Friday, July 25, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Per Capita: Feeling the heat

JohnMott-SmithW

By
From page A4 | January 17, 2013 |

I find it difficult at times to get my mind around the scope or scale of global warming.

We speak about this issue as affecting the “planet” or the “atmosphere” or the “weather” or the “oceans” (plural) or the “permafrost” or the ice in the Arctic and Antarctic but, really, how massive does a phenomenon have to be, how much heat is required, to make a change in these huge things, and how can we understand it.

A friend recently offered the following, suggesting that the Bunsen burner was and is ubiquitous in high school chemistry labs, most people are familiar with it, and it might provide a useful way of looking at global warming.

Put a beaker of water (with a thermometer in it) over a Bunsen burner and wait a bit; the temperature begins to increase. Instead of a beaker, imagine a gallon container; it takes longer to heat the greater volume. How many Bunsen burners would it take to heat a swimming pool’s worth of water? A lake? Extend this out to the volumes involved in increasing temperatures in the oceans and atmosphere. The bottom line is that a 1-degree rise in temperature in the oceans, or a 2-degrees rise in atmospheric temperature, represents storage of an almost incomprehensible amount of heat.

So what?

The recently released draft U.S. Climate Assessment is an alarming document, and, one would think, would end the climate silence about climate science. Some in the media hypothesize that the reason climate change does not occupy a bigger space in the public debate is that the news is always the same; global warming is real and its consequences will be bad. The only “news” appears to be refinements on how bad these consequences may become.

Going back to the Bunsen burner, the climate assessment reports that sea level has risen about 8 inches since record keeping began in the late 19th century. Almost all of this is due to thermal expansion; heated water occupying more space than cooler water. The projection is for an additional one to four feet of sea level rise by the end of this century.

We have not yet really begun to feel the effects of increased melting of ice in the Arctic, Greenland and the Antarctic although the rate of melting in each of these is accelerating and requiring scientists to step back and recalculate, with one indicating, “Maybe nature really is proceeding much faster than our models predicted.”

The report projects that, though there has been some progress in slowing emissions, if emissions continue to increase over the next half century at approximately current rates we are on a path for an average surface temperature in the U.S. that is about 8 degrees higher than today.

Combine this with recent reports from multiple directions that 2012 was the hottest year in the U.S. on record since records have been kept and that the difference between this year and the next hottest was a full degree, unlike previous increases of a fraction of a degree. And, whereas in the past the number of record-high temperatures was usually balanced by an approximately equal number of record low temperatures, in 2012 more than 34,000 daily high temperature records were set, with only about 6,600 record lows.

Again, we can ask, “So what?”

While some of the longer-term adverse effects remain uncertain, the “canary in the coal mine” (what scientists predicted would be among the first effects) is an expression of the increased heat in the oceans and the atmosphere translating into more severe weather events. Public opinion in America seems to be turning a bit, after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, to an acceptance of the connection between disasters such as these and our burning of fossil fuels.

And it is certainly getting the attention of the insurance companies. Insured losses from Hurricane Sandy are estimated at $25 billion, with total losses preliminarily set at about twice that. The 2021 drought in the Midwest resulted in about $17 billion in insured crop losses, nearly twice the average in the history of agricultural insurance programs.

There are other effects that are less quantifiable. For example, the recent reports that the air quality in Beijing, fueled largely by burning coal to produce energy, has resulted in an “airpocalypse” so bad that roads and airports are closed due to poor visibility, residents don gas masks just to go outside, and the pollution index is nearly 30 times what the World Health Organization considers “safe” and more than twice levels considered “hazardous.”

To really answer the question of ”So what?” however we need to ask what our elected leaders are doing about it. With all due deference and respect to the current conversations in Washington about the important topics of gun control, health care, immigration, the debt ceiling, and the fiscal cliff, one could plausibly, reasonably, and urgently ask congress and the president to focus on global warming. How do they propose to avoid the ever closer “climate cliff?” What is the plan to keep the “carbon ceiling” from rising above 450 parts per million in the atmosphere?

Policy makers at all levels, in all cities, counties, states, and countries, need to “feel the heat” from citizens to put the topic on the front burner; and I don’t mean a Bunsen burner.

—  John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis. This column appears the first and third Thursday of each month. Please send comments to johnmottsmith@comcast.net.

Comments

comments

John Mott-Smith

.

News

Tech Trekkers boldly go into STEM fields

By Amy Jiang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Decoding breast milk secrets reveals clues to lasting health

By Pat Bailey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

California climate change policies to hit our pocketbooks

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

 
Davis braces for six days of scorching heat

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Carwash raises funds for funeral expenses

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Appeals court upholds high-speed rail route

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

 
Unitarians will host summer camp

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Artists, photographers invited to support Yolo Basin Foundation

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Sudwerk’s sales grow, floating on a sea of dry hop lager

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Wetlands visitors will see migrating shorebirds

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

‘Bak2Sac’ free train ride program launched

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Explorit: Wonderful wetlands right at home

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Recycle old paint cans for free

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Where your gas money goes

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A12

STEAC needs donations of personal care items

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16, 1 Comment

 
Americans, internationals make connections

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Trio disagrees on best option

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Thanks for emergency help

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Commenting system to change

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10, 32 Comments

 
Support these local restaurants

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Let’s get the bench repaired

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Predicting climate changes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Clinton’s book is worth a read

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 3 Comments

 
.

Sports

 
Enriquez brilliant, but Post 77 season ends with Area 1 loss

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Hudson solid, Hamels better in Giants’ loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Petrovic, Putnam share Canadian Open lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Moss powers A’s past Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
The un-Armstrong? Tour ‘boss’ Nibali wins Stage 18

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘A Most Wanted Man’: Superb espionage drama

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Clyde Elmore: Art in the Wild

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Musicians perform at Sunday service

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A17 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Accord’s latest model is most fuel efficient

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
 
.

Obituaries

Mary Lita Bowen

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
James Thomas Feather

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Richard ‘Dick’ Robenalt

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
.

Comics

Comics: Friday, July 25, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A13

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Remax

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Sherman Home

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Vaughan Brookshaw

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Ciana Wallace

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Melrina A Maggiora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Jo Vallejo

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Jason Sull

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Carol Coder

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Diane Lardelli

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

Leslie Blevins

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Julie Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Lisa Haass

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Yolo FCU

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Willowbank Park

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

David Campos

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Heather Barnes

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Dana Hawkins & Caitlin McCalla

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Dana Hawkins & Caitlin McCalla

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Susan von Geldern

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

Open House Map

By jboydston | From Page: RER19

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20

Martha Bernauer

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Patricia Echevarria

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Open House Map

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER23

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER24