Carbon Dioxide and Ocean Acidification

Air - sea exchange of carbon dioxide

Air - sea exchange of carbon dioxide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carbon Dioxide isn’t just stored in the atmosphere. The soils, plants and trees, and the ocean also act as a carbon sink. According to NOAA, the oceans absorb up to a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humanity every year. This CO2 is changing the chemistry and leading to ocean acidification.

Calcium carbonate minerals are the building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. In areas where most life now congregates in the ocean, the seawater is supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate minerals. This means there are abundant building blocks for calcifying organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification is causing many parts of the ocean to become undersaturated with these minerals, which is likely to affect the ability of some organisms to produce and maintain their shells.

This acidification not only effects small shelled animals like, oysters and clams, but also the larger animals that feed on them and therefore, the entire food web. This directly effects whales, seals, birds and commercial fishing stocks which become at risk of collapse.

Already under threats of bleaching from higher ocean temperatures, as well as threats from pollution, over-fishing, and development, coral reefs are greatly effected by ocean acidification. And that also threatens the habitat that they provide for species to numerous to mention.

At some point, the oceans become full up of carbon dioxide and just can’t absorb any more or at least continue absorbing CO2 at the rate they have been. Then, more CO2 stays in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas and that just accelerates the warming. More warming means more extreme weather. We all know the cycle.

Science teaches us that so many of our life support systems on spaceship earth are interconnected.  And this provides us with yet another reason to get our fossil fuel emissions under control.

 

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Your Carbon Footprint At the End of Your Fork

This week my son and I visited the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. As part of an exhibit entitled “Degrees of Change”, visitors can select items from a menu and calculate the carbon footprint of their meal. Ian had a great time checking out the footprint of various food items. A carbon-intensive meal is one that puts out over 2,000 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere. An individual might be surprised to find out that their yummy beef filet alone puts out 4000 grams of CO2.

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Vegetarianism seems to be on the decline of what is en vogue these days-with true foodies opting for “sustainable” meat options like “grass-fed” or “locally-raised” beef. But are these more earth-friendly meat options really sustainable for a planet already home to 7 billion humans? After all, we careen closer and closer to the tipping point for survival of so many species, biodiversity, and preservation of civilization itself.

We should also consider the hefty water component of our carnivorous cravings. According to Hoekstra and Chapagain (www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Hoekstra_and_Chapagain_2006.pdf -2006) it takes 2400 litres (over 600 gallons) of water to produce one hamburger. Modern humans are observing the rapid melt of glaciers and increasing evaporation due to warming temperatures. In a world that has only a 3% supply of fresh water, where ground water aquifers are pumped at a faster rate than Mother Nature can replenish them, and the pollution of existing water supplies due to extreme energy extraction is happening at almost warp speed, intelligent people should question, “is how I eat really sustainable?”.

There is no question that industrial agriculture has an enormous footprint and the existence of CAFOs with their great lakes of residual manure, even with a modern bio-energy converter, are not sustainable for the planet. Small farmers raising their cattle or chickens in a more holistic way, like that exemplified by Joel Salatin of Polyface farms, are far better for the health of the planet. But can the earth really support 7 billion or more humans eating a locally raised organic meat-intensive diet? That answer is probably “no”.

While this post is not advocating you become a vegan or vegetarian, I suggest you check out some cool ways to decrease your meat intake like Meat Free Mondays or opting for only eating meat once a day, like Lance Armstrong. Armstrong says his mostly vegan diet has brought him increased energy where he saw a significant difference after the first month. That, my friend, sounds like it could be a good place to start and might just serve as a gateway drug to a truly more sustainable and more fulfilling life.

Hansen on Climate Change: I Need Your Help

English: Taken at the Energy Crossroads confer...

Climate Scientist and Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen decided early in his career that investigating a planet with a climate changing before our eyes was a more interesting and important area of study.  So, he changed his focus from Venus to Earth. Studying global warming on Earth was nothing new to science. British physicist, John Tyndall ,studied the greenhouse effect in the 1850s.

When Hansen began speaking out during the Bush Administration of the lack of action on the part of government to address climate change, NASA tried to censor him. He used the first line of NASA’s mission statement, “to understand and protect the home planet” as his justification for speaking out. The first line of NASA’s mission statement was then deleted, never to appear again.

