The scene played out like pitch-black comedy on March 26th at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s 2015 budget request hearing. In the hot seat, tasked with defending the president’s call for steady funding for science programs: the renowned Earth scientist and top Obama adviser Dr. John Holdren. Accosting him from across the chamber: a parade of gleeful antagonists, some who seemed to relish their own scientific illiteracy.
They object to global warming, mostly. They do not believe it is our fault, or their fault, because nothing is.
Watching the hearing now, on YouTube, a once ubiquitous Latin maxim comes to mind: Ignoramus et ignorabimus. It means "We do not know and we will not know," and was deployed by scientists and philosophers in the late 1800s to describe the limits of human knowledge—what was then deemed unknowable. The origin of motion. The true nature of sensation. And here are some of our top statesmen, who abide by it still today, applying it to the realm of the demonstrably knowable, stamping its syllables with stubborn refusal instead of rueful perplexity.
"We’ve had climate change since the day the Earth was formed, whenever that was, depending upon whatever you believe," said Representative Bill Posey (R-FL). "I remember the 70s, that was the threat. We’re going to have a cooling that’s eventually going to freeze the planet, and that was the fear before Al Gore invented the internet and those other terms." He has already made up his mind, even though he clearly has only a cursory grasp of the science he is talking about.
The mock questions, careless repetition of talking points, and baseless dismissals of fact were all set to the backdrop of freshly and deeply grim scientific forecasts about the warming world. Hundreds of climate scientists would just days later issue a meticulously considered plea to governments everywhere: Act. Make policy to reduce emissions. Brace for the storm, because it is already coming.
4 Potential Fossil Fuel Sources That Would Negate Climate Action
A new report, Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures, released today by the Sierra Club reveals four major potential sources of carbon pollution that, if developed, could dramatically alter the world’s climate. Data shows that the oil, gas and coal from these potential sources, including the Arctic Ocean, the Green River Formation, the Powder River Basin …
5 places already feeling the effects of climate change
Climate change forecasts tend to focus on how the world will look in a century, but some places need evaluation now.
The United Nations’ latest report on climate change contains plenty of dire warnings about the adverse impact “human interference with the climate system” is having on everything from sea levels to crop yields to violent conflicts. But the primary message of the study isn’t, as John Kerry suggested on Sunday, for countries to collectively reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Instead, the subtext appears to be this: Climate change is happening and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. As a result, we need to adapt to a warming planet—to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits associated with increasing temperatures—rather than focusing solely on curbing warming in the first place. And it’s businesses and local governments, rather than the international community, that can lead the way.
“The really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change,” Chris Field, the co-chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, said this week, adding that governments, companies, and communities are already experimenting with “climate-change adaptation.”
Read more. [Image: Carlos Barria/Reuters]
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times
a spring thaw in the north atlantic combined with winds, ocean currents and the coastal landscape result in intricate swirling sea ice pattens. though seemingly wispy, these glacial flows are actually made up of thousands of ice chunks a few metres across — large enough to make maritime navigation difficult.
the photos (click pics for sources and location) were captured by the m.o.d.i.s. instruments aboard nasa’s terra and aqua satellites, save third and eight pictures, which were taken by astronauts aboard the international space station.
as phil plait put it, “i am awed and moved when i see images like the one above. its beauty is transcendent, and was made possible by our curiosity, our desire to learn more about the world we live in — an urge so strong we invented science, and engineering, and then built satellites that can look back at us from space and show us how surpassingly beautiful our world is, and how we need to take care of it.”
the past several years have seen sea ice in the arctic below the 1979-2000 average, with this past september displaying the lowest volumes yet recorded. these photos speak to the effects of climate change, as warmer winter temperatures result in thinner ice, which creates more free drifting sea ice in the spring and summer.
Just before Earth Day 2014 begins…here’s one of our posts from Earth Day 2013, just because :) We’ve got a whole lot of content for Earth Day 2014 queued up tomorrow, so hope to see you then!
2013- Earth Day puts a face on Climate Change.
Today, the 22nd of April, is a day where over one billion people across 192 countries collectively take action to protect the environment and our home, Earth. This year, men, women and children from Dublin to Dubai, from New York to New Delhi, are bettering their communities and helping to depict The Face of Climate Change- arguably the biggest threat to humankind today.
The Earth Day network is collecting images of people, animals and places that are affected by our changing climate. They are also collecting stories from people and organisations that are doing their bit to better our environment. An interactive display of all the images is being displayed at thousands of events across the globe.
Stories range from a lone mountaineer in New Zealand reporting on glacial retreat to an organisation in Thailand that installed solar panels in a refugee camp. The diversity of participants encompasses the notion that this is a global problem affecting people from all walks of life, all over our planet.
Earth Day began as a result of concerns US senator Gaylord Nelson developed in the wake of an oil spill in 1969 in Santa Barbara, California. A year later, in 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets demanding a more sustainable environment and subsequently launching the modern environmentalism movement.
Today, Earth Day is the largest secular event in the world. It encourages the participation of people of all ages and backgrounds to come together in unity to clean up, better education, sign petitions, protest and rally to save endangered species.
While Earth Day is an amazing event showing human cooperation, we must not forget that realistically, every day is Earth Day; this is our one home, which we all share and should cherish and respect. After all, “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”
To view The Face of Climate Change photo display, go to www.earthday.org/faces. To learn more about Earth Day 2013 and The Face of Climate Change, go to www.earthday.org/2013. To see highlights from The Face of Climate Change and Earth Day events around the world, go to www.earthday.org/highlights-submissions.
Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.
A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.
While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.
The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.
The biofuel industry and administration officials immediately criticized the research as flawed. They said it was too simplistic in its analysis of carbon loss from soil, which can vary over a single field, and vastly overestimated how much residue farmers actually would remove once the market gets underway.
"The core analysis depicts an extreme scenario that no responsible farmer or business would ever employ because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense," said Jan Koninckx, global business director for biorefineries at DuPont.
Later this year the company is scheduled to finish a $200 million-plus facility in Nevada, Iowa, that will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol using corn residue from nearby farms. An assessment paid for by DuPont said that the ethanol it will produce there could be more than 100 percent better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
The research is among the first to attempt to quantify, over 12 Corn Belt states, how much carbon is lost to the atmosphere when the stalks, leaves and cobs that make up residue are removed and used to make biofuel, instead of left to naturally replenish the soil with carbon. The study found that regardless of how much corn residue is taken off the field, the process contributes to global warming.
"I knew this research would be contentious," said Adam Liska, the lead author and an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "I’m amazed it has not come out more solidly until now."
The Environmental Protection Agency’s own analysis, which assumed about half of corn residue would be removed from fields, found that fuel made from corn residue, also known as stover, would meet the standard in the energy law. That standard requires cellulosic biofuels to release 60 percent less carbon pollution than gasoline.
Cellulosic biofuels that don’t meet that threshold could be almost impossible to make and sell. Producers wouldn’t earn the $1 per gallon subsidy they need to make these expensive fuels and still make a profit. Refiners would shun the fuels because they wouldn’t meet their legal obligation to use minimum amounts of next-generation biofuels.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in a statement that the study “does not provide useful information relevant to the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from corn stover ethanol.”
But an AP investigation last year found that the EPA’s analysis of corn-based ethanol failed to predict the environmental consequences accurately.