How to best use money in order to support green areas?

Posted March 22nd, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

I believe that CO2 levels have increased in the atmosphere since the 19th century, and I believe that one of the noblest ways to counterweight mankind’s CO2 emissions is to support green areas: nature reserves, national parks, botanical gardens, urban parks and single trees. These may help the solution of other environmental problems as well, like land degradation. That’s why I have begun to think on how to make green areas more prevalent. No doubt that in our times, this needs money, and the money should come from the taxpayers as well as those altruistic people who voluntarily support environmentalism.

At the national level, a state can do at least two things from the taxpayers’ money. The first is to reclaim the ownership of the land by buying it from individuals. The second is to lease the land: pay its owners if they use the land as green area. We can see that the first solution would be nicer in the long run, because that way the state would have to pay less annually, as the market value of leasing land might be higher than the upkeep, and it may even go up in the future. By the way, the state could support the green areas of individuals with a very small amount of money, or at least it should not demand taxes for those lands. It is probable though that a state will not have enough money for financing green areas.

The help of altruistic people may save the situation. Their money should be used at least as fair as the money of the taxpayers. The land of Nature should be bought for Nature for ever instead of leasing from individuals or states again and again. It should be 100% guaranteed that the land which has been bought for Nature remains the property of the environmentalist causes and every people. For example, it could be given to an organization like the UNEP, just with 100% sure and just management of rights. That way, more people would feel like giving money for saving the environment, and in time, the areas of Nature would be larger and larger again.

At the international level, it would be the best if every country would have green areas in the same high proportion. Otherwise all the countries should pay a fund annually which would support green areas in countries which have more green areas, easing the sacrifices of greener countries this way. But then it would not be the direct monetary interest of the payer countries to preserve Nature in the countries with green areas, because if the natural reserves were destroyed, they wouldn’t have to pay. An international law which governs the minimal size of green areas in a country would be better.

There is a Hungarian proverb which is in connection with this problem, in English it says “The common horse has scars on his back”. It may even happen in the local scale, because it is not the interest of the local, unemployed people to preserve the nature reserves near them. That’s why I suggest letting local people benefit from the blessings of the green area, independently of their proprietary rights. There is another Hungarian proverb which is in connection with this, in English it says “The land is of those who maintain it”.
Written by Arpad Fekete, a member of TheEnvironmentSite.org. This article is in the public domain.

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/christianrevivalnetwork/2724978790

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Posted March 20th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

As the new TheEnvironmentSite.org is taking shape I am happy to report that more bloggers are coming on board. We are are always looking for more bloggers but we also had some great applications so far. Thanks for this.

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The Cinderella of Climate Change

Posted March 17th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

I attended the launch last week of the CBI’s report Buying into it: Making the Consumer Case for Low Carbon.   With 60% of the UK’s carbon emissions linked to consumer behaviour or influence, it was good to see the new Director General of the CBI, John Cridland, and Chris Huhne MP share a platform together to address consumer engagement.

On several occasions, Cridland called the consumer “the Cinderella of climate change”: long ignored thus far, the consumer has the ability to effect real change.

Much of the conversation focused on the language used to persuade consumers to buy.  Both Huhne and Cridland argued that we need to shift from promoting a ‘green’ product away from arguments about climate change to cost benefits.  Vox pops from the CBI’s research supported this and Graham Smith from Toyota also made a compelling case.

While the apparent consensus was positive, I came away feeling slightly disappointed on two fronts.

Firstly, many of the examples cited and the arguments proferred related to ‘machines’ (to be simplistic): “Choose this washing machine – it may be more expensive to buy, but it will be cheaper for you to run”.  I felt these arguments reflected a rather narrow view of consumerism.  Of course, one has to start somewhere and carbon-emitting consumer goods is a good place.   However, what of all the other things we consume in large quantities such as clothes, cosmetics, stationery, furniture… All of these have environmental impacts too.  I speak to many companies who cannot make the argument that ‘it will save you money in the long run’, despite the environmental credentials of their products, and consumer messaging can be a real challenge.  Companies are sometimes relying on their own eco labels to tell the story but with nearly 350 such labels in existence according to Big Room Inc, this doesn’t always help the consumer make informed choices (this is probably a post for another day).

