Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Port Authorities waking up to rising sea levels

While climate science denialists continue cranking out their increasingly disconnected con-jobs on the public, folks that have to deal in the real world are starting to appreciate the increasing impacts manmade global warming is having on the infrastructure our society depends on.  
On the front line we have Port Authorities who know they must accommodate the reality of sea level rise, or find themselves underwater and out of business in the not too distant future.  It's real and it's happening and I'll let John Englander take it from here . . .
Climate Change / Ocean Impacts Blog

SEAPORTS Magazine feature about Rising Sea Level and Superstorms
John Englander on Sat, 07/12/2014

SEAPORTS Magazine has a feature article by Dr. Austin Becker and me, "Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports"* in the Summer 2014 issue. Austin Becker teaches as the University of Rhode Island. His PhD thesis from Stanford was about Ports and vulnerability to climate change. 
* Becker and Englander on Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports 
Austin Becker / Becker Group News, NEWS / 
Dr. Becker teamed up with John Englander to contribute an opinion piece to the American Association of Port Authorities. 
Download it HERE.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Climate Change 101 - The Human Connection

In my continuing effort to share solid informative sources I have a nice concise description of the known fundamentals of our global warming situation that was put together by the NCSE.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education. They educate the press and public about the scientific and educational aspects of controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution and climate change, and supply needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels.
I've listen to various interesting YouTube talks and an interview given by their Executive Director Eugenie Scott and recommend them to anyone interested in defending science against faith-based ideologues.
I asked for and received their kind permission to reprint their article in full.  If you like the NCSE approach please visit their webpage at http://ncse.com
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How Much Does Human Activity Affect Climate Change?
  • January 5th, 2012
The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. Scientists trying to find out what’s causing climate change work like detectives, gathering evidence to rule out some suspects and to ascertain just who is responsible. It’s clear, based on over a century of scientific investigation, that humans are responsible for most of the climate change we’ve seen over the last 150 years.
Humans are not the only suspects. The climate has changed throughout the Earth’s history, well before humans evolved.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Prof Kerry Emanuel - What We KNOW About Climate Change

Recently Professor Kerry Emanuel PhD gave a talk for the MIT Club of Northern California were he did a nice job of reviewing the many lines of evidence that make clear that we and our society are changing our global climate in threatening ways.  I liked the talk enough to think it deserved the time and effort to make short notes with time signatures for easy reference.  

Feel free to copy and share.

Kerry Emanuel - Lorenz Center, Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences, MIT


3:25 - The something that get's lost is how intellectually exciting climate is.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Catmando: Dr. Richard Feynman's Primer For Deniers

While going over the comments to Hans Clusters "Is Climate Science falsifiable" I came across the obligatory (yet misleading) appeal to Dr. Richard Feynman's authority.  Probably the most charismatic and hip atom bomb building physicist there was, kids and lefties loved him.  Back in the day, I read a couple of his books and he did a wonderful job of explaining science, plus his own life story was quite fascinating.  To top it off, one of his last big acts was to bust open the Challenger Shuttle disaster investigation with a simple demonstration that highlighted the foolishness of blasting off a rocket early after a freezing night with icicles still dangling off the gantry.

His name has now become a favored among the contrarian crowd.  You see, Dr. Feynman gave a great many lectures and was loved for his provocative approach to teaching physics and his copious legacy has become a motherlode for the quote-mining debate loving crowd.  

Then, looking up more background information I was reading Victor Venema's interesting article "Falsifiable and falsification in science" over at his Variable Variability blog, I found out that a few months ago Catmando took the time to find some Feynman quotes that shed a more realistic light onto his thinking about the scientific process than the disingenuous curve balls our contrarian debate mates toss out.  

Catmando has been kind enough to give me permission to repost his article in full - and both of us give you permission to copy and pass along - but please do give him credit for his work and link back to http://ingeniouspursuits.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-richard-feynman-primer-for-deniers.html.

I also want to invite anyone who knows of other Feynman quotes worth contemplating please do share.

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A Richard Feynman Primer For Deniers

Thursday, 20 February 2014 ~ IngeniousPursuits.blogspot

Deniers love Richard Feynman.  He was everything that they could hope for, successful, witty, a hit with the ladies, a bona fide genius and Nobel laureate.  They love to quote him because he seems to support what they are aiming at: science is uncertain, some bits of science aren't true, etc.

But I sometimes wonder what Feynman would have made of the denialists.  Since he died in 1988 it isn't possible to ask him and I don't have to hand his collected works so I can't interrogate them either.  But he left some interesting quotes, the sort that the deniers usually don't bother with, that give us an idea of what he might have thought, for instance, of climate change denial.

