Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What’s The Real Cause for Climate Change?

What’s The Real Cause for Climate Change?
"Wasted milk in the U.K. has the same carbon footprint as emissions from 20,000 cars"
- study by the University of Edinburgh, published in Nature Climate Change

We have a natural tendency to blame everything that goes wrong, first of all, on the behaviour of others. A look through human history at sacrifices and executions shows that if someone were not killed because others believed the person’s blame for something, people believed that the behaviour of actually sacrificing a life would solve the problem.

We want someone to blame. When weather patterns began to go screwy, with winters being cold enough to kill people and summers hot enough to cause others to expire, we looked around for someone to point the finger at.

In the case of climate change, as it came to be known after we gave up on "global warming" because some places got colder, the first cause was deemed to be "greenhouse gases" and the greatest emitters vehicles driven by us.

While generally speaking people know more about weather today than people before us did, what we know little about is the history of weather and how climate changes. We--many of us--assumed that climate and weather had never changed radically before in history.

Those of us who believed that were mistaken. Barely 160 years ago the northern hemisphere ended a period referred to in history as "the Little Ice Age." That had lasted for 400 years.

What would you expect to happen at the end of an ice age? Of course, the northern part of the planet warmed up. It’s still warming. Climatologists (the honest and older ones) will tell you that climate cycles back and forth over the years, it never remains the same.

We can blame the warming on vehicle emissions and the Industrial Revolution, but ice ages have always ended by themselves, without human intervention, including with tail pipes.

Vehicles that burn fossil fuels do emit greenhouse gases into the air. This accounts for about 10 percent of what we add. Car manufacturers work to improve the fuel consumption in their vehicles. But why? To satisfy regulations in places such as the state of California.

I recently bought aftermarket (and "exotic") air filters for two cars. I tested both and found dramatic improvements in fuel consumption, meaning I have to buy gasoline less often and the cars emit less greenhouse gases. Have such filters ever been found installed on stock vehicles right from the manufacturing plant? No.

Jet airplanes account for almost as much greenhouse gas in a year as all the cars (about 8%). No government has suggested grounding planes.

Among the worst contributors to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are power generating stations, many of which are owned by governments and all of which fall under government regulations. They add about 25% of all the gases. While there has been much talk of closing the coal-fired stations, the worst emitters, few have actually shut down.

In Japan, where most of the power used in the country before the tsunami came from nuclear generating stations, virtually every station has been closed since the tragedy at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear station. Nuclear power generation produces almost no greenhouse gas emissions.

Getting back to the wasted milk in our opening quote, that "wasted" means milk that was never used for anything to do with food consumption. Down the drain, so to speak. The study says that 360,000 tonnes of milk is wasted in the U.K. each year. Wasted.

Yet greenhouse gases resulted from use of fertilizers that produced the food to feed the cows and the cows themselves contributed a shocking amount of methane (far worse than carbon dioxide) into the air, plus there was fuel needed to transport the milk to the drains it eventually went down.

The study, titled "Global agriculture and nitrous oxide emissions," also claims that if the British were to reduce their consumption of chicken to the level of the Japanese (26 kg down to 12 kg per person per year), that would dramatically reduce nitrous oxide emissions (emitted by soil and fertilizers) by 20%.

"Eating less meat and wasting less food can play a big part in helping to keep a lid on greenhouse gas emissions as the world's population increases," according to study leader Dr. David Reay.

Meanwhile, as the effects of the Little Ice Age ending fade and those who know about it die off, we can expect to be blamed for climate change according to our behaviour.

We can also expect to hear very little about the 300,000 chemicals that industries pour into public waterways each year. And the nearly half a million chemicals that industries chuff into the air we breathe. Who would tell us? Not the industries themselves.

As we learn about dramatic increases in diabetes, COPD (and other lung diseases) and allergies in our children, we must remember that those industries provide jobs. They could provide even more jobs if they stopped putting poisons into our air and water, but we shouldn’t count on hearing much about that either.

We are told that greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for the warming of the planet by a tiny amount. We are not told that industries are poisoning our air and water, harming our health and causing drug manufacturers to make fortunes every day.

