We Are What We Eat: What Can I Do? (5)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 3:38 AM GMT on April 30, 2013

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We Are What We Eat: What Can I Do? (5)

Revised: May 9, 2013

This is the continuation of a series in response to the question, “What can I do about climate change?” Links to the previous entries are listed at the end.

Last week I made a list of categories to classify the types of actions that we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second item on that list is food. But first, I want to start with some more sets of categories.

When we think of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas come to forefront. We often think of coal as dirty and natural gas as clean, in terms of air quality, climate change and general environmental damage. All of these forms of fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide when they burn, and that carbon dioxide is for practical human time in either the atmosphere or ocean permanently. Therefore we can’t simply replace coal and oil with natural gas and declare that we will avoid global warming.

If we examine how we use energy, then those uses can be divided into three categories: power generation, transportation and direct use for heat. For the past few decades, coal has dominated power generation and petroleum has dominated transportation. All three contribute to direct use for heat. Recently in the U.S., natural gas has been replacing coal for power generation, but worldwide, coal is still the dominant fuel (natural gas and coal, TON, NPR). Oil dominates transportation.

Taking another cut through our energy use, we can categorize use as residential, commercial, industrial and for transportation. Industrial uses create products from raw materials: manufacturing, cement making, mining and agriculture. Commercial uses include shops, government buildings and where governments spend money. Residential and commercial uses include a large part of electricity, heating and cooling of buildings, and heating of water. An interesting point: next to the burning of fossil fuels, cement making is the largest nonagricultural source of carbon dioxide emissions. It’s on the order of 5 percent.

If we return to the question of “What Can I Do?,” then the items discussed in the previous entries on efficiency focus primarily on the better management of buildings (residential and commercial) as well as on +choices in transportation. In fact, an alternative way to categorize use is for buildings, transportation and industry. If one were to think about government regulation, then emissions from coal-fired power plants are relatively easy to target because there are not that many power plants and they don’t move around. Transportation is harder to regulate because there are, globally, billions of cars and trucks and they do move around. The different categories I have described demonstrate both the easy opportunity for regulation, power generation, and the challenges of climate policy – that there is no single thing to fix the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Now to food – If we were to make a special food and agriculture category, then agriculture is responsible for about the same amount of emissions as, say, transportation or heating. Now, however, we have to become more holistic about what we mean by emissions. For agriculture, we have carbon dioxide emissions, which come mostly from deforestation. Cutting and burning forests to make new rangeland for cattle make up about 10 percent of the total annual carbon dioxide emissions. There is some emission from the use of fossil fuels for tractors and irrigation, and about half of the agricultural carbon dioxide fossil fuel emissions come from the manufacture of fertilizer. There are also other land use and soil management decisions made in agriculture that affect carbon dioxide emissions.

Beyond carbon dioxide, agriculture is responsible for about a third of methane emissions and close to two-thirds of the nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. These are greenhouse gases that are more potent than carbon dioxide; they are in much lower concentrations in the atmosphere.

So, what we eat can make a difference. When I was in college in the 1970s, I was introduced to Frances Moore Lappe’s book, Diet for a Small Planet. What I remember from that book was that if you took all of the calories needed to grow a pound of beef and instead feed those grains to people, you could feed many more people than you could with a pound of beef. It was my first introduction to sustainability. It takes much land and energy to make the well-marbled porterhouses that my father fed me in one-pound servings. No matter how you count, livestock production, in particular, beef production, releases a lot of greenhouse gases.

There are many marketing appeals in food and food supply. These appeals are to make personal decisions that affect the world, and individual choices the public makes about food and food supply do affect the world. We have appeals to buy grass-fed beef, organic meat and produce, locally produced and sustainable agriculture. We are faced with issues of packaging, preprocessing, natural, raw and prepared. There are no easy algorithms. In February, an apple from Chile might take less energy in transportation than an apple from Virginia takes in cold storage. We demand fresh fruit, vegetables and meat all winter. We demand exotic spices, fine coffee, tea and chocolate. The global demand for meat and nonlocal food increases as the world’s wealth increases.

