You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘climate change’ category.

How do we solve global warming? Where some people see an obvious solution — stop burning so many fossil fuels and stop tearing down forests and grasslands — others see a great opportunity for technological Band-Aids that do nothing to address the root causes.

These fixes range from a plan to launch mirrors into space to deflect some of the incoming sunlight to schemes to seed the oceans with iron and other nutrients that can feed large blooms of algae. The logic goes like this: algae is a plant, plants absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, algae sinks to the deep ocean after it dies, the carbon it absorbed goes with it.

Only, it turns out, that logical might not be so logical. A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research has found that, when algae is most abundant, the amount of carbon that gets tucked away deep underwater is at its lowest.

If that sounds counter-intuitive, it goes to show you that nature understands things better than we do. The researchers believe that when algae is more abundant, more things move in to eat it — “Waste not, want not,” being a deeply held philosophy in the natural world. So all that carbon that we thought would sink to the seafloor instead ends up in the bellies of microbes and larger creatures. And the ever-accelerating carbon cycle goes on.

Now I’m not against technology when it can really solve a problem. Compact fluorescent light-bulbs are a great innovation. So are solar panels and passive solar water-heaters. But technology that doesn’t solve a problem — or helps make a problem worse? That we can and should do without.


If climate change, dwindling oil supplies or species extinctions make life miserable for us in the near or not-so-near future, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” we’ve had the answer — actually, many answers — all along.

There’s no shortage of solutions being offered for all the environmental problems staring us in the face. Worried about the global destabilization that might be created by climate change? International Alert offers a hopeful and detailed blueprint for averting climate conflict. Concerned about U.S. energy consumption? The National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency outlines ways to improve energy efficiency across all sectors by 2025. Want to create a sustainable, clean-energy future for all the world’s inhabitants? The InterAcademy Council provides an in-depth plan.

It’s not the lack of solutions that’s the problem: it’s the political will. What we need is a Marshall Plan for global security, a Kennedy-like challenge to deal with climate change “before the decade is out.” Of course, it’s not politicians alone who are to blame: unless more of us demand change and elect leaders capable of thinking big, we’re part of the problem too.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) recently held a climate change conference call with several environmentally-oriented bloggers, including myself. I was impressed by his depth of knowledge and clear concern about the implications of climate change, but still discouraged to hear, first-hand, how difficult it is to get good ideas transformed into good laws. As Kerry said, there are still many global warming deniers in Congress, and others who believe the science are still on the fence or reluctant to take too strong an action for one reason or another. So getting enough votes to enact anything with real teeth that has a prayer of curbing global warming is, well, like pulling teeth.

I mentioned to my husband how discouraged I felt after the call. “Kerry’s saying and doing the right things, but Congress isn’t going to do the meaningful things it needs to do now to stop this runaway train,” I complained. My husband’s answer was a wakeup call to me: “Well, what else is there?”

True, I realized. They might be frustratingly influenced by myriad special interests and prone to making decisions based on political, rather than scientific, reasoning. But we in the U.S. don’t have any other national leaders to turn to when we’re looking for effective climate change law.

Kerry himself offered a good suggestion: keep the pressure on so-called moderates who support the science but could do more, he said. Pay special attention to legislators from the states most likely to feel the early effects of climate change — coastal states, for example. It was useful advice, and I’m hoping to follow it in the days, weeks and months to come. I’ll try to keep you posted with any followups in that regard.

In the meantime, to read more about the Kerry conference call, check out my post at

Just when you think news about the environment couldn’t get much worse, along comes the latest Global Environmental Outlook from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). We can no longer treat the environment as a fringe issue, the report stated. Instead, governments and other agencies around the world need to address environmental concerns now or risk long-term damage to the global economy … as well as, of course, lasting damage to the Earth’s environmental systems.

While trying to urge action and hope for improvement, the report’s authors didn’t sugar-coat their findings: ““There are no major issues raised in Our Common Future for which the foreseeable trends are favourable.” The also noted that, while the international community has taken steps to address environmental problems like climate change, most efforts have been woefully inadequate.

If that’s not a wakeup call for everyone, I don’t know what is.

We’ve had a lively discussion for a while now at one of the other sites I write for about climate change and those who say it’s too late (or too expensive) to do anything to stop it … so we should just prepare to live with the consequences. It’s a viewpoint that’s gotten a lot of press coverage lately, but I think it’s both naive and dangerous.

What do you think? Visit Green Options discussion on “Is It Time to Just Live With Climate Change?” and add your opinions to the mix.

In case you missed it, our modern way of living took a one-two punch this week.

Punch one came when the Energy Watch Group released a report that peak oil is here: global oil production, the report said, peaked last year and can be expected to soon decline by several percent annually.

Punch two was delivered when the InterAcademy Council, a group of science academies from around the world, released its report on “Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future.”. That report says we — meaning governments, non-governmental agencies, research organizations, businesses and individuals — need to start acting now if we’re going to be assured of a secure energy future that doesn’t involve runaway climate change. It then outlined the several key steps — including stepping up research on renewable energy and finding ways soon to capture and store carbon emissions — we need to take to avoid increased conflict over scarce resources and dangerous climate tipping points.

While it was encouraging to read that there are solutions, it’s not quite as encouraging when you look at how little we’ve managed to achieve so far when it comes to alternative energy and global warming.