Tuesday, January 09, 2007

El Nino or Global Warming

How would Global Warming present itself, if not as a series of El Ninos? El Nino is caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean, a patch of water warm enough that predominant winds will flow in other directions or become more chaotic. If the Pacific Ocean is warming up, we're not talking about a piddley body of water like Lake Simcoe or even Lake Superior. We're talking about the largest body of water on Earth. If Earth is warmer, then the Pacific Ocean will likely be warmer.

Maybe this year's weather is an isolated case. Isolated, except that it's following the warmest years in recorded history. Even if this is just an El Nino scenario, weather this warm has to have some impact on the weather in the future. The lakes aren't freezing over, for one thing. If they don't freeze, then they'll warm up earlier in the spring, won't they? I remember that science class well where you measure how much energy it takes to turn an ice cube into liquid water, then how much easier it is to increase it from 0 C to 1 C. In this case, I can only guess that all the energy from the springtime sun will go into increasing the temperature of the lakes.

The meteorologists in North America don't want to specifically say this weather is related to widescale climate change because they don't have enough data. However, the Brits, with a few more centuries of temperature readings (from back when the units of temperature measurement were based on the "number of seconds that hath pass'd whilst the smell of a horse's wind doth travel to the nose of a monk") have said that this is in fact related to climate change.

Jim Kunstler raises some interesting questions this week. It's not that he doesn't other weeks, but this week he isn't quite so inflammatory. If it's 67 F in January in Northern New York, what can we expect in July? If oil is dropping in price now because of low heating oil demand, what will happen when air conditioners start running this summer?

A couple weeks ago, I got around to watching An Inconvenient Truth. The graph that really stood out to me, and I assume to others, is the one that shows carbon dioxide levels over millions of years with the natural cycles from ice age to warm periods. The carbon dioxide levels track the temperature changes. The graph ends at today, showing the carbon dioxide levels now that are higher above any warm period than how far below they were during any ice age. The conclusion we should get from this is that current carbon dioxide levels are not natural and temperatures will likely rise, but Gore makes comments indirectly suggesting (a bit like how someone else indirectly suggested Iraq=9/11) that what we'll see is scorchingly hot temperatures, such as New York at 130 F.

In an almost contradictory way, the movie is honest with the audience by not bothering with units on any of the graphs, knowing the whole point is just to be struck by the sharp turns upwards of all the lines. As much as I feel the message of the movie is important and the movie is well done, I can't help but think about the powerful format of the movie, and the ability it will have to influence people to support environmental initiatives and, possibly, Al Gore.

The warm weather, the nomination of Stephan Dion, and An Inconvenient Truth are all coming together to create a frenzy of excitement among our news organizations. In Canada, reports are in on a recent survey stating that "the environment" is the most important issue to Canadians, trumping the ever-popular concern of health care. The insinuation is that people will now elect someone who is concerned about the environment, as if that, in and of itself, is their contribution.

Whether it's global warming or el nino this year, the problem still exists. No matter who is our environment minister, the problem still exists. Predicting the weather or who gets elected is a game that people seem to like playing. I like to play the game, too. We'll know people are serious when they start to look at the solutions, and you can probably predict which solution I would recommend.

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Darren J 1/09/2007 01:50:00 p.m.


My wife bought me "An Inconvenient Truth" for Christmas and I was horribly disappointed by it (although I appreciated the sentiments behind the gift itself). It struck me as an awful lot of hypocritical handwaving; Gore rambling on about how awful global warming is and how people should drive less, followed by a shot of him in an SUV or jet (and at least one of those shots looked like a private jet). His suggestions of buying a hybrid car (and thereby creating huge amounts of pollution from its manufacture) is not, I feel, an appropriate fix. The "extra features" piled on more disappointment; instead of being a collation of hard fact, it was just a couple of producers wandering around showing how much gear they had to tow around to put on the stage show.

It compares poorly against Rob Newman's "History of Peak Oil"; for example, as I recall the stage show's lights are powered by a couple of cyclists pedalling through the whole show in order to ensure no electricity is used. His "No Planet B" is also well worth reading.

I agree with Kunstler, though - it's definitely going to be interesting to see what happens this summer...

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