Category Archives: Earth Matters

How Much Does Global Warming Increase the Power of Hurricanes?

Readers can actually estimate the impact of global warming on hurricanes for themselves. Here we use kitchen measure rather than metric.

In his New York Times editorial of Sept. 12, “Irma, and the Rise of Extreme Rain,” columnist David Leonhardt published a graph of global yearly average surface temperature from 1905 to today. These averages were taken from actual measurements around the world (some scientists, for example Dr. Charles Keeling at the Mauna Loa Observatory, actually spent a lifetime measuring temperature and other atmospheric and ocean data).

Converting Leonhardt’s graph data to Fahrenheit, the ocean surface temperature has increased just a little over 2-degF in the hundred years between 1917 and 2017. The graph is bumpy, but none of the bumps or dips are at all far off the line gradually moving upward.

Now as all of us who watched MSNBC or public television learned during this 2017 rather impressive hurricane season, the energy of a hurricane is gained by heat-transferred from the water over which it travels. This is a dynamic and complex phenomenon, but the weather folks, using super-computers, can model this process sufficiently to reasonably accurately predict the path, the strength and the behavior of a hurricane.

Yes, there were slight corrections that had to be made as the various hurricanes proceeded this August and September across the Gulf and Atlantic to landfall, but the predictions were startlingly accurate. Here we will not attempt anything that complicated. We will simply ask one question: For a 150-mile diameter hurricane, how much difference does an extra 2-degF make in its power?

A water heater measures heat in British Thermal Units (BTU). One Btu is the energy required to raise 1-pound of water 1-degF. If you have a gas water heater, you get your bill in dollars-per-therm, the cost of gas to produce 100,000 BTU. If you have an electric water heater, your bill is the cost of the number of kilowatt hours to do the same work. Here we only consider the extra energy 2-degF warmer water adds to the hurricane. So that comes to 2-BTU for every pound of water at the surface of the ocean.

When scientists make simplifying assumptions, they always simplify in the opposite direction of what they want to show. We know that the ocean also adds heat from below the surface layer, but that requires complicated heat transfer equations and we would need a powerful computer. So we will consider only the surface transfer of heat. Now a pound of water is, the world around, a pint of water. And the volume of a pint is 0.0167-cubic feet. Which tells us that if we consider the top 0.0167-ft (about 1-quarter-inch) of ocean water, 1-square-foot in area, as the source of heat energy for the hurricane – we can roughly estimate the average extra energy gained from every square foot of today’s 2-degF warmer water as 2-BTU extra energy per square foot of hurricane. For a small 150-mile diameter hurricane, that comes to around 500,000,000,000-BTU.

That is a big number, but energy can be expressed in all sorts of ways. If you look around on the Internet, you can find a conversion of energy in BTU to energy in kilotons of TNT explosion. I ran the conversion and came up with 126-kilotons. The Hiroshima bomb, called “Little Boy,” was estimated as 15-kilotons TNT. So the extra energy gain from 2-degF water warming a 150-mile hurricane is roughly the equivalent of eight atom bombs.

Of course, hurricanes do not stay in one place. They move across the water slowly. So if we stay with our simple model, every 150 miles a 150-mile diameter hurricane moves adds another extra eight atom bombs of destructive power.

This article first appeared in the October 11, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Wayne Lanier can be emailed at

The End of Fossil Fuels Is Near

The Trump administration is planning on radical actions to advance a dirty energy agenda. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has issued a report stating that nuclear and coal are vital to our national security.

For decades, dirty energy promoters have tried to sell their products under the banner of “energy independence.” Three mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima should make all of us leery of nuclear power. For good reasons, all of California’s nuclear power plants have been shut down except Diablo Canyon, and its days are numbered.

Coal, natural gas and petroleum are still rather abundant on planet Earth, but because of the threat of climate change, most scientists believe that their use should be greatly reduced. It is common sense that at some point in the future they will be gone anyway, because they aren’t being produced any more and the supply is finite.

