Thursday, October 15, 2009

blog action day 09 - climate change

Today is blog action day - where bloggers around the world write about a common topic. The topic this year is climate change. As I write this, almost 8,000 bloggers have signed up.

What am I going to write about?

I work in the green energy field and my brother works for an oil company, so I thought I would write about a healthy (and on going) argument in my family. While I believe in climate change and he is still getting there, we both agree that resources are finite, that energy efficiency and conservation are very, very important, and that we need to exploring alternate (low carbon in my case) sources of energy.

So recently we were having a debate and here is part of our dialog:

Brother:
Water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas on the earth.

Response:
I agree with you that water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. You are right. However, it isn't a primary driver for climate change.

"GWP [global warming potential] is not usually calculated for water vapour. Water vapour has a significant influence with regard to absorbing IR radiation (which is the green house effect); however its concentration in the atmosphere mainly depends on air temperature. As there is no possibility to directly influence atmospheric water vapour concentration, the GWP-level for water vapour is not calculated; see greenhouse gas." - wikipedia

Brother:
The earth has been getting hotter since the ice age. Climate change is natural and has always been natural. During the post war economic boom climate was actually getting colder, scientists thought mankind was bringing on a new ice age using fossil fuels.

Response:
Also, some amount of natural climate variability is natural. However, what is different this time, and makes this period of time unique in history is the RATE at which things are changing.

Brother:
1998, the hottest year on record, was an el nino year. El nino causes more clouds = more water vapor = more greenhouse gas = hotter. Using the environment to try to enact global government is not new.

Response:
1998 was the warmest year on record. We are in the hottest decade on record. Also, the sea temps this past summer (July and Aug '09) were the warmest on record since they started measuring in 1880, some of which was caused by el nino (according to NOAA).

Brother:
Most CO2 in the atmosphere comes from decaying biomass.

Response:
What is causing temperatures to rise? Increased concentration of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide primarily) resulting from anthropogenic (human) sources.


My brother and I will probably continue to disagree on the cause of climate change for a while to come. However our differing views lead us to a similar solution. My brother is motivated by peak oil and is interested in conserving resources and diversifying our energy mix. I believe in climate change, and want to conserve resources and reduce atmospheric concentration of CO2. I believe that RAPIDLY rising CO2 is causing increased ocean acidity, record high temperatures, and rapid melting of glaciers and sea ice. Even though our reasons vary, we end up at the same solution - resource conservation, alternative energy sources, and conscious decision making.

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