Global Warming is Cooking the Planet Now – Not in Some Far-Off Future

by on August 26, 2013 · 13 comments

in California, Economy, Environment, History

90 Million Tons of Carbon Dioxide are Dumped into the Atmosphere Every 24 Hours

globalwarming12By John Lawrence

As Bill McKibben, founder of, states in his book, Eaarth, global warming is not some far-off event that we will have to prepare for sometime in the future; it is here today and the effects of global warming are being manifested here today. Yet the oil and gas industry is pulling out all the stops to convince people that global warming is just a myth perpetrated by fuzzy headed liberals.

Extreme weather events, billion dollar weather events, are happening with increasing frequency just as Wall Street analysts are computing Big Oil’s stock price based on all the assets yet in the ground and which the industry is bound and determined to pump out on its way to becoming part of the atmosphere. If such were to be the case, kiss the earth, as a habitable place for the human species, good-bye.

In his book McKibben states:

“…global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality.We’ve changed the planet, changed it in large and and fundamental ways. And these changes are far, far more evident in the toughest parts of the globe, where climate change is already wrecking thousands of lives daily. In July 2009, Oxfam released an epic report, ‘Suffering the Science,’ which concluded that even if we now adopted ‘the smartest possible curbs’ on carbon emissions, ‘the prospects are very bleak for hundreds of millions of people, most of them among the world’s poorest.'”

climatechangeExtreme weather events are happening daily although news outlets are reluctant to label them the results of global warming. Why? Some of the major sponsors of TV news are oil and gas companies whose total focus on short term profits doesn’t allow for a glance at the fact that their products are threatening the long term survival of the human species. After all oil company executives will probably be dead before the earth becomes uninhabitable.

In 1859, the same year that oil was discovered in Pennsylvania by Colonel Edwin Drake, the Irish scientist John Tyndall discovered that carbon dioxide traps heat. 36 years later in 1895 Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius presented a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society titled, “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground.”

Arrhenius was the first to make the connection between the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and global warming. He made over 10,000 computations by hand which resulted in his conclusion that a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere would raise global average temperatures by several degrees Celsius.

Svante Arrhenius’ grandson, Gustaf Arrhenius, was hired at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego in 1956 by Roger Revelle, the father of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Arrhenius is still active there at the Arrhenius Laboratory.

Prior to moving to the United States in 1952, he participated in two Swedish deep sea research expeditions—the Skagerak Expedition in1946 and the Albatross Expedition around the world from 1947 to 1948. The Albatross Expedition provided him with research materials to do his doctoral work. In 1953, he received his Ph.D. in natural sciences from the University of Stockholm. I will write more about Gustav Arrenius, his connection with Roger Revelle and UCSD in a future article.

Roger Revelle was also the mentor of Al Gore whose recent book, The Future, details the latest research on climate change and global warming. Prior to coming to San Diego, Revelle was a professor at Harvard and one of his students there was Al Gore. So not only was Revelle a leader in the history of the global warming movement, he inspired one of the most influential people in that movement today.

The movie, An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Al Gore is a passionate and inspirational look at the former Vice President’s fervent crusade to halt global warming’s deadly progress by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it.

We humans are using the atmosphere as a dump. The carbon pollution we are dumping into it every day is trapping more extra heat energy than would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. In addition to carbon dioxide, methane is being released from the Arctic tundra as the ice caps melt as my colleague, Frank Thomas, recently reported. It is also being released from the bottom of the sea. Methane has 25 times the heat trapping effect as carbon dioxide.

Nine of the ten hottest years ever recorded since accurate measurements began in the 1880s have occurred in the last ten years. Unprecedented heat waves in Europe in 2003 killed 70,000 people; in Russia in 2010 they killed 55,000. At present wildfires in the western US are setting records. Right now 57 major fires are burning across 11 states, fueled largely by severe drought conditions and fierce winds.