Wind power and solar power are growing by leaps and bounds as alternatives to fossil fuels, but have limitations: The wind doesn’t always blow 24 hours a day and solar power isn’t produced at night. Improved storage capacity is part of the answer here, but I believe that future generations will rely more on a power source yet largely undeveloped…the heat from the core of the Earth. Here is a power source that is non-polluting, goes 24 hours a day, won’t ever run out and is virtually unlimited.

A small amount of the electricity we use each day is produced at geo-thermal wells here in Northern California. The area we live in has many hot springs and even a few geysers, which is an indication that the core earth heat is closer to the surface here than in most places. Geo-thermal wells have been utilized in Lake County to produce electricity for the past 40 to 50 years.

What has been done up until now has merely scratched the surface of the Earth. The heat at the Earth’s core exists in huge amounts, is completely renewable and emits no carbon dioxide. This heat at the core of the Earth has two sources: About a third of it has been stored there since the planet was formed. The other two-thirds have their origin in the decay of radioactive isotopes in the Earth’s crust.

This process produces heat where temperatures rise the deeper one goes. The process involves pouring water into the deep hole and harnessing the steam that comes back up to power turbines.The reason geo-thermal hasn’t advanced more rapidly than it has is due to the fact that the hot rocks needed are far below the Earth’s surface. Even in most of the western United States the drilling must reach depths of 5,000 feet or more. In the east, the wells must be even deeper. The limiting factor so far has been developing drilling systems what are capable of reaching the needed depths.

Fortunately, the Norwegians, Germans and Swedes are working on developing drill bits that are up to the task. The bits must be capable of drilling through bedrock which is much harder than what we have had to contend with in most petroleum recovery areas. One Norwegian company is developing an electric percussion rotary drill that crushes rock by hammer-like blows while the drill-bit turns.

Government funded research into geo-thermal was active in the 1970s and 80s, but greatly reduced when oil prices dropped. Maybe it’s time to put some money into this again, instead of continuing to subsidize oil and nuclear projects. Other potential energy sources that badly need research dollars are tidal energy and wave energy. Let’s say goodbye to oil and coal.

This article first appeared in the September 27, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Bob Hanson, can be emailed at doctoroutdoors@

The Dangers of Roundup In Food and the Environment

Ever wonder why so many people prefer to eat organic food and are even willing to pay more for it? Or why so many people are suddenly gluten sensitive when they eat wheat or other grains which contain gluten? And, why are there such increases in the rates of allergies, asthma, auto-immune diseases, cancers, autism, dementia and other modern diseases of the western world?

Human beings, along with all living things and our environment, have never before in history been exposed to so many different synthetic chemicals nor in such large amounts. Some scientists think of it as a grand experiment. This exponential increase in chemical use parallels the increases in modern diseases.

The use of so many chemicals in our daily lives started after World War II when large chemical companies that had manufactured chemical weapons, nerve gas and mustard gas no longer had a market for their products. So, they diluted their products and sold them to the public to use as pesticides, (an umbrella term that includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides).

One of these companies, Monsanto, produced an herbicide called Roundup. Roundup has become the most heavily used herbicides in history. There’s a good chance that when you sit on a park bench, walk along the pavement or lean on a fence, you’ll come into contact with Roundup.

Because Monsanto has been so successful in claiming it is very safe, it is sometimes used indiscriminately, sloshed all over sidewalks, parks and landscaping. It is also heavily used by farmers, particularly those in large industrial agriculture.

On July 7, 2017, Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was listed on the Proposition 65 list as, “known to the state of California to cause cancer.” It had already been listed as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health organization.

Scientists have found Roundups’ glyphosate is a unique chemical that destroys the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract thus allowing the pathogenic bacteria to overgrow. Many scientists think that is why it is capable of causing so many different types of diseases.

Our “good” gut bacteria is very important to our ability to stay healthy. Because Roundup and other glyphosate based herbicides are the most widely used in the world and have been used for decades, despite Monsanto’s claims of safety, many people worldwide have discovered its negative effects.

