November, 2018

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs. They stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. Unindicted Co-conspirator Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya.

Here's the 10-day weather forecast for Mattawa, Ontario, where we have a farm, away from the noise of that blowhard. I try to spend as much time as I can on the farm.

2018

November, 2018

11/30/2018

  • Past four years hottest on record, data shows: World running out of time to combat climate change, warns meteorological organisation
    • Average temperatures around the world so far this year were nearly 1C (1.8F) above pre-industrial levels. Extreme weather has affected all continents, while the melting of sea ice and glaciers and rises in sea levels continue. The past four years have been the hottest on record, and the 20 warmest have occurred in the past 22 years.
    • The warming trend is unmistakeable and shows we are running out of time to tackle climate change, according to the World Meteorological Organization, which on Thursday published its provisional statement on the State of the Climate in 2018. The WMO warned that, on current trends, warming could reach 3C to 5C by the end of this century.
    • Greenhouse gas levels were also recently found to be at record levels, and a UN report this week said the world must triple its emissions reduction efforts to stay within 2C – and to stay within 1.5C, those efforts needed to be five times greater.
  • Global food system is broken, say world’s science academies: Radical overhaul in farming and consumption, with less meat eating, needed to avoid hunger and climate catastrophe
    • The global food system is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all emissions from transport, heating, lighting and air conditioning combined. The global warming this is causing is now damaging food production through extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.
    • Reducing meat and dairy consumption is the single biggest way individuals can lessen their impact on the planet, according to recent research. And tackling dangerous global warming is considered impossible without massive reductions in meat consumption.
    • Rearing cattle and other livestock causes the same carbon emissions as all the world’s vehicles, trains, ships and planes combined. “We have spent 30 to 40 years investing quite heavily on fuel efficiency in the transport sector,” said Benton. “We need do something similarly radical in the farming sector and the scope for doing that by changing the way we raise the animals is much smaller than the scope we have by changing our diets.”
    • The report recommends many actions that could help deliver the “whole-scale root and branch transformation” that is required, said Benton. These include crops that are more resilient to climate change, smarter crop rotation, soil protection, precier [sic? ael] use of fertilisers and less use of pesticides. It also backs innovation such as laboratory-grown meat and insect-based foods.
  • World Health Leaders: Climate Change Is Putting Lives, Health Systems at Risk: Doctors today are seeing early warnings of the ‘overwhelming impact’ on public health as global temperatures rise.
    • The report, a collaboration by leading doctors, researchers and policy professionals from international organizations including the World Health Organization, says heat waves and infectious diseases pose two of the greatest immediate threats, particularly for outdoor workers, elderly people in urban areas, and other vulnerable populations.
    • Changes seen today in the spread of vector-borne disease, work hours lost to excessive heat, and loss of food security provide early warnings of the "overwhelming impact" on public health expected as temperatures continue to rise. The impacts of climate change present "an unacceptably high level of risk for the current and future health of populations across the world."
    • The report found that 153 billion work hours were lost in 2017 due to extreme heat, a leading symptom of climate change and a significant increase from 2000. In India, the loss was equivalent to an entire year's work for 7 percent of the country's total working population.
    • "Outside the craziness of D.C., in the real world you don't have to look very far to see that climate change is real," said Gina McCarthy, a former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, who served as an advisor for the U.S. policy brief. "It threatens our health and our safety today."
    • Another emerging concern is the potential for increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to reduce the nutritional quality of crops that people rely on for food. "The potential impact of that is incredibly large," said Kristie Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington and an author of the report. There could be "hundreds of millions of people potentially affected by that change."
  • The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial: Risking civilization for profit, ideology and ego.
    • The Trump administration is, it goes without saying, deeply anti-science. In fact, it’s anti-objective reality. But its control of the government remains limited; it didn’t extend far enough to prevent the release of the latest National Climate Assessment, which details current and expected future impacts of global warming on the United States.
    • In many ways, climate denialism resembles cancer denialism. Businesses with a financial interest in confusing the public — in this case, fossil-fuel companies — are prime movers. As far as I can tell, every one of the handful of well-known scientists who have expressed climate skepticism has received large sums of money from these companies or from dark money conduits like DonorsTrust — the same conduit, as it happens, that supported Matthew Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, before he joined the Trump administration.
    • And let’s be clear: While Donald Trump is a prime example of the depravity of climate denial, this is an issue on which his whole party went over to the dark side years ago. Republicans don’t just have bad ideas; at this point, they are, necessarily, bad people.
  • Very Hot and Very Dry Conditions Have Doubled Worldwide, Study Finds: The chance of having years that are both extremely warm and extremely dry — conditions that pose a serious threat to agricultural systems — has doubled around the globe since 1931, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances. The research attributes this change almost entirely to human-driven climate change.
  • [https://www.wired.com/story/the-climate-apocalypse-is-now-and-its-happening-to-you The Climate Apocalypse Is Now, and It’s Happening to You
    • 74 percent of women and 70 percent of men believe climate change will harm future generations of humans, but just 48 and 42 percent, respectively, think it’s harming them personally.

