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Tutorial 1

Biological Sciences
Course Code
Rudy Boonstra

of 11
September, 20, 2007
TA:Brendan Delehanty ->
I don’t have office hours as of yet because there isn’t a demand for it. If you have to get a hold of me
just email me. We can then set up a time. I live in Guelph so I avoid coming in here as often as
possible. On Thursdays I have a class downtown that ends at noon so I have to get here from downtown
in 1 hour and 10 minutes so in future sessions give me a few minutes to make it here if I am just a few
minutes late. If you have questions afterwards you can ask me but if they are lengthy then arrange for
me to come in and talk with you at another time. My class downtown is on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I
can’t sit in class on Tuesdays to hear the lecture so I don’t have perfect knowledge of what has been
discussed. I will read the readings and find out from him what he has talked about.
We will watch a movie today – An Inconvenient Truth. I thought it was a good movie but some
things I found problematic. I don’t like movies that make good points but taking short-cuts.
When I watched it a second time I thought differently though so watch it with ‘fresh eyes’. Look
for correlation and causation in the movie.
The interface between scientific knowledge and policy/action, when do we act? What level of
certainty do we have to understand before we take action tied into the precautionary principle?
The major theme of the movie I think is that it touches on obligations for those of us doing
science. What are the moral obligations with respect to significant issues like climate change?
New Week Article – The Truth About Denial
After the movie we will discuss the movie and the article in tandem. Keep an eye out through
the movie that when Mr. Gore talks and present graphs to make his points, look critically at what
he is using to support his points. Hopefully most agree that climate change is a problem and
carbon dioxide emissions are a problem but it is important to have good sound arguments.
Think about how Gore expressed disappointment that even though we have the knowledge that we are
not acting. As a scientist, think about how the knowledge is certain enough that it deserves action.
This is the first picture taken from space that anyone saw (1968). It was taken during the Apollo 8
(Presentation by Al Gore)
There are good people in politics that hold this problem at arm’s length. The picture has been known as
‘Earth Rise’ and it lead to dramatic changes. The next picture was taken during Apollo 17 and it is the
most commonly published photo in history. The only picture where the sun was directly behind the
space craft so the earth is totally lit up. The next image was taken by The Galileo’ that went out to
explore the solar system. This is the time lapse of a 1 day rotation of the earth. Tom Dansante took
3,000 separate satellite picture from over 3 years and he chose images that shows a cloud free view. All
land masses are accurately displayed.
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I had a classmate in grade 6 that pointed to the two continents and asked the teacher ‘did this ever fit
together? and the teacher said no! The teacher was actually reflecting the conclusion of the scientific
establishment at that time. Continents are so big they actually don’t move but now we know they did
move and they did at one time fit together. The point that Mark Twain made is important. The earth is
so big we can’t possibly have any lasting impact on the earth’s environment – this is the assumption
made now. The most vulnerable part of the earth’s ecological system is its atmosphere. The atmosphere
is thin enough that we are capable of changing its makeup. (Explains how radiation comes in and heats
up the earth and is re-radiated back into space). The atmosphere eventually heats up and that is the
This is the image that started me in my interest in this issue. I was a college student. My professor saw
where this was going. In 1957 he hired Charles David Keaton who was faithful and precise in making
the measurements. They chose the middle of the Pacific because it was the area that was most remote.
Like many young people I came into contact with intellectuals. He showed our class the results of his
measurements after just a few years and I was startled. He made it clear what the significance was. He
drew the connections between the larger changes in civilization and the pattern that was now visible.
The then projected into the future where we were headed unless we made adjustments. After the first 7
to 9 years you could see the pattern.
Why does it (carbon dioxide) go up and down once each year? Look at the land masses, most are above
the equator and so is the vegetation. When the northern hemisphere is tilted to the sun the amount of
carbon dioxide makes it go down. When the leaves fall in the fall the carbon dioxide goes up again. By
the middle 60’s it was already clear that it was going up. In 1975 I went to congress and took my
professor with me and they didn’t really believe me. In 1992 I went to the White House and did
something about the Carbon tax and then went to get a treaty that is very controversial. All this time
you can see what I had seen all these years, it just keeps going up and we are seeing the impact in the
real world. (Shows glaciers and mountain snow disappearing) These glaciers are beautiful but now all
you see is the glaciers falling into the oceans. People live on the melt water that comes from glaciers
and in the future 40% of the people will suffer because there won’t be water to support them.
