Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on May 5, 2007

We had our forth social event of 2007 at Candy and Jule s home on Alki. We had a big turnout with 42 guests to hear our guest speakers, Dennis Hartman and Paul Birkeland. Thanks so much to Candy and Jule for opening up their home!


First Keynote Speaker, Dennis Hartman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington ( - 

View Dennis Hartman's PowerPoint presentation
(broadband connection recommended)

Professor Hartman gave a very detailed PowerPoint presentation on global warming. This presentation began by showing the linkages between climate change and ozone depletion, biodiversity, forestry, water, desertification and air quality. The composition of the atmosphere and the Earth s climate has changed, mostly due to human activities (highly certain), and is projected to continue to change, globally and regionally:

        Increased greenhouse gases and aerosols

        Warmer temperatures

        Changing precipitation patterns spatially and temporally

        Higher sea levels higher storm surges

        Retreating mountain glaciers

        Melting of the Greenland ice cap

        Reduced arctic sea ice

        More frequent extreme weather events

        heat waves, floods and droughts

        More intense cyclonic events, e,g., hurricanes in the Atlantic


Professor Hartman showed graphs indicating the change in global temperatures and sea levels (increases) as well as snow cover (decrease) over the past few decades. This is hard data, not theoretical. Next, Professor Hartman showed NASA graphs depicting the steady rise of temperature on the earth s surface since the 1850s, as well as a graph showing that climate change is more intense at the northern and southern poles. From the 1880s to date, the global mean temperature has increased approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius. If these trends continue at the current rates, sea ice will be gone in the summertime by 2100. Dennis showed multiple images of rapidly shrinking glaciers to emphasize this point, including the massive reduction in size of Andean glaciers as well as the annual Greenland ice melt, which has increase dramatically. If Greenland was to completely thaw, this would lead to a twenty foot rise in sea levels.  

Climate change is both a development and global environmental issue, which undermines environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation and the livelihoods of the poor, and threatens human health as well as personal, national and regional security. Climate change is an inter- and intra-generational equity issue. Developing countries and poor people in developing countries are the most vulnerable. The actions of today will affect future generations because of the long life-times of the greenhouse gases and the inertia within the climate system. People living in the western (first) world are more able to change their current behavior to lower CO2 emissions. These efforts are more difficult for third world residents.

 The intensity and frequency of summertime heat waves are increasing. Europe has recently experienced heat waves which have lead to tens of thousands of deaths. North Atlantic hurricanes have increased in frequency, as well as in size and intensity. There has been a very marked increase since 1994. Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, which are the most intense, have had a dramatic increase since the 1980s.

Professor Hartman next showed graphs indicating the dramatic increase in carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx) and methane (CH4) over the past 250 years as a result of human activity. Before the industrial revolution, there was very little change in the levels of these elements in our atmosphere. The pre-industrial revolution amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was approximately 275 ppm. Today s value is 380 ppm; a 38% increase. The increase in CO2 has been almost 0.5% per year. On a graph, this represents a J Curve effect, showing a long, flat period of constant CO2 levels with a sudden dramatic rise in recent years. International teams of scientists have drilled ice cores in Vostok, Antarctica approximately 2 miles deep to obtain a CO2 history over the past hundreds of thousands of years. This data shows that the increase in atmospheric CO2 in recent years, as well as CH4, is far above the natural cycle.

Professor Hartman next discussed climate forcing. Climate Forcing is defined to be the change in the top-of-atmosphere energy budget caused by an action, I.E., by human activities. Dennis showed multiple detailed charts depicting emissions due to human activity and the resulting impact on the atmosphere, including images from space. Analyzing the data involved with climate change, it is clear that the rapid recent increase in CO2 and other emissions is very unlikely from natural occurrences, but rather from human activity. Our planet has been warming in all regions of the world.

We then discussed our future in regards to climate change. If we don t alter our behavior, I.E., continue as we current live and consume today, global temperatures will increase by over 3 degrees Celsius (over 5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. However, temperature changes are not constant throughout the different regions of the world. At the poles, temperature increase will be double, I.E., increase of up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Increases will be greatest over land and at most high northern latitudes. Increases will be least over the southern oceans. Depending on our success in changing our behavior, we can reduce the amount temperatures will increase.