11/25/2018

  • U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy: A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.
    • But in direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds.
    • https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/
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11/19/2018

  • ‘Like a Terror Movie’: How Climate Change Will Cause More Simultaneous Disasters: Global warming is posing such wide-ranging risks to humanity, involving so many types of phenomena, that by the end of this century some parts of the world could face as many as six climate-related crises at the same time, researchers say.
    • Dr. Mann published a recent paper suggesting that climate change effects on the jet stream are contributing to a range of extreme summer weather events, such as heat waves in North America, Europe and Asia, wildfires in California and flooding in Japan. The new study, he said, dovetails with that research, and “is, if anything, overly conservative” — that is, it may underestimate the threats and costs associated with human-caused climate change.

11/14/2018

  • The Climate Is Basically Doomed If We Build the Fossil Fuel Infrastructure That's Already in the Pipeline: Boiled down, climate change is a simple math problem [ael: my emphasis]. There’s a finite amount of carbon the world can chuck in the atmosphere and still have a stable climate. Each passing year we plunk more of it up there, the smaller the amount we have left to burn.
    • That what makes the findings of a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report released on Tuesday so daunting. Rather than working to solve global warming, the report shows that the world is on track to take the climate math test, bathe it in gasoline, set it on fire, and then toss it into a dumpster of oily rags for good measure.
    • The report had some small bits of good news the world could build on. The IEA itself has modeled massive renewable energy growth over the next five years, while the new report shows electricity now accounts for a fifth of all energy consumption thanks to increasing electrification and digification around the world. That means effectively decarbonizing the electricity sector could pay massive climate dividends, something power-hogging companies like Apple and Facebook are already doing because it makes economic sense.
  • Scientists acknowledge key errors in study of how fast the oceans are warming: A major study claimed the oceans were warming much faster than previously thought. But researchers now say they can’t necessarily make that claim.
    • Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists' work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.”
    • The central conclusion of the study — that oceans are retaining ever more energy as more heat is being trapped within Earth’s climate system each year — is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions. And it hasn’t changed much despite the errors. But Keeling said the authors' miscalculations mean there is a much larger margin of error in the findings, which means researchers can weigh in with less certainty than they thought.

11/13/2018

  • Study: Sámi more vulnerable to the impact of climate change than before: A new study shows that climate change has negative effects on the culture, well-being and mental health of the Sámi. Climate change brings new diseases both for people and reindeer.
    • «Sámi society is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and there are two reasons for this,» says Professor Jouni Jaakkola from the University of Oulu. «Climate change is most intensive in the Arctic where those engaged in traditional sources of livelihood – reindeer-herding Sámi – live in close interaction with nature – and where the natural conditions are changing quickly,” Jaakkola says.
    • «The ones who are least responsible for global warming and who live in harmony with nature may be the ones who suffer from the impact of climate change most,» Jaakkola explains.
  • Vitamin D and Fish Oils Are Ineffective for Preventing Cancer and Heart Disease: The largest study to test vitamin D and omega-3 pills in healthy adults found they did little to prevent cardiovascular disease, but hinted at benefits for groups including African-Americans.

11/12/2018

  • “Nanoinfluencers” are the next frontier in corporate branding: They’ll typically say anything in exchange for free products or (small) commissions.
    • [ael: Scary Shit: Your friends will sell you garbage, because you're their friend — and they don't care what they have to say. Maybe they'll get a couch, maybe they'll get a trip — it's on you! You just have to eat their garbage….] "Cruelty-free?" Why not; what do I know; what do I car. I might get a couch….
  • He's about to oust Congress' loudest climate skeptic: The political newcomer and Republican-turned-Democrat appears poised to oust one of the most outspoken climate skeptics on Capitol Hill: Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California. And he did it in part by focusing on the environment.
    • Rohrabacher — known for outrageous statements, pro-Russia views and loyalty to President Trump — has represented the Orange County area in Congress for nearly 30 years (E&E Daily, Oct. 10). The area has long been synonymous with posh suburbs, a Republican stronghold in blue California. That changed under Trump.
  • Climate change is getting too big and divisive to solve: America’s divisive politics and the sheer math of cutting heat-trapping emissions indicate the world’s prospect of substantively tackling climate change is getting out of reach.
    • [ael: I like one of her final lines: "By now, you’re probably thinking I’m such a downer — or wasting my time writing about a problem you think doesn’t exist or is overblown. The thing with journalism is that it’s not my job to try to bring you hope or despair, but instead, an authentic, honest view of where things stand."]