Already in 2013 spending on wildfires has topped $1 billion, and we are on the way to a record in terms of the number of acres burned. The six worst fire seasons since 1960 have taken place in the past 13 years. That includes 2012 when 9.2 million acres went up in flames. The worst year was 2006 when 9.8 million acres burned. Global warming also makes lightning strikes, one of the chief fire starters, much more common.

globalwarming2In 2010, the world experienced the hottest year since records have been kept, and ended the hottest decade ever measured. Last year, 2012, broke even more high temperature records. October 2012 was the 332nd month in a row when global temperatures were above the twentieth-century average. The growing absorption of CO2in the oceans is turning oceans into a corrosive acid bath killing off the coral reefs, shellfish and plankton, an important part of the food chain.

Total global rainfall is increasing 1.5 percent a decade because warmer air holds more moisture. This moisture is causing increased extreme precipitation events causing major floods all over the world. As just one example, floods are covering 60% of metropolitan Manila at the present time.

As reported on August 12, 2013,record temperatures across North Asia have killed dozens and pushed electricity grids to near breaking points, forcing governments to introduce emergency measures as more of the same heat is forecast. At least 105 people have died and 115 are missing after floods, a typhoon and torrential rain hit parts of China as reported two days ago. Rainfall events are dropping huge amounts in small periods of time because there is more moisture in the atmosphere due to global warming.

And the beat goes on while politicians, governments and large corporations not only are not concerned but do everything in their power to convince the people that there is nothing to worry about. No precautions need be taken. Everything is normal. Just invest in the stock market and buy more automobiles.

We have to increase GDP at all costs including the cost of making the Earth a reasonably habitable place to live. I think Exxon stock is probably way up there, and every year they make more profits and pay little if anything in taxes. Pad your portfolio and forget about global warming. Also forget about the world you are bequeathing to your grandchildren.

This first appeared at San Diego Free Press.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John August 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm

” even if we now adopted ‘the smartest possible curbs’ on carbon emissions, ‘the prospects are very bleak for hundreds of millions of people, most of them among the world’s poorest.’””

That seems to be what’s on the mind of the IPCC, whose publications include terms like “climate justice” and “carbon equity”.
While you’d like to portray everyone who isn’t on board with global socialism policies which only make the problem worse as big oil and industry, that’s not true at all. Whether you’ll admit it or not, most of the climate change movement’s legislation is also aligned with improving the living standards of the third world-industrializing them-which is obviously counterproductive toward curbing a problem caused by human industrialization. Lopsided programs of carbon trading would only see capital and industry flow toward population masses which don’t yet generate the greenhouse gasses they will once industrialized.
In short, the world is doomed, the end is near. Okay fine. You DON’T have a solution, and the ones we were told were, seemed to only have made things worse.


Paul Turk August 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

So embrace the workable solutions – France emits only 96gm of CO2 per kWh of energy generated because it went nuclear over 20 years ago and has a clean record, Thorium fission plants can’t melt down and the waste is radioactive for only 70 years, and Laser stimulation of Thorium gives you energy amplification without fission happening at all…


John August 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Isn’t it true though that the reason France’s nuclear power program is deemed “workable” is because they ship their waste (by rail through Germany) to Russia, where for profit they dispose of it somewhere in Siberia for future generations to deal with?
Forgive me if any of my details are off but I’m pretty sure I’m close and it’s disingenuous to assert the French example is workable.
Nearly every “alternative energy” scheme seems to be revealed to have an equally harmful cost. With solar the manufacturing process of the panels has emissions of a harmful gas, with hydro the flooding of land sees methane releases in the turbines for decades equal to the damage done by CO2 in coal power plants.
There is no free lunch and the price for that nuclear sandwich seems the highest of all.
As for the Thorium reactor well it sounds good on paper but it’s long into the future and the danger is not exactly nil:

hey let’s hope they can work the bugs out.


