Climate Change

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I will tackle this topic for my Power Point Assignment and have chosen Dr. P Epstein as expert scientists in this field. My references so far are listed below:

Epstein PR, Diaz HF, Elias S, Grabherr G, Graham NE, Martens WJM, Mosley-Thompson E and Susskind J. 1998. Biological and Physical Signs of Climate Change: Focus on Mosquito-borne Diseases. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 79(3):409-417

Epstein PR. 2000. Is Global Warming harmful to Health? Scientific American 283(2):50-57

Hendrickson SE, Wong T, Allen P, Ford T and Epstein PR. 2001. Marine Swimming-Related Illness: Implications for Monitoring and Environmental Policy. Environmental Health Perspectives 109(7):645-650

Rose JB, Epstein PR, Lipp EK, Sherman BH, Bernhard SM and Patz JA. 2001. Climate Variability and Change in the United States: Potential Impacts on Water- and Foodborne Diseases caused by Microbiologic Agents. Environmental Health Perspectives 109(2):211-221

Karen Marais
BCB Hons NISL student
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17




Climate change

Film: Status in the USA

Care about Global Warming beciuase it will remake the face of the earth

Dr. Donald Kennedy editor in chief Science

Dr. Stephen Schneider Co-director Centre for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University.

Accident of nature

Changes are already visible to the man in the street.

The most obvious impacts are more heat waves (Heat wave last more than four consecutive days have nearly tripled in the last 50 years).

Heat waves are greatest manifestation of Climate Change in the USA. They are responsible for more deaths of people than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning and blizzards combined.

Dr. Laurence S Kalkstein (Climate Change Scientist, University of Delaware)

Heat Wave deaths are not as apparent as from natural diasasters such as Hurricanes, Tornados and Tsunamis, but nevertheless the die through cardiac arrest, respiratory stress and stokes. Just going back to Chicago Illinois July 1995, the population can survive one, two or even three days in a row of high temperatures, but this situation persisted for at least a week with temperatures around 40 C. Approximately 800 people died over a short period of time (a week or two) in one city during one heat wave.

Dr. Richard Sommerville Climate Research Division Scrippts Intitution of Oceanography.

The Chicago case was a very serious case illustrating the effects of Climate Change

In Europe summer of 2003 the heatwave killed tens of thousands of people. (Over 6 000 died in Germany, over 14 000 died in France and over 19 000 died in Italy).

The European heat wave got our attention by being a very rare event, but tthat will become commonplace in a few decades if we do not stop global warming. Heat waves are predicted to double by 2020 if global warming is not curbed.

What is Global Warming?

Dr. Stephen Schneider defines it as what happens when you add junk into the atmospheres mostly from the tail pipes of our cars and smoke stacks of our factories and it blocks some of the energy exchange between the earth and space trapping heat near the earth’s surface.

Prof. Daniel Schrag, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.

To understand Global Warming you have to understand the Green House Effect. The Green House Effect works by sunlight coming through the glass of the green house and getting absorbed by the plants and the soil. The absorption of that light turns that energy from the sun into heat and the temperature inside that green house heats up. If the heat could just escape it would be very cold inside that green house but what happens is that glass insulates the green house and traps some of that heat, making the temperature significantly warmer if that glass had not been there. The same exact thing happens in our atmosphere, our atmosphere is transparent to the visible light from the sun and so the sunlight come through and gets absorbed by the surface of the earth. The surface heats up and instead of the heat just escaping back to space the green house gases, particularly Water Vapour and Carbon Dioxide traps some of that heat as it leaves the surface and is like putting a blanket on us at night.

Dr. Richard Sommerville

On the Green House effect the concern is that mankind is changing it.

Dr. Donald Kennedy

What humans are doing is to add green house to the atmosphere by processes that were never known in pre-industrial times. The dramatic change is the increase in emission of Carbon Dioxide due to industrial activity. We are adding extra Green Houss gases to the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas, and it is like adding more and more blankets all the time.

Human activities are thickening the Green House blanket and are threatening to make earth warmer than it has been in millions of years.

How did this happen?

Do you drive a car? Burning gasoline causes global warming.

Do you use electricity? Turning on a light switch or using air conditioning or a refrigerator uses power usually in a way that causes global warming. Almost all our use of energy leads to global warming.

Dr Stephen Schneider

One of the silliest things is when somebody points to a super heat wave and says “see global warming did it and then you get a cold wave and they say oh no Global warming is a phony. Weather is what the atmosphere is doing at this moment in every place, you should never look at what happened this week in the weather, you are going to get some really weird hot and some weird cold so you have to average statistically all around the world and when you do that Global Warming emerges as a virtual certainty.

