The USDA has released an updated version of its plant hardiness zone map. Based on low temperatures from 1976 to 2005, it puts most US locations into a slightly warmer planting zone. While many headlines link the overall changes with global warming, the map also reflects factors such as urban heat, prevailing winds, and the slope of the land. The Washington Post has an interactive graphic showing the old and new zones.
Social Credit is a movement that takes a different view of economic expansion. Mostly it focuses on how value is created and what happens to the excess value. Proponents can be very aggressive or very mellow but a key part of their philosophy is that we must recognize the value we've inherited from the past. In other words, we don't start our lives with an empty ledger but have inherited many physical and intellectual gifts from previous generations. Recently I began wondering whether we shouldn't look at the other side of the ledger, particularly when it comes to ecological impacts - i.e., the messes we inherit. It turns out that in the early 90s, some social credit economists were writing about this and were even talking about climate change as something that needed to be added to the equation. Is this an idea whose time has finally come?
"Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there's no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation." Direct PDF link.
"From extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms, a record 12 weather and climate disasters in 2011 each caused $1 billion or more in damages". The US National Weather service has put together a great online exhibit of what was a whirlwind (*ahem*) year for extreme weather events. The exhibit has lots of videos and photographs of these events, such as satellite imagery of the Grounhog Day Blizzard from back in February and a picture of a car damaged by a tornado in Ft. Benning, GA.
Now the future is a kind of attenuating peninsula; as we move out on it, one side drops off to catastrophe; the other side, nowhere near as steep, moves down into various kinds of utopian futures. In other words, we have come to a moment of utopia or catastrophe; there is no middle ground, mediocrity will no longer succeed. So utopia is no longer a nice idea, but a survival necessity. "Remarks on Utopia in the Age of Climate Change," from Kim Stanley Robinson. Previously.
Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane have been have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. [more inside]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its 2011 Arctic Report Card. Persistent warming has caused dramatic changes in the Arctic Ocean and the ecosystem it supports. Ocean changes include reduced sea ice and freshening of the upper ocean, and impacts such as increased biological productivity at the base of the food chain and loss of habit for walrus and polar bears. [more inside]
Climate Variability and Climate Change: The New Climate Dice An excerpt from what should be a very incendiary academic paper by Hansen, J, et al: Thus there is no need to equivocate about the summer heat waves in Texas in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, which exceeded 3σ – it is nearly certain that they would not have occurred in the absence of global warming. If global warming is not slowed from its current pace, by midcentury 3σ events will be the new norm and 5σ events will be common.
Carbon dioxide emissions increased by the largest amount on record in 2010, exceeding the worst case scenario outlined by the IPCC four years ago.
Hedging the Apocalypse: Dornith Doherty’s documentary images of seed-saving facilities.
A series of emails released through a Freedom of Information Act request shine light on collusion between the United States government and TransCanada, a corporation building a controversial pipeline from the Canadian Athabasca oil sands into its southern neighbor. The controversy extends beyond the currently poor safety record for delivering oil between the two countries, and beyond the environmental and health consequences of the oil extraction process for locals and the cost of climate changes it will contribute to, all the way to legal wrangling between Canadian media and Saudi Arabia over the "death panels"-like term "ethical oil", based upon a conservative group's advertising that argues that the purchase of Canadian-sourced oil is a morally superior act, because of oppression of women and human rights violations by the Saudi kingdom.
I am sorry that Wangari Maathai, inspiring Nobel Peace Prize winner famous for tree-planting programme, has died.
The experiment behind a previous post has been written up in Scientific American. The authors conclusion "At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it's a very important first step..." [more inside]
The Age of Dissolution. "Walking the Ganga river, from holy bacterial stews to crystalline glaciers: Shiva, eclipses, and the IPCC." [Via]
The chief of the world's leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions from a major experiment. The CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets") experiment examines the role that energetic particles from deep space play in cloud formation. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN, said in an interview: "I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters." [more inside]
Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, Wendell Berry and others invite you to come to Washington DC and get arrested in an ongoing protest that aims to stop the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being constructed.
Clean Energy Future. Australia has embarked on a tradeable carbon permit system, covering about 60% of emissions, beginning on 1 July 2012, and mixing in substantial progressive tax reform, putting a line under a very long debate on this matter indeed.
Although the past 12 years have seen the warmest 10 years on record, temperatures have remained fairly steady, even while CO2 emissions grew by nearly a third. Temperatures should have been increasing during this period, rather 1998 was tied with 2010 for hottest on record. Now a study suggests why (pdf): sulfur emissions from Asian coal plants (China mostly) are so high they mimic the effects of a volcano which can cause short term cooling by reflecting light back into space. Insidiously, the long-term warming caused by CO2 (coal) has been masked by short-term cooling of sulfur (coal).
