Writing this as the sun sets on one of the last days of the year. The decade has been the hottest on record.
Climate change skeptics have used recently acquired e-mails as evidence man-made warming has not occurring. They accuse global warming scientists of manipulating data in order to draw research funding. One study stopped counting tree-ring data past 1980 or so. (If you care to learn more, sources providing more detail are easy enough to find...)
I think it's undeniable the overall climate change comes from man-made causes.
By bringing up the idea man-made pollution is not causing the problem, skeptics seem to be cheapening their case. That said, I do think the e-mali scandal, now called "climategate," presents some viable criticism of the way consensus has been reached.
Like any community, members of the scientific community are pressured to conform. Since Isaac Newton's day, scientists who dared oppose conventional (wrong) thinking were assumed to be wrong simply because their opinions differed from the consensus.
Research grants are a plausible motive for falsifying results and stretching data. Bundles of federal cash have flowed into the top tiers of the academic and research communities for decades. The flow of money follows a political pattern of patronage--sponsoring politicians are less likely to fund that with which they disagree.
Scientists were under pressure to diagnose man-made pollutants as the cause of global warming. As the e-mails reveal, a few studies did made mistakes with their sampling techniques, putting their conclusions--that temperatures were rising--at risk. Rising temperatures indicate global warming is for real. Beyond that, I don't see much else behind the scandal.
Of course climate change skeptics take every minor incongruity in evidence-gathering to mean a massive conspiracy has been at work: Al Gore making millions off the scam, profiteering from green energy policies, etc. have been happening.
I say the more power to Al Gore. If he's figured out a way to make money while fighting global warming, the more power to him.
In our capitalist system, profits dictate the flow of investments. So to convert our energy to green source, private sector investment will be needed.
As with the TARP bailout, examples of inadequate regulation is rife where industries with the most power, money and influence dictate the scope of government regulation and enforcement. During the Bush years, entities like Massey and Peabody Energy used the lack of enforcement of the Clean Water Acts--combined with the influence they wielded with the Bureau of Land Management, to shape federal policies. This made mining coal cheaper for them, and correspondingly devastating to the environment in Appalachia.
So why not use the power of the federal government to achieve positive change? I mean if statism is in, and collusion between government and the private sector inescapable, why not meld the interests of the green sector with government? Instead of plowing so much into defense contractors, why not spend it on green companies? In time, those companies will gain more power and influence with successive administrations, kind of like what we saw with Big Energy during the Bush years.
It's a dream of environmentalists to commodify their cause--to make actions like recycling profitable. To build a more sustainable economy, however, we need to make recycling more lucrative--a goal achieved in the past almost exclusively through government subsidies.
History sides with the idea of natural resource depletion, for the sake of profit. It's simply easier and more profitable to ignore environmental consequences, or minimize impacts. For the polluter, polluting is cheaper, although longer-term results show greener companies face fewer fines and costly consequences based on environmental damage, which detract from the attractiveness of the polluter's stock over the long haul.
Moving to an economically viable model has always been seen as a big plus, but not an essential part of crafting an economy that's more efficient in its use of resources. We can't rely on industries that cannibalizes the natural environment far faster than they can create it. Following the Bush-era path will find our country pockmarked with huge patches of degraded, desolate terrain--kind of what you see where Mountaintop Removal has occurred, or what the tar sands of Alberta will make. Can we afford to base our economy on that kind of plundering? Worse, the world's populations need to be offered a better model as they strive to imitate the American style of living--messily depleting their finite resources isn't a viable plan for development.
Is man the only cause of warming?
Not exactly on terra firma here as I admit to not knowing enough about atmospheric science. Based on a talk by Peter Taylor(hard science from 18:30), I did take notice of one issue that skeptics raise about the global warming thesis. Just because CO2 is up, does that mean CO2 causes global warming?
What if man-made causes weren't the only reason? One potential reason for warmer temperatures could be a recent trend towards fewer clouds in the atmosphere. The more sunlight that reaches the earth, the more heat. Now if cloud cover were to increase, temperatures would decline.
