Archive for the 'global warming' Category

Jun 10 2008

SAVE THE EARTH – A FAIR TAX

Sorry. Sorry. A heartfelt penguin apology for not writing sooner.
We have been busy here in the land of ice and snow.

Many young people write us asking what they can do to save the earth. Of course, none of us have gone to school, let alone college. We have what we call “ice smarts” – you call it street smarts. But there is a very smart man who has a very simple but very smart idea about what can be done. James Hansen works for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and teaches Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.



His plan is called “Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend.” We’ll do our penguin best to describe it. Taxing fossil fuels raises the prices of fuel but spurs reduced use. That is what is absolutely necessary today. Reducing the use of the fuel that drives global warming. Unfortunately, there are those who are fighting against the global movement to drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels – and the drive to increase the use of renewable fuels.

Of course, there are many different ways of taxing oil and gas and coal. Many allow companies to buy and sell the right to use energy. Many proposals are about business as usual and are designed by and favor the wealthy users of energy.


James Hansen’s plan
starts when fossil fuel energy is first sold – “within the
country or at the last (e.g., at the gas pump), but it can be collected easily and reliably.
You cannot hide coal in your purse; it travels in railroad cars that are easy to spot.”

So all users of coal, oil and gas are taxed. The question is how does the system work and how do you protect average working people.

Hansen continues:

A carbon tax will raise energy prices, but lower and middle income people, especially,
will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. Product demand will
spur economic activity and innovation. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus
economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases. Effects
will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport
will become more expensive and vice versa – it is likely, e.g., that the UK will stop
importing and exporting 15,000 tons of waffles each year. There will be a growing price
incentive for life style changes needed for sustainable living.

There is a price to be paid for addressing the climate crisis; but the price has to be paid fairly.

Hansen argues that there is a simple way to build in fairness:

The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit to their
bank accounts, an equal share to each person (if no bank account provided, an annual
check – social security number must be provided). No bureaucracy is needed to figure
this out. If the initial carbon tax averages $1200 per person per year, $100 is deposited in
each account each month (Detail: perhaps limit to four shares per family, with child
shares being half-size, i.e., no marriage penalty but do not encourage population growth).

The price is oil is rising all over the world. The cost of producing and delivering food is rising. Working people are suffering as prices rise. An unfair tax system will only make things worse. Here is what Hansen has to say:

The worst thing about the present inadequate political approach is that it will generate
public backlash. Taxes will increase, with no apparent benefit. The reaction would
likely delay effective emission reductions, so as to practically guarantee that climate
would pass tipping points with devastating consequences for nature and humanity.



Americans, in particular, are always concerned about how the government spends their tax money. Hansen has some strong ideas about all this.

Carbon tax and 100% dividend, on the contrary, will be a breath of fresh air, a boon and
boom for the economy. The tax is progressive, the poorest benefitting most, with
profligate energy users forced to pay for their excesses. Incidentally, it will yield strong
incentive for aliens to become legal; otherwise they receive no dividend while paying the
same carbon tax rate as everyone.

Special interests and their lobbyists in alligator shoes will fight carbon tax and 100%
dividend tooth and nail. They want to determine who gets your tax money in the usual
Washington way, Congress allocating money program-by-program, substituting their
judgment for that of the market place. The lobbyists can afford the shoes. Helping
Washington figure out how to spend your money is a very lucrative business.

But we can save the planet and alligators by making sure that not one thin dime of the
carbon tax is siphoned off by lobbyists for their clients – 100% must be returned to
citizens as dividend. Make this your motto: “100% or fight! No alligator shoes!”




We started this blog to help you understand what is happening to our world. We are only penguins after all.

We have no vote. We pay no taxes. But you do.

Go to James Hansen’s website and read more.

Save the Ice. Save the Earth. Save our Home.



No responses yet

Jan 18 2008

PENGUINS: ON THIN ICE

If you are reading this, it’s probably because you have been thinking about penguins, or about global warming and climate change, maybe wondering how we are doing, or maybe about your future.

These are scary and complicated times for all of us.

adeliewalkinggeorgefmobley.jpg
Adélie 422 walking – Photo: Geroge F. Mobley



The news down South is not very good. And for that matter, it’s even worse up North. I’ll talk about that in just a minute. But there’s one thing that really confuses me. Now that I’m surfing the web – interesting choice of words for a penguin – I read a lot of newspaper reports about the climate crisis. And, of course, the comments that readers post. Have you ever taken the time to read those comments?

So many of you humans are so very angry. You’re angry at the newspaper for printing the reports. You’re angry at your scientists for telling you about rising levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, rising sea levels and melting ice. About disappearing glaciers. Check it out: angry comment after angry comment.

