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I'm on a mission to ride it out with you as the climate changes.

Jan 252015
 
LED bulbs are better!

How Light Bulbs Work

Our post about LED light bulbs generated a lot of interest on our Climate for Real Facebook page, and some of the questions led us to believe people wanted more information about how different kinds of light bulbs worked. The reality is that there are a lot of different light bulbs. Some are better suited for different applications than others, but some might be chosen because they are more durable, don’t produce as much heat, or don’t use as much electricity.

How Do Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Work?

Of course, individuals and businesses are being urged to switch out old light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient light bulbs. If everybody did this, the US could save billions in dollars in energy costs a year. In order to understand how energy-efficient light bulbs work, it helps to understand how all bulbs work. Even though the newer and more energy-efficient bulbs work differently, they are better at converting electricity to light instead of heat.

Incandescent Light Bulbs

The production of almost all incandescent light bulbs has stopped in the US and other countries, but they will probably still be on the market for awhile as inventory as cleared. Even though they are less efficient than other kinds of light bulbs, some people mourn their passing because they tend to produce a brighter and something that many people consider more natural light. It may be that this kind of indoor lighting is what people are used to, and that is why they are considered more natural.

By the way, halogen lights, typically found on car headlamps, are also going extinct in the US. It is just going to take longer. Halogen lights are also a type of incandescent light bulb.

How do incandescent light bulbs work? Electricity passes through a metal filament wire and create a glow.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs

The first attempt to replace incandescent bulbs was with CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights. They really weren’t as well accepted as the government hoped because they failed to last as long as promised and don’t produce the kind of light people are used to. Apparently, warm bulbs are closer to incandescent. They may use 20 to 30 percent less power for the same light as incandescent bulbs.

How do fluorescent light bulbs work? Fluorescent bulbs produce light because an arc of electricity passes between the bulb’s cathodes and excited mercury or other gasses to create radiant energy. Radiant energy gets converted to visible light by the bulb’s phosphor coating.

High-Intensity Discharge, or HID Light Bulbs

Sometimes these bulbs are also called xenon bulbs. They produce more light with less power, and they are also supposed to stay a lot cooler to the touch. They are supposed to be much more durable than regular bulbs as well. The argument against them is the light isn’t pleasing for indoor applications, and they are usually used for outdoor lighting or vehicle headlamps.

How do HID light bulbs work? These bulbs work by passing an arc of electricity through gas, usually xenon, between cathodes. There is no filament, so they don’t tend to “burn out” like old-fashioned bulbs.

LED Light Bulbs, or Light Emitting Diodes

LED bulbs are better!

LED vs. CFL vs. Incandescent vs. HID

These are the most efficient kind of light bulb, and they are also advertised as the most durable. They are used for indoor applications, but it helps to do some research to try to find the type of LED bulb that produces the kind of light that is favorable for a room.

How do LED light bulbs work? They actually work by passing energy into a chemical “chip” that converts electricity into light.

If we left any light bulbs off in this list of how light bulbs work, let us know!

Sources:

American Lighting Association: http://www.americanlightingassoc.com/Lighting-Fundamentals/Light-Sources-Light-Bulbs.aspx

Myths about Incandescent Bulbs: http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA628.html

 

 

Dec 212014
 

U.S. Cities Already Flooding

We already posted an article about U.S. cities that are predicted to go underwater because of climate change but not about cities that are already at the tipping point of experiencing at least nuisance-level flooding at an accelerated rate. Accelerated flooding is already mostly noted along the Gulf Coast and East Cost of the United States. These means that the rate of flooding is not just increasing but that it is also accelerating. Particularly noteworthy is what is known as sunny day flooding, times when streets flood and there is no big storm to account for it, just high tide.

The tipping point has been described as nuisance flooding at least 30 days out of the year. The main point from the chart displayed below is that Wilmington, NC, Washington, DC, and Annapolis, MD. are already past the tipping point. At least a half dozen more major cities are expected to reach it by 2020 and dozens more in the next few decades after that.

Defining Nuisance Flooding and Tipping Points

Cities already at the tipping point:  Image: Earth's Future/Sweet and Park 2014

Cities already at the tipping point:
Image: Earth’s Future/Sweet and Park 2014

Nuisance flooding is defined as sea levels of about one to two feet over typical high tides, and these floods tend to impact city streets of areas that are no more than a couple of feet over sea level. The problem is that this used to be rare or caused by large weather events, and it is not becoming common. In other words, the ecology of coastal areas in the United States and all around the globe has already reached a tipping point or a new equilibrium, but there is no way to provide assurance that the situation won’t get worse. Because of accelerated rates of minor flooding, it would probably be prudent to expect that it will get worse.

Major U.S. Cities Studied for Nuisance Flooding

These conclusions were drawn from measurements taken over 100 years. The reason that Miami, currently experiencing plenty of sunny day flooding, was not included is because the measurement point was moved after Hurricane Andrew, so 100 years of consistent data is not available.

