Posts Tagged ‘Global warming’

Even more evidence that Global warming exists

Hi everyone!

You know, sometimes it is easy to understand why some people don’t believe in the scientists when they are saying that earth is warming and the climate is changing. It is such a huge problem that it is almost impossible to get ones head around.

Global Warming. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Couple that with a healthy dose of misunderstanding of the lingo of the academic world and methods, mistakes made in the IPCC report and all rather aggressive discussion amongst the scientists themselves, where some are very public with their notion that everybody but

themselves are wrong and it is a wonder that anybody actually see the problem at all.

One of those skeptic scientists recently published an article in the wall street journal about how he put his own group together to come to terms with the problem as he mistrusted the methods of data gathering and processing made by many other scientists. Professor Richard Muller and his team spent some time gathering new data and developing new methods to analyze the data, and came to an conclusion.

Global warming is indeed real. Or to quote his article;

When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.

Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that. -Richard A Muller, Wall street journal

Studies like these are the heart of science. It is all about testing and retesting a hypothesis, trying to prove it wrong. Which is partly a reason to why so many distrusts scientists as they can’t say that anything is “true”. Hopefully this is one step on the long road towards a global acceptance of the problem, and possibly even a starting point on the road to mitigating the problem. More and more evidence is turning up that points towards an anthropogenic global warming. It is time to start doing something against it.

There are many reasons to remain skeptic and not to swallow everything on the net or in media. But the “great arguments among the climate scientists” is no reason just lay back and do nothing. Even the skeptic scientists are coming up with “positive” results nowadays. In other words, get of that couch and start doing something about the problem. There are thousands of ways to reduce your energy and resource use. Insulation, low energy or LED lamps, buying local food, reducing meat and soda consumption etc etc. are great ways to start.

Driving less is also a very good way to reduce your CO2 footprint as well as reducing several other environmental problems. One bus can swallow vast amounts of cars. A train can swallow ten times that number. Biking or walking is even more environmentally friendly, but not an option for everyone. The point is that there are so many ways you can help reduce global warming. It is just a matter of getting started and finding the right tools to do it. By the way, have you heard of Commute Greener! :-)

I’m out of here



Should our children pay for our environmental sins?

Whether you believe in climate change or not you probably want a good future for your children. We humans are programmed to look after our offspring but anything that is not a concrete threat is easy to overlook. Such as climate change/global warming. This is a very abstract threat after all, and not even the scientists understands it at its fullest. That doesn’t mean the threat isn’t there though.

In environmental law there is a very interesting principle that deals with responsibility for damaging the environment; the Polluter Pays Principle, or PPP. As you may guess from the name the principle basically states that if you mess the environment up you are going to pay for correcting that. At least in a simplified form, there are most often other legal stuff involved dealing with how much is reasonable to pay for this correction etc etc. Large corporations which operate within countries with this principle are usually quite careful not to mess things up too much as they will get a hefty bill on probing and then sanitizing the polluted area if discovered. This is also one of the reasons businesses are working towards bettering themselves in the environmental area; paying less for damages is better then having to get both a fine and bad PR.

However when it comes to individuals this rule doesn’t seem to apply. Sure, if you pollute your own land the government may step in depending on which country it is and what the law says. I have been out on a couple of errands like that during my education, and it isn’t pretty.  Things like CO2 emissions and the like are totally absent here however. Yet how we live have great impact on our climate. And here comes an ethical dilemma; can we really carry on like we do and just let our children take the hit 50 years from now?

Most people would answer no to that. I am one of them, but you have probably guessed that already. However what usually follows that answer is the standard bombardment of excuses;

  • I am just one person so I can’t make a difference
  • Industry pollutes so much so it doesn’t matter if I change habits
  • Why should I change my habits and way of life when everybody else doesn’t
  • I can’t change how I live
  • We can’t be sure that climate change really is man made

Etc Etc. Fact of the matter is that a single person can contribute a lot in fighting climate change. Just look at how Al Gore and his famous upped the awareness of the masses. Or how the “one tonne life” works to reduce their CO2 footprint. Or how much you saved when riding the bike instead of driving to work today.

