Healing The Ozone Layer

The ozone layer in our atmosphere absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun that could damage life on earth. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, it became evident that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), widely used in refrigerators and air conditioners, were destroying ozone in the upper atmosphere.

The Montreal Protocol banning CFCs was adopted unanimously in 1987 by the nations of the world. Production of CFCs was banned, and they began to disappear from the atmosphere. The ozone holes that had been observed over the earth’s poles narrowed. But in 2012, CFCs began to increase again.

Long story short, they were being produced in China. Continuing atmospheric monitoring, part of the Protocol, showed that. The measurements and likely source were publicized, and, without fanfare, the levels of CFCs started going down again.

This is the kind of thing we are going to have to do for carbon dioxide. It will be much more difficult, because there are so many sources of carbon dioxide and wealthy beneficiaries who are fighting to keep the status quo. But we have the CFC success to look to.

The New York Times reports. Gift link, should get past the paywall.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Forest Service Suspends Prescribed Burns – Too Late For The Sangres

The Forest Service started prescribed burns on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in, I don’t know, April. March? Earlier they had burned slash piles further north. I’m sure that some people closer to the locations of the April burns said really? With all this wind? Just as we did in 2000 when the Forest Service decided to do a prescribed burn on Cerro Grande, the spot where they thought a fire that could wipe out Los Alamos could start.

All those burns got out of control. Hundreds of houses were burned in Los Alamos in 2000. Dozens of small villages have been burned in the past couple of months on the east side of the Sangres. Thousands of prople had to evacuate. Watersheds have been damaged.

I wake up to smoke most mornings, thirty miles away. I am sick of it and sick for the damage to people and land. The house is full of smoke today. I have an air purifier given to me by a kind friend for my birthday that runs continuously.

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The Fourth National Climate Assessment

Friday afternoon the government released its Fourth National Climate Assessment, mandated by Congress. Friday afternoon of the four-day weekend, of course, is a good time to bury it. But we’ve become accustomed to these tactics, and the report did not go unnoticed.

Thirteen government agencies contributed. The report looks solid, an indication that Donald Trump and his climate deniers couldn’t mess with the agencies’ mandates. This is a pattern that has shown up before in sanctions against Russia. Trump tweets one thing, his political appointees toe his line, and the agencies do their job. It’s encouraging that parts of the government can do their jobs. Read More

Basic Science For Global Warming

Over at Balloon Juice, I’ve promised to write more about global warming. It’s the most important problem facing us now. I’ll cross-post here too. This is the first substantive post in the series.

In order to understand discussions of global warming, you need a few basic scientific facts. I’m stripping them down so they’re easy to remember.

Thermodynamics is an imposing word that means “movement of heat.” Thermodynamics fundamentally establishes boundaries on what chemical reactions can take place and what other kinds of work can be done. Facts derived from thermodynamics cannot be bent or gotten around. Heat is a type of energy, so I’ll use the two words interchangeably here.

Fact #1: Carbon dioxide and water result from the production of energy by burning fossil fuels. In order to make them into something else, energy must be supplied. Not only that, but more energy must be supplied than was produced by burning, sometimes a lot more.

Any claim that a process can turn carbon dioxide back into fuels, or that water can supply hydrogen as a fuel, should be met with the question “Where does the energy come from?” If the answer is non-carbon power, the claim may be worth pursuing. If the claim says nothing about energy sources, more information is needed.

Fact #2: Separating something from a mixture requires energy. The lower the concentration, the more energy is required.

Carbon dioxide is about 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, or 0.04%. That is a very low concentration. Any claim of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere should be met with that same question, “Where does the energy come from?”

Windmills get their energy from wind, solar cells from sunlight, and plants and algae from sunlight. Some of the schemes involving them may seem to counter Facts #1 and #2, but careful energy tracing will show that they do not.

Electricity and hydrogen, while clean in their immediate area, are only as clean as their sources. They are energy carriers rather than energy sources – they put a source of energy, say a nuclear reactor, into a form you can tuck into your car or home.

That’s all the thermodynamics you need to understand most of global warming.

Links – September 20, 2018

How I Learned to Embrace Power as a Woman in Washington. Wendy Sherman was the leader of the US delegation to the talks with Iran that developed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This is from her book.

Russia’s Military Intelligence Agency Isn’t Stupid. On how the Skripal poisonings were done. How Russia is spreading disinformation on the poisonings.

The Russian propaganda guide to stealing your roommate’s burrito.

Why Climate Change Matters More Than Anything Else.

Congressional Research Service reports are now available. Short, understandable reports on a myriad of topics.

“We’re the only plane in the sky!” The people who were on Air Force One on September 11, 2001, remember.

Russia Should Own Up to Stalin-Hitler Friendship. Russia still would prefer that nobody think about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.