An Inconvenient Truth,
global warming is a killer problem...

The other day (June 14, 2006), I happened to hear a show on KPBS about the movie "An Inconvenient Truth." The guest on the show mentioned that Al Gore who went to Harvard and was really influenced by Roger Revelle. Anyway Roger Revelle was the dude who started UCSD - and happened to be one of my professors at UCSD back in 1989. Although Roger Revelle was pretty old at the time, he kept his hand in teaching by hosting a small seminar class of something like 10 students. The class itself was a very a informal thing, we would all sit around and BS then go off and research individual topics. Anyway as I stroll down memory lane, I remember two things about that experience, first off Roger had a low key sense of humor... and at the time one of the unknowns we discussed about the global warming issue was the role of clouds in climate models.

Long story short, after 9/11 when there was no air traffic in the USA there was scientific proof that global warming is being masked by a pretty much unknown phenomenon (in the general public) of global dimming...

Basically global dimming occurs when by products of jet travel and burning of carbon fuels leads to the formation of crap in the atmosphere which reflects sun light, thus masking the rise of global temperatures due to increased CO2.

The host of the program and guest didn't say much specifics about "An Inconvenient Truth," but there was a really good program on NOVA about the issue of Global Dimming.

a popular movie, by a has been vice president?
Not since, well, "The Da Vinci Code" has there been a movie with as much advance fanfare and controversy as "An Inconvenient Truth." The documentary, which is based on a slide show about global warming that Al Gore has been giving since 1990, is being lauded by its advocates as a doomsday call to save the planet and derided by conservatives as junk science.

I have not seen the movie yet, but I can present boring policy wonk facts just as well as Gore. BTW the following stuff is from the July 3, 2006 issue of Forbes (p. 114).

While China's demand for oil and natural gas has been roiling world markets, the country's huge coal reserves will supply most of its energy for decades to come. From coal comes 70% of China's energy, and that share has been rising as the country has doubled its consumption of coal over the last four years. "The global atmosphere can't take this increase," says Janet Sawin, director of the Worldwatch Institute's Energy & Climate Change Program.

...China burned 1.9 billion metric tons of coal in 2004. By 2020, predicts the China Coal Industry Development Research Center, it will burn 2.9 billion tons a year. That increment alone will send as much CO2 into the atmosphere as 3 billion Ford Expeditions, each driven 15,000 miles a year. This puts into sobering perspective the meager efforts of the US to stave off global warming by improving gas mileage.

Although this part of my site is all about how SUVs suck and asking the question is driving an SUV unpatriotic because it makes this nation dependent upon other countries, I just thought I would add this related thought.... switching to alternative forms of carbon (like coal) to produce energy, is not an option because it doesn't do anything to improve the dismal chemistry of coal, which sends 2.2 tons of CO2 into the air for every ton that is burned.

Climate Change
Can Destroyed Civilization

The reason why global warming is a major problem is because history has many examples of past societies that died off when climate change occured because supply exceeded demand for natural resources. For example when I was exploring down in central America bumming around doing the gringo perdido thing I learned that around 900 A.D. the Mayans died out because that society grew too big to survive when their climate changed. I've also bummed around Mesa Verde National Park and learned that the Anasazi society died off when there was an abrupt climate change. In Iceland/Greenland where I froze by butt off, I learned that a Norse colony died off because of climate change. Other examples of failed cultures because of resource mismanagement are: the people of Easter Island, the Akkadian culture in the Fertile Crescent, etc.

A simple model to understand why increasing C02 is a very troubling concept, is to think about brewing beer or making wine. The basic process of brewing involves a closed system where ya have lots of fuel (sugars) that are consumed by yeast. The biological organisms (yeast) in this case rapidly grow in population because they thrive in the fuel rich environment and the by product the yeast makes is alcohol and CO2. Eventually the biological organisms die off because the closed system runs out of fuel and the environment is toxic, get the analogy? Basically consuming fuel at an unsustainable rate will cause major shit to happen!!!!!

Combine the idea that climate change has the potential change the environment in dramatic ways, with the idea that wars are often fought over limited resources, think of the expansion of Japan into indo China along with Germany wanting to annex land in Poland, France, etc., which was one reason why WW II started, and ya have a nightmare scenario where millions, possibly billions of people will die prematurely because people did not understand the big picture, we only have one home!

Problems do not go away on their own and I think people should approach the idea of global warming along the lines of Pascal's wager. In other words, set aside the dumb arguements of is global warming is a natural event or did humans caused global warming, and assume that abrupt climate change is indeed a doomsday scenario for people on the planet earth and then take active steps to avoid that fate. If I were god so to speak, I would suggest governments make regulations to to lower CO2 emissions. Then I would have big businesses look at global warming as a business opportunity to explore new products that can provide cleaner power (i.e. solar cells, fuel cells, etc.) and improve energy efficiency (i.e. do more with less).

The major problem with the Pascal's wager approach to global warming, is most people are hypercritic's who don't have the balls or brains to look at the big picture. For example president Bush and the religious right, make a big deal of their praising God, yet the religious right agenda seems preoccupied with with gay marriage, abortions and blind belief in the Nicean Creed, but do not acknowledge the spirit set forth in the Beatitudes. For the most part big business corporations like the status quo, looking only at the short term interest of their share holders, and CEO's who like perks of the job. Then there is the general public that is more knowledgeable about American idol than global geography.

In the end the only way to solve the problems associated with climate change is if people think about the triple bottom line (one's self interest, national economic interest, and the global environmental) when making decisions and somehow find a way to get people to deal with their psychological fears. I mention psychology because global warming is not just a matter of economics for some skeptics, it also goes to the core of their version of reality. In other words if the earth might be warming because of human acts, this means that God might not taking care of them, or that the American way of life might not be the most perfect lifestyle ever conceived. One way or another the global warming issue requires the psychological inability of skeptics to accept the conclusions of very strong empirical data.

Have your own take on "An Inconvenient Truth?"