May 13, 2005

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Energy V   

This is the FIFTH of FIVE efforts to profile global energy issues as they relate to similar challenges with water, climate, and food.

In this issue

  • Wynton Marsalis Letters from the Road
  • Climate - read it now
  • Cloud photograph - view them now
  • Stephen Morris - read now
  • What to read next - read now
  • Subscribe to KF News - sign up now
  • Send KF News to a friend - send now

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    Letters From the Road

    Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York, NY
    Web Link - Jazz at Lincoln Center

    Clippings from the book To a Young Jazz Musician - Letters From the Road
    by Wynton Marsalis, Random House, 2004

    "June 18, 2003

    "Dear Anthony,

    "I've got a lot on my mind that needs passing to you. Today I'd like to cover a good bit of ground:... some thoughts about the three P words - patience, persistence, and productivity.

    "So let's rap about these P words a bit, patience first of all. Patience will enter in through many doors: You need patience with the arc of your own development, and you need patience with your fellow musicians, many of whom will be less than serious.

    "And persistence? You need persistence because playing jazz is a life replete with self-doubt and difficulties that never go away - they just change. Once you get on this road, you gonna be on it. It won't get easier. ...Gravity never stops pushing. Persistence helps you push back.

    "And you have to be productive: What you do is what you will do..."

    The notion of sustainability challenges the self to rethink. It is definitely somewhat like learning music. It contains a lot of history, it has structure and rules but allows endless variations. Marsalis' chosen words to illustrate the process are good ones - patience - persistence - productivity . Three sound guides for moving ahead with a complex subject.

    Wynton Marsalis has won many awards world wide for both classical and jazz performance, arrangement and composition. His masters classes are famous. The web links provide a bibliography and downloadable music tracks.

    Web Link - Marsalis biography     Web Link - Marsalis discography

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    Global Energy


    Climate, of all the energy sources considered here over the past five weeks, seems the most familiar but also the most convoluted. We wake up to it every day - the "weather" - and it is a favorite topic of conversation. But this old familiar friend is suffering a pernicious illness.

    What we see and feel each day is nature's energy system at work - the transfer of solar and gravitational effects into winds, tides, rain and ultimately into food. Left alone, it runs just fine by itself. But, of course, it has not been "left alone" and there are issues with climate that have unwittingly grown from industrialization. Burning fossil fuels for power, industrial processes, and transportation have now skewed the balance of nature and threaten our food stability and health.

    At the launch of the 21st Century we have the following situation:

    The world is growing by 70,000,000 people per year. This growth requires increases in food production and increases in the transportation of people and goods. Both, food production and transportation consume vast quantities of gasoline and both demand increasing amounts of fresh water for life support and for irrigation of food crops. At this point in time, the systems for growing and distributing food and for manufacturing and delivering goods are based almost totally upon energy produced by hydrocarbons (oil, gasoline, coal and natural gas). Burning these fuels releases billions of new tons of carbon dioxide each year into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide has two properties: 1) it makes the atmosphere increasingly transparent to solar radiation and 2) it traps heat reflected back from the earth's surface and thus progressively increases the temperature at the surface of the globe. The increases in temperature change weather patterns, reduce food harvests and produce droughts which then escalate stresses upon the basic life needs of an expanding population.

    This condition known as "global warming" was first observed by Japanese scientists in the 1970's. At that time it was viewed somewhat as a curiosity. But now it is well known that the concentrations of CO2 have risen every year since precise measurements began in 1959, making this one of the world's most predictable environmental trends. CO2 concentration turned sharply upward in 1960 and roughly a decade later, around 1970, the temperature began to climb and continues to do so.

    Variations of the Earth's surface temperature 1000-2100. The temperature over the period 1000-1900 has been reconstructed from historical data. 20th century values are recorded data and 21st century values are those predicted by the IPPCC scenarios. (Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Summary for Policymakers. IPCC 2001.)

    Web Link - Chap. 4. The Green-House Effect, from Air and The Environment
    Web Link - about IPCC

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been established by WMO and UNEP to assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is open to all Members of the UN and of WMO.

    Recognizing the problem of potential global climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. It is open to all members of the UN and WMO.

    The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature. Its role, organisation, participation and general procedures are laid down in the "Principles Governing IPCC Work"

    Related information:

    Food Security
    In recent years, numerous heat waves have lowered grain harvests in key food-producing countries. In 2002 record-high temperatures and associated drought reduced grain harvests in India, the United Sates and Canada, dropping the world harvest 89 million tons below consumption.

    A rule of thumb emerging among crop ecologists is: a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature lowers wheat. rice, and corn yields by 10 percent.

    Temperature is projected to rise as much as 5 degrees Celsius in this century. This increase will be greater over land than over water. One of the higher projections is for the interior of North America.

    Increasing temperature has a dramatic effect on fresh water supply and on the amount water available for crop irrigation. It is predicted that rising temperatures will continue to shrink harvests and will eventually drive up food prices.

    The cause of increased carbon dioxide concentration and the resulting temperature rise comes from two primary sources: automobile emissions and coal burning power plants. The challenge now is how to rapidly implement alternatives.

    For electric power generation there are many proven but less widely used options including wind power, tidal power, hydro electricity, solar energy, geothermal energy and nuclear energy. All of these are in use. As we know, there is strong and growing interest in rapidly expanding (in 3 to 10 year time frames) the use of wind power, solar power, tidal power and nuclear power.

