The Intersection


I’m Just One Person. What Can I Do About Global Warming?


Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. As a result, at 8pm on the 29 March, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane, Tel Aviv and Manila will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.

Every individual matters. Each of us has the power to make a difference. No, I’m not suggesting turning off the lights will stop climate change, but I do see a reason for hope in the effort–Around the world we are collectively recognizing: Spaceship Earth, we have a problem.

And that’s a beginning…


  1. #1 Lance
    March 18, 2008

    Looks like I’ll be setting out my portable flood lights on March 29th. I still haven’t taken down my Christmas lights so I can flip those on. Maybe I’ll rent a portable diesel generator and a set of those oscillating carbide element sky sweeping “grand opening” spotlights.

    Let there be light!

  2. #2 Scott Belyea
    March 18, 2008

    I hope it achieves its symbolic intent. However …

    Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced,

    I wish that this sort of silly overstatement could be given a rest; it doesn’t help, and just gives those who aren’t sure they believe “climate change” anyhow one more thing to poke at and criticize.

    The planet isn’t going anywhere. There may well be significant and mostly negative effects on human society. Some parts of the planet may change more quickly than they have in the past through purely “natural” forces. But let’s face it – the changes of major concern are threats to human societies and structures.

    Surely that’s enough to spur appropriate action.

  3. #3 Eric the Leaf
    March 18, 2008

    “Thou shall not grant priority to those who preach about climate change. Their hearts are in the right place, but their minds are focused on a lesser issue. Change is where it’s at”

    –Deffeyes’ 7th Commandment

  4. #4 anon
    March 18, 2008


    Climate change isn’t religion no matter what Lance or Limbaugh think. Unless people wake up and change the way they live, we’re all fu***d! Yeah, change is the only certainty, but if that it means nixing or bottlenecking our species. I care.

  5. #5 Linda
    March 18, 2008

    As you say, ‘every individual matters’, and whether the effort larger or small, it always matters towards a positive, worthwhile goal.
    Count me in…

  6. #6 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    March 18, 2008

    anon- Totally

    (from Spring Awakening)

  7. #7 bob koepp
    March 18, 2008

    Scott is right. It’s preposterous to call the current round of climate change the “the greatest threat our planet has ever faced.” Hyperbole is not the way to appeal to intelligent, reasonable people.

  8. #8 bob koepp
    March 18, 2008

    Scott is right. It’s preposterous to call the current round of climate change the “the greatest threat our planet has ever faced.” Hyperbole is not the way to appeal to intelligent, reasonable people.

  9. #9 Eric the Leaf
    March 18, 2008

    “Thou shall not oppose sainthood for M. King Hubbert. He’ll be Saint Marion.”

    –Deffeyes’ 5th Commandment

  10. #10 Mr_G
    March 18, 2008

    “at 8pm on the 29 March, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane, Tel Aviv and Manila will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.”

    I read that as “at some time, 2008 millions of people…”

    I thought “two trillion people?” Then I realized there’s a comma missing.

    Just thought I’d mention that.

  11. #11 Cal Harth
    March 18, 2008

    You have not mispoken. We may be responsible for an extinction event that rivals any that have ever occurred on earth. It does not hurt to shut off the lights for a while. We are screwing up our atmosphere and our oceans without much thought about the consequences.
    I am really glad that you have joined the Intersection. Women in science add a lot. I have worked with some brilliant women on research projects. I listened to them and learned. I like your focus on oceanography.

  12. #12 Scott Belyea
    March 18, 2008

    We may be responsible for an extinction event that rivals any that have ever occurred on earth. It does not hurt to shut off the lights for a while.

    The second proposition is true. The first is hyperbole, and not at all useful.

  13. #13 Cal Harth
    March 18, 2008

    You have lost me with your comment. Please explain which comment is hyperbole. I’m just a simple farm kid from the midwest and am puzzled by what your responce means.

  14. #14 Scott Belyea
    March 18, 2008

    We may be responsible for an extinction event that rivals any that have ever occurred on earth.

    Cal, this strikes me as without foundation. I’m no expert, but I don’t recall anything I’ve read which suggested such an outcome.

  15. #15 Cal Harth
    March 18, 2008

    This is old news. Papers by McArther and Wilson in the early 1980’s predicted that outcome. Later science publications continued to predict a major extinction event if humans continued on their course. Sorry if you missed them, but it is in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

  16. #16 Neuro-conservative
    March 18, 2008

    As illustrated perfectly by this post, the primary purpose of the global warming cult is to fulfill the psychological needs of its participants. It is not about scientific fact, but about feeling (specifically, feeling good about oneself). It is not about effective action, but merely about action. Like many totalitarian movements, it is about being a part of something larger than oneself.

    As GK Chesterton observed: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”

  17. #17 Eric the Leaf
    March 19, 2008

    And if there is a major extinction event…there will be a major extinction event. The earth will survive just fine. And humans will survive as well–perhaps even live a better existence in far smaller numbers–at least for a while. This is because global warming is not the at the core of the current human dilemma–it is a symptom. In fact, global warming is not even the main event, and I am a firm believer in AGW. Even if global warming was solved, the problem still would remain.

