Showing posts with label global warming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label global warming. Show all posts

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hot dog

In our corner of France, this afternoon, it was exceptionally hot. Personally, the heat doesn't affect me greatly, but I nevertheless stay inside the house, where the temperature is cool. On the other hand, I noticed that Fitzroy was trying to escape from the heat, first by burrowing down into his favorite dust bowl alongside the house, and then by moving to a far corner of the cellar. So, I decided to set him up comfortably on a cushion beneath an electric fan.

He slept in that position for an hour or so (which suggests that he probably hadn't slept well during the previous hot night). Later on in the afternoon, I invited him to go out for a walk, but no sooner had I opened the door than we were hit by a gust of hot air. So we rushed back into the house again.

It's evening now, and everything has returned to normal. Fitzroy is dozing at my feet, beneath the computer.

There are journalists who claim that France might indeed be tasting, for the very first time, the effects of global warming... but no scientific statement has yet been made in this sense. On the other hand, there appears to be an intense nationwide effort by health services aimed at ensuring that seniors don't get knocked out by the heat. When I witness all this agitation here in France—for a few days with temperatures in the zone of 38 to 40 degrees—I often wonder retrospectively how this kind of problem was solved in my native Australia. Maybe it simply wasn't... Would anybody in our state government have bothered to look at the statistics of mortality in periods of extreme heat, to see whether the victims included an unusually large proportion of old people? Are statistics of this kind actually established today in Australia?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Natural catastrophes over the last year

A few days ago, Channel 2 of the national French TV system aired an awesome program on natural catastrophes that have taken place all over the planet during the last twelve months. The splendid documentary by David Korn-Brzoza was based upon a simple but brilliant idea. He presented with few comments, month by month, the most spectacular and deadly catastrophes of the year 2010.

In some cases, such as the earthquake in Haïti, we remember above all the huge death toll.

In other cases, such as the Icelandic volcano whose smoke blocked international air traffic, we recall extraordinary images and an exotic geographical name that few people could pronounce.

In one case—the fires in Russia—the catastrophe concerned such a vast territory that nobody knew how to handle it. The same could be said in the case of the explosion of an oil platform off the US coast. If the year had not ended already, the great flooding in Queensland would have surely deserved a spot in this tragic documentary.

In the context of this kind of movie, scriptwriters are wont to get carried away with the poetic theme of the colossal inhuman forces wielded by our planet Earth, in the face of which we remain almost powerless. In the Korn-Brzoza documentary, fortunately, there was no insipid poetry, but rather a constant series of questions concerning the alarming hypothesis that global warming caused by human activities might be largely responsible for much of this suffering and terror. I find it appalling that certain bone-headed observers (often calling themselves "professors" of this or that) persist in rejecting this hypothesis.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gore blimey!

Many observers of the English have evoked their eccentric nature. It would be silly to generalize, of course, but I've always had the impression that certain citizens of this sceptred isle can be amazingly tasteless at times, in spite of their fine manners and cultivated upbringing. Look at the Queen's hats, for example. The following English attempt at producing a clear and outspoken message on climate change is a fabulous calamity, on a par with the English invention of the meaty foodstuff called spam.

Maybe the creator of this video shocker is a descendant of the guy with a big axe who used to chop off heads for Henry VIII in the Tower of London. Maybe his great-grandfather was Jack the Ripper. In saying this, I must be careful, though. For all I know, this eccentric video artist might be a genetic cousin named Skyvington or Pickering...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Warming world

Last winter, at Gamone, snow seemed to be falling almost ceaselessly.

In the context of today's hot weather, that photo of beige Moshé [right] and gray Mandrin [left, no longer alive], taken in March, seems to depict a prehistoric Ice Age. But it would be a stupid mistake to generalize about the state of the planet on the basis of a charming photo of a pair of donkeys in the winter snow.

It would appear that there are still a few educated idiots scattered across the globe who refuse to admit that our tired planet is warming dangerously as a result of the acts of Man… as distinct from those said to be "of God". Well, these naysayers would do well to take a look at a report, just published by two highly-reputed organizations, which confirms all our fears about global warming.

In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency that has been monitoring constantly the nation's oceanic and atmospheric environment for over two centuries.

In the UK, the Met Office might be thought of as the British equivalent of the NOAA. These two institutions exploit scientific methods that can hardly be contested… except by enlightened fools.