11/11/2018

  • Remembering the End of World War I, in Photos: Thousands of people around the world commemorated on Sunday the centenary of the armistice that ended World War I, the so-called Great War that left millions dead and reshaped European borders, international warfare and society.
    • [ael: in Mattawa, Ontario, my 88-year-young friend Ben Baril marched in the parade, wearing his jaunty beret….]

11/9/2018

  • Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change facts: A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s oil sands fields with Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries.
    • The judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana, said the State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires “reasoned” explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions. It was a major defeat for President Trump, who attacked the Obama administration for stopping the project in the face of protests and an environmental impact study. Trump signed an executive order two days into his presidency setting in motion a course reversal on the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as another major pipeline, Dakota Access.
    • In a 54-page opinion, Morris hit the administration with a familiar charge that it disregarded facts, facts established by experts during the Obama administration about “climate-related impacts” from Keystone XL. The Trump administration claimed, with no supporting information, that those impacts “would prove inconsequential,” Morris wrote. The State Department “simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”
    • His decision was one of scores of court rebukes to the Trump administration for decisions on the environment, immigration and transgender service in the military, among other issues, all made hastily and, in the opinions of dozens of judges, without the “reasoned consideration” required by federal law. Also on Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled that Trump cannot immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children from deportation.

11/8/2018

  • From German trains to South Korean buses, hydrogen fuel is back in the energy picture: As the price of renewable energy drops and storage technologies mature, hydrogen fuel is drawing fresh attention.
    • There are also concerns that increased uptake of hydrogen could impact the ozone layer. A 2003 study suggested that if all fossil-fuel energy generation were replaced with hydrogen, leakage of the gas into the atmosphere could react with oxygen to form water vapor that could disrupt the ozone layer by a significant amount.
    • Another criticism often made of hydrogen is that a significant amount is still produced using fossil fuels. In the United States, most hydrogen is produced via a process called natural gas reforming, in which natural gas is reacted with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide and a small amount of carbon dioxide. It can also be made by gasifying brown coal, which also results in CO2 production.
  • Congo Basin rainforest may be gone by 2100, study finds: Africa’s Congo Basin is home to the second-largest rainforest on the planet. But according to a new study, this may soon not be the case. It finds that at current rates of deforestation, all primary forest will be gone by the end of the century.
    • Satellite data indicate the Congo Basin lost an area of forest larger than Bangladesh between 2000 and 2014.
    • Researchers found that small-scale farming was the biggest driver, contributing to around 84 percent of deforestation.
    • This kind of farming is primarily done for subsistence by families that have no other livelihood options.
    • The study finds that at current trends, all primary rainforest in the Congo Basin could be cleared by the end of the century.
  • Can these 35-ton bricks solve renewable energy’s biggest problem?: These giant towers use a very low-tech solution to store energy created when the sun shines or the wind blows so it can be used later.

