Anyone reading pundits and politicians pontificating profusely about climate or environmental science will, at some point, have come across the “volcano gambit”. During the discussion they will make a claim that volcanoes (or even a single volcano) produce many times more pollutant emissions than human activities. Often the factor is extremely precise to help give an illusion of science-iness and, remarkably, almost any pollutant can be referenced. This “volcano gambit” is an infallible sign that indicates the author is clueless about climate science.
Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane. "The car is the star. That’s been true for well over a century—unrivaled staying power for an industrial-age, pistons-and-brute-force machine in an era so dominated by silicon and software. Cars conquered the daily culture of American life back when top hats and child labor were in vogue, and well ahead of such other innovations as radio, plastic, refrigerators, the electrical grid, and women’s suffrage. A big part of why they’ve stuck around is that they are the epitome of convenience." [more inside]
You're running out of time to see one of nature's most spectacular sites, writes Tom Philpott in Mother Jones. American Samoa is just one of the locations affected by a massive coral bleaching event. [more inside]
Fyfe, Meehl, England, Mann et al. (2016) Nature climate change article: A lot of ink has been spilt about global warming. A big and recent argument has been on the last 10-15 years and whether (or not) we have had a substantial reduction or change in the warming rate, sometimes called "the pause". A major development: some of the top IPCC authors (including Michael Mann) have just published a commentary suggesting it's real... [more inside]
Warming to an Idea: "The obvious problem was that you weren't asking this guy to change his mind. You were asking him to give up the somewhat lucrative profession on which he had based the last 20+ years of his life and you were asking him to admit he'd been a fool." [more inside]
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. - A historic deal has been struck in Paris to reduce carbon emissions and reduce global warming, with a ceiling of 2 degrees centigrade and a goal of 1.5C. 2015 has been the hottest year on record.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet and climate activist from the Marshall Islands. Recently, she performed her poem Tell them at a protest calling for fossil fuel divestment at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. Transcript on Democracy Now. [more inside]
Windyty is a very pretty way of visualising current and forecast weather data from around the globe.
25 years of climate talk history in one comic: Richard Monastersky & Nick Sousanis explore the history of climate treaty negotiations in Nature's special Paris Climate Talks issue. The goal of the Paris Talks is to limit emissions so that Earth won't warm by more than 2°C, and there are many reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for an agreement - but what will it really take to limit warming to 2°C??
The Paris-based magazine Télérama have published a conversation between Thom Yorke and author/activist George Monbiot. Yorke is a professed fan of Monbiot's writing, and throughout the interview, the two men discussed climate change.Throughout the conversation, Yorke and Monbiot discuss how they've responded to climate change in their day-to-day lives—becoming vegetarian, Radiohead's carbon neutral touring initiative, and so on. Yorke said that for a time, figuring out how to reduce his carbon footprint became an obsession.
You were taught in school that the rain forest is like the lungs of our planet.
It’s not that simple.
It’s not that simple.
The Leap Manifesto was recently launched by a range of Canadian intellectuals, celebrities, and organizations as an attempt to combat catastrophic climate change by convincing Canadians that business as usual is not the only way. [more inside]
"Every County in America Ranked by Natural Beauty" -- Christopher Ingram of the Washington Post presents an interactive map comparing the "natural amenities" of every county in the continental US, from a USDA study of "six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer." [more inside]
The Weight of the World: Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself? by Elizabeth Kolbert [New Yorker]
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none). The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea. When Figueres took over the Secretariat, in 2010, there were lots of people who thought the job so thankless that it ought to be abolished. This was in the aftermath of the fifteenth COP, held in Copenhagen, which had been expected to yield a historic agreement but ended in anger and recrimination.
The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the U.S. electric grid and the global climate debate.
At the very top of oceans and inland waters lies a distinct micrometer-thick microbial habitat. It influences climate change, fosters unusual and deadly bacteria, and is made of jelly. It is the surface microlayer.
The Chinchorro mummies are found in northern Chile and southern Peru; the oldest of them date to thousands of years before the first Egyptian mummies. Some of them mummified naturally, but most were intentionally mummified. The hot, arid conditions of the Atacama desert aided in this process. However, these mummies are now the latest victims of climate change, as increased humidity encourages bacterial growth that is transforming them into black ooze.
If enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worth of Marshall Plan levels of response, it will be. [more inside]
On the day before Danielle Smalley was to leave for college, she and her friend Jason Stone were hanging out in her family's mobile home. Seventeen years old, with long chestnut hair, Danielle began to feel nauseated. "Dad," she said, "we smell gas." It was 3:45 in the afternoon on August 24th, 1996, near Lively, Texas, some 50 miles southeast of Dallas. The Smalleys were too poor to own a telephone. So the teens jumped into her dad's 1964 Chevy pickup to alert the authorities. As they drove away, the truck stalled where the driveway crossed a dry creek bed. Danielle cranked the ignition, and a fireball engulfed the truck. "You see two children burned to death in front of you – you never forget that," Danielle's father, Danny, would later tell reporters. [more inside]
Australian comic artist Sam Wallman (previously) has released a scary/optimistic new piece that looks at Climate Change.
