Environment

We drove north for two days, to arrive at a place that existed almost entirely for one reason: To facilitate the capture and, often, consumption of wild fish. The folks who run the facility make a living providing shelter, food, boats, fishing tackle, easy access to a fishing license, and they can be hired as guides. The whole point is to locate, capture, butcher, cook, and eat the fish. The fish themselves have little say in the matter. And while talking to the people there we got a lot of advice as to how to find and capture the fish, and offers were made to assist with the butchering and…
Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth (Build It Yourself) covers many concepts in earth science, from paleontology to climate systems to how to make a battery out of apple (how can a kid's science activity not include the apple battery!). This book represents an interesting concept, because it involves kids in mostly easy to do at home projects, covers numerous scientific concepts, and takes the importance of global climate change as a given. There is a good amount of history of research, though the book does not cover a lot of the most current scientists and their key work…
I am fortunate to have become a physician in a time of great scientific progress. Back when I was in college and medical school, the thought that we would one day be able to sequence the human genome (and now sequence hundreds of cancer genomes), to measure the expression of every gene in the genome simultaneously on a single "gene chip," and to assess the relative abundance of every RNA transcript, coding and noncoding (such as microRNAs) simultaneously through next generation sequencing (NGS) techniques was considered, if not science fiction, so far off in the future as to be unlikely to…
There are two new scientific research papers looking at variation over the last century or so in global warming. One paper looks at the march of annual estimates of global surface temperature (air over the land plus sea surface, not ocean), and applies a well established statistical technique to ask the question: Was there a pause in global warming some time over the last couple of decades, as claimed by some? The answer is, no, there wasn’t. The paper is open access, is very clearly written so it speaks for itself, and is available here. One of the authors has a blog post here, in German…
Superstorm Sandy came ashore nearly three years ago, pummeling the New England and Mid-Atlantic coast and becoming one of the deadliest and costliest storms to ever hit the U.S. This week, the Sandy Child and Family Health Study released two new reports finding that the health impacts of Sandy continue to linger, illustrating the deep mental footprint left by catastrophic disasters and the challenges of long-term recovery. Led by researchers at Rutgers University and New York University, the Sandy Child and Family Health Study is based on 1,000 face-to-face interviews with adults in the nine…
I'm not sure where this comes from (David Hone reminded me of it) but the UCS has The Climate Deception Dossiers which breathlessly tells us Internal fossil fuel industry memos reveal decades of disinformation—a deliberate campaign to deceive the public that continues even today. This is news? Its not news to me. But wait, there's UPDATE (July 9, 2015): As this report went to press, a newly discovered email from a former Exxon employee revealed that the company was already factoring climate change into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction as early as 1981 which leads to Former Exxon…
Aside from deconstructing the misinformation and pseudoscience of the antivaccine movement, another of the top three or so topics I routinely discuss here is the infiltration of pseudoscience into medicine. In particular, I've found and discussed more examples than I can possibly remember of what I like to call quackademic medicine, defined as the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine. This quackery mainly insinuates its way into medical schools and academic medical centers through the emerging specialty known as "integrative medicine," which used to be called "complementary and…
This post was originally about Laudato Si. But it took ages to write, and then James wrote something incomprehensible [Update: CIP explains] which expressed some of the snark I was going to use; so I don't need to do that bit. And then ATTP wrote yet another post about the Ecomodernists. The bit where I agree with James Mostly the bit where he says giving him too much credit risks much the same on the other side, e.g. when he makes his next reactionary outburst. I feel much the same way when, e.g., Prince Charles says something about the environment. And everyone who happens to agree with…
See below for update. Andrew Revkin has a new kind of fan. These are fans that agree with much of what Revkin says, or at least feel comfortable in his community of commenters. These fans feel their views are substantiated by what they read in Revkin's New York Times column, Dot Earth. They seem to be Libertarian, anti-environment, anti-science, pro-fossil fuel, and frankly, anti-green. Not just one or two of Andrew Revkin's fans, but a bunch -- with numbers possibly growing -- are of this mind, and this is very disturbing. If we had the technology to transport these fans back in time and…
Last Thursday I took note of a rather fascinating confluence of cranks who have come together to oppose SB 277 in California. For those not familiar with SB 277, it is a bill currently under consideration in the California Assembly that would eliminate nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates. It was passed by the Senate last month, and a couple of weeks ago it cleared its first hurdle in the Assembly, having been passed by the Assembly Health Committee on a 12-6 vote. So now it's in the full Assembly to be debated, and it shouldn't be too long before it comes to a vote. As I've said…
