Monday, October 21, 2013

Climate news from campuses on the campaign trail

I concluded Shutdown and science from campuses on the campaign trail and Daily Kos with a note to myself and my readers.
That reminds me.  I have climate news to post.  Stay tuned.
It only took me a week but here it is.

First, from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 Nobel Prizes) comes this alarming news from Rutgers University.

New Finding Shows Climate Change Can Happen in a Geological Instant.
What happened 55 million years ago is happening today, geologists say
by Ken Branson
Sunday, October 6, 2013
“Rapid” and “instantaneous” are words geologists don’t use very often. But Rutgers geologists use these exact terms to describe a climate shift that occurred 55 million years ago.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Morgan Schaller and James Wright contend that following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years.

Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years.

Wright, a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences and Schaller, a research associate, say the finding is significant in considering modern-day climate change.
I guess that means that the rate of climate change isn't setting records; it's only tying them.  Just the same, this kind of catastrophic flipping of the switch resulted in an extinction event then and it's likely to cause one in the near future.

Follow over the jump for more stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.

University of Massachusetts, Lowell: Prof Contributes to International Climate Change Report
Findings Blame Humans for Global Warming
By Edwin L. Aguirre
An expert on climate variability and change, Assoc. Prof. Mathew Barlow is among the nearly 260 researchers worldwide who contributed to the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Barlow of the Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences contributed to Chapter 14 of the report, entitled “Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change.”

“My part was to provide input into a specific geographic region — the Middle East/West Asia — using my experience in looking at historical climate variability in that region to assess and provide context for the climate model projections,” he explains.

Based on all available data and the consensus of the experts involved, warming is very likely to continue in the region, and it appears that the dry areas will become drier, although there is less confidence in the latter, he says.
This looks similar to what NASA predicts will happen to North America this century.

Two stories from Louisiana don't make predictions, but explain how to mitigate the effects of climate change through government policy.

The Advocate: Researchers studying coastal land values to aid preservation efforts
Researchers aiding preservation efforts
October 11, 2013
It’s no surprise that some coastal wetlands are more valuable than others, but the question several researchers at LSU are trying to answer is how much more valuable.

Walter Keithly, associate professor and Richard Kazmierczak, professor with the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy, are surveying coastal landowners to see how they use their properties and what income they generate from it whether it’s duck hunting leases or alligator trapping.

“Private individuals will generally only value the land based on market values,” Kazmierczak said.

Keithly said generally two types of value can be attributed to wetlands — their value to society either through hurricane protection or as a fishery nursery and the private value that accounts for the income generated from these wetlands.
University of Louisiana, Lafayette: State taps NIMSAT for storm, disaster management project
October 4, 2013
University of Louisiana at Lafayette researchers are developing a way to streamline information sharing related to hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks, chemical spills and other large-scale disasters.

“The Louisiana All-Hazard Information Portal will improve data collection efforts to enhance the State of Louisiana’s ability to quantify and communicate all-hazard risk.  No such platform currently exists. The quantification of risk will enable disaster management officials to better understand the risks that various communities face, and also to educate the general public and businesses in an effort to enhance the community’s all-hazards disaster resiliency and community sustainability,” said Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, interim vice president for Research at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The issue, which gained international attention during Hurricane Katrina, persists for one reason, Kolluru said: “Every agency speaks a different language, uses different terminology, and has different plans. It causes confusion and ineffectiveness.”
What about convincing people about the danger?  The Nashua Telegraph via University of Massachusetts, Lowell, doesn't answer that directly, but instead asks If Subways Can Sell iPhones, Why Can’t They Sell Science?
By David Brooks
Willie Sutton famously said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. David Lustick, of Nashua, has adopted a similar philosophy for getting the public to think about science, and particularly about climate change.

“Instead of expecting people to go to the museum, why not bring the learning opportunity to where the people are,” said Lustick, a professor of mathematics and science education in the graduate school of education at UMass-Lowell.

In this case, the people are riding the red and orange lines of the MBTA – roughly half a million people each weekday. They are the initial focus of, a collaboration led by UMass Lowell and Lustick.

“We’re looking at it as an extension of the Boston Museum of Science, as a science exhibit that’s outside the walls of the museum,” said Lustick.
Finally, what about the ethics of geoengineering?

University of Alabama, Birmingham: UAB professor leading the charge in ethical conversations
By Marie Sutton
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
David Morrow, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham assistant professor of philosophy, is among only a handful of experts leading the national conversation about the ethics of geoengineering, the large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system to counteract climate change.

Morrow has made it his mission to inform people designing relevant institutions that any decisions regarding geoengineering should reflect ethical consideration. He recently co-wrote an opinion paper titled “Research Ethics and Geoengineering,” which appeared in the “Geoengineering Our Climate? Working Paper and Opinion Article Series.” It is part of one of the first series of papers dedicated to exploring the ethics, politics and governance of this provocative new issue. In it, Morrow and his colleagues addressed three principles they feel must be considered when making plans for field studies related to this area: respect, justice and minimization.
Should there ever be a Greenfinger interested in hacking the planet,  I suggest he read this book.


  1. That's some craaaazzzzzy stuff Pinku-Sensei. I'm hoping that really was a comet full of CO2 and not the Arctic Ocean going pop pop fizz fizz from trapped CH4 (methane) being released a-la Guy McPhearson and Near Term Human Extinction due to a sudden loss of a polar ice cap. Because if that’s the case from one Dodo Bird to another we're in deep do-do and Guy is right.

    But I'm not one to jump to conclusions here. I'm just sayin,

    1. You're on to something. I'm trained as a paleontologist, and one of my favorite classes in grad school was a seminar on mass extinctions. Both the Paleocene-Eocene event and today look way too familiar. A comet would take us off the hook in some ways, but the effects of increasing CO2 and CH4 would look the same no matter what the cause.