Environment

  If there is anything that the past few decades of research and study of major global challenges tells us, it is that truly effective solutions to sustainability challenges require truly integrated approaches across disciplines, fields of study, data sets, and institutions. We are not going to solve 21st century global problems with 20th century tools. The planet is faced with a wide range of regional and global threats: air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, a rapidly changing climate and new risks from extreme weather events, energy and food security, conflicts over resources such…
Bjørn Lomborg wrote an opinion piece that is offensively wrong Bjørn Lomborg is the director of the conservative Copenhagen Consensus Center. He is author of two books that seem to recommend inaction in the face of climate change, Cool It, which appears to be both a book and a movie, and “The Skeptical Environmentalist.” This is apparently the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Consensus Center USA, 262 Middlesex St, Lowell MA . He is well known as a climate contrarian, though I don’t subscribe to the subcategories that are often used to divide up the denialists. Let’s just say that…
On May 20th, 2013 I published my most popular post ever. It was The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment. In it, I chronicled at some considerable length the various anti-science measures by the current Canadian Conservative government. The chronological aspect was particularly interesting as you could see the ramping up since the 2011 election where the Conservatives won a majority government after two consecutive minority Conservative governments. The post is my most popular by an of magnitude, with around 10 times more page views that the…
Andrew Revkin has this commentary at the New York Times: How ‘Warmest Ever’ Headlines and Debates Can Obscure What Matters About Climate Change. I will argue below that Revkin has, inadvertently or not, linked a science denialist trope to the important scientific finding that 2014 is the warmest year on record, as part of his presumably well intentioned effort to focus on trends rather than individual points. (See his comment on this blog below.) Yes, the trend is more important than a given data point, but the headline does not really obscure, but rather, underscores. I'm afraid the…
His latest column chides the climate Cassandras, and makes a really bizarre argument. Did you know that there have been severe disruptions of human activity by non-anthropogenic climate change in the past? And if climate Cassandras are as conscientious as they claim to be about weighing evidence, how do they accommodate historical evidence of enormously consequential episodes of climate change not produced by human activity? We accommodate the facts of catastrophic events with no problem at all. Volcanoes have erupted and meteors have smashed into the Earth, all without any triggering or…
The following is a letter from John Irving, posted originally on his Facebook page and reprinted here as a guest post: NOTE: JOHN NOW HAS HIS OWN WEB SITE AND HAS POSTED HIS LETTER THERE. So do note that there are comments, including by John, below, but also go and visit his site! John Irving Dear Industrial Capitalists and members of the %0.01, I feel obliged to inform you that you’ve made a huge strategic blunder and things aren’t probably going to work out very well for you soon. You recall that way back in 1965 - 50 years ago this year - President Lyndon B. Johnson was warned about…
Enough! That's Peter Doran's opinion on the "debate" about a scientific consensus on climate change. There clearly is one -- a strong one. So why do the public and the politicians think otherwise? Why the big disconnect between what the vast majority of scientists know to be fact, and what the public thinks. Dr. Doran blames the way media reports on science, and he blames a few of the loud voices on the right. He presents an idea to change a lot of the minds of people who deny the scientific consensus on climate change which will hopefully lead politicians to action. Peter Doran is a…
A new study has recently been published that looks at the ecology of bristlecone pine growth at Sheep Mountain, and the tree ring signal those trees produce, at high altitudes in the Southwestern US. This is important because tree rings are an often used proxyindicator for reconstructing past climates. Those who keep track of the paleoclimate research will recall, for example, that tree rings were one of the proxyindicators used by Michael Mann and his team in constructing the famous "Hockey Stick" graph showing a dramatic increase in the Earth's temperature since the onset of industrial…
Modern science stands on the shoulders of giants, as well as average humans, dwarves and elves, ancient civilizations, and all the bones of the dead—forgotten and otherwise. But sometimes you have to start a new branch of science from scratch. On Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel continues his count-up to Dec. 25, the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton. Orzel explores the origins of agriculture in the Americas, where nativized people made the best of their local flora, turning a humble, nearly inedible grass into one of the biggest food staples on Earth. Chad writes, "Our other staple crops are also…
I don't think I mentioned this, but I'm on a bit of a staycation this week. I figured, what the heck? After coming home from Skepticon I could do with a little R&R. Of course, fool that I am, I still can't resist blogging a bit. On the other hand, the day before Thanksgiving I realize I should dial it back a bit and keep it brief. Everyone in the US (which, sorry, international readers, still make up the vast majority of my readers) is generally busy getting ready and might not have time for checking in with their favorite blogs, particularly blogs of bloggers known for their logorrhea…