Dr. Richard Sommerville

You know when we talk about Global Warming, we usually talk about the climate getting a little bit warmer, 1C, 3C or maybe 5C warmer and people make fun of that because they think it is not a very big number. You can die from diseases symptoms if the fever is only a few degrees above normal.

Is it all about Heat?

Dr Jonathan Patz Director, Global Environmental Health Initiative, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

It is important when you think about Global Warming to remember that it is not just temperatures creeping up its actually increases in extreme climate events and extreme weather events like storms, floods and droughts.

Extreme Weather

Global Warming is all about climate extremes.

Dr Tom Wigley Senior Scientist – National Centre for Atmospheric Research

Of course global Warming means that the average temperature of the planet will increase, but when we do that we change all aspects of the climate system, for example if you warm up the oceans that you increase the amount of evaporation, if there is more water vapour going up into the atmosphere, then its got to rain more.

Dr Kevin Trenberth Head Climate Analysis Scetion - National Centre for Atmospheric Research

What is happening across the United States is that moderate rains are decreasing slightly, an heavy rains, very heavy rains are increasing, so it rains harder when it does rain. It is the very heavy rains that is difficult to manage because they are the ones that cause local flooding, or if the continue more widespread flooding.

Dr Paul R. Epstein Associate Director Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School

And it is these heavy rainfall events that can then flush the water out of the sanitation systems into the clean water supplies, and what that will mean to our health in terms of water contamination is something that we will have to contend with.

On the whole, the atmosphere and the planet are going to get wetter due to global warming, but in many areas, in places that are already sort of dry, the climate will on the whole will get drier, because the increased heat is going to bake the moisture straight out of the soil, and in some areas drought will become more and more common and that is a very dangerous thing, because this will have a big impact not only on agriculture but on the availability of water.

Prof. Daniel Schrag, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.

We all see different parts of the climate system and we all experience the climate differently, we do not see the full way that the climate affects our lives. The way it affects natural ecosystems, and the way it affects our air and the water that we use and everything else.

I think what is really important, when you look around on your surroundings, just look outside, is to realize how connected everything is.

Dr Jonathan Foley Director, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

I think a lot of people see climate change as some big theoretical thing far into the future that doesn’t connect to their everyday lives. And really don’t think that is true.

Imagine, imagine that you live in New England and I grew up in Maine for example, and seeing that the time of the leaves change colours starts to change or maybe they don’t change colour anymore. Or your favorite skiing spot no longer gets snow, or here in the upper Mid-west where I live now you cannot go ice fishing in the winter anymore, or the geese that come in the spring don’t come at the same time. All of those things that we take for granted about the pulse of the seasons, about when the Maple syrup runs in the spring and when the leaves turn in the fall, or when the snow comes for the kids, if all of those things started to change, it would really change the character of where we live in many profound ways.

Dr William Collins Climate Scientist - National Centre for Atmospheric Research

Scientists are sure that we are changing the climate for the foreseeable future, but what we are not sure about is whether we are able to live with those changes.

What kind of changes?

Water Supply

Our civilization is dependent on having water, where we want it and when we want it and in the quantities that we need it. That whole system is going to be turned upside down as the climate changes. For instance its going to change the balance between snow and rain, and that’s a big deal because of a lot of places in the west we are dependent on our ability to store water and get it from snow-pack.

Dr Kevin Trenberth Head Climate Analysis Section - National Centre for Atmospheric Research

Snow-pack is a way of nature saving water from the times when we really don’t need it in the winter time to the times when we do need it in the spring and in the summer time, when the plants are beginning to grow.

In the western states, 75% of the water supply comes from snow-pack.

Dr. Stephen Schneider Co-director Centre for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University.

And the predictions are that as it gets hotter and this is not a very sophisticated concept, it gets hotter you are going to get less snow.

Scott Pattee Water Supply Specialist, US Department of Agriculture

In Yakima Country, Washington May 2005 what is happening is there is no snow at the lower elevations which is no surprise for this time of year, there isn’t any snow at the mid altitude elevations which is a little bit of a surprising since there should be some snow in there, but then we get up to these elevations where there should be lots of snow and there is again virtually no snow up here. I have been doing this for twelve years and I have never seen it this bad. Normally at this location we have several feet of snow, where these roads are we would still be good for cross-country skiers.

Dr Michael Scott Scientist Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

If the weather is warm in the winter in this part of the world the precipitation that does fall, tends to fall as rain rather than snow, or if it falls as snow it tends to run off early and what that means is that the water that escapes down the rivers before we need it and this year all of the water came down the river at the wrong time of year, and we don’t have the capacity to hold that water back, the man-made storage is not large enough, so we lose the water in effect.

Dr. Richard Sommerville Climate Research Division Scripps Intitution of Oceanography

The very elaborate infrastructure that has been put together in the dams and the pumps and the canals and the reservoirs won’t work because they were designed for the climate that we had rather than the climate we are going to have.