Dr. Frank C. Baxter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He played Dr. Research in the Bell Labs Science Series, beginning in 1956 with Our Mr. Sun. [more inside]
When a TV meteorologist says "temperatures will be ten degrees above normal", the word "normal" has a specific meaning. Every 10 years NOAA re-calculates the "normal" temps for the USA based on the prior 30-year averages. The new normals have just been released, based on the 30 year period 1980-2010. Hotter is the new normal. With hotter weather comes more extreme weather. Extreme Weather and Climate Change, 3-part series from Scientific America .. and map of extreme weather events 1995-present.
Forum for the Future, a UK-based non-profit, has produced a series of short videos depicting possible future scenarios for sustainable urban mobility. Titled "Megacities on the move," the series explores "how we will live and travel in the cities of 2040". The four scenarios are (links to Vimeo): Planned-opolis , Communi-city, Renew-abad, and Sprawl-ville. [more inside]
You probably haven't heard of Gina Rinehart. However, she's Australia's richest person and will quite possibly be the world's richest person in a few short years. Her currently limited political activity appears primarily directed at maintaining profitability, avoiding taxes and stopping a price on carbon pollution.
Sunspots, first observed by Galileo, normally follow an 11-year cycle. We are into a few years into (recorded) cycle number 24 but according to NASA it's looking rather underpowered. Nobody is certain exactly what the consequences will be, but one distinct possibility is a cold period; a previous low in solar activity, the Maunder minimum, is correlated with a brief Little Ice Age. Nobody really knows how this unusual solar weather pattern might interact with human-caused climate change. Previously, albeit somewhat controversially.
Snowpack in the northern Rocky Mountains has declined over the past 30 years more than at any other time in a least 1,000 years (30-year decline is old news, 1000 year perspective is new). Snowmelt from the Rockies provide water for at least 70 million people. Snow is also melting weeks earlier in the American West. Some consequences of earlier snowmelt (of less snow) are drier forests, more wildfires and less water for people in a West heating up and drying out.
Agreeing with the scientific community when it comes to global warming could lose you an election if you are a Republican hopeful.
Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA). After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt. The likelihood of exceeeding 450 ppm CO2 and associated two degrees of warming has now receded greatly.
“certain styles of research were suggested to be prone to ‘groupthink, reduced creativity and the possibility of less-rigorous reviewing processes.’ Edward Wegman is a professor at George Mason and a distinguished statistician with a long career, a former winner of the ASA's Founders Award. In 2006 he testified before Congress on climate science, sharply criticizing the statistical methodology of Michael Mann's "hockey stick graph," which showed a sharp increase in global temperature in the last part of the 20th century. One section of Wegman's testimony concerned "social network analysis," and suggested that Mann's tightly-knit network of co-authors might have led to insufficiently aggressive peer review. USA Today reports that Wegman's testimony contained a substantial quantity of plagiarized material, and the peer-reviewed article derived from the testimony has been retracted by the journal that published it. John Mashey has compiled an obsessively thorough catalogue of the plagiarized text. (large .pdf.) [more inside]
In December 2010, a Koch Industries press release spoof (Scribd; alt: screencap) was posted on a website that mimicked the appearance of the official site for Koch Industries. The press release stated that Koch would no longer support research and advocacy initiatives that denied or questioned the human role in climate change. The press release was quickly identified as a hoax, and both the fake press release and site disappeared quickly, yet the Koch company pursued the identities of those behind the stunt, going as far as to file a lawsuit to expose the anonymous pranksters as part of a larger lawsuit. This past Monday, the lawsuit was thrown out of court in Utah, with the judge citing that parody is not commercial speech, and thus a First Amendment issue. [more inside]
In the media landscape there are climate change deniers and believers, but rarely those speaking about climate change are actual climate scientists... From the Power Episode of The Hungry Beast a weekly, half-hour, TV show on ABC (Australia) television combining journalism, comedy and the reportage of weird. It asks questions others don’t, covers stories others won’t and brings them to your screen in ways that only this unique team of broadcasters can do.
Despite continuing inaction and perverse subsidies from the US Federal Government, one of their largest entities, the US Department of Defense, has done the analysis and considers both peak oil and climate change to be a significant threat. In partial response, they're pushing heavily into alternative fuels, with the Air Force aiming to get fully half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016.
Yale's 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. These indicators provide a gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals.
