How Climate Change Works

Most things in your life contain carbon. You contain carbon. Plastic contains carbon. Food contains carbon. Gasoline contains carbon. Air contains carbon.

We burn carbon fuels like gasoline, oil, natural gas, and coal to produce energy and heat. The combustion process causes the carbon molecules to break apart and combine with oxygen to form mostly carbon dioxide and some carbon monoxide.

We are a major force on the earth, building skyscrapers, a dizzying number of cars, a swarm of air travel, lots of trade and shipping. All these activities put carbon dioxide into the air.


If you’ve ever eaten peanuts or sunflower seeds in the shells, you know how much waste there is. That’s a lot like carbon pollution: we are getting the energy out from the carbon-chained molecules, and it leaves the carbon afterwards. Over the years, we have all these extra carbon gases around. Some of them get eaten by plants to grow, but the plants only eat so much every year. Others end up in the ocean, where they turn the ocean more acidic. If you have ever put an egg in a carbonated soda, you know it will slowly dissolve the shell of an egg!

Eggshells are made out of the same stuff as sea life like corals and clams and some types of plankton use to protect themselves. Having an acidic ocean is bad news for the ocean ecosystems.


The air filling with carbon dioxide makes it absorb and emit more infrared radiation. You can think of this like being in a dark-painted room or a light-painted room with the same lamp. The dark room is darker, because the dark walls will absorb more light. If we live in a world with more carbon in the air, it will mean we live in a hotter world.

But, just like you can read under the lamp in the dark-painted room, you can still find cold places and seasons on a hotter world.


What can we do to not add so much carbon in the air? We can make choices about what we buy, and we can tell the government we want them to work on the problem. We have had pollution problems before, and dealing with them did not destroy the economy. It has saved lives, and it makes us healthier. In the case of carbon pollution, the health impacts are not as direct as things like mercury and lead, but the long-term trends are clear.

Living in a world with too much carbon in the air will make the oceans less productive, which will make human life harder. It will make storms and droughts and forest fires worse. It will add to disease, famine, and social unrest that will bring war.

We have to choose to reduce the carbon in the air.

Do: There is a Bomb

Do: There is a bomb. We should defuse it.

Re: There is no bomb.

Do: It’s right here. I’m touching it. I can feel the ticking with my fingers.

Re: There is no bomb.

Do: If we defuse it, we won’t get blown up.

Re: There is no bomb.

Do: The paper beside it says, “This is a bomb.” Oh! And here’s a defuse kit.

Re: It’s not a bomb.

Do: What is it, then?

Re: It’s not a bomb, whatever it is. And it’s too far away to do any harm.

Do: It’s right here. You could touch it if you tried.

Re: I could not touch it. See?

Re reaches eir hand toward the bomb while taking a step backward.

Do: You stepped backward!

Re: I did not. If anything, it moved away from me.

Do: The bomb’s timer says three minutes. We should defuse it.

Re: It’s not a bomb.

Do: You’ll be sorry when you’re bleeding to death from shrapnel wounds.

Re: I most certainly will not. I will heal and the scars will make me stronger.

Do: I thought you said it’s not a bomb?

Re: It’s not a bomb.

Do: Of course it is. All these wires and the explosives! If that’s not a bomb, what is it?

Re: I’m not qualified to talk about it.

Do: Let’s ask them. Do points to a bomb expert hotline number on the bomb defuse kit’s case. E pulls out eir phone and calls.

Mi: Bomb expert hotline. This is Mi. How can Mi help you?

Do: We think we have a bomb here.

Mi: Describe it for Mi, please.

Do: It’s a big mess of wires with a clock and what looks like paper-covered blocks that say C4 on them.

Mi: Does sound like a bomb to Mi. Anything else?

Do: There’s a piece of paper that says it’s a bomb.

Mi: Yes, Mi thinks it’s a bomb. You should defuse it.

Do hangs up.

Do: She says it’s probably a bomb and we should defuse it.

Re: There are many other experts that say it’s not a bomb.

Do: Please help me defuse it.

Re: Don’t! The bomb is good for us. We should speed the timer up.

Do: Speed the timer up—are you mad?! We’ll be killed, both of us.

Re: I have some bomb timer grease.

Do: Bomb timer grease?! I thought you said it wasn’t a—

Re squirts bomb timer grease into the bomb timer’s gears.

Do: Good God! We only have a minute left! Quick, you have to help me isolate the timer from the primary charge.

Re: Nope. We’ll be better off. Just you watch.

Do: Dead? You’re crazy. I’ll defuse it myself.

Do starts tracing the wires with eir hands, but Re slaps eir hand away.

Do: Quit! This is serious!

Re: I didn’t do anything.

The bomb explodes.


The bomb is a metaphor, principally for climate change.

It’s three short weeks until we get to vote in the 2018 midterms.

The planet needs your help in defusing the bomb.

Globalism and Global Warming

The world continues to globalize, particularly information. One of the results of this is that when we hear news of global warming we confront not just our role in pollution, but our place as global citizens with all the implications.

This is heavy stuff. By analogy, software often must be recompiled to handle new data sources. The worldview, similarly, must be reworked. It requires a reintegration of the umwelt (Wikipedia: “Umwelt”)—the mental environment. It is the sort of psychological upheaval that requires a remooring in the new, emerging culture, but it’s occurring to broad swaths of man on a random, ongoing basis.

