World Penguin Day

April 25, 2018

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To understand what Republicans are trying to do to the Crown Jewels of US technological leadership, it helps to understand Lamar Smith, Chair of the House “Science” Committee.

The Intercept:

MUCH OF THE COUNTRY has been watching in horror as Donald Trump has made good on his promises to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency — delaying 30 regulations, severely limiting the information staffers can release, and installing Scott Pruitt as the agency’s administrator to destroy the agency from within. But even those keeping their eyes on the EPA may have missed a quieter attack on environmental protections now being launched in Congress.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is expected to hold a hearing on a bill to undermine health regulations that is based on a strategy cooked up by tobacco industry strategists more than two decades ago. At what Republicans on the committee have dubbed the “Making EPA Great Again” hearing, lawmakers are likely to discuss the Secret Science Reform Act, a bill that would limit the EPA to using only data that can be replicated or made available for “independent analysis.”

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The proposal may sound reasonable enough at first. But because health research often contains confidential personal information that is illegal to share, the bill would prevent the EPA from using many of the best scientific studies. It would also prohibit using studies of one-time events, such as the Gulf oil spill or the effect of a partial ban of chlorpyrifos on children, which fueled the EPA’s decision to eliminate all agricultural uses of the pesticide, because these events — and thus the studies of them — can’t be repeated. Although it is nominally about transparency, the bill leaves intact protections that allow industry to keep much of its own inner workings and skewed research secret from the public, while delegitimizing studies done by researchers with no vested interest in their outcome. Read the rest of this entry »

stemdeserts

Terms I’ve learned in last 24 hours.

Incel  – Incels are misogynists who are deeply suspicious and disparaging of women, whom they blame for denying them their right to sexual intercourse.

Now, STEM Desert.

US Dept. of Education:

The data show that 86 percent of high schools offered Algebra I, 84 percent offered Geometry, and 80 percent offered Algebra II. Advanced mathematics and Calculus were offered at fewer schools: 65 percent and 50 percent, respectively. For science courses, 86 percent of the nation’s high schools offered Biology and 73 percent offered Chemistry. However, just 60 percent of high schools offered Physics courses.

..approximately 5,000 high schools with high black and Latino enrollment (i.e. schools with more than 75 percent black and Latino student enrollment) offered mathematics and science courses at a lower rate than the overall population of all high schools.8 This difference is greatest with respect to advanced mathematics, Calculus, and Physics.

 

For better science communication, support Dark Snow Project.

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solarwind

If you saw my cat-scan of an anti-wind fake news release, here – you get it that the fossil industry will go to any lengths to hang on to it’s business for a few more fleeting years, even if it means killing our children’s hopes for a livable planet.

Sad thing is, they are investing in disinformation and lies that are further misinforming a lot of well meaning people, who are so far down the chain that they have no idea who is pulling their strings.
They are going down.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

Not that long ago, calls for a move to wind and solar power were widely perceived as impractical if not hippie-dippy silly. Some of that contempt lingers; my sense is that many politicians and some businesspeople still think of renewable energy as marginal, still imagine that real men burn stuff and serious people focus on good old-fashioned fossil fuels.

But the truth is nearly the opposite, certainly when it comes to electricity generation. Believers in the primacy of fossil fuels, coal in particular, are now technological dead-enders; they, not foolish leftists, are our modern Luddites. Unfortunately, they can still do a lot of damage.

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About the technology: As recently as 2010, it still consistently cost more to generate electricity from sun and wind than from fossil fuels. But that gap has already been eliminated, and this is just the beginning. Widespread use of renewable energy is still a new thing, which means that even without major technological breakthroughs we can expect to see big further cost reductions as industries move “down the learning curve” — that is, find better and cheaper ways to operate as they accumulate experience.

Recently David Roberts at Vox.com offered a very good example: wind turbines. Windmills have been around for more than a thousand years, and they’ve been used to generate electricity since the late 19th century. But making turbines really efficient requires making them very big and tall — tall enough to exploit the faster, steadier winds that blow at higher altitudes.

And that’s what businesses are learning to do, via a series of incremental improvements — better design, better materials, better locations (offshore is where it’s at). So what we’ll be seeing in a few years will be 850-foot turbines that totally outcompete fossil fuels on cost.

To paraphrase the science-fiction writer William Gibson, the renewable energy future is already pretty much here; it’s just not very evenly distributed.

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Earth Day has come and gone, and it’s time to kick off the 2018 Dark Snow Project Field season fund raiser.

The video highlights the ways researchers and communicators have used the Dark Snow effort as a platform to publish research in major journals, and create new climate awareness initiatives in the media.

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Scientists Marek Stibal and Jonathan Ryan both published significant research in 2017, shedding light on aspects of the increasing Greenland melt, and contribution to sea level rise.

goodellbookAlso in 2017, Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell, who flew with the Dark Snow team on a brain-boggling ride along the edge of the world’s fastest moving ice stream in 2013, published a landmark international best-selling book on the global impacts of sea level rise – The Water Will Come.

“I think about that trip to Greenland a lot.” says Goodell who described the trip, the team and the insights gained at length in the book, and explains in the video the expanded perspective  lasting impact of the Dark Snow experience.

Scientific American:

Algae growth as a result of climate change is making the Greenland ice sheet, a primary contributor to sea-level rise, melt faster, according to a new study.

Algae grows naturally on the ice sheet, but it thrives under a warmer climate. It makes the Greenland ice sheet, which is the second-largest ice sheet on Earth, less reflective of the sun, which means the ice absorbs more of the sun’s heat. This, in turn, drives more rapid melting, according to the paper published yesterday in Geophysical Research Letters.

stibalpaper2a

Researchers found that algae accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of total ice sheet melt each summer. That means algae plays a greater role in melting than previously believed, said Marek Stibal, a cryosphere ecologist at Charles University in the Czech Republic and one of the lead authors of the new study.

“As the climate warms, the area that the algae can grow in will expand, so they’ll colonize more of the ice sheet,” he said in a statement. “Additionally, the growing season will lengthen, so the contribution of algae to melting of the ice will probably increase over time.”

jonny

Jonathan Ryan in Dark Snow Science tent

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Had never heard this.

Good climate comms.