Hansen describes the most important conclusion from the physics of climate change. First, related to energy balance, adding CO2 to the atmosphere is like throwing another blanket on the bed, it reduces Earth’s heat radiation to space. More energy is coming in than is being radiated back out; until Earth heats up enough to correct that imbalance. The key quantity is Earth’s energy imbalance. Is there more energy coming in than going out? If so, more warming will occur without adding any more CO2 to the pipeline. We can measure this precisely by measuring Earth’s heat reservoirs, such as the oceans. “This imbalance is equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year,” says Hansen.  That’s how much extra energy Earth is gaining each day.

This imbalance means we must reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 391 ppm (where we are presently) to 350 ppm (where we haven’t been since the mid-1980s), if we want to stabilize climate and prevent further warming.

Climate change deniers argue the sun is the main cause of climate change. But the measured energy imbalance occurred during the deepest solar minimum, when the sun’s energy reaching the earth was at its least. Yet more energy was coming in than going out. This shows that the effect of the sun on climate change is overwhelmed by greenhouse gases- primarily caused by burning fossil fuels.

See his full talk below:

Dr. Hansen describes the role of feedback looks in climate change. Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass and methane is escaping from the permafrost. The last time that atmospheric CO2 was 390 ppm (current levels), sea level was higher by at least 15 meters (50 feet). Dr. Hansen thinks that a 5 meter (18 feet) sea level rise could happen if we keep burning fossil fuels the way we do (business as usual or BAU). What this means is that we will have initiated a process that is out of the control of humanity.

20-50% of species are headed for extinction at the end of the century according to the IPCC.  The Texas/Mexico/Oklahoma heat wave this past year, Moscow the year before and Europe in 2003 were all exceptional events more than three standard deviations outside the norm. This has increased by a factor of 25-50% over the last 50 years. The Midwest and Great Plains in the US, the world’s “breadbasket”, are supposed to be come increasingly effected by drought.

“The tragedy about climate change,” laments Hansen, “is that we can solve it with a simple honest approach of a gradually rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed 100% electronically every month to all legal residents on a per capita basis with the government not keeping one dime. Most people would get more in the monthly dividend that they would pay in increased prices.” This would stimulate the economy and create jobs.

But instead of making fossil fuels pay their true costs to society our governments are forcing the public to subsidize the fossil fuel industry– by $400-500 billion worldwide. This encourages every kind of fossil fuel extraction from mountain top removal to fracking to tar sands to deep-ocean drilling. This path guarantees that we will pass tipping points leading to ice sheet disintegration, species extinction, increasing drought and flood causing massive famine and economic decline.

“I need your help to communicate the gravity and the urgency of this situation and its solutions more effectively,” Hansen concludes, “We owe it to our children and grandchildren.”

 

 

 

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Global Warning, Our Oil Addiction and Living on a New Planet

Narrated by Leo DiCaprio, this clip is based on the book by Thom Hartmann, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late.

“Picture this, a blue planet protected by a thin layer of atmosphere that keeps temperature, air and water in perfect balance to maintain life. In the cold depths of space, this planet is a virtual paradise, the only one know of its kind. And, it is our planet, Earth. But something is wrong…human civilization and our relentless consumption has brought this planet to the brink. But specifically, our addiction to one single resource may push us over the edge. And, that resource is Oil.”

“So get educated, stay educated, so we can think for ourselves and join the fight to save this unique blue planet for future generations,” DiCaprio closes. But, this problem of climate change is not really just a problem for future generations. As author Bill McKibben argues in his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, we no longer live on the planet Earth where the climate has allowed human civilization to flourish over the past 10,000 years, but on a new planet with more erratic and extreme weather. McKibben calls the planet Eaarth. We are now living with human-induced climate change. While  hoping we can still return the concentration  of CO2 in our atmosphere to 350ppm (someday because even if we cut emissions to zero, we’ve already committed the planet to further warming), we must focus our efforts to adapt to that change. McKibben suggests lightly, carefully, gracefully with a focus on local systems.

