A few months ago, I posted a piece, based on interviews with leading permafrost experts, that pushed back, hard, on the “we’re all gonna die and there’s nothing we can do” catastrophism around the so-called “methane bomb” in the arctic. (I’ll repost that one below if you have not seen it)

That’s not to say that we don’t have a problem. When people tell me that the world is about to end, my response is that we’re not getting off that easy.
Above, more from the same researchers, looking at a little more fine grained data from the permafrost – and observations of a phenomenon that is coming into sharper focus.
As the planet warms, permafrost is softening, causing microbes to awaken and begin feeding on the organic matter therein – releasing more CO2 and methane. Good enough – but a lot of folks don’t understand that THAT process alone is not a world breaker – in fact, as more vegetation springs from softened permafrost, photosynthesis is kicking in – carbon is being stored, and in some models, actually sequestering more carbon.

The more pressing issue coming into focus is that the permafrost does not melt uniformly, and tends to collapse here and there into thousands, maybe millions, of lakes – that break through the surface “active layer” of the permafrost, and into the reservoir of more deeply stored carbon.
These lakes are hot-spots of carbon and methane release, and could add substantially to the total output in coming centuries.
It’s not the sudden catastrophic impact of disaster movies, but, as one of the experts, Katey Walter Anthony, told me, “..it’s a strong headwind.”

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Jeffrey Ellebogen is in a very small club of well prepared experts who know the global scientific literature on the health effects, or lack thereof, of wind power.

Formerly an Assistant Professor in Neurology at Harvard, and director of the Sleep Lab at Mass General Hospital, Ellenbogen was lead author of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health study on the issue, in 2012. He continues his research at John Hopkins University today.

Dr. Ellenbogen was recorded last month in Saginaw, MI.

Gavin Schmidt on Twitter – via ThreadReaderApp:

A thread on the iniquity, chance and contingent nature of having a ‘voice’ in the climate debate.

“To those that have shall be given” is a paraphrase of Mathew 13:12 where it refers to knowledge. But it is an apt description of the attention economy too.

People in the public eye, or who already have ‘voices’, are overwhelmingly the favorite ppl to be asked to do new things, be part of new projects, and if these are successful, have their profile even more elevated.

This is, of course, tremendously unfair to the voices that have new or untold stories to tell.

But there was a time when all of these voices were unknown to the wider public. How did that change? Why were these voices ‘plucked’ from obscurity? Were they born with a silver microphone in their lapels?

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” (Twelfth night). 

The same is true for a public voice.
Ironically, the credit for that line is given to Malvolio, even though it was nominally written by Maria whose letter Malvolio is reading. (There’s a lesson there…)

Where did I get my ‘voice’ for instance? (such that it is). I’d always been someone who liked to explain things to classmates, and I took a broad view of the subject (I’m a lumper, not a splitter), but I didn’t have any special access.

My first (brief) interview was with @RadioCanadaInfo who were covering a local climate conference. I’d given a talk on Cretaceous climate. Afterwards they explained how interested their listeners were in dinosaurs. 

Here is the interview in full:

[RC] what was the climate of the cretaceous like? 

[me] it was hot.

[RC] how hot?

[me] very hot!

[RC] merci!

Out of such trifles are reputations in public speaking made. 😉

In the late 1990s, some of my science got a little press attention – nothing massive. 

In 2001, I was driven to writing letters to the editor to correct egregious nonsense.
(At this point I was still naively expecting to be thanked for my efforts.) 

[narrator: he was not]
I started to meet & learn from an older generation of spokespeople – Jim Hansen, Steve Schneider, and develop relationships with journalists. 
But my frustration with the ‘public discourse’ about climate grew. The talking heads were the Jon Snow’s of climate – they knew nothing.
But folks that did have expertise didn’t have any direct lines to the newsrooms and there weren’t enough of them anyway.

What could be done?
At a scientist/journalist workshop in 2003(?) organized by Bud Ward, I realized that many others shared my frustration and a sense that something needed to change. But practical ideas were thin on the ground.

Then came the Day After Tomorrow – a singular film that is simultaneously the worst and the best film to ever have a paleo-climatologist as the lead character. (Think about it).
It should have/could have been a massive teaching moment. Instead, we got this…

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For WindBaggers, Farmers are just the help.

All too often, the typical paranoid anti-wind NIMBY is a new comer to the community, someone who moved from somewhere else.
The 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation farmers who work the land are seen as just Groundskeepers, there to maintain an unchanging pastoral backdrop for for wealthier people’s lifestyles.

It’s time folks realized that family farms are the bedrock of our rural communities, stewards of the land, and the source of what we love about our small towns and countryside.


Imagine, if you can, a computer virus that cut the productivity of AppleGoogle, and Facebook in half. Or try to imagine Wall Street’s investment bankers seeing a season’s worth of deals washed away. Such calamities would dominate our nation’s news and drive swift political action. Yet that is precisely what America’s farmers face right now. And, as a country, we aren’t paying nearly enough attention.

