By Sierra Rayne
Despite—actually, because of—the innumerable peer-reviewed studies and national academies that have affirmed his work, Prof. Michael Mann from Penn State University continues to be on the receiving end of the fossil fuel industry's wrath.
Penn State University professor Michael Mann.
In Canada, ground zero for the climate change debate is currently the prairie province of Saskatchewan. The province's premier is a public relations agent for the oil and gas industry, all the while fighting desperately to derail the federal government's proposed price on carbon.
So it wasn't surprising when a representative of the oil industry and board member of right-wing organizations such as The Fraser Institute, the C. D. Howe Institute and the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary authored a hit piece on Prof. Mann. What was unfortunate is that one of the major newspapers in the province, the Regina Leader-Post, published it.
Herb Pinder made so many erroneous claims that Prof. Mann was forced, yet again, to defend his scientific record in an elegantly scathing reply that the newspaper, whose opinion pages are largely a propaganda outlet for the fossil fuel industry and its many shills littering the region's political, academic and media scene, surely did not want to have to publish.
But there are a few remaining problems from Mr. Pinder's article that still need to be addressed.
Pinder makes the bizarre claim that the Earth is six billion years old. Actually, it is 4.5 billion years old, making for a 33 percent error in Pinder's "science." Sadly, some of the other claims in his op-ed have a much larger error. If you can't get the age of the Earth correct, then subsequent attacks on a leading climate scientist will inevitably fail.
Pinder questions how a compound such as carbon dioxide, which comprises a very small fraction of the atmosphere, can have such a disproportionate impact on the planet's climate. In fact, there is nothing either unscientific or even surprising about this fact.
There are a large number of compounds in each part of the Earth system, including and especially living organisms like us, that exert an impact well out of proportion to their concentrations. Poisons, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and on the list goes, clearly and collectively show one should never be fooled into thinking that just because a compound is present in very low concentrations that its effects on any system are negligible.
It is simple physics that explains why carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a large number of compounds are even far more efficient in terms of their global warming potential. This is undeniably "settled science."
Pinder also writes, citing the work of Ross McKitrick at the University of Guelph, that "there has been no statistically significant temperature change for the past 15-20 years." This is not accurate.
The major climate centers (e.g., NOAA, NASA, etc.) clearly show, using both parametric and non-parametric statistical approaches, that the warming trend over the last 15-20 years is highly significant. If the global heat wave in 2016 stays on-course, the rapidly increasing trend will become even more "statistically significant."
Even a cursory view of the global warming trend that has taken place over the last century reveals it is far more than "periodic spikes in the world's temperature as a result of a natural phenomenon called La Nina," as Pinder suggested. There are indeed periodic spikes, but these pale in comparison to the overall warming trend.
Saskatchewan's fossil fuel industry dominated economy has also fallen apart under Premier Brad Wall's "leadership." The province is running a massive deficit, its credit rating has been downgraded and it has one of the worst performing economies in the country. When Wall came to office in November 2007, the province's unemployment rate was nearly 2 percent below the national average. That gap has decreased to just 0.7 percent, making for the worst relative employment performance of any Saskatchewan premier in at least a quarter-century. Clearly hitching your wagon to climate change denying policies and industries isn't working out so well.
As Prof. Mann noted, we need to "get past the fake debate about whether the problem exists and on to the worthy debate about what to do about it." Despite the anti-science fantasies of some, there are real scientifically determinable boundaries in terms of our relationship with the Earth system and we are rapidly coming up against them. Inconvenient truths they may be, but truths nonetheless....
By Turning Green
Today, four passionate young leaders from the Bay Area-based non-profit Turning Green wrote and recorded a letter to fellow millennials, Malia and Sasha Obama. The purpose of the letter is to ask them to urge their dad, President Obama, to veto S. 764 (aka. the DARK Act) and protect the "Right to Know" of all Americans. These young leaders believe it to be one of the most important decisions of any president, as it will significantly impact their health and wellbeing and that of future generations.
The letter reads:
Dear Sasha and Malia,
My name is Ashley Ugarte. I am a student. A daughter. A sister. I care about my health, my future, the health of our environment, of all Americans. We know you and your family, care too. Your dad has been a bold leader these past 8 years. He's passed impressive health care reform, worked for equal rights, ended the war in Iraq. But right now, today, he could leave a legacy of keeping consumers in the DARK.
