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Climate Clocks and 394 ppm CO2e
Alex Steffen, 21 Jan 08

This news from Antarctica is not so good:

TROLL STATION, Antarctica - Atmospheric levels of the main greenhouse gas have set another new peak in a sign of the industrial rise of Asian economies led by China, a senior scientist said on Saturday. "The levels already in January are higher than last year," said Kim Holmen, research director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, during a visit to the Troll scientific research station in Antarctica by Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Holmen said measurements at a Norwegian station high in the Arctic showed levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2008.

We learn this courtesy of the Climate Clock blog, a new blog that does not, disappointingly, include an actual climate clock.

So, geeky eco-people of the world: who will invent an embeddable online climate clock widget displaying multiple-source data on an on-going basis? Or something of that sort? How do we make info about our planet's greenhouse gas concentrations visual, ubiquitous and easily understandable?

This is a pretty big deal, as the vast majority of people still really don't understand what's going on with our climate. We could really use some ways of clue-ing in the newly informed and reminding the already aware.

Any design/code geeks want to team up with some science geeks and sort this out? PLease feel free to use the comments. Or recommend existing resources...

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Comments

Alex,
There IS a real Global Climate Clock listed as a link at the bottom of my blogsite, but I am not sure it is accurate, exactly. But it is much cooler than me text only clock. Take a look here. I would love to have someone come up with a good CLIMATE CLOCK, animated and current time and keeping track daily with animaation, on a new website somewhere. Somebody should do it. In fact, i started my text only site just to get the ball rolling, as i don't have the computer skills or money to make a cool site. but for now, it will do. No bells and whistles, just the plain facts, as accurately as I can get them. Long live the Internet.

GLOBAL CLIMATE CLOCK:
set now at *430 ppm -- (*not as accurate as my website, but a very interesting "count-up" clock as opposed to countDOWN clock, and way cool because it's animated, tracking stats as you read this post!)

http://www.coolingman.org/learn_more/global_climate_clock.html


Posted by: Danny Bloom on 21 Jan 08

How about these:

http://www.poodwaddle.com/clocks2.htm
http://www.poodwaddle.com/clocks3.htm

Personally, I think these would be even more effective if they narrowed down to a few of the measures and found some way of visualizing and making the numbers concrete.

Ole
lifeyears.blogspot.com


Posted by: Ole Rogeberg on 22 Jan 08

How about these:

http://www.poodwaddle.com/clocks2.htm
http://www.poodwaddle.com/clocks3.htm

Personally, I think these would be even more effective if they narrowed down to a few of the measures and found some way of visualizing and making the numbers concrete.

Ole
lifeyears.blogspot.com


Posted by: Ole Rogeberg on 22 Jan 08

Alex
I heard back today from Kim Holmen at the Norwegain Polat Institute, saying:

RE the PPM stats in the Reuters article:

"The value 394 occurs in the winter in the arctic.
NOAA numbers are related to annual average. I have tried to explain to reporters
that there is a difference between these numbers, and that one should be careful with how one presents them."


Posted by: Danny Bloom on 22 Jan 08

I believe you mean ppm CO2, not ppm CO2e.


Posted by: Bob Kopp on 22 Jan 08

I believe you mean ppm CO2, not ppm CO2e

BOB KOPP. thanks for that note. Can you explain the difference here. I don't know it, and I think many people don't know the diff. Can you explain very simply the diff? Thanks. Pls post below or email me offline at danbloom GMAIL....

thanks

db


Posted by: danny bloom on 22 Jan 08

It's easy enough to write an applet which will fetch something off the web, chew on it, and display the results. The key question is, what is your source of the up-to-date data? Where is it stored and who maintains it?

Some made-up examples for the case of CO2 ppm:

1) There's a lab somewhere which has a permanent interest in the topic and which already provides the information in a stable location on its website.

2) Your applet gets the number by downloading a relevant Wikipedia page and looking for it according to some simple algorithm.

3) An enthusiastic hobbyist puts the number in a stable location on their personal website, and keeps it up-to-date by hand.

(3) has the obvious vulnerability of anything that relies on enthusiasm - if your hobbyist gets distracted, has a life change, loses interest, the applet will potentially be retrieving old data or no data at all.

(2) is quasi-authoritative but vulnerable to a form of hacking, deliberate modification of the Wikipedia numbers. Wikipedia has error correction mechanisms but subtly inserted misinformation can sit there for a long time.

(1) seems most desirable, but it may require approaching the professionals in question and explaining to them your purposes. They may need to be assured, for example, that their humble lab server won't be slashdotted by a burst of online enthusiasm for the cool CO2-reporting gizmo, or DDOSed by your political enemies.

But the first thing is to get clear on just what information you want to have displayed. Then you can think about what is going to play the role of reliable and constantly available source.