How we live affects the world a lot. Sure, industry has to do their part, especially power plants and heavy industry, but the individual person have a responsibility as well. By changing your commute habits you have taken a big step towards reducing your CO2 footprint as well as serving as an example to others, showing that it IS possible. Even if you live in suburbia and works on the other side of town with no buses you can still change your habits by planing your errands, ride-sharing and driving with the eco-driving techniques.

The last point on the excuse list is actually both the easiest and most difficult thing to explain to someone reluctant to change their lifestyle. That lovely miscommunication between the scientific world and the one where we regular mortals live is ridiculous as well as totally expected. I am of course talking about the global warming THEORY. In science you don’t say that something is 100% sure, you use statistics and there is always room for error or changed views as new facts enter the stage. Is the fact that they can only say that the possibility that anthropogenic global warming exists is just 99% enough reason to just ignore the entire issue?

No it isn’t. So get started changing habits and making your life greener, one thing at the time. My tip is to start with the commute as that is often a very ingrained habit. If you can change your commute pattern then you can change almost anything!

Get a CO2 pedometer, ie Commute Greener! (it is free and works for web or iPhone), see how much you emit in one week and start trying to reduce that number. Get some friends and coworkers to compete with you, and make it fun. Maybe the entire office and int he end company could enter this contest (another area Volvo IT and commute greener could lend a helping hand with setting up groups etc). You will be surprised how much CO2 you will save and how fun you will have in the process. All the while you are taking the first (?) step towards taking responsibility for your personal Carbon Dioxide footprint. Helping saving the world doesn’t have to be boring or difficult after all.

Have a nice weekend and Commute Greener!



Commute Greener! at Keb – the collapsing “roof of Sweden”…

I have a t-shirt with the text: “Kebnekaise: The top of Sweden, been there – climbed it”. And it’s true – I was there about two weeks ago and climbed the beautiful South Peak, and it’s still the highest top in Sweden. Standing on the top, with shaky legs I was deeply touched and felt a lot of respect and humility for Mother Nature, and then just euphoria…

But maybe my t-shirt became unique soon, because the South Peak is a top glacier and it’s melting because of the global warming. We have heard about melting glaciers before, but on the news on the Swedish television yesterday it was a reportage where scientists were measuring the top of Kebnekaise. The South Peak has been melting four meters the past three years and three meters since last year! The top of Sweden is now 2 099,7 meters which is historically low, the lowest value in 1000 year! The climate change seems to have a more dramatically impact on the melting glaciers than the prognosis….

Get going and join us in Commute Greener! – together we can make a big leap towards a sustainable development! Today I take the bike to work, will you join me?

Commute Greener!


How come CO2 is so dangerous when there is so little of it?

Oxygen makes up about 21 %, nitrogen about 78% of the atmosphere. The last percentage consists of a whole range of trace gases such as argon and carbon dioxide. How can such a small amount, less then one % of the whole atmosphere, have such an impact on the climate? Beware people, I have some CO2 chemistry for you today!

CO2 structure. Picture from Wikipedia

CO2 is good at absorbing energy in the infrared and near infrared spectrum. It then releases some of that energy back down to earth, while some of it goes out in space again. All substances in the atmosphere behaves like this, but the problem is that it shouldn’t be so much absorption in the infrared part of the light spectra. That part should be more or less a hole. A hole which we are plugging with more and more CO2, methane, NOx and so on.

