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.

Singapore Rejects Firm Emissions Targets? What About The Elephant In The Room?

A little over two weeks ago, the world’s blogosphere observed an event known as Blog Action Day 2009.  The event was a coordinated effort by bloggers around the world to raise awareness of a specific topic, and this year’s topic was climate change.  I believe the total result was that bloggers with a total audience of roughly 18 million participated, including high profile blogs like The Google Blog, Mashable, TUAW, and the official government blogs of the United Kingdom, Spain and The White House blog.  It was a great effort and a very loud cry from people all over the world that we want to see better care taken of the planet we live on.

Later this year, there will be an international summit in Copenhagen to try to address the problem of climate change on a global scale.  Many countries are going into this meeting with the intent to set firm emissions goals, yet Singapore has taken a stance against the setting of any firm targets.

via The Straits Times:

Minister for the Environment & Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim said: ‘We are not obligated to set targets or reduce emissions, but…we will do our part.’

‘Whatever we do, we cannot compromise our ability to grow. So how we find a balance will be a continuous process.’

While I find it a bit disheartening that one of the most advanced and progressive countries in Asia has stated plainly that it is more interested in growth than being environmentally friendly, I can understand their position.  Singapore has positioned itself as a prime business hub in Southeast Asia and it will require continuous growth to both maintain and develop this status.  I’m not justifying the disregard for environmental issues, simply stating why I think they may be pushing it to the back burner for now.

Also, despite its high per capita emissions, Singapore is one of the cleanest places I’ve ever lived and I think this spotlight on Singapore’s position in regards to firm emissions targets is a case of ignoring the elephant in the room.  We should all do our part, but let’s not disregard the forest while complaining about the trees.

Here are some photos of pollution in China, taken from a recent and popular China Hush article:

[Quoted] “In the Yellow Sea coastline, countless sewage pipes buried in the beach and even extending into the deep sea. April 28, 2008”

[Quoted] “In Inner Mongolia there were 2 “black dragons” from the Lasengmiao Power Plant (内蒙古拉僧庙发电厂) covering the nearby villages. July 26, 2005”

I’ve read the blog of a Swedish woman living in Suzhou, China that says she can’t hang her laundry outside to dry or it will be covered in filth and require rewashing.  She’s also afraid of having the windows open due to the heavy pollution in the air that’s as thick as a fog on some days.  I suppose it’s just a small mental comfort for her to run the air conditioner instead, since it’s pulling air from outside, but it demonstrates how bad the situation there is.

Let’s give credit where credit is due and focus on the true environmental disaster in Asia.