Roundup Ingredient Label

Many countries, cities and localities around the world have either banned glyphosate based herbicides like Roundup or greatly restricted its use. It is banned in the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Malta. Sri Lanka banned it because it was linked to a fivefold increase in chronic kidney disease resulting in roughly 20,000 deaths in Sri Lanka’s farming communities.

Another reason we are exposed to so much glyphosate (it is in our air, soil, water and in the bodies of 99.6 percent of us), is because of genetically engineered food crops. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are food crops or animals that have had a gene from another completely different organism, plant or animal, forced into them through genetic engineering. This has been done to corn, soy, canola, sugar beets and a handful of other widely used crops.

Monsanto has developed these genetically engineered foods for the express purpose of making them “Roundup ready,” which means, capable of withstanding massive amounts of Roundup without dying. Because Monsanto has patented these seeds, it not only makes money on the patent, it sells more and more Roundup, not only because the crops can withstand more, but also because “superweeds” have developed which are also capable of withstanding more Roundup.

In 1996, New York’s attorney general won a lawsuit against Monsanto for using “false and misleading advertising” in claiming it was, “safer than table salt,” “practically nontoxic” and “stayed where you put it.”

Monsanto has also claimed that genetically engineered food will produce higher yields, and, thus, “feed the world,” but this claim has proven untrue.

An environmental group, also in New York, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for ignoring the dangers of glyphosate, which it claims has caused the demise of the Monarch butterfly population. Glyphosate has also been linked to harming honeybees and contributing to colony collapse disorder.

An article titled, “Roundup Revealed – Glyphosate in our Food System” says, “The modern industrial food system, which heavily uses herbicide-resistant GE crops, is increasingly understood to be unsustainable. Investors, companies and communities will all benefit from a more sustainable food system that will feed the planet today and for generations to come with reduced human and environmental impact.” We cannot afford the health consequences or the environmental damage caused by the use of Roundup and other toxic chemicals.

This article first appeared in the September 6, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Karen Perkins can be emailed at

The Solar Eclipse: What Happens to Solar Energy?

On Monday, Aug. 21, the Great American Total Solar Eclipse will be seen only in the United States, the first such exclusive event in the nation’s history. The moon will pass in front of the sun; the sky will become dark and the air temperature will drop.

There will be a total eclipse with the moon covering all of the sun if viewed from a 70 miles wide “path of totality” as the duo pass over northern Oregon, travel east and exit land over South Carolina. The trip will take most of the day and the sky will be darkened for many hours, but in any one location the total eclipse lasts less than three minutes.

The total eclipse reveals the sun’s corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere) as well as bright stars and planets. The last time a total eclipse could be viewed in United States was in 1979; the last time it passed from coast to coast was 1918.

If you think you’ll now read advice about not looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, you’re correct. This is especially true for seniors because our retinas and optic nerves are already affected by age. The safest way to view an eclipse is on TV or streaming online. Sunglasses are not protective and neither is viewing it through a camera or binoculars.

There’s another precaution to take: Avoid using electricity as much as possible. California currently gets about 10 percent of its energy from the sun – more than six times as much as the next ranking state, North Carolina, followed closely by Arizona and Nevada. In the Bay Area, MCE Clean Energy includes 9 percent solar in its energy mix for basic Light Green customers and 25 percent solar for customers who opt up to the Deep Green (100 percent renewables). PG&E includes 13 percent solar energy in its standard mix. But both these energy providers as well as 80 percent of utilities in California put their energy on the grid. So do most owners of rooftop solar. Owners of solar panels who are “living off the grid” have backup storage or generators in preparation for sunless periods far more extreme than a solar eclipse.

The problem is timing; California’s 10 percent solar energy is an average over all the hours in a year – day and night, summer and winter. The eclipse will darken our skies during a time when solar power can account for as much as 40 percent of the load on the statewide electricity grid.

Power experts believe as much as two-thirds of that clean energy will be lost as the moon’s shadow rolls across the state. But, Cal-ISO says it’s ready. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), nicknamed Cal-ISO, says it’s ready for the solar eclipse. It manages California’s electrical grid – that complex interconnected network of cables, transformers and other infrastructure that delivers electricity from producers to consumers.