States that rely on Snow Pack for water provide more than 75% of the USA’s fresh fruit.

Steve George, owner The George Fruit Farm, Moxee Washington

If I don’t have water, I will eventually will lose the trees and then I will have no way to generate an income. Basically what we don’t have is the snow pack that say we used to have you know forty or fifty years ago.

Since 1950, spring snow pack has declined as much as 60%.

You know the precipitation doesn’t come as snow, it only comes as rain and runs off , or if it does come as snow it melts faster, and I got no fruit, or hardly any fruit. If you have this to deal with this once every ten years you could probably absorb it, but every third to fifth year makes it very difficult, you know its not much different than going to Las Vegas. And if I don’t have water I cannot even begin to throw the dice.

Dr William Collins Climate Scientist - National Centre for Atmospheric Research

There will be aspects of global warming that will be changes in the water supply that will be stressful. As we go further up into the future there may be aspects of global warming that will fundamentally change the United States.

What else could change?

Greater or lesser extent all of our lives will be affected and most of those effects will be very unpleasant.

Forest Fires

For instance there are three things that you need to get a forest fire going, heat, drought and dead trees (vegetation), and global warming is going to give us all three of these.


We can already see large scale damage to coral reefs. If we have a very large warming species, which literally cannot stand the heat will have to move out of where they are or if they can’t move go out of business all together.

One quarter of all plant and animal species could face extinction by the end of this century due to global warming.

Tropical diseases

Prof. Michael Oppenheimer Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University

Certain bugs that don’t do well in cold weather do very well in hot weather. So as the earth warms those bugs are going to thrive and we are going to see more and more diseases of this sort that have previously been confined to the tropics largely.

In 1999 West Nile Virus was first detected in New York City. It has now spread to 48 states in the USA.

Dr Jonathan Patz Director, Global Environmental Health Initiative, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The mosquitoes that carry that virus are already in the United States and it only took the introduction of that virus probably from international travel for this disease to begin to take hold.

Dr Paul R. Epstein Associate Director Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School

The mosquito that carries West Nile Virus bites birds and can transmit the virus between the birds. Other mosquitoes bit the birds that are infected and pick up the virus mosquitoes and then they bite more birds and so you get a lot of virus circulating in nature. Some of these mosquitoes bite humans.

Dr William Reisen Research Entomologist – Center for Vector-borne Diseases, University of California - Davis

And the speed at which all of this happens is driven by temperature. West Nile Virus will not grow in a Mosquito below 50F. It occurs more effectively in areas above normal temperatures. So it is an aggressive invading virus that is finding virgin soil to multiply in. With the warmth here last year, we wound up have West Nile Virus around Lake Tahoe, we have never had to look for these viruses in lake Tahoe (a ski resort high up in the Sierras). As Canada warms this mosquito will move north and so will the viruses with it.

Dr Jonathan Patz Director, Global Environmental Health Initiative, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

It is important to recognize that climate variability and climate extremes really can take an immediate and a long term toll on human health.

Dr Kevin Trenberth Head Climate Analysis Section - National Centre for Atmospheric Research

The key thing is that we are adapted to the current climate that we have and it is not just humans who are adapted to the climate in particular, it is all of the ecosystems, all of the biosphere that are adapted to our current climate.

Dr. Stephen Schneider Co-director Centre for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University.

People say don’t you ever see anything good in climate change, yea if I were a farmer up in Northern Canada or in a high latitude I am going to get a longer growing season, and the Carbon Dioxide is a fertilizer itself of green plants so people will focus on the fact that I will see there are benefits and there will be some, but they forget that Carbon Dioxide is not just a fertilizer of the plants we like corn, wheat plants and forest but also fertilize weeds.


Dr Lewis Ziska Plant Physiologist, Crop Systems and Global Change, US Department of Agriculture

We know that Carbon Dioxide is the principle global warming gas, but it is also the gas that makes plants grow and if you look at Ragweed and what we find is that as Carbon Dioxide increases in the atmosphere that Ragweed grows bigger and it produces a lot more pollen.

Since 1900, the amount of pollen produced by ragweed has doubled. It is predicted to double again by the end of this century if the Carbon Dioxide continues to rise at current rates.

Dr Paul R. Epstein Associate Director Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School

One of the things that have been a surprise is that this Carbon Dioxide stimulation of plants is, is that it has an affect on public health, this hyper-production of pollen can cause hay fever, conjunctivitis and can exacerbate asthma.