So what rules of food selection matter? My personal evaluation is that reducing meat consumption is at the top of the list, and at the top of the meat list is beef. Pasture-raised might be better than feedlot, but life cycle studies show that beef is a relatively inefficient use of energy. Chicken is far more energy-efficient. Should we choose sustainable, local or organic meat and produce? From an emissions point of view, I hear sustainable advocated as best if there are actual standards and certification of sustainability--then local, then organic. I have made the controversial claim that since our current practice of organic, local and sustainable agriculture demands high payment for produce and meat, and since most of our generation of money requires high fossil fuel energy use, there is a hidden cost to the climate that comes from high-value crops.

It’s not easy, but what we eat does make a difference to the environment. We usually think of this difference in terms of pesticides, herbicides and erosion, but there is also a climate impact. And as is often the case, the connection is indirect, far in the future and difficult to know how to value.

r

Note: The source of much of the material in this entry is based on Livestock’s Long Shadow a 2006 publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There has been much criticism of this report, especially in its calculation of the emissions of the transportation sector. The original authors did modify their specific statements about transportation. As noted in the next blog in this series, there is substantial controversy about the impact of agriculture. My evaluation is that the agriculture numbers in this report are as robust as any I know. My opinion would be that the agriculture emissions in this report are more likely an underestimate than an overestimate. As for comparisons to other sources of emissions, when fossil fuel emissions are broken down as described in this blog, the different sectors, residential, commercial, transportation and industrial, are all large and no single one is dominant. Therefore, the conclusion that agriculture is comparable to these sectors seems reasonable.


Previous Entries in the Series

Setting Up the Discussion Deciding to do something, definition of mitigation and adaptation, and a cost-benefit anchored framework for thinking about mitigation

Smoking, Marriage and Climate Behavioral changes and peer pressure

Organizing and Growing Individual Efforts A little detail on efficiency and thinking about how individuals can have more impact than just that of a single person

The Complete List Eight categories of things we can do to reduce greenhouse gases


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Quoting allahgore:


Lanina has risen.

well co2 was at 338ppm now we are close to 400ppm. Now if co2 keeps rising and temps are at a 16 yr flatline. How do we say co2 = a temp increase?


I'll let you in on a little secret... Because as the heat goes to melt more ice in the Northern Arctic it will take longer to show up in the atmosphere ( even though there has still been a increase in the atmosphere ). A lot of that heat stays in the ocean longer than it does in the atmosphere because it is many times more massive than the atmosphere..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting allahgore:



slight increase


What has LaNina done since 1980? BTW Co2 has gone up..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
To any lurkers or casual passers-by: if you are interested in facts about global warming, check out skeptical science's page on "global warming & climate change myths" Link, particularly item 9.

Also Dr Masters' post from March 27, 2013, which includes a discussion of ocean warming. Link

Remember: you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.
Member Since: January 6, 2013 Posts: 3 Comments: 2384
Quoting allahgore:



slight increase


Thank you very much...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting allahgore:




What has co2 done in those 16 yrs?


I asked first.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting allahgore:


It has been at a flatline for about 16 yrs and counting. Now co2 has been rising during that same 16 yr timeline; So how can AGW be real? Is co2 the ONLY thing that can make the temps rise?


What has LaNina done in those 16 years?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
The political muscle behind obstruction of climate change legislation in the US:

Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaires

Brendan DeMelle | DeSmogBlog.com | 2013-02-11

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry's role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party's anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

[...]

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Sou at Hotwhopper has updated the grapic from last night in response to the foolishness of some commenters at WUWT.



Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3357
Measuring the speed of a Moulin in one of Greenland's glaciers.

Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 25 Comments: 948
Quoting ScottLincoln:

Bob Tisdale has never been one good at math. Unfortunately, there is one thing he does seem to be good at, and that is fooling gullible people. Also unfortunate is that this sometimes includes intelligent people who should know better.

Bob Tisdale might try to use graphical tricks to make someone believe that we went through these "steps" or "regimes" where it was stable, then warmed, then was stable (even though each of his time periods are quite short). Of course Tisdale doesn't do even the simplest of statistical techniques to see if his claims have any validity. The good thing is that it doesn't take much effort to see that he is wrong, and virtually anyone can do it in a program like Open Office or Excel.

