into it. I was having a conversation with a friend recently and we agreed that humanities are better than science any day of the week. I realize the irony of conveying that message using a device and medium created by modern science, but I suppose I’ve always enjoyed studying ideas and social constructs more than things.

I’m studying climate change this summer in the last required “core” course for my BA. I had a few choices. I could have taken biology, chemistry or an earth science course on global warming and climate change. I wanted to take biology, but the course was too late at night. Chemistry I would have failed, I’m sure. I hated chemistry in high school. Something about memorizing the periodic table and atomic weights seemed completely pointless to me. When would one be doing science and not have a copy handy to use as a reference guide if needed, really?

Anyway, there are things about this class that I find interesting. First of all, I agree with the basic premise that global warming is a real and happening (not in the fashion sense) thing. The planet is getting warmer. It has done this in the past, but this time it’s different because we’re converting all of the carbon that used to be underground into carbon that’s in the atmosphere, which causes the planet to retain more heat. I have a hard time understanding how people can look at the multiple data sets available for temperature change, change in carbon in the atmosphere, and see the huge spike associated with increased human activity (burning fossil fuels, creating gases) and brush it off as a joke or hoax. When Miami is underwater, I wonder if people will still be claiming it’s a conspiracy?

Beyond that, it’s pretty cool to see how volcanoes and the El Nino weather pattern affects global temperatures. Or to examine the what-ifs of climate change. Famine, drought, flooding, shifting coastlines and floating cities. It might even be sort of cool, except for all of the people that would die along the way.

The actual mechanics and math of climate change is tedious. It is painful to sit down and look through long charts of numbers, plugging them into formulas and whatnot to get measurements of changes in temperatures.

Anyway, there are about two weeks left in this class. Then I’ll start getting myself together for Fall semester.

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

If you’ve been keeping up with Blogger news, either via the Blogger Twitter account or on the official Blogger Buzz blog, then you’ll have heard about this already. If not, here’s a quick rundown:

Blog Action Day is an annual event, held on October 15th (which is already is here in Singapore), where a single issue is chosen as a topic to be addressed by bloggers around the world. The idea behind it is that if enough people talk about the issue on one single day, and the web is inundated with news about it, it’ll be more likely to catch otehr people’s eyes, and thereby spread awareness. The topic for this year is climate change.

It’s an interesting coincidence that climate change should be the issue of this year’s event, given recent weather problems in Asia. There have been numerous typhoons in the past few weeks in Asia that have left trails of destruction behind them, most notably in the Philippines. I can’t recall a source for this, but gleaning over news I recall seeing where people were speculating that climate change caused by global warming is influencing the weather systems in Asia and making the typhoons more powerful than they would normally be. I’ve also seen speculation that a related topic, pollution, is partly to blame for the flooding in Manila, though with or without trash clogging gutters the area would’ve flooded anyway, given that it’s a basin that sits below sea level.

Photo via NewsHopper

What we’re doing to our planet is, basically, really screwing things up. The problem with “green” solutions right now is that they are more expensive than what we’re doing now, and they’re less profitable for companies in the long run. So, there’s no real incentive in it for the average joe, or for the businessman. No one wants to think long-term, about what we’re doing to be looking at in 50 years, or 100 years.  It will take government intervention on a global level to take on this problem, but with the way international politics stand now, I don’t see that happening. Politicians already fail too often in areas where it matters less than this, or in similar areas, like building more bombs when we should be building less and using those funds for other things, like curing diseases, creating better crops, or extending human life.

So, for now, all we can do… those of us that care… is try to keep an eye on how we’re affecting the environment through our daily actions (and if in a position to do so, place a vote where it counts). Heading downtown? Reduce emissions by taking the train. I know the cab will still be driving around with or without you in it, but over time if more people use public transit the demand on cabs will lessen, meaning the number of cabs will lessen. (Let’s not get into a debate about cutting jobs in a recession right now ok?). Car-pooling is another way to not only save on emissions, but cut personal costs as well. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, or even to know what the answer to this problem is… so I snagged this list from (^_^) :

1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans. If there isn’t a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

2. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning

Adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower your heating costs more than 25 percent, by reducing the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home.

Turn down the heat while you’re sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

3. Change a Light Bulb

Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. CFLs also last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat.

If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.

4. Drive Less and Drive Smart

Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school.

When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

5. Buy Energy-Efficient Products

When it’s time to buy a new car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Home appliances now come in a range of energy-efficient models, and compact florescent bulbs are designed to provide more natural-looking light while using far less energy than standard light bulbs.

Avoid products that come with excess packaging, especially molded plastic and other packaging that can’t be recycled. If you reduce your household garbage by 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

6. Use Less Hot Water

Set your water heater at 120 degrees to save energy, and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.

7. Use the “Off” Switch

Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo and computer when you’re not using them.

It’s also a good idea to turn off the water when you’re not using it. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You’ll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource.

8. Plant a Tree

If you have the means to plant a tree, start digging. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

9. Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company

Many utility companies provide free home energy audits to help consumers identify areas in their homes that may not be energy efficient. In addition, many utility companies offer rebate programs to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient upgrades.

10. Encourage Others to Conserve

Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors and co-workers, and take opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment.

There are lots of good reasons to take action when it comes to preventing climate change. The most obvious is what I mentioned before (weather changes) and flooding, but you have to think about things in the long run. For example, the flooding in the Philippines destroyed a lot of crops, farmland and killed farm animals. Here, check out this excerpt from an ABS-CBN article:

MANILA – Total damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure wrought by the two successive typhoons that hit the country has reached P18.4 billion, according to the latest report released by the Department of Agriculture’s Center Action Center (DACAC) on Tuesday.

The DACAC said the losses—P6.8 billion from “Ondoy” and P11.7 billion from “Pepeng”—were recorded in all of Luzon’s seven regions.

The typhoons destroyed some 121,949 hectares of croplands, resulting in the loss of 925,523 metric tons of rice, corn, and high-value crops. Fishery products, livestock and poultry were affected while farm infrastructure worth P2.7 billion were ruined.

Rice areas were the most affected, with some 109,188 hectares reported to have no chance of recovery.

So, climate change doesn’t just affect the weather. It doesn’t just mean that it’s going to be sunnier, or that you’ll have to run the air conditioner more. It also means that it’s going to cause problems with food supplies around the world. It could cause famine, higher crime rates, and even war if the need escalated high enough. Just look at Japan. Their need for imported materials from the United States during the height of World War II, and our denial of those materials, is what drug the United States into the war in the first place with the retaliatory bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Do what you can, day to day, to reduce your impact on our planet. If not for ourselves, then for those who come after us. Don’t shit in the next generations’ crib before they’re even born.

Now watch this nifty video, and then click through on the link below it to find out more.

Blog Action Day 2009