Dr Lewis Ziska Plant Physiologist, Crop Systems and Global Change, US Department of Agriculture

So we can look at this and ask why put up with a bigger ragweed plant, why don we, I dun no spay with more herbicide, the problem is as you increase Carbon Dioxide, and as you increase temperature it becomes much harder for a Ragweed so it becomes more resistant to the herbicide you apply. It doesn’t mean you can’t kill them using a herbicide and chemicals you just have to use more chemicals and increase the concentration and there is a cost to that, both an environmental and an economic cost.

Dr. Donald Kennedy editor in chief Science

There are many who believe that anything that you do to change the future course of global warming will be sufficiently expensive that they would rather not bear the cost . Of course that transfers the cost to their children.

Prof. Daniel Schrag, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

If we keep adding green house gases to the atmosphere, the earth will get warmer and warmer to the point that no human has ever seen.

We may actually see the Earth without any ice at all. All of the ice at the poles will someday melt if the earth keeps getting warmer.

Melting Alaska

Susan Hassol Author Impacts of a warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

We already see this going on in Alaska. Alaska is at the frontline of global warming because the rest of the world has warmed by about 1F, Alaska has warmed by about 5F in the last 50 years. One reason for that is that Alaska and a lot of parts of the Arctic are covered with a lot of snow and ice and that reflects away a lot of the sun’s heat. Now as that snow and ice begins to melt they reveal darker land and water surfaces and that absorbs more of the sun’s heat and that causes more melting and that causes more heating. That’s a self-reinforcing cycle that global warming feeds on itself.

Dr Bruce Molnia Research Geologist - US Geological Survey

In Alaska there are about two thousand large glaciers. More than 99%s are currently melting, retreating and shrinking. The last time that we had a complete melting of glaciers on the dunal ice-sheets was about 5000 or more years ago. So this warming period we see is extremely significant.

Glacier shown in 1941 and in 2004 when it is now a lake.

We are standing on the shoreline of Mendenhall Wake, behind me is Mendenhall Glacier. Seven years ago I would have had 150 to 200 feet of Ice above my head, but because of where I am right now would have been under the glacier and the retreat that you are seeing took place in the lifetime of my parents.

There is nothing as simple as two photographs taken from the same location, where you can see physical changes to the surface of the earth. We will make the political debate of is climate changing and how is climate changing? We can show you unequivocal visual documentation that the earth’s surface is changing.

What we are seeing is melt water. Cold melt water that has just be converted from solid ice to liquid water and each year the amount of melting is increasing. The water from the melting of this glacial ice ends up in the global ocean and sea-level rises.

If all the glaciers in Alaska were to completely melt sea-levels would go up less than one foot, but if you melt Greenland sea-levels will go up more than twenty feet, and if you were to melt all of Antarctica, total sea level rise would be more than 240 feet and you would see total inundations of coastlines around the world.

More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by WATER.

Prof. Michael Oppenheimer Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University

Think of the ocean as a tub of water if you took a bunch of ice cubes and threw them into the water the water level would rise, if you heated that water it would rise a little bit more, fluids like water expand a little bit when heated and the level in the tub would rise. That is what we are doing to the oceans. We are throwing all of that melting water from the glaciers and we are causing the water to expand a bit that is going to cause sea-level rise.

Dr. Richard Sommerville Climate Research Division Scrippts Intitution of Oceanography.

Sea level is rising, it has been rising for a long time, but we think the rate of sea-level rise is going to accelerate and over the 21st century it might rise by about 10 or 20 or 30 inches, those are the kinds of numbers we are talking about, that means that areas of the cost that aren’t very far above sea-level will be lost to sea-level, parts of the East Coast, parts of the West Coast and the Gulf Coast (of the USA), much of Florida for example.

Dr Harold Wanless, Professor and Chair Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami

Hollywood Florida, 15 miles north of Miami Beach – this is typical of our beaches along the Atlantic shore and we are having gradual erosion of the shoreline, so they are starting to put more sand on the beach if you want to keep a beach in front of you. This is just a stop gap measure to try and hold sand in front of all these hotels and condominiums that have grown up along this shoreline.

Mostly they haven’t taken into account the fact that sea-level is rising and its going to rise at an accentuated rate in the coming century. There is nice (?) Condominium complex that’s on compacted sand foundations, well think about that what is compacted sand foundation – that is just jumping up and down on the sand and building a high-rise.

Steve Welsch, Resident, Hollywood Florida

The high-tides are higher the water comes down our streets more frequently you can almost catch fish or shrimp off of your porches. I am not quite sure that people are paying attention to this when they are sitting fifteen or twenty storeys up in the air but all of a sudden when they are on the ground and realizing that their swimming pool is filled with ocean water, shrimp and fish, now you maybe have a picture to put onto the issue of global warming.

Over half of all US residents live within 50 miles of the ocean.

Prof. Daniel Schrag, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.