350.org activity photo climate day 2009
Image via Wikipedia

We also must engage our political system. We’ve seen no seriousness or urgency out of the Senate as the Clean Energy and Climate Change bill languished. As McKibben writes in the Huffington Post (linked below), “Political time is in short supply, too. So far, of course, Washington has done nothing—the Senate is currently considering a watered-down version of a watered-down bill, one that would only apply to electric utilities and only cause the slowest of changes, and even that has not persuaded President Obama to knock heads. He’ll go after BP, but not the GOP—the bill’s great champion, John Kerry, summed up the prevailing strategy for winning votes: “We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further.” “

We can still bring change through grassroots efforts, like those of 350.org, 1Sky and Repower America (links below) and also through the efforts of many individuals calling their Senators to tell them that we need a bill that addresses climate change, carbon pollution and clean energy now. Get educated, stay educated and get active. Your future is now.

Links to Help You Get Active on this Issue:

Where to Find my U.S. Senators Contact Info

Repower America: Together, We Can Solve It

350.org

1Sky

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Florida’s Great Senator- The Oldest Cypress Tree in North America

Senator CypressEvery young student can tell you what are the biggest theme-park attractions in Orlando.  But probably very few can tell you about Big Tree Park, home Florida’s oldest and most distinguished resident, the Senator bald cypress tree. Located in Longwood, FL , the Senator majestically looms high as if he could touch the clouds, above a land blanketed with way too many strip malls and concrete.

Big Tree Park, part of the Spring Hammock Preserve is a nice reprieve from the modernized world and also a nice glimpse back at what Florida’s past must have looked like. Its amazing that the Senator still exists and wasn’t a casualty along the road of Florida’s development frenzy. (In fact, cypress wood was highly prized  for building by early Floridians, as the heartwood is famous for its resistance to insects and decay.  This characteristic is only found in very old cypress trees.)

The Senator has the the distinction of being the oldest cypress tree in North America and also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. Its estimated to be 3500 years old,  and according to Wikipedia, the fifth oldest tree in the world. It is 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). As you can read from the dedication plaque, the Seminole Indians and other Native Americans Indians used the tree as a landmark. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of  the tree, reducing its height by 47 feet.

Continue down the boardwalk and you will meet the Senator’s companion, Lady Liberty, a mere 2,000 years young.

Park admission is free and it is usually not very busy. I like to visit the Senator in different seasons. Its like returning to see an old friend, there is always something different and interesting going on.

Its almost impossible to capture the massiveness of the Senator cypress in a photo. To appreciate it, you will just have to visit in person (about a half hour drive from downtown Orlando).


Map Symbol Maps with Driving Directions [Seminole County Disclaimer]
Location: West of U.S. 17-92  at 761 General Hutchinson Parkway Longwood, FL 32750
Hours: The park hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset seven days a week 363 days a year. (Note:Parks Close at 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.)The park is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Contact: 407-665-2001

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Plus 10 Reasons to Plant (Native to Your Area) Trees in Your Neighborhood

1. Trees Give us Clean Fresh Air– Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Every mature urban tree removes up to 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases 13 pounds of oxygen into the air each year.

2. Trees Cool Our Earth– Trees cool the earth by giving us shade and by transpiring water through their leaves. Trees are known as carbon sinks because they remove the heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

3.Trees Act As Wind Break in a Storm or Hurricane-Trees that are planted and maintained correctly, serve as barriers against strong winds.

4. Trees Clean Our Water– Roots absorb and remove pollutants from the water that recharges our drinking water aquifer.

5. Trees Reduce Storm Runoff and Protect Against Topsoil Erosion– Humans need fertile topsoil to grow crops. The roots of trees hold onto the soil and save it from erosion.

6. Trees Provide Habitat for Native Wildlife and Migrating Birds– Trees provide nectar, nuts sees and fruit for wildlife to eat. Trees also provide another component of habitat, shelter and a place to raise young.

7. Trees Provide Food For Humans As Well.

8. Trees Increase Property Values and Add Beauty to the Landscape– Well cared for trees add 5-7% to the sale price of a home.

9. Trees Contribute to Community Pride and Peace– Urban communities with trees are more peaceful, quiet, and cooler and act as a deterrent to crime.

10. Without Trees There Would Be No Humans– Trees play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest has been named the “Lungs of the Planet” because it provides the essential service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and  produces nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen.

