This Report Makes Me Sick to My Stomach

The foremost scientific experts on the ocean just released a disturbing study on how pollution, warming and acidification of our oceans is leading to mass extinctions of life. Unless we curve our crustacean appetites and polluting ways, all coral reefs, for example, are expected to be gone by 2050.

Here is the report:

The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth, supports us and maintains our world in a habitable condition. To maintain the goods and services it has provided to mankind for millenia demands change in how we view, manage, govern and use marine ecosystems. The scale of the stresses on the ocean means that deferring action will increase costs in the future leading to even greater losses of benefits.

Shudder. This saddens me in so many ways. As someone who grew up fishing with her dad in Florida, and eating a lot of seafood — which used to be good for you! — I am sad that my children might not experience the untouched beauty of fishing and eating what they caught.  

I am equally disturbed by the number of people who would rather believe polluters than the scientists who are warning us. Folks like these commenters at the Huffington Post:

“Write an article predicting doom because people are too materialistic and numbskulls fall over themselves to agree with it. nasty streak of misanthropy in many environmentalist I think.”
–UK Visitor

“In many cases the peer review is a sham because the scientists never let anyone outside of their Groupthink do an official review.”…–BrentW1

Right. You mean they don’t allow people without actual scientific credentials to conduct research? That’s probably a good thing!

Look, I am no scientist, but I am also not deaf and blind. My sister says that people around her now go “fishing for sport,” meaning that they throw back what they catch. They can’t eat the fish because the water contains too many chemicals like mercury, and even radiation. Yuck.

I also know that my pediatrician warned me against eating fish while I was pregnant because seafood today contains too much mercury. I don’t make it at home, and instead buy eggs and flaxseed breads that have the same omega 3 fatty acids benefits as fish.

Yes, there are days I choose to keep the blinders on when it comes to reports like the one above. I love seafood, and I don’t like to feel helpless, especially since this is going to take our collective efforts to tackle. But, I can no longer keep the blinders on, not when my children and the generations after them are affected. That is too big of a risk to take.

Please join me at Moms Clean Air Force. Together we can join scientists to put the pressure on companies dirtying our air and water.  


132 thoughts on “This Report Makes Me Sick to My Stomach

  1. I am repeatedly amazed

    at people who think science has an “agenda”.  I never remember hearing this idea when I was growing up.

  2. We went to the Great Barrier Reef three years ago

    and I was in awe and in misery. It is one of the most beautiful sights on this planet, and it is so fragile and so jeopardized. Apparently, if we keep on polluting the way we are, between excess nitrogen runoff from fertilizers and the continuing warming of the oceans, the GBR will be a boneyard in about 50 years.

    Hey, Nemo, sure was fun while it lasted, hey?

  3. makes my blood pressure rise…

    i simply can not understand why anyone would deny climate change.  i have a FB friend who regularly posts about how it is all a sham and NOT due to human activity. he’s a smart guy.  and he fights back hard when challenged.  it’s  astounding to me.

  4. I know I’m the exception here, but I just don’t

    buy into the doomsday hysteria anymore, and I think most people don’t. The end of life as we know it has been predicted “just around the corner” since the 1960s and we’re still all here.

    I’m old enough to have witnessed the first Earth Day when the “coming ice age” was about to wipe us all out. Then there was the “population bomb” of Paul Ehrlich fame (or infamy), Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, all the eugenic hysteria of Ashley Montague, next it was the killer asteroids, after that the earthquakes and volcanic activity ready to snuff us out at any moment, then “Y2K” — remember that farce when the digital age was supposed to end in a flash on 12/31/99? — an on and on and on.

    The sky has been falling since the days of the Romans, the end has been just decades away for millennia.

    Sorry, I just can’t get worked up with his stuff anymore. I spent my first 50 years of life fretting about about nonsense like this, the nuclear winter, proliferation, world famine, demonstrating against Viet Nam, nuclear plants, campaigning against pesticides, being “green”  — you name it. I’ll give you nearly 60 years of wisdom: it’s all bullshit, it doesn’t matter. The only cause that really did make a difference was civil rights. (That was worth fighting and dying for.)

    Just relax and worry about your family.

    • well, unlike

      some of the things you mention, climate change is a fact and some of  the effects are already being felt. You might feel differently about it if you lived on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean that was being submerged by rising sea waters. I agree that we don’t know exactly how/when things will affect us personally but I disagree that it’s in the same category as Y2K. And no one has ever accurately predicted an earthquake. Some doomsday scenarios are based on careful science, and some are really just guesses.

      • I suppose I’m just burnt. When you are pushing 60

        and have gone through an adulthood of all these endless “crises,” you will feel differently. I’m more worried about my Father and his Parkinson’s than if the ocean level rises an inch in the next 30 years.

        I don’t deny climate change is occurring but I really don’t know if humans are the cause and I don’t think ayone does. The planet has gone through climactic cycles for billions of years before man ever existed. We had the mediaeval warming period centuries before the Industrial Revolution.

        My hobby has been observational astronomy since I was a preteen. Our family personally knows an astronomer — whose name you would recognise in an instant as a discoverer of certain comets — he is a certifiable genius — and he privately tells us that climate change is impacted infinitely more forcefully by external events in the solar system than anything we pathetic humans can do here on the earth, but that if he publicly voiced those views, he would be ostracised, his personal and professional life destroyed. A sad commentary on the so-called “open minds” of science.

