January 27, 2007

Photovoltaics, or PV for short, is a solar power technology

Photovoltaics, or PV for short, is a solar power technology that uses solar cells or solar photovoltaic arrays to convert energy from the sun into electricity. Photovoltaics is also the field of study relating to this technology.

Solar cells are regarded as one of the key technologies towards a sustainable energy supply.
Mankind's traditional uses of wind, water, and solar power are widespread in developed and developing countries; but the mass production of electricity using renewable energy sources has become more commonplace only recently, reflecting the major threats of climate change due to pollution, exhaustion of fossil fuels, and the environmental, social and political risks of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Many countries and organizations promote renewable energies through taxes and subsidies. Varying definitions of the term renewable energy have been adopted to define eligibility under these policies.

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January 24, 2007

Phaeton's Reins

The human hand in climate change.

Kerry Emanuel.

Two strands of environmental philosophy run through the course of human history. The first holds that the natural state of the universe is one of infinite stability, with an unchanging earth anchoring the predictable revolutions of the sun, moon, and stars. Every scientific revolution that challenged this notion, from Copernicus' heliocentricity to Hubble's expanding universe, from Wegener's continental drift to Heisenberg's uncertainty and Lorenz's macroscopic chaos, met with fierce resistance from religious, political, and even scientific hegemonies.
The second strand also sees the natural state of the universe as a stable one but holds that it has become destabilized through human actions. The great floods are usually portrayed in religious traditions as attempts by a god or gods to cleanse the earth of human corruption. Deviations from cosmic predictability, such as meteors and comets, were more often viewed as omens than as natural phenomena. In Greek mythology, the scorching heat of Africa and the burnt skin of its inhabitants were attributed to Phaeton, an offspring of the sun god Helios, who, having lost a
wager to his son, was obliged to allow him to drive the sun chariot across the sky. In this primal environmental catastrophe, Phaeton lost control and fried the earth, killing himself in the process.

These two fundamental ideas have permeated many cultures through much of history. They strongly influence views of climate change to the present day.

  • The myth of natural stability.
  • So what saved the earth from fire and ice?
  • Greenhouse physics.
  • Why the climate problem is difficult.
  • Determining humanity’s influence.
  • The consequences.
  • Science, politics, and the media.
  • The politics of global climate change.

Like it or not, we have been handed Phaeton’s reins, and we will have to learn how to control climate if we are to avoid his fate.

Kerry Emanuel is a professor of meteorology at MIT and the author of Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes. In 2006 Time magazine recognized him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

SOURCE: Originally published in the January/February 2007 issue of Boston Review:

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January 13, 2007

To The Churches, A Pastor's Message.

Al Gore and Global Warming: A Pastor's Message.
Chuck Cram, pastor of the Aspen Community United Methodist Church, is carrying a new message today: Global warming is happening and it's time to do something about it.
Cram has joined Al Gore's army of presenters for the "Answer the Call" program, a multi-media presentation based on Gore's book and 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth."
After attending a Jan. 4-6 training session in Nashville, Tenn., Cram, along with 200 other trainees, is now qualified to present a version of Gore's computer-based slide show.
"I'm very excited and I want to get out and make some presentations, talk to people, field their questions and do what I can," Cram said.
While researching for a sermon on environmentalism in October, Cram stumbled across Gore's website
www.theclimateproject.org . He saw the call for volunteers, applied and was accepted in December. The cost of the trip to Nashville came out of his pocket, he said, with a little help from the church.
"It was really an inspiring event," Cram said of Gore's training program. And Cram was humbled by his fellow trainees who ranged from NASA scientists, to professors, to business owners and other clergy members.
"The bios on these people were amazing. I didn't fit in," he joked.
Gore welcomed the group on opening night and walked trainees through the slide show on the second day. One of Gore's science advisors answered questions.
"We really learned a lot about the research and the vetting of the information," Cram said.
"Within the scientific community there isn't any debate about global warming," Cram said. Any doubt about global warming comes from the media and the influence of large oil companies, Cram said. He called the misleading information "inexcusable."
And Cram is frustrated by members of the religious right who spread the wrong message about global warming. He hopes his church will be on the leading edge of environmental action, and he sees his work spreading the message about climate change as an important part of that.
"There isn't anything more important than being good stewards of God's creation," the pastor said. "That's pretty basic."
There is no silver bullet to the problem of climate change, Cram said, but there is what he called "silver buckshot," or lots of small ways people can make a difference.

"Get involved, think about your house and your vehicle," he recommends. People can make use of existing technology to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. By using efficient light bulbs, driving efficient vehicles, avoiding idling auto engines - a host of "little tiny things" - people can make a difference.
"It's very hopeful. We still need to convince a lot of people that there is a problem, and that's kind of what the first part of the message is about. And then we get into what we can do and how we respond to this problem," Cram said.
Cram called the former U.S. vice president "very accessible." Cram expected little more than a cameo during the training from the former U.S. vice president, but Gore spent a lot of time with trainees. Cram called Gore "very accessible."
"He doesn't put on airs," Cram said, and added Gore has a great sense of humor.

Cram is ready to schedule presentations of "Answer the Call" in the Roaring Fork Valley. He offers 20-, 40- and 60-minute versions of the slide show. Cram cannot accept a fee to give the presentation, but said it is reasonable for individuals or organizations to cover his travel expenses. He plans to hold the first presentation in coming weeks at the Aspen Community Church.
To arrange a presentation, contact Cram at the church at 925-1571, by cell phone at 319-0458, or by e-mail at
Charles Agar's e-mail address is

January 12, 2007

2006 Is Hottest Year on Record in U.S.

Last year was the warmest in the continental United States in the past 112 years -- capping a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record" that was driven in part by the burning of fossil fuels, the government reported yesterday.
According to the government's National Climatic Data Center, the record-breaking warmth -- which caused daffodils and cherry trees to bloom throughout the East on New Year's Day -- was the result of both unusual regional weather patterns and the long-term effects of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The center said there are indications that the rate at which global temperatures are rising is speeding up.
El Ni?o weather pattern in the equatorial Pacific also contributed to the warm temperatures by blocking cold Arctic air from moving south and east across the nation.
Advocates for more action to control carbon dioxide emissions also voiced concern.
The Bush administration has rejected proposals to cap carbon dioxide emissions or impose carbon taxes as a way to limit global warming. Lawrimore said he believes the problem could and should be addressed by developing new technologies for powering vehicles and industry.

January 05, 2007

An Icon For Climate Change: The Polar Bear

The Polar Bear.

I fervently believe that climate change, with the destruction that it is wreaking on our fragile, sacred earth, has become the most profound religious issue of our times.
A Jewish Response to Climate Change