Corrections and Updates
A new paperback edition of Earth Under Fire is now available in stores and on line.
Nearly 100 factual updates and text additions have been included, bringing the book up to date to the election of Barack Obama. References and notes have also been corrected and updated. See below for many of these updates.
The Preface of this new edition gives an outline of the major changes and mounting importance of climate change and our response to it:
Since the first printing of Earth Under Fire in October 2007, a great deal has occurred to underscore this book’s subtitle, How Global Warming Is Changing the World.
The United Nations’ community of scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), finished its fourth assessment of the climate system, which concluded that warming was “unequivocal,” causing increasing changes across the face of the Earth, and almost entirely due to human emission of greenhouse gases. The IPCC investigated actions to limit the pollution and indicated many ways both to adapt to the changes and to reduce their intensity.
Carbon dioxide emissions continued to rise both in quantity and in parts per million in the atmosphere, exceeding the IPCC’s highest estimate.
The IPCC received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with former Vice President Al Gore, whose documentary An Inconvenient Truth has informed millions of the dangers of rapid global warming. Gore, like environmental leader Lester Brown and climate scientist James Hansen, now advocates very rapid emission cuts and technology change to counteract the steep increase in carbon output.
The Arctic Ocean suffered the most dramatic change as the summer sea ice cover shrank to its smallest extent ever recorded, and the polar bear, whose habitat is the sea ice, was declared “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Several scientists began warning that “dangerous change,” which the UN Climate Convention seeks to prevent, is already upon us.
The nations of the world did move closer to an agreement that would include all of them in emission reductions by 2012. Australia joined the Kyoto Protocol after global warming became an issue that turned its national election. China surpassed the United States in carbon dioxide output, but said it would discuss emission reductions under an international plan.
In the United States, the Bush Administration still had resisted mandatory limits internationally and nationally, but most states and hundreds of cities were taking action. Schools installed solar roofs and instituted curricula about climate, and “green” products were on shelves from WalMart to the corner grocery.
The price of petroleum nearly doubled in 2008, creating a revolution in American transportation habits, forcing automakers to disavow their gas guzzler models, and raising the price of everything made from oil. Biofuels, highly touted early on, were scrutinized for their environmental and food-supply downsides.
The melt-down of banks and investment houses in the mortgage crisis reverberated worldwide and threatened recession. This refocused leaders on rescuing financial institutions and threatened to steal capital and impetus from investments that would help solve the climate dilemma.
It was in the context of these events that Americans elected a new president, Barack Obama. This profound reweaving of our political and social fabric means that the United States now has a leader who, along with most members of Congress, is committed to much stronger action to limit greenhouse gases, encourage change to renewable energy, and cooperate internationally.
"Latest" information is added as we get it, between printings
These and other details have been updated in the 2d Printing of Earth
Under Fire, spring 2008.
The following facts, among others, have been updated in the paperback edition, accurate up to November 2008, published April 2009. Important updates since publication have also been noted here. Current updates of science, solutions and political developments are maintained on www.worldviewofglobalwarming.org.
Pg. 21: The lowest summer Arctic Sea ice extent since 1979 occurred in Sept. 2007. 2008 was only slightly better, but winter ice was measured as much thinner than normal.
Pg 45: One study showed ice melt could increase sea level up to two meters by 2100. Thermal expansion of the warming oceans will continue, even if the world temperature rise is halted.
Pg. 58: Polar bears were declared "threatened" under U.S. Endangered Species Act, 14 May, 2008, due to loss of Arctic sea ice habitat. The USFWS made the decision after a petition and several lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity and other NGOs. The government agency (under the Bush Administration) did not cite global warming as a proximate cause, and it clearly signaled that it would not apply the Endangered Species Act to greenhouse gas emissions or “abuse” it to make global warming policies.
Pg. 66: The NW Passage opened in 2007 and may soon open yearly.
Pg. 81: Five frogs are found on single mountaintops in the Wet Tropics, but not on a single mountain.
Pg. 92: Wildfire records in the American west were set in 2007, too. Forests in Europe are moving higher into the mountains, according to a study published in Science, 27 June 2008.
Pg. 93: Protection and expansion of forests is extremely important because they take up about one quarter of human CO2 emissions and store 45 percent of carbon held on land, along with their other valuable attributes.
Added references about the loss and importance of forests include UN FAO, “State of the World’s Forests,” 2007; and Gordon B. Bonan, “Forests and Climate Change: Forcings, Feedbacks, and the Climate Benefits of Forests,” Science 320 (13 June 2008).
Pg. 96: Dead zones off Oregon & Washington have been more closely correlated with global warming.
Pg. 104: A 2008 attribution study of all of the IPCC 29,400 data sets by Cynthia Rosenzweig et al (in Nature, 15 May 2008) correlated 90 percent of the changes with climate change.
Pg. 146: A new note to this information about coral reefs quotes a study entitled “One-Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Elevated Extinction Risk from Climate Change and Local Impacts,” Science Express,10 Jul 2008.
Pg. 147: After elections in 2007, Australia joined the Kyoto Protocol.
Pg. 149: Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported, “The combination of record heat and widespread drought during the past five to ten years over large parts of southern and eastern Australia is without historical precedent and is, at least partly, a result of climate change.”
Pg. 157: China is already the second ranked solar cell maker and is nearing the lead in export of wind turbines.