        • Well, yes and no

          You’re right, climate swings have happened forever and the Earth will get by. But no, climate science is quite unanimous that the changes are faster now than they ever were (as far as the record tells us) and it is are pretty certain (as certain as, naturally cautious scientists can ever be!) that humankind is causing that.

          But you know, and in that sense I agree that at some point you just have to stop worrying about the big things and take care of your family, the Earth will survive. The question is whether (or for how long) humankind can survive its huge impact on the Earth System – the rate at which we are (ab)using resources is stunning, as is the size of the total population.

          And one other no, I really don’t think scientists with credible arguments are ostracised for minority views – it is however demanded that any extraordinary claim is supported by extraordinary evidence. In my experience, that evidence is often lacking and the claimants have a great way of then acting victimized and getting lots of (fair and balanced) press for it. Your acquaintance can claim that he would be ostacised, but as long as he doesn’t go out and publish his views, with the accompanying evidence – open for peer review and discussion, the private claims he makes are just a ruse that reinforces the bad rap science gets in the press.

          • I was on the fence for awhile, but “climate

            gate” pushed me the other way. I mean, cooking the books? Really.

            I’m at a point in my life where I worried about he “big picture” for 40-50 years. Now I’m focussed on my elderly parents, DD2’s wedding — whenever they set the date now that it’s legal in NYS — woo hoo!, DD1’s wedding, my health issues, etc.

            I really can’t make the emotional investment in melting ice bergs liked I could 30 years ago.

            • Look Mercedess

              I like you I really do and I’m thrilled for your daughter and I’m concrened for your dad… BUT … (look out she’s got her Yankee up folks)

              but guess what – there are a BOAT LOAD Of us who’ve card for elderly parents, watched them die, gone through divorces and marriages and children getting married and children getting cancer and sons in law dying, and children with sever medical issues  — and you NAME IT and these women still find time to emotionally invest in  a host of issues so broad and vast it puts me to shame when i realize how uninvolved I really am.

              no on here has  the corner on real life issues and  if you don’t want to emotionally invest in it then don’t butplenty of us here have lived life long and full and hard and plenty of us come wit a host of family hurdles —  and there are a bunch of us here who can also throw out the prhase “30 years ago”  and not be talking about our toddler days.

              I”m sorry if that sounds harsh and maybe it is… but there are real scientists on this board that I respect… and the situation with the oceans scares this island born and bred girl to death…

              • I understand, it’s just I can’t

                get freaked out anymore at this point in my life. I honestly don’t trust the “science.” I’m a former “true believer,” I just can’t make the investment anymore in something I have doubts about, to do otherwise would be betraying my conscience. I have to be true to myself in the final analysis. Maybe I’m wrong. Time will tell.

              • Honestly…

                I know what she’s referring to here. And I’d like to take those scientists (and the ones that did the vaccine/autism study) and draw and quarter them myself. They did the field, themselves, science, and the rest of the world a HUGE disservice with their behaviour.

                But you get that. Scientists are just humans. Some of them suck.

                • my understanding is

                  the whole thing was Breitbarted and not actually very consequential. Certainly not enough to throw away the plentiful good science supporting findings of global climate change. For people who live by headlines it may have been convincing and that is a shame.

          • since you’re a scientist, SwissClogs

            I’ll ask — what field of science would study climate change? Astronomy doesn’t sound related to me, but I’m not science-y, so maybe it it’s more related than I would think.

            • I certainly don’t,

              but many earth scientists do: those whose study recent and geological (as in, longer ago) change in the oceans but looking at how rocks’chemical composition changes and how single-celled sea organisms respond(ed) to changes in the oceans. There are also biologists, meteorologists (not the weather forecasting type, but the “what causes weather-science” type), atmospheric physicists and chemists, etc. who work on this. There are also astronomical impacts (think sun-flares, etc), so surely some astronomers (focused on our solar system alone) do climate-related research.

              One problem is that it is an inherently interdisciplinary business (with physical, chemical and historical aspects), which means that is difficult for people to understand all that is being reported. That is also why the IPCC is so huge, and broad in scope. And honestly, part of what has me convinced, is that such a body has actually reached a consensus.

              • I had a great

                class in uni called “earth’s climactic history”. Fabulous. Taught by a geologist. I loved that class….I learned so much about solar cycles, ice cores, earth wobble….

                And yes…climate science isn’t a field in itself. It’s lots of fields put together. Which makes it fascinating….and terribly complex. And people from different fields love to argue with each other (but the ice shows this…but the rocks show this….but the temp scales show this….).

              • thank you

                that was a really good, clear, explanation of how complex the issues are, but also capturing the enormity of the consensus.

                • You’re welcome

                  I hope you read cereal lurking’s posts below as well, as she does a good job of explaining all that is involved as well as a brief rundown of the “scandal” around IPCC, which really in all investigations afterwards turned out to be poor communication, if anything, but no wrong-doing. That bit was hardly picked up by main stream media, unfortunately, leaving IPCC and (climate) science with a big unjustified bruise in their reputations.

                • That would be

                  an understatement…

                  this is the land where no one told any interloper where Salinger lived, and where the only way anyone would be impressed with Ken Burns is if he were elected selectman in Walpole… the land where meeting presdiential candidates is so ho hum you go out of your way to not meet them.

                  simply put. We don’t care who’s famous.  And we find people who fawn over the famous quite tiresome really…

                    • I’ve been to Manhattan

                      thank you.