In fact, solar is the easiest portion of the energy mix for it to adjust, either up or down. It’s done just that when there was too much solar power on the grid, as there was several days already this year. CAL-ISO will compensate for the lack of solar power during the eclipse the same way it does any night of the week. However, at night, a large part of the population reduces electricity use substantially.

It’s anticipated that during the eclipse up to 6,000 megawatts of power will be lost in CA, an amount that by itself could supply about 4 million homes. So CAL-ISO is asking people to be thoughtful about energy use all day on Monday, Aug. 21. Lower or turn off your air conditioning and fans; remember it’ll be cooler without full sunlight. If possible, avoid cooking, washing clothes or using hot water. In fact, you could turn off your hot water heater (if you know how). Unplug appliances, including electronics not in use.

Amazingly, 23 percent of the electricity used to power homes is consumed while electronic devices are turned off. That’s right – turned off. So if you want to save 23 percent on your electricity bill, unplug electronic devices every day and night when not in use.

On the fun side, there will be many street festivals and celebrations throughout the country, including San Francisco’s Embarcadero, the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley and the Chabot Space and Science Center on Skyline Boulevard in Oakland.

In 2024, the next total eclipse will travel in an almost opposite diagonal from Maine to Texas. Want to see a 100 percent total eclipse from San Francisco? It’s going to be a while . . . you’ll have to wait until Dec. 31, 2252.

This article first appeared in the August 16, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Carol Weed can be emailed at carol4ofa@ This column relies on information from NASA,, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Press Enterprise,, the Mercury News and the Pleasanton Patch.

Global Warming and India

Now that Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, concerned environmentalists are wondering if the conference goals can be achieved. Progressive states like California hopefully will step up to take actions where Washington is ducking out. Individual actions by folks like you and me are also important and may help make up for the nation’s lack of responsibility.

A lot of attention is being paid to what China will or won’t do … much less to another important living lightly on this small planet Earth Matters player – India. India, with well over a billion people, could soon compete with China for the dubious distinction of being the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses. The country is rapidly evolving from a place where few people had electricity to one where everyone enjoys the comforts of modern living.

Today, India badly needs a green revolution. Most of its electricity production is coming from coal. Coal is cheap and abundant, but the worst source of greenhouse gases. At present, about 120 coal burning power plants are being constructed there.

At the climate change conference in Paris, it was India, rather than the United States or China that was the bogeyman. If any scientist at the conference were asked to define the biggest threat to the global environment, he or she would automatically say “India.”

India’s pursuit of the China experience would be a nightmare scenario for global warming. China’s annual emissions per person are 7.1 tons. In India, it is only two tons. If India continues to go the coal route, they will catch up with China in terms of emissions in a generation or two.

Climate scientists agree that the success or failure to achieve temperature goals will depend more on India than on any other nation. Over 300 million Indians are not yet on the grid, but will be soon, one way or the other. Fortunately, India has good potential for developing power from wind and solar instead of coal and oil. All that they need is a trillion or so dollars of green development. India will have to up its game if it wants scads of private financing for wind and solar. It will need a fair tax structure, governmental incentives and land use policies designed to encourage renewables.

Indians, of course, have no interest in feeling guilty to please the developed world. They argue that North America, Japan and Europe have built their national wealth on the back of cheap oil and coal and that denying India that same opportunity would be morally wrong. But implicit in India’s argument is a pledge verging on blackmail … pay us or we will embrace a high-carbon future. They have less to lose than most other nations.

It clearly is in the interest of the developed world to help India go the route of renewables, rather than coal. Hundreds of billions of dollars in private or public funds will be required if that is going to happen.

Wouldn’t it be great if the United States and the other countries of the world that are spending massive amounts of money on weapons of war would realize that spending some of that money on solar panels and wind generators for South Asia would help save the world from the consequences of global warming?