11/7/2018

  • Construction of a simplified wood gas generator for fueling internal combustion engines in a petroleum emergency: In occupied Denmark during World War II, 95% of all mobile farm machinery, tractors, trucks, stationary engines, and fishing and ferry boats were powered by wood gas generator units.
    • This report is one in a series of emergency technology assessments sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The purpose of this report is to develop detailed, illustrated instructions for the fabrication, installation, and operation of a biomass gasifier unit (i.e., a "producer gas" generator, also called a 'wood gas' generator) that is capable of providing emergeney fuel for vehicles, such as tractors and trucks, in the event that normal petroleum sources were severely disrupted for an extended period of time. These instructions have been prepared as a manual for use by any mechanic who is reasonably proficient in metal fabrication or engine repair.
  • Available Data and Reason Tell Us:
    • “We have created a Star Wars civilization with stone age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.” —Edward O. Wilson, 2012. (Quoting Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth, 2012, New York: Liveright Publishing, a division of W.W. Norton, p. 7.)
    • “… Most of our genes date from the Stone Age or before. They could help us to live in the jungles of nature, but not in the jungles of civilization.” —The Club of Budapest’s Manifesto, 1996.
    • Response to the post from Klaus Mager:
      • Gene Bellinger is encouraging the systems thinking networks to communicate via stories. The general public does not relate to charts and statistics, but requires simple metaphors for sense making. One such discussion, already higher up in cognitive capacity, is the issue of carrying capacity. How many people can the planet support?
      • Earth overshoot day this year fell on Aug. 1 (check overshootday.org). That means we are exceeding the reproductive capacity of the planet by a factor of 1.7. Global population today is at 7.6 billion. Take 7.6 / 1.7 = 4.5 billion people the planet can support sustainably, given current consumption patterns. That does not consider the aspirational patterns in developing countries and impoverished populations even in the U.S.
  • Big Oil beats carbon tax, Big Soda shields itself from sugary beverage tax:
    • A $31 million campaign by Big Oil has defeated an initiative that would have made Washington the nation's first state to enact a polluters-pay fee on big polluters' emissions of carbon into the atmosphere…. The barrage was paid for by $11.5 million from BPAmerica, with more than $7.2 million from Phillips66, and $950,000 from Koch Industries, the corporation of billionaire Republican donors Davic and Charles Koch.
    • "Big Soda" was another big winner during the evening. Mobilized by the American Beverage Assn., the soft drink industry spent more than $21.5 million on Initiative 1634, which would prohibit other cities and counties from replicating Seattle's tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Greenland's Melting Ice Sheets: The Beautiful but Harrowing Changes Seen from Above: Greenland's ice sheet lost up to 270 billion tons of ice every year between 2012 and 2014, according to a study in Geophysical Research Letters. Currently, it's losing ice at a rate faster than any time in the last 400 years, and the melt is accelerating, a separate study stated.

11/6/2018

  • [ael: my second grandchild is born!:)] In the midst of gloom, hope; in all things, love.

11/5/2018

  • A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley: “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.”
    • A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K.
    • Athena Chavarria, who worked as an executive assistant at Facebook and is now at Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic arm, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, said: “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.” … She said she lives by the mantra that the last child in the class to get a phone wins. Her daughter did not get a phone until she started ninth grade. [ael: Thad wins! eleventh grade!]
    • “On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” Mr. Anderson said of screens…. “We thought we could control it,” Mr. Anderson said. “And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centers of the developing brain. This is beyond our capacity as regular parents to understand.”
    • “This is scar tissue talking. We’ve made every mistake in the book, and I think we got it wrong with some of my kids,” Mr. Anderson said. “We glimpsed into the chasm of addiction, and there were some lost years, which we feel bad about.”
    • Tim Cook, the C.E.O. of Apple, said earlier this year that he would not let his nephew join social networks. Bill Gates banned cellphones until his children were teenagers, and Melinda Gates wrote that she wished they had waited even longer. Steve Jobs would not let his young children near iPads.