Neither Thucydides, Gibbon, von Ranke, nor Braudel ever cited a paper appearing in Geophysical Research Letters. They did not worry themselves about fluctuations in the Siberian High or the Southern Oscillation. The vast majority of more recent historians also remained untroubled by such concerns. However, in the past five years, a handful of highly distinguished historians have come out with new books that put climate at the center of historical explanation. What on Earth is going on? [more inside]
Vyacheslav Korotki is a man of extreme solitude. He is a trained polyarnik, a specialist in the polar north, a meteorologist.
Halfway through my three-week, 417-mile journey down the “most endangered” river in America, the water began flowing backward and the mud started talking. It spoke in baritone gurgles, like Barry White trapped in a bong. You know what this is, John? No, Barry White mud. This is QUICKSAND.
Invertebrate numbers nearly halve as human population doubles. The decline of birds might have something to do with this recent news that half the insects (and spiders, crustaceans, slugs, worms) are gone.
It's Science Week in Australia and the crowdsourcing call has gone out for Weather Detectives to look through old ships' log books and track weather observations from the 1890s and 1900s. It's a good project for older kids, and aims to improve weather forecasting and track climate change. Do try this at home, kids.
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
Word association time: I say "peat", you say… "Scotland", right? Not necessarily! Peat is found around the world, including in many African countries. Earlier this year, scientists trekked through a Congo swamp, braving gorillas, elephants, crocodiles, and more. Their reward? Discovery of a peat bog the size of England. The team estimates that the bog covers between 100,000 and 200,000 square kilometers (40,000 to 80,000 sq miles), with the peat-layer reaching up to 7m (23ft) beneath the ground.
Building a plausible world: a step-by-step tutorial, from plate tectonics to trade winds. [more inside]
This morning the U.S. government released the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Harrison Harrison Ford, correspondent for Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously (previously), answered questions on Ask Me Anything (slreddit). You may also recognize Mr. Ford as Dr. Indiana Jones.
On 10 April 1815, Tambora produced the largest eruption known on the planet during the past 10,000 years. As described in Gillen D'Arcy Wood's new book, the explosion was only the first dose of Tambora's destructive power. In terms of its enduring presence in folklore, as well as its status in the scientific literature, 1816’s cold summer was the most significant meteorological event of the nineteenth century. After the tsunami and famine came cholera, opium, and failed Arctic expeditions. [more inside]
Pronbably to no one's surprise, Southern California leads the nation in the number of pleasant days per year (mean temperature between 55° F and 75° F, no precipitation). How does your city stack up?
The successor to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the NASA/JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) spacecraft is preparing for launch at the Japanese Tanegashima Space Center. GPM will be the newest international Precipitation Measurement Mission and will be the core observatory of the GPM Constellation. The two sensors on-board GPM are the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). The GPM/DPR team has produced a fantastic anime about the DPR instrument. [more inside]
There is another bubble. Before it's burned, Coal, Oil and Gas sit for years on the balance sheets of private (and national) resource companies, as "known reserve" assets. Assets that, someday, will become revenues. Or will they? And if they won't, what will the balance sheets of ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Petrochina, and Gazprom actually look like? [more inside]
Climate Models: A calendar of "renowned climate scientists, their research, their favorite datasets, and memorable dates in weather and climate history."
On October 8, the LA Times' Letter Editor, Paul Thornton published a piece entitled, "On letters from climate-change deniers" following up on a claim in an earlier article that said, " Simply put, this objection to the president's healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there's no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed." [more inside]
President of the United States Barack Obama unveils his Climate Action Plan
While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.[more inside]
On January 4th, 2013, in the midst of a national heat wave, Tasmania experienced some of the most extreme weather on record, with Hobart recording a record temperature of 41.8°C in the afternoon. Fires blazed around the state, covering almost 50,000 acres, claiming hundreds of properties, and destroying the town of Dunalley. The Tasman peninsula was cut off by the fires, necessitating a sea rescue of over 2,000 people. An image of a family clinging to a jetty in the water to escape from the fire captured the attention of the world. With the launch of their Australian edition, The Guardian have produced a frightening and fascinating multimedia article exploring the human side of the inferno.
Scripps Institute of Oceanography projects that next month its monitoring station will for the first time measure CO2 at 400 parts per million. Atmospheric CO2 has risen from 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. 400 ppm is an arbitrary milestone that we'll blow right past on our way to 450 ppm within a few decades. This is an unprecedentedly fast rate of increase and it's getting faster. Not all measuring stations are exactly the same: A NOAA station in the Arctic measured CO2 at 400 ppm last year. [more inside]
With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, Sense About Science works in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. They make these scientists available for questions from civic organizations and the public looking for scientific advice from experts, campaign for the promotion of scientific principles in public policy, and publish neat guides to understanding science intended for laypeople. [more inside]
Himileia Vastatrix, colloquially known as Roya or coffee rust, outbreaks are occurring at a frightening pace in Central America. Coffee futures and associated prices for specialty coffees, especially from small family-run farms are expected to rise, drastically, on top of a lower estimated harvest. [more inside]