Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet


The reason some popular posts are tagged ‘no title’ is not because they have no title—they all do—but because the old Blogger embedded the title at the top of text, and the new software does not see that. You can see the titles in capitals at the start of each snippet. (It would be nice if Blogger introduced an upgrade program that could fix this little problem.)

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Wednesday 23 May 2007


If you want to keep your funding, you don't upset the politicians, even at the expense of scientific facts, and even if you are the prestigious Smithsonian. The full report can be read in the
International Herald Tribune.

Money and the maintenance of old habits and institutions are always more important than the planet and the people who live on it. Well done, Smithsonian! You've junked science.

Tuesday 22 May 2007


So ran the BBC headline in an appropriately mortal pun.

Dead. Lock.

Locked in the habits of death. So goes the planet...

That should read unclimate, not UN Climate.

The National Climatic Data Centre of the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration in the United States has posted the preliminary data for
April 2007. Its summary says, 'globally averaged combined land and sea surface temperature was the warmest on record for January-April year-to-date period and third warmest for April. Global land surface temperature was warmest on record in April.'

Precipitation anomalies were all over the place, and the extent of northern sea-ice continues to decline.

The global temperature average on land for January-April was 1.35 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 baseline, and the global land+sea average was 0.69 degrees above, both the highest figures on record. Yet the IPCC says we must not go above a 2-degree increase if we are to avoid catastrophe. And this is only 2007.

Saturday 19 May 2007


An engineer at Purdue University, Jerry Woodall, has developed a stunning new way of making hydrogen from an alloy of alumunium and gallium. You just add water to pellets of it and out pours hydrogen. The waste products are gallium, which can be recycled back into the making of new pellets, and alumina (aluminium oxide), which can be recycled back into pure aluminium, and thus also into new pellets.

The Purdue process would eliminate the need to have hydrogen-storage systems using high-pressure tanks or those problematical metal-hydrides. You can have tanks of pellets and water and produce gas on demand, at a reasonable cost. The aluminium would, of course have to be produced using a planet-friendly source of power, such as hydro, solar or wind, but the process looks ideal. It has been patented. A new company in Indiana, AlGalCo LLC, has an exclusive licence to commercialise it.

If the process is as simple as it seems, it would be ideal for the EStarCar. The central bay in the car's chassis, instead of containing high-pressure hydrogen bottles, would have tanks for pellets and water. You get about a kilogram of hydrogen (12,000 litres) from every litre of water, so not much would need to be carried.

Friday 18 May 2007


This link on the BBC World Service site is a good general look at today's sophisticated climate modelling. The one used at the Hadley Research Centre (part of the UK Met Office) is one the world's best.

Climate scientists have long feared that the oceans, which have been soaking up vast amounts of the carbon-dioxide that we have been pumping into the atmosphere, would reach the point where they had taken all they could take, and would start spitting it back. They would change from carbon-sinks to carbon-sources, and global-overheating would therefore accelerate. Now that process has begun, as the BBC World Service reports--forty years ahead of 'schedule.' This is the
Times' report on the same research findings. And the Guardian's, which is perhaps the best of the three. Australia's Courier Mail makes clearest the fact that the former sink is now a source, that the planet's ability to soak up our stupidity is coming to an end.

The Southern Ocean, the ocean that surrounds the Antarctic, accounts for 15% of the absorption, so the change is signicant. The fear is that all the world's oceans are not far behind in choking on our 9.2 billion tonnes per year of CO2 sewage. Other carbon-sinks also have the potential to turn to carbon-sources, or at very least cease to be sinks. Forests can absorb only so much (see the sidebar stories at the BBC site given above).

As this blog has often warned, things are going to get much worse much faster than the official line would have us believe. We are well past the point of no return. The most we can hope for now is to knock the top off the worst of the effects of this global Black Stuff insanity.

Meanwhile, from the Homer Simpson kingdom of General (which has made more planet-trashing machines than anyone else) there has been an announcement that a million fuel-cell vehicles might be rolling off their production-lines after 2012. That is the very same GM that a few years ago was boasting that it would have a million FCVs coming off those same mythical production-lines by 2010. Nice to see such planet-friendly honesty spilling from the honest mouths of honest-to-goodness peace-criminals.

Wednesday 16 May 2007


As this blog daringly postulated in November 2006, purely from gedunken processes, empirical research has now established that the so-called junk DNA processes genes. But that ScienceDaily report (derived from Nature magazine) shows there is still a long way to go. The full power and detailed processing function of the 'junk' has yet to be revealed and understood.

Tuesday 15 May 2007


Daimler Benz bought Chrysler nine years ago for $US36 billion. Now it is selling it for $US7 billion. $US29 billion down the toilet. Even at GM's grossly outrageous figure (read off-the-wall fictional figure) for developing a fuel-cell car--$US2 billion--that would have done the job fourteen times over. And at the human-scale, real-world costing for the EStarCar it would have done it 58,000 times over.

Hubristic corporate games, once again, have got between humanity and keeping this planet fit for human life. The people responsible for this kind of shemozzle should be tried for in the International Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity and imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

(It is fitting that the outfit that has bought Chrysler is called Cerberus, which in Ancient Greek mythology is the name of the monstrous three-headed dog that guarded the gate of hell, because black-stuff-burning cars are turning the earth into an anti-human hell.)