Secondly, I felt uneasy because there had been a lot of talk about ‘consuming more’ green products and that consumers are driven by ‘price and the latest gear’.  The argument about changing the language of green consumerism points to a drive for greater consumption of these goods.  However, much tougher questions need to be raised about consumption and the role of business and government: we do need to consume differently, of course, but aren’t our levels of consumption a critical issue?  Shouldn’t the discussion be about consuming not just differently, but less?

John Cridland used the event to announce the formation of a new group, representing different industry sectors, “to work out a consistent, clear and mutually beneficial way of getting consumers involved” and invited the government to take part.  This is a welcome move – but I hope they will have the courage to be ambitious in their vision and address consumption in its broadest manifestation.

Stratospheric Cooling and Tropospheric Warming

Posted December 14th, 2010 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have resulted in the warming of the troposphere and cooling of the stratosphere which is caused by two mechanisms. One mechanism involves the conversion of translational energy of motion or translational kinetic energy (KE) into Infrared radiation (IR) and the other method involves the absorption of IR energy by CO2 in the troposphere such that it is no longer available to the stratosphere. The former dominates and will be discussed first. For simplicity, both methods will be explained by considering a model of a fictitious planet with an atmosphere consisting of CO2 and an inert gas such as nitrogen (N2) at pressures equivalent to those on earth. This atmosphere will have a troposphere and a stratosphere with the tropopause at 10 km. The initial concentration of CO2 will be 100 parts per million (ppm) and will be increased to 1000 ppm. These parameters were chosen in order to generate graphs which enable the reader to easily understand the mechanisms discussed herein. Furthermore, in keeping with the concept of simplicity, the heating of the earth and atmosphere due to solar insolation will not be discussed. A short digression into the nature of radiation and its interaction with CO2 in the gaseous state follows.

Temperature is a measure of the energy content of matter and is indicated by the translational KE of the particles. A gas of fast particles is at a higher temperature than one of slow particles. Energy also causes CO2 molecules to vibrate but although this vibration is related to the energy content of CO2, it is not related to the temperature of the gaseous mixture. Molecules undergoing this vibration are in an excited state.

IR radiation contains energy and in the absence of matter, this radiation will continue to travel indefinitely. In this situation, there is no temperature because there is no matter.

The energy content of IR radiation can be indicated by its IR spectrum which is a graph of power density as a function of frequency. Climatologists use wavenumbers instead of frequencies for convenience and a wavenumber is defined as the number of cycles per centimeter. Figure 1 is such a graph where the x axis indicates the wavenumber and the y axis indicates the power per square meter per wavenumber. The area under the curve represents the total power per square meter in the radiation.

http://web.archive.org/web/20110722050916im_/http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/3_BlackBody.gif

Figure 1. IR Spectrum – No Atmosphere

The interaction of IR radiation with CO2 is a two way street in that IR radiation can interact with unexcited CO2 molecules and cause them to vibrate and become excited and excited CO2 molecules can become unexcited by releasing IR radiation.

Consider now the atmosphere of our fictitious model. N2 and CO2 molecules are in motion and the average speed of these molecules is related to the temperature of the stratosphere. Now imagine that CO2 molecules are injected into the atmosphere causing the concentration of CO2 to increase. These molecules will then collide with other molecules of either N2 or CO2 and some of the KE of these particles will be transferred to the CO2 resulting in excited CO2 molecules and a lowered stratospheric temperature. All entities, including atoms and molecules, prefer the unexcited state to the excite state. Therefore, these excited CO2 molecules will emit IR radiation which, in the rarefied stratosphere, will simply be radiated out of the stratosphere. The net result is a lower stratospheric temperature. This does not happen in the troposphere because, due to higher pressures and shorter distances between particles, any emitted radiation gets absorbed by another nearby CO2 molecule.

In order to discuss the second and less dominant mechanism, consider Figure 1 which shows the IR spectrum from a planet with no atmosphere and Figures 2 which shows the IR spectrums from the same planet with CO2 levels of 100 ppm and 1000 ppm respectively. These graphs were generated from a model simulator at the website of Dr. David Archer, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago and edited to contain only the curves of interest to this discussion. As previously stated, these parameters were chosen in order to generate graphs which enable the reader to easily understand the mechanism discussed herein.