Storm surges are when a big storm like a hurricane is approaching a coastline and literally pushes the ocean water towards the coast. You might see in the case of a direct hit of a hurricane water rise on the coast maybe twenty or thirty feet higher than it would normally go.

Dr Kevin Trenberth Head Climate Analysis Section - National Centre for Atmospheric Research

A sea level rise of one inch or one and three-quarter inches is relatively small but if it comes on top of a storm surge and a high-tide – that is the sort of thing that can really cause things that mathematician call to go “non-linear” suddenly things break down, it’s the straw that breaks the camels back sometime.

Since 1970, the average number of CATEGORY 4 and 5 HURRICANES per year …has nearly DOUBLED.

Dr Kerry Emanuel, Professor, Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Science MIT

Hurricanes are among the most destructive natural catastrophes that we have, and their total power has gone up by almost half in the last thirty or fifty years should be cause for alarm. An average hurricane generates about a 2 trillion watts of power that is enough (energy) to light about 20 billion light bulbs. A hurricane is like a giant steam engine - there are large rotary wind systems that form over tropical oceans that converts heat energy into wind energy, the heat in the case of a hurricane comes up from the ocean, as the tropical ocean warms the intensity of hurricanes goes up.

Prof. Daniel Schrag, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.

Hurricanes happen naturally and they will continue to happen, however there is evidence now that the gradual warming of the surface of the ocean will cause a higher intensity of hurricanes.

Dr. Richard Sommerville Climate Research Division Scrippts Intitution of Oceanography.

You can’t really say that Global Warming had this or that precise effect on hurricanes, but what you can say and its not a pointy-headed scientist bright idea, its an observed fact, but what you can say is that as the world warms, as the ocean surface waters become warmer, the average intensity of hurricanes will increase, and we have seen that happen.

The people who left New Orleans are certainly weather refuges, environmental pressures like global warming in some places make people move. If there is one lesson learnt from Hurricane Katrina is that even in a modem and highly industrialized society our ability to deal with nasty climate events is extremely limited. The thing that really worries me about this problem is not what we know but what we don’t know.

We are taking a huge gamble on our system, that we can’t really control. Everyday America should be concerned. Increase in infectious diseases.

How much stronger will hurricanes get? How much will sea-level rise. More floods, More drought, more Heat Waves and we will see dramatic changes. If this is happening in 2005, try and image what is going to happen by 2015.

From the causes of global warming through to the impacts we don’t just make the necessary connections.

We are addicted to energy, our highways, our industries, our infra-structure our very way of life, from drive-ins to Humvees (large American automobiles), it is hard for us to image a world with out that is identifiably American, its something about who we are.

Dr Terry L. Root, Senior Fellow Center for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University.

The United States uses more energy by far than any other country in the world.

Dr. Richard Sommerville Climate Research Division Scrippts Intitution of Oceanography.

America has about 5% of the World Population and it adds about 25% of the Carbon Dioxide into Atmosphere. When you put a molecule of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere today because it came out of your tailpipe or your chimney, it stays in the atmosphere for something like a hundred years.

Michael Oppenheimer, PhD, Professor, Geosciencesand International Affairs, Princeton University

We are already committed to a certain amount of warming, but the future lies largely in our hands, its under our control, whether we get the modest warming that we can adapt to or whether warming gets out of control. To stabilize the climate we need to cut emissions by something like 80%. But it does not have to be done overnight, we can do it gradually over the course of this century.

Johnathan Foley, PhD, Director, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin, Madison

I don’t think that Americans like ingenuity or innovation, I think we really thrive on that and given such a challenge I think we can re-invent ourselves in ways that will be really extraordinary.

Martin Hoffert, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Physics, New York University

I think it could really renew the United States’ ability to lead the world technologically.

And by the way, the time from the Wright Brothers first flight to Neil Armstrong setting foot on the surface of the moon was only a little over 60 years


Stephen Schneider, PhD, Co-Director, center for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University

We just have to live smart and stop trying to get away with bigger bigger bigger because you just can’t keep doing that forever without having Mother Nature bat last. When you buy a refrigerator look at the label, calculate the electric cost, if its $50 more but it saves you $20 a year, you going to get your payback so fast, you can’t get that kind of money in a bank. When you walk out of the room, do you turn the light out, do you tell the kids to turn the light out? When you buy a car, does it have to be ₤8000? How about a ₤3500 hybrid? It’s a great car, it works well. And when the gas lines come and when you get shortages, you’ll be very happy, you’ll go 500 miles on it and only have to pay $30 and not $80 for your tank of gas.

David Friedman, Research Director, Clean vehicles Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Every year cars and trucks emit about 1.5 billion tons of CO2 pollution, of global warming pollution in the US. That’s more than most countries emit from all sources combined from electricity, from cars, from industry. If we could shift the hybrids, we could cut that in half.