There's a bill on his desk, waiting to be signed, that compromises our basic right to make a choice. A choice for health. Senate Bill 764, the "GMO Labeling Bill", compromises our right to know what's in our food by protecting the multi-billion dollar corporations that are controlling our food system. Nine out of 10 Americans support transparent GMO labeling. Over 60 other countries have heavy restrictions (or bans) on GMO's
It's time for the country who fights for other people's democracy to recognize the rights of their own people. We want GMO ingredients to be clearly labeled. QR Codes? What about the hundreds of thousands of consumers without smartphones?
As a graduate. A friend. A sister. An American. I want true transparency. Real labeling. The right to choose. Please urge your dad to VETO the "GMO Labeling Bill." It's up to our generation to protect the future and the health of my family, my friends, myself, all Americans. In labels we trust and we hope you and your family, do too.
Tell your dad to VETO S. 764.
We're in this together.
Ashley Ugarte, Graduate, Rice University
Missy Martin, Junior, Belmont University
Megan Fuerst, Senior, The Ohio State University
Bailey Delacruz, Junior, The Ohio State University...
Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, finished its historic trip around the world, which started back in March 2015. The plane landed in Abu Dhabi early Tuesday.
André Borschberg (left) and Bertrand Piccard (right) celebrate after Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi, completing an historic trip around the world.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr
Solar Impulse traveled around the world, breaking the journey down into 17 legs, spending a total of 23 days in the air. The plane, powered by 17,000 solar cells, traveled 42,000 kilometers (about 26,100 miles) in a little more than a year. Its trip across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to Seville, Spain, alone took approximately 90 hours to complete, traveling at 140 km/h (about 87 mph). The plane's longest trip was from Japan to Hawaii, which lasted almost five days.
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg alternated piloting the solar-powered plane. On the ground, they were helped by a team of 30 engineers, 25 technicians and 22 navigation controllers.
After landing in Abu Dhabi, Piccard called the journey not only an achievement for the history of aviation, but a success for the history of energy. The pilots hope their journey promotes investment in clean energy.
"If we want a good quality of life today, we have to turn to clean technology and renewable energies," Piccard said.
"If governments had the courage to promote clean technologies on a massive scale, our society could simultaneously reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth."
Piccard and Borschberg never had a shortage of views during their trip. Solar Impulse 2 was subject to amazing views, clean energy innovations and some of the world's most challenging problems, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
It took 13 years to achieve Solar Impulse's historic journey, but now the group is moving on to other projects such as establishing the International Committee of Clean Technology (ICCT). Piccard and Borschberg created the ICCT to "continue the legacy Solar Impulse started, promoting concrete energy efficient solutions in order to solve many of the challenges facing society today."
Already 400 organizations have joined forces to help the ICCT achieve its goals. Notable patrons include H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Richard Branson and Kofi Annan, who have already dedicated their work to the environment and clean energy sources. Patrons will advise governments and corporations on how to use clean technology.
"The International Committee of Clean Technologies is a fantastic opportunity to bring together a group of experts, with diverse experiences and backgrounds, to speak in one voice and leverage the efforts needed to bring change and influence global decision makers in the areas of clean technologies and renewable energy," Borschberg said.
Solar Impulse successfully lands in Abu Dhabi with Bertrand Piccard at the controls.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr
On July 11, Borschberg also predicted the world will soon see solar drones in the stratosphere, inspired by Solar Impulse's achievements.
"Solar Impulse is of course very well positioned to contribute to the next generation of unmanned solar airplanes," he said. "When considering technological progress today, these unmanned aircrafts will be able to fly much higher than they can today, avoiding air traffic and bad weather. They will be able to fly in extremely low air density and remain in the air both day and night, essentially taking over the need for satellites in a cheaper and more sustainable way. Parallel to SpaceX and Blue Origin, they could be brought down from the stratosphere to perform repairs and upgrades."
Borschberg mentioned that Solar Impulse may take flight again in different parts of the world to spread its message about clean technology.
The Solar Impulse team in Abu Dhabi after a successful landing, ending an historic trip around the world.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr
But for now, the pilots can revel in their completion of an historic trip around the world.
'Wake up, humanity! Time is running out!'
On behalf of youth climate activists who secured an unprecedented court order directing the Washington State Department of Ecology to issue a rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the year, attorneys Andrea Rodgers and Julia Olson submitted comments asking the Department of Ecology to bring its proposed Clean Air Rule into compliance with the law and the court orders obtained in the case. As part of their comments, the youths presented the department with a blueprint on how to put Washington on a path towards climate stability.
Our Children's Trust
The youths' comments lay out how the Department of Ecology proposed Clean Air Rule would unlawfully allow dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring infringement of the rights of young people and future generations to a livable planet under the public trust doctrine, affirmed in our watershed Washington state court case. The best available science shows that to protect Earth's natural systems on which humankind depends, long-term average global surface heating must be limited to 1 C and atmospheric carbon dioxide must be returned to 350 parts per million (ppm).