The curves of Figures 2 approximately follow the intensity curve of Figure 1 except for the missing band of energy centered at 667 cm-1. This band is called the absorption band and is so named because it represents the IR energy that is absorbed by CO2. IR radiation of all other wavenumbers do not react with CO2 and thus the IR intensity at these wavenumbers is the same as that of Figure 1. These wavenumbers represent the atmospheric window which is so named because the IR energy radiates through the atmosphere unaffected by the CO2.

Figure 2. CO2 IR Spectrum – 100/1000 ppm

A comparison of the curves in Figure 2 shows that the absorption band at 1000 ppm is wider than that at 100 ppm because more energy has been absorbed from the IR radiation by the troposphere at a CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm than at a concentration of 100 ppm. The energy that remains in the absorption band after the IR radiation has traveled through the troposphere is the only energy that is available to interact with the CO2 of the stratosphere. At a CO2 level of 100 ppm there is more energy available for this than at a level of 1000 ppm. Therefore, the stratosphere is cooler because of the higher level of CO2 in the troposphere. Additionally, the troposphere has warmed because it has absorbed the energy that is no longer available to the stratosphere.

In concluding, this paper has explained the mechanisms which cause the troposphere to warm and the stratosphere to cool when the atmospheric levels of CO2 increase. The dominant mechanism involves the conversion of the energy of motion of the particles in the atmosphere to IR radiation which escapes to space and the second method involves the absorption of IR energy by CO2 in the troposphere such that it is no longer available to the stratosphere. Both methods act to reduce the temperature of the stratosphere.

*It is recognized that a fictitious planet as described herein is a physical impossibility. The simplicity of this model serves to explain a concept that would otherwise be more difficult using a more complex and realistic model.

NOTE: This is the latest version of this article: http://www.theenvironmentsite.org/forum/blogs/bob-guercio/364-stratospheric-cooling-tropospheric-warming.html
Copyright 2010 – Robert J. Guercio

The Tobacco Strategy

Posted November 16th, 2010 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The scientific community has established that the burning of fossil fuels is significantly and negatively changing earth’s climate; however, the fossil fuel industry is challenging this in order to protect their profits. They are using a strategy which is not new and was previously used first by the tobacco industry and then by the chemical industries with regard to acid rain, the ozone hole and DDT. Since it was used for the first time by the Tobacco Industry, Naomi Oreskes coined the term “The Tobacco Strategy” in her book entitled “Merchants of Doubt”.

The Tobacco Strategy is predicated upon buying time by sowing doubt. Given enough time, the truth must prevail so it is impossible to win these battles and the Contrarians are fully aware of this. However, if the inevitable is delayed by several decades, that is several decades of profit in the coffers of the industries that sponsor this strategy. Thus, profit is the motive and “The Tobacco Strategy” has been shown to be a very profitable strategy.

Sowing doubt is extremely easy since there is always a lack of certainty in the scientific community. Scientists state hypotheses and develop evidence to support the hypotheses but can never state with 100% certainty that a hypothesis is true. However, even when the confidence expressed by the scientific community is established to be 98%, there remains a two percent uncertainty with which doubt can be sowed among the gullible public.

The scientific community itself is manipulated to sow doubt against itself. There are always elements in the scientific community on the fringes who oppose mainstream science and these scientists, oftentimes with legitimate scientific credentials, are recruited to write pseudoscientific articles and give lectures to the unwary. Sham institutions such as the CATO Institute and the Heartland Institute are created to give the pseudoscience a facade of legitimacy.

In addition to the scientists on the fringe that are recruited, there unfortunately are those that prostitute themselves for financial gain. The financial gain is significant since these scientists knowingly embark upon a cause which ensures them of a negative legacy.

As discussed earlier, the Tobacco strategy is not new and has been used several times in the past. There is thus a wealth of experience from which to draw upon and unfortunately it is being used by the Climate Change Contrarians with consummate perfection. Unfortunately, the consequences of using this strategy to argue against Climate Change will be far more serious than past “Tobacco Strategy” campaigns.

Robert J. Guercio, October 11, 2010

*The information and ideas for this blog come from the book “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill/190269751

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