Environment Forum

Hot Air From Weathermen

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. ThomsonReuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

A general view of a chemical factory during dawn in Xiangfan, Hubei province, November 28, 2007. Rapidly growing China is emerging as the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from factories, farms and vehicles blamed for climate change. REUTERS/StringerOften when seeing anti-environmental commentary about global warming in the media, I feel like the first question I would like to ask these commentators is: “Why do you deny that carbon dioxide (CO2), which is increasing in an unprecedented way in the atmosphere, is a greenhouse gas?”

If they were to start their answer: “I don’t deny it …” I would think “Good, we’ve made some progress.” However, as I think would often be the case, if they start their answer: “Because …” we should be ready to pounce on the ensuing nonsense.

Here’s a key example of such nonsense from a former weatherman:

“Now allow me to talk a little about the science behind the global warming frenzy. I have dug through thousands of pages of research papers, including the voluminous documents published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I have worked my way through complicated math and complex theories. Here’s the bottom line: the entire global warming scientific case is based on the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels. They don’t have any other issue. Carbon Dioxide, that’s it.

Here is the deal about CO2, carbon dioxide. I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000, only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t”.

Anyone for a Baltic summer cocktail?

Baltic summer cocktail/WWFSitting on a restaurant terrace overlooking the Baltic Sea on a warm June evening in Sweden, what better drink than a green summer cocktail?


Baltic soup/WWF

Perhaps followed by a delicious-looking Baltic farmer’s soup?



And you don’t even have to pay — you can scoop up such liquids for free from the most polluted parts of the Baltic Sea – also bordered by countries including Finland, Latvia, Russia, and Germany.

The images are part of a new campaign by the WWF environmental group to show off the problems of the Baltic – an almost enclosed sea that has suffered badly from pollution, including run-off from fertilisers that provoke big brief blooms of greenish algae that then die and sink to the bottom.

Olympic Bird’s Nest soup

The Olympics Bird’s Nest National Stadium disappeared into the pollution that enveloped Beijing earlier this week, before emerging as the air cleared on Friday. Each day’s photo was taken from my balcony at 8 a.m.

On a bad day the stadium’s central red stripe is barely visible.











Call Hercules! Species under threat

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel appears on a large screen as he opens a session of the 9th UN convention on biological diversity COP 9 in Bonn May 19, 2008. The UN is holding the conference in Germany’s former capital Bonn from May 19 to 30, to develop strategies to ensure the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (GERMANY)Delegates from almost 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany,  to discuss ways to protect animals and plants from threats ranging from climate change to pollution. 

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s environment minister, said it would be a ”Herculean task” to safeguard animal and plant life. Try my colleague Madeline Chambers’ fine story about the opening.

But what can they do at the May 19-30 meeting?

An Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002 set a goal of slowing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but U.N. studies say that climate change, rising human populations and loss of habitats are causing the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. A museum visitor examines a statue of “Young Hercules” during a preview of the new Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York April 16, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)That means that most experts say the 2010 goal is out of reach.

Bicycling in New York: room for improvement

A recent trip to bicyle-peppered cities Copenhagen and Amsterdam got me thinking about the pedal possibilities in U.S. cities. Alas, New York, the country’s biggest city, has long way to go make biking easier, and that seems true in many other cities in the world’s largest motor fuel consumer.

As gasolinecope.jpg nears $4.00 a gallon throughout the country one might think that U.S. commuters would be jumping on their bikes. Evidently the prices aren’t high enough yet.

Here in New York, it’s Bike Moamster.jpgnth and though I live just 7 miles from my office in Times Square, I haven’t two-wheeled it in yet, though I did for years. Likely, I won’t any time soon because fighting traffic across the avenues isn’t appealing anymore.

Carbon is intense

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University  and is a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. ThomsonReuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

U.S. President George W. Bush walks through the colonnade from the Oval Office to make remarks on the climate at the White House in Washington, April 16, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)On April 16 President Bush gave a speech laying out a new United States climate policy goal – stabilizing US emissions by the year 2025.

During the course of this speech the President reported as progress a previous goal he had announced in 2002: that the “carbon intensity” of the US economy under his administration has been declining at the rate of about 18% per decade — the rate he targeted in 2002. Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon emitted by US fossil fuel combustion per dollar of US economic output.

Way better than the subway


There are plenty of ways to get around New York City, not all of them savory — subway, bus, car, taxi, bike, shoe-leather — but few offer the environmental cachet of the plug-in electric motorbike. Sleek, slim and silent, the Vectrix two-seater owned by filmmaker Michael Bergmann is definitely preferable to rocketing around town under almost any other kind of power. The ride from the East Side to the West Side one recent evening was an absolute pleasure, with less ambient noise than a golf cart as we zoomed across Central Park.

“I’ve always felt that enjoying life in New York to the fullest requires a way to get around New York,” Bergmann said later in an e-mail. “A way that’s quiet and up on the surface so you can enjoy the varied life and changing neighborhoods as you travel. That requires a vehicle that’s street legal (so I don’t worry about being stopped or having it confiscated), always available, that isn’t hard to park, that doesn’t contribute to congestion or pollution (air or noise), that can carry the amount of stuff one ordinarily carries, and carry a passenger as well. So as soon as I found out about the Vectrix I wanted one.”

Vectrix, headquartered in Rhode Island, first started selling its electric plug-in motorbikes in Europe and is now expanding in the U.S. market. The company bills its plug-in model as “an advanced zero-emission, battery-powered motorcycle,” with comparable performance to a 400cc gas-powered motorcycle.

Essential Earth Science — from your garage

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and will be a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. Reuters is not responsible for the content — the views expressed are the author’s alone.

The root cause of all environmental problems-from beer cans floating on a lake to global warming-can be explained using the following two contrasting scenes:

Emissions well out of an exhaust of a car during traffic on a street in downtown Berlin on March 23, 2005. Members of the ruling German Greens party discuss a toll for vehicles entering the centre of major cites such as Berlin, Munich and Duesseldorf to reduce exhaust gas pollution. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz TOB/MADScene 1: We are sitting in an automobile inside a small, closed garage.

You are in the passenger seat and I am at the wheel. We are waiting for a third passenger from inside the building. Suddenly I reach for the ignition and turn the engine on. Alarmed by the thought of being poisoned by the exhaust, your eyes widen in amazement as you say, “What are you doing?” When you reach to turn the ignition off, I block your hands and soon a life-and-death struggle begins for control of the vehicle. You are screaming: “Are you crazy! You’re going to kill us both!”  If we manage to survive the episode you will seek to have me put under psychiatric care. Heck, I might even end up in prison for attempted manslaughter. My days as an ordinary law-abiding citizen are over.