What’s going on? Is it so very hard to acknowledge what is happening before your very eyes? Here’s a picture of the Boulder Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana, US in 1932.

boulderglacier1932mt.jpg


And a photo taken in 2005:

boulderglaciermt2005.jpg



It’s gone. Do you want to blame the scientists?

Is it so very hard to understand that the Earth is paying a price for all the coal you burn to keep your cities lit so bright? When did you become so afraid of the dark? Is it so very hard to understand that there is a price to be paid for the SUVs you drive to the malls you shop in? Where is it written in your holy books that each man and woman needs to have a car, two cars, three? That it is too much of an inconvenience to ride together in buses and train and trolleys? That you need second homes and motor boats and private airplanes?


Anyway here’s a quick update of the latest news. Antarctica, our home, our ice is melting. TV3 in New Zealand reports:

The ice shelves of Antarctica are collapsing faster than scientists could ever have predicted, loosened by warming climate conditions – warm air and warm water is compromising the existence of the entirety of the Antarctic ice sheet as global temperatures rise.

Dozens of ice shelves are steadily breaking apart – three major ice shelves have disintegrated in recent times, one of which taking mere days to collapse …

During the last 15 years, almost 90% of the glaciers observed by scientists in Antarctica have shown significant levels of retreat.



adeliesfranslemmensgetty.jpg
Adelie penguins – Photo: Frans Lemmens



Our dear friends, the Adélies, founding members of Penguins United, are in deep trouble. The melting ice is a matter of life and death for the Adélies. A National Geographic headline asks “Antartica’s Adelie Extinct in a Decade?”

Adélie penguins in Antarctica are in the midst of a major upheaval as climate change causes their icy habitat to warm up, experts say.

Some populations of the birds are thriving, but most are declining rapidly.

The penguins rely on winter sea ice as a platform for feeding on ocean krill.

But they also need the ice to shrink in the summer so they can access their breeding colonies on land.

The mid-latitudes of the Antarctic Peninsula once provided the perfect habitat for the penguins—but not anymore.

“That region has experienced the most rapid warming during winter on the planet,” said Bill Fraser, an ecologist with the Polar Oceans Research Group in Sheridan, Montana.

“The mid-winter temperatures are now around 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit [6 degrees Celsius] higher than they were 50 years ago.”



Help the Adélies. Save the Ice. Save our Home.





No responses yet

Dec 18 2007

BALI, SCHMALI

Well there is the small victory to celebrate at Bali – the U.S. was frightened enough by the threatened boycott of its January conference to refrain from preventing an agreement.

But from the point of view of the rest of the world – the non-humans of this world – it was pretty sad. It is very disappointing to penguins around the world that after so much talk, the best you humans can come up with is an “agreement” for a “new framework” for two more years of talk.


emperorsafp.jpg
Emperors – Photo: AFP



Meanwhile during the Bali conference, we learned from new studies that 4 species of penguin are in great peril, the Arctic ice is melting far faster than any of your scientists predicted, carbon dioxide levels are the highest in 650,000 years and that our coral reefs are in danger.


George Monbiot pointed out how little has changed by quoting the following:

“After 11 days of negotiations, governments have come up with a compromise deal that could even lead to emission increases. The highly compromised political deal is largely attributable to the position of the United States, which was heavily influenced by fossil fuel and automobile industry interests. The failure to reach agreement led to the talks spilling over into an all-night session.”

These are extracts from a press release by Friends of the Earth. So what? Well it was published on December 11 – I mean to say, December 11 1997. The US had just put a wrecking ball through the Kyoto protocol … Its climate negotiators were led by Albert Arnold Gore.

The European Union had asked for greenhouse gas cuts of 15% by 2010. Gore’s team drove them down to 5.2% by 2012. Then the Americans did something worse: they destroyed the whole agreement.



moonabovefeegletscherfairyglaciersaas-feeswitizerlandafpfabrice-coffrini.jpg
Moon above Feegletscher, Switzerland – Photo: AFP/Fabrice Coffrini



As for Bali, Monbiot declares:

There are still two years to go, but so far the new agreement is even worse than the Kyoto protocol. It contains no targets and no dates.



While the climate negotiators were negotiating, this is some of what we learned. It was a very bad year for walruses. The AP reports:

In what some scientists see as another alarming consequence of global warming, thousands of Pacific walruses above the Arctic Circle were killed in stampedes earlier this year after the disappearance of sea ice caused them to crowd onto the shoreline in extraordinary numbers …

”It was a pretty sobering year — tough on walruses,” said Joel Garlach-Miller, a walrus expert for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

manydeadwalrusesarctic-circlephotoanatoly-a-kochnevap.jpg
Dead walruses, Arctic Circle – Photo: A Kochnev/AP

Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely. The giant, tusked mammals typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto land for just a few weeks at a time.

