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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

As CO2 Levels Rise, Some Crop Nutrients Will Fall

This story was posted by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor for, 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.) 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Effects of Global Warming Thinning Sea Ice on Polar Bears, Other Animals of Arctic

I'm sharing the following because I believe it is an example of scientific inquiry and learning at it's best.  A genuine good faith effort, led by curiosity and a desire to understand by gathering as much information as possible, digesting it and then presenting a rational narrative of the full spectrum of information at hand.  Something I find too rate, when it comes to the internet dialogue.  

It was certainly a refreshing change from Jim Steele's manipulations which I'd been wrestling with - in fact, I stumbled on this paper researching Jim's questionable claims regarding the situation in the Arctic, the juxtaposition between this learning effort and that man's manipulative wordsmithing was quite illuminating and knew that I wanted to reprint it whole.

I contacted the folks at Soldotna High School, NOSB reps, and Kenai Board of Education and have been given kind permission to reprint the full report. Researched and produced by a team of five very smart Soldotna High School students.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  
This paper was written as part of the 2010 Alaska Oceans Sciences Bowl high school competition. The conclusions in this report are solely those of the student authors.
The Effects of Global Warming and Thinning Sea Ice on Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) and Other Animals of the Arctic

Erin Twohy
Krissy Barker
Alissa Kress
Hannah Cristiano
Linnea Powers

Soldotna High School
425 W. Marydale Ave.
Soldotna, Alaska 99669

The effect of global warming has been negative on polar bear populations and other populations of the Arctic region. This is shown by more cubs and young animals dying each year; dying of starvation and in some cases drowning from sheer exhaustion. Ringed seals are more affected by the earlier melting of the sea ice, this causes the ice lairs built for the pups to melt before the pups are mature enough to defend themselves. This opens them up to greater predation from polar bears and other endemic predators to the area. As well as the ice melting earlier, it isn't growing as thick in areas where ringed seals are usually found. To adapt to this change the seals must move farther north, in the latitudes where more polar bears are found. These two species, while separate entities, are linked together by one limiting resource. This resource is the Arctic cod, upon which ringed seals are known to feed off almost primarily. Due to the increasing water temperature the eggs laid by female Arctic cod are unable to mature, causing an ever decreasing population.

To save this delicate food web and cycle of life, we must act quickly. Monitoring the commercial fishing of Arctic cod is only one small step that will help bring the Arctic food web back to equilibrium. To make a larger impact, we as humans must think of what kind of impact we are putting on the earth, and we must consider how we may be able to reverse the rate of declination in these populations. Some ways are to create refuges or sanctuaries for a particular population, to monitor the hunting or commercial fishing of these animals, and to put polar bears on the Endangered Species List.

Causes and Effects of Global Warming