Well, that’s the very simplified version of the science anyway. But it is more difficult showing how this happens. Or how something so small can have so big impact. On my department at the university the professors explained it by using small balls with springs. Imagine the molecule on the right. The black one is carbon (C) and the red ones are oxygen (O). The sticks are electrons, two from each O connected to two from the C. This is called a double bond, which is quite inflexible and stable. If you build a model of this molecule with springs instead of sticks you will see that those springs can actually move a bit. And they do in the real molecule as well. The more energy you put in the more it moves, and the more energy it absorb for more movement the more it emit back in different frequencies later. Or something like that.

For those of you still that are awake, here comes the good part. As CO2 can absorb energy in a part of the spectrum where there used to be a lot less absorption, more will lead to energy, and in the end heat, being trapped here on earth instead of being directly reflected from the surface and out to space. Even a trace amount of this gas have such an impact. Well now we know that. Sweet! Now how do we show it so you can understand it without having studied at least high school chemistry?

Well, look at this;

and this Uppsalainitiativet.

The first link goes to a youtube video where a man is using ink to show how small amounts of a substance can block energy (in this case visual light). I recommend you to take a look at the video, it is rather neat. The second one is basically the same, but in a laboratory using CO2, a glass tube, an IR camera and a candle and showing how the CO2 in the tube absorbs the light. Both are excellent examples of how you can visualize CO2′s effects on the planet.

If one want to use another example of trace amounts effect on something, alcohol is an excellent example. When you have reached the legal alcohol level in the blood for driving it is actually just some ppm of ethanol in the blood stream. (DO NOT drive when you have been drinking by the way. It is dangerous for you as well for others) Arsenic is another good example, it can do a lot of damage at low levels too if it gets in the drinking water.

Right now CO2 levels are approximately 390 ppm. Compared to Oxygen or nitrogen that is a  very small amount, but with a huge impact. We don’t need it to reach over 500 ppm. Or even higher then that. Every small change we do to cut back on the emissions is one step in the right direction. Visualizing and finding ways to simplify the complex science is a very important step as well. Don’t buy the “but there is so little of it” argument. It doesn’t work. As shown here.






Hurricanes and climate change is running rampage – is this what we want in our future?

Climate change is one of the great threats to the planet, right up there with overpopulation and lack of clean water. Almost all of the scientists tell us this in numerous scientific papers. But this is still a very difficult mechanism, even if it looks very easy in mr Al Gores film. Just take the example of changes in weather patterns we are seeing. Can we really say that this is a change in local climate after just a few years with droughts and cold winters? And what of the hurricanes?

I guess no one have missed the hurricane that have hit north America. Once again climate change get more discussion and people say with great self assurance that “climate change caused this”. Or that it did not. And no one can really go out and say that this is with 100%, or even 95%  probability an effect of global warming. This is the problem with climate science; it is incredibly complex and hard to understand.  If it were only that simple. Not only that, but several other disciplines have to cooperate and a huge amount of factors have to be accounted for in models and simulations that can show whether or not this is possibly connected to changes in the climate. But it seems like that actually is the case.

Last year a study about the connection between the greenhouse effect and tropical hurricanes were published. Well, I am sure more than one were published, but this is the one I have taken a look at. At the abstract at least as you have to have credentials to read the full article. You get the picture. The authors mean that

it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. - Knutsson et al. Tropical cyclones and climate change, Nature Geoscience 3, 157 – 163 (2010)

Granted, the authors begin the abstract with a short discussion of how difficult it have been to say in which direction this issue is pointing. But they seem to be able to make a connection.

We already knew that the greenhouse effect with following global warming and climate changes were going to mess with the weather. Wet places get wetter, dry get dryer. Recent studies show that this prediction was somewhat correct. But this is on a whole other level. Is this how we want our future to be?

The greenhouse effect is a monster running wild, and to capture and tame it a lot of work will have to be done. No single human can change this. No single country can completely stop it, even if it is as big as the USA or China. But many human beings doing their part and countries that take their responsibility can probably at least slow it down. It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of investments, but it is not to late.