The ice has stories to tell us. They dig down and bring core drills up and study it. When the snow falls
it traps bubbles of atmosphere and they can measure the carbon dioxide the year that snow fell. They
can measure isotopes of oxygen and figure out a precise thermometer that is was the year that the snow
fell. You can see when the US Congress passes the ‘clean air’ bill. They can count back year by year
the same way a forester reads tree rings and you can see each annual layer from melting and freezing.
They go back 1,000 years and construct a thermometer. Skeptics say it is a ‘cyclical phenomenon.
You can see that is true on this graph but compared to what is going on now there is no comparison.
Compare the 1,000 years of temperature and compare to 1,000 years of CO2 and they are about even.
They can go back 650,000 years for CO2 and temperature. You can see back 7 ice ages back.
In all of this time (650,000 year) the CO2 has never gone above 300ppm. The relationship is
complicated but there is one relationship that is powerful…where there is more CO2 the temperature
gets warmer because it traps more heat from the sun. In the US where they have nice weather this
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shows the difference between having a nice day and having ice over your head! I want to emphasize
this point; it is already here which is far above the natural cycle. In the next 50 years or less it will
continue to go up to here. You have heard of ‘off the charts’. There isn’t a single fact, date, or number
that has been used to make this up that is in any controversy. Skeptics look at this and they say ‘so, that
seems perfectly okay!’ Again if on the temperature side, if this much on the cold size is 1 mile of ice
over our heads what would that much on the warm side is? If we let this happen it would be unethical.
I thought that the story would be compelling that congress would help to take care of this issue and they
(Tells story of son being hit by a car and he was in the hospital for a month.)
Gore’s way of being in the world changed and he asked himself; ‘what should I do in this world’ and
went to Antarctica, The Amazon, etc. I felt that we could lose everything in this world.
These are measurements taken of the atmosphere since the Civil War. If you look at the 10 hottest years
every measured they have all occurred in the last 14 years and 2005 was the hottest. WE have already
seen the heat waves that are similar and they say they will be even worse. In 2003 we had a heat wave
that killed thousands of people. Records were set all through the USA. The temperature increases are
happening all over the world including in the oceans. People say it is natural and this is the range to be
expected over the last 60 years but there are computer models that say this is the range. Now the actual
ocean temperatures and when the oceans get warmer it causes stronger storms. We have seen hurricane
Francis, Ivan, etc. and the same year we had the stream of big hurricanes we also had tornado’s. Japan
set an all time record for typhoons. The first one here was Emily, Dennis, and then came Katrina.
When it hit Florida it was category 1 but it killed many people and did 1 billion in damages. It went
over warmer waters before hitting New Orleans and this increases wind velocity and picked up energy
and water. Look at the hurricane eye. There are no words to describe it. (Shows ramifications of
hurricane Katrina) How could this happen in America? There were warnings that hurricanes would get
stronger and that this hurricane would breech levies and do a lot of damage. We have to decide how we
react when we hear warnings from leading scientists in the world.
In the 1930’s there was a different storm in Continental Europe and Churchill warned the people of
England. He told them it was different than ever before and they had to prepare for it. He said ‘the era
of procrastination…is coming to a close and we are entering a period of consequences’.
(Gore lost the election and Bush became President) It was a hard blow. It brought into clear focus the
mission that I had been pursuing all these years and I started to give the slideshow again. Global
warming causes more precipitation in each event. The insurance industry has noticed this and the 2005
results are not even on this graph. There are all kinds of catastrophes all over the world. There is
flooding in China etc. Global warming causing more flood but paradoxically it also causes more
draught. One reason is to do with global warming increases precipitation and relocates it. Focus on
Africa just on the edge of the Sahara; Dafur and Niger are two of the places that have really suffered.
One lake has totally dried up. The second reason this is a paradox is that global warming has
evaporation from the oceans and also sucks water out of the soil. My childhood was different I spent 8
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