Free course on climate change: Climate Insights 101

Learning is good.

If you are not solid in your ability to facilitate dinner table talk about climate change, let the fine folks at the Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions help you out.

Their free series of on-line courses will get you right up to speed. And if you’re not into the full meal deal, check out Climate Insights: Mini Lessons:

Climate Insights 101

A trilogy of animated and interactive courses that provide a comprehensive understanding of the causes of climate change, of how society can adapt, and the options for mitigation.

Each course contains 3-4 lessons with test-your-knowledge sections.

1) Climate Science Basics

This course covers the scientific basis for changes in Earth’s climate, both natural and human-induced, common misconceptions about global warming and more….

2) BC Climate Impacts and Adaptation

Climate change is already here and will speed up over time. This course is a how-to guide for projecting future climate within British Columbia and preparing for those changes.

3) Mitigation

This course explores and assesses the practical methods, technologies and policy options being used in BC and around the world to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Fly along with NASA’s cloud hunters

Coverage courtesy of Climate Desk and Mother Jones.

The realization that we won’t have answers to our questions about clouds for possibly decades is concerning… if it is true that that climate change is accelerating and needs to be reversed in that same time period.

Hopefully we can have reasonable certainty from this research before it is too late to convince those doubting the need for and stifling climate policy.

New report set to rock the climate change denier camp: science as settled as it gets

In my community of people who care immensely about the stability of our atmosphere… and thus biosphere… and thus human civilization, it sometimes is forgotten that there are a number of people who still have trouble grappling with this issue.

This week, as usual, my colleagues and I were considering various aspects of the climate system and how BC’s land base, economy and population could possibly adjust to reduce or remove carbon in the atmosphere (we have legislated targets to meet in BC). And then a fact was stated that shook even us: permafrost now contains 1,700 billion tonnes of carbon, or twice the amount now in the atmosphere… and it’s melting. And if we don’t reverse our emissions trend, like tomorrow, it will continue to melt faster.

I often hear the words “game over” during such revelations.  Unfortunately, we have them more often than we’d like… Sometimes even the experts need reminding of how important it is we do all we can, and then lead others to do the same.

On the other side, we’re lucky in BC to generally have a public mindset that enables our political leadership to take action. However, we still don’t see 100% of British Columbian’s REALLY sure that this problem warrants the challenge of tackling it, which will include making uncomfortable changes at times.

I can talk all I want about what I know and why it matters…. but if a person has doubt about whether my expertise is agreed upon by other scientists, I may as well be a pollster.

So here it is:

And why does this mater so much? How about a good ole short film to help us understand:

Reality Drop: Spread Science about Climate Change, Global Warming

Reality Drop: Spread Science about Climate Change, Global Warming.

YES. YES. YES.

I have saved this to my desktop.

Introducing Reality Drop from Climate Reality on Vimeo.

16 more years of global warming

16 more years of global warming.

Another gem from Skeptical Science – clearing up basic confusion over trends. Or, perhaps, exploitation of confusion over trends…

 

We have NO time to waste on this kind of basic math confusion. The planet is warming. It is terrible. We need to stop it.

Full stop.

Oh no Ozone, Obituary Omen

Okay, so I like alliteration.

That established, it’s time to get down to what I don’t like: impacts to my health I have no control over. I’m not talking about cancer, or other somewhat unpredictable ailments. I’m talking about direct environmental impacts to my health.

If I eat that extra doughnut, shame on me. There is no one else to blame for my trek towards obesity or diabetes. But sprinkle the air I breathe with toxins – that’s another story.

My latest post received a kind word from the fabulous folks at Skeptical Science. Mr. Bailey suggested I might be interested in a post related to health, climate change and ozone. He was half right… and he, as a climate change communicator, probably felt a little guilty pointing me to it (didn’t you Daniel?). After all, when you do this for a living, you’re not exactly looking for more bad news…

But there it was. A startling realization. An additional prompt for action. A cause to blog about. A reason to tell my friends and family, with just a little more urgency: please, do what you can to help stop fossil fuel emissions and climate change and help me spread the word.

Tailpipe

Ew. Get that away from me.

I’m sure this fact was buried in my university education somewhere, as it didn’t feel entirely new to me: ozone is toxic and a warmer planet + industrial/fossil fuel emissions pretty much guarantees more of it. In quantities that could make your lungs fail.