These are the major cities highlighted in the study:

  • Boston, MA
  • Providence, RI
  • New London, CT
  • New York City, NY
  • Atlantic City, NJ
  • Washington, DC
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Baltimore, MA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Key West, FL
  • Galveston, TX
  • Port Isabel, TX
  • La Jolla, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA

Rates are different at different spots along U.S. coastlines. The scientists remind us that the ocean is not flat and level like a bathtub. Currently, in the U.S., The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic cities are experiencing worse rates of accelerated flooding than is getting experienced along the Pacific.

Conclusions About Accelerated Flooding in U.S. Coastal Cities

This is the conclusion of the study cited in the first source:

Impacts from recurrent coastal flooding include overwhelmed storm water drainage capacity at high tide, frequent road closures, and general deterioration and corrosion of infrastructure not designed to withstand frequent inundation or saltwater exposure. As sea levels continue to rise and with an anticipated acceleration in the rate of rise from ocean warming and land ice melt, concern exists as to when more substantive impacts from tidal flooding of greater frequency and duration will regularly occur. Information quantifying these occurrences and the associated frequency-based tipping points is critical for assisting decision makers who are responsible for the necessary mitigation and adaptation efforts in response to sea level rise.

Sources:

From the extreme to the mean: Acceleration and tipping points of coastal inundation from sea level rise :  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/2014EF000272/

Dec 202014
 
LED bulbs are better!

Why Are LED Light Bulbs Better?

When we say LED light bulbs are a brighter idea, we mean that they are smarter over the long run. However, LED bulbs are expensive, so consider some reasons why you’ll end up conserving energy and saving money in the long run by making the investment.

Nobody is trying to convince you to run out and replace every light bulb in your home or office with this more modern light bulb today, but there is a good case to be made that it is sensible to replace burnt out light bulbs with LED bulbs. After you finally discard your last CFL or incandescent light bulb, you are not likely to miss them.

LED Bulbs Emit Less Heat

LED bulbs are better!

LED vs. CFL

With traditional incandescent bulbs, soon to be dinosaurs in the US, and with CFL bulbs, much more of the energy gets emitted as heat than light. With an LED bulb, heat gets trapped, and they actually feel cool to the touch when they’re turned on. Energy gets used more efficiently, and additional heat does not get added to the ambient temperature of a room.

LED Bulbs are Cheaper in the Long Run

Department of Energy comparison tests clearly generated that LEDs save money even when the additional cost gets considered. Consider some numbers from these DOE studies:

  • Estimated average energy costs a year: Incandescent: $4.80; CFL: $1.20; LED: $1.00
  • Lifespans: Incandescent: 1,000 hours; CFL: 10,000 hours; LED: 25,000 hours

Yes, LEDs cost considerably more than incandescent bulbs and somewhat more than CFLs. Many users of CFL bulbs found that they never really enjoyed the advertised lifespans from these newer bulbs, and that may be because they tend to overheat and malfunction. This is not a problem with cool LED lights.

Besides, an LED does not cost 25 times as much as an incandescent, but it is expected to last 25 times as long and use almost 80 percent less power. It should last at least 2.5 times longer than an CFL, and possibly much more and use about 20 percent less power. Meanwhile LEDs may cost twice as much as CFLs today, but the price is coming down as they gain popularity.

LED Bulbs Are Safe to Dispose

CFLs contain mercury, and this is a big toxic no-no to throw away in the trash. Most people don’t know this, so they do it anyway. LED bulbs are considered safe for recycling or general waste. Producing LED bulbs also has less of a carbon footprint than producing CFL bulbs.

If Everybody Switched to LED, the Planet Would Be Greener

What if everybody made the switch? Well, the planet would be greener if not brighter. If the US switched to LED lighting within the next 20 years, the EPA tells us that would result in a savings of $250 billion. If everybody changed their light bulbs by tomorrow mornings, yearly electric budgets could be reduced by $37 billion a year starting the next day.

Dec 152014
 
Carbon Dioxide Graph

Yes, sorry, climate change is for real. Climate change isn’t even new, and it is obvious to anybody who studies the planet that Earth’s climate has never been static. It may only seem that way to beings with short life spans in comparison to geologic time.

What’s novel this time is that we are experiencing really fast climate change over the entire globe that is obviously influenced by man-made activities.

Here’s what we do know about real climate change:

  • Right wing rags don’t matter.
  • Politics don’t matter.
  • Science Matters!
Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

How Do We Know Climate Change is Real and Manmade?

The CO2 Spike

Carbon Dioxide Graph

Carbon Dioxide Graph – WikiMedia Commons

The first climate change evidence in this exhibit is the carbon dioxide graph. From NASA’s Climate Change pages (NASA does science really well), we find that the levels of CO2, a greenhouse gas, is more concentrated in our atmosphere than it has been for 650,00 years. The thing is that carbon dioxide levels crossed the red line in 1950 and have continued to spike.

Greenhouse gasses, like CO2 and methane, trap heat and get their name from this impact. Incidentally, there is more CO2 than methane in the atmosphere, but methane takes longer to dissipate, so that’s not a good thing either.

Humans are largely responsible for global climate change. – The U.S. EPA

Real Climate Change Evidence

OK, so now you know why climate change is occurring rapidly, so what’s happening? Earth’s climate has warmed about 1.4 degrees F over the last century. A degree or two here and there may not seem like much, but not all areas of the globe experience change at the same rate, so this average accounts for lower and higher degrees of climate change.