                      I still fail to understand the fuss one makes over the famous…

                      and I do love it when people say of us up here “oh how neat you don’t care what other people think..”  

                      we are puzzled why anyone WOULD care what other people think.   So strange…

                    • I think it has a lot to do with New York being

                      the media capital of the world.

                    • eh

                      I don’t think that’s it.

                      I just think you people are wayyy to focused on what the rest of the world thinks of you.  I remember one time when I was working on Tom Harkin’s primary campaign back in 1992 a bunch of college volunteers from NYC came up to the campaign. no word of a lie the FIRST thing one of them asked me was “what do you people up here think of us?”  I said “I don’t even know you.”  he said “no.. US.. NEW YORKERS…”  I said “why should I think anything about you?”   His jaw dropped…he said “really?”  I said “why would I spend anytime thinking about people in New York…? that’s silly”  

                      I think I shattered his precious snowflake bubble…

                    • You may be right. New Yorkers tend to think

                      (and believe) that the known universe revolves around this island, we are “Capital of the World,” after all.

                    • But we are, don’t you know?

                      The UN is here, that makes us the Capitol of the World.

                      Trivia: Do you know who first coined that phrase? Bet no one gets it, and NO Googling! (I was there when it was first spoken.)

                    • …in their own minds

                      There’s a whole lot of culture created outside NYC.

                      I remember getting caught up in the Center of the Universe thinking when I lived there. It’s self-perpetuating, but not really true.

                    • I have this one friend

                      from college who lives in NYC (well I have a gazillion friends in NYC but i’m just talking about this one in particuar)

                      he posted on FB one day after a business trip that he was glad to be “back from America” and home in NYC

                      I found that supremely arrogant.  

                    • Reminds me of

                      Brits saying they’re going to Europe… yup, lots of them say that when they go to ‘the continent’. Sigh

                    • what, you’re saying

                      London really isn’t the capital of the universe!?! ;-P

                    • That, but what’s worse

                      to Brits, anyway: Britain is part of Europe! GASP!

                    • There’s a joke

                      about a headline in a British paper – “Fog in Channel, continent isolated”

                    • well we are

                      pretty cool…. 😉  who wouldn’t want to be a cranky yankee?

                    • maybe it’s living

                      in a land of celebrities and artists and musicians and rocket scientists but people around can be pretty meh about the famous, too. It’s not as though knowing one validates you, you know? 😉

            • True fact

              Some big name scientists are idiots. Seriously. And most scientists, even good ones, have the ability to talk out of their behinds, myself included.  I can’t imagine why I’d be impressed with the opinion of a famous astronomer on this particular issue. Especially when the data is so overwhelming.  But if I were weighing opinions I think I’d be more swayed by the opinion of someone who studies Earth, regardless of the name recognition. Name recognition does carry weight even in science, but it’s qualified and limited.  

              Believe in climate change or not Mercedes, your call. But I’m not convinced your age and your acquintance with famous people grants you special insight.  Cuz I’m 50, and I know Nobel laureates. :)  Yet i still prefer data.  The climate research I read in Science (the journal) scares the pants off me. Often the scary stuff is too small and obscure for the press to pick up on, like a change in a species nobody really cares about, but has big implications.

              • snort…

                We have a Nobel laureate in our immediate family. He’s a climate change skeptic. He’s also not in a field that has ANYTHING to do with climate science. So I happily get into arguments with him…but I don’t think he’s an expert on the subject. :)

              • But is the data so overwhelming?

                I honestly don’t know but I do know there are a lot of scientists out there who are sceptics. Maybe they’re wrong, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have ceased to react to every doomsday prediction made since the 1960s.

                What also concerns me is that a “consensus” agrees on human impact on climate change. I was taught science depended on verifiable and falsifiable experimentation that yields objective data. From the little I have read, climate research depends almost exclusively on complex computer models to predict future results. Garbage in, garbage out.

                The consensus of scientists during the time of Galileo agreed that the planets and sun revolved around the earth, but Galileo was able to demonstrate (eventually) that the Copernican heliocentric theory was, in fact, true.

                Does anyone really understand the millions of lines of code written into various computer models used to predict future conditions based upon the limited data we even have of the past?

                I’m not asking for any special dispensation because I knew a famous person. My point is that I respected his opinion very much. He was not only an astronomer but actually an astrogeologist; he died years ago.

                • Yes, the data is overwhelming

                  otherwise a huge and very diverse body like IPCC would never even have come close to a consensus. That, and the fact that the sceptics are geeting loads of (over)exposure in the main stream press are points I tried to make yesterday. And when I say overexposure, I mean that they are a tiny, tiny minority, being presented by the press as if they represent half the scientists – they don’t.

                • A few more points

                  * the models are tested constantly against data obtained from present and past records.* the modellers tend to understand the limitations of their models (hence all the caveats that get played in a major way by sceptics, the press, the oil/energy business, politicians, etc). A problem is that all the various subdisciplines are highly specialized, so few people, if anyone really understands everything.* you are perfectly correct that Gallileo proved convention wrong. It took him a long time to prove himself right, because that required extraordinary evidence, to back his extraordinary (at the time) hypothesis. He come up with it. The big problem is that climate sceptics (and I’m painting with a broad brush here) tend to have nothing, but their scepticisim, which is why they are not gaining much respect in the scientific community – sadly, in an effort to expose both sides of the debate (that isn’t much of one in the scientific literature), the sceptics get loads of unjusitified press coverage* I don’t doubt that your acquaintance was a well-respected scientist, but several people here have made the point that many eminent scientists venture opinions outside their own expertise (he may have known the sun acn have a big impact, but did he know all the other factors that have major, and perhaps bigger impact?). In fact, you will find that many climate sceptics, and scientist proponents of intelligent design or creation are in fact not in really relevant fields. At my own, christian uiniversity all biologists and earth scientists are evolutionists, the strongest pro-intelligent design voice is a mathematician – go figure.