First exhibit:
“Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools - guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus locus - THAT, I CANNOT STAND! 
An ordinary fool isn't a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible!”
I can think of some examples of the dishonest fools that Feynman might mean here.  In the interests of keeping lawyers unemployed, I shall not name names but leave it to the reader to guess who I might have in mind.  Some of them are peerless, others not so.

Second exhibit:
"So my antagonist said, "Is it impossible that there are flying saucers? Can you prove that it's impossible?" "No", I said, "I can't prove it's impossible. It's just very unlikely". At that he said, "You are very unscientific. If you can't prove it impossible then how can you say that it's unlikely?" 
But that is the way that is scientific. It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible.”
 Climate was less of an important topic when Feynman was alive but UFOs were.  The point of this quote is clear - Feynman was a true skeptic.  The fake skeptic denialists are certain they have shown anthropogenic climate change is impossible.  The proponents of AGW have demonstrated the idea beyond reasonable and scientific doubt.  

Third exhibit:
“A philosopher once said, "It is necessary for the very existence of science that the same conditions always produce the same results." Well, they don't!” 
Deniers put unreasonable demands on scientific evidence.  Just like Feynman's hypothetical philosopher.

Fourth exhibit:
“Of course, I am interested, but I would not dare to talk about them. In talking about the impact of ideas in one field on ideas in another field, one is always apt to make a fool of oneself. In these days of specialization there are too few people who have such a deep understanding of two departments of our knowledge that they do not make fools of themselves in one or the other.” 
In other words, unless you are truly expert, don't act as if you were.

My opinion is that Feynman would have laughed the deniers out of court. He would have educated himself first, read some key literature and found out what was true, what was known and what uncertainties there were.  But he would have come down on the side of science against anti-science. He understood as well as anyone that science does find things out that are true and that plenty of science is settled.  He wasn't stupid, like the ordinary fools he met on many of his working days.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Prof Camille Parmesan - Biodiversity and Climate Change

      March 19th, 2014 Professor Camille Parmesan* gave the first Annual Plymouth Lecture, presented jointly by the Plymouth University and the Linnean Society of London, hosted by Dr Malcolm Scoble (Scientific Secretary Linnean Society of London)  Dr Parmesan's talk was titled, "Biodiversity and Climate Change - Connecting the Past to the Future"

The video is followed with short descriptions and time-signatures for easy reference. 

Video is posted at YouTube by Rich Boden - Plymouth Linnean Lecture

"2014 - Prof Camille Parmesan - Biodiversity and Climate Change"

Texas Academy of Science's  2013 Distinguished Texas Scientist

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Columbian Exchange - appreciating impacts

In a previous post I shared the video "America Before Columbus" which was based on Charles C. Mann's 2005 non-fiction "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" I did it because I believe too many folks are unfamiliar with where we come from and all we have changed and destroyed on this planet we depend on.  

In this post I share a talk Charles Mann gave about his followup book "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created" I've included some time-marked notes for easy reference.

To me it seems a tragedy that Republican/Libertarian types actually believe nothing significant has changed and that we can blithely go on another few centuries following the same old habits.  Unfortunately that's pure fantasy based on willful ignoring evidence from every corner of the world.

It would be hoped that reflecting on how radically we have altered our life sustaining planet these past 500 years would give some pause about the sanity of continuing to believe the world was there only to be plundered for our comfort.

Thus it seems worth sharing this exploration of the Columbian Exchange and what that meant for the world. 

Charles C. Mann: 1492 Before and After

Sunday, June 8, 2014

As CO2 levels rise, some crop nutrients will fall

There's an awful lot of silliness being bandied about trying to convince folks that since CO2 is plant food their can't be anything bad about it.

But, as with most things, in the right dosage it's great stuff, still too much or too little and things start going wrong.  

We've already seen studies indicating that invasive vines and weeds are some of the big winners in a world with increasing atmospheric CO2.  Now here's some evidence that heightened CO2 may actually be counter-productive for some of the grain plants we depend on the most.

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As CO2 Levels Rise, Some Crop Nutrients Will Fall

This story was posted by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor for news.illinois.edu, 5/7/2014


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers have some bad news for future farmers and eaters: As carbon dioxide levels rise this century, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today.

The new findings are reported in the journal Nature. Eight institutions, from Australia, Israel, Japan and the United States, contributed to the analysis.

The researchers looked at multiple varieties of wheat, rice, field peas, soybeans, maize and sorghum grown in fields with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels like those expected in the middle of this century. (Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are currently approaching 400 parts per million, and are expected to rise to 550 ppm by 2050.)