Archives for posts with tag: climate change

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A new study comparing past and present ocean temperatures reveals the global ocean has been warming for more than a century. Join Dean Roemmich, Scripps physical oceanographer and study co-author, as he describes how warm our oceans are getting, where all that heat is going, and how this knowledge will help scientists better understand the earth’s climate. Learn how scientists measured ocean temperature during the historic voyage of the HMS Challenger (1872-76) and how today’s network of ocean-probing robots is changing the way scientists study the seas.

We dump billions of tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year. As a result, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by 40%. Excess carbon dioxide traps excess heat in the atmosphere. Excess heat causes extreme heat waves, droughts, and storms.

This year’s extreme weather follows last year’s. The last twelve months were the hottest on record for the United States. Texas saw its hottest and driest summer on record in 2011 by a wide margin, and research published recently shows that carbon pollution dramatically increased the probability of such extreme heat and drought. The data are in. This is what global warming looks like.

From The Daily Climate:

Naomi Oreskes is a science historian, professor at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author (with Erik Conway) of Merchants of Doubt, a book that examined how a handful of scientists obscure the facts on a range of issues, including tobacco use and climate change. Her seminal paper in the journal Science, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” challenged – back in 2004 – the notion that climate change science was uncertain. Her work has documented the spread of doubt-mongering from an industry practice to a political strategy.

* * *

Somewhere between your undergraduate and graduate degrees, you became interested in the history of science. What drew you to that field?

I was always interested in the human side of science, especially why people disagreed about evidence, and the strong  – yet divergent –  opinions that my professors had about what constitutes good science. Beyond that, it is a long story.

What attracted you to the climate change deniers?

I fell into this. I was working on the history of oceanography, and came across the work of Roger Revelle, Dave Keeling and others who’d been working on climate change since the 1950s. I came to understand that the scientific basis for understanding anthropogenic climate change was much firmer than most people knew. That led to my 2004 work, which led  to me being attacked. So we started digging and found direct links to the tobacco industry.

How do most mainstream scientists view this contrary viewpoint from their colleagues?

They are thoroughly appalled.  Because it isn’t a “contrary viewpoint,” in the sense that the scientific evidence is contradictory or incomplete, or that our theories are inadequate to explain the observations. This is not the case, this is not a scientific debate.

Is the need to expose deniers that important in the policy world?  Aren’t other issues – such as economics and energy – far more important?

If we didn’t have the science, we wouldn’t know the cause. We wouldn’t know that we have to control greenhouse gas emissions, and we could just burn coal. It is science that revealed the problem, science that pinpoints its cause, and science (that) tells us what kinds of interventions will be efficacious.  Science is not sufficient to solve this problem, but it is necessary.

Are you frustrated by the continuing debate over the reality of climate change? 

Yes, because some people are now saying, we should just accept that climate change is happening and not worry about the cause.  Climate change is caused by greenhouse gases and that is why we need to do something about them. So it’s time we rolled up our sleeves and got to work doing what we know in our hearts we need to do.


(Humble + Standard Oil => Exxon)

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

RATES of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says.

The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.

As many as one in five people reported ”emotional injury, stress and despair” in the wake of these events.

The report, A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, called the past 15 years a ”preview of life under unrestrained global warming”.

”While cyclones, drought, bushfires and floods are all a normal part of Australian life, there is no doubt our climate is changing,” the report says.

”For instance, the intensity and frequency of bushfires is greater. This is a ‘new normal’, for which the past provides little guidance …

”Moreover, recent conditions are entirely consistent with the best scientific predictions: as the world warms so the weather becomes wilder, with big consequences for people’s health and well-being.”

The paper suggests a possible link between Australia’s recent decade-long drought and climate change. It points to a breakdown of social cohesion caused by loss of work and associated stability, adding that the suicide rate in rural communities rose by 8 per cent.

The report also looks at mental health in the aftermath of major weather events possibly linked to climate change.

It shows that one in 10 primary school children reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of cyclone Larry in 2006. More than one in 10 reported symptoms more than three months after the cyclone.

”There’s really clear evidence around severe weather events,” the executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, Professor Ian Hickie, said.

”We’re now more sophisticated in understanding the mental health effects and these effects are one of the major factors.

”What we have seriously underestimated is the effects on social cohesion. That is very hard to rebuild and they are critical to the mental health of an individual.”



From KUOW News:

Washington state might seem immune to the hot temperatures that are affecting the rest of the country, but that’s not the case. Some people may reject the idea of climate change, but scientists say summer temperatures have been climbing over the years, and it will continue to get hotter over time. It’s these kinds of heat conditions that put many people at risk. Some researchers estimate that in 2004 alone the cost of hospitalizing people due to extreme heat was nearly a billion dollars. In the first part of our report on heat and health, KUOW’s Ruby de Luna reports on the health impacts of climate change.