But ice disappeared in the Chukchi Sea this year because of warm summer weather, ocean currents and persistent eastern winds, Garlach-Miller said.

As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a ”haulout” for a century, scientists said.

Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing to the water.


And as the ice melts and thins, the polar bears suffer. The polar bears die. Paul Richards of AFP writes that climate change has reduced the time polar bears can hunt for the food they need.


polarbearcubshudsonbayafppaul-j-richards.jpg
Polar bear and cubs, Hudson Bay – Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP


“For many years, there were 1,600 to 2,200 of our polar bears, called the western Hudson Bay sub-population,” Bonnie Chartier, a Churchill native who works as a guide for tour groups who come to this northern town to spot the world’s largest bear, told AFP.

“Now they’re saying there are about 965. Boom! In a very short span of time, we have a much smaller population and this has been attributed to global warming,” she said.

Polar bears are carnivores, and the seals that live in the Hudson Bay are their favorite meal.

They hunt when the bay is frozen, venturing far out on the thick ice and waiting patiently for a seal to pop its head out of the water for air.

They spend the part of the year when the bay is not frozen on land, fasting.

“In the last 20 years, our bears have been coming off the ice two weeks earlier and going out about one week later, so you’ve taken three weeks’ hunting time out of their diet, including the crucial spring weeks, when seals are pupping. Seal pups are easier prey for the polar bears,” Chartier said.

“The bears are having a harder time. They’re not able to put on enough weight to carry themselves through the whole fasting season,” she said.



As the politicians were arguing, we also discovered that thanks to climate change the oceans are rising faster than scientists predicted. The BBC reports on a study published by the journal, Nature Geoscience:

The world’s sea levels could rise twice as high this century as UN climate scientists have previously predicted, according to a study.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes a maximum sea level rise of 81cm (32in) this century.

But in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers say the true maximum could be about twice that: 163cm (64in).

They looked at what happened more than 100,000 years ago – the last time Earth was this warm.

The results join other studies showing that current sea level projections may be very conservative.

Sea level rise is a key effect of global climate change. There are two major contributory effects: expansion of sea water as the oceans warm, and the melting of ice over land.



kangerdlussuaq-glacier-east-greenland-j-a-dowdeswell.jpg
Kangerdlussuaq Glacier, East Greenland – Photo: J A Dowdeswell


All this while humans talk and talk and talk.


It’s enough to drive a penguin batty.


Bali, Schmali.





No responses yet

Dec 11 2007

PENGUINS IN PERIL

You know you’re in big trouble when they talk about you in Forbes and the UK Guardian and the Telegraph and National Geographic News all in the same day.

Big big trouble. Why? The World Wildlife Fund issued its report, “Antarctic Penguins and Climate Change.”

This is what the Forbes headline says: “Penguins in Peril as Climate Warms.” The Chinese news service Xinhua puts it this way: “WWF: Climate warming threatens Antarctica Penguins.”

adelieemperorchinstrapgentoouktel.jpg
Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap & Gentoo Penguins – UK Telegraph

According to Forbes:

four populations of penguins that breed on the Antarctic continent are under escalating pressure. For some, global warming is taking away precious ground on which penguins raise their young. For others, food has become increasingly scarce because of warming in conjunction with overfishing.

This reminds us a bit of the American writer Mark Twain who read his own obituary in the newspaper.

You writing about us?

We’ve talked a lot about the Arctic ice here but today they’re talking about our ice:

The Antarctic Peninsula is warming five times faster than the average rate of global warming. The vast Southern Ocean has warmed all the way down to a depth of 3,000m.

Sea ice – ice that forms from sea water – covers 40 percent less area than it did 26 years ago off the West Antarctic Peninsula. This decrease led to reduced numbers of krill, the main source of food for Chinstrap Penguins.

macaroniandchinstrapssylvia-rubliwwf.jpg
Macaroni and Chinstrap Penguins – Sylvia Rubli/WWF

The number of Chinstraps decreased by as much as 30 to 66 percent in some colonies, as less food made it more difficult for the young to survive. It’s the same story for Gentoo Penguins, which are increasingly dependent on the declining krill stocks as overfishing kills off their usual food sources.

gentoowchickssgeorgiafritzpolkingwwf.jpg
Gentoo Penguin with chicks, South Georgia – Fritz Pölking/WWF

The Emperor Penguin, the largest and most majestic penguin in the world, has seen some of its colonies halved in size over the past half century. Warmer winter temperatures and stronger winds mean that the penguins had to raise their chicks on increasingly thinner sea ice. For many years, sea ice has broken off early and many eggs and chicks have been blown away before they were ready to survive on their own.