Their report states that the planet has just experienced the warmest decade of the last half-century. Global warming is a reality, says the report, and its presence can be sensed by ordinary individuals in their everyday existence. In other words, regardless of whether they appear to be using good or bad science, the idiots who seek to deny the reality of global warming are dangerous fools, whom we must combat fiercely.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Personally, I'm most unanimous

And what—you might ask—am I unanimous about? I'm totally unanimous in my belief that the concept of unanimity is ideal, say, for a couple deciding whether or not to get married... but it's utter nonsense in most other real-world decision-making situations. What I mean to say is, even those silly old guys in red don't insist upon making a unanimous decision when they're electing a new pope. And jeez, that's an awesome decision, because the selected fellow becomes the chief representative of God himself on our planet. Sure, a priest is not supposed to go ahead with a marriage unless there's unanimous approval from the congregation. This means that an old boyfriend of the bride or a disgruntled parent or even a loudmouthed fuckwit could theoretically veto the ceremony by yelling out no. But I think that, unless he or she had highly pertinent breaking news to reveal, the naysayer would run the risk of getting thrown out through a side door of the church. [My example has a distinctly Christian flavor. That's because I have no idea how other religions handle the concept of nuptial unanimity... and, as they say in certain spiritual circles, I really don't give a shit.]

In any case, I'm unanimous in considering that it's outrageous to use the United Nations approach, based upon unanimous decisions, when it comes to making plans to save the planet Earth. Something will have to change fundamentally in the decision-making process to avoid the risk, in the future, of wasting the time and energy of heads of state and environmental experts from all the nations of the globe. While they're at it, maybe it would be a good idea to take a close look at the logic (or lack of logic) that enables a tiny country such as Tuvalu, say, to speak with the same weight as a great nation. You will have guessed that I've never been wildly enthusiastic about the concept of democracy... although it's difficult to imagine a sound system to replace it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Awaiting the outcome of Copenhagen

For the moment, it's impossible to guess what might or might not happen between now and the end of the conference in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, this four-minute video from Climate Interactive presents a so-called climate-change scoreboard:

And here—for what it's worth—is an ugly photo of an acidified lagoon alongside the once-great Murray River in my native land:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bravo! We have a new tax in France

They refer to it as the carbon tax... which is a ridiculous expression. After all, diamonds are pure carbon, but this new tax has nothing to do with riches of that kind.

It's a tax—to become effective in 2010—based upon the production of pollutant carbon dioxide... which is quite another kettle of smelly fish. Wrong again, as far as that last cliché is concerned. Carbon dioxide has no odor... otherwise the world would indeed be a stinking place. This ubiquitous gas is not even toxic in very small concentrations: less than 1% of the air we breathe.

Nicolas Sarkozy has just announced that a tax of 17 euros per ton of CO2 will be "paid by all consumers of fossil fuel" in France. Whether or not you like taxes (I feel that in France, like Guinness, they're good for you), one must admit that this is a big and politically courageous step in the right direction concerning the all-important combat against global warming.

I hope that my native Australia will soon jump on the environmental band wagon, instead of simply letting off CO2-filled steam on this all-important question.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vision of a city

This extraordinary but frightening photo (which I've modified slightly) of the great Victorian city of Melbourne, taken from burnt-out Kinglake by David Geraghty and published today in The Australian, is truly apocalyptic. We reasonable human citizens, residing in nice suburban sites or resolutely rural places (such as me at Gamone), would appear to be moving into a terrible era (global warming?) in which Hollywood horrors will be enacted, de facto, before our unbelieving eyes.

In what words would you describe this apocalyptic vision to a child? Maybe your own offspring...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Global warming

The latest scientific report on climate change in my native land, Australia, sounds grim. Concerning severe droughts and scorching temperatures, the prime minister Kevin Rudd evoked a "historical assumption" that such conditions only prevailed once every twenty years or so. Well, according to the report from Australia's CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation], this situation will arise, from now on, every one to two years. That's a hell of a big difference! The report also indicates that the area affected by such conditions will be doubled. Meanwhile, Australians appear to be concerned primarily by a recent report on climate change written by an economist, Ross Garnaut. This economic report states the price to be paid by Australians in order to combat global warming... and journalists have been getting a kick out of writing in-depth and would-be witty editorials about the Garnaut conclusions. Money seems to be a more meaningful and exciting "language" than science.

In the context of talk about climate change, there's a regrettable metaphor: greenhouse effect. In our everyday world, we imagine a greenhouse as a hot and steamy microcosm in which luxuriant foliage thrives splendidly as if it were growing in an equatorial jungle.

In physical terms, a greenhouse is an extremely simple affair. The sun's rays heat the air trapped inside the structure, and a current of moist air circulates constantly through convection.

On the other hand, the complex chemical mechanisms by which obnoxious gases such as carbon dioxide cause temperatures to rise on the surface of our planet have nothing whatsoever to do with the familiar convection currents in a greenhouse. It would have been preferable if this dangerous outcome due to the presence of excessive carbon dioxide had been labeled, say, the lethal furnace effect.

