Science Blogs

Syndicate content
ScienceBlogs posts about Environment
Updated: 8 years 12 weeks ago

"Witch hunt" against climate scientist blocked [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 03/07/2012 - 10:00am
Climate scientist Michael Mann's private e-mails and research notes will remain private, thanks to a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court. "Virginia's highest court has ruled that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli cannot compel the University of Virginia to turn over records dealing with the work of a former university climate scientist," reports the Roanoke Times (March 2, 2012). The Guardian (March 2, 2012) explains, "The court rejected Ken Cuccinelli's demand for Mann's email, research notes, and even handwritten memos from his time at the University of Virginia, ruling that the official did not have the legal authority to demand such records."

That's from the NCSE. Full report here.

Read the comments on this post...


The predictability of and variation in wind energy [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 03/06/2012 - 3:39pm

Wind power is like Ginger Rogers. You know what I mean. It isn't judged by the same standards as other kinds of electricity generation.
Interactive_Guide_to_wind_power_in_minnesota.jpg
Click here to visit an interactive guide to wind power in Minnesota.

I'm speaking specifically of the reliabilityof, or variation in, wind over time. Many people live in places where they personally experience highly variable wind, or at least, think they do, so it is easy to assume that wind generators would be sometimes running on full, sometimes standing still, in a more or less random and unpredictable way, but this is not necessarily true. There are regions where wind is much more consistent than people might imagine, though of course it is always somewhat variable. In fact, a bigger problem with wind may be not so much the variation, but the fact that in some regions it is out of sync with energy demands. In some temperate zones, wind may be weak during the day but stronger at night when electricity demands are low (but this can vary from region to region, and seasonally; there are places where winds tend to come up during the day and calm down at night)

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


The Antarctica Files: Invasive species [erv]

Tue, 03/06/2012 - 1:00pm

Posted on: January 11, 2011 12:00 PM, by ERV:Before were allowed to do ANYTHING on Antarctica, we had a lecture on what we could and could not do while we were visiting. Even though everyone was ecologically conscientious, there were tons of things we had to do that none of us would have thought of on our own. We had to vacuum our jackets/pants/hats/bags/etc, so we wouldnt accidentally introduce an invasive plant or other organism. We had to decon our boots before and after every outing, so we wouldnt contaminate an island then spread that contamination everywhere.Either everyone is not that careful, or our efforts are not good enough, because...
Continent-wide risk assessment for the establishment of nonindigenous species in AntarcticaOne of the very, very odd things about visiting Antarctica is that there were no terrestrial plants. There was nothing green. No grass, no plants, no trees. So, seeds from a plant from a cold climate, combined with global warming induced milder temperatures in Antarctica, combined with *zero* competition from local flora (cause their aint any), is a recipe for an invasive species disaster.


So this group of folks wanted to get a feel of how close we are to setting this powder keg off. From 2007 to 2008, scientists sampled the gear of everyone traveling to Antarctica for seeds/spores/etc. I think what they found is scientific support for the idea of people getting lazy when they do the same procedures over and over, because the tourists (who in my experience had traveled ALL OVER THE PLACE before making it to Antarctica) were at ~20% 'seed positive', with ~5 seeds per seed carrier.

The scientists, on the other hand, were a mess. ~50% of field scientists and ~40% of station scientists were 'seed positive', with 10-20 (but up to ~50!) seeds per carrier. And the tour operators are not much better, with ~50% 'seed positive' but only ~5 seeds per carrier.

The tourists are super neurotic about cleaning their gear, whereas the scientists and tour operators are like 'Meh, good enough'... when it is not.

Furthermore while a dropped acorn might have little chance of gaining a foothold in Antarctica, this group of scientists categorized seeds by their theoretical ability to thrive-- Seeds from plants in the Arctic or sub-Antarctic might have a shot in hell. Of the seeds they found, there were over three dozen different species from 'cold' climates. Cold in Antarctica? Who cares, its cold in the Arctic too-- those plants wont care.

The lesson is, everyone has to be constantly vigilant-- Antarctica, like the rest of the planet, is getting warmer. And, tourist spots and science stations are mostly in the milder regions of Antarctica, like the Antarctic Peninsula (where I visited). The scientists on this paper calculated the risk of an invasive species taking hold in various regions of Antarctica, and the Peninsula is one big red block of DANGER.

