Early Warning Signs

Title: Global Warming: Early Warning Signs
Grade Level: High school
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Other curriculum studies

Blooming Thermometers

Title: Blooming Thermometers
Grade Level: Middle School
Source: National Center for Atmospheric Research

Budburst Protocol

Title: Budburst Protocol
Grade Level: All
Source: GLOBE

May 9th, 2011

As it stands, we are facing what is likely to be centuries, if not millenia, of a much hotter planet than the one we evolved on. The sooner we address the main source of our contribution to global warming, fossil fuels, the sooner we'll be able to focus on adapting to the changes, and looking at bringing down the planetary fever. A multi-century effort is a daunting prospect, but a recent analysis of the warming event 56 million years ago indicates that it may not have lasted as long as we originally feared, a result which shines another ray of hope on our own situation.

California home values increase by the cost of installed PV systems

375 mile EV battery confirmed

Cheaper hydrogen fuel cells: utility of non-precious-metal catalysts documented

Google invests $100M in (another!) wind farm

Progress on renewable liquid fuel through solar and wind power

U.S. farmers mostly avoiding negative impacts from global warming, so far

Models predict that climate change won't harm wind energy production

Saline "leakage" in Agulhas oceanic current could counteract the effects of Atlantic meltwater, and stabilize the Atlantic overturning circulation This is especially good news, if confirmed, because it will make deep-sea oceanic de-oxygenation much less likely!

Why clean energy can scale today (blog post)

Clean energy "job boom" in Michigan

Offshore wind power capacity to boom in the next six years

Transparent photovoltaic cells turn windows into solar panels

Solar-thermal flat-panels that generate electric power AND electricity

Surge in solar panel installations on UK household roofs

Genetically engineered viruses used to help in nanotech photovoltaics

"Green crude" grown from algae

Local Impacts

Climate change is a huge, scary, dramatic problem, which strikes at the very foundation of our civilization as it stands today. As such, it has generated a lot of controversy; those that oppose stepping off the familiar path that leads to the dragon's cave have, for the most part, controlled the tone of the international debate.

In trying to win over the general public, the environmental movement has fallen back on tactics that have worked in the past. They have shown us a future of drowning polar bears, of dead coral reefs, and of terrifying storms that wipe cities off the map. All of these are real risks, to be sure, but it puts the whole issue in the wrong terms. Like saving the rainforest, or the whales, it puts the issue in terms of a problem that is far away - we can take action if we want, but not doing so won't hurt us.

Unlike rainforest destruction, however, global climate change is everywhere, and so are its impacts. If you want to see the changes being wrought in the world around you, you don't need to go to the North Pole or Amazonia- you can simply walk out the door and observe.

So why isn't this getting any press coverage? Why, if the signs are all around us, are we even having this debate?

The main problem is that the signs around us are subtle. If you walk out the door and look around, you get a snapshot - nothing close to the amount of data you'd need to tell if changes are going on.

The changes are happening, though, and it is important to pay attention to them. While debates rage in politics, and atmospheric physicists try to distill their lives' work into talking points, scientists and naturalists are doing what they always do - they are observing and recording the world around them, and they are carefully putting together a thousand local stories.

The story of how the maple sugar industry is suffering in Vermont. The story of how the redwing blackbird is arriving earlier in New Hampshire. The stories of how cold-water fish are moving north in Maine and Connecticut. There are many of these stories, and most of them say the same thing: whether humans agree on it or not, the world is changing, and all around the planet, life is on the move.

The sensational stories are still important. Pity the polar bear, and fight for its survival by all means, but just as important are the stories that we ourselves are living in. The characters of a novel, or of a movie, never consider themselves to be part of some great tale, and yet when we step back and look at the story as a whole, we can see how they fit in, and the part they played. We are, today, in the midst of a planetary change the likes of which civilization has never seen, and we have the opportunity to watch the story as it unfolds in our own lives. What day did the buds open in the tree outside your window?