The Science of Why We Don't Believe In Science. Or How To Win An Argument: Try Not To Rely on Facts. MotherJones investigates what recent research can tell us about how we reason (or don't).
We care about climate change, but we hate the idea of having to do anything about it. Professor of Public Ethics at CAPPE, Clive Hamilton (also author of Requiem for a Species and Affluenza), tells it like it is on climate change policy in Australia.
John Baez (mathematical physicist and master popularizer, former operator of This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics, current promoter of the idea that physicists should start pitching in on saving the world) interviews Eliezer Yudkowsky (singularitarian, author of "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality," promoter of the idea that human life faces a near-term existential threat from unfriendly artificial intelligence, and that people can live better lives by evading their cognitive biases) about the future, academia, rationality, altruism, expected utility, self-improvement by humans and machines, and the relative merit of battling climate change and developing friendly AIs that will forstall our otherwise inevitable doom. Part I. Part II. Part III. [more inside]
Tim DeChristopher goes on trial in a Salt Lake City District Court today [Case No. 2:09-CR-183], facing a ten year sentence and/or $750 000 fines. His crime? Intentionally making false bids on fossil fuel leases. His supporters include Dr James Hansen and Bill McKibben. (previously)
The Australian Government has committed to a price on carbon from 1 July 2012, prior to a likely full emissions trading scheme within three to five years. The Opposition are outraged, predicting a people's revolt. This should clearly define the next election.
Australia is copping another pounding from natural disasters. After the floods across Brisbane (previously) in South-east Queensland, North Queensland is in the firing line for a Category 5 cyclone called Yasi. The official warning: THIS IMPACT IS LIKELY TO BE MORE LIFE THREATENING THAN ANY EXPERIENCED DURING RECENT GENERATIONS. [more inside]
NYT article discussing a hypothetical proposal for a temperature based tax on carbon by Canadian economist Ross McKitrick.
“Nature doesn't remind us that we are small, but rather provides chilling, awesome evidence of our size and strength. We glance up to the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro and think of how quickly our coal generators have heated the earth. We fly over the denuded stretches of the Amazon and see how easily we have gashed the planet.” Alain de Botton considers how climate change is reshaping our relationship with the environment.
The world is well on track to achieve 4 degrees of warming by 2100. In September 2009, a conference organised by the Tyndall Centre looked at this scenario, with the papers recently published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Pr. Anderson of the Tyndall Centre suggests that only 10 percent of humanity may survive this conflagration.
The Nation recently interviewed public intellectuals including Noam Chomsky, Bill McKibben (previously), and Dmity Orlov (previously) to produce a series of videos centered around Peak Oil and a Changing Climate. The first video, online now, combines all of the people interviewed while the videos yet to be released will be longer sections featuring them one at a time. [more inside]
Recent heavy rain in Queensland has bought destructive flooding to many towns and cities. Yesterday the mountain city of Toowoomba was hit with heavy rain and experienced flash flooding. With (so far) eight confirmed dead and 70 missing, the disaster is set to worsen as more rainfall is predicted.
We've discussed the "once in a century" Amazon Drought of 2005-06. Five years later and we are seeing another once in a century drought in the Amazon. How serious are the effects of these droughts for global climate? The science appears to be mixed. Helping monitor is the newly released Google Earth 6.0, which can track individual trees within a section of the Amazonian forest, and 80 million other trees in 7 cities around the world (video).
Sustainable Growth is an Oxymoron Text of an outstanding talk that explains clearly why the idea of "sustainable growth" is impossible in the finite system that is the earth; how the compact energy-delivery system of fossil fuel is equivalent to mind-blowing amounts of free human labor, which cannot be sustained indefinitely; and why it's imperative for scientists to help humanity find ways to go back to "liv[ing] on the sun in real time." [more inside]
With half of the new GOP Congressmen affirmed climate science deniers,and facing opposition even within his own party, President Obama has acknowledged that "cap and trade" legislation on US carbon emissions is dead. Regulation of emissions by the EPA appears to be the only way forward. Republicans are seeking to nobble that option, while Karl Rove thinks that "climate is gone" from the political landscape. Thankfully, according to John Shimkus, God has promised no more climate change, so we're all right then.
What I've always wanted- an atlas of the world's vulnerability to climate change (downloadable pdf on page).
The current American Scholar has a good article on geoengineering, latest greatest solution to the climate crisis (or not). (And see geoengineering and the new climate denialism previously).
The Coalition of the Willing is a broad movement that began with an animated short about open source culture and the role it could play against global warming. Today, on 10th October 2010, people at 7347 events in 188 countries are getting to work on the climate crisis at the 10/10/10 Work Party. [via Appropedia] Previously