                  And really, I understand that people tune ot at some point (I do so myself, at times), but to deny that climate change is caused by humankind, on the basis of main stream media coverage just doesn’t hold up anymore.

                  • I hear what you are saying and I love

                    exchanges like this. I have an open mind and will do the reading, but honestly, it’s not something at the top pf my “to-do list” right now.

                    The fellow we knew was fond of saying, “They can’t predict the goddam weather 2 weeks from today, how the f— can they know what will happen a hundred years from today?”

                    This was someone who was active in tracking near-earth asteroids and comets. He said we are more at risk from something hurtling toward us “out there” than from global warming.

                    I think in his mind he knew he could physically observe the orbit of certain comets and asteroids and with virtual mathematical certainty, based on celestial mechanics,  tell you that such-and-such comet will pass within 10,000 nautical miles of earth on this particular date. It’s not something you can say about climate change.

                    • sounds like he

                      was very opinionated but didn’t grasp the elementary concept that weather and climate are two different things.

                      And climate science is based on observed data, just as comet reckonings are. You act as though the idea of global warming is
                      pulled out of thin air (har har) and just being tossed around by attention-seeking scientists (and naysayers), when there’s quite a lot of empirical evidence for the phenomenon.

                    • I surmise — and this is only my supposition

                      based on very limited discussions — that Gene did not trust the computer models. When you predict a near-earth asteroid’s approach, you don’t need a computer, you use calculus (with a slide rule) and Sir Isaac Newton. You plot the orbit, the rate of acceleration and a bunch of other variables. In the end, you know with a great deal of certainty when that NEA will pass by the earth and how far away it will be.

                      He specialsed in the study of earth impacts from outer space. He loved studying craters on the earth and moon and their causes. He was a very “hard” scientist and maybe climate change and such was just too amorphous for him. Mind you, when in his company we discussed the mundane things of life: family, children, great places to hike and backpack, movies, music, the best restaurants, how to make dynamite guacamole, the perfect margarita, etc.

                    • seriously?!!

                      I’m so out of this discussion…but I can’t help but respond to this one. NEO prediction is heavily based on computer models. And it is FAR from exact. You get a calculation…the chance of it hitting is 1 in 250,000.  That calculation changes by the minute. Things like solar radiation and dust can have major consequences on whether it hits or misses. Near earth objects often have no regular trajectory, and can’t be confidently predicted. Have a look at Wikipedia, or if you’re brave enough to wade through the original paper, it’s here.  I think this extract from the abstract should give you an idea of the uncertainties involved:

                      Uncertainty in accelerations related to solar radiation
                      can cause between 82 and 4720 Earth-radii of trajectory change relative to the SDM by 2036. If an actionable hazard exists, alteration by 2–10%
                      of Apophis’ total absorption of solar radiation in 2018 could be sufficient to produce a six standard-deviation trajectory change by 2036 given
                      physical characterization; even a 0.5% change could produce a trajectory shift of one Earth-radius by 2036 for all possible spin-poles and likely
                      masses. Planetary ephemeris uncertainties are the next greatest source of systematic error, causing up to 23 Earth-radii of uncertainty. The SDM
                      Earth point-mass assumption introduces an additional 2.9 Earth-radii of prediction error by 2036. Unmodeled asteroid perturbations produce as
                      much as 2.3 Earth-radii of error.

                      Chaos theory says that climate science and asteroid prediction are both so complex that it’s hard for us to model them with accuracy. One tiny change can have devastating impacts. But the farther into the “certainty corridor” you travel, the harder it is to get out. In other words, there was a time when climate prediction was very very uncertain. But the farther down the added CO2 pathway we go, the narrower the corridor out becomes.

                    • I would guess

                      that he did most of his research work before computers were powerful enough to do the kind of modeling that’s done today.  Newfangled inventions. 😉

                    • Predictive models can be tested

                      after the fact.  If model A says the asteroid will pass X distance away, and model B says the asteroid will be a much greater Y distance, then after the asteroid passes you know which model was more accurate closer to the truth.

                      Models are only as good as their inputs.  And they’re just frameworks for thinking about the question.  Nobody makes one model; you make a bunch of “if A then B” predictions.  You weigh different things different ways in different models, then look to see which was best.  

                      Climate models make near term predictions.  The modelers know which of the older ones performed better for different outcomes.  Models are refined as data is collected.  It’s not static.  And having a model come out far off the mark isn’t bad science – it’s a test of the model.

                    • I know you are open

                      to input, which is why I came back and responded again. I appreciate that you will go and find more info (at some point, and that’s just fine), and that you don’t mind when people say you’re wrong.

                      And no, climate forecasting is not something we can do with much confidence, but we can say that recent changes (the last 100 years, or so) have been faster than at any time in the geological record, and these are not changes for the better.

                    • You are never too old to learn, something my

                      parents drilled into me. I am always open to being educated and I NEVER get offended when people say I’m wrong. A good side benefit of being an attorney: you never take disagreements personally, at least I don’t.

