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  • johndmo 6:57 pm on January 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: climate change, curricula, , NCSE   

    Climate change in classrooms 

    In the last couple of days I’ve noticed articles (e.g. here, here and here) about and around the push being made to introduce climate change into curricula in elementary and middle schools.  And while I think it all well and good to introduce science into a classroom, it has to be done in a way that accomplishes more than simply picking a controversial subset of science and pushing it as was done with evolution and creationism 20 years ago.   

    I used to joke that science education at the elementary and middle school level was the reason that climate change is even a subject of controversy.  With 1/3 of students believing the gospel of AGW and 1/3 believing that dinosaurs walked the earth 6K years ago – you’d be certifiable if you believed that we are teaching anything vaguely resembling science any time before university.  I believe this in large part is because as a society we have never had the interest or capability to effectively teach science, technology, engineering and maths at any level before university. 

    And because we are so inept at teaching science we have to reduce instruction to a few cherry picked examples selected for reasons other than their value as examples of the way science is done and what science can do for society.  I’d postulate that if we had decent science instruction, we’d not be having any conversation whatsoever about climate change occurring.  It is always changing as that is what dynamic systems do.  That should be non-controversial.  It is a fact.

    Now certainly there are other questions around climate change that could be addressed and considered: effects assessed hypothetically, predictive models created, the feasibility of potential solutions and the ability of human behaviours and activities to impact global processes.  And perhaps they should be part of a curricula.  But without a firm grounding in science and tech and engineering and math we are left with the current situation – a politicized, toxic national debate among people completely incompetent to deal with the subject.  For evidence, just peruse the comment section of the LA Times link above.   A more chilling example of the Dunning-Kruger effect will not often be encountered.  It would be amusing if it did not highlight a national tragedy – the lack of a science literate populace.  

    So I’m all for science in the classroom – but first we have to begin fundamentally educating our future teachers so they can educate future generations of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.  And then we won’t be just having these inane conversations but actually dealing economically, socially, politically and effectively with challenges presented by mankind’s capacity to impact the biosphere.

  • johndmo 8:44 pm on October 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , climate change, , GHGs, records, termperature   

    BEST look at temperature records to date 

    In an attempt to develop into an honest broker of information about the planet’s climate, the Berkeley Earth project’s first effort is to study all the existing temperature records and current recording stations to develop a data repository and information resource for scientists, policy makers and the public.  The project hopes to resolve current criticism of the former temperature analyses by making available an open record and enable rapid response to further criticism and suggestions.   The first reports from the project are now available online at:  Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature.


    The most important indicator of global warming, by far, is the land and sea surface temperature record. This has been criticized in several ways, including the choice of stations and the methods for correcting systematic errors. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study sets out to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record in a rigorous manner that addresses this criticism. We are using over 39,000 unique stations, which is more than five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies.



    The project has released for public review the 4 documents of their methods, analyses and results that have been submitted for review.  The links to the papers:

    1. Berkeley Earth Temperature Averaging Process
    2. Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average
    3. Earth Atmospheric Land Surface Temperature and Station Quality in the United States
    4. Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures

    For the better part of the last 40 years, scientist have invested a considerable amount of time, energy and effort into measuring atmospheric impacts and developing models of the planet’s climate response to anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4,  No2, chlorofluorocarbons) and aerosols and dust and particulate matter.  As a result of these studies, research and modeling a significant number climate scientists, physicists, biologists have evaluated the evidence and simulations and have warned that a warming planet is likely dangerous and potentially catastrophic.  Anyone reading this blog is well enough versed in the policies, predictions and prescriptions to accept that climate change is a major concern of citizens, NGOs, think tanks and governments around the globe.

    And, of course, there is a substantial and growing number of individuals and groups that are more concerned with the economic consequences of doing much of anything relative to reducing use of products, services or processes that add GHGs to the atmosphere or instituting controls to clean or scrub emissions before release.  In the past where an industry (e.g. tobacco or nuclear) or individual company (e.g. Union Carbide) has run afoul of public opinion it might have been lonely defender of its practices or products.  In the case of the globe’s climate, there is a significant number of people rightly concerned that any plans or policies that significantly increase the cost of energy overall is problematic.  Assuredly more expensive energy will lead directly to increased consumer costs, higher operating costs for business, more expensive  delivery of materials and products and could ultimately lead to domestic companies moving their operations and jobs offshore.   

