Environment

This is bad news and good news, but mostly good news. No matter what you think of nuclear energy (and I'm one of those people who give it a stern look and remain suspicious), it does tend to produce electricity with the addition of much less fossil carbon into the atmosphere than, say, burning coal. So, we probably don't want to see a wholesale reduction in the use of nuclear energy too quickly, and we may even want to see some new plants built. The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is the only working nuke plant in California, and it is famously located in an earthquake-rich locality. The plant…
"And yet many people today believe that weather modification is a hoax: the early overselling of rainmaking somehow caused it, down the line, to be grouped in the public mind with conspiracy theories about mind-altering 'chemtrails,' shock-jock speculation that the government manufactures tornadoes, and paranoid fantasies about the 'weather wars' involving earthquakes broadcast via the stratosphere. The reality is far less dramatic." -Ginger Strand, The Brothers Vonnegut In 1945, after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was much hand-wringing in the…
It's in the graun, so it must be true. However, just for once I'm going to agree with them. So, quick summary: Minnesota has a social cost of carbon, ish, and a Commission to quantify and establish a range of environmental costs associated with each method of electricity generation; and requires utilities to use the costs when evaluating and selecting resource options" in some sense or another. They were sued to update the value they used, from a rather low one set in 1997, to the current federal government’s Social Cost of Carbon. That was always going to be pretty hard to defend against;…
Or at least a certain corner of Canadian politics. For some definitions of "blow up." For those not followong Canadian politics, our more-or-less socialist party, The New Democratic Party, recently held a policy convention where they also held a leadership review vote. The current leader, Tom Mulcair, lost the vote and as a result the NDP will be spending the next two years or so looking for a new leader. What's significant from our point of view here is why he lost the vote. While the results of the last Federal election certainly played a role, the more proximate cause was a battle of…
Magma, the strangest rock band of all time, needs you to help finance a documentary film about their life and work. So here goes. Up until a year or so ago I'd never heard of the French prog rock band Magma, or at least their music had never penetrated my consciousness. But last year while spending the month of May in Paris, I visited a bunch or record stores (and book stores and comic stores...) and noticed records and CDs by this band Magma prominently displayed, like I should know who they are or something. It took me a while to notice enough that I forced myself to dig a bit deeper and…
“Public discourse has been polluted now for decades by corporate-funded disinformation - not just with climate change but with a host of health, environmental and societal threats. The implications for the planet are grim.” -Michael E. Mann What a couple of weeks it's been, both at Starts With A Bang and beyond, as I had a trip to MidSouthCon spin my head around last weekend. And even though we were a little short on articles and on time, you certainly let me (and each other) have it with your comments, both last week and this past one. If you missed anything, we hit on: Could our Universe be…
When last we left Andrew Wakefield, hero to the antivaccine movement, he was a headliner on the Conspira-Sea Cruise, a cruise filled with conspiracy theorists, crop circle chasers, cranks, quacks, and antivaccine activists. It was a huge come down from his formerly exalted position as chief spokesman and "scientist" for the antivaccine movement, a position he enjoyed for many years before he was struck off (i.e., had his medical license stripped from him) in the UK and later had his scientific fraud documented so thoroughly by investigative reporter Brian Deer. Since then, it's all been…
I write about homeopathy fairly regularly on this blog because there is no quackery that is (1) so obviously quackery and (2) such a perfect topic to use to illustrate a lot of issues relevant to medical science, such as issues in clinical trials resulting in false positives and, of course, placebo effects. Basically, homeopathy is an excellent quackery to use to illustrate just how it is that a treatment that, in most cases, is nothing but water can give the appearance of being effective when in fact it is not. Make no mistake, either. Homeopathy is quackery. It is a modality cooked up over…
It's no secret that my odds of ever landing a job at the Cleveland Clinic are probably slim and none, at least if anyone there ever Googles my name, particularly if they Google it with the words "Cleveland Clinic" added. The reason, of course, is that I've been very critical of the Cleveland Clinic's wholesale embrace of what can only be described as pure quackery. I first noticed this a long time ago when I perused the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's (CCF) integrative medicine page, in particular its farcical acceptance of the magical mystical reiki master definition of reiki. It got worse…
It is all about the honest conversation. And the dishonest conversation. Corporate Funding of the Research Endeavor: Good Corporations have an interest in research. They use this research for profit or to minimize liability. Some corporations have their own researchers, some provide grants to scientists to conduct research, and some fund activities that might not be thought of as research, but really are. For example, the publication fees for peer reviewed journals, funds to pay for scientists to attend conferences, and funds to support a scientific conference are paying for an important…
