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The Black Marble: Humanity at Night

Science & Tech  (tags: astronomy, environment, science, space, technology, nasa, astronomy, discovery, energy, environment, SUOMI, Earth )

- 1989 days ago -
A remarkable series of images of the Earth at night, taken by the SUOMI spacecraft, shows how our cities glow like galaxies, but the images also remind us how inefficient we are when it comes to energy.

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Michael O (176)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 3:07 pm
By Bob McDonald, Quirks & Quarks

The light from our cities that can be seen from space is light that we do not use. Useful light shines down toward our feet, so we can see where we are going. Most light that shines up is thrown away to become entertainment for astronauts. When you look at how brightly our cities shine, it means we are throwing away as much, if not more, light than we use. And since light is energy, the same can be said for our use of energy in general.

Another way to think about these images is as a global firestorm, where humanity is burning up everything in sight. And the fires continue to spread as population grows and demand for energy increases. The planet is burning up before our eyes.

It's appropriate that this image of our glowing civilization should appear during the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, because the delegates there are attempting to come up with ways to cool those flames, without extinguishing the economy that benefits from them. One obvious way to do that is to improve the efficiency of our technology, so we throw away less; but it also means changing the source of our energy away from planet-warming fossil fuels.

Canada continues to be somewhat of an embarrassment at the conference. As was the case in Copenhagen, Durban and Bali, our country is criticized for our poor performance in reducing carbon emissions. As a developed nation, we are not keeping up with our G20 colleagues.

At COP18, the climate talks in Doha this week, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent praised Canada's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the Canadian Youth Delegation, attending the same conference, issued a straightforward report showing clearly that while there have been improvements in some segments of the energy sector, our emissions have gone up, not down - thanks mainly to increased production from the oilsands. Leave it to the youth to tell it like it is.

Another report issued by Germanwatch, an international climate watchdog organization, provided a Climate Change Performance Index of 61 counties. Canada was fourth from the bottom, above Kazakhstan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, other oil-producing countries. This low ranking is due to a combination of being the only country to pull out of the Kyoto Accord, weakening our emissions targets, slow development of alternative energy and emissions from the oilsands.

In NASA's Black Marble image of the Earth at night, Canada's light is quite dim, compared to other countries. Most of our fires are along our southern border, where the large urban centres are located. So, while we only produce about two per cent of the world's carbon emissions, we provide the fuel for a lot of lights in other countries.

There is no question that we will continue to be an oil-producing nation. There's just too much of it in the ground and too much money to be made in the short term. But as a developed nation, we could be doing it in a much more efficient and cleaner way. We also have the resources and brain power to develop alternatives for our own long term needs, and as technology we could export.

The rest of the world is expecting us to do it.

Roger G (154)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 6:18 pm
noted, thanks !

Kit B (276)
Saturday December 8, 2012, 6:29 pm

Thanks Michael, is any one surprised to see the US looking like a Christmas tree?

Christeen A (368)
Monday December 10, 2012, 1:21 pm
Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

Gloria Morotti (1)
Monday December 10, 2012, 11:00 pm
This is one of the things I don't like about this holiday. People think its fine to spend a lot of money on electricity. Then talk about climate change. Give me a break.

Frans Badenhorst (582)
Tuesday December 11, 2012, 1:47 am
amazing amazing...our earth from space

Kimmo S (5)
Tuesday December 11, 2012, 5:34 pm
The word "Suomi" is "Finland" in Finnish, by the way.

Tanya W (65)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 4:22 am
Noted thanks. Our planet is beautiful that is for sure. Hopefully we can see less of its beauty at night in the future unless it is powered by green sources.

Sergio Padilla (65)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 12:37 pm
Thank you!!

Melania P (122)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 2:18 pm
I shared this on G+ and facebook, thanks!
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