    I do not come to these opinions lightly. My first research paper (for junior high) was written on human population when I was 13. I devoted the first twelve years of my career to human prehistory, notably the origns of agriculture and the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers in the old world, and have received funding for my research from the United States Government (Fulbright-Hays) and from several European Universities. In addition, I collected paleoclimate proxy data from both North America and northern Europe, mostly related to the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene, including the Younger Dryas, and have a graduate minor in Glacial and Pleistocene Geology. I have spent considerable time on glaciers throughout North America, up to the present day, and have climbed to the highest point in North America.

    The last 20 years of my career have been different, teaching science, including seminars in global warming and fossil fuels, and writing science textbooks. I have gone back to original data on petroleum production and subjected the data to independent modeling, and discussed my results, and those of many others, extensively with expert petroleum geologists. I know the energy data extremely well, and invite anyone here to join me in an discussion of the evidence and of their implications.

    So far, Chris and Sheril have chosen not to do so.

    I am a profligate user of energy. I confess. I drive my car to work and travel by airplane for business and pleasure. Even while knowing that petroleum is a finite resource. My wife insists we travel travel as much as possible before TSHTF so that she can see the world (I already have). My electricity is generated primarily by natural gas, another finite resource soon to enter its depletion phase. My guess is that the United States will begin to experience oil shortages in the next 36 to 48 months. After that, there will not be a person in the industrialized world concerned with global warming.

  18. #18 Cal Harth
    March 19, 2008

    Eric the Leaf,
    You are obviously well educated. You must know then that species evolve and mostly go extinct usually within one to ten million years. We are not going to be around forever. We can’t do anything to prevent that. It is the rest of the biota that we need to be concerned with. What kinds of damage will we do?
    I could give you my resume too but I’d rather not. I have published about climate change, and I am alarmed by how stupid we are. Walk if you can and stop driving. Drive smart and turn off lights. Get some solar panels. We are hurting ourselves and extinguishing species that have not yet been described by science.

  19. #19 Lance
    March 19, 2008

    This thread displays an interesting array of views.

    There is…

    anon the faithful global warming purveyor of climate apocalypse theology.(Please, guilt-associate me with Hitler or Satan, just anybody but Rush!)

    Linda the eager “positive thinking” follower.

    Scott the measured realist.

    Cal the duped “simple farm boy”.

    Eric the “global warming will never get us before peak oil and over population” alternative doom purveyor.

    Neuro my evil “Christian” twin. I was right there with you brother until you dragged Ol’ Yaweh into the discussion.

    bob koepp the polite dissenter.

    And little old me, the much reviled sardonic skeptical scientist.

    These characters make for an interesting discussion on the role of a certain carbon compound’s influence on climate and alternate realities.

  20. #20 Lance
    March 19, 2008


    Do you really believe that by walking you will “save” species that have “not yet been described by science”?

    Approximately 1/10,000 more, by volume, of the atmosphere is CO2 than when Ben Franklin chased French women who told him to go fly a kite. Do you really believe that this tiny increase in an essential trace gas is dooming a large portion of the earth’s flora and fauna to early extinction? Do you suppose that the ancient and resilient biosphere of this planet is so fragile that its fate balances on this perilous knife’s edge?

    Then there is the inherent logical fallacy of lamenting the loss of these species while acknowledging the fact that our own species will eventually face this common fate of all organisms past and present.

    Emotion is the primary driver of these flights of eco-utopian fantasy. You will have to use something other than an irrational guilt trip to get me to park my Toyota and walk the 17 miles to my work.

  21. #21 Eric the Leaf
    March 19, 2008

    Very amusing. I like “alternative doom purveyor.” Might change my handle!

  22. #22 Lance
    March 19, 2008


    I do think your doom scenario is more likely. That said you may remember Paul R. Erhlich’s “Population Bomb”. It predicted that “hundreds of millions” of people would starve by the 1970’s and 1980’s. Obviously that didn’t happen.

    “Peak oil” scenarios of various forms have also predicted the end of the “Petroleum Age” for some time but we keep finding more new oil and recovering previously uneconomically viable reserves with newer more efficient technologies.

    Obviously petroleum is going to start to run out eventually and there is a point where population growth becomes unsustainable so I guess they could form a one/two “combination punch” crisis. I tend to be skeptical that it will cause a catastrophic situation at least in the near future.

  23. #23 Eric the Leaf
    March 19, 2008

    I remember Erhlich–and believe his work was the subject of my Junior High School paper. Clearly, one should be cautious in making predictions and there is legitimate criticism that certain peak-oil-like predictions have proved to be premature in the past. The current interest stems from Hubbert’s work and carried on in more modern form by Kenneth Deffeyes and Colin Campbell, among many others now of course. The peak here refers to the apex of production, not the last drop. But of course, you do not need to lose all of your water to die from dehydration. For example, US production “peaked” in 1971 at around 10mbd, but now is only around 5mbd. We consume 21mbd. We are unbelievably vulnerable. Sorry if this is old hat.