                • A little more on models

                  if anybody’s still paying attention to this thread…

                  I’m glad you bring up the concerns about science being about experimentation and hypotheses and the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ objection to modeling. That objection is pretty prevalent and indicates how hard it is to explain and to grasp what models will and won’t do.  It’s true that modeling doesn’t resemble the traditional scientific method. Part of making sure study results are valid is having each treatment replicated so that you can get an idea of how variable your results are and apply some statistics to see if your treatments are different from one another.

                  The problem is we have only one planet. A sample size of one.

                  So, replication is impossible, and we have no control treatment. We can’t use the traditional scientific method at even an ecosystem level, we definitely can’t replicate the planet. So to get an idea of what effects we might expect from climate change, we have to use the modeling approach. Models aren’t just someone writing code–well-known relationships for biological activity, heat transfer, etc. are incorporated into models.  Field data is used to develop or test models. Once a model is ‘built’ then each piece of it is tweaked and tested to see how much effect altering that part has on the final outcome.  

                  In a way, the IPCC groups have created a form of replication–I think there are about 5 or 6 different models which have each been developed independently by different groups of researchers. Each group has a different composition of expertise and may model certain processes more accurately or in depth than another group.  If the models these separate groups generated did not show similar patterns, then there would be more reason for criticism. But they do show the same patterns. Some of the model projections indicate larger changes and some more modest changes.  But even the projections of modest changes in global temperature are large enough changes that adaptations are going to be necessary.

                  • I am SO happy

                    you delurked for this thread!
                    Hope you are doing OK. I’ve missed seeing you around the Getting things done-threads.

                    • asdf

                      Oh, I totally need to get back on the GTD threads. It’s just that right now, it’s almost too overwhelming to think about all the things I need to be getting done.  I feel like I’m making progress on maybe 1/3rd of it. The easy third, of course!

                      My funding runs out next May, so I’ve got 10 months to wrap things up, write the diss, get some papers out, sketch out a rough application packet…. Though, I’m thinking I may need to finish in summer 2012.

                • yes, the data is overwhelming

                  This is incorrect:

                  From the little I have read, climate research depends almost exclusively on complex computer models to predict future results.

                  I don’t know much about the models myself – it’s not something I’ve paid much attention to at all.  As the saying goes, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”  Since it’s not an area of interest or use to me, it’s not one I’ve focused on.  However, one thing you can do with models is take the old ones and test how the predictions fit the actual data collected a decade or two later.  One of the things I’ve been reading is that most of the older models were too conservative – warming seems to be way ahead of where most people studying it in the 90s thought it would be now.  Arctic ice is a well known example.  

                  But the science doesn’t depend on models – they are just tools.  When I say the data is overwhelming, I refer to the tiny subset of the data that overwhelms me, most of which has to do with ecology and evolutionary biology.  Which also happens to also be an area I don’t know a whole lot about – just enough to be able to read it, follow it, and be scared.

            • I suspect

              that you’d actually all know it. Only because recent comets have been named after famous astronomers…and everyone hears the name of the big bright comet that is streaking through the sky.

              Doesn’t mean that his opinion on the matter is all that pertinent. Just saying…I can see that we’d all have heard his name, without ever really having heard of HIM.

                • Really?

                  Not to be a pain, but Halley’s? Halle-Bop? Shoemaker-Levy? I only question because I’m amazed. They were the ones that were either famous or visible in the daytime…so kind of obvious.

                  But hey…I could certainly be wrong. I’m sure my lack of knowledge of theater would amaze you. And by the way…the boy now sings “One Night in Bangkok” quite gleefully, while telling everyone that it’s about chess. :)

                    • :)

                      They’re around at such inconvenient times. My husband tried to wake me up at 3 am for one once. Only once.

                      Shoemaker-Levy was memorable because you could see it in the daytime. Pretty cool view…from Virginia anyway.

                    • I remember Halle Bop

                      I didn’t actually see it but I think that was the one that made that weird cult in CA do a mass suicide because they thought it meant that the mothership was coming for them.

        • I don’t think the

          coastal communities were built up during the Medieval period the way they are now, and there weren’t as many people depending on foods grown distant from them. There is more at stake in those regards and others now than there was then.

          I get tuning out when the world gets to be too much but denying that climate change is an actual problem seems kind of naive to me. That, or Fox-newsy.

          I’m sure the astronomer’s findings would be respectfully reviewed, if they are empirical and not strictly his opinion. And unless his name is Haley, I really doubt I’d recognize his name! I have several happy stargazer friends but I am quite ignorant about astronomy.

            • seriously

              how many times do we need to say “we don’t follow astronomers”  for you to believe us.

              1. I wouldn’t know his name
              1. I wouldn’t care.
              • All right, I’ll end the suspense and

                reveal his name:

                It was Gene Shoemaker, the co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that impacted Jupiter in 1994.

                I went to law school with co-discoverer David Levy’s brother in Tucson at the U of A, that’s how we knew him. He was a Caltech astrogeologist with a string of degrees and awards a mile long.

                Just Google “Eugene Shoemaker” and you’ll get 1.7 million hits. He was not some eccentric goofball teaching at the Podunk Normal School in the wilds of West Virginia.

                    • dunno

                      maybe I just wasn’t watching tv that summer…;-)

                      sorry. never heard of him.

                    • I’m not being nasty, but seriously,

                      images from the comet’s impact were all over TV then, on Nightline, GMA, the Today Show, everywhere.

                      Gene Shoemaker and David Levy were like horseshit, all over the place. Either or both were on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and dozens of other media outlets. I think it was a cover story on Time magazine.