From what I can decipher in Taylor's lecture (see video at 21:00 min on), the scarcity of clouds can be explained by the solar winds phenomena. Apparently the sun produces variations in the world's electromagnetic field (26:30). As far as I can tell, this solar plasma grows and wanes in a cyclical pattern, and were at a low point now, meaning cloud cover should be less and temperatures higher.
Man-made pollutants serve as atmospheric coolants by blocking the sun's rays. These actually combine to cool surface temperatures. In an Atlantic Magazine article by Graeme Wood, "Re-Engineering the Earth", one theory for stopping global warming was to emit massive amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the upper atmosphere, to create a cloud. The idea of blocking the sun shares one common rationale with the chemtrails phenomena-put enough crap up there and the sun can't get through--Bladerunner, like the Atlantic article says.
The Chinese's unwillingness to act on emissions targets and continued reliance on coal-fired plants may indicate they intend to follow the Bladerunner approach. Maybe the Chinese know something our government won't acknowledge: that the Global Warming is here to stay and that pollution may be the cause, but polluting can also provide a layer of sun-blockage, which keeps the heat down (unless of course the heat gets through this layer, where it could be trapped under lower-level clouds.)
Global warming critics make the point the CO2 is not the source of heating--CO2 merely shows up. Water vapor is in fact a more potent greenhouse gas, they say.
Fewer low-level clouds means heat isn't trapped, and can escape into the outer atmosphere. Higher level clouds, on the other hand, prevent the sunlight from reaching the ground, kind of keeping the heat out as an absence of low-level clouds lets the heat escape.
I'd always thought that clouds trap water and heat, keeping temperatures higher than on colder, clear days. I guess the heat trapped by the clouds doesn't get radiated back to space. Then again, cloud tops are predominantly white in color--at least seen from space--and white reflects heat, we know from snow. (One big concern about less snow cover in arctic oceans is that more sunlight will be trapped by the bluer, darker water, accelerated ice melt.)
I'm gradually expanding what I know, so don't look to me as a resource on any of the science. I am however, willing to discuss theories outside the mainstream and I'm consistently surprised by how convincing some of the theories out there about the source of GW can be.
To understand the science, I'll need to read a lot more. In the meantime, I'll try to gather what I can.
The mainstream media hasn't covered the climate scandal. This contrasts wildly with the much-ballyhooed H1N1 flu epidemic we were told to expect but never arrived. My last post contained some good advice on maintaining immune system health and some other ideas on fighting the virus--including what not to do, namely try out the untested vaccine.
When the vaccine arrived, it was hard to find which may not have been so bad-for reasons other than H1N1's failure to reach pandemic status. I know of at least one doctor who advised against taking it (while he did recommend the seasonal flu shot).
Suspiciously, the government and media factions who'd been playing up the epidemic became totally silent almost overnight. After so many months of fear peddling, the public just tuned it out. Will the public burnout on H1N1 carry forward into the next pandemic-- a real one perhaps this time?
Like the boy who cried out "wolf" too often, we can't tell when the real thing might actually hit. We can however anticipate chronic shortage and production delays in the delivery of a vaccine.
Individual egg embryos are used to cultivate the live virii for the vaccines, using, a long and laborious process. New production processes are scheduled to come on line that use newer, quicker methods, but I guess these are in the experimental phase.
Then there's the actual distribution. One byline of the H1N1 scare was the fact that some people got their vaccines before others. As a matter of fact, Wall Street companies spent an exorbitant sum (paid by taxpayers) acquiring their lot of vaccines, which were subsequently made available to their top executives first.
Engineering a master race
One wonders if not a virus might become the perfect social engineering opportunity, in which survivors can be inoculated according to some arbitrary or secretive criterion. In an oligarchy such as ours, the rich would clearly be first recipients. Then would come their servants and families, protectors of their security, etc.. Last would be the "prols"--the Proletariat--who would suffer the most and constitute the bulk of the fatalities.