This article first appeared in the August 2, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Bob Hanson can be emailed at

World’s Plastic Binge

Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor reported in the Guardian on June 28 that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20 percent by 2021, creating an environmental crisis. More than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300 billion a decade ago.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable, but efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans are failing to keep up with usage. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7 percent of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5 million and 13 million tons of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University in the UK reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. In May of this year, scientists found nearly 18 tons of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific. Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations.

The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production. “This increase is being driven by increased urbanization,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. China, India and Indonesia are witnessing strong growth.

Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularized in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose. Major drink brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year according to an analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage.

The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6 percent of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. A third have no targets to increase their use of recycled plastic and none are aiming to use 100 percent across their global production.

Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100 percent recycled plastic, known as RPet and campaigners are pressing big drinks companies to radically increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. But brands are hostile to using RPet for cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, according to Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK. In evidence to a UK House of Commons committee, the British Plastics Federation (BPF), a plastics trade body, admitted that making bottles out of 100 percent recycled plastic used 75 percent less energy than creating virgin plastic bottles. But the BPF said that brands should not be forced to increase the recycled content of bottles.

The industry is resisting any taxes or charges to reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles – like the 5p charge on plastic bags in the UK that is credited with reducing plastic bag use by 80 percent. Coca Cola said it was still considering requests from Greenpeace to publish its global plastics usage. A spokeswoman said: “We continue to increase the use of RPet in markets where it is feasible and approved for regulatory food-grade use – 44 countries of the more than 200 we operate in. If we are to increase the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles even further then a new approach is needed to create a circular economy for plastic bottles,” she said.

This article first appeared in the July 19, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News, Judith Schumacher-Jennings, author.

Self Driving Cars

How is this for timing?  Just as we Depression babies are realizing that it may be time to let our driver’s licenses expire, along comes a new technology that could save us from losing our mobility and sense of independence!

Some experts are saying that within 13 years, self-driving vehicles will dominate the roads, representing 95 percent of all miles driven. This rapid adaption curve will be driven largely by market forces….not our realization that we are becoming a menace on the highway.  Individual auto ownership may well be on its way out. The model of the future looks like it will be Uber and Lyft…without the drivers, of course. This mode of transportation will relieve us of the responsibilities of getting the car into the shop for maintenance and filling up at the service station.  In fact, most of the cars won’t need anyone to “fill them up.” They will instead need to teach themselves how to get plugged in for the battery charge.  Maybe it’s time to unload that Chevron stock?

Around 2020, the auto industry will be disrupted.  You won’t want to drive a car anymore. You call for a car and it will show up to take you to your destination. You will only pay for the miles driven and you can safely text, talk to friends or read a book while enjoying the ride.

Why is this happening?  There are two reasons: 1) The technology is here and 2) It will save you and me a good deal of money. Compared to owning your car, the savings are projected to amount to $5,600 a year.  If that seems high, think of the cost of that last 30,000 mile tune-up you had and what your car insurance bill was when you last paid it. Self-driving electric vehicles will enjoy a 90 percent decrease in financing costs, 80 percent decrease in maintenance costs, a 90 percent decrease in insurance costs and a 70 percent decrease in fuel costs.

Car subscription services will increase utilization of a vehicle from 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year now to 100,000 miles or more. This will free up parking lots to become parks and help clean up the air, since these new vehicles will certainly be mostly electric.  Another positive outcome is that the cars can be re-charged at night when other demand for electricity is much lower.

Drive Me, the world’s most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment, starts today

Self-driving cars may well disrupt the labor markets.  There will be lots of people put out of work: taxi drivers, car salesmen, auto mechanics, filling station owners, auto insurance sales people, truck and bus drivers and folks who work in car manufacturing plants. This change will be painful for many, but not something new. One-hundred years ago, 90 percent of us were engaged in agriculture.  Today, that figure is less than 5 percent. Maybe it is time for us to look at a guaranteed national minimum income.  The world of the future clearly won’t need to have every able-bodied person holding a job. Men and women in the future will have to find ways to get their feeling of self-worth, other than through holding a job. Community service, hobbies, sports, life-long learning and family time should be able to fill the gap. It is rumored that engineers for Ford and Volkswagen are in panic mode, while those at Tesla, Google and Apple are enjoying the ride.

