Posts Tagged ‘climate change

Where to watch – Years Of Living Dangerously

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Dangerous environment

Director and producer of films like Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron has made a 9-part documentary on the environmental challenge climate change presents. The Years of Living Dangerously debuts Sunday night, April 13th, on Showtime. If you don’t subscribe to Showtime the debut will be available on YouTube.

Click on the graphic above to check out your choices.

Thanks, Mike

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 13, 2014 at 8:00 am

IPCC to deliver most pessimistic climate report to date

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UN scientists are set to deliver their darkest report yet on the impacts of climate change, pointing to a future stalked by floods, drought, conflict and economic damage if carbon emissions go untamed.

A draft of their report, seen by the news organisation AFP, is part of a massive overview by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, likely to shape policies and climate talks for years to come…

Policies and climate talks among folks who aren’t stuck into biblical prophecy and/or fear of science.

“We have a lot clearer picture of impacts and their consequences … including the implications for security,” said Chris Field of the US’s Carnegie Institution, who headed the probe.

The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming…

…“The assessments that we can do at the moment probably still underestimate the actual impacts of future climate change,” said Jacob Schewe of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was not involved in the IPCC drafting…

Among the perils in the draft: Rising greenhouse-gas emissions will “significantly” boost the risk of floods, with Europe and Asia particularly exposed. In the highest warming scenarios of untamed greenhouse gas emissions, three times as many people will be exposed to severe river flooding as with lower warming…

If no measures are taken, “hundreds of millions” of coastal dwellers will be displaced by 2100. Small-island states and East, Southeast and South Asia will be the biggest land-losers.

Average yields of wheat, rice and corn may fall by 2 per cent per decade, while demand for crops is likely to rise by up to 14 per cent by 2050 as population grows. The crunch will hit poor, tropical countries worst.

A “large fraction” of land and freshwater species may risk extinction, their habitat destroyed by climate change.

The quest for scarce goods – when food and food crops comprise an essential part of that quest – has been diminished in a number of ways in recent decades. We may see that reversed. Which means poorer nations in particular may resort to the most affordable means in the political mind of acquiring such scarce goods — war.

The scumbags who fund so-called climate skeptics, that is, the breed not already volunteering on their behalf out of sheer stubborn refusal to examine scientific study – will have to move their penthouse aeries further inland.

Thanks, Mike

Written by Ed Campbell

March 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm

How tech can — and can’t — solve climate change, extinction

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Somewhere around two hundred thousand years ago, a new primate emerges on Earth.

“The members of the species are not particularly swift or strong or fertile,” the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert writes in her new book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” “They are, however, singularly resourceful.”

It is, of course, us — big-brained, small-browed genetic mutants clever enough to outcompete animals ten times our size and gradually fan out across the globe.

Eventually, humankind invents axes, engines, cities and strip malls. We tear down forests and dig up fuel from the ground.

Other times we excavate out of curiosity, traveling backward in time through the records of bones, fossils and rocks that eventually give up clues to mass tragedies in the ancient past. Huge portions of the world’s creatures disappeared in a geologic blink of the eye.

In fact, five blinks — so far. The reasons aren’t always settled in science, but strong possibilities for the various mass extinctions include a dramatic release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, climatic shifts that tipped the globe into prolonged ice ages and a gigantic asteroid strike that kicked up enormous clouds of dust.

The early part of Kolbert’s new book is an exploration of this exploration of the past, telling the stories of scientists who worked to reconstruct this grim timeline of species loss. But mostly it’s scene setting for the real subject of the book, the one telegraphed in the title: The Sixth Extinction.

The salient characteristics of the latest epoch are that we appear to be living through it now — and causing it…

That’s the start. In between the start and finish there’s lots of important science stuff.

It’s not that I have a solution I’m trying to work toward and just haven’t said what it is. I don’t have a solution. It’s possible that massive thinking and massive effort will yield, not a solution, but a much better future than the one we seem to be heading toward.