Scientists and visitors to the DANGER regions need to be beyond neurotic about avoiding contamination, and even being neurotic is super easy-- Most of the seeds were found in backpacks and shoes. Dont take a bag on-land (I never did) if you are a tourist, and wash/vacuum the hell out of every corner of your bag if you are a scientist that needs it. Use the ship provided shoes and properly decon them before/after every land trip if you are a tourist, and again, be super careful vacuuming and deconing your own shoes if you are a visiting/station scientist.

Its not that we cant go to Antarctica anymore without risking ruining it-- we just need to be even more careful.

Read the comments on this post...


Another Week of GW News, March 4, 2012 [A Few Things Ill Considered]

Mon, 03/05/2012 - 12:18pm

Logging the Onset of The Bottleneck Years
This weekly posting is brought to you courtesy of H. E. Taylor. Happy reading, I hope you enjoy this week's Global Warming news roundup

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


"30 Rock" Meets Icy Finger of Death [Dean's Corner]

Sat, 03/03/2012 - 10:14pm

This undersea video looks like science fiction showing an icy finger of death killing everything in its path, but is a stunning portrayal of freezing point depression - with narrative by the inimitable Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock" fame on NBC.

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


Heartland-1 ... NCSE-0 [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/29/2012 - 4:24pm

So, it turns out that Heartland was behind the Heartland leak after all.

The evidence seems to suggest that Heartland's Joe Bast wrote a memo, then he and/or Heartland-symp blogger Steven Mosher sent it secretly to Peter Gleick. Peter Gleick then obtained additional material from Heartland, which came to him at his request but all to easily to be explained as a mere oversight on the part of some administrative or secretarial staff. The only thing missing here is evidence that Bast or Mosher or someone suggested to Peter that he verify the memo by asking for related documents from Heartland. But that would be too easy.

Anyway, it now seems clear that the document, the allegedly faked internal strategy memo with the most damning text in it (but nothing really different from what is shown in other verified Heartland documents) was fed to Gleick, presumably in an effort to engineer his downfall as an incipient board member of the National Center for Science Education.

Brilliant. Heartland: 1 ... NCSE: 0

The evidence for this is the analysis just published by Shawn Otto. Shawn does not go quite as far as I do in suggesting the details of this conspiracy, but maybe he's just a nicer guy than I am. Shawn notes that Heartland did not expect the tables to be turned on them. I'm thinking they did, and that the outcome that occurred ... setting the NCSE back in their efforts to address climate science denialism ... is what they were looking for, and what they managed to engineer. Shawn Otto's analysis is here.


Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


Climate Science Denial at Carleton University: A Detailed Take-Down [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 2:10pm

A report detailing an audit of a course called "Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective" (ERTH 2402), taught at Carleton University, has been compiled by a team of concerned individuals and was released a few minutes ago. From the report:

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


Court To Hear CO2 Arguments [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 12:23pm

The EPA made what is called an "endangerment finding" a while back which asserts that it is appropriate to regulate the release of greenhouse gasses. This was challenged in court by science deinialists and energy interests via "the state of Virginia, the industry front-group Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Tea Party-industry front Southeastern Legal Foundation."

Brad Johnson has a post outlining the situation here.

The endangerment finding is based on a large and internally consist ant corpus of scientific findings. The argument against the finding is in conflict with what we know from a scientific perspective, and is rather self serving for the interests involved.

Read the comments on this post...


Your help is needed: Climate Science Legal Defense Fund [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 7:00am

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund continues to receive donations and offers of help from various stakeholders. We are actively working with several organizations in order to make CSLDF a one-stop resource for scientists looking for legal resources and we are currently pursuing several educational and legal initiatives which will be made public in the future.

In the short-term, CSLDF would greatly appreciate your financial support to help Dr. Michael Mann. Funds are needed to:

1. Fend-off ATI's demand to take Dr. Mann's deposition, which is a blatant attempt to harass and intimidate him for exercising his constitutional rights by petitioning to intervene in the case.

2. Defeat ATI's attempt to obtain Dr. Mann's email correspondence through the civil discovery process, which essentially is an "end-run" around the scholarly research exemption under the Virginia FOIA law.