11/4/2018

  • How to Teach Your Kids About Climate Change: We have 22 years until we're in a significant global crisis. Show your kids how to implement these simple planet-friendly household changes now.
    • Air-drying clothes can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year, and if all Americans line-dried for just half a year, it would save 3.3 percent of the country’s total residential output of carbon dioxide.
  • Climate anxiety: A strain of emotional stress is on the rise: The most common prescription is to go local and go outdoors, mental health professionals say.
    • In his practice in Bangor, psychologist Will Hafford is seeing something new in his patients, what he terms “climate anxiety.” Centered around the issue of climate change, it’s a problem that hovers over other more typical reasons people seek therapy, and it leads to dread, grief and a questioning of one of the most basic, and hopeful, of human actions. “‘Did I make a mistake choosing to have children?’ is a common refrain among clients,” Hafford said.
    • There are other names for this emerging branch of mental health. Solastalgia is one, a term coined by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht to describe a sort of homesickness that happens “when one is still at ‘home’ ” but that home is under pressure from development and climate change. It’s mourning for the future and an existential dread, overlaid with helplessness. It’s been part of the national conversation for a few years, but Hafford and other mental health professionals say climate anxiety is on the rise, particularly as people grapple with increasingly bad news about the planet’s future. “It seems like the alarm bells are ringing louder,” said South Portland therapist Karen Fisher.
    • It’s one thing if you live in a place that is severely affected already, Reis said, say Florida in the fall of 2018, as a hurricane of frightening power has just come through and decimated your whole town. But when it is more distant, a concept still, hovering just outside of lives already overburdened by other stresses, it feels so beyond comprehension that for many, the mind shuts down. “It is like, ‘I am trying to figure out how to pay for my groceries and rent and how is my kid doing in school?’ ” Reis said. “You are not thinking about how the water is rising or there is drastic drought in Africa. You say, ‘I am sorry, but I have got to go to work. I work 60 hours a week, I have to pack a lunch.’ ”
    • To handle something so enormous takes a lot of “spiritual stamina,” Reis said. And solidarity. “We need community. We need that kind of collectivity that bonds over certain things.” Bonding? In this political climate? That may seem like a stretch, especially to the climate hostages. That’s the term Doherty coined to describe people who believe in the science and the prospect of a doomsday – or at minimum, a much harder life – for much of the human race, and must also cope with a vocal minority that deny climate change is happening. The deniers include elected and appointed officials, who have the power to lead on things like using less fossil fuel and rolling back the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming temperatures worldwide.
    • Technically, one could describe Mary Annaise Heglar as a climate hostage. But she’s fighting back. After the recent UN report came out, she published an essay on Medium that got picked up and shared on Vox.com, thousands of times…. But the point of her essay was to tell people to get angry, rather than depressed. Heglar says in the article that it is the corporations, and their enablers, that are causing climate change, not the person who leaves the lights on too long.
    • The mental health community is gathering its forces to address climate anxiety. Earlier this year, a group of psychiatrists formed the Climate Psychiatry Alliance. In a call to action on its website, its members declared, “We shall not remain silent when the disavowal of reality is leading civilization toward an inexorable existential crisis.” One of its members, Bangor physician Dr. Tony Ng, is the first president of the caucus on Climate Change and Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association.
    • Like most therapists, she tries to help her patients develop a problem-solving approach. “And make sure that they have some self-efficacy to make change,” Fisher said. “The macro piece (of climate change) is that really people feel like they can’t do that. That they really have a sense of helplessness about how they are going to be part of the solution.” Even those who have been actively involved in looking for solutions, like Bob Klotz, a co-founder of 350 Maine, an offshoot of Bill McKibben’s anti-carbon campaign group 350.org, have struggled. “It all has undeniable psychological impacts,” Klotz said. “Speaking for myself, as an activist and a person and a health care provider (Klotz is a physician assistant), it has been a pretty depleting time over the last few years.”
    • “Get outside for at least a small amount of time every day,” Hafford said. “It lowers your blood pressure and is restorative in a lot of ways. Being able to spend time in a nature and learn about it is important when you are feeling powerless.” He teaches adventure therapy to Unity students and in that work, sees almost a training ground for the kind of work mankind will have to do to face the challenges of climate change. “Adventure work is all about facing challenges and embracing discomfort,” Hafford said. “You are voluntarily making yourself uncomfortable to achieve a variety of objectives. When it begins, you don’t know what the solution is, but there is a team you have to work with. That team will succeed if everybody is doing their part. I see a parallel there.”
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11/4/2018