2emperorschickfritz-polkingwwf.jpg
2 Emperors with chick – Fritz Pölking/WWF

In the northwestern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, where warming has been the most dramatic, populations of Adelie Penguins have dropped by 65 percent over the past 25 years. Not only has food become scarcer with the disappearance of sea ice, but the Adelies’ warm-loving cousins the Gentoos and Chinstraps have also invaded the region.

Warmer temperatures mean that the atmosphere can hold more moisture, which in turn brings more snow. Scientists are worried for the Adelie Penguin, which needs land that is free of snow and ice to raise their young, is likely to lose out to its warm-loving cousins.

adeliesylviarubliwwf.jpg
Adelie Penguin – Sylvia Rubli/WWF

“Having just returned from the Antarctic, I’ve witnessed what is happening to the penguins there,” says Dr. Lara Hansen, Chief Scientist of WWF’s Global Climate Change program. “The warming climate means warmer, wetter air and too much snow at the wrong time of year. Penguins have to wait for snow to melt and they are breeding later – much too late. Add invasive species that are expanding their ranges to diminishing numbers of penguins and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The delegates at the Bali COP have a chance to protect Antarctica’s penguins and many other species, but they must act now.”

Well many many thanks to Dr. David Ainley and WWF and their terrific photographers and their very informative website, penguinscience.com for bringing attention to our plight.

gentoossunsetfalklandskevinschaferwwf.jpg
Gentoos at sunset, Falklands – Kevin Schafer/WWF




In the days to come we’ll offer our take on the events taking place in Bali. But for today, this one day, it’s time to focus on PENGUINS IN PERIL.


ACT NOW. SAVE THE ICE.







No responses yet

Nov 26 2007

ADOPT A HUMAN

Several human-based environmental organizations have ways of raising money based on adopting animals.

One organization, Defenders of Wildlife, has a program called “Adopt a Penguin.” This is what they write:
l

A variety of species of penguins have been declining due to the effects of global warming. Starvation, habitat loss, and the fact that the penguins’ world is literally breaking up under their feet are all contributing factors to dramatic population loss.

adeliepenguinsbritishantarcticsurvey10003535.jpg

Adelie Penguins Photo: British Antarctic Survey

In one instance, a large number of Adelie penguins were literally made prisoners and starved because global warming had unexpectedly altered their habitat. In 2004, Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound was blocked by the mountainous remnant of the world’s largest iceberg. The iceberg cut off supply routes for several research bases on the sound and was so big that it blocked wind and water currents that would normally break up the ice in the sound and make access to the sea much easier for researchers and penguins. As a result, tens of thousands of Adelie penguin chicks and their parents were stranded inland with a 112-mile round trip being the shortest distance to gather food. Experts estimate that the three colonies of Adelie penguins may have declined by up to 70 percent.

rockhoppersaundersislandfalklandsbentubby.jpg

Rockhopper Penguin, The Falklands Photo: Ben Tubby

The decline of the rockhopper penguin is another example of how warming temperatures are affecting these beloved birds. The number of rockhopper penguins breeding on one island has gone from 1.4 million to only 100,000 in the last 60 years–most likely due to warming waters surrounding the island.

emperorsserene-chew.jpg

Emperor Penguins Photo: Serene Chew

… according to National Geographic News, the population of emperor penguins has been cut in half over the past 50 years … These amazing animals can withstand some of the harshest conditions on Earth, but they cannot continue to sustain themselves without krill–a shrimplike creature that is a staple of the emperor penguin’s diet. The sea ice necessary to the survival of krill larvae is disappearing earlier and taking with it 80 percent of the krill population. The emperor penguins are starving to death because the warming air and water is drastically changing the environment to which they have adapted.

Where there are obviously good reasons to adopt a penguin. We are in big trouble. Melting ice, starvation, the destruction of our home. So maybe the least you can do is to adopt one of us.

But, the fact of the matter is. if you have been paying attention to our last posts you should be adopting many many others: polar bears, the scottish puffin, butterflies, baby seals, dolphins, whales … The list never ends.

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately down here at Penguin Central. And we’ve been doing a lot of reading too.

How many of you have checked out the latest report of the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is their report to policy makers about the climate crisis. Here are a few excerpts:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level …

Numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed. These include changes in arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones …

beachedicebergslongyearbyenphotorobbell.jpg

Beached mini-icebergs Longyearbyen Photo: Rob Bell

Sea ice is projected to shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic under all SRES scenarios. In some projections, arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century … It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent …

So what does this all mean. The UK Independent puts it this way:

Here it is: the future of the world, in 23 pages … [The IPCC] spelled out comprehensively that the Earth could warm by an average of up to 6C during the course of the coming century, and that this would be catastrophic in its impact for human society, most of all the poor in developing countries; but they also offered hope that the problem was solvable, if the governments took rapid and decisive action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing the warming.