Top climate scientists and policy experts who submitted declarations for the case supporting the youths' comments have found that to achieve 350 ppm, carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by at least eight percent annually, combined with additional carbon sequestration actions. Yet the Washington State Department of Ecology's proposed Clean Air Rule is designed to reduce the state of Washington's emissions by only one percent per year, falling far short of doing what is scientifically required for Washington to do its part to achieve climate stability.
"We cannot continue to base life and death policies on politics rather than science," Andrea Rodgers, attorney for the youths, said. "The science and the law overwhelmingly support stricter emission reductions than Ecology recommended in its proposed Clean Air Rule. This generation of policymakers is the only one that can ensure our children can grow to adulthood safely. They have the science and the power of the law behind them and we hope they will heed the call to protect the rights of young people."
The proposed Clean Air Rule regulates only a very small segment of greenhouse gas sources over a certain threshold (beginning at 100,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent starting in 2017 and leading to 70,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2035). With this structure, the department would authorize continued emission of greenhouse gases by all entities under those thresholds.
In addition, the proposed rule illegally delays compliance for several sectors and contradicts the Department of Ecology's own findings that urgent action is needed to draw down greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed rule's compliance threshold arbitrarily stops decreasing after 2035 and relies upon a flawed state greenhouse gas reporting program.
"Inslee's proposed rule would lock in unacceptable levels of pollution and catastrophic harm to the young people of Washington," Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel for Our Children's Trust, said. "By legalizing emissions at dangerous levels, this proposed rule places the public's survival at serious risk. Ecology is bound by law to 'preserve, protect and enhance the air quality for current and future generations.' We need courage and leadership right now, not half-baked plans."
This youth-led legal effort is one of several similar state, federal and international actions, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate....
By Ashley Palmer
Hot on the heels of the Maine State Aquarium's acquisition of a 110-year-old lobster named Larry, who was rescued from a restaurant in Florida, PETA sent a letter to the aquarium calling for the old-timer to be released back into the ocean that he had called home for more than a century.
iStock / Minoa
It wouldn't be the first time that the aquarium made such a decision. It previously returned a 27-pound lobster, Rocky, to the sea in 2012.
Lobsters, like dolphins and many other animals, use complicated signals to explore their surroundings and establish social relationships. They also take long-distance seasonal journeys, traversing 100 miles or more each year. Scientists have determined that lobsters, like all animals, can feel pain and when kept in tanks, they suffer from the stress associated with confinement....
Ferguson interviews entrepreneurs, innovators, thought leaders and individuals—including SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall and California Gov. Jerry Brown—working on the front lines of climate change and tells the stories of people working to change the world.
Time to Choose because climate change is the most important issue facing humanity and we urgently need broader understanding of how enormously we would all benefit from addressing it," Ferguson wrote on the film's website. "Fortunately it is a challenge that we hold in common, and the film shows that across the globe, in myriad ways, people are coming together to find and implement solutions.
"We're not too late, and our hope is that Time to Choose will help audiences see both the tragedy that is unfolding and the remarkable and innovative ways in which humanity is finding a better way forward."
The film contains footage and interviews spanning five continents. Ferguson and crew traveled to parts of the world where climate solutions and advocating for them is dangerous. The film also examines the interconnectivity of climate change and political corruption around the world.
"It's important for people to understand that the corruption, inequality and violence faced by many people the world over are tied to the pollution, waste and destruction that are fueling climate change," Ferguson wrote. "If we solve one, we help solve the other."
Ferguson says his biggest discovery while making the film is "the solutions to climate change are already here, waiting for us."
He hopes the film will inspire viewers to take action.
"There is simply no reason not to move into a new, sustainable world," Ferguson wrote. "I believe people are ready for that, and our hope is that
Time to Choose will help inspire audiences to be part of this new future."
Time to Choose is narrated by Oscar Isaac. Find a local showing near you or host your own screening.
Watch the trailer here:
It's common knowledge that tree rings provide insight to the Earth's history, but now they can also provide music.
Artist Bartholomaus Traubeck invented a record player that reads the texture and color variations of a cross section of a tree trunk and interprets them as music. Each tree has its own unique rings, and, therefore, its own unique song hidden inside, opening the door for a whole new music industry: tree music.
The music found in the tree trunks has a beautiful, almost classical air to it.
Watch Traubeck's video to listen to the eerie sound:...