Although it was not part of the Group of Eight developed nations or bound by the Kyoto Protocol, by 2008 China was announcing at international meetings that it would cut emissions but only if the other great polluters went first. In more recent international meetings and talks with Obama Administration climate officials, China has made nuanced statements that the developed nations must promise to cut their emissions more before it takes stringent action, but that it maintained strong concern about climate change.
Pg. 160: When the Group of Eight most developed nations (G8) met in 2008, they agreed for the first time to voluntarily make “deep cuts” in greenhouse gases. Previously, President George W. Bush had refused any reductions. At President Barack Obama’s first G-8 in 2009, these nations and others accepted that a temperature about 2 degrees F (1.2 C) warmer than today (about 3.6 F or 2 C higher than in pre-industrial times) was the limit before climate changes would begin to be catastrophic for many parts of the world. But they set no targets for emissions cuts to hold warming to that level, which scientists estimate would result from about 450 ppm of CO2. The 2009 level is 387 ppm and rising by about 2 ppm per year.
Pg. 162: Increasingly, scientists think the danger is here and our course must be reversed.
A new note cites John P. Holdren of Harvard, now the President’s Science Advisor, warning of present climate change dangers on the website www.climatesciencewatch.org/ and using the words “Global climate disruption.” Update: See the science updates on worldviewofglobalwarming.org.
Pg. 163: James Hansen thinks our target for CO2 levels should be 350 ppm—not seen since the 1980s. The note cites Hansen et al., “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” available at www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf.
Pg. 168: The 2007 average price per barrel of oil was $72, which means the U.S. spent at least $700,000 a minute on imported oil. Oil prices over $100/barrel in 2008 means the U.S. was spending more than a million per minute on imports at that time.
Pg. 171: Burning coal for electricity spews out more than 18 percent of the U.S. annual output of nitrogen oxides and 55 percent of sulfur dioxide, 37 percent of the CO2, most of the particulate air pollution, and 66 percent of the mercury (this is part correction, part update based on EPA numbers and Physicans for Social Responsibility).
Pg. 176: Reports on the UN Climate Convention meetings are updated through Dec. 2007, when delegations agreed to work toward new emissions limits to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
Update: The 2008 meeting was inconclusive, with most delegations and many nations preferring to work toward the Copenhagen meeting in 2009, President Obama’s first chance to send negotiators and the promised deadline for new agreements.
Pg. 177: Recently the total world energy intensity (emissions per GPD) have begun increasing again, according to the Global Carbon Project. More CO2 was put into the air in 2007, both absolutely and in parts per million, than ever before, and total CO2 emissions are increasing four times faster than they were during the 1990s.
Pg. 179: All renewables provide about 13 percent of world energy use, most of it from hydroelectric dams. Many millions of people still rely on wood heat and cooking fires. This kind of renewable, although not fossil fuel, nevertheless adds to the warming of the atmosphere through black carbon particles -- and in the poorest nations kills many thousands from indoor air pollution.
Pg. 180, 186: Increases in use of solar, wind and ethanol energy production are noted.
Update: The U.S. has 25,000 mW of wind turbine capacity, up from 17,000 in 2007
Pg. 188: Studies show downsides of relying on great increases in corn ethanol and some other kinds of biofuels, including pressure on other food crops, loss of biodiversity and release of carbon to the atmosphere when valuable land such as wilderness or forests is cleared to grow more ethanol crops.
Pg. 189: In 2007, .4% of light vehicles were hybrids (sales were up 38% In a falling market for SUVs).
Pg. 190: The 2007 Energy Act in the U.S. requires car mileage to rise to 35 mpg, but has loopholes regarding vehicle classes and the time frame of completion.
Hybrid sales are up nearly 40 percent—automakers are belatedly closing truck assembly lines and advertising fuel economy.
Update: This is pre-recession; most car sales are down in 2009. This section of the book has been overtaken by bankruptsies and bailouts of the auto industry. It is still to be seen if the companies that emerge will build vehicles needed in a very low carbon society.
Update: President Obama shortened the new mileage standard deadline to 2016 and cut most of the loopholes (see below, Legal update).
Pg. 195: Homes and buildings use 40 percent of U.S. energy, much of it for lighting, heating (water and air) and cooling. For more easy -to-understand information on energy use, see Factsheets by University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems, at http://css.snre.umich.edu/facts
Pg. 196: Legal update: Under pressure from the Administration during their financial meltdowns, automakers agreed to drop their California auto emissions case, and new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson granted California its waiver from the Clean Air Act. Both these results were overshadowed by the passage of a climate bill by the U.S. House. This law, which is in Senate committees in mid 2009, takes away from EPA the authority to set rules controlling CO2 under the Clean Air Act in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, in favor of a national cap and trade scheme to limit emissions.
After their petition before the Organization of American States was denied in November 2006, the Inuit Conference took the issue to the United Nations, which passed a human rights resolution in March 2008.
Pg. 197: California's climate law requires reduction to 80% below 1990 CO2 levels by 2050.
Pg. 204: Replacing most of the bulbs (say, an average of forty) in most American homes could eliminate 260 million tons of CO2—more than the combined emissions from America’s twelve largest coal power plants. The 2007 Energy Bill encourages this switch.
Pg. 207: “Smart meters” showing real-time energy cost was added to this list of actions that would move more and more companies and individuals to limit their energy use and emissions.
Gary Braasch Earth Under Fire Post Office Box 1465 Portland Oregon 97207 USA
Email Phone 503.699.6666 Cell 503.860.1228