I've been at this skeptical blogging thing for over a decade now. I realize that I periodically remind you, my readers, of this and that perhaps I do it too often, but my reminders generally serve a purpose. Specifically, they serve to put an exclamation point on my surprise when I discover a new purveyor of pseudoscience and/or quackery that I had never heard of before but who is apparently fairly well known in the quackosphere. Such is what happened this week, when I learned of a man who appears to be challenging Deepak Chopra and Bruce Lipton for the title of most annoying mystical quack…
"An asteroid or a supervolcano could certainly destroy us, but we also face risks the dinosaurs never saw: An engineered virus, nuclear war, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us." -Elon Musk We've covered a ton this week on Starts With A Bang, ranging from the earliest times to the ultra-theoretical to the present day and what's going on right here on Earth. Take a look back if you missed anything, as we've covered: Where is the cosmic microwave background? (for Ask Ethan), Raw ingredients, cubed (for our Weekend Diversion),…
This roundup includes reviews of a bunch of recent and not-so-recent reading about Canadian politics, in particular the Harper government and how it controls information. Some of the books are pretty directly related to science policy and some, not so much. These are all worth reading, some kind of overlap while others present fairly unique approaches. All were useful to me in my long term interest and work around Canadian science policy and in understanding the current Canadian Conservative government's anti-science attitudes. All are solid additions to the growing body of work on the…
It am de Pope, he be at it agen. Dere be no stopping dis righteous Pontifex. Just for the moment, he's saying things that I broadly agree with, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start being happy with religious authority. There was a one-day "seminar" or "workshop" or "event", Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity on Tuesday the 28th (alas for them, and for numerous folk in Nepal, there was a disastrous earthquake the same day), hosted by The Pontifical Academy of Sciences (as they tastefully put it, Founded in Rome on 17 August…
Today, Maine’s legislature held a hearing on the Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace Act, a proposal to require employers to identify harmful chemicals in the workplace and replace them with safer alternatives. It’s the perfect example of state action on behalf of worker safety and exactly the kind of measure that might no longer be possible under two congressional proposals aimed at overhauling the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. As Congress considers a number of legislative proposals to reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — a law that hasn’t been updated since its passage…
According to the best available research, we are going to have to double food supplies, globally, by 2050. Think about that for a moment. Children born today will be in their 40s at a time that we need to have already doubled food production, yet during the last 20 years we have seen only a 20 percent increase in food supply. Assuming a steady rate of increase in production (which might be optimistic) we should expect to fall far short of demand over the next few decades. This is a problem. The problem is expected to most severely affect poorer people, people in less developed nations, and…
To put it mildly, I'm not a big fan of Vani Hari, who has achieved Internet notoriety as a highly misguided "food activist" better known as The Food Babe. As The Food Babe, Hari has improbably become a minor celebrity by attacking food companies over various ingredients their products and, unfortunately, seems poised for more. Indeed, given how media- and social media-savvy she has become, it's not inconceivable that she could become the Dr. Oz of food. The problem with that, of course, is that what she pushes is not good information but rather misinformation. Indeed, she appears to live by…
Dana Nuccitelli is a key communicator in the climate change conversation. He is co-writer with John Abraham at the Climate Consensus - the 97% blog at the Guardian, and has contributed hundreds of entries to John Cook’s famous site SkepticalScience.com. He has measurably helped people to understand climate change science and the nuances of the false debate based over climate manufactured by science deniers. And, he’s written a book! Graphic from Cook, Nuccitelli, Et Al 2013 paper quantifying the consensus on climate change. This figure also appears in "Climatology and Pseudoscience"…
The human mind is amazing in its ability to compartmentalize. Many are the times when I've come across people who seem reasonable in every other way but who cling tightly to one form of pseudoscience or another. On the other hand, as I've noticed time and time again, people whose minds have a proclivity for pseudoscience tend not to limit themselves to just one form of pseudoscience. Indeed, my surgical and skeptical bud Mark Hoofnagle coined a term for this latter phenomenon, namely "crank magnetism." It's basically a pithy term to describe how people who are into one form of pseudoscience…
OK, I admit the title of this post is possibly a bit extreme but I could not resist the symmetry. Here, I refer to both ends of civilization, the start and the finish. I'd like to talk about a recent review published in Science, titled "Systems integration for global sustainability" written by my colleague Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute together with Jiangou Liu, Harold Mooney, Vanessa Hull, Steven Davis, Joane Gaskell, Thomas Hertel, Jane Lubchenco, Karent Seto, Claire Kremen and Shuxin Li. But I want to put this paper in a broader perspective, dipping into my training as an…