Global Warming and Uncertainty

In a previous blog post, I wrote an update on global climate change. One of the things you may notice now is the title of the current piece is on global warming, as opposed to global climate change. It has become the trend in recent years to replace the former with the latter, but I am going against that trend for the moment to make a point, and hopefully to get the reader to understand why there is so much uncertainty on this topic.

Greenhouse Effect 2016-01-28It was in the middle of the 19th century when scientists first discovered in the laboratory that carbon dioxide physically blocks the movement of infrared energy (think: heat). Scientists also pointed out that industrialization leads to higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Within a hundred years (by the 1950s) scientists were getting very good at obtaining precise measures of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and these measurements have been showing a constant increase every year since then. This is the evidence upon which the concern about global warming exists. If CO2 concentrations continue to increase due to our use of fossil fuels, this means that more heat gets trapped in the atmosphere, and therefore global temperatures rise (this is referred to as the greenhouse effect).

Now we get back to the difference between global warming and global climate change. If temperatures rise because of an increase in atmospheric CO2, that is not the end of the story. Earth’s atmosphere is full of “feedback mechanisms.” Feedback occurs when you have a change in a system that then causes something else to change. Imagine inside your home. You have a thermostat. In winter, you set the thermostat to “heat.” If the temperature in the house falls due to cold weather outside, the thermostat causes the heat to turn on, and the temperature rises. This is an example of “negative” feedback. “Positive” feedback occurs when a change in the system causes the initial change to be accented, so that the final status is more extreme than after the first round. Think about what happens when an electric guitarist starts playing very close to a speaker. The sound from the speaker adds to what initially goes through the amplifier, and so the volume skyrockets – ouch, it hurts my ears just thinking about it.

So the big question in global warming research is whether Earth’s climate system is dominated by positive or negative feedbacks. The effects of a doubling of CO2 concentrations alone may be in the neighborhood of 2-3 degrees F. But the real question is “then what?” That is one of the reasons why we have seen the shift from a discussion of global warming to global climate change.

Global Warming - Uncertainty clouds 2016-01-28One result of higher temperatures is more evaporation from the oceans, which puts more water vapor into the atmosphere. But water vapor is a greenhouse gas also. This feedback therefore would appear to be positive, and would lead to even more warming. But more water vapor means more clouds. And the effect of clouds on temperatures and climate is extremely complex. On the one hand, clouds tend to reflect sunlight high in the atmosphere, and therefore cause global cooling (a negative feedback). On the other hand, clouds trap heat in the lower atmosphere, especially at night (a positive feedback).

Scientists are now working to determine the kinds of climate change that are occurring or will soon occur as Earth’s temperatures increase due to higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Much of this work is related to the kinds of feedbacks that are present in Earth’s climate engine. I understand that certain feedbacks are positive while others are negative, but it is hard for me to believe that the net feedback can be anything but positive. That is, it seems to me that the ultimate effect of a doubling of CO2 will lead to an increase in Earth’s temperature of more than 3 degrees F. More on why that is the case in my next blog entry.

(Submitted by Thomas W. Blaine, PhD, Associate Professor)

What is Ohio Sea Grant?

For more than 30 years, Ohio Sea Grant (OHSG) has employed a strong combination of research, education and outreach in partnership with academia, governmental agencies and the private sector to address the most important environmental and economic issues affecting Lake Erie and the surrounding watershed.

Finding Solutions through Research

Sea Grant Research 2016-01-21

OHSG aims to solve the critical issues facing Lake Erie with research, and also funds scientists from throughout the region. Many of these scientists take advantage of research facilities at OHSG’s Stone Laboratory. Current research focuses on harmful algal blooms, phosphorus loading, and restoring native wetlands, for example.

Learn more about our research at

Training Tomorrow’s Workforce and Scientists

Sea Grant Stone Lab 2016-01-21

Stone Laboratory is the Ohio State University’s island campus and a key educational facility for OHSG. Established in 1895, it is the oldest freshwater biological field station in the United States. Stone Lab offers around 25 college courses each summer to undergraduate and graduate students, advanced high school students, and educators. In addition, as many as 6,000 students in grades 4 – 12 and other groups take part in Stone Laboratory’s Lake Erie Field Trip Program annually.

Learn more about Stone Lab by visiting

Assisting Citizens, Communities, Industries, and Decision Makers

OHSG encourages better understanding, conservation, and use of Lake Erie resources. Spanning Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline, five OHSG Extension Educators apply their research and expertise to develop and deliver programs for a healthy environment and economy. Sometimes this involves one-on-one interaction such as answering questions about Lake Erie at a trade show, the Aquatic Visitors Center, or on the Lake Erie Discussion Board. Other times, it’s about training elected officials about Lake Erie issues so they can make informed decisions that impact all of us.