    For transportation there are fewer proven options. Hybrid systems for vehicles and mass transit are the only proven alternates at this time. However, the use of these alternatives could produce huge changes. If the United States "fleet" of automobiles were to be converted over ten years to hybrid system vehicles - such as the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic and others coming to market soon, U.S. gasoline consumption would be cut by 50% - and likewise, harmful emissions cut by 50%.

    Climate change due to CO2 emissions is a fact. How and when its negative effects may be corrected is not known. The quote cited below from the National Academy of Sciences says in part "...the earth's climate system behaves more like a "switch" than a "dial". That is, climate appears to jump abruptly from one relatively stable state to another relatively stable state, much as a light switch responds only after being pushed for some distance, and then it goes all at once..." This represents a frightening prospect but perhaps also represents an opportunity to reverse the situation through quick, encompassing and remedial actions.

    Sources and Resources

    World Watch Institute - Research Library
        Web Link - Energy:Climate Change
    Earth Policy Institute
        Web Link - Outgrowing the Earth
    National Academy of Sciences
        Web Link - Discovery Engine - Reports on Climate

    Frontiers of Science: Global Climate Change
    Abrupt Climate Change Inferred from Thermally-fractionated Gases in Polar Ice
    Jeff Severinghaus
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography

    Recent discoveries from the Greenland ice core drilling program and from sediment cores in much of the world have demonstrated that the earth's climate warmed abruptly, in less than a decade and perhaps as little as three years, during and at the end of the lastice age some 11,000 years ago. The new view that is emerging from these studies is that the earth's climate system behaves more like a "switch" than a "dial". That is, climate appears to jump abruptly from one relatively stable state to another relatively stable state, much as a light switch responds only after being pushed for some distance, and then it goes all at once. This fast speed of change stands in marked contrast to the gradual warming that is generally discussed in the context of greenhouse warming over the next 50 to 100 years. If for some reason such an abrupt event were to happen now, it would be far more destructive to society than the greenhouse-gas induced warming that is generally expected, because society's adaptation to a change is critically affected by the speed of the change. Some modeling studies suggest that greenhouse gas emissions may in fact trigger such a surprise. While the possible effect of greenhouse gas emissions remains speculative, there is no doubt that these abrupt events did occur in the past, and are a regular and characteristic feature of the climate system. In that sense, they are certain to occur again, though we cannot predict when.

    U.S. Department of Agriculture
        Web Link - NRCS - National Water and Climate Center
    World Bank
        Web Link - A Review of Country Case Studies on Climate Change


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    Stephen Morris

    Forward to The New Independent Home by Michael Potts

    "I experienced a personal epiphany one March day in tiny Caspar, California. This sleepy hamlet, just off Highway 1 a few miles north of mega-trendy Mendocino, is on a craggy promontory that plunges down into the Pacific. I was using the pay phone on the porch of the Caspar Inn, a venerable roadhouse...

    "I called back to my office in Vermont. There, it was a typical March day. A warm front had moved in from the Gulf during the night. Snow flurries turned to drizzle, then froze upon contact with the dirt roads, turning them into skating rinks...

    "Meanwhile in Caspar, it was similarly a typical March day. From my perch at the pay phone on the deck of the Inn, I looked out on a sparkling morning, cottonball clouds against a sky of Pacific blue. Less typically, there was a crisp horizon, meaning that you could clearly see the puffs from the grey whales migrating from Baja back to Puget Sound...

    "What's it like out there?" my associates in Vermont asked.

    "Raining," I replied innate Yankee guilt not permitting me the luxury of a truthful response. In truth, I felt incredibly smug. I had the best of both worlds, a home and job in Vermont, and the freedom to travel to great places like Caspar at the times when Vermont is her most gruesome.

    "Michael Potts'... newly revised The New Independent Home...is about people who want the best of both worlds. They want the convenience and pleasures that technology has made possible, but free from the destructiveness and guilt associated with the plunderers of our planet.

    "Michael uses Caspar as the stage for his personal drama... In this way a small local story becomes the embodiment of wider and deeper discoveries.

    "Whenever I visit Michaels' modest abode in Caspar, I am struck by the juxtaposition of nature that lends balance to his life. This is a consistent theme with the new generation of homesteaders portrayed in this book. Not many people want to do without, and why would they? If you can live in a gracious, responsible, sustainable home without squandering natural resources, then isn't that truly the best of both worlds.

    "For a brief moment on the deck of the Caspar Inn, I realized that I'd caught a glimpse of the future."

    The book: The New Independent Home - People and Houses that Harvest the Sun, Wind, and Water
    Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, Vermont - 1999

    Web Link - Chelsea Green Publishing

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    What to Read [ and/or ] What I'll Read Next

    New Yorker Magazine

    Elizabeth Kolbert travelled from Alaska to Greenland, and visited top scientists, to get to the heart of the debate over global warming. In this weekıs magazine, she publishes the last of a three-part series on climate change; the first and second parts are here online. Below, she discusses the series with Amy Davidson.

    New Yorker Magazine - April 25, 2005 - The Climate of Man - I, by Elizabeth Kolbert
    New Yorker Magazine - May 2, 2005 - The Climate of Man - II, by Elizabeth Kolbert
    New Yorker Magazine - May 9, 2005 - The Climate of Man - III, by Elizabeth Kolbert

    Web Link - Q.& A. - A Planetary Problem, the interview with Elizabeth Kolbert

    George Beggs 5/2005 - Feedback is welcome

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