Remember the heat wave of 2009?

News Clip: “Seattle tied an all–time record high Tuesday, and it’s getting hotter… “

That heat event in the Pacific Northwest lasted a week.

News Clip: “Today, Seattle is supposed to reach triple–digit temps for the first time ever.”

Seattle peaked at 103 degrees, a record high for the area. Well, scientists say we can expect hotter days ahead.

Richard Fenske is professor of environmental occupational health sciences at the University of Washington.

Fenske: “When we look across a period of 20 to 40 years, we are confident that temperatures are increasing, and this will result in severe heat events and probably longer heat events, but not necessarily every year.”

In 2009, Fenske and his colleagues in the School of Public Health were awarded a federal grant to study how climate change will affect people’s health. In a nutshell, the study concluded that heat events will likely lead to what they call excess deaths. How do researchers know that?

Michael Yost: “We counted the dead bodies, and we continue to count them.”

That’s Michael Yost, also a UW professor in the same department. He and Fenske are part of the research team that’s analyzing the data for the study.

Here’s what they did: They tracked Washington’s previous weather records between May and September for the last 26 years. They noted a rise in overall temperatures during that time. The team also looked at death records for the same time period. They found that whenever there was a heat event, there were more deaths, mostly elderly people.

The thinking goes that if temperatures continue to rise in the next few decades, so will the number of excess deaths. But it’s hard to predict just exactly how much warmer it’s going to be, or how many hot days we’re going to have. So, Fenske and Yost came up with a range of scenarios. On the low end, the region may have only 16 extreme heat days in a given year; or, on the high end, as many as 30 days.

Yost: “What we’re trying to do is to not simply say this is one possible outcome in the future, but to simulate many possible outcomes, and so what we end up with is a range of possible values for how many heat events might occur in, say, 2025.”

The study’s goal is to help local public health agencies and emergency responders prepare for heat events. Richard Fenske says this will prevent deaths and unnecessary hospitalizations.

Fenske: “We can develop a warning systems, education, transportation systems to get elderly people to cool environments, like a public library, during a heat event. There are ways to prevent these deaths if we choose to do so, but we have to know where and when they might occur.”

And since extreme heat days are uncommon in the Puget Sound region, most homes don’t have cooling systems. And when it does get hot, especially for an extended period of time, most people don’t know how to deal with the heat or lose the ability to take precaution.


Image source.


What’s the price of gasoline? In the U.S. it’s about $4 a gallon. But some experts say the true price of gas is much higher. What about the costs of pollution, and the global and local problems caused by it? Who pays for those? This animated feature from the Center for Investigative Reporting calculates the carbon footprint and other “external costs” of gasoline use in the U.S.

From Discovery Magazine:

“There is no place called away.” It is a statement worthy of 
Gertrude Stein, but University of Washington atmospheric chemist Dan Jaffe says it with conviction: None of the contamination we pump into the air just disappears. It might get diluted, blended, or chemically transformed, but it has to go somewhere. And when it comes to pollutants produced by the booming economies of East Asia, that somewhere often means right here, the mainland of the United States.

Jaffe and a new breed of global air detectives are delivering a sobering message to policy makers everywhere: Carbon dioxide, the predominant driver of global warming, is not the only industrial by-product whose effects can be felt around the world. Prevailing winds across the Pacific are pushing thousands of tons of other contaminants—including mercury, sulfates, ozone, black carbon, and desert dust—over the ocean each year. Some of this atmospheric junk settles into the cold waters of the North Pacific, but much of it eventually merges 
with the global air pollution pool that circumnavigates the planet.

These contaminants are implicated in a long list of health problems, including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, emphysema, and perhaps even pandemics like avian flu. And when wind and weather conditions are right, they reach North America within days. Dust, ozone, and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins, and mercury can be pulled to earth through atmospheric sinks that deposit it across large swaths of land.


From People’s World:

More than 160 scientists from major universities across Michigan this week urged support for the Environmental Protection Agency, calling the federal agency’s role essential to protecting the public health.

In a letter addressed the state’s congressional delegation, the scientists called on elected officials to “reject any measure that would block or delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the people of Michigan from air pollution and human caused climate change, both of which put public health, agriculture, the environment and our economy at risk.”

“For more than 40 years, the EPA has protected public health and safety by holding polluters accountable – and it should be allowed to continue doing its job,” Knute Nadelhoffer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday, March 9.

“Scientists across Michigan stand united with scientists at the EPA and across the nation,” he said. “Science, not politics, must drive our fight against dangerous pollution.”

Full article here.

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