Monday 14 May 2007


What we call democracy is not a true democracy--'government of the people, by the people, for the people.' It is actually an elected dictatorship, in which a small group uses an occasional popularity contest to win power over the majority. The resulting system is necessarily backward-looking and interested in maintaining the status quo for fear of losing popularity. Capitalism, too often a financial dictatorship, complete with marketing propagandists, is also backward-looking because it tends to keep doing what was profitable yesterday because of its invested interest and its fear of losing money in any change--even a change for the good of the planet.

The combination of 'democracy' and capitalism therefore has massive inertia against change, at the very time when we need very rapid change because the major product of that combination has messed up the planet irreparably. As Einstein said you cannot fix a problem using the same kind of thinking that caused it.

The length of time and the amount of space needed to stop an oil-tanker is an excellent and very apt analogy of the problem. Which is why it will not be solved in time.

Where there is a will there is a way. But bad habits prevent the operation of good will.

Saturday 12 May 2007


Winston Churchill might have been speaking of global-overheating when he said: 'Things do not get better by being left alone. Unless they are adjusted, they explode with a shattering detonation.'

Thursday 10 May 2007


A simple system for converting unlimited fusion-power to electricity has been operating for several decades in what has to be called nothing more than a global pilot scheme. Now that its success has been amply demonstrated it is well past the time it should be used to the hilt.

Virtually every building can be fitted with the system. There is a small drawback in that the only functioning fusion-reactor, albeit huge, is not close enough to the points of consumption to allow easy transmission by conventional means, such as wires, or even microwave beams. But, thankfully, the reactor itself operates a staggeringly powerful transmission system. The result is that enough power arrives every day at the sum of all the surface-points on earth to satisfy the energy-needs of all its inhabitants for over twenty-five years. And the technology used to tap this power is very simple. It is made from purified sand. There are no moving parts. The underlying principle was discovered by a Frenchman in 1839 and the first functioning device was built at Bell Labs in the United States in 1952. If the technology were in use everywhere the use of Black Stuff could cease (except for aircraft exhausts), and the planet would be a far better place.

(For those who have not yet seen the tongue-in-cheek point, the giant fusion-reactor is called Sol, aka the sun; the staggeringly powerful transmission system is sunlight; the device discovered in 1952 is the photovoltaic cell, aka the solar cell. Fusion power is staring us in the face. So why bother with that profligately expensive ITER project in France? If the same amount of money were spent on solar cells that were then given to millions of households we would achieve vastly beneficial results immediately. That 'fusion' dream-or-delusion keeps receding into the distance. The planet cannot afford to wait on its snake-oil peddling.)

IPCC reports are dangerously conservative because they are predicated on mid-range projections and are outrageously watered down for the sake of a careless political consensus, but it is still an enormous pity that no one took any real notice of them. The IPCC was formed in 1988, and issued its first report in 1990. It was not till its second in 1995 that any action was taken--and that was only the Munich Agreement of global-overheating: worthless Kyoto.

Tuesday 8 May 2007


Someone who flies is often accused of having a huge carbon-footprint, but the reasoning is false.

First, the entire airline industry accounts for only about 3% of the total greenhouse-gas emissions. If that was all we had we would have achieved a 97% cut, and the planet could easily handle what was left.

Second, whether that person flies or not does not affect the flight. It will still happen; its fuel will still be burned. There would have to be a mass, ongoing boycott to stop it. And most of the weight is in the aircraft and its fuel, not the passengers. In total they account for no more than about 10%, so adding one individual makes only a very tiny difference to the fuel-consumption.

In contrast the carbon-footprint created when that person drives to the airport is huge. So people who point accusing fingers at the airlines should reserve their venom for what is in their own garages and over at the coal-fired power-stations that generate their power. Or is that too close to home? Better to shift the blame to that extremely horrid 3% up there than face the fact that you are part of the catastrophic 97% right here. Otherwise you might have to think about giving up your own planet-wrecking habits. You might even have to turn thought to action. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarggh!

Monday 7 May 2007


A nice contrast! Last week we had two international conferences. One in Egypt on Iraq, the other on the planet in Thailand. The first ended with mortal warnings and a pile of recommendations, but no promises, no commitments, no money. The second ended with billions of dollars of promises and commitments.

We could handle a meltdown in Iraq. A meltdown of the planet does not bear thinking about. Three cheers for getting the priorities right!

Thursday 3 May 2007


The problem with reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that they begin as science and end as committee politics. The truth gets watered down--i.e., changed to lies of the vested-interest kind. The latest batch of IPCC recommendations, however dire, underlines that, because they are all based on the message that as long as we don't go past a global carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere of 550 parts per million all will be well (see this BBC report).


This article in the New Zealand Herald (amongst many others that can be found by searching on "400ppm carbon-dioxide") shows that we cannot go past a mere 400ppm without guaranteeing catastrophe. We are now at 383ppm, increasing at over 2ppm per year (see the NOAA site). That gives us less than ten years to quit, absolutely, producing billions of tonnes of carbon-dioxide, which obviously will not happen, given the global addiction to the black stuff (coal and oil). The fictitious deadline of 550ppm will underline that sad fact in vast quantities of blood, sweat and tears.

There is also the small but important fact that the IPCC bases its science on computer modelling, and takes the mid line through the data. The actual readings are tracking along the top, heading for the worst.

The mountains at both ends of the earth are telling the terrible truth--see these reports in the New Zealand Herald on the permanent damage that climate ruination has done and is doing to glaciers on Mount Cook (NZ's highest peak) and Mount Zugspitze (Germany's highest).

But the vested interests are not interested. How long do they think we will listen to their falsified reports instead of to the planet?