Sherwood Rowland, one of the scientists who discovered ozone depleting chemicals and who recently died, had a couple of great lines, including one I quoted in the book. “The work is going well, but it looks like it might be the end of the world…”

The politics of the discussion is simple enough:

“What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

The combination of know-nothings, The Party of No, idjits and Cowardly Lions in Congress aren’t even doing that much. RTFA for lots more about the book, what can and can’t be done – you already know who needs to be thrown out of Congress and state legislatures to achieve anything more than political babble.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 24, 2014 at 8:00 am

Pentagon says climate change is a present danger — again!

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Like the Olympics and leap year, the Quadrennial Defense Review comes at us every four years. A big-picture look by the US military at the threats they see out there, the QDR [.pdf] is a broad document, but you can read in it just how big the military thinks its mission is (global dominance, really). As part of that mission, the military tries to find a way to reduce the threats it sees, but what do you do about dirty air that we all create? You can’t go and bomb the highways to stop the cars from polluting.

The QDR is a straight shooter when it comes to climate change. It warns of devastation to “homes, land, and infrastructure” thanks to climate change, as well as threats to water and food supplies. The QDR says:

Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. … The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.

Note the complete lack of political equivocating. Climate change is a serious problem, the Pentagon says. That’s a refreshing change from most of what comes out of DC, but it is awfully similar to what the QDR said in the 2010 version.

There is no mention of bombing highways, but the QDR does say the Department of Defense, “will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change.” As we’ve seen in the past, the DoD has expressed an interest in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, but those purchases may have been made for more financial reasons. As clear as the DoD is on the affects of climate change, it is also familiar with paying up to $400 for a gallon of gas in certain situations, so any reduction in fuel use can be good for the air and the defense budget.

We can expect this to have the same effect on Congress as acid rain rolling off a Confederate tin roof. Tea Bag Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats dedicate about as much time to sound science as the average drug dealer does to reading up on the dangers of hydrocodone.

Still – this is another tool for the oh-so-slowly expanding number of courageous progressive voices who’ve managed to tuck into some corner of elected officialdom. Who knows? One of these days a significant number of Americans may wander into the pages, page-views or news segments that make it onto cable TV or a corner of the Web that actually considers science of more use than a rain dance in Tucson. They may even be old enough to vote and living in a state where that is still permitted.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Pic of the Day

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Click to enlarge

The planet continues to experience climate change expressed in episodes ranging from temperature swings to tempestuous storms, in general – warming.

So, look at this image and guess what portion of the globe is populated by people ignorant and parochial enough to believe that what happens in their own backyard represents what’s happening to the whole world.

Thanks, Bill Nye

Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2014 at 2:00 am

No relief for Earth’s warming trend in 2013

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The average temperature of Earth maintained its warming trend in 2013, despite seasonal and regional variations that included a shrinking ice cap in the Arctic and a massively growing one in the southern hemisphere, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday.

NASA said the planet’s average temperature in 2013 was 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit – 14.6 degrees Celsius – tying 2006 and 2009 for the seventh warmest year since 1880 when global climate record-keeping began.

Using the same data but different analysis processes, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2013′s average temperature was 58.12 degrees Fahrenheit, which tied what NOAA considers to be the fourth hottest year on record.

The agencies differ in their analysis techniques. NASA for example uses more temperatures from Antarctica, but said the overall trend remains what has been measured every year since 1976 when global temperatures first surpassed the 20th Century’s global average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit – 13.9 degrees Celsius…

Global temperatures began climbing in the late 1960s, a phenomena that has been tied to heat-trapping greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA…said the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is higher now than at other time in the last 800,000 years.

Carbon dioxide levels were about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year in the global temperature record. By 1960, levels reached 315 parts per million. In 2013, the amount of carbon dioxide peaked at more than 400 parts per million.

The long term trends in climate are extremely robust,” Gavin Schmidt said. “There are times, such as today, when we can have snow, even in a globally warmed world [winter ain't dead - yet]. But the long-term trends are very clear. They are not going to disappear. It isn’t an error in our calculations.”

The question of climate change is one of those boundary layers separating ignorant from stupid. Climate is long-term phenomena. Meteorology is about weather, localized and regional phenomena – even when global forces are causative.

