Gerry LaPlante's Page on the SA Problemsolvers Wiki

Article #5 01/31/09 Colleges Turn to Wood Chips for Heat - and Education

by Kate Galbraith 1/15/09 New York Times Green Inc. Blog

Colleges Turn to Wood Chips

Middlebury College just fired up a $12 million biomass gasification boiler which will reduce the College's heating oil consumption by a million gallons per year.It is projected to pay for itself in half of its 25 year lifespan. The power plant is located right in the center of campus, which makes fuel storage an issue, but allows campus tours a very interesting stop. The wood chip fuel is as "green" as possible, coming from logging and paper mill operations within 75 miles of campus. The College will also experiment with growing willow trees as a possible fuel supply even closer to campus. The trees will, of course, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as they grow.

Article #1 01/10/09
From the 01/06/09 Tehran looks to the skies for cheap power from the sun

Iran has started up a concentrating solar power (CSP) system which converts abundant solar energy into steam powered electricity generation. Each day, the Earth receives about 10,000 times more solar energy than its population needs; in places with clear skies and abundant sunshine (i.e. deserts) this technology is cheaper and more efficient that other alternative/renewable sources such as photovoltaics. Spain is a leader in this technology, with over 50 implementations planned for their country, and they are now exporting the technology to other countries.

Because of the massive amounts of solar energy bombarding the Earth each day (10,000 the daily energy use of the entire human population), technologies such as this will be critical in serving the electricity needs of the growing world population as we move away from fossil fuels.

Article #2 01/17/09

From the Regina Leader-Post 01/08/09 Despite deep chill, global warming is still a peril


People have a tendency to look at the weather (short term/short range) and make skeptical comments about global climate change whenever they experience the shocking cold of the winter season.
"If we look at the trajectory over the last 160 years, it overlays a large natural variability, and that's what causes confusion. The major trend is unmistakably one of warming," Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said.
Over the long haul, average global surface temperatures have climbed significantly -- between 0.75 and 1.0 degrees Celsius (1.35 and 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) -- since 1850, when accurate weather statistics were first recorded. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has said that by century's end, the increase will very likely be 2.4 to 4.0 C (4.3 to 7.8 F). Exactly how much will depend on the extent to which humans can reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas.
We must not forget that global climate is much different than the weather patterns to which people are so tuned.
Cold snaps are routinely seized upon by a dwindling rearguard of climate skeptics as "proof" that climate change is exaggerated or an outright fabrication, according to Jean Jouzel, one of France's leading climate scientists. But that is no reason for serious climate scientists to exaggerate either, he added. "It also up to us to be careful to not say every time we have a hot summer, 'See, it's global warming!'," he said.

Article #3 01/17/09

From the International Herald Tribune 08/04/09 Convincing the skeptics

Published: August 4, 2008 by John P. Holdren

Climate change skeptics, who generally have little scientific credential, typically go through three phases. First, they deny that the climate is changing in substantive ways. Next, they agree that it is changing and humans are probably to blame, but that it really doesn't matter, as the changes will not affect life on Earth. Finally, they admit that the Earth is in trouble, but argue that it is too late to do anything about it.

Members of the public who are tempted to be swayed by the denier fringe should ask themselves how it is possible, if human-caused climate change is just a hoax, that:
The leaderships of the national academies of sciences of the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and India, among others, are on record saying that global climate change is real, caused mainly by humans, and reason for early, concerted action.

The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous. It has delayed - and continues to delay - the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge. The science of climate change is telling us that we need to get going. Those who still think this is all a mistake or a hoax need to think again.

What was being said in 1998?

Article #4 01/24/09
by Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,, January 22, 2009

Global warming increasing death rate of US trees, scientists warn

Studies find wide range of tree species are dying with serious long-term effects for biodiversity and carbon dioxide release
Since 1955 the rate of tree death among the hemlocks, firs and pines, which dominate the forest at all altitudes in the western US, has more than doubled. A large scale study led by Philip van Mantgem of the US Geological Survey, has ruled out factors such as overcrowding and air pollution (i.e. low level ozone levels and acid rain have decreased during the same time period). Normally it is the younger trees in a forest that die off more rapidly because of the domination by the older, more established, large trees; the increased tree death in this study has impacted trees of all ages equally.
The researchers in this study think that global warming is the most probable cause for the increased tree death rate. (From the 1970s to 2006, the period that includes most of the surveyors' tree data, the average annual temperature of the western US increased by 0.3C-0.4C, and increased even more at the higher elevations that are normally covered in forests.) The increased temperatures also foster the growth of parasitic bark beetles which have contributed to the death rate.

The worst aspect of this story is that increased tree death, like the loss of polar ice, contributes, in a positive feedback loop, to the runaway carbon dioxide level which make the greenhouse effect and subsequent global warming even worse in an exponential manner. Trees, of course, are a great carbon sink, which remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to carry out photosynthesis. In addition, the decay process of the dead trees expels carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby making tree death.

H.O.T. Log #1

Global Warming or Global Climatic Disruption? G. LaPlante

The problem of global climate change is commonly called global warming in media and conversation. This is very soft terminology, because the word warm has a pleasing connotation. From our earliest human moments, we learn that warmth is gentle and comforting. John Holdren is Professor of Environmental Policy and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, as well as being Director of The Woods Hole Research Center and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Thomas Friedman reports that Holdren has called global warming a misnomer because it implies a “uniform, gradual, mainly about temperature, and quite possibly benign” set of scientific observations. Holdren subsequently coined the phrase global climatic disruption as a more accurate term, and Friedman took it a step further with the phrase global weirding.[[#_ftn1|[1]]] In fact, Friedman has used a strong version or warm, hot, as an important component in the title of his latest book.
It can be argued that, in addition to the scientific, political, and economic dimensions of the topic of global climate change, there are significant psychological components. Use of the innocuous term global warming has fueled the positions of climate change denial and skepticism; these positions hold that this global problem is insignificant and should not be a cause of human worry. Conversely, the scientific community is clearly aligned behind the volumes of quality data that indicate the serious nature of the problem, but scientists tend not to be alarmists. Therefore, in discussing the reality of climate change, they have a tendency to understate the seriousness of the problem because they have definite ideas of how the problem can be solved. This understatement can have dramatic psychological implications, however, as the general public, which favors the status quo, gets lulled into a state of complacency.
We should all immediately begin to use the dramatically active phrase global climatic disruption. It implies specifically identifiable causes, such as the burning of fossil fuels by humans, and challenges us to action as we attempt to mitigate the disruption and restore the comfortable long-term equilibrium of life on Earth.

[[#_ftnref|[1]]] Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2008), page 134.