                      I guess it was more of a big deal for me since I was an astronomy geek starting in grammar school.

                      Gene and his wife died tragically in a head-on car crash in the Australian outback in, I think, 1996 or 1997. I was sick hearing the news. They were checking out craters. Supposedly they both died instantly on impact. A tragic end to such a life.

                    • I’m not being Nasty either

                      but let me reiterate

                      Never. Heard. Of. Him.

                    • I don’t watch TV news

                      so that could be why I’ve never heard of him. I asked my news junkie husband, who was working in international television news in 1994, and he hadn’t heard of him either. I think your interest in astronomy and your family’s connection probably made it so memorable to you.

                • never heard of him

                  However, someone else I’ve seen tooling around CalTech in his fancy wheelchair, trailed by more awards and accolades than you can shake a stick at — Stephen Hawking — is a good example of a fallible scientist, or at least one subject to changing his mind.  

                  In 2008 he announced he was a born-again Christian, but a couple of years later he decided the laws of physics ruled out the need for a god to create the universe, and he also reverted to atheism. Doesn’t make him an expert on religion, or the origins of life for that matter, for anyone but himself.

                  • Got me to thinking. We knew a bunch of people

                    involved in Project Apollo in the 1960s and 70s. It always impressed me that the overwhelming majority of people involved, such as the astronaut corps, engineers, ground crew, flight controllers, firing room personnel, Mission Control in Houston, etc., were “believers” in the sense that they were Christians or Jews practising their faith. (Gene Kranz was a daily communicant.)

                    Virtually all the astronauts that went to the moon felt the experience had a profound spiritual impact on them. I think it was Buzz Aldrin, an Episcopalian, who brought Communion with him and consumed the Host while in moon orbit and went into a virtual ecstasy. None of the men were the same after that experience. There was only one astronaut–can’t recall his name–that had no spiritual experience.

                    • my stepdad is an engineer who

                      was also involved with Apollo and other space ventures. He never went to space but I know he was and is awed by it. I think he only goes to church because my mom makes him! He’s a pretty conventional person who probably believes in god not because of a deep and personal spiritual experience but because “everyone else” does.

                      My mom lost her faith as a young adult. She made a conscious effort to try and believe again after her mother died, and so it was fairly late in their lives together (my mom and her husband) that they began attending church, teaching bible study, and becoming quite religious. He tends to go along with her enthusiasms, whether it’s wok cooking, bicycling, home improvements, photography, or church 😉

                    • the best

                      for her, that is. I like mine a bit more independent-minded, but he takes excellent care of her and she deserves every bit of it since her life before him was no bed of roses.

                • yup

                  As predicted, not terribly relevant.  Not that Shoemaker was or wasn’t a smart guy – I wouldn’t know.  The wikipedia entry looks respectable.  But it’s not necessarily the smart guys who make the big discoveries, and making a big name discovery doesn’t give you a reputation for being smart.      

                  FWIW I’ve heard of the comet, but not him or his codiscoverer.  

    • Off on another tangent

      But what was wrong with Silent Spring?  It was well-researched and the chemical industry and indeed most industries claim that their environmental impacts are less than they are.  Look at Bhopal.  An unregulated industry indeed harms humans as much as any other living thing.

      DDT was banned two years before I was born.  Over the course of my life I have watched the birds that were affected by DDT go from endangered to thriving.  I’m in upstate NY and we regularly see bald eagles and peregrine falcons, all kinds of hawks, herons and all kinds of wildlife that was extremely rare in my childhood.  She was also right about limiting spraying when it is needed in areas with malaria.  The theory she held that overspraying would cause the mosquitos to become spray resistant is similar to the scientists who correctly predicted that we would have strains of diseases once treated with antibiotics that became resistant to them as antibiotics were overprescribed.

      I think the people who criticized Carson were those who were in the industry she attacked or couldn’t handle an intelligent woman with a strong voice.

      • I agree:

        I think the people who criticized Carson were those who were in the industry she attacked or couldn’t handle an intelligent woman with a strong voice.

        I wish she were around today because I think things have gotten worse. She could tell me if I’m over-reacting 😉

          • Hmmm.

            I’m not sure that I agree about DDT. I won’t lecture. But have a look hereand here and here for another perspective. My friend works in malaria research in South Africa and will hold forth for hours on how the ban on DDT killed millions of people. There are quite a few research papers that have been unable to find a link between DDT and thin eggshells or or fish kills. I suspect that it may in fact be bad for the environment…but I’m not sure that a total ban was really the way to go. The amount used in agriculture is extreme…and the amount used in mosquito control is tiny (and inside the house, so unlikely to leach in a significant way into the environment). In any case…DDT is no longer banned…it has an exemption by WHO for public health reasons.

            I’m all for the environmental movement. And I enjoyed “Silent Spring”. But I always try to remember that these sorts of books are still sensationalist media. There is always another perspective. And the truth is usually in the middle somewhere.

              • Interesting

                I thought that Carson herself was not for a complete ban of spraying in areas prone to malaria but just wanted to reduce and better target the spraying.  FWIW, it’s a topic of interest for me as we have annual mosquito spraying due to Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile concerns.  I think the triple E threat is more real.  There have been one or two people who have died of it during my lifetime in the area and it seems like every summer there’s a report of a horse or two succumbing which starts the spraying.