The claim Tisdale is trying to make with his annotations is that the warming stopped in 1998. Here's how to test that claim - estimate the trend up until 1998, then use observations post-1998 as a verification period of sorts. For there to be even any evidence of a change in trend, we will need to see most points above or below the trend.
https://sites.google.com/site/wmscottlincoln/home /other/global-temperature-contributors/related-inf o/GISSTEMP_1979_1998_trend.jpg

The observations have actually followed the 1979-2013 trend very closely, suggesting that there is no evidence of a change in trend. In fact, a few more points are found above the line rather than below the line, and the average of the residuals is slightly positive, which is the opposite of what we would expect for a cooling trend (or even a slowdown in the warming trend, for that matter).


Yes I think he's got it all jacked up..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting JohnLonergan:
On WUWT Bob Tisdale put up an article highlighting how his brain works and how it stops working when a temperature chart is put in front of him.
...
I don't know if Bob really thinks the world has stopped warming and that CO2 has magically lost its properties or that there is no longer a greenhouse effect.

Bob Tisdale has never been one good at math. Unfortunately, there is one thing he does seem to be good at, and that is fooling gullible people. Also unfortunate is that this sometimes includes intelligent people who should know better.

Bob Tisdale might try to use graphical tricks to make someone believe that we went through these "steps" or "regimes" where it was stable, then warmed, then was stable (even though each of his time periods are quite short). Of course Tisdale doesn't do even the simplest of statistical techniques to see if his claims have any validity. The good thing is that it doesn't take much effort to see that he is wrong, and virtually anyone can do it in a program like Open Office or Excel.

The claim Tisdale is trying to make with his annotations is that the warming stopped in 1998. Here's how to test that claim - estimate the trend up until 1998, then use observations post-1998 as a verification period of sorts. For there to be even any evidence of a change in trend, we will need to see most points above or below the trend.
https://sites.google.com/site/wmscottlincoln/home /other/global-temperature-contributors/related-inf o/GISSTEMP_1979_1998_trend.jpg

The observations have actually followed the 1979-2013 trend very closely, suggesting that there is no evidence of a change in trend. In fact, a few more points are found above the line rather than below the line, and the average of the residuals is slightly positive, which is the opposite of what we would expect for a cooling trend (or even a slowdown in the warming trend, for that matter).
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3210
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
faster and faster it melts
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Quoting overwash12:
NOT!



yes 2015 2016 arctic will be near 95 percent gone by summer peak months july august sept

greenland will be suffering and possibly start a complete collaspe by 2020

co2 will be approaching 500ppm as well with a global temp rise of 4 degrees globaly and 9 to 13 degrees regionally
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Quoting ScottLincoln:

There is a reason for that... the globe is still warming.
https://sites.google.com/site/wmscottlincoln/home /other/global-temperature-contributors/related-inf o


Not only is it still warming but it is also warming in the LaNina years..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting JohnLonergan:


CB, John Nilsson-Gannon, the Texas State Climatolgist, broke down the data by El Nino, La Nina, and neutral years, here are his graphs:


Those trends are remarkably similar, aren't they?

Here ia a link to his complete blog post.

There is a reason for that... the globe is still warming.
https://sites.google.com/site/wmscottlincoln/home /other/global-temperature-contributors/related-inf o
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3210
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


HadCrut global temp (blue) vs. AMO (red). In my inference, when the multi-annual average for the blue rises over the red, that's when a clear anthropogenic signal started appearing in the observable temperatures.


It certainly isn't surprising to see that the natural oscillations/cycles/etc are closely tied to the various ups and downs - they are the noise on top of the trend, but not the true signal of the amount of heat energy in the climate system.

You can do the same thing over a shorter time period with natural factors (solar & volcanic) plus apparent factors (ENSO) plus anthropogenic influences, and you get a very close match. It's easy enough to do, that just about any science-minded person can do it in excel with freely available data:
https://sites.google.com/site/wmscottlincoln/home /other/global-temperature-contributors/graphs
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3210
Quoting overwash12:
Just because you put a label on someone(scientist) does not make it become truth because they say. We had this problem throughout history,examples: big bang theory,evolution theory,(dinosaurs and man not living in the same time period,.... get my drift?


I would really like to see a source that tells man and dinosaur coexisted... you know, of the peer reviewed kind.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Link

Note: original graph is from a "skeptical" blog. Not sure where the first data source is.


Got it so around 1960 they crossed..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:


Can you make it larger to see the years.


Link

Note: original graph is from a "skeptical" blog. Not sure where the first data source is.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


HadCrut global temp (blue) vs. AMO (red). In my inference, when the multi-annual average for the blue rises over the red, that's when a clear anthropogenic signal started appearing in the observable temperatures.


