Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

It stands to reason that larger people eat more than smaller ones, which means that it takes more agricultural production — a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions — to feed them, too.

Basic physics also tells us that it takes more energy to move larger people around in planes, trains or automobiles. And unless that transport is driven by sustainably-sourced power, it makes sense that the bigger people are, the bigger (on average) are their contributions to transportation-derived climate change.

That thesis is codified in this week’s edition of the medical journal, the Lancet, by a team from the London School Hygiene & Tropical Medicine which finds that global obesity is a contributing factor to global warming.

“The researchers pegged 40 percent of the global population as obese,” reports Reuters. That’s a lot of extra food and fossil fuel being consumed that could be saved if people just had healthier body mass indices.

This statement of the somewhat obvious might have the unfortunate effect of contributing to prejudices against the obese, for whom achieving a healthy weight is often far more than a mere matter of will power.

But it might drive something positive, too, in the shape of further pressure upon us all to ask hard questions about why so many people make the kind of nutritional and lifestyle choices that result in their becoming obese. If this research helps further discredit the US subsidization of ‘junk’ calories that reside in products like high-fructose corn syrup, for example, we might be able to both help slow the warming of our planet and give its human citizens a healthier, and longer, life upon it.

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What, exactly, is the world coming to? How worried, precisely, should we be about the state of our climate, our energy system, our food supplies, our water, the air we breath? What really is — or might soon — be the problem with any of these?

It’s hard to keep track and easy to feel overwhelmed.

A good place to start feeling a little less swamped and a little more informed this Earth Day might be this useful round up from the folks at AlterNet: “Eight Reasons Our Changing World Will Turn You Into an Environmentalist, Like It or Not.” To quote the editors:

Alternet picked eight topics — water, global warming, food, health, energy, pollution, consumption and corporations — that pose real dangers to the future of human life and selected a series of recent essays that illustrate these problems, along with links to organizations and further resources that address these issues.

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Today is the first official day of Spring.

It finds Verlyn Klinkenborg, the New York Times ‘Rural Life’ columnist, in rhapsodies. He writes:

“What cheers me, though, is the thought that spring isn’t a human season, not like the seasons we create for ourselves.”

Elsewhere, however, writers fear that even if it’s not of our own creation, Spring is being radically altered by humans.

“Spring, which officially starts today, is starting to dissolve as a distinct season as climate change takes hold,” worries the UK Independent.

This isn’t ‘quaint or charming,’ the paper’s Environmental Editor, Michael McCarthy, insists. It’s another sign that climate change is with us; a confirmation, he writes, that “a profound alteration in the environment, the consequences of which are likely to prove catastrophic, is already under way.”

Over at the AP, Seth Borenstein, remarks on similar changes in the USA. Like McCarthy, he notes the renewed importance of that Victorian passion par excellence, phenology — the human recording of the timing of seasonal biological events.

Borenstein is helpfully specific about why these phenological changes are significant.

“The changes could push some species to extinction,” he says. “That’s because certain plants and animals are dependent on each other for food and shelter. If the plants bloom or bear fruit before animals return or surface from hibernation, the critters could starve. Also, plants that bud too early can still be whacked by a late freeze.”

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A group of prominent Southern Baptist leaders today declared that their denomination has been ‘too timid’ on the issue of climate change.

The authors take pains to note that they’re not necessarily saying that humans are responsible for Global Warming. But they do make the following observation:

“There is undeniable evidence that the earth—wildlife, water, land and air—can be damaged by human activity, and that people suffer as a result.”

We EarthQuakers might have added that it’s not just people who suffer as a result (we’re thinking of the phrase, ‘all God’s creatures’ and adding His plants as well), but we’re glad to see these Southern Baptists following the essential logical of their professed Christian beliefs.

After all, even if you believe that human action is not causing global warming, it’s hard to make a Christian argument for pollution. Indeed, if you believe that “creation serves as revelation of God’s presence, majesty and provision,” to quote the declaration, you should be more conservation-minded that just about anyone else.

“Humans Must Care for Creation and Take Responsibility for Our Contributions to Environmental Degradation,” is the first of four ‘statements’ in the declaration. The last states that “It Is Time for Individuals, Churches, Communities and Governments to Act.”

The document isn’t too clear on exactly how that action should be made manifest, though. It does make very clear that it’s unlikely to involve action on population control, for fear that would sanction abortion (although one could imagine a nuanced, yet robust and still-Christian approach to population control that, for example, does nothing to aid abortion but instead looks to provide every family on Earth with enough security that they don’t need to have a large number of children).

But when it comes to concrete action, the declaration’s a little fuzzy. The group pledges to promote “biblical stewardship habits and increasing awareness” in churches, homes and offices. And it will, it promises, henceforth “give serious consideration to responsible policies that acceptably address the conditions set forth in this declaration.” But that’s as far as it goes.

So we at EarthQuaker certainly applaud the sentiment and salute the logical theological analysis in this declaration. And we recognize that just the fact of it being stated is both momentous and welcome.

But until this traditionally Republican-leaning denomination starts to push back, hard and en masse, and in very specific ways against the many, equally-specific environmentally-destructive actions of Republican-run agencies such as the EPA, we’ll hold off on singing our own loud choruses of Laus Deo!

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Two stories in today’s UK press remind us that Global Warming can be spun as either positive or negative — especially if you live on an island known for long periods of gloom-inducing sunlessness.

“Climate change may kill thousands in UK by 2017,” worries Reuters.

Meanwhile, the BBC tells us that, “Global warming ‘may save lives.'”

Both headlines refer to the same report — from the UK Department of Health.  While more people will survive in warmer winters, the report predicts, more will also die in summer heat.

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The Guardian’s George Monbiot draws attention today to the discomfort that many environmentalists feel when it comes to discussing global population growth. Responses to the article take him to task for positing a false dichotomy between population and consumption, but both the article and the comments are worth a look.

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The new issue of Science reports on “a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States,” the Associated Press tells us today.

“Human activity such as driving and powering air conditioners is responsible for up to 60 percent of changes contributing to dwindling water supplies in the arid and growing West, a new study finds,” says the AP’sErica Werner.

Also in Science recently — a story explaining that “the least biologically productive regions of the ocean–the subtropical gyres–are getting bigger.”

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Here’s a story from the most recent issue of the very mainstream Scientific American. It’s a look at the dramatic effect that newly-discovered reserves of water under the Antarctic ice sheets might have on rising sea levels.

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