Jan Freed August 29, 2013 at 6:01 am


John: Can you supply references to you claims of negative impacts of alternative energies? I think they have been far too exaggerated. Last I heard, the energy needed to equal production of solar panels is 18 months. It may be even less now. And also one should compare solar costs to the $300-$500 billion/year “hidden tax” of coal. According to the Harvard Medical School study that is the cost of over 70 negative effects of coal energy production; we-the-people pay and coal ducks these costs.

What I would love to see is for Elon Musk, for example, committed to using only low carbon energy to produce his Tesla cars and costs dropping to below $30K, which he believes is workable.


John August 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

If I supplied references would that change your mind? No. Since you say they are “far too exaggerated” it sounds like you know the information is out there.
As for solar panels it’s not merely the energy to make them, it’s the process itself.
Solar panels don’t come falling out of the sky – they have to be manufactured. Similar to computer chips, this is a dirty and energy-intensive process. First, raw materials have to be mined: quartz sand for silicon cells, metal ore for thin film cells. Next, these materials have to be treated, following different steps (in the case of silicon cells these are purification, crystallization and wafering). Finally, these upgraded materials have to be manufactured into solar cells, and assembled into modules. All these processes produce air pollution and heavy metal emissions, and they consume energy – which brings about more air pollution, heavy metal emissions and also greenhouse gases.

AND (c/p’d from “watts up with that)
” a greenhouse gas emitted during the production of solar panels and HDTVs, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) that is used for cleaning the electronics, is about 17,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The concentration of NF3 in the atmosphere was artificially increased by a factor of 20 during the last two decades. The measurements of the concentration surpassed the previous estimates by a factor of five.

According to the Scripps Institute; “ the present 5,400 tons in the atmosphere…is on the rise at 11 percent per year” – that will stay there for 700+ years – creates the equivalent warming of all Finland’s CO2 emissions.”


Jan Freed August 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm

You make a good point. No methods are 100% pollution free

Your comment leaves a bit too much to the imagination, however. How much is from panels vs. TV, etc.? Are safety regs in place, etc.

Certainly a link from you with actual analysis of each energy source would help. Yes, it would matter. I don’t make my living doing this, but, strangely enough really don’t want more and worse global catastrophe.

My focus is not “who wins the argument” whether it is the political left or right, but how to protect this precious Earth (for this and future generations) from our own ignorance, intransigence and greed.

So I did my homework to get more precision:

“While there are no global warming emissions associated with generating electricity from solar energy, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar life-cycle, including manufacturing, materials transportation, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and dismantlement. Most estimates of life-cycle emissions for photovoltaic systems are between 0.07 and 0.18 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
Most estimates for concentrating solar power range from 0.08 to 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. In both cases, this is far less than the lifecycle emission rates for natural gas (0.6-2 lbs of CO2E/kWh) and coal (1.4-3.6 lbs of CO2E/kWh) [6]. 

So, for the same amount of energy production solar has an GHG impact that is about 9 times less than natural gas and 23 times less than coal, for CO2 equivalents, which factor in relative GHG potency of various pollutants.

Even so, I hope they can cut back on release of harmful pollutants in the solar industries. I also hope they manage methane, but I have little hope that CO2 can be eliminated from fossil fuels in an economically realistic way.