Hybrid cars and trucks are blends of the best featured of an electric vehicle and the traditional gasoline vehicles everyone is driving around today.

Dave Bassage, Environmental Policy Strategist

I usually break hybrid drivers into three categories:-
The environmentally conscious people like myself
Those who are fascinated by the technology
And those who are just trying to save a few cents at the pump

When you get in a hybrid then you’re getting instantaneous feedback about what kind of fuel economy you’re getting at any given moment. At least for somebody like me, you can help but try to play with the numbers. Its like playing a video game and you start driving for high score and that automatically improves my driving.

Robert Barlow, Attorney

I’m a Conservative Republican. I am as bad a conservative as they come, but the root word of conservative is conserve. This number tells me how many miles per gallon I’ve gotten since I last got gas. I just don’t believe in wasting things, I don’t believe in wasting my own money, I don’t believe in wasting natural resources or any resources we might have.

Dave Bassage, Environmental Policy Strategist

I met these guys online, we all have a hobby of just trying to get the most we canout of our cars, the most mileage out of a gallon of gas.


The four of us are going to be taking turns behind the wheel of this car to see how far we can go on a single tank of gas. There are some techniques that found that could really maximize the potential of this car. The holy grail is 100miles per gallon. A lot of people assume that a very fuel efficient car must for some reason be underpowered. That’s far from the case. Anytime I hit the gas it does what I ask it to do.

The US currently consumes about 10% of its fuel just idling at stop lights,stop signs and parking lots.

Dave Bassage, Environmental Policy Strategist

When you pull up at a traffic light the gas engine shuts off, therrs no need for it.

OK, how many miles was it?


113 miles

Dave Bassage, Environmental Policy Strategist

113 miles per gallon


That’s correct

Dave Bassage, Environmental Policy Strategist

1377 miles

and he’s still going

That’s great

Beyond anything anyone of us expected

Dave Bassage, Environmental Policy Strategist

If everyone switched to hybrids that would be he equivilant of taking over 100 million cars and trucks off the road.

i think you can improve your quality of life, improve your pocket book and improve the earth’s climate all at the same time.

The quality of life does not depend on you burning gasoline, it depend on your car working and getting you to your job in the morning.


Have you ever heard of ethanol?

No, I haven’t.

Its alcohol fuel that’s made primarily in this country from corn. When you mix it with gasoline it helps the gasoline burn cleaner. The more we grow, the less we have to import from Saudi Arabia. Pure grain alcohol. The old farmers saying is drink the best grown grass.


Certainly theres a limit to how much ethanol you can make out of just corn. We start having not enough corn or we have to commit more acres.

Ron Lamberty, Director, Market Development, American Coalition for Ethanol

I think the most exciting prospect in the future for ethanol is we are starting to use alot more of things that aren’t corn. You can make ethanol from anything that has starch or cellulose and cellulose is things like wood chips or switchgrass or cornstower? Like the stuff you see laying on this field. Things that would otherwise be waste products that people would have to find a way to get rid of, we can pick out and turn it into fuel for vehicles.



Willie Nelson, Musician, founder BioWillie Diesel Fuel

My wife acme to me one day and said “I wanna buy this diesel engine car that runs on vegetable oil”. And I said it sound a little fony to me, you know, so, but if you really wanna try it…so she bought one. And it ran like a sewing machine, she got better gas mileage, the motor was cleaner. I was asking myself where have I been, you know. The guys is just not that well known. A lot of people just yelling and screaming about biodiesel.



Christopher Rowell, Truck Driver

I’ve worked with drivers, I’ve talked to some. They say their mileage has increased to a mile to two miles a gallon. That don’t seem like a whole lot, but these trucks are only averaging 6.5 now.

Kenneth Yates, President, Yates Trucking

When you’re doing this everyday like I am filling up everyday, you figure $80 or $100 everyday you’re saving.

Willie Nelson, Musician, founder BioWillie Diesel Fuel

Everyone of them has said that their engine runs better and cleaner. I know truckers and people that would pay more for biodiesel. Everyone of them is proud to spend their money for something that is going to stay here in our country and help our own folks because all of want to see this thing take off and replace our addictions to oil.

Dr. Richard Sommerville Climate Research Division Scripps Intitution of Oceanography

Its been remarked that the Stone-age ended not because we’ve run out if stones but because there were better ways to live and I think the oil age is likely to end if we are wise enough not because we’ve run out of oil but because there are better ways to supply energy.

James Gustav Speth, J.D, Dan, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

Energy is the big issue and the biggest part of that issue is coal.


James E. Rogers, Chairman and CEO, Cinergy Corp.