Besides increases in temperature there will be other impacts on weather. Some areas will become wetter, some dryer. Human-induced climate change is projected to decrease water availability and water quality in many arid and semi-arid regions, leading to the increased risk of floods and droughts in many regions. The fraction of land in extreme drought at any one time could increase from 1% to 30%. We will experience a decrease in the reliability of hydropower and biomass production in some regions. We will experience an increase in the incidence of certain diseases, E.G., malaria, dengue and cholera, as well as heat stress mortality. We will experience greater threats to nutrition in developing countries and an increase in extreme weather event deaths. There will be a decrease in agricultural productivity for almost any   warming in the tropics and sub-tropics. There will be adverse impacts on fisheries. There will be an adverse effect on ecological systems, especially coral reefs. Global warming will exacerbate the loss of biodiversity.

Dennis then discussed the release of emissions from multiple human activities, such as our use of energy and in food production. A key point is that our lifestyle and current needs lead to a tremendous use of resources and the release of global warming emissions into the atmosphere. The USA and Americans are the biggest source of global warming emissions. Developing countries, especially China and India, are rapidly increasing their CO2 and NOx emissions, but still lag behind the USA. Clearly the USA needs to show leadership in lifestyle changes leading to emission reductions. Our future is dependent on how able we are to make these needed changes. There are many changes we can make, including:

        Efficient production and use of energy: coal plants (e.g., re-powering old inefficient plants and developing IGCC); vehicles (e.g., fuel cell cars) and reduced use of vehicles (e.g., mass transit and urban planning), buildings, and industries

        Fuel shift: coal to gas

        Renewable Energy and Fuels: Wind power; solar PV and solar thermal; small and large-scale hydropower; bio-energy

        CO2 Capture and Storage: Capture CO2 in the production of electricity followed by geological storage (e.g., IGCC CCS)

        Nuclear fission: Nuclear power

        Forests and Agricultural Soils: Reduced deforestation; reforestation; afforestation; and conservation tillage

 Professor Hartman then took multiple questions, some of which are captured below.

 Q What can one do when discussing global warming with non-believers that claim the scientists that believe in global warming are self-serving and just trying to promote their own agendas?

A International scientists meet to discuss climate change on a regular basis. These experts in this field develop the data which covers what is happening with climate change. If there was a scientist out there that could actually prove global warming was a falsehood, they would do this. This proof would make them famous! Yet, no accredited scientist has done this. Why not? Because no one has, or can disprove global warming is happening and is due mainly to human activity.

 Q What about using nuclear power as an alternative energy source?

A Nuclear power is a very political issue. The government needs to convince the public that they have the answers to make using nuclear power safe. Nuclear power does not emit CO2 or lead to global warming.

 Q What is the impact of human population growth on global warming.

A The correlation is there.

Q What is your opinion on the film An Inconvenient Truth?

A It contained a little bit of hyping, but the science in the film is true.

Q What would be the impact on the planet if sea levels did increase by 20 feet?

A This would be a really big deal. Huge.

 Q Can you describe what it is like being a scientist studying climate in today s political environment?

A This science is not really fun any longer. There are frequently bad, personal attacks by politicians on scientists. At congressional hearings politicians only bring in experts that they want to hear from.

Q What actions do we need to take? How do we understand the variability in the data? How do we prevent serious harm to humans? 

A We don t have all the answers, but to do nothing is a very bad strategy. We should do things that make sense for multiple reasons, but we tend to do the opposite.

Second Keynote Speaker, president of Integrated Renewable Energy and a focal point for Step it Up Seattle , Paul Birkeland (

 Paul was an organizer and a leader of the Seattle Step-It-Up efforts, part of the national day of action in regards to climate change on April 14th. Seattle had the largest turnout in the nation with approximately 2000 to 2500 participants in the march and rally that day! Step It Up is a grassroots effort to get political leaders committed to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2050, a level that most climate models show will mitigate the worst impacts of global warming. Bill McKibben started Step It Up in January with the intent of sparking nationwide protests demanding action to confront global warming. McKibben wrote, "If we're going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn't enough."

Our first challenge in these efforts is to overcome denial and ignorance. This is finally happening. Americans are finally understanding just how big of a problem we are facing with global warming. Paul indicated that we can no longer sugarcoat the magnitude of this issue we are facing a problem on the scale of World War II. We need to meet this challenge!

