It would go without saying that our experience of the climate is filtered by where we live – the bubble effect. It’s been crazy here in Santa Barbara, much warmer than usual, to go with those ocean temperatures. What about where you live?
It’s not only El Niño we’re talking about, which normally effects Pacific region water and air temperatures, but rainfall everywhere. Here is a map of temperature anomalies for this past summer, globally. You can go to this site and look at maps for other years, such as a previous extreme El Niño,1982-3. Keep in mind that 1 degree Celsius is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
As far as averages go, from weatherspark on Santa Barbara – “the month of September is characterized by essentially constant daily high temperatures, with daily highs around 74°F throughout the month, exceeding 81°F or dropping below 67°F only one day in ten.” We had NO days as cool as 74°F , 16 days warmer than 81°F here, in SB.
Four western states had their warmest temps. on record, January to August. South America had the warmest average temperature in the last hundred years. Most of the planet experienced warmer temperatures. Arctic sea ice is the fourth lowest on record.
Palm oil is profitable. Wildlife, primary forests and their ecosystems, carbon sinks, not so much. The palms are grown near the equator, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. The oil is in innumerable processed foods and personal care products – soaps, shampoos, makeup, toothpaste, bread, snacks, cookies, ice cream, even chocolate (Hershey’s has been working to trace the origins of all of its palm oil, and so far they’ve tracked their sources to 1200 mills!) Those of us who regularly look at ingredients lists will certainly recognize these names and derivatives:
Responsibly sourced palm oil has the cool acronym RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). Currently 20% of the world’s palm oil is thus certified. But it costs more.
The biggest importer of palm oil is India where it is used for frying foods. They use 15% of the world’s supply. The top four consumers of the stuff are India, Indonesia, European Union and China. West Africa’s plantations are next, to help supply needs for this oil expected to triple by 2050.
All land species require them in some way or other, and millions of plants and animals are going extinct as we clear away their homes. A world without trees would not be a human friendly place. An extensive report befitting the scope of the subject was just published in Nature, giving the best findings yet on the global tree population, calculated by a combination of satellite and ground based field work.
The current count of trees is over 3 trillion, far more than previous estimates. However, the planet has lost close to half the number of trees that existed before deforestation began in relatively recent history.
Less than half of forests are tropical and subtropical. But more than half of the loss has been among them.
How many trees per person? Russia and Canada’s boreal forests contain several thousand trees per person in their countries; Brazil has 1494; U.S. has 716; China has 102; India, a mere 28!!
Considerably more than half of all of our trash ends up in ever filling landfills. Besides the sheer transport of hundreds of thousands of tons per day to those landfills, they are the third largest emitter of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Certainly recycling is good, but far from good enough. So called “single stream”, recycling – all in one bin – was to make it easier for consumers. The result is tremendous cost to municipalities and uneven results, including pollution.
Of our recyclables, more than half of them get shipped to China, mostly plastic and paper. (The only U.S. product we ship more of to them is soybeans.). A few years ago in an effort to clean up their environment, China began to reject much of the recycling (the Green Fence) coming into their ports. The great amount of contaminants was being burned and polluting. It is now diverted to other countries for further removal of contaminants, and associated pollution.
Perhaps you’ve heard the news this past week, (so well timed for ecofacts) which must be just thrumming through officeland. In short, for the last FIFTY or so years, building air conditioners have been generally set for the comfort of the average sized (then 155 lbs) 40 year old man, and he happens to have considerably higher metabolic rates than women. Men are warmer, women are cooler, because muscles burn more energy than fat, accounting for this difference.
Of course it was men who mainly populated those office buildings then and were in control of their environment. Businessmen also wore wool suits and ties, while women wore dresses, although often with sweaters and those iconic nylons that thankfully kept their legs warm.
I mentioned the recent plea in New York City to raise thermostats to 78 degrees to avoid blackouts. Well for a decade, Japan’s government has encouraged the country (Cool Biz) to have summer office settings at 25 degrees celsius ( 82.4 F ! ) for energy and CO2 emission savings. It helps that their obesity rate is much lower than ours.
In the 1920s movie theaters began to lure people in during the summer with images of icicles. In the 30s, trains, department stores and some offices got cooler, increasing business and productivity. Much later, large computer systems could not exist without cooling technology. Growth of the south in the U.S. and other southern climes has happened because of air conditioning.
As always there’s a flip side to the benefits of air conditioning. There have been health issues and research is showing it may even be contributing to obesity. But the bigger hugeness is simply energy use. Temperatures rise, the chances of power outages increase, and then there is no relief whatsoever. And most of us have experienced buildings that are simply too chilly, over air conditioned. NY’s mayor just implored people to help avoid blackouts in the summer heat by setting their thermostats to 78 degrees.
Mid day heat is peak energy use time, when the grid is most stressed. What if the work to cool us could happen at night? Recently a very cool company relocated to Santa Barbara – Ice Energy systems. Energy is stored in ice. If it is made at night and used for cooling during the day…. pretty simple, eh? And so effective that Edison has teamed up with them.