Given that most climate change-deniers barely understand the United States comprises only 6% of the Earth’s surface – and their interpretation of “climate” is characterized by the nearest FOX “news” broadcast – the operative word tends to remain “Stupid”.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 22, 2014 at 8:00 am

Successful experiment to simulate warming of Arctic permafrost

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Although vegetation growth in the Arctic is boosted by global warming, it’s not enough to offset the carbon released by the thawing of the permafrost beneath the surface, University of Florida researchers have found in the first experiment in the Arctic environment to simulate thawing of permafrost in a warming world.

Twice as much carbon is frozen in Arctic permafrost as exists in the atmosphere today, and what happens to it as it thaws – releasing greenhouse gases that fuel climate change – is a key question, said professor Ted Schuur…

“The plants like it when they’re warmer, so their growth is increasing, and if you just watch the tundra in the summertime and you look at the balance between what the plants are doing and what the soil is doing, the plants actually offset everything that happens in the soil. They’re growing faster, getting bigger and taking carbon out of the air,” Schuur said. “From the perspective of climate change, that’s a good thing, tundra vegetation is making up for any carbon you’re losing from the soil.”

The hitch? The Arctic’s short summers do not make up for the long winters.

Researchers are interested in the permafrost of the polar regions because these soils – permanently frozen at great depths and for tens of thousands of years – are vulnerable to global warming…

As the experiment continues into the next three-year cycle, Schuur said he is looking for a point at which the plants hit a growth limit and stop absorbing more carbon, while the thawing permafrost continues to release carbon…

One of the successes of the experiment, Schuur said, was finding a way to model carbon release from permafrost in the environment on a year-round basis. Previous studies had used miniature greenhouses in summer months, but creating a warming situation in the winter was more challenging.

“We wanted to warm the tundra and cause the permafrost to recede. This is the first experiment to isolate that effect in the field, so the first thing we show is that we’re able to simulate what will happen in a future world when the permafrost degrades,” Schuur said…

The studies confirm that a significant amount of carbon is released from thawing permafrost and highlight that there are factors beyond simply temperature that affect carbon release, Schuur said.

New variables identified by Professor Schuur and postdoc researcher Susan Natali range from water content to the ratio of nitrogen to carbon in the permafrost soil.

There’s the added existential fillip that these researchers are staff at a university in Florida – therefore they’re overseen by politicians and ideologues who refuse to accept any scientific acknowledgement of climate change.

In fact, there is at least one city in another neo-Confederate state where local politicians made it illegal for public funds to be used to publish any document describing sea levels as rising – even though that happens to be a problem in that city. :)

Written by Ed Campbell

December 7, 2013 at 8:00 am

Is your state ready for climate disasters?

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Whether it’s wildfires in the West, drought in the Midwest, or sea level rise on the Eastern seaboard, chances are good your state is in for its own breed of climate-related disasters. Every state is required to file a State Hazard Mitigation Plan with FEMA, which lays out risks for that state and its protocols for handling catastrophe. But as a new analysis from Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law reveals, many states’ plans do not take climate change into account…

While FEMA itself acknowledged this summer that climate change could increase areas at risk from flooding by 45 percent over the next century, states are not required to discuss climate change in their mitigation plans. The Columbia analysis didn’t take into account climate planning outside the scope of the mitigation plans, like state-level greenhouse gas limits or renewable energy incentives. And as my colleague Kate Sheppard reported, some government officials have avoided using climate science terminology even in plans that implicitly address climate risks; states that didn’t use terms like “climate change” and “global warming” in their mitigation plans were docked points in Columbia’s ranking algorithm.

Michael Gerrard said he wasn’t surprised to find more attention paid to climate change in coastal states like Alaska and New York that are closest to the front lines. But he was surprised to find that a plurality of states landed in the least-prepared category, suggesting a need, he said, for better communication of non-coastal risks like drought and heat waves.

The Koch Bros and their tools in the Republican Party got one thing right. Americans are such a political lazyass nation that the easiest lie to sell is one that concludes we needn’t do a damned thing.