It is not to late for the common man/woman to do their part either. It is time to start changing habits, since that is what it really comes down to. We don’t have five earths. We have one. We have to be careful with what we got. Cycling or taking the bus may seem like a small thing, but it is a good start. One change leads to another. With some hard work and creative thinking we may get very far. Just look at the One Tonne family that is trying to live with just one tonne of CO2/year and person.If they can do it, why can’t somebody else do it as well?




Nature flee from global warming.

Global warming is an interesting concept. After all, what’s wrong with warmer summers. Being able to grow wine in New York or Stockholm. And so on. Besides, the winters have been terribly cold with snowstorms and ice all over the north hemisphere, so Global warming can’t be real, right? Well it is real. And it has severe consequences.

Last year we could read about severe storms, droughts, firestorms, heat records and floods. This year have had heavy rain storms coming from nowhere and there is a starvation catastrophe happening in Africa. The bad winters are probably related to climate change as well, although it is almost impossible to show with 100% security. Scientists never confirm anything to a 100% by the way, as they use statistics in their research. 95% is more common…

The latest in the row of signs is that plants and animals are moving north, away from the rising temperatures, as shown in a study from the University of New York. I know of several Swedish alerts as well such as bears not going into hibernation due to being confused by warm weather and so on. While it would be kind of cool to have rain forests here in Sweden, this isn’t really helping the ecosystem. I am no biologist but I have studied enough to know that ecosystems are incredibly complex. A whole lot of bad stuff can happen to the nature if there are sudden changes to an ecosystem. Species can go extinct, foreign species with no real predator can wreck havoc and so on. This is serious. Really serious.

But Darwin this just works according to Charles Darwin’s theories!  Survival of the fittest and all that. Well, while it is true ecosystems always evolve more or less according to the old mans theory, this is happening at a rapid pace. 12 meters/ decade migration north doesn’t sound that much but for a plant or lichen it is.

As I said, I am no biologist. I know many in that field of study though. And they are getting scared. This is a dangerous sign that global warming is already starting to do real damage. Another sign that is.

At the same time politicians are arguing that Climate change is a hoax and that drilling for more oil is going to solve every problem in the world, that US fuel prizes shall be down to under 2$ /gallon again and much other things. In a time where it is getting more and more important to start making real difference by investments, research, policy, regulation and cooperation.

In the face of this it is getting more and more important for us ordinary people to make an effort to make a difference. If everyone lived like the average American we would need 4 earths to bet by. We only have one. We need to take care of it. As an individual there are lots you can do, like turning of the lights, choose a smaller car or public transportation/zero emission alternatives for transportation, stop buying junk, recycling and so on. Commute Greener! is not the solution to climate change, but it is a tool to take a first step.



The greenhouse effect made simple


It has been a while since last time, haven’t it? Summer is a beautiful season. Especially when you get some time off.

Simplifying and visualizing environmental impact is something Commute Greener! have been keen on from the start. It is difficult to understand what one kilogram of CO2 is after all, or how it affects the planet. And without incentive it is difficult to see the benefits of a greener commute.That is the practical and personal level. It is quite easy when you think about it, at least when you have the tools to show the amounts and effects of the commute.

What about the science of climate change? Those who have followed this blog have probably noticed that simple information is something we have written about several times. The academic world seldom explains the science, and it end up being misrepresented in blogs and discussions. But once in a while you run into stuff like this graphic over how global warming works and why the scientific world has accepted it as true.

This picture is good. Really good. It takes science from several projects and weaves it together into one simple picture. The author tries to make it easy to understand. With that picture as a starting point he then goes on to explain how and why it is like this, and how we know. One has to admit that some basic knowledge of the global warming system probably is needed to get it all but as a whole it actually explains the issue pretty well.

Personally I wish this would be common knowledge so something really could be done about the problem. Te governments, the industry and the people of the world will need to change habits unless this rampaging monster that is climate change will get even worse then it is today. The signs are there. We see the effects on the climate in the form of storms, winters like those of a fairy tale and unusually warms summers. When the information is presented in this simplified form you don’t even have to be a scientist to understand it.