  • Can we meet a growing need for food without destroying our environment?: An evolving concept called “sustainable intensification” aims to bridge the gap between conventional agriculture and organic farming
    • Debates over the future of food and farming are often framed as a choice between two seemingly diametrical approaches. One, conventional agriculture, aims to produce as much food as possible with vast monocultures dependent on irrigation systems, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The other, organic farming, prioritizes sustainability, using natural inputs and processes to make farms more hospitable to nature. An evolving concept called sustainable intensification seeks to bridge this gap by taking the best ideas from both sides and minimizing their weaknesses, such as conventional agriculture’s fertilizer overuse and organic farming’s tendency toward lower yields.
    • Sustainable intensification recognizes the need to produce enough food to feed a growing population, but seeks to do so in the most environmentally friendly way possible. In particular, it focuses on increasing yields — the amount of food produced per unit of land — as a way to minimize the need to convert forest and other uncultivated land to farms.
    • One of the most promising strategies is improving crop varieties and livestock breeds. Developing pest- and disease-resistant seeds through traditional breeding or genetic engineering can increase yields and reduce pesticide use. Cultivars suited to local conditions and weather extremes, such as drought and heat, can also help farmers produce more food without degrading ecosystems.
    • Growing trees and shrubs on and around crop and pasture land can benefit farmers and local ecosystems, providing habitat to birds and other creatures. Trees on silvopastures protect animals from the hot sun in the summer and cold winds in the winter, and the nutritious grasses beneath them beef up livestock quickly and cheaply. Trees on and around farms can fix nitrogen in the soil, sequester carbon, and reduce runoff and soil erosion.
    • In some areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa, yields are very low due primarily to a lack of water and nutrients in the soil. This low baseline means that the tools of modern farming offer a huge opportunity to get more food out of existing farmland. However, if this intensification is to be sustainable, it will be crucial to pair this access with programs that educate farmers about best practices to avoid waste and pollution, Prasad says.
    • In addition, in what’s known as Jevons paradox, efficiency gains can incentivize farmers to produce more, which can lead to additional land clearing. In order to reap the full benefits of sustainable intensification, we’ll have to do a better job of making sure that natural areas are off limits to agricultural expansion. Although challenges remain, the math of sustainable intensification is simple: The more food we produce on the least amount of land with the least environmental impact, the better off humans — and nature — will be.
  • Coral: Palau to ban sunscreen products to protect reefs: Palau is set to become the first country to impose a widespread ban on sunscreen in an effort to protect its vulnerable coral reefs.
    • Many of the larger corporations are against a ban on sunscreen products, saying that the evidence of a detrimental impact on coral is not strong enough. "The big boys are fighting it. Johnson & Johnson and L'Oreal don't seem to be on board," said Dr Downs. "But much of the rest of the industry have already come out with what they are calling 'Hawaii-compliant sunscreen', and it is a big marketing boost for them." A group of manufacturers have formed what they call the Safe Sunscreen Council. They welcomed the move. "Palau's move to ban ingredients that have been know to cause damage to coral reefs is the right things to do," said Caroline Duell from the council. "Hopefully, by Palau taking leadership on this issue, not only will they protect their sacred and economically key coral reef network, but they will show the world that it's time to change the way we think. There are many alternatives for sunscreen and personal care products that are safe, effective and enjoyable to use."
  • President Ozymandias: If he so desired, Donald Trump could go down in history as the man who transcended ego and ignorance by acting to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Fat chance
  • Peter Dykstra: October’s Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse: From tigers to climate to the Amazon—we closed out last month with three bad, very bad, terrible bits of news for the environment
    1. First, China's State Council announced it was ending a 25-year-old ban on the sale of tiger and rhino parts. They offered no evidence that tiger or rhino populations have sufficiently bounced back from peril.
    2. Ready for more? After years of stern-but-vague warnings, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finally put us on the clock: They say we have 12 years to take substantial action on greenhouse gas emissions to stave off the worst climate impacts from drought, storms, sea level rise, habitat loss, disease and other consequences.
    3. On to number three: Such a tight climate timeline virtually requires that world leaders speak – or tweet – with one voice. Not only has America fallen off the flat side of the Earth on climate, but another key nation may soon follow. The election of Jair Bolsonaro to the Brazilian Presidency may give Donald Trump a partner in eco-crime.
    4. Oh, and I know that I promised you only three apocalyptic news items, but in the interest of fairness, as October closed, the World Wide Fund for Nature issued a report estimating that humanity has wiped out 60% of all animal populations since 1970. And the World Health Organization report stating that 90% of the world's children now breathe toxic air. Have a nice day, everyone!