Certainly the Nazis would have loved a virus that only they had the antidote for. They could have cleansed the earth of lesser races and vaccinate only their ideal blue-eyed, blonde-haired Aryan types to repopulate the world.
The threat posed by epidemics used a means of warfare propels governments to research cures for diseases and biological threats that will hopefully never see the light of day. The government therefore creates a motive to research all manner of potential diseases, so they'll be able to protect themselves, and maybe their citizens, too!
Of course the more research, the greater the risk of an accidental release, or let's face it, an intentional one. I mean if our government were facing some sort of massive collapse or violent revolution, it'd certainly try and keep its opponents subdued, sick, or otherwise distracted (although kids and multiple jobs does a good enough job of that!) Maybe all the alpha waves that bombard our brains from TV won't be enough to sedate us. Could be that an economic emergency might sufficiently enrage the populace that no amount of force could remedy the situation.
Conspiracy theories about Rex 84 and components of the Military Commissions and Patriot Acts, as well as Presidential Directives, abound. We can't assume that none of these ideas are outright falsehoods, but we can't exactly establish their accuracy either. One theory explains that all Americans who'd resist would find themselves in these camps, like something out of Red Dawn.
Yes, the potential for a police state-concentration camp situation is real, and made more so by the possibility of an introduced virus. Scarily, the state of Massachusetts actually passed a law that would allow people to be quarantined if they refused to take the vaccine. This law would appear to apply not only to h1N1 but any future disease/vaccine combinations, no matter how wide the epidemic nor how proven the vaccine's efficacy or safety. Take it or be detained.
Incarcerating anyone who resisted would simply be impractical, especially if mass resistance were to occur there'd be too many people to warden over.
These fears may have helped propel gun sales in the U.S. to historic proportions. Like the 1993 Los Angeles riots, many predominantly white Americans may be scared of becoming the victims of crime, particularly if law enforcement resources come under major pressure. To me, gun mania looks more like a psychological remedy for fear rather a practical solution for whatever we might have to face. It's all well and fine to have a gun, but that won't protect you from a food shortage, unless you intend to steal.
The guns may in fact be more of a potential source of problems as people try to "get theirs" and use them in an offensive capacity. Still, I'm banking on the American people and people's innate goodness, which might shine wonderfully in times of crisis, rather than see our society degenerate into mindless, savage, gun-toting rats.
I'm not expecting anything that serious to occur, however I would take precautions against being caught without food supplies because it's more likely movement or assembly restrictions would interfere with food supplies.
Where production is far-off and distribution centralized, food distribution could be affected, for perhaps 90 days or so.
Before you get all paranoid, remember that whatever could happen will probably not last that long, and probably be transitory or limited geographically. Many of our towns and rural areas offer plenty of agricultural produce, although variety may be scarce in the colder months. Many rural residents can and do other things to supplement their diets.
Chances are food prices would rise for city dwellers most dramatically, particularly if the crisis were tied to an economic crisis hyperinflation. Trading in kind (barter) might be a way around using money.
The easiest method around a food shortage would be to grow it yourself. For this reason, I think it's advisable to convert a portion of usable land to a garden; I have one myself. Don't really do my gardening on a big scale, so I'm not in a position to sell or trade that beyond which I eat, which is everything I grow. Yet I suspect I'll try and prepare myself for some level of food self-sufficiency in the near future. The reason for that might be less preparation for crisis and more a desire to avoid pesticide- and herbicide-laced vegetables produced on factory farms far away. Not only will the costs of transportation assuredly climb, but the quality declines with distance. Try a home-grown vegetable and you'll know what I'm talking about. The health benefits of eating vegetables are immense and less easily derived from commercial equivalents.
And don't forget about the flu; check back at my previous article for tips on improving immune system health that will provide a safe way to respond if a pandemic strikes. That said, a healthy immune system might not be enough, but with H1N1, deaths seemed mostly, but not entirely, of those already unhealthy.
-Originally posted on 12/30/09 at Jbpeebles' enviroblog, http://www.jbpeebles.wordpress.com