On the plus side, information and visualizations like this may spur many people to get interested and aware of their environmental impact. As they grow in number the demand for cleaner production may be higher. And industry IS doing a lot to work for cleaner production. Just look at Volvo’s Climate savers campaign with the WWF, or all those who joined the 10:10 campaign.

Private persons can do a lot to reduce their footprint as well and everybody should try to do their part. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Taking the bus a couple of times/week instead of driving, taking shorter showers, stop drinking bottled water, reducing the temperature at home and at the office is old news but a good start.




The summer commute, a new challenge

The summer is the ideal season to commute greener. At least in my opinion. The weather is often nice, the nature is green and lovely to walk through and the mornings are warm enough so you don’t freeze, but not hot enough to be sweaty. But the middle of the day, and afternoon is a totally different story. And morning too unless you use zero emission transportation or drives with a good air-conditioning. Buses have a tendency to get really warm even in the chilly morning during summer, and can get unbearable around afternoon. Even biking or walking gets uncomfortable in 26 degree C.

The question is, how do we make a green summer commute easier and more enjoyable? Well, here are some tips:

  • For the afternoon commute; freeze some water/sport drink/whatever you fancy and let the plastic bottle (reused of course) thaw during the day. You will have a nice cold drink whenever you feel like it, or just something really cool to put on your neck during the day.
  • ALWAYS have something to drink with you. It helps replacing water lost during the day.
  • Yogurt drinks. A friend of mine from Pakistan once told me of how they use cold yogurt drinks to stave of the heat during harvest season. I have tried it, and it works surprisingly well for quite a long time.
  • As with a general bike commute, bring work clothes in a bag and change at work. You don’t even need a proper dressing room, a toilet stall works fine for this, and you can wipe of excess sweat when you are at it.
  • Bring spare clothes; it will help a lot. Why worry about sweat-rings in the armpits when one can simply change shirt when it gets to much?
  • Try to choose bicycling or walking over public transportation, even if it means an hour on the road. It is worth it, especially during the afternoon. If that isn’t possible, carpool.
  • Cut down on coffee and tea. Both are speeding up urine production and thereby making you dehydrated faster. Not good in the warm season (but not something critical)
  • Try to telecommute during the worst days. Then you won’t have to worry about being all sweaty in front of your coworkers.
  • When all else fail, or when you just feel like it; ICE CREAM! Hey, it IS hot in the summer, right. An ice cream may very well be what you need to stave of the heat. And it taste good.

Commuting in a greener manner is possible during all seasons, and they all present different challenges. Be sure to be prepared for them. Most of those preparations are common sense anyways, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. And with increasing CO2 levels, slimmer chances to stop global warming at a 2 C temperature increase and less time to do anything against it, we must change our habits. Our transportation habits are some of the easier things to change, so let’s think one step further, be prepared for the summer and let’s make sure our greener commute is as relaxing and smooth as possible even during the summer heath waves!



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CO2 Emissions on the rise again

CO2 emissions are on the rise again. The economical crisis made a dent in the global CO2 footprint, and with fewer industries running and fewer people driving, emissions of all kind went down. But now the economy is mostly back on track. Or getting there. It is business as usual again. And with that the CO2 emissions are back up. And rising. Steadily.

The International energy agency states that 2010´s CO2 emissions were on an all time high. 2011 will probably be even worse. The goal set in Cancun 2010 of staying on a total temperature rise of 2 decrees C is getting bleaker and bleaker. That much of the estimated rise in emission is from new power plants that is or will be built doesn’t exactly make the situation better.

Climate change and global warming are dangerous and very acute problems. It is time to do something against it. On international and national level our leaders will have to unite and come up with an energy and climate strategy that has some teeth. As it stands now, something radical will have to happen if we are to prevent climate change. Or at least dampen it.