But here’s the real climate change problem that we need to wake up to. The planet is expected to warm another 2 to 11 degrees F in the next century. Also, the only impact is not just warmer days but is the impact on global weather problems. Also, because warming temperatures melt ice sheets and change ocean and atmospheric patterns, some places will get quite a bit colder … for awhile.

Here’s the list of what’s already happening to indicate that the earth is rapidly warming:

  • Sea levels rise: In the last 100 years, global sea levels have increased an average of 6.7 inches. In the last 10 years, the rate has nearly doubled over the average of the last century.
  • Air temperatures rise: Over that same last 100 years, global average temperatures have increased. Most of this has happened since 1970, and the top 20 years for rising temperatures have been since 1981.
  • Ocean temperatures rise: Part of the reason that the air temperature has not increased more is because the oceans have soaked up a lot of the increased heat.  On this water planet, ocean climate change is also climate change for real. Also, oceans have become 30 percent more acid since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Declining sea ice and ice sheets: Both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased, mostly since 2002. Arctic sea ice has also declined both in area and thickness. Glaciers are melting all over the world. This includes Alaska, the Himalayas, the Alps, the Rocky Mountains, and the Andes. Also, snow cover has decreased in the last half a century, and snow is melting earlier in the spring than it used to.
  • Extreme weather: At the same time, in the United States, the number of record high temperatures has increased while the number of record lows has decreased since 1950. Also, the number of extreme weather events has been on the rise.

Climate Change is the Real Future

There is still some disagreement that humans are creating climate change, but between scientists, the consensus is clear as all that ice the planet is losing. Any student of Earth science knows that climate change happens. But there is no disagreement among scientists that the climate is rapidly changing, and the factors that are mostly responsible for that change came from human activities. As these activities increased, so did the level of greenhouse gasses and the rising mercury.

People did it, but we may not be able to totally reverse it. Even if people stopped emitting greenhouse gassed and cutting down forests tomorrow, it could take 10 centuries for the world to revert back to the way it was before industry. We need to reduce it as much as we can. However, climate change is real, and we may have to adapt.

Learn more:

Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (NASA): http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

Climate Change Basics (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency): http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/

 

 

Dec 112014
 
LED bulbs are better!

You know what they say, environmentalism begins at home. Indeed, a large percentage of greenhouse gasses come from the energy used by homes. If everybody just did a couple of things to reduce their own house’s carbon footprint, it would add up over time. Better yet, these 5 ways to reduce carbon footprints at home do not reduce the quality of your life and are very simple. In fact, once you try them, you might wonder why you never did them before.

1. Buy Local Food

This is pretty shocking, but WorldWatch Institute says that the average food travels 1,500 miles between its source and its market. Also, if you can buy food that is both grown locally and grown in its season, you can reduce the amount of energy needed to transport it and enjoy cheaper food prices. Besides, fresh food that is harvested in season tastes great.

2. Improve Home Insulation

This could be as simple as sealing up drafts under doors and around windows with weather stripping. Adding adequate insulation to an attic is a bit bigger of a project, but it also tends to be one of the projects that pays for itself quickly. Your house should be cheaper to heat and cool and more comfortable. You can visit the Environmental Protection Agency at EPA.gov for lots of tips on adding insulation yourself.

LED bulbs are better!

LED vs. CFL

3. Change Lightbulbs to LED

Those CFL bulbs never really worked out as well as they were supposed to. At least, the promised long lifespans never really materialized for most people who used them. Add to that the fact that CFL bulbs contain mercury and shouldn’t be disposed of in regular trash, and the investment hardly seems worth it. LED bulbs cost more, but they can be disposed of in regular trash, provide very nice light, and actually do last longer.

You don’t have to buy enough for your whole house at one time, but you could make it a habit to replace burnt out bulbs with LED versions. Forbes Magazine says that the old-style incandescent bulbs are no longer being made in the US, but you may still find them on the shelves for awhile. Still, you might as well skip the line and move up to LED.

4. Ditch Disposable Water Bottles

The worst thing to do is buy imported water in disposable water bottles if you can avoid it. Not only do you have the waste from the water bottle, you have water that was transported from far away when you could have gotten it out of a tap.

Even in the US, it takes 20 billion barrels of oil to produce plastic water bottles, and there are concerns that these products leech chemicals into the water and into the environment after disposal. According to Earth Sense, Americans use an average of over 200 disposable water bottles each every year, and most of them end up in landfills, not being recycled!

The tap water quality in the US is usually high for most regions. If you don’t find yours adequate, you could install a filter or buy larger quantities of pure local water in large reusable containers. Buy reusable water bottles and wash them out. You’ll find it costs less in the long run, your water will taste just fine, and you can enjoy all sorts of quality bottles.

 

Sources

The WorldWatch Institute: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6064

EPA: http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/attic.htm

Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2014/04/25/led-vs-cfl-which-bulb-is-best/

Earthsense: https://earthsense.wordpress.com/category/disposable-water-bottle/