11/3/2018

11/2/2018

  • Using Satire to Communicate Science: Research shows that while satire does carry some risks, it can be an effective tool for communication. Scientists are giving it a go.
    • “We do not care about planet Earth,” four French scientists declared in February in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. If humans are exhausting the planet’s resources, they wrote, it’s Earth that needs to adapt — not us. The authors issued a warning: “Should planet Earth stick with its hardline ideological stance…we will seek a second planet.”
    • Brewer’s studies of satirical TV news have shown that these programs can affect people’s beliefs. In a 2015 study, Brewer and graduate student Jessica McKnight showed university students a video clip from “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” about climate change, or a control video on another topic. Stewart used jokes and sarcasm to address the subject, while Stephen Colbert spoke ironically, in his usual character of an over-the-top conservative pundit. After seeing either satirical news clip, subjects reported a greater certainty that global warming is happening.
    • In 2017, Brewer and McKnight looked at a segment from another satirical news show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Oliver had pitted 97 climate scientists against 3 climate change deniers to create a “statistically representative climate change debate.” The researchers showed either this clip or a control video to 288 participants. Watching the debate clip increased subjects’ confidence in climate change — as well as their perception that scientists agreed on the issue. The effect was strongest among people who reported less interest in the topic beforehand, Brewer says. “It mattered the most among people who aren’t already engaged with the issue.”
    • Amy Becker of Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore veered away from satirical news in her study published this summer about “sarcastic content.” She showed university students a video from The Onion, another video by The Weather Channel, or a control video. Both non-control videos were humorous takes on climate change. But the Onion video had a clear point of view, illustrated by its wry title: “Climate Change Researcher Describes Challenge of Pulling Off Worldwide Global Warming Conspiracy.” In contrast, the Weather Channel video poked fun at people who both do and don’t believe in climate change. Becker found that only the Onion video had an effect. It increased people’s certainty that climate change was happening while also increasing their perception of the magnitude of the problem. As with previous studies, the video only made a difference among people who didn’t already think climate change was an important issue.
    • In a 2011 collection of essays on satirical news, Feldman and colleagues published research that found that people who watched more satirical news were more likely to follow news about science and technology, the environment, and global warming. The effect was strongest for people with the lowest levels of formal education. “Comedy and satire help pull people in and help make those topics more accessible,” she says.
    • Even when people do get the joke, satire can be very polarizing, Feldman says. “It attracts an audience who is already pretty liberal in orientation, and it in many ways preaches to the choir.” This can help mobilize like-minded audiences, but “it can also be really alienating to the other side.” It’s also possible that joking about a subject could make it seem less serious, Feldman says.
    • But for writers who are considering satire to get a point across, she says, “I don’t think there’s any harm in experimentation.” Guillaume Chapron, the author of the satirical warning to Earth, agrees. “The environmental crisis has reached such a scale that it is no longer justifiable to dispense with some communication tools,” he and his coauthors wrote in a follow-up paper.
    • He admits the reaction to his satirical paper wasn’t earth-shattering. William Ripple and the other authors of the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” letter called Chapron’s paper “humorous, refreshing, and potentially effective.” Chapron has heard about some readers who are still talking about the paper in their labs, he says. He’s heard of others who thought his paper shouldn’t have been published in the first place, or that it damages the credibility of academia.
  • Speaking of Satire: Ralph Steadman: 'Trump is a lout. He's a godawful disgrace to humanity', by Nadja Sayej. The outspoken gonzo illustrator talks about his friendship with Hunter S Thompson, his thoughts on the state of politics and shares an exclusive Brexit poem
    • “I prefer Nixon to Trump. I think anybody would because Nixon was at least a politician,” said Steadman. “A proper or improper one, doesn’t matter. Trump just isn’t, Trump is a lout. He’s a godawful disgrace to humanity, really.”
    • The artist, who grew up in Abergele, north Wales, studied art in London, then began publishing cartoons in Private Eye magazine during the “satire boom” of the 1960s. “I just had the idea that I thought I was going to change the world,” recalls Steadman of his early work. “It’s worse now than it was when I started. It changed.”
  • The fight against Mountaintop Removal has lost a friend: Jim Webb, aka Wiley Quixote. Jim was born on Monday, September 24, 1945 and crossed over on Monday, October 22, 2018.
    • Jim Webb: A Poet’s Path of Resistance, or The Bigger the Windmill, the Better: Scott Goebel
    • [ael: I have enjoyed Jim Webb's presence on several different occasions. I stayed at his "Wiley's Last Resort" a half dozen times, often with my friend Scott Goebel. Scott permitted me access to Jim that few others enjoyed as much. Jim read his poetry to the gathered and gathering throng prior to the march "Appalachia Rising", at which I was honored to be arrested in front of Obama's home — the Whitehouse — with James Hansen. The focus of the protest was Mountaintop Removal — we're opposed. Jim would want us all to raise a glass to the mountains that surrounded him, and all of God's nature which is so cavalierly destroyed by evil-doers like Trump, Mitch McConnell, etc.]