As individuals, we can’t do much about the rising temperature of our atmosphere. Industries know that. We could do something about the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. They know that too. But they don’t want us to know.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents to help grow kids who will contribute to their communities instead of bringing them suffering and harm.
Learn more at

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

What's In A Cloud? More Than You Think

What's In A Cloud? More Than You Think

"The amount of microbial life present in the cloud droplets that
make up a winter storm is amazing."- Gary Franc
, microbiologist and plant pathologist at the University of Wyoming, in
The Clouds Are Alive
-clouds/?searchterm=%E2%80%9CThe%20Clouds%20Are%20Alive%E2%80%9D> by
Douglas Fox, Discover, April 2012

Here's an easy question. At what temperature does water freeze or
If you answered zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) you would be with the
majority. If you are savvy enough to know about salt water, such as in
oceans, you will know that sea water may remain liquid down to -4C. And
salt on icy winter roads will melt down to -4C. That puts you in a
If you answered anywhere between -40 (C or F, they coincide at that
temperature) and +10C you would be technically
correct--"technically" because even though this is true in
nature it's not a fact you would want to argue in court, or even
with your mother. It's not simple.
Water in the stratosphere has been found still liquid at nearly -40 and
ice crystals have been seen forming at +10C in some clouds. No, I am not
lying to you. Keep reading so you will learn how these are possible.
First of all, what do you think clouds are made of
-clouds/?searchterm=%E2%80%9CThe%20Clouds%20Are%20Alive%E2%80%9D> ?
Water droplets, yes. (Not steam, which is water as a gas, and that is
technically invisible.) Water droplets tend to form around dust
particles in the air. Generally speaking, when you get smacked in the
face with rain drops each one has at least one particle of dust in it.
Who cares about the dust? Maybe you if you realize that the dust may
have travelled the world more than you have. A dust particle in a
droplet of water in a cloud in North America could well have come from
Africa's Sahara Desert. Or from China's Gobi Desert. Or, who
The well read among us will know that "foreign" dust could have
brought along with it microbes from its land or origin. These microbes,
blown in the wind, hitchhiking on dust, might deliver infectious disease
right to your nose without your ever owning a passport.
True, the likelihood of your dying of a disease blown from a different
continent than your own, on dust, is small. But microbes in the air are
far more prevalent that you may imagine. As our quote at the beginning
said, the air is full of microbial life.
Most of it will do you no harm. But so little study has been done on
this subject that we have no way to know today what diseases and
afflictions we and those we know may get that may have begun thousands
of kilometres away from our home. We may accept that SARS and swine flu
are delivered peer-to-peer by human travellers, but not that other
diseases might be brought to us in the air. From a distant continent.
Kimberley Prather <> , an atmospheric
chemist who heads her own research group at University of California San
Diego, is not shy about getting up into the clouds (even rumbling ones)
to find out what is going on inside. What she has learned is enough to
make your jaw drop.
Think about it: what makes ice form from water, other than the obvious,
ambient temperature? Why do some clouds drop rain while others
don't? The answer in both cases is microbes.
Bacteria, algae and fungi get swept up by wind at ground level and make
their way into the air as high as jetliners. "There's a whole
ecosystem going on in the clouds that's largely undefined," says
Gary Franc.
Two million tons of bacteria, 55 million tons of fungal spores and an
unguessable (at this time) quantity of algae make their way into the
atmosphere each year. Never mind pollution in the air, this is nature in
action. A great deal of study will be needed to determine what effects
these have on our weather, on next year's harvest, even on our
personal health.
Ice will form by itself from water (so far as we know today), but this
happens very slowly (like ice cubes in your fridge freezer). How can
this happen so quickly in the atmosphere when ice crystals form and snow
falls to the ground?
Professor Prather and others have shown that the bacterium Pseudomonas
syringae has a gene in its DNA that prompts ice to form from water
droplets. You read that right. At least one variety of bacteria can
cause water to freeze into ice by activating a gene in its body.
Why is this important? Ice crystals are heavier than water droplets. Ice
falls, delivering water (as it melts) to the land below. If cloud
seeding silver iodide were loaded up with P. syringae bacteria when
sprayed into clouds, drought-dried land could be persuaded to become
fertile again.
That means more food to feed the seven billion (and growing) of us on
the planet today.
It also could mean new ways to control the spread of diseases that seem
mysterious and stubborn to us now.
Stay tuned, the most populous life form on the planet, bacteria, have
much to teach us.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for
Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and
parents who want to raise well balanced children who can have good
lives, not just good jobs.Learn more at