  5. we have to get our heads around it

    Arguing over the differing models and predictions is a distraction, IMHO. We won’t know which model is correct until it’s far too late to do anything about mitigating the impacts. I don’t doubt climate change science, but here’s my pragmatic argument:

    We need to change current behavior as human beings because, for whatever reason, we are going through a period of change that is impacting on many species’ ability to survive on this planet including our own.

    Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is a good thing. It reduces pollution (win). It stops sending money to countries/regimes that use their mineral wealth for dubious purposes (win). It spreads technology and decentralizes things like power supply (win).

    From a pragmatic perspective, reducing carbon emissions could/would achieve many positive benefits. Why not do it?

    Also, another point we have to start thinking about: climate change is creating a whole new category of refugees – environmental refugees. Islands in the Pacific Rim are disappearing under rising sea levels. The island nation of Tuvalu is receding and if sea levels continue to rise, a people will be without a homeland and will have to be relocated. How are we going to deal with this?

  6. Chiming in, de-lurking

    Cause I just can’t help myself, and yes, I’ve been lurking. Again.


    As an environmental scientist who works at the intersection of a number of fields (geology, biology, meteorology, hydrology–> soil science is a heckuva fascinating discipline), I find I’m increasingly irritated with those who want to deny that fossil fuels are contributing to the increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.  Whatever it is that people want to argue about why CO2 is increasing is just a smokescreen–CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere, and the increased greenhouse effect of a thicker blanket of CO2 shrouding the planet is not in dispute either.  It is kind of basic atmospheric science–the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more heat energy gets trapped that might otherwise re-radiate into space. Clouds (water vapor) do the same thing–it’s usually warmer on a cloudy night than a clear one.  More energy in the planet’s system means stronger storms, more unpredictable weather. Like that sh$t-storm of tornados that hit AL earlier this year. Or unusally high numbers of very intense hurricanes…

    If you think of the planet as a checking account, you’ve got to know the deposits and debits in order to balance the account. When we talk about the planet’s carbon budget (aka the estimated mass of all the carbon on earth), the numbers get astronomical very quickly, in terms of what carbon is stored in rocks, marine sediments, soils, etc. versus what’s in the atmosphere and the extra CO2 fossil fuels add.  So I think it can be easy for scientists in ‘purer’ disciplines to look at planetary budgets and think that fossil fuels can’t be (the only thing) responsible for the warming we’re seeing.  Scientists have opinions, hunches, egos–not a lot of science would get done without people coming up with ideas (sometimes off the wall, yes) and then testing them out.  My FIL, an emeritus organic chemistry professor, happens to subscribe to the sunspot theory, not because he knows a lot about atmospheric or solar science, but because another chemist he respects holds that opinion as well. They’re scientists, but that doesn’t mean they’ve got a thorough grasp on a very interdisciplinary field. I’m fairly certain that any sunspot research is a “follow the money” trail back to the oil industry.

    When you look at the carbon that actively shifts or cycles through soils, vegetation, ocean, and the atmosphere, and the rates that that carbon can be taken out of the active cycle, and then add in fossil fuel burning, the impact is much greater. I could go on and talk about how human activity in general (including fossil fuels, land use change, agriculture) is a ‘source’ of extra CO2 and other greenhouse gases and how over the course of the Industrial Revolution to present day, we’ve pretty much exhausted the ‘sinks’ on Earth that could absorb extra CO2.  The ocean has buffered a lot of our activity by absorbing extra CO2, but ocean acidification means we’ve lost that buffer. Agriculture has diminished vegetation and soil carbon sinks extensively, and we’re not able to both feed ourselves and reforest agricultural lands, so limiting our fossil fuel use is pretty much the most straightforward way we could influence atmospheric CO2 levels. I don’t even want to talk about the implications of a warmer climate for all the soil carbon in the northern hemisphere boreal forests and tundra.

    Hmm. I’ve just written a short primer on the planetary carbon cycle.  I hope someone’s interested. Heh. Test next Monday on source-sink concepts. 😉

    I know this all sounds quite dire. I understand the the ‘doomsday fatigue’ mercedes expresses–I grew up in a denomination obsessed with the Rapture and The End Times, so I guess I had ‘religious doomsday fatigue’.  The world won’t end, but I feel that climate change is likely to alter our society significantly depending on whether we take action to develop adaptation strategies now (more stable future) or scramble later to adapt to changes (food shortages, water wars…who knows?).  Mitigation (lowering emissions of CO2) is another ball of wax, but effective action on either is held up by the pseudo-debate around fossil fuels and CO2, and the increasing attacks on the philosophy and practice of science by faux news and numerous politicians on the right.

    • grin…

      You said that so well. And it was all what I was thinking…but couldn’t be bothered to even go there. So thank you!!!

    • yes, absolutely

      and I agree with Aussieyank – you articulated what I was trying to muddle through, so well. We have fundamentally altered our habitat and now what we can do is mitigate and deal with the problems coming our way.

    • Hello!!

      It’s nice to “see” you.  Loved reading this – thanks.  And hope all is well.  I’ve been thinking of you and hope your program is going well and things with DH are better.

    • Thank you

      You said all that much more eloquently than I could – and I get tired of defending science so I went to bed instead of replying yesterday. I really appreciate that you explained all this so well.

      effective action on either is held up by the pseudo-debate around fossil fuels and CO2, and the increasing attacks on the philosophy and practice of science by faux news and numerous politicians on the right.


    • Happy to help :)

      I haven’t had as much opportunity to bang my head against this particular wall, so I guess I’m still game for it.