11/1/2018

  • HELP WANTED: A PLEA TO ECONOMISTS: Ehrlich, Anne H., Ehrlich, Paul R.
    • In our view the community of economists has shown too little technical interest in civilization’s existential issues, and has largely ignored thousands of scientists’ repeatedly stated urgent need to “reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth” (Ripple et al. 2017), and to recognize that “Our planet is in a perilous state” (Berg 2018). Nonetheless, increasingly successful collaborations between ecologists and economists suggest the latter could help find ways of ameliorating the impacts of a coming collapse. They might contribute even more in designing a post-collapse “reset” that avoided a resurgence of growth addiction and also prevented a return to today’s economists’ focus on efficiency rather than equity (or at least on both). That could move post-collapse remnant societies toward sustainability instead of toward another collapse.
    • But on the positive side, a broad public realization and acceptance that the global growth economy is ending and the need for redistribution is increasing could also transform our lives. In theory, of course, a collapse might be avoided. That likely would require rapid reduction of aggregate consumption, increasing material efficiency and equity (redistribution) replacing perpetual expansion, and giving high priority to internalizing negative environmental externalities.
    • If there is to be any sort of recovery after a collapse, as we indicated a gigantic challenge to economists will be to help design a post-collapse transition to a new society in which the economic system is sustainable, at least over a period of several centuries. The challenge to design a “steady state” economy that stays within the human carrying capacity of Earth has been long recognized but too little explored. Herman Daly (Daly 1974) in particular tried to call attention to the design problems, pressing for such growth-control mechanisms as severance taxes on resources. Others have joined him, but mainstream economists have largely ignored the big issues. For instance, in the last few centuries, for the first time, money and finance became the main focus of civilization. Since that finance focus has led to the wholesale destruction of humanity’s life-support systems, the need for economists to develop a new focus seems obvious. For instance, how can private capital accumulation be kept under control? Are tax policies the only way?
    • "This piece is dedicated to the memory of our much-missed friend Ken Arrow; he was our wisest and nicest critic."
  • Presby Press, First Presbyterian Church, Fort Thomas November, 2018:
    • From "Pastor Ken", the interim minister at First Pres: "We are not free-wheeling individuals. We are loving servants of the one who loves us more than life itself. There really is no greater good, no higher purpose, than serving God well through serving Jesus." [ael: see Ehrlichs' message above]
    • ael: So those who choose a Christian life need to ask themselves each day not "What do I need?", but rather "What does Christ call me to do today?" Realizing, of course, that you must "put on your own oxygen mask before helping your children with theirs…." So eat a good breakfast — but then go out and help those about you.
    • ael: I've been talking to my friends about their own spirituality: what inspires you to (or requires that you) treat other people decently, and that you care for the world around you? Do you live by a version of the golden rule?
      Golden-Rule.jpg
    • Same day, Ken sent out an email containing this thought: "Jesus, knowing his Scriptures so well, does not hesitate. He immediately replies that, after accepting that God is one God (not the poly-gods of the Gentiles), it is important, firstly, to love God with our fullness. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5.) All parts of our selves – strength, wisdom, determination, finances, emotions, health ad infinitum – are to be used in loving God. The Greek is a little gnarly here, but the implication is that we are no more to be satisfied with how much we love God than we would be satisfied with how much we love our life-partner. None of us would ever say to our beloved, “I love you enough, I don’t need to love you anymore.” Because we truly love that person we are constantly looking for ways to love them more. God is to be loved equally well."
  • Global Warming Is Messing with the Jet Stream. That Means More Extreme Weather.: A new study links the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions to more frequent heat waves, floods and droughts in the Northern Hemisphere.
    • The researchers said they were surprised by how big a role other pollutants play in the jet stream's behavior, especially aerosols—microscopic solid or liquid particles from industry, agriculture, volcanoes and plants. Aerosols have a cooling effect that partially counteracts the jet stream changes caused by greenhouse gases, said co-author Dim Comou, a climate and extreme weather researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
    • In recent decades, aerosol pollution has actually been slowing down the global warming process across the Northern Hemisphere's mid-latitude industrial regions. If aerosol emissions drop rapidly, as projected, these regions would warm faster. That would change the temperature contrast between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, which would dampen the warming effect of greenhouse gases on the jet stream. By how much depends on the rate, location and timing of the reductions, and the offset would end by mid-century, when man-made aerosols are expected to be mostly gone and no longer reflecting incoming solar radiation, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist and study lead author Michael Mann.
    • The jet stream is a powerful high-altitude wind that shapes and moves weather systems from west to east. Different branches of the jet stream undulate from the subtropics to the edge of the Arctic. In the past 15 years at least, the jet stream has been coiling up more, slithering farther north and south. When it gets stuck in the extreme pattern identified by the scientists, it leads to more deadly and costly weather extremes. That extremely wavy pattern, called "quasi-resonant amplification," was evident during the extreme summer of 2018, Mann said.
      ArcticJetStreamWeird529px.png
  • Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming: The findings mean the world might have less time to curb carbon emissions.
    • The world’s oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realized, suggesting that Earth could be set to warm even faster than predicted in the years ahead, according to new research published Wednesday. Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought, said Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the startling study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The difference represents an enormous amount of additional energy, originating from the sun and trapped by Earth’s atmosphere — the yearly amount representing more than eight times the world’s annual energy consumption.
    • The scientists calculated that because of the increased heat already stored in the ocean, the maximum emissions that the world can produce while still avoiding a warming of two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) would have to be reduced by 25 percent. That represents a very significant shrinkage of an already very narrow carbon “budget.”
  • The EPA's Climate Change Page Is Just Gone Now: A report released this week by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative reveals that the removal of climate change information from the EPA website is set to be a long-term policy of the Trump administration.
    • EPA.gov pages that previously provided information about climate change have been changed from claiming that they are "updating" to an error message that reads, "We want to help you find what you are looking for," as revealed by a report released this week by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative. The change indicates that information related climate change is not being “updated,” but removed entirely.

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