Farmers are generally too proud and humble to speak out, but the truth is we are living through an extremely difficult period of market turmoil and natural disasters. Due largely to sustained low commodity prices, average farm income in 2017 was $43,000, while the median farm income for 2018 was negative $1,500. In 2018, Chapter 12 bankruptcies in the farm states across the Midwest that are responsible for nearly half of all sales of U.S farm products rose to the highest level in a decade.

And then the floods came to the Midwest. Farmers have been significantly delayed in their planting this year due to rain and soggy ground, and as the planting window closes, some will have to make a decision about whether to plant a crop this year at all. As of June 9, just 60% of America’s soybean acres had been planted in our highest-producing states, compared with nearly 90% typically planted by this time of year. And just 83% of the corn crop is in the ground in the most productive states, a number that should be pushing 100%.

These disasters would be catastrophic at the best of times. But the fact is the rural communities in which our farmers operate are also struggling because local businesses’ revenue and incomes are tied to farmers’ incomes and livelihoods. Farmers and rural families want the same things for their communities that we all do: access to quality education, health care, and technology, and strong local communities. There are challenges in these areas, as well. 

Roughly one in three rural Americans, and one in four farmers, are without broadband access, cutting them off from services like telemedicine and educational tools. Many parents have to drive to the local McDonald’s so their kids can get Internet access to finish homework. Rural America faces a shortage of doctors—more than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010—even as they endure the regular dangers of farm life and the rolling tragedy of an opioid crisis. “Three in four farmers and farm workers (74%) are or have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, either by knowing someone, having a family member addicted, having taken an illegal opioid or having dealt with addiction themselves,” according to a survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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Science Communication:

Kimmel on Climate: Disentangling the Emotional Ingredients of a Satirical Monologue – Abstract:

This study explored whether satire (an emotional blend of humor/indignation) can minimize the emotional tradeoffs researchers have documented for humorous appeals about climatechange. Using a sample of U.S. young adults, we conducted a 2 (humor: present/absent) × 2 (indignation: present/absent) + 1 (control) experiment in which we manipulated a climatechange segment from Jimmy Kimmel Live! Our evidence suggests that it is possible for a late-night host to affect young adults’ climate change risk perception and behavioral intentions under certain conditions. 

I loved seeing my friend Aradhna Tripati in the “I’m not fucking with you” vid – definitely a classic of this genre. (disaster education humor?)

Below, another friend, John Cook, was one of the young scientists I profiled in the latest Yale Climate Connections vid, on creative ways to communicate science. As a scientist/cartoonist, John has also used humor to get the point across.

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Washington Post:

Simultaneous heat waves scorched land areas all over the Northern Hemisphere last summer, killing hundreds and hospitalizing thousands while intensifying destructive and deadly wildfires.

study published this week in the journal Earth’s Future concludes that this heat wave epidemic “would not have occurred without human-induced climate change.”

The alarming part? There are signs record-setting heat waves are beginning anew this summer — signaling, perhaps, that these exceptional and widespread heat spells are now the norm.

In the past few days, blistering, abnormal heat has afflicted several parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including major population centers.

New Delhi, India’s capital, soared to 118.4 degrees (48 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperature ever recorded in June. Some parts of India have seen the mercury eclipse 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in recent days, not far off the country’s all-time high.

On the other side of the hemisphere, the temperature in San Francisco shot up to 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperatures ever recorded in the months of June, July or August, or this early in the calendar year.

Heat spread unusually far north, even up into the northern reaches of Scandinavia. Mika Rantanen, a meteorologist at the University of Helsinki, tweeted last Friday that there “are no known cases in Finland’s climate history when it has been hotter than now so early in the summer.” Temperatures above 86 degrees (30 Celsius) penetrated inside the Arctic Circle, he noted.

Yesterday’s news reported that at least one man was killed in a conflict over water in India this week.

Above, glacier experts Lonnie Thompson and Konrad Steffen note that a huge human population in Asia is dependent on major river runoff from the Himalayan Glaciers, which are declining due to climate warming.
Worth remembering that these societies have historically been at war with each other, are developing rapidly, and are nuclear armed.

The Independent:

A man has died during a fight over water in southern India as the country continues to be gripped by a 50C heatwave.

The 33 year old was allegedly beaten to death after confronting a man and his sons as they were reportedly drawing large amounts of water from a public tap in the city of Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu, police said on Friday.

Police named the victim as D Anand Babu, from the village of Vilar, near Thanjavur, The Times of India reports.

According to police, a 48-year-old man and his three sons were filling plastic barrels with water from a tap connected to a nearby tank on Wednesday when Mr Babu spotted them.

The victim is said to have got into an altercation with the group after asking whether they should be collecting such a high volume given the lack of water in the area.

He was taken to hospital but died the following day, The Times of India reported.

Scorching temperatures and water shortages have caused “heavy casualties, including dozens of deaths by sunstroke and other heat-related causes”, according to The Weather Channel.

Indian media said last Friday that 17 people had died in three weeks.