Coal is critical to the generation of electricity in this country. More than 50% of the electricity comes from the burning of coal.

Daniel Schrag, PhD. Professor Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

Coal is one of the biggest concerns for the future, because coal is very cheap and is very abundant. What that means is that it’s going to be a preferred energy source not just for the US but also for China, for India and for Russia that all have huge coal reserves.

The problem with coal is that it also produces the most CO2 for the amount of energy you get out of it. And that’s really big trouble for the climate system.

Prof. Michael Oppenheimer Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University

The technology exists to burn coal more efficiently also is a potential to bury some of the CO2 emissions before they go into he atmosphere bys trapping them as they’re emitted from power plants and burring them deep underground. But you know in the end we simply don’t know how expensive its going to be and how long the CO2 is going to stay there.

David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council

We need to find a way of harmonizing the use of that coal with protecting the planet. We can do both and if we do it we will be able to make progress.

James E. Rogers, Chairman and CEO, Cinergy Corp.

There’s some promising technology on the horizon but today in a world where your job is to provide affordable electricity at the lowest reasonable price you’re driven to the old technologies because there is no regulation that would drive you to the new technologies

James Gustav Speth, J.D, Dean, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

I’m afraid that our government in Washington is yet to put in place any measure that is specifically designed to protect us from climate disruption. And in a way Washington is the last holdout. They really good news in our country today is that outside of Washington people are responding and in fact they are 180+ U.S. cities committed to reducing greenhouse gases.

Portland, Oregon

Tom Potter, Mayor, Portland, Oregon

What we need is the leadership at the Federal level. But you know you can do it in the community and you can do it as a public official and that to me means that you don’t have to accept things the way they are.

In 1993, the people of Portland took on the climate challenge.

What we found in Portland is that we have reduced carbon emissions by thirteen percent while increasing our workforce by sixteen percent. We give people alternative ways to get to work. We’ve also made traveling in and out of Portland easier on public transportation than private transportation. We have Flexcars where people can rent a car on the street and use it for a few hours. And most of those cars are hybrids. The city actually has a Green Building Policy if developers and builders want to use public money they’ve got to have Green Building standards or we won’t give them the money. When we do Green Building it’s not only helps our environment it helps the economy because energy efficiency is cheaper.

Horward Shapiro, Co-op Resident, Portland, Oregon

These six buildings are all sharing their heating their cooling and their excess energy one way or another. All that is wonderful in terms of the energy conservation however the bottom line is that our energy bills are remarkably remarkably low. And it has to do with the fact that we’re using recycled energy.

Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc, Direct Marketer

John Emrick, President, Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc

In Portland Oregon the business community stepped up to the plate. One of the first things we had to do was to say what’s the worst thing we do as it relates to the environment within our business and that is print catalogs. We knocked down trees so we can get paper to print catalogs.

Each year in the U.S., about 57 million trees are used to make catalogs.

Derek Smith, Director, Corporate Responsibility, Thompson Outfitters, Inc

We use a lot of paper. Catalogs to us are like store fronts to other retailers so we’re very concerned if we used recycled paper would it reduce our customer response rates or the amount of sales we would generate. There has been no negative impact on sales. In fact over the years now we’ve found that consumers are coming to us because of our environmental commitments. Since 2002, we have been using recycled paper and we have avoided using 30 million pounds of greenhouse gases the gases that contribute to global warming.

John Emrick, President, Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc

There’s a lot of environmental changes we’ve made both into recycled paper and packaging. And whats happened as a result of what we’ve done is actually been a net saving that amounts to $2.5 million. I think we need kind of a revolution its really almost consumer led or citizen led that says we need more of you. And if you are doing more then we will support you. And then the whole competitive environment kicks in and says
I’d better be doing it.

David Yudkin, Owner, Hot Lips Pizza

Any business has a huge impact on the environment, be it the resources it uses, eg. when you turn on a pizza oven its burning natural gas its releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. So what we did is we’re capturing the waste heat that’s exhausted out of the oven we are taking that waste heat and we are heating our water. We haven’t had to have our electric heater on for two years we’ve been in the building. One of the things we were also concerned about is where the food is coming from and how far it travels, how much fossil fuel, how much refrigeration is used to get us our food. The average piece of food in the US travels 1500miles from the farmer o the plate. One of the strategies to reduce the amount of CO2 we put into the air is to use locally grown ingredients. What we realized about combustion engines are releasing the most CO2 when you’re making short trips which is exactly what pizza delivery is. We went out and got these great little electric cars that we’re using for pizza delivery. As far as CO2 emissions, it gets the equivalent of 80mile per gallon.

Delivery girl

They call up to order pizza and they say will you please delivery it in the electric car.

David Yudkin, Owner, Hot Lips Pizza

What changed for me I realizing that I have a responsibility to the next generation and that the world need to be left in at least as good shape as when I got in.