Speaking of sulfur: This common element turns out to be highly useful for understanding planetary processes – both on Earth and Mars. Two new papers by Dr. Itay Halevy use sulfur chemistry to understand the history of sulfur-loving microbes at the bottom of the ocean and the compounds spewed from Martian volcanoes that may have created brief Martian “springs.” Sources of sulfur: Olympus Mons on Mars and sulfate-reducing bacteria that live in water on Earth (inset) On the ocean beds, microorganisms “breathe” sulfur: They take in sulfate – an abundant compound of oxidized sulfur, and use it…
Dear Readers, Find below an interesting press release I may as well share verbatim: The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers have now found that swirling ocean eddies, similar to atmospheric storms, play an important role in transporting these warm waters to the Antarctic coast—…
In the span of just a couple years, five of Heather Buren’s colleagues at the San Francisco Fire Department were diagnosed with breast cancer. At first, Buren thought the diagnoses were part of the unfortunate toll that comes with age. Still, something felt amiss — “it just felt so disproportionate to me,” she said. Around the same time, Buren helped a good friend and mentor within the department as she underwent a double mastectomy. Buren said it was at that moment that she decided to take decisive action. “(The cancer) just brought her to her knees,” she told me. “Now she’s good and back in…
Fred Upton is the incumbent Republican Congressional Representative for southwest Michigan’s 6th district. Upton is considered to be one of Michigan’s most powerful Republicans. He is the Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is an important position in relation to climate change. He has been in the House since being elected in 1986. Most of his elections since then, including after redistricting (when he went from the 4th to the 6th district) were easy wins. In 2012 he was “primaried” by the righter-wing, but still won handily (Wikipedia editors, note that Upton’s Wiki entry…
Despite substantial public opposition and the “grave concerns” of about 50 members of Congress and significant unanswered questions about human and environmental health impacts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a new herbicide called Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered corn and soybeans in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. EPA, which says it has approved Enlist Duo “to manage the problem of resistant weeds” is now considering approving Enlist Duo for use in ten more states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi,…
It has been a year since I last updated my chronological listing of the Harper Conservative government's war on science. The newly updated master list is here, where you can also read more about this project in general. The previous update from October 2013 is here. Some preliminary metrics about the impact of that original post in the wider world are here. This update contains 140 new incidents, mostly from between the last update and now. They have been integrated into the master list. Some notes. Many of the incidents I list are programs or locations that have sustained significant…
I mentioned yesterday that this week is Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014, or, as I like to call it, Quackery Week. At the time, I wasn’t sure when or if I was going to do another post about the quackery that is naturopathy this week. I was going to play it by ear and see what came up. Then, one of my commenters mentioned this subreddit, Read what naturopaths say to one another. Conclusion: manipulative, poorly trained, and a threat to public health. Now, I’m not a big fan of Reddit, largely because I can’t figure out how to find things easily, and I hate the sheer ugly and user hostile…
Ah, the (self) pity of it. AW has a long lame series of excuses for why he went all the way to Bristol to hear Michael Mann talk but did not ask, or even try to ask, any questions. Sou takes it to pieces, but you really don't need that. Obviously it wasn't necessary to ask a question in order to want to go - the lecture was fully pre-booked, and who wouldn't want to go and hear In this special Cabot Institute lecture, in association with Bristol Festival of Ideas, Michael E Mann will discuss the science, politics, and ethical dimensions of global warming in the context of his own ongoing…
Science Advice: Cultivating the necessary functions in Canada A rough guide to science advice Principles and politics of scientific advice What do policymakers want from academics? Tips for Academics Who Want to Engage Policymakers Top 20 things scientists need to know about policy-making Top 20 things politicians need to know about science 12 things policy-makers and scientists should know about the public Science in an Age of Scrutiny: How Scientists Can Respond to Criticism and Personal Attacks The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate…
Quackery has been steadily infiltrating academic medicine for at least two decades now in the form of what was once called “complementary and alternative medicine” but is now more commonly referred to as “integrative medicine.” Of course, as I’ve written many times before, what “integrative medicine” really means is the “integration” of quackery with science- and evidence-based medicine, to the detriment of SBM. As my good bud Mark Crislip once put it, “integrating” cow pie with apple pie does not make the apple pie better. Yet that is what’s going on in medical academia these days—witha…