Can you make it larger to see the years.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401


HadCrut global temp (blue) vs. AMO (red). In my inference, when the multi-annual average for the blue rises over the red, that's when a clear anthropogenic signal started appearing in the observable temperatures.
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Quoting NRAamy:


An EMP or pandemic would do it.


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Quoting overwash12:
Wow,that's a long time frame for data. We are in trouble!


Actually you got that reversed what would normally take 10 thousand years of warming we have accomplished in 38 years....
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting FLwolverine:
hey, amy! You wanted to talk food, so I asked how the Paleolithic diet (or some variation) might be implemented for large numbers of people. This is a straight question because, as I said the first time, that's the kind of analysis we're going to have to do if we start making big lifestyle changes for lots of people. Lots of thinking outside the box and lots of analysis. What do you think?


An EMP or pandemic would do it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:


WOW! I get a ~0.65C warming for all three data points since 1975... That is a lot of trapped heat..
Wow,that's a long time frame for data. We are in trouble!
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1477
Quoting JohnLonergan:


CB, John Nilsson-Gannon, the Texas State Climatolgist, broke down the data by El Nino, La Nina, and neutral years, here are his graphs:


Those trends are remarkably similar, aren't they?

Here ia a link to his complete blog post.


WOW! I get a ~0.65C warming for all three data points since 1975... That is a lot of trapped heat..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting NRAamy:
Hi SPATHY!

:)
hey, amy! You wanted to talk food, so I asked how the Paleolithic diet (or some variation) might be implemented for large numbers of people. This is a straight question because, as I said the first time, that's the kind of analysis we're going to have to do if we start making big lifestyle changes for lots of people. Lots of thinking outside the box and lots of analysis. What do you think?
Member Since: January 6, 2013 Posts: 3 Comments: 2384
Hi SPATHY!

:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:



LOL! Even the La Nina's have the warming trend....


CB, John Nilsson-Gannon, the Texas State Climatolgist, broke down the data by El Nino, La Nina, and neutral years, here are his graphs:


Those trends are remarkably similar, aren't they?

Here ia a link to his complete blog post.
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3357
Quoting FLwolverine:
I've only read about man and dinosaurs together in fiction. Do you have a factual source? Stop beating about the bush. If you believe in creationism, just say so (although I don't think there are any dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible). Then I will know that we have nothing further to discuss.

And we won't get in trouble with the mods because we won't discuss religion.

BTW, scientists are also responsible for developing theories and practical applications of biology, chemistry and physics that make possible a lot of things we all use: electric lights, refrigeration, medicines, computers, etc, etc, etc.
It all good. Yes,science and technology have helped mankind tremendously,but it might be our demise,also. I'm sorry for getting off topic,my apologies!
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1477
Quoting FLwolverine:
I've only read about man and dinosaurs together in fiction. Do you have a factual source? Stop beating about the bush. If you believe in creationism, just say so (although I don't think there are any dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible). Then I will know that we have nothing further to discuss.

And we won't get in trouble with the mods because we won't discuss religion.

BTW, scientists are also responsible for developing theories and practical applications of biology, chemistry and physics that make possible a lot of things we all use: electric lights, refrigeration, medicines, computers, etc, etc, etc.


Well, he probably thinks "The Flintstones" is a documentary.
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3357
Quoting JohnLonergan:
It seems that the deniorspere gets crazier and crazier every day, Sou at Hotwhopper gives us An Insight into the Brain of a Denier to help us out


The World Meteorological Organisation has released its latest annual climate statement: The Status of the Global Climate in 2012.

The report itself can be downloaded here.As far as global surface temperatures go, the WMO reports that the years 2001–2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record and that 2012 was:



1. the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850.
2. the twenty-seventh consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961–1990 average.
3. only 0.1°C less than the record high value observed in 2010.




Denier Weirdness Snippet


On WUWT Bob Tisdale put up an article highlighting how his brain works and how it stops working when a temperature chart is put in front of him. It's sweet to see someone being so open. Here is what he saw when he looked at the WMO report, and what he wrote (click image to enlarge):



Bob seems to be saying that his brain stopped working once he superimposed his little boxes on Fig 4 of the WMO report, saying "no matter what you've written in the rest of the report..." He has kidded himself that it "stopped warming a decade and a half ago" and that's when his brain shut down. He wrote:

...that means no matter what you’ve written in the rest of that report, what people will see and take away from your report is that global surface temperatures warmed for a couple of decades, starting around the mid-1970s. Then surface temperatures stopped warming a decade and a half ago.