But it is not only the politicians who have a responsibility in the struggle against our long time foe CO2. What we do on a personal level is just as important. Our choices and living conditions play a huge role in how big our Carbon footprint is. Take the One Tonne Life experiment for example. By driving an electric car, reducing meat consumption and living in an energy effective house, as well as a lot of other small choices the experiment family is now down to some 1,5 tonnes/year and person. Sweden has an average footprint of some 5-8 tonnes/year, which is quite a lot. Several countries have even larger footprints.

Technology is important. Greentech is a rapidly growing area. We are bombarded with new smart solutions, helpers, new ways to make energy, smarter cars, phones and information technology. Unfortunately this have bread a way of thinking that is based on the notion of better tech will solve anything. The airplane and energy sectors are very guilty of this. As is the transportation sector. And they are right. In part. To really get a better future we will have to change the way we live. As mentioned above it is possible with the right mindset, some determination and the right tech.

A really good place to start is to look at transportation patterns. An average Swedish car is rolling some 14 000 Km/year, and at least 1/4 of that, probably up to half of it, is totally unnecessary unplanned journeys. A lot of that comes from the commute as well. By choosing the bike or bus, or even our won feet for transportation we can do a lot to reduce our own CO2 footprint. And we must reduce it as much as we possibly can to save this planet. And we only got one. Let’s do all we can to keep it.

You as an individual can affect a lot. So why not do it. Start to commute greener and get in the habit of making green choices. See that it isn’t that difficult or bothersome to make green choices. Switch to low energy lights, stop printing paper unless you really must, insulate the house and buy locally produced grocery’s. Let’s get into the habit of choosing the green alternative and become more healthy as well. You as well as the planet will benefit from it.

Commute Greener! everyone!





Earth Hour is approaching, will you join in?

One of the worlds biggest environmental manifestations are due to take place tomorrow. Earth Hour. To turn all the lights of for 60 minutes isn’t a big deal really. Even if every lamp on the planet was turned of for one hour we wouldn’t save the climate. And not every light will be turned of, after all we can’t shut of civilization. However Earth Hour is a very powerful symbol. A Symbol of our will to do something about climate change.

Global warming and climate change are one of the biggest threats to us right now. The world is in danger. Maybe not today or tomorrow but in a few years the catastrophe may happen. Everybody will have to pitch in and change for us to mitigate the damages, especially as the worlds population is growing at a rapid pace and thus making it even more difficult to turn the trend. Symbols like Earth Hour are needed to inspire that change. Or as Ban Ki-moon, the UN general secretary put it;

“Tomorrow, let us join together to celebrate this shared quest to protect the planet and ensure human well-being. Let us use 60 minutes of darkness to help the world see the light.”

Will you join in and turn of the lights for 60 minutes? Of course you will, this is something really easy after all. Will you take some other actions to save the climate? Probably not. Most people won’t, and that’s really sad. If taken in baby steps, changing to a more sustainable, greener if you will, lifestyle isn’t that difficult. Big changes, like insulating the house and fixing the heater or installing solar panels or getting a new green car is one thing. These are major changes. But small things, like buying locally produced food and products, not buying bottled water, grow some vegetables (possible in an apartment too, you just need to be smart about it), have a compost and start to recycle are easy and can even save money for you. Not only that but they give you a sense of accomplishment as well. Another route is to reduce the use of the car in favor for active zero emission or public transportation, another easy change.

For more people to make these choices there have to be awareness campaigns. And here Earth Hour really shines (that doesn’t sound right…). The more people that participate the stronger the awareness becomes. In other words, if you care about making other people see that there are those who are aware of the catastrophe that is climate change AND willing to go the extra mile to do something about it, join in. If you just worry about the prospect of climate change, join in. Show that you care.

I will turn of every light in my house tomorrow. Not because it will save the world but because I care and support this action against climate change. I am going to use these 60 minutes to help the see world the light. I am just one. But many will do the same. Will you be one of them?