So you can adopt a penguin if you want. You can adopt a baby seal. You can adopt a fern. But that won’t change what’s really going on here. It isn’t us spewing greenhouse gases up into the atmosphere. It isn’t us burning coal and oil. We’re not cutting down the forests of Indonesia and the Amazon.

How about you adopt a human for a change? How about you adopt your friends and neighbors? How about you save your farmland? How about you save Glacier National Park in Montana? How about you save the Swiss Alps? How about you demand to drive a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon? Better yet, how about you demand energy-efficient buses and trains?

See these people. Don’t they deserve to be adopted?

pollutionyutianpeter-parks-afp-getty.jpg

Yutian, China Photo: Peter Parks/AFP – Getty



God bless these environmental movements. And thanks if you’ve actually adopted one of us. But really isn’t it time to wake up! Look, really look, at the world around you. It’s time for you human to get your act together.


pollutedreservoirlapazboliviaapphotodado-galdieri.jpg

Polluted reservoir, La Paz Bolivia Photo: Dado Galdieri/AP



Adopt A Human.
Save the Earth.
Save the Ice.
Save the Penguins.
Save us All.
Save Yourselves.
Adopt A Human.
Please, Adopt A Human.





No responses yet

Sep 17 2007

PEOPLE ARE PENGUINS TOO

For those of you I haven’t met, I am Penguin7. I’m off to the right on the photo up top. We received a lot of mail about No Penguin Retreat. Some of you humans think we’re a bit hysterical; some of you are very supportive. As for Anthony P. from Trenton, New Jersey – language, language, language. It’s all very well for you to think Global Warming is a hoax but just maybe we have a different perspective when it comes to this issue.

Anyway, some of us spent some time thinking about the inevitable species gap. There is a difference in the way we experience the effects of the climate crisis. But make no mistake about it, it may be the polar bears today, us penguins tomorrow, but sooner or later it will be your turn.

nukulaelaetuvalufromspace.jpg
The Pacific Island State of Nukulaelae Tuvalu – Seen From Space



This is the tiny island chain of Tuvalu. I think the people living on Tuvalu may understand the challenges of the climate crisis a little bit better than most humans. Their land may disappear in the near future. They are intimately connected to the issue of the melting ice. As the ocean rises, their island home comes closer and closer to extinction.

The people of Tuvalu are canaries in the mine. They are human bellwethers. And they have something to say to us all:

The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two metres on average above sea-level and one study predicted at the current rate the ocean is rising could disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.

“We keep thinking that the time will never come. The alternative is to turn ourselves into fish and live under water,” Tuvalu Deputy Prime Tavau Teii told Reuters in the South Korean capital where he was attending a conference on the environment.

“All countries must make an effort to reduce their emissions before it is too late for countries like Tuvalu,” he said, calling the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to man-made climate change.

Right this minute Tuvalu is experiencing the damaging effects of global warming: the warming ocean is damaging it coral reefs and affecting the fish supply. The rising seawater is infiltrating Tuvalu’s fresh water supply. The spring tides get higher each year and erode the coastline. And the warming ocean is spurring most ferocious cyclones.

Tavau Teii continues:

“We’ll try and maintain our own way of living on the island as long as we can. If the time comes we should leave the islands, there is no other choice but to leave.”

Teii said his government had received indications from New Zealand it was prepared to take in people from the islands. About 2,000 of its population already live there.

But Australia, the other major economy in the region, had only given vague commitments.

“Australia was very reluctant to make a commitment even though they have been approached in a diplomatic way.”

Maybe Anthony is saying, “well what do you expect living on a small island in the middle of the ocean?”

Well what about the people living in some of the driest land on Earth? Has global warming affected them? Yes, one of the impacts of global warming is to bring about more desertification.

Global warming brought about by increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere is expected to increase the variability of weather conditions and extreme events. Many dryland areas face increasingly low and erratic rainfalls, coupled with soil erosion by wind and the drying up of water resources through increased regional temperatures. Deforestation can also reduce rainfall in certain areas, increasing the threat of desertification. It is not yet possible, using computer models, to identify with an acceptable degree of reliability those parts of the Earth where desertification will occur. Existing drylands, which cover over 40% of the total land area of the world, most significantly in Africa and Asia, will probably be most at risk to climate change. These areas already experience low rainfall, and any that falls is usually in the form of short, erratic, high-intensity storms. In addition such areas also suffer from land degradation due to over-cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation practices.