3. Prepare for summary judgment on the issue of the exempt status of his email correspondence under the Virginia FOIA law.

Donations can be sent to CSLDF online or by sending a check made out to PEER, with Climate Science LDF on the memo line to:

Climate Science Legal Defense Fund
c/o PEER
2000 P Street, NW #240
Washington, D.C. 20036

Through PEER, a private non-profit organization organized under Section 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue code, your contribution will be tax deductible.

Sincerely,

Climate Science Legal Defense Fund

Read the comments on this post...


Global Warming Mini-Horses? [Dean's Corner]

Thu, 02/23/2012 - 4:21pm

Can global warming (weirding) lead to smaller mammals?

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


Is the Heartland "Strategy Memo" a Fake? Let's try using science! [Greg Laden's Blog]

Thu, 02/23/2012 - 2:29pm

As you know, there is much discussion about whether or not a "strategy memo" leaked from the Heartland Institute is a fake. We are told by a trustworthy source that this policy memo was leaked to him, and that he then tricked the Heartland Institute to supply him with additional documents, which he then used to verify the "strategy memo" based on cross reference of factual information. Only after the apparent veracity of the memo was determined did that individual, Peter Gleick, release all of the documents to the public.

Subsequently, a number of untrustworthy sources, such as Heartland related people and the usual gaggle of Science Haters, have insisted that the original strategy memo is a fake. One set of evidence used to suggest this is that the memo was different from the other documents in several ways: It was a photocopy or a fax with different formatting, etc. This of course is evidence of nothing. There is nothing that requires that all of the documents associated with a particular institution, or even a particular event such as a board meeting at an institution, be created, formatted, and distributed with the same look, feel, and technology. It it obvious to me that if this is the case of Heartland getting caught red handed, they might then be grasping at straws.

However, we can use science to address this question further, and this is exactly what Shawn Otto has done. In a piece posted moments ago (here and soon to be at Huffington Post) Shawn carries out an analysis using a standard and widely respected software system to compare a sample of Gleick's writing, some samples from Heartland, and the "strategy memo." In this analysis, the memo is entered as an unknown, and the software shows the difference between that unknown document and the known document. Read Shawn's analysis to see the details; the conclusion is that the strategy memo was more likely written in house at Heartland than by Peter Gleick.

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...


"Faked" Heartland Institute Doc is Authentic [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/22/2012 - 8:45pm

You know about the Heartland Strategy memo. It is one of several documents produced and used internally by the Heartland Institute, a minor Libertarian "Think" Tank, demonstrating some rather unsavory activities, which are now under preliminary investigation by the US Congress. The memo contains little that is not found in other documents already admitted by Heartland to be genuine but there are a few details added and a much finer point is put on such nefarious programs as intruding into the public school system to trick teachers into "not teaching science" in science classes.

This memo is so embarrassing that Heartland has been insisting that it is fake, but a new evaluation of the document demonstrates that it is not.

Brendan DeMille and Richard Littlemore report a line by line study of the document. It is rather long and involved and is reported in its entirety here. They conclude that the "analysis demonstrates that the Climate Strategy Memo is an accurate executive summary of the information contained in budget and fundraising documents ..." and they see ".... no basis whatsoever for Heartland's assertion that the Climate Strategy memo is a 'fake" which contains "obvious and gross misstatements of fact.""

Read the comments on this post...


Heartland Institute Under Congressional Investigation [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/22/2012 - 4:06pm

The Heartland Institute, a smallish Libertarian "Think" Tank recently made famous by the leak of a rather embarrassing set of incriminating documents, is now slated for investigation by the Congress of the United States.

The chair and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Raul Grijavla, has initiated an investigation of Indur Goklany, an administrator at the Science and Technology Policy of the US Department of the Interior. It appears that Goklany was being paid by Heartland which raises a significant potential for conflict of interest.

The story broke at Think Progress.



Read the comments on this post...


Zombie Bill Reawakens in Oklahoma [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 02/21/2012 - 4:14pm
A bill in Oklahoma that would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution" and "global warming" is back from the dead. Entitled the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act," House Bill 1551 was introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State, and referred to the House Common Education Committee. It was rejected there on February 22, 2011, on a 7-9 vote. But, as The Oklahoman (February 23, 2011) reported, the vote was not final, since a sponsor "could ask the committee to bring it up again this session or next year." And indeed, on February 20, 2012, Gus Blackwell (R-District 61) resurrected the bill in the House Common Education Committee.

