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Posts Tagged ‘global warming

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust”*…

 

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More than 40 percent of the global population, more than 2 billion people, have a dust problem. Not “dust” meaning the grey puffs under the couch, but the dust of the Dust Bowl: microscopic soil particles, less than 0.05 millimeters across, so small that they get hoisted up into the wind and end up in people’s lungs.

We know that large amounts of dust are linked to premature death. However, climate change is expected to make the problem much worse in the next century, and scientists still don’t know how much. In the next century, the lethal range of dust is expected to proliferate. Between now and 2050, the many as 4 billion people, half the world’s population, are expected to live in drylands. It’s not because people are migrating there. Drylands are growing because of (you guessed it) climate change

Dust is known to cause premature deaths, but climate change’s effect on how bad our dust problems will get remains notoriously understudied: “A global Dust Bowl is coming.”

* T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

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As we do our best to go green, we might send grateful birthday greetings to Arthur Hinton “Art” Rosenfeld; he was born on this date in 1926.  A physicist at U.C Berkeley, he was moved by the oil embargo of 1973 to turn his attention to energy conservation, founding and leading the Center for Building Science at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  Over the next 37 years he developed new standards which helped improve energy efficiency in California and subsequently worldwide.  His work helped lead to such breakthroughs as low-energy electric lights, such as compact fluorescent lamps, low-energy refrigerators, and windows that trap heat.  In his fight against global warming, he saved Americans billions of dollars in electricity bills– and earned the nickname, “godfather of energy efficiency.”

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Rosenfeld receiving the 2011 Medal for Technology and Innovation from President Obama

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Written by LW

June 22, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The ice caps are melting, Leonard. In the future, swimming won’t be optional”*…

 

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* “Sheldon,” The Big Bang Theory

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As we turn up the air conditioner, we might spare a thought for Sir Karl Raimund Popper; he died on this date in 1994.  One of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, Popper is best known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favor of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments. (Or more simply put, whereas classical inductive approaches considered hypotheses false until proven true, Popper reversed the logic: conclusions drawn from an empirical finding are true until proven false.)

Popper was also a powerful critic of historicism in political thought, and (in books like The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism) an enemy of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

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Written by LW

September 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

Cold, Cold, Cold…

 

xkcd‘s wise Randall Munroe on the tricks that memory can play… and the havoc they can wreak on rational discussion of climate change…

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As we tie strings around our fingers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1896 the the first speeding ticket was issued: to Walter Arnold in Peckham in Kent. He was caught doing 8 mph in a 2 mph zone, and was fined one shilling.

The first traffic ticket in the U.S. was issued three years later, to a New York City taxi driver caught doing 12 mph down Lexington Avenue.

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Written by LW

January 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

Lest we doubt…

While some things stay (surprisingly, gratifyingly, depressingly) the same, there are some things– many things– that really are materially different, both in kind and in degree, from times past.

By way of demonstration, the folks at Globaia have compiled a collection of charts that is stunning (in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word).

to enlarge, click on the image above, or here, and again 

And as to the infrastructure that’s abetted all of this change, see Globaia’s Map of Global Transportation Systems.

[TotH to Curiosity Counts]

 

As we ponder the implications of so many hockey sticks all in a row, we might recall that Samuel Clemens’– Mark Twain’s– route to writing was round-about: In 1861, Clemens’ brother Orion became secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada; the national-treasure-to-be, having worked as a printer in St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia, jumped at the offer to accompany his sibling West. Clemens spent his first year in Nevada prospecting for a gold or silver mine.  Out of money, he took a job as reporter for the Virginia City, Nevada, newspaper Territorial Enterprise; his articles on the booming frontier-mining town began to appear on this date in 1862.

Like many journalists of the day, Clemens adopted a pen name, signing his articles “Mark Twain,” a term from his old river boating days.

In 1864, he traveled farther West to cover the booming state of California, where he wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”– the Tall-Tale success of which catapulted Clemens out of the West to become a globe-trotting journalist.

In 1869, Clemens settled in Buffalo, New York, and later in Hartford, Connecticut.  Clemens had spent only about five years in the West, and the majority of his subsequent work focused on the Mississippi River country and the Northeast.  Still, his 1872 account of his western adventures, Roughing It, remains one of the most evocative eyewitness accounts of the frontier ever written.  And surely more importantly, even his non-western masterpieces like Tom Sawyer (1876) and Huckleberry Finn (1884), in their playful rejection of Eastern pretense and genteel literary conventions, reflect a frontier sensibility.

Mark Twain, honorary Westerner, by Mathew Brady (source)

Lower head, insert into sand…

 

Exhibit at the Creation Museum:  humans and dinosaurs existing together peacefully…

From Talking Points Memo:

[In a vote in Congress last week] thirty-one Republicans on the House Energy And Commerce Committee — the entire Republican contingent on the panel — declined on Tuesday to vote in support of the very idea that climate change exists.

Democrats on the panel had suggested three amendments that said climate change is a real thing, is caused by humans and has potentially dire consequences for the future. The amendments came on a Republican bill to block the EPA from offering regulations to mitigate the results of global climate shifts. The global scientific community is in near unanimous agreement that climate change is real, and that humans contribute to it…

One appreciates that the dialectic machinery of partisan politics was at work here; still…

Read the full report, including the “offending” language in the proposed amendments, here.

As we prepare for an(other) epic flood, we might recall that it was on this date in 1827 that Charles Darwin made his earliest scientific discovery, at age 18. He dissected some specimens of a barnacle-like marine organism, the polyzoan Flustra… Thus beginning what became a lifelong commitment to natural history.

Young Darwin (source)

Beware the Pink Armadillo!…

Blizzards across the U.S. (record snowfalls)… droughts in Russia (worst in a century) and China (likely the worst in 200 years)…  a one-two punch in the Antipodes: a century-worst decade of drought in Australia followed immediately by devastating floods

There’s no question that climate disruption (or “global warming” or whatever one wants to call it) is having real impact: disrupted transit and hammered retail sales in the U.S. (and the U.K.) seem mere inconveniences in the face of drought-driven pressure on global food prices– pressure that’s aggravated the already painful problem of poverty around the world, and that’s surely contributed to the tensions roiling repressive/regressive regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere…  all, scientists suggest, just a taste of the broader and deeper impacts to come if humankind doesn’t heal its relationship with Nature.

And, of course, it is up to us humans.  Nature doesn’t care.  Nature is perfectly prepared to get on with a future sans people.  Memento Mori, Memento Natura…

Thankfully, there are artists to remind us– artists who were, as is so often the case, attuned to the threat even before the scientific establishment.  Consider, for example, Jinzo Ningen Kikaida (a 70s Japanese TV series in the tradition of the great Ishiro Honda), which fielded this crystalline allegory:

Mother Nature’s go-go boots are made for walking– walking all over you.

As we ask not what Copenhagen can do for us, but what we can do for Copenhagen, we might recall that it was on this date in 1611 that Johannes Fabricius discovered sunspots (now reputed to have some impact on global climate); he published his observation on June 13 of that year in  Narratio de Maculis in Sole Observatis et Apparente Earum cum Sole Conversione (“Narration on Spots Observed on the Sun and their Apparent Rotation with the Sun“).

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