Thursday, June 01, 2006


Can a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazons cause chaos thousands of miles away?

Is human activity affecting climate?

Just because we are accustomed to the unpredictability of weather, is that proof that human activity is not affecting our climate.

One always hears people, whether driving gas guzzlers or smaller cars, blaming all the other road users, when they get caught up in rush hour traffic, and complaining about traffic congestion. The hotter the day, the hotter they get under the collar. Sometimes the cussing turns to road rage. Not realising or choosing to ignore the fact of course that the traffic jams are caused by a series of individuals travelling to the same destination, all at the same time.

The same with Global car use.
Everybody thinks: "The world is a big place, what can however many gallons I burn do to the environment." They forget that the US alone burns 20 million barrels A DAY. Europe is not that far behind, and Russia is playing catch up.

Imagine China with over 3 times the population of the US burning 60 million barrels a day. And imagine India with again over three times the population of the US doing the same.

By 2030 we shall be burning twice as much oil as we burn today.
The US will no longer be the 'biggest' culprit, with car ownership and car use growing rapidly in China & India. The argument will no longer be that we have too much CO2, but that in point of fact there are not enough oil reserves to supply an increase of global demand from 100 million barrels a day to 200 million. The only options currently being explored are liquid coal, and 'clean' coal power stations, which mean yet more CO2 emissions.

Estimate Oil Reserves by Wikipedia free encyclopedia.

Only vested interests & skeptics would argue that because supply & demand has doubled in the last 25 years, that we can somehow sustain or provide for a doubling of demand in the next 25. That is a quadrupling of CO2 emissions from Oil, with predicted increases in emissions from coal, as output & demand is set to double for coal too.

By 2030 the CO2 emissions from Oil & coal, including liquid coal & 'clean' coal, are set to grow four fold to what they were 50 years ago. Man made disaster comes to mind. And yes we do have a historic (short time frame) precedent in Europe from the begining of the industrial revolution to the late twentieth century of the very real effects, contaminated rivers & waters, and visible air pollution from 'dirty' industry.

You cannot stop growth in China & India. The cat is out of the bag, or the genie out of the bottle, whichever you prefer. It is now down to the EU & US to lead by example, to find real alternatives, contain if not reduce emissions, and provide the investment in technology so that China or India do not become the dirty men of the Globe, like Eastern Europe became the dirty man of Europe in the second half of the twentieth century.

But this is a matter of political will, not Science. No matter how much Science is thrown at Son of Bush or The US administration, the answer is always: "I will not do anything that is negative to the economic growth & interests of the US".

Yet, it may well prove to be a 'necessary' Presidential Oath.
Not doing something about Climate Change, Global Warming, and addressing the real effects global increases in demand for non-renewables: Oil today and tomorrow, is acting against the interests of the US, and US economic growth for that matter. Smirking and saying we have enough coal and technology will provide the answer, is not sufficient. We need to search for those answers & provide real solutions today.

Innovative solutions such as improved public transport facilities, car pooling or car sharing, and car free days, not just as annual events but maybe even monthly events, and alternate day car use according to number plates or vehicle registration, and staggered working times, are all methods that are being used or tested in some of our more congested metropolis.

Of course with the benefit of hindsight you would think developing countries would be keeping a sharp eye on the very real challenges 'our' own economic growth and success presented to us, during the industrial revolution and the 'dirty' industries in the 20th century, but alas once again we see shorter term economic demands & political gains, override any longer term proposals & planning. Pollute today, and clean tomorrow.

New tool brought out by Google The Gapminder.
shows countries as disks in a two-dimensional plane
parameterized by (1) GDP per capita (2) children per woman
Thanks to Lubos Motl's Reference Frame for this little gem.