Tom Potter, Mayor, Portland, Oregon

We have been hearing so much bad news about global warming. Too many people think well global warming is just too big for me but you know everybody can do something.

And it makes sense, dollar cents and common sense.


Prof. Michael Oppenheimer Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University

We don’t need to be so dependant on fossil fuels, there are lots of alternatives. Wind power is already practical, solar power rather expensive is becoming cheaper all the time. Nuclear energy doesn’t create greenhouse gases but it has a lot of other environmental problems. Geothermal energy, tidal energy, theres a whole cornucopia of alternatives if we just focus on developing them.

Dr Jonathan Foley Director, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

This can be the biggest business opportunity of all time is to move away from a carbon based economy to a new economy that does not harm the earths climate.


Temple Dickson, Rancher

The companies that started building turbines on our land, the GE are that have torn apart our lives, they’re not telling you they are here to save the world. Corporations just don’t do that. If they cant make a profit, they don’t do it. It looks like its working for them and it clearly would not have done it had it been simply an environmental issue. The environment was extremely important in my family. They liked the idea of wind power. And windmills are certainly extremely clean. The first thing you will almost say compare to oil.

Greg Wortham, Executive Director, West Texas Wind Energy Consortium

I grew up at Sweetwater, Texas. We used to know we were home when we came over the hill and we could see pumpjacks as far as you could see. This entire valley was filled with pumpoiljacks. But now what you see is a ridgeline full of wind turbines. By the end of the year it will be roughly a million homes that can be powered by West Texas Wind. And it’s a real replacement its not a hobby anymore or a novelty or a fad. Its very much a real industry a real power plant. The technology of wind turbines improves everyday its like computers. So that means jobs, it means new opportunities for people in this region that they didn’t have before. And so it just gives this state of Texas a huge new source of industry. And we barely touched the surface of what potential is here.

William McDonough, FAIA, Architect, Environmentalist

We don’t need to destroy ourselves in the process to make ourselves comfortable. We already have the sun, its eight minutes away and its waterless. Energy is not free because you have to capture it, you have to move it around, you have to engage it, that’s where the costs are. But you know, the source itself is clean and free. Hey theres something attractive about that. And as soon its cheaper than bringing coal watch how fast everyone thinks it a great idea. To power the entire US it will only take a solarplector of 100 miles on each side in the Mojave Dessert, that’s all. That would cover our energy consumption, imagine that!

Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Martin Hoffert, PhD., Professor Emeritus, Physics, New York University

There is a prototype of a large solar facility in New Mexico and an even lager one is being built right now in California. We have actually doubled the amount of instilled capacity to generate solar energy.

James Gustav Speth, J.D, Dean, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

This new technology that Southern California Edison is deploying, will in one solar power plant produce the electricity that is about he same as large scaled coal fired power plant. Its as extraordinary.

Martin Hoffert, PhD., Professor Emeritus, Physics, New York University

The sun is this big light bulb in the sky. As far as we humans are concerned it is basically going to be there indefinitely. I think we should go where the solar energy is and collect it there, in space where the sun shine 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We could in principle have a solar powered planet

Prof. Michael Oppenheimer Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University

There are many many alternatives if we just focus on developing them. With thse sorts of technologies we don’t want one answer, we want a thousand flowers to bloom.

If we are smart enough to go to the moon, to develop the internet, to cure polio I cannot believe that we are no smart enough to stop global warming. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, no one anticipated global warming. Its perfectly natural that we would have used fossil fuels as it brought us wealth and it brought us the kind of living standard that we have today. Its one thing when you don’t know the consequences but to continue that behavior when you know that’s its damaging to you and you know that its going to be really damaging to future generations, is inexcusable.

Dr. Stephen Schneider Co-director Centre for Environmental Science and Policy, Stanford University.

Its absolutely amazing some people will say well when you are sure we will do something about it will anybody ever go to the doctor and the doctor says well I don’t like your heart condition I think that you should be on a low cholesterol diet and do exercise and you will turn around to the doctor and say well tell me precisely when am I going to have the heart attack and how severe it is. That is how absurd it is when the political world tells us in the climate world well exactly how bad is it going to be and when you are sure come back and talk to us. That’s not the way it works in any other form of life. Not in business, not in health, not in security. We have pretty good ideas of what can happen but we do not have the detail picture and we are not going to for several decades. What we are doing is taking the risk with the life support system of the earth and humans have to decide if they want to try to slow that down.

James Gustav Speth, J.D, Dean, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

We have to decide that we can deal with this issue and that we will deal with this issue.

I found a wonderful poem by Wallace Stevens. “after the final no there comes a yes and on that yes the future world depends”.


An Inconvenient Truth