Environment

National academies of sciences from around the world have published formal statements and declarations acknowledging the state of climate science, the fact that climate is changing, the compelling evidence that humans are responsible, and the need to debate and implement strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Not a single national science academy disputes or denies the scientific consensus around human-caused climate change. A few examples of joint academy statements since 2000 on climate are listed here. Many national academies have, in addition, published their own reports and…
This week hasn't been a particularly good week for science. It started out on Monday with news of the social media storm from over the weekend over a blatantly antivaccine screed published the Friday before by the director of The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Clinic. Then, towards the middle of the week, we learned that our President-Elect, Donald Trump, had met with an antivaccine loon of the worst variety, someone whose misinformation I've been dealing with since 2005, in order to discuss some sort of commission on vaccine safety—or autism (it's not clear which). Whatever it was, there's no way…
I remember when I first heard on Twitter yesterday afternoon that our President-Elect, Donald Trump, was going to meet with longtime antivaccine crank Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Remembering how Trump had met with antivaccine "hero" Andrew Wakefield before the election and how after the election antivaccine activists were practically salivating over the thought of what Trump might do with respect to the CDC and vaccines, I was reminded of just how much I fear for medical science policy under the Trump administration. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. For a moment, I actually…
(Updated January 2017 by Dr. Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute) Scientific understanding of the role of humans in influencing and altering the global climate has been evolving for over a century. That understanding is now extremely advanced, combining hundreds of years of observations of many different climatic variables, millions of years of paleoclimatic evidence of past natural climatic variations, extended application of fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes, and the most sophisticated computer modeling ever conducted. There is no longer any reasonable doubt that humans…
Among the different professional categories, scientists and engineers remain very highly respected by the public, at least compared to politicians, business leaders, the media, and even religious authorities. Part of this is due to the fact that success in the scientific enterprise depends on impartial analysis and independence from political ideology. And yet there are strong connections between science and policy: good policy without good science is difficult; good policy with bad science is impossible. Sure, there is plenty of bad policy made even in the face of contradictory scientific…
Ah, excellent. I was looking for a post to hang my musings off, and Phil Plait's rant is a splendid peg. Not only that, but via fb I find this charming astronomer fox in Discarding Images; it is clear that the stars have aligned so I'll proceed. PP is not just sad but outraged that In an interview with the Guardian, Bob Walker, a senior Trump adviser, said that Trump will eliminate NASA’s Earth science research. This is the mission directorate of NASA that, among other important issues, studies climate change and so on. And if you read the Graun's headline Trump to scrap Nasa climate…
These are my suggestions, mostly books, for holiday gifts that have some sort of science relevance. See this guide for gift ideas for kids. (There is a pretty good chance that there is an idea or two in the Kids Guide for the adult in your life, depending on the adult.) For your Uncle Bob Get ready for your favorite science-denying uncle, whom we all know of as "Uncle Bob" (though he goes by many different names) with these two important books related to climate change. If your Uncle Bob is an Evangelical Christian. Or, really, any kind of Christian. My friend Paul Douglas has co-authored…
I've reviewed, researched, and generally looked around for a selection of gifts that could work for kids ranging from very small to High School (and beyond!?!?) that are science oriented. (For gifts, mainly books, for adults, see THIS.) Coding The best kids coding books these days are probably those that use scratch. Before suggesting a couple, though, consider, especailly for older kids (middle and high school) this fairly recent Python language book that focuses on Minecraft: Learn to Program with Minecraft: Transform Your World with the Power of PythonHERE is my review. My favorite…
Of all the vaccines out there, it’s hard for me to decide which among them antivaccine activists fear and detest the most. Sure, there’s the MMR vaccine, the original granddaddy bete noire, demonized so successfully by Andrew Wakefield as causing autism based on some of the flimsiest evidence ever, evidence later shown to be fraudulent. That has to be near the top of the list of any of the vaccines demonized by the antivaccine movement, despite is safety and efficacy. After all, it is the mMR vaccine that people like Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield, and Polly Tommey are still flogging as the…
"We only have one planet that serves as an example and in science it's not good to derive information from a sample size of one." -David Grinspoon Although there will never be a shortage of doubters, the scientific evidence is overwhelming that humans have impacted the planet, particularly over the last few millennia, like no other species ever has. It’s not only the climate that’s changed, but the oceans, atmosphere, freshwater, land use and even the plants and animals that can survive and thrive in the environment. We might be averse to thinking of it as such, but we’re already conducting a…