The direct physical consequences of desertification may include an increased frequency of sand and dust storms and increased flooding due to inadequate drainage or poor irrigation practices. This can contribute to the removal of topsoil and vital soil nutrients needed for food production, and bring about a loss of vegetation cover which would otherwise have assisted with the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for plant photosynthesis. Desertification can also initiate regional shifts in climate which may enhance climate changes due to greenhouse gas emissions.

manpassesmuralaudroughtmelbourneafpfilewilliam-west.jpg
Man Passes Mural of Drought, Melbourne Australia – William West/AFP



Drought in Australia has profound consequences:

The story of Australia’s worst dry spell in a thousand years continues to astound. Last year we learned, “One farmer takes his life every four days.” This year over half of Australia’s agricultural land is in a declared drought.

DROUGHT will become a redundant term as Australia plans for a permanently drier future, according to the nation’s urban water industries chief….

“The urban water industry has decided the inflows of the past will never return,” Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said. “We are trying to avoid the term ‘drought’ and saying this is the new reality.”

For you in the United States, a recent study in April in the journal Science “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest.”

An extraordinary number of you humans live in drylands.

Home to a third of the human population in 2000, drylands occupy nearly half of Earth’s land area. Across the world, desertification affects the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on the benefits that dryland ecosystems can provide.

In drylands, water scarcity limits the production of crops, forage, wood, and other services ecosystems provide to humans. Drylands are therefore highly vulnerable to increases in human pressures and climatic variability, especially sub-Saharan and Central Asian drylands.

Some 10 to 20% of drylands are already degraded, and ongoing desertification threatens the world’s poorest populations and the prospects of poverty reduction. Therefore, desertification is one of the greatest environmental challenges today and a major barrier to meeting basic human needs in drylands.

dunestunisian-town-of-douzafpfehtibelaid.jpg
Dunes in Douza, Tunisia – Fehti Belaid/AFP

All this sand is making me very nervous. And extremely thirsty. Not to mention very depressed.

Whether it’s too much sand or not enough ice, or too much water, we are all becoming bellwethers.

People are penguins too.

Have a good day, Anthony, wherever you are.
Penguin7





No responses yet

Sep 05 2007

IRAQ, WAR & GLOBAL WARMING

Penguin 11 isn’t one of those penguins who sticks out in a crowd. She’s shy and retiring. Quiet and smart. Many times we have to remind ourselves that she is in the room.

Just the other day, Penguin 11 came up to us with something she had thought about and asked whether this was something we would write about.

Some of you may well say this is something we should keep our beaks out of. Too political. Well it’s a bit late for that, don’t you think. Now that the ice is melting it’s everyone’s business. Don’t you think it’s important to see how we use energy?

penguinsbeachjoankoele.jpg

Rare Photo of Penguin 11 Jogging Far Right – Photo by Joan Koele



So without further ado, how about a nice hand and flipper-smack for Penguin 11:

Dear Penguins and friends of Penguins. As many of you know I spend a lot of time thinking and walking and walking and thinking. I think humans call it daydreaming. And sometimes days are long here.

Anyway, one day I was thinking about Al Gore. It’s not what you think. I’m very happy for Tipper. But I thought about how he spoke out against the war in Iraq, and how he speaks out against the climate crisis. But he doesn’t put them together. Some of us were able to see LiveEarth and I don’t think anyone really talked about the Iraq War & Global Warming. How much energy was being used by humvees, and tanks, and fighter jets and all those large bombers.

Anyway while vacationing in the Falklands, I decided to put some penguin thought to the matter. It was the end of yet another beautiful day when I decided to do some research.


falklandssunsetbentubby.jpg

Photo Ben Tubby



With the help of Marsha at the internet cafe, I found this interesting article quoting Dr. Sohbet Karbuz who used to work in the energy statistic department of the International Energy Agency in Paris. The city of lights:

Which government agency is one of the world’s largest landlords and has a budget that could be ranked as the world’s 17th largest economy and could be ranked as the world’s 31st largest oil consumer and the world’s biggest purchaser of oil?

The United States Department of Defense (DoD)!

Here are some interesting statistics:

The Department of Defense is one of the world’s largest landlords with a physical plant consisting of more than 571,900 facilities (buildings, structures and utilities) located on more than 3,740 sites, on nearly 30 million acres” (121 400 km2) says the Base Structure Report for Fiscal Year 2005 of the US Department of Defense …

Defense outlays (actual expenditures) as a share of GDP is 3.0 in fiscal year 2006 ($424.4 billion). This figure does not include supplemental appropriations to cover costs of the war in Iraq.

The US DoD is the largest oil consumer in the US, and 31st largest in the world.

“Military fuel consumption makes the Department of Defense the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S” [2]

“Military fuel consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the DoD the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S” [3]

[The] American GI is the most energy-consuming soldier ever seen on the field of war.