Posted by: mitchell porter on 22 Jan 08

Agree with last comment. Most important is to decide first on what will be most effective visualization to help move people into action. From all I have read and come to understand, you need visuals and data that is as personal and local as possible. I too am very interested in finding 'geeks' to collaborate with on such projects.

http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com
'It's All About Green Psychology'


Posted by: marguerite manteau-rao on 22 Jan 08

The comments above about a reliable, authoritative source for the PPM dataset are spot on. I've often thought that it would be a powerful message if CO2 PPM data were tracked akin to the time series stock markets index in our daily newspapers.

Seeing the CO2-PPM index on a daily basis would be a stark reminder that not just the stock markets are worth focusing upon. If a reliable single source/lab data set could not be agreed upon, perhaps a 'basket' or mean of averaged sources would suffice for a CO2 PPM index. Of course daily global data may not be possible, however likely weekly indices could be published.

The temptation would be to add other 'planet earth' (EarthX) indicators, human population, fisheries stocks, energy consumed, primary forest depletion, etc.), which would again remind us that the NYSE, FTSE, HangSeng and other indices are ultimately linked to an EarthX index. The UNEP, Worldwatch and others have pushed these sustainability and quality of life indicators for years, but they don't seem to catch on in the mainstream media...


Posted by: david_sadoway on 24 Jan 08

"around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2008."

It's "early in 2007" and not "early in 2008". The guy at Reuters doesn't have the slightest idea of what he talks about to make such a mistake. This blog shouldn't propagate such nonsense.


Posted by: Demesure on 26 Jan 08

A climate clock is a nice idea, from a PR point of view. I fear, though, that it creates the false impression that climate projections are exact and hence sets up expectations that can't be met.

Take, the common suggestion that, say, 450 ppm of CO2 is a threshold in the climate system (for example, the committed warming with that level of CO2 will, say, doom the world's coral reefs). If that threshold does in fact exist, it may be 440, it may be 462. The clock makes people think that we know exactly when midnight will be.


Posted by: Simon D on 28 Jan 08

Alex
Did you ever find anyone to help make a real time climate clock?

Danny


Posted by: danny bloom on 1 Feb 08

Thanks, Demesure, for the correction: duly noted. That might have been a reporter's typo error or an editing mistake at the NYC office. Thanks: yes, that year should be 2007 not 2008. Good catch! RE: "around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2008."

[It's "early in 2007" and not "early in 2008". The guy at Reuters doesn't have the slightest idea of what he talks about to make such a mistake. This blog shouldn't propagate such nonsense.Posted by: Demesure on January 26, 2008 2:33 PM]

And Simon D. yes, RE: "A climate clock is a nice idea, from a PR point of view."

But good point here too: "I fear, though, that it creates the false impression that climate projections are exact and hence sets up expectations that can't be met."

But RE: "The clock makes people think that we know exactly when midnight will be." *** I think most people will understand it is not a minutes to midnight clock but rather a PR tool to alert the public as the PPM stats go up year by year. So look at it as an alarm clock, rather than a countdown to midnight clock. But your points are well taken. Thanks

Danny
I noted these two comments from D and S over at climate clock blog, thanks


Posted by: danny bloom on 1 Feb 08

ZER01 partners seeking ideas from artist-lead teams to create “Climate Clock”

January 31st, 3008 AD

The Climate Clock Global Initiative is seeking ideas from artist-led teams to create a major artwork entitled Climate Clock, which will measure changes in greenhouse gas levels, and be the first in a series of global projects calling attention to climate change. Climate Clock will be an instrument of long-term measurement and will collect data for 100 years. The artwork will be located in downtown San Jose, California, Silicon Valley’s city center, and will be a collaboration between an artist-led team composed of artists, international and Silicon Valley engineers, and other creative professionals who are working with climate measurement and data visualization.

This Climate Clock Ideas Competition is the first stage in a three-stage process that will take the first Climate Clock from vision to reality.

BACKGROUND
The Climate Clock Global Initiative will bring people’s attention to the issues of global climate change through public artworks that incorporate data and demonstrate the connection between human activity and the production of greenhouse gases. The initiative’s first manifestation will be Climate Clock, a landmark public artwork in downtown San Jose that incorporates measurement and data management technologies to help people understand climate change and encourage them to continue reducing their carbon footprint.

The first implementation of the project will be in San Jose, but the goal is to establish a global program that will encourage and support the creation and installation of other climate clocks in communities and cities throughout the world.

As climate change is a global problem, the Climate Clock Global Initiative hopes to engage an international team of experts and offer them the talent and resource that are unique to Silicon Valley. Understanding climate change is extremely data intensive. It requires the use of exceptionally sensitive instruments, computers, and networks — cornerstones of Silicon Valley’s economy and culture.