To meet this challenge, we need a portfolio of solutions, including individual solutions, collective (governmental) solutions as well as deeper meta solutions. Individual actions are critical. Simple actions will make a huge impact. For example, worldwide the emissions due to the use of incandescent bulbs equals 70% of the emissions due to automobiles! By switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, we can reduce those emissions by three-quarters. Australia is in the process of phasing them out. There may be certain reasons why incandescent lights are sometimes required, but in most cases they are not.

Another example of a simple but important action is the need to ban gas-powered yard equipment. Operating a gas-powered lawn mower for one hour is the equivalent (in emissions) of driving an average sized car 100 miles. Operating a 15 year old gas lawn mower for one hour is the equivalent of driving 650 miles! All gasoline powered landscaping equipment needs to be banned.

We need to target zero waste. This includes designing products to be reused and recycled. This includes packaging. There are significant improvements we can make to the infrastructure within cities to assist with these efforts.

Birkeland then shifted to a discussion of meta solutions by first presenting the various regional, national, and global networks we are all involved in. Food, energy, waste are just a few. He went on to use our food network as an example, and presented some Food Facts to make our situation clear.

A food fact: the average mouthful of food in America has traveled 1,500 miles! Eating a home cooked meal in Seattle is equivalent to ordering take out from San Diego! A study was completed in Iowa, America s food basket , which found that even in this agricultural state food has traveled far to reach the local grocery store, E.G., 1,690 miles for carrots, 1,292 miles for potatoes and 600 miles for a typical roast. Americans import a significant portion of our food to insure we have the food we want no matter what the season. For example, we import grapes from Chile. A pound of grapes from Chile requires six pounds of fuel, which results in twenty pounds of CO2 emissions. (The factor of CO2 to fuel is 1 unit of used fuel emits 3.155 units of CO2). Another example: Denmark, famous for their wonderful sugar cookies, imports as many sugar cookies as they export. Why not just swap recipes instead of the actual products?!!

Packaging is another huge consideration. A box of cereal contains 7 times the embodied energy as the cereal within the box! Transportation of our goods, normally by truck, adds greatly to our emissions output. Forty percent of all trucks on our highways are engaged in the long distance transportation of food..

Two key assumptions enabled the development of this hyper-efficient long distance food network. First is that oil will last forever. Second is that emissions don t matter. These assumptions are both proving to be incorrect. A local food network is critical to emissions reduction efforts. One study found that if we begin to eat seasonally and locally, we can reduce our emissions by 20%.

Birkeland pointed out other reasons for re-developing our local food network. Our current food production centers and network are at risk from the impacts of climate change. This risk includes droughts, freezes, new pests, new pathogens, increased terrorism and an increase in the price we pay for energy. We don t know what combination of these things will strike, and we don t know what particular aspect of our food network will be impacted, but with the plethora of threats, we are bound to see some degradation of our food supply. The result is that food security will become, if it is not already, a local government responsibility.

So to reduce our emissions, reduce our energy consumption and provide a safety net for our citizens, we should cultivate our local food economy. And despite agribusiness claims to the contrary, we CAN feed ourselves locally. It is already happening around the world. Many communities have strong urban farm systems. In Shanghai 60% of the vegetables and 90% of the milk and eggs come from urban farms. When Cuba faced a crisis with the fall of the former Soviet Union they switched to non-industrial, collective agriculture and have been able to feed the people of Havana organically from produce grown within Havana. During WWII, Victory Gardens supplied 40% of Americas produce needs. Producing locally is not only a theory it has been proven to be possible for years.

Local governments must lead this effort. Each municipality is different, and each must plan its own food security. Most critically right now, they need to get involved in the reauthorization of the Farm Bill in Congress. They should press their Congressional delegations to get involved in that reauthorization process and change it from a Farm Bill , which is constructed to support the large US food corporations such as ADM, to a better named Food Security Bill constructed to support local food production. This bill could provide subsidies to promote local food production and local food security efforts, fully integrated from the local level on up.

We need to do an inventory of Seattle s assets in this area and to better develop our rural community relations. We need governmental support to transition our local economy to local production. We also need to put in place community kitchens and Farmer s Market in our lower income communities. They are the ones most at risk to a changing food security situation.