“The Army calculated that it would burn 40 million gallons of fuel in three weeks of combat in Iraq, an amount equivalent to the gasoline consumed by all Allied armies combined during the four years of World War I.” [2]

In May 2005 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Robert Bryce gives another example; “The Third Army (of General Petton) had about 400,000 men and used about 400,000 gallons of gasoline a day. Today the Pentagon has about a third that number of troops in Iraq yet they use more than four times as much fuel.”

The US DoD spent $8.2 billion on energy in fiscal year 2004.

“In fiscal 2005, DESC will buy about 128 million barrels of fuel at a cost of $8.5 billion, and Jet fuel constitutes nearly 70% of DoD’s petroleum product purchases.”[4]

For some, this is not enough though. “Because DOD’s consumption of oil represents the highest priority of all uses, there will be no fundamental limits to DOD’s fuel supply for many, many decades.” [5]

Sources:

[1] T. A. Mehuron, The Defense Budget at A Glance, Air Force Magazine, April 2005.
[2] Presentation by American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Red Cavaney held at the USAF/API Awards Banquet ˆ Arlington, Virginia, July 15, 2004.
[3] E. C. Aldbridge and D. M. Etter testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on June 5, 2001.
[4] American Forces Information Service News Article by G. J. Gilmore, DoD Has Enough Petroleum Products for Anti-Terror War, August 11, 2005.
[5] www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/fuel.pdf More Capable Warfighting Through Reduced Fuel Burden, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, The Defense Science Board Task Force on Improving Fuel Efficiency of Weapons Platforms, January 2001

Here is a short excerpt from Robert Bryce’s article. We’re too broke to subscribe and get the whole thing:

The Department of Defense now has about 27,000 vehicles in Iraq—and every one of them gets lousy gas mileage …

Although the Pentagon has tried to reduce the number of fuels it consumes, and now relies primarily on a jet-fuel-like substance called JP-8, the Defense Energy Support Center is currently supplying fourteen kinds of fuel to U.S. troops in Iraq.

In short, the American GI is the most energy-consuming soldier ever seen on the field of war. For computers and GPS units, Humvees and helicopters, the modern soldier is in constant need of energy: battery power, electric power, and petroleum. The U.S. military now uses about 1.7 million gallons of fuel a day in Iraq. Some of that fuel goes to naval vessels and aircraft, but even factoring out JP-5 fuel (which is what the Navy primarily uses), each of the 150,000 soldiers on the ground consumes roughly nine gallons of fuel a day. And that figure has been rising.

widemanykingsbeachfalklandsbentubby.jpg

King Penguins, The Falklands – Ben Tubby




We are penguins and war and politics seems very complicated to us. But it seems to me that when people are thinking about simple ways to save energy – using compact fluorescent lightbulbs and buying hybrid cars – it would be worthwhile to think about ending this war. Save lives, save energy, save the ice!

No species survives without some violence. We survive on krill and small fish. But no species on earth is as strong or as powerful as yours. We have not endangered the Earth, our home and yours.

Yours truly,
Penguin 11





No responses yet

May 18 2007

FROM THE ROAD – UH FROM THE ICE

Well hello, Penguin 5 here, posting you from the road – I mean, of course, from the ice. It is good to be about and among my fellow penguins, resting and roaming, lying in the sun, swimming in the sea.

I don’t know about you but I certainly enjoyed Penguin 4’s joke – it was good to laugh again. I’ve made a friend named Fred from the McMurdo Station, Ross Island, here in Antarctica. Her name isn’t really Fred but I don’t really want to get her into trouble in case one of the top mucky-mucks in Washington doesn’t believe in penguins and humans spending too much time together. There are a lot of scientists around here. I got a business card from someone from The Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They get money from the National Science Foundation. They have what they call a Penguin Ranch. Anyway I’m not sure what I think about the name but Fred gave me a bunch of pictures and diagrams documenting some of their work which I’ll share. Maybe you can come up with a better name. I have an idea about the ranch but more about that later.


penranchcropweb.jpg

The Penguin Ranch – The Research Center, J. Heil



Well you can just imagine how many penguins are flocking and flopping their way over here for a room, or some ice, with a view.


penreleasecropweb.jpg

A Penguin Arrives – The Penguin Ranch, K.Ponganis



The scientists at Penguin Ranch are particularly interested in how we swim and fish and what we talk about after work. They drilled a special hole in the ice with an observation chamber to see us swim. But I’m pretty sure they don’t understand Penguinese. So most of our secrets are safe. Of course a blabbermouth like me isn’t helping matters.


fencedinpenguinsweb.jpg

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – Or Corrals as the Scientists Say
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



It’s obviously time for a dip:


groupdivingweb.jpg

Penguin 4526 Volunteers to Go First
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



Here is a picture of the observation tube:


obtube2web.jpg

Looking up the observation tube in McMurdo Sound.