Between lying about climate change, ignoring the effects of climate change, staking absolutely NO claim either for causing climate change or taking responsibility to reverse climate change – reactionary politicians have charted the perfect course for American voters.

Just imitate the Do-Nothing Congress!

Written by Ed Campbell

November 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Human activity continues to upsets the natural balance of our atmosphere – says the World Meteorological Organization

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The World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday the amount of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2012.

“The observations from WMO’s extensive Global Atmosphere Watch network highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. “As a result of this, our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.”

WMO said there was a 32 percent increase in the warming effect of greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2012. Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal accounted for 80 percent of the increase.

CO2 levels in the atmosphere increased at a higher rate from 2011 to 2012 than the average growth rate over the last 10 years, the WMO’s report said.

Jarraud said the temperature increases associated with higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may result in “devastating consequences” for the international community.

“We need to act now, otherwise we will jeopardize the future of our children, grandchildren and many future generations,” he said. “Time is not on our side.”

I’m fortunate in that I live in a county, a region where my Congressional representative and senator are on my side in the fight for sane science-based ecology. In fact, the state of New Mexico only has the one Congress-scumball downstate who believes the world must revolve around the needs of Big Oil and mining companies.

Still, my guys don’t fight for our future in a vacuum even if that is all I would expect to find inside the heads of many of our elected officials in Washington. And statewide, our local politicians ain’t a whole boatload better. The battle is joined, folks. Time to elect someone who can see further than the end of their nose and more detail than their bank account.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Non-genetic inheritance, changing environments and adaptation

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In the last two decades climate change emerged as a momentous threat to ecosystems and species, calling for — politics aside — a greater interest in the adaptation abilities of the world’s creatures. Understanding and predicting how populations will respond to climate fluctuations has been attracting a wealth of research into evolutionary biology and the molecular components of evolution; with some vital questions motivating these studies: namely, how organisms will handle their new circumstances, or how populations will be able to cope with climate change in order to survive and avoid extinction. With the far-reaching impacts of climate change being felt globally, it is no wonder that scientists are desperate to understand evolution and its implications for adaptation abilities.

Until recently, biological information was thought to be transmitted across generations by DNA sequencing alone. Furthermore, adaptation to the environment was thought to only occur with Darwin’s mechanism of rare mutations of the DNA that are selected for the reproductive advantage that they provide. However, scientists are now paying increased attention to non-DNA factors that are inherited and can actually help offspring adapt to their environment.

An article published last week in Non-Genetic Inheritance — an open access journal by Versita, brings attention to this new mode of inheritance. The authors refer to a process called Transgenerational plasticity (TGP). Plasticity is a term used to describe how an organism changes its phenotype (e.g. morphology, physiology or behaviour) to adapt to its environment. For example, some animals become more hairy when bred in cold conditions. Transgenerational plasticity refers to offspring developing the adaptations, when the parents experience the environment…

Dr. Santiago Salinas and his colleagues put forward a convincing argument that not only could non-genetic fast-acting mechanisms of adaptation be widespread in nature (complimenting the slower DNA-mutation based methods of adaptation) but that they could also be of increasing importance as rapid climate change continues. In an extensive catalogue of examples they suggest that non-genetic inheritance mechanisms are being used in a wide variety of life forms.

Salinas surveyed 80 empirical studies from 63 species to argue that the new adaptive method is sufficiently established both theoretically and empirically to merit inclusion as a coping tactic against rapid environmental changes. Moreover, modulation of the system could be used in agriculture to ensure that crop species are fully adapted to their environments.

A fascinating approach to questions hindered and hampered outside the realm of science and research by political hacks and seat-of-the-pants pundits. Nonetheless interesting and thought-provoking.

Here’s a link to the article – which is not available free to the general public, yet. Worth keeping an eye out for it, though. Should be a fun read and lead to beaucoup learning and discussion. Some of us should live long enough to see if the hypotheses prove to be correct. :)

Written by Ed Campbell

November 3, 2013 at 8:00 am


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