    As a former scientist, I have to applaud the BEST site, the studies authors and collaborators for a fine job of creating a resource that meets the needs of the science community, policy makers and general public.  And extend thanks to Novim group that is funding the project.  It is a first-rate effort and will prove to be a valuable resource as we continue to research, publish and influence policies that matter to us all.

  • johndmo 7:54 pm on October 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: climate change, cocoa, coffee, drought, , rainfall, Starbucks, , West Africa   

    Chocolate and Coffee producers concerned with climate change 

    Starbucks Director of Sustainability, Jim Hanna, is briefing the US Congress on growing threat to coffee production from climate change.  This concern comes coincident with an analysis of issues cocoa growers face with climate changes as reported recently (September, 2011) by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT):  Africa’s Chocolate Meltdown.  Just a 2 degree increase will leave many of the growing areas of west Africa unsuitable for cultivation.  Coffee growers are anticipating similar deleterious effects from changing climate – temperature increase effecting growing seasons,  storm activity, expanding pest infestations and dropping crop yields. 

    From:  decision-making-solutions.com

    There are significant planetary consequences to climate change and they are catalogued routinely – retreating glaciers, rising sea level, flooding, droughts, temperature increases and their consequences on humans:  property damage,  economic impacts of mitigation,  agricultural failures, rising energy costs and population displacements.  Environmental and human factors combine and interact in perverse ways which creates further uncertainty, greater risks and unintended consequences. 

    The one thing that is not uncertain is that man will adapt to these changes.   And it is this ability to respond to environmental changes that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.  For the last 2.5 million years humans have adapted to their environment*.  For the last 100,000 years humans have created systems and solutions to overcome environmental challenges.  For the last 1,000 years man has had the ability to not only adapt to changes and control their habitats but to produce changes that have planetary consequences.

    It is this ability to react to change or to ignore environmental impediments through invention or behavioral adaptation that often creates circumstances worse than the impacts brought about by the changing environment.  Our ingenuity and problem solving abilities are our greatest talent, the source of our success as a species and represent the greatest risk to the planet!  

    Our very human behavior of trying to make sense of highly complex situations is to reduce them to almost absurd simplicity.  And our response to changes in our environment can be worse than the change we’re trying to mitigate.  We’re now at the point of our evolution where our actions lead to planet scale consequences.   There is no doubt that western African nations will continue to cultivate cocoa.  The demand for chocolate is already great and the emergence of expanding economies and middle class in China and India are driving demand far faster than producers can cultivate. 

    So the response will be to expand production and organize collectives and co-ops to stimulate production further.  But this will undoubtedly require moving production to relatively pristine areas of rainforest and of course the degradation of another of these last great ecosystems.   A simple solution to a complex problem – just move a couple of kilometers and clearcut some forests down to grow coffee and cocoa so Starbucks can make mochaccinos. 

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that we need to use our ingenuity in ways that don’t expand or increase the degradation of the last few relatively pristine areas on earth:  whether it be African rainforests, Ross Ice Shelf or California deserts.  These nearly pristine remaining ecosystems should be considered more carefully – not just for their expedience or cheap exploitation.  They represent the last places on earth that can remind us how fantastic the planet was before our ability to solve immense problems vastly exceeded our ability to rationally consider the immense consequences of these actions.

    • 2.5 mya is generally accepted age of genus Homo and evidence of tool use.
  • johndmo 8:03 am on April 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , biodiversity, climate change, , , land, , toxic waste,   

    Happy Earth Day 

    There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.” John von Neumann

    Almanac of Environmental Trends – Pacific Research – Hayward – Apr 11

  • johndmo 5:36 pm on April 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , climate change, , , sea level, tourism   

    Pay Now, Pay Later: California 

    California must consider action on climate change not just in terms of cost, but also in terms of opportunities. If we give California’s population, businesses, and investors clear and consistent signals by properly offering initiatives and cultivating demand, investment and innovation in renewable technologies will follow.

    Californians will have to pay for the effects of climate change. The only remaining question is whether they will pay now, or pay later and run the risk of paying significantly more.

    Interesting report from an even more interesting site: http://americansecurityproject.org/resources/pnpl/California%20FINAL.pdf

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