    We do not keep finding a lot of new oil. The “new” discoveries in the Gulf, or off the coast of Brazil, and so on, pale by comparison to the supergiants of the past, which are now ageing and depleting all over the world. We import considerable oil from Mexico, whose production is now crashing at an astonishing 15 percent per year, as is the North Sea and the majority of oil producing nations. A lively debate now exists about Saudi Arabia.

    All of the oil projected to be drilled from ANWR would be used in one-half to one year if relied on alone, and if it could be pumped all at once.

    There is indeed some “reserve growth,” but this is often optimistically over-estimated. Technologies have been improving all of the time, but have not changed the shape of the curve to any great extent. Further, what is “economical” must continuously be re-calibrated, as the production costs keep going up as energy itself becomes more expensive. It’s known as “the law of receding horizons.” There are other complicating factors, such as Jeffrey J. Brown’s Land Export Model. No time for that now.

    Do I think that the problem is real and the world is now about to go into a terminal depletion phase? Yes. The world currently is on a production plateau–not really increasing. We are likely to fall off that plateau within a very short time. Could this bring civilization to its knees? Most certainly. And oil is only one resource running amok. Natural gas, fresh water, topsoil, many other minerals, etc. Too many people consuming too many resources.

    I hope I’m wrong. The numbers I look at, however, tell a different story.

  24. #24 Lance
    March 19, 2008

    Well like I said your scenario is more likely than a “mass extinction” from a small increase in a vital trace gas.

    I notice that you didn’t list coal as a possible energy source. I think we could shift to more and more coal as oil and natural gas become more scarce.

    Then there are methane hydrates. The US Dept of Energy website says,

    While global estimates vary considerably, the energy content of methane occurring in hydrate form is immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels.

    So I think with a little ingenuity we will probably get by, but it is probably good to have folks like you around to make sure we see a possible energy crisis coming so we can prepare for it.

    I see no utility in hectoring the industrialized, and currently underdeveloped but hoping to become industrialized, world to abandon the fuels that have enabled the greatest advancements in the human condition in history. Especially on the shaky evidence presented by AGW catastrophists.

  25. #25 Eric the Leaf
    March 19, 2008

    Yes, I didn’t mention coal, precisely because that is a story unto its own. Many people believe that “peak oilers” or “depletionists” are proponents for the increased use of coal. I am not one of them, and they are in the minority (even though I think it will happen). Nevertheless, you bring up some important topics that are worthy of continued discussion. Unfortunately, I do not have time to get into it now. Perhaps on some other occasion.

  26. #26 Ian
    March 19, 2008

    I was wondering how you demonstrate by switching off your lights if Earth hour is in the middle of your day? You give a date but no time! Not every one on Earth is on the same schedule….

  27. #27 Ian
    March 19, 2008

    Let’s try this one more time. You do give a time but is this supposed to be 8pm local time or 8pm GMT? One Earthling’s 8pm is another’s 8am!

  28. #28 Cal Harth
    March 19, 2008

    Try riding a bike to work. You will live longer. But don’t try to educate me about climate change. It is too late for that. I have been involved in climate change research and am intolerant of the people who are dismissing the affects of our activities. We are making a big change in the climate of earth. We are also extinguishing species without any regrets by other activities.
    The biota of earth will recover as it has done after earlier extinction events after we leave the scene. I have some regrets about losing species. Some people don’t.
    It is not just carbon dioxide. Methane and water vapor play into the mix.
    Climate change has occurred without human causes in the past and will happen in the future. I am not duped.

  29. #29 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    March 19, 2008

    Earth Hour is at 8pm on March 29th whenever that occurs in your time zone.

    Cal Harth-
    Thank you for your kind words earlier in the thread. I’m glad you’re also interested in women in science and the marine realm and hope you’ll visit often 🙂

  30. #30 Cal Harth
    March 19, 2008

    I read what you write every day. Please don’t stop. Men are poisened by testostorone. Women by estrogen. We still need to talk and listen to each other.

  31. #31 Lance
    March 20, 2008

    Sorry Cal,

    “Duped” was a bit harsh. You sound like a reasonable guy really, we just happen to have different opinions about the probable effects of anthropogenic CO2. I’d enjoy hearing about the “climate change” research you have done.

    You say you are “intolerant of the people who dismiss the affects of our activities”. Intolerance seems an inappropriate reaction to people that have different opinions of the issues surounding AGW.

    I do not want to bring about a “mass extinction” but I think such talk is an overly emotonal statement not supported by the facts.

    Your suggestion that I ride a bicycle to work is not very practical. Have you ever biked 17 miles through city traffic, not to mention occasional subzero temperatures, snow, rain, hail etc.? Not something I would want to do very often.

  32. #32 Cal
    March 21, 2008

    Do a search on my name C. Harth. I won’t waste time by arguing with climate change contrarians.
    I grew up in an area that is called the tension zone by ecologists. A swarm of range limits from north and south, east and west occurs here for many diverse species. We expect huge changes here.

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