Readers of my blog have heard me referring to a brilliant fellow named Joseph Fourier [1768-1830]. He was mentioned in the following three articles:

Prefects, 21 July 2007 [display];

Becoming French, 19 June 2008 [display];

— and Curious trail, 27 June 2008 [display].

My hero Fourier started out his adult life by a short and unconvincing trial period as a Benedictine monk. After achieving fame as a mathematical physicist, an Egyptologist [colleague of the Champollion brothers] and a public administrator [at the préfecture in Grenoble where I was recently naturalized], he was made a baron. Well, Joseph Fourier was a specialist in heat flow, and he was in fact the discoverer of the notorious greenhouse effect.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Major environmental decisions in Brussels

A draconian plan for climate action was presented today in Brussels by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Basically, the proposed challenge will consist of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by the year 2020. Theoretically, the annual cost of achieving this result should amount to half-a-percent of the GDP [gross domestic product], but it is likely that the true cost will be double that figure. José Manuel Barroso stated that the plans proposed by Brussels constitute "the most complete package of measures in the world". Europe—the so-called Old World—wants to be the world champion in saving the world.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Warm penguins

I find this image beautiful and moving, but terrifying. In the penguin domain, I'm an ignoramus... but I have the impression that those poor animals on their melting iceberg are just as puzzled as me concerning the future of their domain, and the planet Earth.

It would appear that Antarctica, due to global warming, is dissolving into the sea. I'm aware that these beasts know how to swim. So, if and when their flossy island disappears into the depths, they won't drown. But where will they swim to? Up until now, the penguin paradise was named Antarctica. For penguins, there's no other El Dorado. For us humans, it's more or less the same thing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bali: agreement, but no numbers

News broadcasts on French TV have focussed on a handful of dramatic images of the Bali conference on global warming. First and foremost, we've watched the extraordinary video excerpt showing Al Gore daring to call a spade a spade by criticizing explicitly the stubbornness of his mother country. Then, at the height of the standoff between the USA and the rest of the world, we saw the conference leader Yvo de Boer breaking down under the strain, and fleeing the podium in tears. We admired the Papua New Guinea delegate Kevin Conrad politely advising Washington's Paula Dobriansky, if she didn't want her nation to tackle climate change, to "get out of the way". And we witnessed the once-defiant American lady finally bowing down to planetary democracy. Finally, we saw an explosion of joy and relief.

The agreed-upon roadmap is timid. It's better than nothing, but without projected statistics on cuts in emissions that Europe would have liked to have seen in the final Bali text. The tone of a joint statement by Greenpeace France, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and the Action Climat-France Network is one of disappointment: "The scientific consensus is reduced [in the Bali roadmap] to a page note that refers to a chart stating that each nation can choose its preferred scenario. [...] The Bali roadmap accepts the risk of a three-degree Celsius rise in temperature, upheaving ecosystems in an irreversible manner, and resulting in hundreds of millions of climate refugees."

Personally, I too was rather disappointed by the lukewarm performance at Bali of my Australian compatriots Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong, not to mention Peter Garrett, who were neither heroes, ecological evangelists nor even impressive speakers in the Al Gore style. Their fighting style and persuasive talents, in this planetary arena, can hardly be described as globally warming.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Australia, world champion polluter

Within Australia's CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization], Mike Raupach is the chief of the Global Carbon Project, which measures the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions. He can therefore be considered as one of Australia's leading experts on the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and the risks of global warming. An article in today's Herald Sun indicates some of the alarming findings of Raupach and his research team. In 2004, Australia's per capita emissions were 4.5 times the world average, and increasing twice as fast as those of the US. In China, explained Raupach, annual carbon emission amounts to one metric ton per person, whereas in Australia and the US the per capita output is over five times the Chinese figure. In the case of a significant yardstick known as carbon intensity, which is the quantity of fossil fuel consumed to produce a unit of energy or wealth, Australia has in fact become the world's most wasteful nation.

In the forthcoming elections, one of the main reasons why I'll be voting Labor is that it's shameful that the Howard administration has never signed the Kyoto agreement.

The Environment Society of Australia [click here to visit their website] informs us that Clive Hamilton, director of the Australia Institute, has just brought out a book, Scorcher: the Dirty Politics of Climate Change, which deals with "greedy corporations, craven politicians and public disengagement". Hamilton is particularly critical of Howard's claim that Australia, as an energy exporter, should be pardoned for its excessive emissions. "Our energy exports have no bearing on Australia's emission-reduction obligations at all. The emissions from our exports of coal, gas and oil are counted in the country where they burnt." Hamilton recalls the fact that Howard asked for advice on greenhouse pollution from the country's major polluters, without bothering to listen to environmental experts. Hamilton concludes: "In short, the Howard government has been able to hoodwink the community with impunity because many Australians have preferred to believe the lies."