Sean B. Carroll is coming out with a new book called The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters. This is the molecular biologist Sean Carroll, as distinct from the physicist (who wrote this). Homeostasis is one of the basic principles of biology. The term can be applied broadly to mean that certain numbers are maintained within a certain range. This could refer to energy flowing through a system, numbers of specific cellular products like enzymes, numbers of individual organisms in an ecological system, etc. It is not so much that numbers don't change.…
By Peter Gleick, Brett Walton, J. Carl Ganter Water was a Top Risk on the 2015 Global Agenda In early 2015, participants at the World Economic Forum, a who’s who of the political and business elite, ranked water crises as the top global risk. Water was also a key factor in the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint for international development over the next 15 years. Ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030 is one of six water goals for the SDGs. In December at the UN climate change conference in Paris,…
We have a Steacie Library Hackfest coming up and our there this year is Making a Difference with Data. And what better area to make a difference in than the environment and climate change? I am far from an expert on this topic, so suggestions for additions (and deletions if I've added anything inappropriate) are welcome. In particular, deeper and more complete data sources for Canada would be nice to have. I would also very much like to improve coverage beyond the North American focus with a wider variety of targeted regional and national data sources. This set of lists is not meant to be…
The following is a repost of a Facebook Post by Michael Mann. I don’t think this needs any comment from me. The original is here. Begin Repost Several colleagues have notified me of the following email that has been sent to a presumably broad group of researchers and academics by John Droz of the #Koch-funded American Tradition Institute (#ATI) (read about Droz here). The email forwards a sign-on letter from #GeorgeMarshallInstitute chair and #climatechange denier #WillHapper (read about Happer here) asking colleagues to support the Lamar Smith (R-TX) witch-hunt against NOAA scientists (my…
I remember my PhD thesis. In particular, I remember the years of work that went into it. I remember being grilled (with good, constructive intent) by my thesis committee a couple of times a year as I worked on it. I remember the many, many hours spend writing it. And, above all, I remember the hour-long seminar I had to give, followed by a couple of hours defending my thesis. The PhD thesis defense is usually the most stressful thing that PhD candidates go through on the path to earning their degree. Certainly it was for me. Of course, the PhD thesis defense does contain a bit of an element…
I had considered writing an accounting of all the outlandish weather events of 2015, but that project quickly became a tl:dr list of untoward happenings which is both alarming and a bit boring, since it is so long. So, I decided to generate something less comprehensive, focusing more on the context and meaning of the diverse and impressive set of outcomes of anthropogenic global warming, an historically strong El Niño, and, well, weather which is already a pretty whacky thing. See: Highlights of Climate Change Research in 2015 It should be noted right away that 2015 is the last year in which…
User:William M. Connolley/The science is settled is a copy that I made of a wiki article that got deleted. I think I'd stick now largely with what I said then, 8th February 2007: Keep: its not the worlds greatest page, but its useful. Lee Vonces vote is a good example of the reason for keeping it: the page as it stands is substantially correct, but if it wasn't there the opposite misinformation would accumulate. Unfortunately, since the article was deleted, it's history isn't conveniently available. You may take it for granted that it was something of a war-in-progress when removed, but a…
It is time to update the list of recommended books on climate change and global warming. I assume that with the holidays coming, you will want to give some people some science books, and climate change related books should be near the top of the list for you. I'm doing a separate post on evolution related books, and another on bird and nature books, as well. I'm going to keep this short and focus on a small number of books. To get on this list the book has to be good and current, with two notable exceptions (see below). Global Warming Books For Kids Please Don't Paint Our Planet Pink!: A…
An interesting paper in Nature Communications (David B. Kemp, Kilian Eichenseer and Wolfgang Kiessling, doi:10.1038/ncomms9890), and yet oddly unreported, or at least not in the corner of the blogosphere that I watch (did I miss you? Sorry, tell me). True, its not easy to interpret, but even so I'm surprised. I was hoping that someone was going to tell me what to think, but until they do here's what I've thunk for myself. Let's start with their abstract: Recently observed rates of environmental change are typically much higher than those inferred for the geological past. At the same time, the…
Ecologist Ellis Silver says…hang on. Who? Anyone can call themselves an ecologist, so it's strange that when I tried to find out who this guy is, no one is saying. Try it. Google the phrase "ecologist Ellis Silver, and that association is everywhere -- some even refer to him as "leading ecologist" or "important ecologist" -- and many also call him "Professor Silver". "Professor" implies a university affiliation, but they never bother to state where he's employed as a professor. It's a mystery. This cipher of a human being is saying something, as I was about to mention: he's claiming that he…