More info on Trees:

Florida Urban Forestry Council

Treelink.org

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End the Cycle of Collective Destruction: No More Offshore Oil Drilling

Oil is a non-renewable resource. That means the supply of oil on planet Earth is finite. Oil production in the United States peaked around 1970 and since has been declining. Globally we are at or near Peak Oil right now. Our modern civilization runs on oil. Everything in our daily lives is dependent on oil, from the gas we put in our cars, to fertilizers, to plastics, synthetic fabrics, lubricants, paints, cosmetics, the list goes on and on. So do we just keep the party going, drill baby drill and wait for it all to crash?

We are already bumping up against limits, a changing climate and limits with how much carbon dioxide our atmosphere will take. Oil companies are taking more and more risk to push the edge of technology to grab as much oil as they can. With all their billions, they lobby against environmental regulation. Now, we are seeing the results at the intersection of complacent government and billionaire petrol giants.

One of the truly saddest articles I read this week was  in Spiegel Online.  It read, Expert Recommends Killing Oil-Soaked Birds because according to studies because less than 1% of the oil-soaked birds survive. The Prestige spill killed 250,000 birds. Of the thousands that were cleaned, most died within a few days, and only 600 lived and were able to be released into the wild. According to a British study of the spill, the median lifespan of a bird that was cleaned and released was only seven days. Do we turn a blind eye  to how this impacts our home and the species we share it with?

This week, US Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, quoted Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman to the Senate’s Environment and Public Relations Committee. “He said that when it comes to reliance on modern technology, ‘Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.’

Nelson concluded his testimony, “Madam Chairman, members of the committee, I believe the ultimate answer to America’s energy needs lies not in oil, but in alternative fuels and new energy technologies. And I think we can help pay for an accelerated national energy program by ending the billions of dollars in giveaways to the oil industry; by making sure it pays all its taxes and royalties.”

Please join Senator Nelson in his call for no more offshore oil drilling. Call your US Senators, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, record a message at the Repower America Wall.

Links to Get You Active on this Issue:

Where to Find my U.S. Senators Contact Info

Repower America: Together, We Can Solve It

350.org

1Sky

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness…. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

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350.org Founder, Author Bill McKibben on “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet”

Ahead of Earth Day and Cochabamba, Bolivia’s indigenous summit on climate change along with the anticipated unveiling of a Senate climate bill this coming week, Democracy Now spoke with someone who sounded one of the earliest alarms about global warming. In 1989, Author Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature but his warnings were largely ignored. Below are some excerpts from that interview.

BILL McKIBBEN: On his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet:  Look, the planet that we live on now is different, and in fundamental ways, from the one that we were born onto. The atmospheres holds about five percent more water vapor than it did forty years ago. That’s an incredible change in one of the basic physical parameters of the planet, and it explains all those deluges and downpours. The ocean is 30 percent more acidic, as it absorbs all that carbon from the atmosphere. NASA said yesterday that we’ve just come through the warmest January, February, March on record, that 2010 is going to be the warmest year that we’ve ever seen.

And we begin to see just in every day in the newspaper the practical effects of all this. Last week it was Rio de Janeiro with absolutely record rainfalls, causing landslides that killed thousands. Today, in the run-up to the summit in Bolivia, in Peru an enormous chunk of glacier fell off a mountainside into a lake, set up a seventy-five-foot-high wave that killed some people and destroyed the one water processing plant in the whole area. These sort of things happen now someplace around the world every single day, because we’ve undermined the basic physical stability of this planet.

On solutions and limits on growth: Well, reversing the trend is hard—impossible, in fact. We’re not going to stop global warming. We can keep it from getting worse than it has to get. For that to happen, Juan, we need things to happen at two levels. One is the governmental, national and global. We need a stiff price on carbon, one that reflects the damage it does in the atmosphere, that will reorient our economy in the direction of renewable energy instead of fossil fuel. But we’re also going to need, because we have a new planet, a new set of habits for inhabiting it successfully.

Our fundamental habit for the last couple of hundred years has been to assume that growth is going to solve every problem that we face. I think now we’ve fundamentally reached the limits to growth that people started talking about fifty years ago. When you melt the Arctic, that’s not a good sign. So we’re going to need, instead, to start focusing on security, on stability, on resilience, on figuring out how to allow communities to thrive, even on a tough planet. And I think that that has a lot to do with decentralization, with scaling down, with spreading out, with building food systems and energy systems that aren’t too big to fail, that are small enough and stable enough to succeed.

