Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts’ TEDx talk

Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts' TEDx talk

The management of Face Activities is very concerned about the environment and threats to the health and welfare of our planet, animal habitats, and human life, caused by environmental dangers, like climate change. In this spirit, we will periodically present pieces on significant threats to the safety of our planet, including climate change, pollution, and over population. We urge our membership to stay active, and involved, in making our planet a better, safer, and cleaner home.


David Roberts, a staff writer for, gave a TEDx talk about climate change, called “Climate Change is Simple,” in 2012. It remains an excellent, simple introduction to the subject, and a call to arms. The threat of warming global temperatures, caused by human activity, is a great risk to the long-term survival of humanity, and all life on earth.

Roberts explains how critical the problem is. By burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, we are pouring billions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere yearly, which acts like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun that would otherwise radiate back into space. This heats up our atmosphere and oceans relatively rapidly. Natural atmospheric warming of a similar sort has happened before in our planets prehistory, but slowly. In our post-industrial revolution era, global warming is happening at a much faster rate than ever before. So, what are the effects?

According to Roberts, scientists and politicians proposed a somewhat arbitrary 2 degree Celsius limit on the global temperature rise. If average temperatures went above this threshold, then negative effects from climate change would be likely. Unfortunately this threshold was set much too high. Negative effects are likely to become quite noticeable at just 1.5 degrees Celsius (note that we’ve currently reached the 1 degree mark, since the start of the industrial revolution.)

Roberts also notes that if we continue on our current course, with our current green house gas emission rates, we could reach 4 and even 6 degree rises. This level of warming would have devastating effects on world populations. Over half the species on earth would die, and 40% or more of the habitable land on the earth’s surface would be stricken by drought, risking the world’s food supply. Sea levels would rise dramatically, flooding many coastal lands and cities, and hundreds of millions of people would become refugees. We would have a very real problem housing and feeding the world’s population.

In the worst case scenario, global warming could trigger feedback loops in the environment, causing a run away warming trend that’s irreversible. For example, if the permafrost in Siberia melts and releases significant quantities of methane gas into the atmosphere, which is a potent green house gas, then temperatures could sky rocket, causing the average global temperature rise to hit 12 degrees Celsius by the year 2300. In such a case the world may become virtually uninhabitable. Half the earth’s surface would literally be too hot for human habitation. For example, a place that now has an average temperature of 80 F could reach 170 F! Human beings may not have the technology to survive in a world that hot, and life as we know it now would surely be a thing of the past.

Roberts urges action now. He recognizes that many hold back from climate change activism because they don’t understand the science very well. But he presents his TEDx talk in order to over come that barrier. To Roberts, the principles of climate change are simple, and its consequences are dire. We must greatly limit carbon emissions over the next few years, or risk a significant and lasting increase in global temperatures, threatening our safety the habitability of planet earth.


Photo: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) – Climate change is simple: David Roberts at TEDxTheEvergreenStateCollege / Youtube

Carbon Capture Breakthrough? Nano Tech catalyzed CO2 to Ethanol

Carbon Capture Breakthrough? Nano Tech catalyzed CO2 to Ethanol

There’s a potentially monumental breakthrough in energy technology in the news. In a surprising development, researchers at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have turned carbon dioxide, the green house gas driving climate change, into ethanol, a useful fuel and chemical compound. What’s most exciting of all, the room temperature process appears to be quick, efficient, and economical, with yields of ethanol between 63 and 70 per cent.

The researchers used a wafer adapted with nanotechnology, using otherwise ordinary materials, to catalyze the reaction, to produce pure ethanol from CO2. They originally planned to make a catalyst based on graphene, which is a very interesting material made from a single layer of carbon just one atom thick. But they ended up making, for practical reasons, a wafer studded with tiny “nano spikes” culminating in points just a few atoms wide. The tips of these spikes can concentrate an electrical charge, where the desired chemical reaction, which includes a tiny droplet of nitrogen, takes place. They originally expected to produce methanol, but their wafer yielded its even more useful chemical cousin, ethanol.

So how might this help humanity? This technology could remove extra carbon dioxide from the air, where its excessive build-up is causing climate change due to the well-documented green house effect. In addition, and even more exciting, this method could be used as a storage mechanism for a completely renewable energy system, supplying the grid with power even when the sun doesn’t shine on solar panels, and the wind doesn’t blow across wind turbines.

During up times, when there’s ample renewable energy available, the system would generate extra electricity, above and beyond the needs of the electrical grid, and use this catalytic process to create ethanol. Then during down times, like at night, or when the winds aren’t blowing, the ethanol could fuel old-fashioned generators producing electricity to dump back into the grid.

This storage issue has been a major problem with scaling up alternative energy resources, so a cheap, efficient ethanol solution would be very workable. And creating ethanol in this manner, right from existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, would be a carbon neutral solution, unlike burning fossil fuels, which dumps enormous quantities of new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And let’s not forget that the internal combustion engines used in cars and trucks can also run on ethanol, so the possibilities are wide open for inserting this method into the energy economy.

Learn about this nanotech method to create ethanol from CO2 (engadget)



Photo: By Tony Webster from San Francisco, California (J.D. Irving Smoke Stacks) CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Nye on Climate Change and Politics

Bill-Nye on the politics of climate change

Bill Nye, the Cornell-trained engineer and beloved popularizer of Science, gets serious about climate change, and the politics that exacerbate the problem, endangering our planet.

The science educator doesn’t mince words. He sites climate change denial as a serious issue, spear-headed by big-name republican politicians, especially the three Republican Candidates currently running for President. Nye believes climate change is now a partisan issue because the conservatives readily accept money from the fossil fuel industry.

And since politics is all about survival, Nye feels millennial voters are key to changing the status quo: to garner their votes conservatives may change their tune regarding climate change in years to come.

Bill Nye rose to fame as the host of the popular television show “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” He continues to further his career in science education as the current head of The Planetary Society.

Learn more about Bill Nye’s thoughts on the politics of climate change (CNN)
Photo: CNN (screen capture)