Here is the bill

Here is the whole write-up from the NCSE.

Read the comments on this post...


No sympathy for the devil [Pharyngula]

Tue, 02/21/2012 - 10:26am

I don't get it. First there was Climategate, in which hackers illegally broke into a server at the University of East Anglia and stole a pile of emails from climate researchers. The denialists seemed to be fine with that, and quote-mined the heck out of the documents to find damning statements, lying and claiming that they showed that the scientists faked their data (they did no such thing, of course). All the sturm and drang at that time was over the contents of the emails, not the illegal method of their acquisition.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank with an agenda of willful dishonesty, leaked, and leaked hard. Someone mailed a collection of internal documents to Peter Gleick, and Gleick responded by sending a request to Heartland under a fake name, and got additional copies that confirmed the accuracy of the documents. Was this wrong? It doesn't seem to be illegal, and I think it's an open question whether it was unethical — it would be unethical if Gleick lied and misrepresented the contents of those documents, as the denialists did with the East Anglia emails, as the Heartland Institute did with those emails.

And there's Peter Gleick beating himself up for exposing the Heartland Institute's mendacity. I really don't get that. He's a scientist. Scientists gather data to make informed decisions. Gleick got the data the Heartland Institute tried to hide. You can't on one hand condemn Gleick for asking for the information and getting it handed to him, while praising hackers for breaking into a server and illegally taking data.

And then Mann, Trenberth, Bradley, Overpeck, Santer, Schmidt, and Karoly write the most naïve letter ever, pointing out the hypocrisy of the denialists while deploring the acquisition of the documents, and saying this:

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to "think about what has happened" and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

Really, people? Seriously? This is what the Heartland Institute wants, the poisoning of the debate and the undermining of public understanding. They probably read that letter and said, "Yay! It's working!"

How about if we focus on the content of the leaked documents instead? They do reveal a deep truth: that the Heartland Institute is a propaganda organization with great support from right-wing political organizations and individuals, and that their mission is to parcel out money to disinformation agents like Anthony Watts and Fred Singer, who sow unfounded doubt and confusion about real science. And they plan to poison American education.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain- two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

No matter how it was obtained, the Heartland Institute has confirmed that it stupidly mailed out internal documents. The denialists are trying desperately to claim that one of the documents is fake, which just affirms that all the others are accurate.

That ought to be the central story here.

(via Greg Laden)

(Also on FtB)

Read the comments on this post...


Peter Gleick's alleged crime [Class M]

Tue, 02/21/2012 - 9:45am

Another day, another distraction from the real issue at hand. Yes, a hitherto respectable member of the climate science community, MacArthur fellow, and all-round good guy has admitted appropriating someone's identity to obtain private records of a climate-denial think tank. Was this wrong? Yes, although no more so than was the ostensible betrayal of trust on the part of a long list of whistleblowers. Daniel Ellsberg comes to mind. And he is now remembered as "an icon of truth-telling."

As much as I hate to admit it, the most cogent commentary on the matter so far arrived in the form of a tweet, from Naomi Klein:

And what about the fact the Heartland Institute impersonates a scientific organization every day?

Does this matter have anything at all to do with the science of our changing climate? No. And I can't think of any else of use I can contribute to the discussion. Plenty of others have more thoughtful things to say. Greg Laden is a good place to start.

Read the comments on this post...


The Heartland Science Denial Documents and the Future of the Planet [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 02/21/2012 - 9:06am

The best available evidence now suggests that the most damning of the "Heartland Documents" -- the strategy memo which explicitly states that Heartland's strategy is to interfere with good science education in order to advance their political agenda -- is legitimate. The legitimacy of the document was being questioned because it was physically and stylistically different from the other documents with which it was released. We now know that the strategy memo was sent to climate scientist Peter Gleick and that Peter then took steps to acquire corraborating documents from Heartland (see "The Origin of the Heartland Documents.") The "one of these things is not like the others" defense is now obviated.

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...