Major changes are challenging, and doubly so when the people are in denial. Job losses, relationship turmoil, financial ruin. Sudden awareness of being a member of not just your community, state, or country, but part of a broader order that includes people who don’t watch football.

While Republicans may have other, prurient interests in denying climate change, those may coincide with an aversion to this reintegration. The conservative mind is generally uncomfortable with the foreign (which is recognizable in the right’s zeal for war—the attack on and taming of the foreign). With each report of islands being subsumed by the tide, of glacial melt, of flooding and drought, all in places unpronouncable and unknown to their tongues, the conservative mind is reminded that the world exists beyond its borders and beyond its control.

Like global warming, globalization has real consequences that denial will make worse. Indeed, in many ways they will be one crisis of one cause. And at this late date, both are inevitable, but the harms can be mitigated. But not with current leadership. There are Republicans who have left office who suggest carbon pricing of one form or another. The Republican bloc rejects that, as they reject programs to protect workers from globalization while allowing it to occur.


By carefully using globalization, greater autonomy on some issues can be sent to the local level while strengthening the rights of the universal declaration. Energy consumption and production can be balanced and carbon pollution reduced and eliminated. But it takes the desire to see done, which serving Republicans lack as a bloc.

But change will come. Younger Republicans know climate change is a real threat. Educated Republicans know that global trading is not going away, and that it is a net-positive. The question remains, will change come soon enough?

The 2018 midterms are in about seven weeks.

Earth Matters

Economists don’t bother to calculate the value of a habitable planet when they model the economy. That’s because an uninhabitable planet makes all production and other economic values drop to zero, and the value of habitability is therefore invaluable, like the laws of physics, or the existence of mathematics.

With every passing year, we see the consequences of climate change. We still have not taken the necessary steps to deal with it. As November’s midterms approach, one wonders how an augmented reality election would work. One could see the future that they are voting for displayed in the voting booth. In places like Miami, Florida, certain candidates’ realities might be a city abandoned to the ocean.

But we don’t have future-vision technology. We have to rely on public reports of the science and the meaning and what candidates say and whom they align with. There is guesswork. But the Republican Party has made it clear that they do not stand for or with the planet. They do not take the question of habitability seriously. They take earth for granted. They believe it will always be habitable and that people will just have to suck it up and die if their area is flooded or poisoned.

They certainly don’t believe that people whose homes are uninhabitable have a right to cross imaginary lines in violation of laws. If your crops wither and your soil turns to dust, that’s your problem (unless you’re their constituent, in which case, welfare).


The risk of all of earth becoming uninhabitable is low. The risk for parts of earth, currently inhabited, becoming lost, is a certainty. The longer that Republican policies remain in effect, that we do not take real action on climate change, the worse the consequences will be.

The Republican Party is free to abandon their broken thinking any time they want. They can choose to support the planet we need to survive. They should take the chance to do it before the public opinion climate changes on them, permanently.

Hurricane Thoughts, 9 September 2017

Superfund and Climate Change

Apologies to federal officials that have had their brains altered so as not to be able to read the words “climate change.” The political correctness on the right has gone too far.

Now, with Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Texas coast and in Houston, we have renewed insight to the vulnerability of toxic sites being impacted by natural disasters. We surely need to have the EPA prioritize cleanup of coastal sites, of which there are many given the economic gravity of the coastline in deciding where to live and work. As seas rise and as storm surges and tidal flooding become more common, we will see more disturbances of cleanup sites.

Self-Driving Evacuations

As self-driving cars are soon to become reality, and as the electric fleet model will likely dominate the space soon thereafter, there is a need to understand how evacuations and pricing and (battery) charging events will interact. That is, if the normal demand of a city is one car per six people, during an evacuation scenario it will need to become one per three, or whatever the ramp-up is.

In all likelihood, phased evacuations will be needed, with limited ranges and limited charge capacity on the grid. Ground-zero evacuees will be shuttled up to zone-one, and one-to-two, etc. Meanwhile, a flow of excess vehicles from surrounding states will be flowing in to continue moving individuals away from the disaster.

All of this needs to happen as orderly as possible, and it needs to be lotterial, so all in risk areas have equal chance if the number of seats is too low to accommodate demand. In the near-term, pop-up traffic lights could be deployed as drones with some of the existing vehicle-vision technologies to places without existing lights.

The delivery-first commerce model will require other adjustments for the delivery of water and other preparedness items prior to a storm for those not being evacuated.

Social Rescue Communications

One of the stories that kept appearing during and after Harvey was the use of various social platforms to report and organize rescue needs. There needs to be more integration of social sites, or some better way for rescuers and dispatchers to cover the whole spread of such sites, to ensure that signals aren’t getting lost because of fragmentation in that space. Nobody should be left unrescued simply because they didn’t use the right social media platform.

The key issue there is likely portability across platforms. The ability to easily take a post from one site and relay it to the dispatcher or rescuer on another service with full information and return-contact ability needs to happen. Included in that would also be some requirement that sites not block unregistered or off-platform access (while maybe not requiring they specifically accommodate it). If you don’t have a smartphone, but have a laptop, and there’s important information on a smartphone-only service, that could be a real bummer. Sites need to recognize those situations.