And this is what Penguin 4526 looks like from the underwater observation tunnel on his way up to the hole.


approachdiveholeweb.jpg

Penguin 4526 Returns to Penguin Ranch
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



As some of you who have read my previous posts know, I am a bit skeptical about some of the ways human beings are interacting with us.

2emperorsdoingtimedeviceweb.jpg

Melanie Conner, National Science Foundation



Fred took me to the National Science Foundation’s website. This is what it said about our penguin diving: “The routine occurrence of 500-meter dives during foraging trips is a physiological and behavioral enigma. Ponganis examines pressure tolerance, management of oxygen stores, end-organ tolerance of diving hypoxemia/ischemia, and deep-dive foraging behavior. This information provides insight into human diving physiology and has medical applications for patients whose organs or tissues have been deprived of oxygen due to heart attack, stroke, transplant, etc.” That’s a lot of big words for a small penguin.


Fred, though, is very committed to finding ways to solve the climate crisis. Living here in the Antarctic, she and some of her fellow scientists have a better understanding about our lives – and the importance of the glaciers, the ice, and the delicate balance of life here.


annmeetspenguinweb.jpg

Some of Fred’s Friends
Kristan Hutchison, National Science Foundation



I’m not really sure that every penguin is pleased with the service at Penguin Ranch but, as Penguin 4 has shown, it helps to tell a penguin joke every now and then.


Anyway, Fred has shared a bit about human life here. And if half of what she says is true, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of us penguins to build a Human Ranch with observation windows. Any chance the National Science Foundation would pay for that? Where do we get a grant application? I’m sure we qualify under the income guidelines.


In the meantime, if any of you adult humans out there are interested in some human stories about living and working in and around penguins and for the government, you can check out: Big Dead Place: Welcome to the Program. I’m not sure what Penguin 4 will think about it and there are some bad human words – so please read it before to see whether you want your kids to check it out – but it’s not often we penguins see into the world of penguin-watchers. And it’s good for us penguins to be thinking about something other than penguin problems. Like ice-cubes rather than glaciers.


I’ll leave you with the following:


penguinsicebergblockade.png

Emperors Struggling With Iceberg Blockade
Gerald Kooyman, NSF/Scripps Institution of Oceanography



Keep those cards and letters coming.



No responses yet

May 08 2007

FOND FAREWELL

Well I must admit we all miss Penguin5 a bit more than we expected. Here’s a photo one of the researchers took – that’s me in the background as Penguin5 takes one last look back as he heads off on his adventure.


emperor12goodbye.jpg

Penguin4 watches as Penguin5 slowly heads off

Photo: Kris Kuenning, National Science Foundation



Meanwhile I’m very pleased about our new focus on humor. Penguin 3, our webmistress – and we penguins know about using the web – just found the following cartoon:


penguinpower.jpg


The Cause of Global Warming, HoleyHands



She’s convinced it’s very funny. From the penguin school of thought that you have to be willing to laugh at yourself before you can laugh at others.


So what do you think? Funny, no? Or not funny?



No responses yet

May 05 2007

REST & REHABILITATION

For those of you who had hoped to be reading Penguin 5’s latest post about global warming and the climate crisis, I have some sad news. Well not so sad because he’s getting some well needed rest. But it’s just that the rest of us – Penguins 1 – 10 minus #5 – felt that he was turning a bit too sarcastic. I think what got to him was the penguins on the treadmill. Anyway, we chipped in and sent Penguin5 on a fishing trip.

We’ll let you know how he’s doing.

Just for the record, we are, after all, for much of the time a happy-go-lucky bunch.

And, in the interest of reaching out to our human brethren and sistren, we the Penguin Speakers felt that humor might ultimately work better than anger.

And since I’m known as the life of the penguin party, I thought I’d give it a shot:

Have you heard about the human who was driving down the highway with a car full of penguins. There were penguins everywhere: penguins leaning out the windows, penguins popping up out the sunroof, a penguin riding shotgun, and penguins loaded in the back seats. Well a few miles down the road, the car gets pulled over by a policeman. Who walks up and leans in and tells the driver that if he doesn’t want a ticket, he better take all the penguins right back to the zoo. Well without any hesitation, the driver promises that, first thing he’ll drive straight to the zoo. And he drives off.

Well the next day, the human was driving down the exact same highway with the same car full of penguins. There were penguins everywhere: penguins leaning out the windows, penguins popping up out the sunroof, a penguin riding shotgun, and penguins loaded in the back seats. The only thing different is that the penguins were all wearing sunglasses! All of a sudden, the car is stopped by the same policeman. The policeman is pretty annoyed this time and he leans in and says, “I thought I told you to take these penguins to the zoo!”

“I did” says the human. “But, today I’m taking them to the beach!”

No responses yet

Next »