JC has been veering more and more to the dark side in recent years1. Or maybe not so recent? I find that all the way back in 2010 I wrote Hopefully Curry isn’t going to fall off that cliff, but she is teetering. And I managed to be nice to her soon after. But in August of that year I felt obliged to announce her shark-jumping. And by 2013 it had only got worse to the point where I think I stopped reading her, and certainly made an effort to stop writing about her. She is suffering - uninterestingly - from having nowhere to go. Her scientific papers are of no interest but she is, by now,…
Update 2017.01.31: First post-inauguration chronology post is done, covering the first week of the Trump administration. From the point of view of someone sitting North of the Canadian/US border, the results of this week's US Federal election are somewhat terrifying. And honestly and truly as a Canadian and a Torontonian, I say this without a bit of smugness. Been there, done that, if not quite on the same scale. And by done that, I mean that I've often seen my mission to document important stories in the world. In the past, mostly Canadian or mostly in the library world and all basically…
“If you’re a farmworker, you’re still using something that’s been deemed too dangerous to use in homes,” said Amy Liebman, Migrant Clinicians Network director of environmental and occupational health. What she’s talking about is the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic, organophosphate insecticide that’s used widely on food crops. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned it for residential use in 2000 due to concerns about its toxicity, particularly to children. But it is still heavily used on numerous food crops. Chlorpyrifos also is one of the five pesticides most often…
Obviously, we need to stop the human enhanced extra greenhouse effect. There are a number of ways to approach this. Let me say right away that taking CO2, the main greenhouse gas of concern long term, out of the atmosphere is NOT one of the ways. Here's why: It takes energy to put Carbon into solid or liquid form. You get energy back when you move the Carbon into a gas form (as CO2). That is something of an oversimplification but long term, large scale, it is correct. Since, for the most part, the greenhouse effect is caused by the the generation of energy for use, which causes the movement…
Sciencedebate.org has managed a seemingly impossible task. They developed 20 distinct (but often interrelated) questions about science policy, based on vast amounts of public input, and then got all four presidential candidates to address them. Congratulations to Sciencedebate.org. This is important, and I know that was not easy to do. The questions, and answers, are here. Here are my reactions to the candidates responses for some of the questions. 1. Innovation. Science and engineering have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII. But some reports…
by Anthony Robbins, MD, MPA Thirty years ago I worked with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) studying the health consequences of nuclear weapons. Even if they were never used, these weapons–their manufacture and testing–harmed populations. All over the world governments had mined uranium, and assembled and tested nuclear weapons. To create atomic arsenals, every nuclear power had dangerously polluted and contaminated environments where people live and work.  And governments usually kept secret from civilians the consequences –cancers, birth defects, and…
Michael Mann has a specialty or two. Climate simulation modeling, analysis of proxy data, the study of global teleconnections, Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures over historic time scales, etc. A while back, Mann's research interests and activities converged, I assume by some combination of design and chance (as is often the case in Academia) with a key central question in science. This question is, "What is the pattern of surface warming caused by human effects on the atmosphere, including changes in greenhouse gas concentration and other pollutants?" Mann and his colleagues…
During the political battle last year over the recently implemented California law SB 277, which eliminates nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates and then later during the campaign for the Republican nomination for President, I used a term regarding antivaccine views. That term was “antivaccine dog whistle.” In politics, as you probably now, a “dog whistle” is a term for coded messages that sound like advocating principles with broad acceptance but to a certain subgroup are recognized as code for something else. The analogy is obvious. Just as humans can’t hear much of a dog…
How climate change may be fueling Canada’s fire season Environmentalists, automakers applaud Ontario's $8.3B climate change plan Views from people on the frontlines of climate change How B.C.'s Climate Plan is Being Co-opted by Big Oil Once a climate doubter, Tory leadership contender Maxime Bernier now plans to consult scientists Climate change initiatives a $7-trillion funding opportunity for capital markets: Carney Nearly Twenty Canadian Companies Sign On to Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition If You Want To Fight Climate Change, Don't Fight Pipelines These are the best arguments from the…
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, courtesy PG&E The announcement that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant when its current operating licenses expire in 2025 has caused what can only be described as consternation mixed with occasional conniptions among the nuclear industry and some strongly pro-nuclear groups. That’s understandable. Diablo Canyon is aging, but is not the oldest nuclear plant in the fleet and PG&E could have chosen to push for a renewal of the license to continue operations for many more years. Diablo Canyon’s two reactors…