On Coal: Coal is the most dangerous substance on the planet, in almost every way—I mean, for the people who have to mine it and for the landscapes where it exists, like across southern Appalachia, for the people who have to breathe the smoke around power plants, mostly in our inner cities, but most fundamentally for the climate. Coal produces more carbon per BTU than anything else you can burn. And as a result, more than anything, it’s what’s driving our climate problem.

We’re not going to have, in the time that we require it, anything that really resembles clean coal. What we need to do is make that transition away from coal, and make it as fast as we can. Job one is putting a really significant price on carbon, so that coal begins to pay for some of the incredible damage that it does to the environment.

On 350.org: Three-fifty is the most important number in the world. NASA scientists have said that any value for carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million is not compatible with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth has adapted. That’s strong language, and it’s stronger still, because we’re past it already. We’re at 390 parts per million or so today and rising about two parts per million a year. That’s why the Arctic is melting. It’s why the oceans are acidifying. And it’s why we need a movement around the world to force political action sooner rather than later. We’re running out of time.

For the full interview, click on the video below:

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Additional readings:

Words of Power: Do You Understand the Power of the Pebble People? For Benazir Bhutto on Earth Day, with Help from Alice Walker, Yoko Ono and Bill McKibben

James Hansen on Cap-and-Trade, Tipping Points and Where We Go From Here

Image in public domain from NASA. http://www.n...

Image via Wikipedia

In a recent interview, post- the COP15 Conference, the nation’s top climate scientist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen discussed his views on cap and trade, tipping points and how we can move forward in the aftermath of Copenhagen.

Hansen also has a new book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity where he discusses these issues at length.

The entire interview with Amy Goodman is visible at the end of this post. I’ve pulled out some highlights.

Hansen says, “I’m actually quite pleased with what happened at Copenhagen, because now we have basically a blank slate. We have China and the United States talking to each other, and it’s absolutely essential. Those are the two big players that have to come to an agreement. But it has to be an honest agreement, one which addresses the basic problem. And that is that fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy on the planet. And unless we address that and put a price on the emissions, we can’t solve the problem.”

On Cap and Trade: “Cap and trade, they attempt to put a cap on different sources of carbon dioxide emissions. They say there’s a limit on how much a given industry in a country can emit. But the problem is that the emissions just go someplace else. That’s what happened after Kyoto, and that’s what would happen again, if—as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, they will be burned someplace. You know, the Europeans thought they actually reduced their emissions after Kyoto, but what happened was the products that had been made in their countries began to be made in other countries, which were burning the cheapest form of fossil fuel, so the total emissions actually increased.”

But what you need to do—and many people call that a tax, but in fact the way that it should be done is to give all of the money that’s collected in a fee, that should be across the board on oil, gas and coal, collect that money at the mine or at the port of entry from the fossil fuel companies, and then distribute that to the public on a per capita basis to legal residents of the country. Then the person that does—that has less than average carbon emissions would actually make money from the process, and it would stimulate the economy. It would give the public the funds that they need in order to invest in low-carbon technologies. The next time they buy a vehicle, they should get a low-emission one. They should insulate their homes. Such actions. And those people who do that will come out ahead. That’s—the economists agree that that’s the way you should address the problem, with a price on carbon. Otherwise, the emissions will just continue to go up.”

On Tipping Points: “Well, there are tipping points in the climate system, where we can push the system beyond a point where the dynamics begins to take over. For example, in the case of an ice sheet, once it begins to disintegrate and slide into the ocean, you’ve passed the point where you can stop it. So that’s what we have to avoid.

Another tipping point is in the survival of species. As we begin to put pressure on species and move the climate zone so that some of the species can’t survive because they can only live within certain climate parameters, because species depend upon each other, you can drive an ecosystem such that when some species go extinct, then the entire ecosystem will collapse. So you don’t want to push the system that far.

And these tipping points are not hypothetical. We know from the earth’s history that these have happened in the past, especially when we’ve had large global warmings. We’ve driven more than half the species on the planet to extinction. And then, over hundreds of thousands and millions of years, new species come into being. But for any time scale that we can imagine, we would be leaving a much more desolate planet for our children and grandchildren and future generations. So we don’t want to pass those tipping points.”

On Atmospheric CO2:What we have now is 387 parts per million. But we’re going to have to bring that down to 350 parts per million or less. And that’s still possible, provided we phase out coal emissions over the next few decades. That’s possible. We would also have to prohibit unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and oil shale.”