Don’t trust the climate geeks to talk about health impacts? Environment Canada (purveyor of air quality) makes it pretty clear  that NO amount of ground level O3 (ozone) is good, stating:

  • There is no safe level for PM2.5 and O3 that does not pose risks to human health.
  • Negative health effects increase as the concentrations of pollutants in the air increases. Even modest increases in concentration (e.g. PM2.5 and O3) can cause small but measurable increases in emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and premature death.

(What’s the difference between “ground level ozone” and the “ozone layer” you ask?)

Recently, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment sent a public letter to the Honourable Kevin Falcon (Minister of Finance), requesting he maintain and expand the carbon tax. They did so because we can’t do without climate change policy, and a solid price on carbon is an essential tool in the fight.

They didn’t mention ozone at all. I think they lumped it in with “health impacts” generally. And I wonder if that was a lost opportunity? Seriously. People are going to be pissed when they realize governments are okay with that risk!

That, or they are getting ready to tax clean air tank suppliers. Just kidding. Kind of.

Anyway, not to keep you up at night (unless you’d like to join me?), but this is worth a little consideration. I mean, if there is a fly in your salad, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you? And if there was arsenic?

Oh, and I didn’t get to the other health impacts in the Skeptical Science article… small doses, I suppose 🙂

To a new world waiting,

HB

Head in the clouds: expanding the sky and thinning the ozone

I’ve reposted the following blog, originally written in April last year, because there is some new research indicating a link between climate change and the Ozone layer.

http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/news-clips/unexpected-ozone-loss-observed-above-united-states

The concept of water vapor punching holes in the lower stratosphere (I.e. where water vapor usually doesn’t go) due to intense storms is similar to my idea that with the expansion of the troposphere, due to warming, the ozone will be stretched thinner. Basically, our atmosphere is bursting at the seams: gradually and violently.

~~

On my cycle home today my mind drifted as I cruised down the trail. The trail runs alongside a highway that snakes towards the suburbs of my home town and everyday I pedal past dozens of crawling motorists. The sky widens here as well. Today I stopped and took a moment to admire some interesting clouds.

20110406-100643.jpg
The anvil shape cloud, usually indicative of a pending thunderstorm, always draws my eye. The upper limit of the cloud is delineated by the tropopause – the top of the part of the sky where our weather exists (the troposphere), which is about ten miles above the ground. I imagine that limit as as a bubble, like a balloon, holding the breath of the world. This balloon is getting bigger.

In 2003, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, along with researchers from NASA and others, released some findings demonstrating a link between global warming and the height of the tropopause. The finding indicates that the troposphere is getting larger, with a 200-meter increase in tropopause height from 1979 to 1999.

Benjamin Santer, one of the researchers, commented that “Our best understanding is that this increase is due to two factors: warming of troposphere, which is caused by increasing greenhouse gases, and cooling of the stratosphere, which is mainly caused by depletion of stratospheric ozone. Tropopause height changes give us independent evidence of the reality of ecent warming of the troposphere.”

Recently in my twitter feed I spotted some articles citing new concerns about holes in the ozone – this time they are extremely pronounced over the Arctic. This article says briefly, that it may be related to greenhouse gases… but suggests it does not yet pose a serious hazard. Hmmm. Really? It’s as though people are afraid to consider the consequences.

The ozone layer rests just above the troposphere in the stratosphere. Imagine, as I have, that the troposphere really is a balloon. What happens when you breath into a balloon and it expands? The membrane of the balloon thins.

Could it be that the expanding troposphere is thinning the ozone layer? I don’t see how this couldn’t be the case, though I’m not entirely certain how significant 200 meters is exactly. Regardless, with more energy and heat in our climate system, we can likely expect greater thinning of our protective ozone layer.

I don’t have a multi-million dollar model telling me this, and I haven’t spent days researching peer reviewed science, so forgive me if I’ve omitted a critical variable or two… and if you’ve got better insights, I more than welcome your comments.

I’m going mostly by my intuition here, but should this be the case, I’m a little concerned. It has graver implications for our skin and health of course, but also for the productivity of plants, upon which our entire food chain relies; upon which our economies and societies rely.

One more reason to get on your bike, shun the lines of traffic, and indulge in some fresh air and scenery.

To a new world waiting,

Heather

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