Not everyone sees the same thing. Many people will be saying "Sheesh! It's getting bloody hot on earth, we'd better do something before it's too late!"

Not Bob. Here's a rough animation of the way the world has warmed, with how Bob sees it.



I don't know if Bob really thinks the world has stopped warming and that CO2 has magically lost its properties or that there is no longer a greenhouse effect. That would be pretty weird. Maybe he's just wanting to share with the world that he sees everything in bits but is not able to connect the bits together to see the whole at once.

I thought it was interesting not just to see how Bob's brain works, but that Bob is willing to show how his brain works. (It's consistent with Tisdale's Tricks.)




LOL! Even the La Nina's have the warming trend....
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting overwash12:
Who came up with all these theories? Scientists ? Yes,dinosaurs and man did exist together. Basis,you don't read?
I've only read about man and dinosaurs together in fiction. Do you have a factual source? Stop beating about the bush. If you believe in creationism, just say so (although I don't think there are any dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible). Then I will know that we have nothing further to discuss.

And we won't get in trouble with the mods because we won't discuss religion.

BTW, scientists are also responsible for developing theories and practical applications of biology, chemistry and physics that make possible a lot of things we all use: electric lights, refrigeration, medicines, computers, etc, etc, etc.
Member Since: January 6, 2013 Posts: 3 Comments: 2384
It seems that the deniorspere gets crazier and crazier every day, Sou at Hotwhopper gives us An Insight into the Brain of a Denier to help us out


The World Meteorological Organisation has released its latest annual climate statement: The Status of the Global Climate in 2012.

The report itself can be downloaded here.As far as global surface temperatures go, the WMO reports that the years 2001–2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record and that 2012 was:



1. the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850.
2. the twenty-seventh consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961–1990 average.
3. only 0.1°C less than the record high value observed in 2010.




Denier Weirdness Snippet


On WUWT Bob Tisdale put up an article highlighting how his brain works and how it stops working when a temperature chart is put in front of him. It's sweet to see someone being so open. Here is what he saw when he looked at the WMO report, and what he wrote (click image to enlarge):



Bob seems to be saying that his brain stopped working once he superimposed his little boxes on Fig 4 of the WMO report, saying "no matter what you've written in the rest of the report..." He has kidded himself that it "stopped warming a decade and a half ago" and that's when his brain shut down. He wrote:

...that means no matter what you’ve written in the rest of that report, what people will see and take away from your report is that global surface temperatures warmed for a couple of decades, starting around the mid-1970s. Then surface temperatures stopped warming a decade and a half ago.

Not everyone sees the same thing. Many people will be saying "Sheesh! It's getting bloody hot on earth, we'd better do something before it's too late!"

Not Bob. Here's a rough animation of the way the world has warmed, with how Bob sees it.



I don't know if Bob really thinks the world has stopped warming and that CO2 has magically lost its properties or that there is no longer a greenhouse effect. That would be pretty weird. Maybe he's just wanting to share with the world that he sees everything in bits but is not able to connect the bits together to see the whole at once.

I thought it was interesting not just to see how Bob's brain works, but that Bob is willing to show how his brain works. (It's consistent with Tisdale's Tricks.)

Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3357
Quoting FLwolverine:
No, I don't. For one thing, I'm talking about data and measurements, not "opinion". And then: what do the Big Bang theory and evolution have to do with ths discussion? Do you think men and dinosaurs lived at the same time? If so, on what basis?
Who came up with all these theories? Scientists ? Yes,dinosaurs and man did exist together. Basis,you don't read?
Member Since: June 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1477
Quoting overwash12:
Just because you put a label on someone(scientist) does not make it become truth because they say. We had this problem throughout history,examples: big bang theory,evolution theory,(dinosaurs and man not living in the same time period,.... get my drift?
No, I don't. For one thing, I'm talking about data and measurements, not "opinion". And then: what do the Big Bang theory and evolution have to do with ths discussion? Do you think men and dinosaurs lived at the same time? If so, on what basis?
Member Since: January 6, 2013 Posts: 3 Comments: 2384

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.