On Moving Forward: “What needs to happen right now—we have this great opportunity this spring, I would say, to have discussions in the House and Senate about what really needs to be done to solve this problem. And it’s not cap and trade with offsets. We can prove that that’s completely ineffectual. What we have to do is put a price on carbon, and the money that’s collected needs to be given to the public, not used for boondoggles, like Congress is taking—plans to take the money from cap and trade that’s collected in selling the permits to pollute and to use that money for things like clean coal or to give the money back to the polluters. That won’t solve the problem. We have to give the money to the public.”

“There were a couple of encouraging things in Copenhagen. For one thing, Al Gore made a clear statement that a carbon price is a better solution than cap and trade. And John Kerry also indicated that he had an open mind on that question. So that’s why I say the discussions in the next few months are very important, because the way the United States goes is going to determine the way the world goes, I think.”

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Al Gore and Political Will in the Concrete Forest

As I descended off I-95 into the concrete forest that now covers the city of Miami, I pondered the artificial shade. Darkness permeated while the sun rested high in the sky.

Al Gore at Miami Book Fair Construction raged on even in the early morning hours of Saturday. As the construction workers labored, the homeless slept. The forest was still, despite the jack hammer vibration penetrating the silence.

I looked upward at the pervasive high-rises that the city touts have surpassed 60% occupancy, although that is not obvious from appearance. Too bad that Miami can’t house some of its homeless in these buildings. It would be good public relations for the city, not like the messy shantytown farther up the road.

But that would never happen in the concrete forest. Here, corruption and bad political decisions spread like the invasive melaleuca trees that swallow the Everglades to the west.

It is amidst this concrete forest, I had come to the Miami Book Fair to see former VP, Al Gore promote his book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis(Rodale Books, $26.99).

Gore’s presentation was articulate, engaging and funny. He discussed the more than thirty summits he’s convened around the world, bringing together the eminent voices of climate change science. The good news, Gore told us, is that we have everything we need right now to solve the climate crisis. In his book he outlines some of the solutions from renewable energy to CCS to soil initiatives. We have everything we need, except perhaps ‘political will’. Gore closed his presentation with his classic line, “ but political will is a renewable resource”. Al Gore at Miami Book Fair

As I held that thought in my head, I wanted to ask him about this line he’s been using since before the film, An Inconvenient Truth,  “political will is a renewable resource”. We all lived that. Last November we had a historic election. We voted in unprecedented numbers for change.

We changed our political leadership but climate change still sits on the backburner in the Senate. The US with 5% of the world’s population still produces the majority of the total greenhouse gas emissions. There are some figures that show China- who now holds almost all of our manufacturing jobs- dumped more heat trapping gases into the planet’s atmosphere in 2009. Although looked at on a per capita basis, the USA still holds the award for world’s largest polluter.

We know the historic legislation, H254: American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House this summer doesn’t adequately addresses the severity of this crisis we are facing.

Al Gore at Miami Book Fair “We need to go quickly and together,” Gore said. Yes, as we approach December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen the world’s population agrees, but does the US government? And, how do we get there with the democratic leadership we have? That is the question I wanted answered. Surely, Gore must have some opinion.

But, before I got a chance to ask him, his publishers had me pulled out of the book signing line because I was holding a DVD of An Inconvenient Truth. The line was only for people who purchased copies of their book, Our Choice.

Thus, I am left with my unanswered question and a few photo souvenirs.


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350: The Most Important Number on the Planet

Data collected from ice cores, shows us that CO2 levels have been below 300 parts per million (ppm) for over 800,000 years. We are currently at almost 390ppm. Dr. James Hansen of NASA stated “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350ppm.”

Above 350ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere we risk tipping points- or points of no return and are in danger of losing the climate that sustains us. Some of these include, loss of Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, shifting climatic zones, ocean acidification and loss of alpine water supplies that provide food and water to millions of people.

No one knows for sure how we get back to 350ppm. There are a myriad of ways to lower our carbon footprints. Once we all agree upon the goal and start working together, the path will emerge. Everyday we delay means we are adding more CO2 into to our atmosphere.

“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is our defining moment.”Rajendra K. Pachauri, International Panel on Climate Change.

The best time to act is as soon as possible. The best action to take is as much as possible–individually, nationally & globally.

Check it out @ 350.org

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