Climate change earthquake!

Sad news from the Journal of Science, reported by the Guardian:

Alarm as study reveals world’s tropical forests are huge carbon emission source

This drastically changes the climate landscape, as tropical forests can longer be counted as climate sinks.

Forests globally are so degraded that instead of absorbing emissions they now release more carbon annually than all the traffic in the US, say researchers.

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Ancient world’s uncovered as Siberian permafrost melts

A fascinating glimpse of thousands of years of climate data and biota is being revealed as the world’s largest mega slump or thermokarst develops in Siberia. The Batagaika Crater is north of Irkutsk, Russia and is exactly what climate scientists have been predicting from the increased warming in the Arctic – and is a classic example of positive feedback.

Read more at ScienceAlert.com

Climate change causes glacial river in Yukon to change direction

from CBC News…

Glacier retreated so much that its meltwater switched course, in an event not documented in modern times.

Climate change has caused the massive Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Yukon to retreat so much that its meltwater abruptly switched direction, in the first documented case of “river piracy” in modern times.

Instead of flowing into the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea, the water has changed course and now flows south toward the Kaskawulsh River, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, scientists have found.  Read more…

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/climate-change-yukon-river-piracy-1.4070153

Latest GeoNews

You may have noticed, I’ve update the GeoNews “window” on the landing page. Using Google Docs and “Publish to the Web”, I finally found a way to update GeoNews without having to go into the web-authoring app I’m using. This is just too easy!!

The latest update includes:

Canada moves ahead with carbon taxes, leaving the US behind Canadians too often look south for guidance when, in fact, they can be (and are) leaders (MIT Technology Review)
How an Ancient Greek mathematician calculated Earth’s circumference
A great, short video (Business Insider via YouTube.com)
Solving the mysteries of the MonsoonScientists have just returned from a groundbreaking research campaign to understand the Indian monsoon (nerc.ac.uk)
Unearthing a Giant Marine Reptile – nearly 75-foot-long ichthyosaur fossil found in the limestone banks of Sikanni Chief River of BC (NatGeo)
Health Canada proposes ban of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticide (CBC.ca)
Notre Dame Must Vacate 2012, 2013 Football Wins Over Academic Violations (NPR) Plagiarism costs! Dearly!
Sea Ice Reaches a New Low  Sea ice in the Arctic is about 2m km² smaller than its November average (The Economist) 
You may be higher up the global wealth pyramid than you think IF YOU had only $2,220 to your name, you might not think yourself terribly fortunate. But you would be wealthier than half the world’s population… (The Economist)
Canadian Index of Well-being  Is our overall quality of life getting better or worse? Are we getting closer or moving farther away from realizing the kind of Canada we want to live in?  (Univ of Waterloo)

…all well worth the reading!

 

Weekend Wandering 6: Why do many reasonable people doubt science?

whydoubtscienceTypically, Weekend Wandering posts take the reader to a website filled with links allowing you to surf in a variety of different directions. Today’s post is the opposite. The essay by Washington Post science writer Joel Achenbach, posted on National Geographic last week – Why do many reasonable people doubt science? – is an exploration of your own thoughts and meanderings about science and how you might interpret it.

From my perspective, the most prescient quote of the whole article is from Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science:

Science is not a body of facts. Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.

The trouble is, we’ve been led to believe by the media and by pseudo- or pop-scientists in the media that science has all the answers. Then, when science is “wrong” or the “answers” turn out to be untrue, all of science is questioned. What science actually does, is provide possible answers, theories, typically, but not always, with 95% significance, knowing that there are other possibilities – but people and the media gloss over that part. As Joel Achenbach states:

Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation.

The other problem is that “science” has been co-opted by corporations to generate income. Too often, with motives of profit, science and ethics are often blurred in the business world. Add to that governments who often see their job as supporting and promoting business and we get disasters like Thalidomide.

Furthermore, we get corporate claims like “GMOs are being developed to feed a hungry world” and it’s no wonder people are questioning “science”. (Aside: Let’s face it, rightly or wrongly, GMOs are being pursued to increase profits through a host of questionable ethical practices, not the least of which is tying the sale of pesticides to specific GMO seeds).

What about climate science? Why does one detractor garner as much attention as a thousand legitimate climate scientists? The media hides behind their attempt to provide “balance”, yet, where’s the balance if a thousand people say one thing and one person says another and they both get equal air time? Any good scientist welcomes alternate views, but why is that one detractor is given equal weight when their legitimacy is clearly in doubt due to their salary or research grants being funded by big oil? The the real problem is what’s going in the background which is often obscured by the bigger foreground discussion.

“Real” science is complex. One must think to understand. So, it’s no wonder that pseudo-science, “pop” science and the media portrayal of science have caused people to question all science. How does the average person possibly judge the difference in a 30-second sound bite or a one-column article? Perhaps we must look to education… have we created a class of people educated enough to understand a little, but not academic enough to delve deeper? Has our teaching of “critical thinking” failed us in that we’ve produced critical thinkers who don’t have the discipline to learn before thinking? Perhaps Alexander Pope was correct when he said, in his 1709 An Essay on Criticism:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

Anyway… I’ve said enough. Read what Joel Achenbach has to say…

And – Happy Valentine’s Day!

NASA “gets” Global Climate Change

IMG_3495Of all the US organizations and institutions, I think NASA is one of the few that gets Global Climate Change correct. Their website Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet is a wonderful, media-rich website.

First of all, the people at NASA call it Global Climate Change (like the rest of the world) and not Global Warming. Americans seem to have attached themselves to this simplistic notion that it’s all about warming. Yes, Earth is warming as a whole, but it’s the climate changes that occur as a result of that warming that we need also to focus on such as flooding, drought, the increase in storm frequency and severity, etc. Furthermore, if they were to look beyond the averages, they would realize that amongst the warming, some places experience slight cooling.

Secondly, NASA leads with the global perspective – difficult to find in U.S. media. On the Images of Change page, for example, the lead visual is flooding in Mozambique from January 2015, followed by urban growth in Egypt. Imagine, leading with Sub-Saharan Africa; quite atypical of western media in general. And, the fact that the floods are topical and were so poorly covered by western media, despite almost 100 deaths, only goes to strengthen the significance of the NASA site. Keep up the great work, NASA!

For more information on Global climate Change, visit GeoKnow.net > Anthroposphere > Issues > Climate Change.

7:16am – It’s a Snow Day here in southern Ontario – more time to get out for a ski and explore Geography online!