Our great grandkids will likely never own a car and never get a driver’s license.

Oh, yes….one other thing. Self-driving cars will save a million lives a year.  We now have one accident every 60,000 miles.  Autonomous driving will cut that to one accident in six million miles.  I’m ready to give up the steering wheel.

This article first appeared in the July 5, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Auther Bob Hanson can be emailed at doctorindoors@comcast. net.

The Future Is Now

How does that old saying go? You’ve come a long way baby! Really amazing the changes we have experienced during our lifetime. I remember when I was growing up on a farm in North Dakota, we were the only family I knew who had electricity. We had it because my folks were daring and bought a wind charger and set of big black batteries. We were unusual… Everyone else lit their kerosene lamps when the sun went down.

In the near future, all new homes will be built with solar panels installed on the roofs and the internal combustion engine will be on the way out. Many of us in Rossmoor are already driving electric cars and never have to visit a gas station.

Already, half a dozen United States cities get all of their electricity from renewable sources. San Diego, eighth largest city in the country, has voted to go 100 percent green energy. Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer says the plan will create new jobs in the renewable energy sector, improve public health and air quality, conserve water and save the government money.

President Trump may have pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but the green revolution is proceeding without his blessing. This is partly because most people are concerned about global warming, but also because it makes economic sense. Many progressive cities and states are pledging to pick-up the slack created by an administration beholden to the fossil fuel industries.

Experts are saying that each of us will soon become energy producers and managers in addition to consumers. A California company is now selling what it calls a Home Energy Solution, which integrates solar panels, batteries, a smart thermostat and a software platform that enables homeowners to monitor and manage their energy use. Smart phones allow this to be accomplished from a distance if you should be out of town on business or vacation.

With most new energy in this area being produced by solar panels, battery technology takes on a new urgency. Tesla sees a huge market here and is putting as much emphasis on home storage batteries as it is on electric cars. It is investing about $2 billion in its new battery factory near Reno.

Anyone who thinks about it must realize that it will only be a matter of time until fossil fuels will be gone anyway and will have to be replaced by renewable energy. It’s either sooner or later. I suggest that sooner is much to be preferred, giving us cleaner air and a chance to slow climate change to the point where future generations can avoid the worst results of global warming. Let’s error on the side of caution and leave most of the remaining coal and petroleum in the ground where it belongs. We need a high carbon tax now to speed up the switch to renewable energy.

This article was first published in the June 14, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Bob Hanson.

Focus on California

Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, states he is depending on California to help control Donald Trump’s reactionary ideas regarding the environment and health care. He has a point: The California market size, ability to legislate and environmental goals make it the most powerful opposition to Trump’s roll-back of federal programs in America today.

Size counts: If it were a country, the California economy would be the eighth largest among nations. With a population of 38.8-million people and a domestic product of $61,924 per capita, it actually props up most of the other states in the U.S. through federal taxes. California leads the nation in job-growth rate. California agriculture is the largest in the nation. It produces over a third of the U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of fruits and nuts. Farms and ranches over California brought in $47 billion in 2015. California Certification of Organic Farmers (CCOF) sets the strict regulation of “organic farming” under Chapter 403 of AB1826 and the USDA-accreditation. In its larger matter, AB1826 also sets the standard for “organic products” and “organic recycling.”

In terms of the Affordable Care Act and potential Trump-care acts, the California Department of Managed Health Care (created in 1999), the country’s first government agency solely dedicated to assisting consumers to resolve disputes with health plans, and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 strongly work to support Obamacare for California residents.