THE COLLOQUIUM
The Climate Clock Colloquium is a two-day gathering of thought leaders, researchers, curators and artists to discuss the Climate Clock Global Initiative aimed at changing individual and public behavior to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Clock Colloquium is an invitation-only event (webcast will be available to the public, and an exhibition of concept
designs will be presented in Second Life and on-site in San Jose) designed to create an atmosphere of debate and discussion informing the first implementation of a landmark artwork to be commissioned for the City of San Jose and enabled through a unique partnership with the newly established FUSE: cadre/montalvo artist research residency initiative and the City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs and Public Art Program. The Colloquium will take place on June 9-10, 008 as an adjunct program to the 2nd Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Arton the Edge.

To find out about submission and selection processes, visit: CaFE.


Posted by: Danny Bloom on 4 Feb 08

Demsure said earlier above: "It's "early in 2007" and not "early in 2008". The guy at Reuters doesn't have the slightest idea of what he talks about to make such a mistake. This blog shouldn't propagate such nonsense."

Demsure, thanks for point out that mistake. The reporter has NOW corrected the typing mistake. see here:

REUTERS NEWS: Feb. 8, 2008
CORRECTED-Greenhouse gases at new peak in sign of Asia growth
Reuters UK,

[... of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2007. ... ]

So thanks for pointing that typo out. and thanks to this blog for making your comment available to the public. The Reuters reporter has now corrected the original report, thanks to your good eye!

-- danny



Posted by: Danny Bloom on 8 Feb 08

CORRECTED-Greenhouse gases at new peak in sign of Asia growth

Fri Feb 8, 2008

(In Jan 19 story, corrects year to 2007 in paragraph 3)

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

Para 3:

Holmen said measurements at a Norwegian station high in the Arctic showed levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were around 394 parts per million, up about 1.5 parts per million from the previous records early in 2007.


Posted by: Danny Bloom on 9 Feb 08

http://www.blog.thesietch.org/2008/02/09/in-search-of-a-climate-counter/

UPDATE ON CLIMATE CLOCK IDEAS, worldwide:

from Keith Farnish in UK: who wrote on his blog:

"Asked with all seriousness by my friend, Green Granny how we could tell if things were getting worse or better (obviously things are getting worse at the moment) I had to ponder deeply. I have blogged on occasion about the need for real action - not protests or petitions - that actually achieves something tangible, and the crux seems to be that unless the actual damage we are doing to the planet is reducing as a result of something that has been done, then that thing cannot be said to have been successful.

When the Sierra Club or WWF next claim “great success” in getting a bill before congress, this is just pollen in the wind : will the bill be passed? Will it be enforced? Will emissions (or whatever) be reduced as a result of the bill? Will the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere go down because of the bill? Will the Earth’s temperature go down because of the bill?

I don’t care that a nation’s greenhouse gas emissions or production of toxins have gone down if, in order to achieve this, there has been a commensurate rise elsewhere. This is not a success - it is a shifting of responsibility. Success has to be judged on the big picture.

A environmental success is only a success if the end result is a net reduction in the damage being done?

If we are to measure that success, if it ever happens, we should be watching the global figures; the counters that show how much carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs and black soot are in the atmosphere; the counters that show the mean global temperature over the last 5 years; the counters that show the size of the polar ice caps and the mountain glaciers. We need to see these counters, they need to be accurate and scientifically verified, they need to be easy to read by everyone and they should be available as soon as possible.

At the moment all I can find are averaged numbers based on long-term figures. They will have to do for the moment. The image at the top of this article shows the Poodwaddle Earth Clock. It’s a simple to use flash object consisting of many counters; it looks nice and it does its job very well. I can’t vouch for the figures, though: they could be complete rubbish, or they could be brilliantly extrapolated. Treat this as a sign of the times, not a reference point. The creator also happens to be very religious; take from that whatever you wish.

Danny Bloom, he of the Polar Cities diagrams (a potent warning rather than a hopeful future) has started a blog based counter, and aims to keep the figures up to date. He is a very enthusiastic and creative individual, but it will need a very sound mind to verify the myriad of different figures coming out. I wish him well.

Cooling Man has a very basic clock of sorts, a simple counter of CO2 (equivalent), which differs from Danny’s “clock”. This is confusing, and a big reason why there needs to be concensus over the management of counters for things as complex as greenhouse gases. Unfortunately Cooling Man believes in carbon offsetting, which is the equivalent of kicking someone in the head while giving sweets to his friend. His suggestions for reducing emissions are not exactly revolutionary either : only radical changes will make a difference.

The search most definitely goes on."


Posted by: Danny Bloom on 9 Feb 08

And.....OUCH!..... Kevin Moore in New Zealand writes:

"danny, I think your climate clock blog figure of 500ppm CO2 is way too high. Two years ago most people who knew what they were talking about put the tipping point at 400ppm, although I personally reckon it is around 360-370ppm -- in other words..... we've already gone way past it. !!!!"

- Kevin


Posted by: danny bloom on 9 Feb 08



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