John August 29, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Again your reference is merely considering the energy expended during manufacture, not the far greater pollution of the process itself, which includes the release of nitrogen trifluoride which is 17,000 times more harmful than CO2. Are there safety regulations? Most of the production is now taking place in China, what do you think? Pretty much zero to none I believe. It’s all going to add up to the greatest benefit will be toward making us sleep better at night patting ourselves on the back we made a difference but toward the real problem maybe we made it worse? Becoming aware of these details about the harmful chemicals might make them able to develop an alternative way- I think the concept of solar is wonderful, I put a solar panel on my truck last year to power a cross flow blower I installed in the rear window frame to keep it cool in the summer when parked, it works amazingly well.
Across the board we often find when you scratch below the superficial story there are pesky little things that add up to no free lunch. They built quite a few dams before they found out about the methane release of hydro, especially in the tropical latitudes.
On your comment below about “paid armies of flying monkeys” while that conjures up an amusing image from an old favorite movie, don’t always assume that’s the case. There are plenty of people who like to get on the internet just to argue a point. There are others who simply don’t like regulation. There are others like me who actually do care about the environment but see the fallacy inherent to letting ideologues with misguided intentions take the reins, lacking practical solutions and seemingly more concerned with playing politics or just postulating in judgement.
There are finally probably more than any other segment of skeptics, people who don’t reject the science and don’t hate the planet but don’t want to shoot themselves in the economic foot about a problem that ultimately was man’s destiny anyway. I’m probably half that and half the previously stated sentiment.
I do care, but looking at the industrial revolution going on in India and China and seeing the kind of callous indifference they show with things like shipbreaking in the Indian Ocean… all the legislation and good intentions over here won’t do a thing to slow that down, so I can’t support paying a higher electric bill myself if it doesn’t make a difference. I’m not a flying monkey but a realist.


Jan Freed August 30, 2013 at 9:38 am

From Wikipedia on Nitrogen Trifluoride:

” One study suggests that the contribution of the NF3 emissions to the overall greenhouse gas budget of thin-film Si-solar cell manufacturing is overestimated. Instead, the contribution of the nitrogen trifluoride to the CO2-budget of thin film solar cell production is compensated already within a few months by the CO2 saving potential of the PV technology.[17]”

And solar panels are good fore 25-40 years. Still far better than coal energy, for example.

Much of the impact of NF3 is from flat panel TV and some computer production. I wouldn’t abandon solar panels/cells too quickly. NO there is no free lunch, unless you count the coal industry which has saddled taxpayers with a hidden tax of 300-500 billion dollars/year, according to the Harvard Medical School study (references on request). They measured over 70 negative impacts of coal, and coal does not pay for them; we do.


John August 30, 2013 at 11:56 am

LOL, did you check the reference the Wiki editor used when he cited that “study”? It’s from the American Chemical Society. Not exactly a chemical industry promotion group, but a professional society of chemists, all people employed by chemical companies with a common interest of minimizing the appearance their employers and profession are harmful to the environment. You might as well accept Shell and Exxon Corp reports on the serious nature of climate change.
The world’s largest producer of NF3 is an American company. We can be damn well sure most or even all of its chemists are ACS members. You think that study is close to unbiased?


Jan Freed August 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm

If you can find a contrary report from a reputable source (even it is one that doesn’t agree with you), I would be interested. The journal I quoted is a peer reviewed journal*

. It isn’t quite fair to dismiss it out of hand. Otherwise the game is “If I don’t agree, there was a bias in the other side”. How can any discussion move forward with that strategy? And, in an earlier comment, you quoted “what’supwiththat” as if it were pure as the driven snow? Do you really think you are being objective? I sure don’t. End of discussion. You win.

Fthenakis, Vasilis; D. O. Clark, M. Moalem, M. P. Chandler, R. G. Ridgeway, F. E. Hulbert, D. B. Cooper, P. J. Maroulis (2010 -10-25). “Life-Cycle Nitrogen Trifluoride Emissions from Photovoltaics”. Environ. Sci. Technol. (American Chemical Society) 44 (22): 8750. doi:10.1021/es100401y.


Jan Freed August 29, 2013 at 5:50 am

Excellent article, clearly highlighting our predicament. Will reason and responsibility prevail against $120 million campaign to discredit the science with half-truths, lies and deadly delay? Will the paid army of these flying monkeys continue to blind the public until it is too late?

We must take precautions and choose the wisdom of virtually every scientific organization in the world over these ethical monsters. They have outstripped Josef Stalin in their rapacious indifference to the consequences of their greed.

Conservatives have been captured by vast corporate interests. I pray they wake up in time as our fates are tied together.


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