Food’s Future of Sun and Sea

The picture shows an areal view of the greenhouse farm and its power source. The greenhouses are farthest from the camera, large, flat, white buildings. They form a sort of diamond shape on the ground, with the "bottom" point towards the camera, and the "top" farther back in the distance. In the foreground and to the right a couple rectangular holding ponds of some kind. Running up the other side of the diamond is the solar array. It's a field of mirrors, all computer-positioned to reflect sunlight onto a central tower, where a medium like molten salt is super-heated to generate power with conventional steam turbines.

The next few decades are going to see some significant changes in global agriculture. Not only will current breadbaskets get worse and worse for farming, but growing water shortages will force significant changes in how we irrigate, and what crops we can grow. Fortunately, I think that agricultural problems will be some of the easier ones to solve, and I’m expecting that we’re going to see a lot more food grown in places like the Sundrop Farm in Port Augusta, AU. [Read more…]

Fight Supremacy: Boston Defeats the Dread Gazebo!

Round 1

ED: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.
ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?
ED: (Pause) It’s white, Eric.
ERIC: How far away is it?
ED: About 50 yards.
ERIC: How big is it?
ED: (Pause) It’s about 30 ft across, 15 ft high, with a pointed top.
ERIC: I use my sword to detect good on it.
ED: It’s not good, Eric. It’s a gazebo.
ERIC: (Pause) I call out to it.
ED: It won’t answer. It’s a gazebo.
ERIC: (Pause) I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does itrespond in any way?
ED: No, Eric, it’s a gazebo!
ERIC: I shoot it with my bow (roll to hit). What happened?
ED: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.
ERIC: (Pause) Wasn’t it wounded?
ERIC: (Whimper) But that was a +3 arrow!
ED: It’s a gazebo, Eric, a GAZEBO! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don’t know why anybody would even try. It’s a @#$%!! gazebo!
ERIC: (Long pause. He has no axe or fire spells.) I run away.
ED: (Thoroughly frustrated) It’s too late. You’ve awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you.
ERIC: (Reaching for his dice) Maybe I’ll roll up a fire-using mage so I can avenge my Paladin.

Round 2

I don’t like going to protests, political rallies, and other things like that. I think they’re important, I think they are good things to go to, but I generally find the experience to be uncomfortable. That said, there are times when I think it’s important to bestir myself, and go participate.

[Read more…]

The Dam Continues to Crumble: Rate of Sea Level Rise Doubled or Tripled.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the rate of sea level rise between 1993 and 2012 was two or three times greater than before 1990. This appears to be partly due to a slight over-estimate in the rate of sea level rise prior to 1990, and partly due to the fact that higher temperatures mean more ice melt and faster thermal expansion.

As I’ve said before, it is inevitable that the waters will rise faster and faster as the planet gets hotter, and while the yearly increase in sea level is still a matter of a couple millimeters, it’s going to be a lot more pretty soon. You can read more on this from Chris Mooney at the Independent.

Rolling Dice on a Crumbling Dam: Running Out of Time to Prepare

As we look at what preparations need to be made for rising sea levels, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the pattern of sea level rise. Over the 20th century, it progressed at a fairly steady rate, and most of the rise was due to thermal expansion of water. The oceans absorbed a huge amount of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gas increase, and that’s what led to the few inches sea level we saw by the year 2000.

The 21st century is different. We’re now facing sea level rise due to melting ice on Greenland and Antarctica, and so the pattern of rise is likely to change. Of particular concern are the glaciers and ice shelves that are currently resting on the sea floor, held in place by the topography of the land underneath them.

As the warming waters get up under the ice sheets, there’s no clear prediction for when they’ll eat away enough ice to let the ice float free. When that happens, we could see a dramatic increase sea level – a foot or more per decade. [Read more…]

Choosing a way forward

The great tragedy of man-made global warming is that we knew it was coming, and we could have avoided it. Our changing climate is bringing with it a whole suite of other predictable problems that we should probably be preparing for, if we don’t want to screw them up as badly as we screwed up the climate. In particular, we need to be thinking about the second-layer problems – the ones caused by the immediate and obvious changes like sea level rise. [Read more…]