This week President Obama announced his plans for outflanking Congress with regard to global warming by implementing a series of executive orders that don’t need congressional approval. Foremost among these orders is one that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to require caps on the carbon emissions of power plants. Coal burning power plants produce roughly 40% of the global-warming CO2 produced by the United States (and possibly a larger proportion of the CO2 produced by China, a country outside the jurisdiction of the EPA).
The reaction by the coal industry? Shock if not awe. The immediate responses of that industry tended to be focused on the jillions of jobs that would be lost by coal miners, operators of the forecast-to-be-shut-down coal-fired power plants, small businesses that would be adversely affected by the higher costs of plants using alternative energy sources and so on down the impact-chain of dominoes. Free-market war is about to be declared: the carbon requirers versus the carbon eschewers.
Continue reading The coming Carbon wars
In mid-May the atmospheric carbon dioxide measurement at Mauna Loa in Hawaii hit 400 parts per million (ppm). The scientists of the world (at least 95% of them) have declared that 450 ppm is the point where it may cause the atmosphere to warm to at least 2° Celsius, to the point where it was 3 million years ago (when sea levels were 75 feet higher). That, according to many forecasts, could produce many serious climate change events such as extra strength hurricanes and tornadoes—like the one that leveled parts of Moore, Oklahoma last week—not to mention inundation of all low-lying coastal areas.
Yet, apart from the immediate victims of these catastrophic events, most of us are blithely unconcerned about the omens such disruptions represent. It reminds me of the old fable about the frog in a pan of water. Continue reading Passing 400 on the way to the frog test
I have commented in the past about the ability of telework to mitigate the effects of disasters but hurricane Sandy gives a new twist to the issues. Most of the disasters that occur in places like California tend to be of the earthquake variety. The central effect of earthquakes is that ruptures in land surface break roads, bridges, and highways, with the disruptions lasting sometimes for months or even years at a time. Yet the information infrastructure—the telephone network, Internet and electrical power networks—tends to survive the earthquake or is quickly repairable. In these cases organizations that telework can continue operations with no or few interruptions. This is generally the case in non-earthquake related disasters as well, including blizzards, floods and fires where the roads may be blocked but the information infrastructure is intact.
However, in the case of disasters like major hurricanes and floods the situation can get a little more complicated. Continue reading Telework, disasters, and how to overcome them
I’m writing this as Hurricane Sandy is drenching and/or flooding the East Coast of the United States. It’s an appropriate time to wonder why, just a week before the vote in this very heated and close presidential campaign, neither of the contenders has mentioned climate change in any recent speeches or debates. Well that’s not exactly the case, Pres. Obama did discuss climate change in a recent interview by Sway Calloway, a reporter from MTV.
Still, I should point out that most reference to the problems of climate change by either contender have been indirect at best. Pres. Obama explains that this is simply because no one has asked him about climate change in any of the recent debates. Governor Romney, on the other hand, seems to feel that the human-engendered part of climate change is a hoax perpetrated by liberals meaning to somehow penalize the coal and oil industries. Continue reading Sandy, climate change, politics and telecommuting