California clean-air standards, stronger than the federal government standards, have impacted the national standards since more than 33 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States are subject to the rules California sets. Here is an example, reported in the New York Times of May 7: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) demanded that Volkswagen provide the software code that governed the emissions control system in the 2016 models. Failure to comply would mean the 2016 models would not be approved for sale in California. The power of this request came from the fact that New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and many New England states follow California’s clean-air standards. Sales in this block of states are great enough that no vehicle can be a success in America if it is banned there. Providing the code revealed that Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests and led to VW’s huge penalties and loss of sales.

In terms of the wider view, California has mandated 50 percent of all electricity to come from wind, solar and other renewables by 2030.

Since another 15 percent already comes from existing nuclear and hydroelectric power, the grid is set to be 65 percent “decarbonized” in 13 years. By way of example, Apple is now powering 96 percent of its operations around the world with renewable energy and has reached 100 percent in 24 countries, including the United States and China. As a result, there are more clean-energy jobs in California than there are coal jobs in all of America.

As has been shown recently, progressive decisions by the California legislature and our governor have directly countered decisions and “rollbacks” by the Trump Administration. Influencing decisions by the anti-environment right wing in Congress and the administration is difficult, compared to influencing progressives here in California. Fight Trump in California first and victories in the other states will follow.

This article first appeared in the May 24, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Wayne Lanier

World Population and Me

Ever drive down the 24 freeway and get the feeling that there are just too many people around? I remember learning in high school that there were about 2 billion people in the world. That seemed a lot at the time. Now I hear we are sharing the planet with around 7.5 billion others. Experts say that number could be up to 24 billion by 2050.

Each night there are over 240,000 more mouths to feed than there were the night before. Should we be concerned? You’re darn right! Those of us in the upper one percent of the world’s population, income-wise (meaning you have a household income of $34,000 or more) probably will always be able to have food on our tables and water in our taps. How about the 99 percent? Right now we are hearing of wide-spread famine in many parts of Africa and some parts of Asia.

This will only get worse as the numbers grow. This earth we live on is a terrific place, but never designed to be home for unlimited numbers of humans with modern day consumption habits.

Climate change is global and even if we in affluent Walnut Creek aren’t likely to be directly affected by it (Tice Creek isn’t likely to get up to Rossmoor Parkway), boy, are those of us who will be around for a while going to feel effects of it indirectly. Our president thinks immigration is a problem now … just wait a few years. Pacific Islanders are already looking for new homes and half of Bangladesh will likely be under the sea.

A few years ago, I happened to get into a discussion with a couple of young Mormon missionaries. I shared my concerns with them regarding families in their church having large numbers of children. They assured me that there is no cause for concern … that everyone on the earth could easily fit into the state of Texas. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Most developed nations have lowered their birthrates to the replacement level. Today, 80 nations are at or below replacement level fertility. Birth control has made that possible. However, the remaining 140 or so countries are lagging behind. For the most part, these nations are part of the Third World and lack the financial means to provide their citizens with family planning services. It is estimated that for a ridiculously low $4 billion a year we could provide contraception for the 222 million women with a current unmet need. I think that is less than half the cost of one new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier or about what will be spent on the new football stadium in Las Vegas that will house the Raiders.

The current U.S. Congress can be counted on to cut funding for international population control efforts … not expand it. So, if our government isn’t about to try and save the world from the ravages of over-population, what can we do? One option would be to just lament, complain and hope that the next Congress and administration will take the problem seriously.

A better solution, I think, is for those of us who appreciate the severity of the situation to dig into our deep pockets and send a check to one of the several organizations working to provide reproductive services to the women of the Third World. Four fine groups are valiantly working on the issue. The first one is the United Nations Population Fund (www. The second is the International Planned Parenthood Federation ( Number three is the Population Connection ( Last, but not least, is Engender Health ( I invite all of you to check out their programs on the Internet and if you are impressed, hit the donation button. They are all doing terrific work and all need our giving dollars.

I know it is always a tough decision who to support and who to say “no” to. For me, the top two priorities of giving are organizations dealing with population issues and anti-nuclear weapons groups. The success of both groups is essential if our great grandchildren are going to inherit a livable world.

This article first appeared in the May 10, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Bob Hanson can be emailed at doctoroutdoors@