      My feeling about adaptation is that the folks leading the local food movements are building (or rebuilding, actually) the community scaffolding we’re going to need to be resilient enough to the changes that come.  Right now, the nation’s food distribution system is based on trucking fruits and vegetables hundreds to thousands of miles from where it was grown.  So what’s going to happen if irrigation becomes impossible in CA’s Central Valley or Florida’s agricultural output is diminished by hurricanes and sea level rise? We’ve got to start promoting alternatives to the long-distance food system.  

    • Thanks for this posting.

      Very interesting that you mention your FIL’s belief that sun spots are to blame. Our late astronomer/astrogeologist friend held the exact same belief, that sun spot activity explains most all climate activity.

      I should add that while I’m a sceptic on the human effects of global warming, I am on board with the green agenda. Even if CO2 is not causing global warming, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out it can’t be good pumping all that crap into the atmosphere and us breathing it in.

      • But I think her point was

        that her FIL is of that opinion, but climate is way outside his field (organic chemistry) and that he bases his view on that of another well-respected chemist (again, well outside his field). All this, while it IS Cereal Lurking’s.

      • another area not my field but

        It was my understanding that sunspot activity a) is way too slow to explain what is going on now and b) has a cycle that doesn’t align at all well with current trends.  Anyone more knowledgeable want to tackle this one?

        • Yup.

          Not my field either. But this and thisare good explanations. Sun spot activity has a pretty regular cycle. Warming has been going steadily up, completely independently.

          I was having a chat with a geo friend the other night (he specializes in climate change reflected in cave formations). He said that there are seven distinct climate change events (drastic ones) that he can regularly see in his stalagmite cores (we’re talking over the last 300,000 years), and that they all happened very very rapidly (over 50 years or so).

          So climate change has happened before, and happened very rapidly. I know that is used by skeptics as a reason to not panic. It seems to me to be the opposite. We know that it can happen, because it has happened before. This will be the first time that it has happened in a time when human beings are really at serious risk. Whether we caused it or not, we’re in trouble.

          And I’m thinking…it’s happened before, but the cycle has ended and the planet has reverted to calmer temperatures and weather. But what if our meddling has tipped the balance so that it can’t swing back again? Sort of a chaotic pendulum effect….we’ve changed things enough that the pattern is no longer stable.

          Now I’m just thinking out loud. :)

  7. Short recap of Climate-Gate

    For any unfamiliar with it. I think this went down sometime late 2009-early 2010?

    Someone hacked into emails belonging to a group of British scientists working on the IPCC, and then went through them with a fine-tooth comb looking for anything that seemed inappropriate.

    Whoever it was that hacked into the emails pulled out a series of exchanges between a British scientist and a Penn State professor about a data set that didn’t show changes in tree ring width with increasing CO2 (I think that was it).  

    The key phrase that was pulled out of a particular email written by the Penn State professor was “massaging the data” which, yes, sounds as though the data was manipulated. So, a media furor was generated, official inquiries were held in Britain and the US, Penn State conducted its own internal investigation, aaaand guess what? No unethical behavior was able to be established on the part of either scientist.  

    I don’t really know if the offending phrase was the professor joking around about the data set, or if it was some kind of short-hand for problematic data sets, but it really became a huge clusterf@%k over sloppy emails written as though only the researchers themselves might ever see it. And yes, it did damage the credibility of climate scientists, even though they were talking about one data set (tree ring data from some northern Britain forest) that didn’t quite fit with a widespread pattern. That’s pretty small potatoes even when you consider the rest of just the tree physiology data they’re working with, let alone atmospheric, geologic, ice core data sets.

    Anyway, google Michael Mann and Climate-gate, and you’ll have plenty of reading material.  He’s supposedly quite outspoken and not very tactful, evidently enough that he kind of increased some of the media frenzy with his own behavior.  Made him a good target for a discrediting fishing expedition, I suppose.

    • Yup.

      See my comment above. I’m not convinced that anything untoward was really happening…but the effect of the mess was to discredit climate change science in general. Not helpful at all. These people should have known better….on so many levels.

    • From what I recall

      you are perfectly right, all of the investigations turned out a “sloppy communication, but certainly no misconduct”-verdict. Up to the umbrella of Academies of Sciences (whatever it’s called). Funnily, taht was really reported in the main stream media, so what is left is a huge smudge on (climate) science’s and the IPCC’s reputations. That makes me sad and angry.

      • eggsactly

        and it’s why charges of “Climate-gate” rile me. All sizzle, no steak, so typical of right-wing smear campaigns.

        • Could you tell

          I was getting a little upset yesterday, and just tuned out? I’m glad so many others picked up the batton over here.

            • Well

              watch out when I really start lecturing…

              And no, you’re not my opposite – I’m less measured, and you’re more measured than you think, I think :-)

    • I’ll do some Googling my self on this. None of

      this was ever reported in the mainstream media after the scandal first broke!

      Don’t lurk so much, post!

      • The report of the

        InterAcademies Council, requested by Ban Ki-Moon is here. I am sorry, I do not have time to really dig into this now, but there is a link to the executive summary on this page.

      • it’s possible something else overshadowed it

        Perhaps Obamacare?  “Death panels” and such?

        So much frothing went on over how bad healthcare reform would be for the country.  That’s my guess, plus exoneration is less interesting than indictment in terms of media consumption…

        My lab group had a discussion on this, and I think most of the articles about the results of the inquiry and clearing of the scientists involved were published in the news outlets of scientific journals.

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