Sea Grant 2016-01-21

Whether you’re a resident of the Lake Erie watershed, a Lake Erie enthusiast, or just want to learn more about Ohio’s greatest natural resource, please contact us at Ohio Sea Grant! You can check out our calendar of events, or follow us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram). We look forward to hearing from you!

(Submitted by Tory Gabriel, Extension Program Leader and Fisheries Outreach Coordinator for Ohio Sea Grant)

All photos: Ohio Sea Grant

Stretching consumers’ purchasing power at farmers’ markets

Produce 2016-01-14How do you double consumer purchasing power at your local farmers’ market? Follow the lead of markets in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. They have helped SNAP recipients with a free dollar-for-dollar match for every dollar spent (up to $10) using an Ohio Direction Card. In Cuyahoga County, the SNAP incentive program is referred to as Produce Perks, and the additional match provided can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Such programs provide a variety of community benefits. In Cleveland, many farmers’ markets are located in food deserts, defined as areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food that are often composed of predominantly lower‐income populations. In these cases, farmers’ markets provide residents with access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables that are often not offered at common shopping destinations, such as corner stores. Incentive programs help SNAP recipients stretch their monthly food budget and promote the consumption of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. In addition to providing community health benefits, incentive programs help support local farmers by providing them with new a customer base and helps to diversify their revenue streams.

To develop an EBT incentive program at your farmers’ market you must first apply for an FNS (Federal Nutrition Services) number through the USDA, which allows the market to accept Ohio Direction cards. After receiving your FNS number, you will be contacted by Market Link to receive free EBT equipment that will be used for swiping Ohio Direction cards at your market. Funds for the incentive match dollars will need to be obtained. Currently, most incentive programs are funded by local private foundations. However, more recently the USDA offers grants under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program to support incentive programs. A dedicated market staff member or volunteer will be needed to manage the program and train vendors on item eligibility with tokens, as well as track all SNAP sales for reporting.

Checklist for developing a SNAP Incentive Program:

  • Obtain an FNS number from the USDA
  • Obtain EBT Equipment from USDA/Market Link
  • Secure funding for incentives
  • Develop token system for tracking EBT and incentives
  • Ensure dedicated market staff or volunteer can manage the program
  • Train market vendors about item eligibility with tokens
  • Develop marketing plan for SNAP outreach
  • Track SNAP sales for reporting

To learn more about developing an incentive program at your farmers’ market, contact Amanda Osborne, County Extension Educator, Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA, at or 216-429-8200 ext. 212.

Evidence of your passage


Happiness…it’s important to Americans – in fact, the unalienable right to search for happiness is touted in the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The document that represents the foundation upon which our country was built, calls out the importance of happiness – now that’s something. I won’t deny that being happy is important, and it sure does feel good, but is it all that matters? Is happiness the goal, or is it a byproduct of something more meaningful?

From the time I was an undergraduate, and heard a political science professor talk about his experience as a young child in a Nazi concentration camp, I’ve been fascinated with the stories of Holocaust survivors. Hundreds of books have been penned by these remarkable people, and a recurring theme among them seems to focus on the survivors’ ability to find meaning, even in the most bleak and horrible situations.

Viktor Frankl, a noted neurologist and psychiatrist, wrote in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, about his experiences at Auschwitz and Dachau. Frankl examines the importance of finding significance, even in unbearable circumstances. He writes that a person who, “knows the why for his existence, will be able to bear almost any how.” Wow, that’s definitely about more than just feeling happy. But Frankl goes on to say that, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Maybe his point is not that we should chase happiness, but that we can choose it – that in our pursuit of meaning, we choose an attitude that allows us to be helpful, grateful and kind – an attitude that opens us to happiness – or at least to a more positive emotional state.

It reminds me of a quote I read recently from Pope John XXIII. He said, “Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.” Perhaps when we find meaning in our lives, by serving, loving, educating, helping, protecting, enlightening, supporting others, we discover that happiness is not the goal of our existence, but it is the consequence of our actions and our intentions. By pursuing and creating purpose in life, we ready our hearts and minds for the joys – both large and small – that we choose to experience along the way. So, although the pursuit of happiness may be a different journey for every person, our common goal may be a desire for each of us to create a more meaningful passage through time.

Becky Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator in Community Development with OSU Extension. To learn more about Becky’s educational efforts, visit