 All of these efforts will help to build communities; to strengthen communities. Research has shown that shopping at Farmers Markets leads to more conversations and to getting to know your neighbors! Community kitchen programs have led to political action in other cities.

As we organize our portfolio of solutions to climate change, we need to keep in mind an organizing principle to help us sort through candidate actions. When organizing these efforts, we need to begin with asking does this proposed action benefit our local economy? If it does, we need to implement it. If not, we probably don t want to take this approach. I.E., we don t want to make changes that will not support our needs. If an action is neutral toward local economies, then we should find a way to make it benefit local economies.  

In summary, we used the food network as an example, but these conclusions hold for all our networks. It is local economies that reduce our emissions. It is local economies that reduce our energy consumption. It is local economies that provide a safety net for our citizens. It is local economies.

Q What happens to the local Chilean farmer when the US decides to stop importing food from Chile? Haven t worked with them to set up an industry that needs to now be considered when we make changes?

A Yes. However, we need to decrease our emissions. If we don t we will face catastrophic consequences, and these will have the biggest negative impact on the poorest people. The transition to local economies will not happen overnight, although we need to accomplish it as quickly as possible. Presumably as we are transitioning to a local economy, other parts of the global network are doing the same in their part of the world.

Q Aren t all politics local?

A Sure. And thus utilizing our local political system is important. Part of this can support efforts to create Durable Communities. This is a possible next step in the efforts of Step-It-Up Seattle.  

Q Why don t we also work to abolish drive-through windows?

A That should certainly be considered as part of the portfolio.

 Audience Comment On Oprah she talked about the need to unplug our appliances, not to just turn them off.

Speaker Comment: Any appliance that has a cube on the end of the wire draws power even when the device is off. This is known as a phantom load. Cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, hair dryers are examples. Many devices have the cube inside the device itself. Televisions, stereos, and most kitchen appliances fall in this category. They consume up to 50% of their full power capacity even when they are not doing anything. Use a power strip or wall switch to really turn them off.

Q What is your opinion on Carbon Credits and Emission Trading Schemes?

A They advantages and benefits of these towards truly solving the problem are very questionable. Carbon credits are currently unregulated and some of the credits being sold are questionable. I expect that we will see a scandal being reported within the year regarding carbon credits. It s already starting. We need to be careful, especially if we are buying them for a corporation whose image is important. Anyone who purchased carbon credits from the wrong entity will be smeared when this hits the fan.

The Carbon Tax idea is simple, but translating the scientifically determined emissions reduction required to the right amount of tax is a difficult and political process. We aren t likely to get the emissions reductions we need. The Cap and Trade scheme is better, but requires extensive monitoring and measurement of emissions nationwide. I promote a Cap and Tax scheme. First of all, this allows us to directly mandate the emissions reductions we need. Secondly, taxing the carbon content of fuels would help governments generate much revenue to address the impacts of climate change that we are likely to see. Money will be required for disaster relief, agricultural transitions, military deployments, public health responses, and humanitarian aid. Cap and Tax discourages carbon emissions while providing resources to address the impacts that are coming our way.

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to Dennis Hartman and Paul Birkeland for their informative and important talks!

Other announcements

Jim Robinson for Redmond Mayor inSPIRe member Jim Robinson announced his candidacy for mayor of Redmond. Jim is current on the Redmond City Council. For more information, please see for more information.

 Clean Elections Fundraiser Marcee Stone announce that Washington Public Campaigns will be hosting a fundraiser at the Comedy Underground on May 15th. Please see the following link for more information.

 Dennis Kucinich House Bill (HR 333) towards impeachment Linda Boyd announced that House Bill 333, the bill introducing Articles of Impeachment against Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney, now has two co-sponsors, for a total of 3 current total supporters, including sponsor US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). The two cosponsors are US Reps. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Janice Schakowsky (D-IL).

inSPIRe Book Club! We will be reading for our June 13, 2007 gathering: Happiness: lessons from a new science by Richard Layard


 See you at the next inSPIRE meeting!



Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events

Keynote speakers: Left, Dennis Hartman, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the UW; right, Paul Birkeland, president of Integrated Renewable energy.

Vivian, the birthday girl

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