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Why Our Brains Can't Process the Gravest Threats To Humanity 637

merbs writes: Our brains are unfathomably complex, powerful organs that grant us motor skills, logic, and abstract thought. Brains have bequeathed unto we humans just about every cognitive advantage, it seems, except for one little omission: the ability to adequately process the need for the whole species' long-term survival. They're miracle workers for the short-term survival of individuals, but the scientific evidence suggests that the human brain flails when it comes to navigating wide-lens, slowly-unfurling crises like climate change.
The Media

Skeptics Would Like Media To Stop Calling Science Deniers 'Skeptics' 719

Layzej writes: Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. "Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry."

Wyoming Is First State To Reject Science Standards Over Climate Change 661

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Time Magazine reports that Wyoming, the nation's top coal-producing state, has become the first state to reject new K-12 science standards proposed by national education groups mainly because of global warming components. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a set of science standards developed by leading scientists and science educators from 26 states and built on a framework developed by the National Academy of Sciences. The Wyoming science standards revision committee made up entirely of Wyoming educators unanimously recommended adoption of these standards to the state Board of Education not once but twice and twelve states have already adopted the standards since they were released in April 2013. But opponents argue the standards incorrectly assert that man-made emissions are the main cause of global warming and shouldn't be taught in a state that ranks first among all states in coal production, fifth in natural gas production and eighth in crude oil production deriving much of its school funding from the energy industry.

Amy Edmonds, of the Wyoming Liberty Group, says teaching 'one view of what is not settled science about global warming' is just one of a number of problems with the standards. 'I think Wyoming can do far better.' Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has called federal efforts to curtail greenhouse emissions a 'war on coal' and has said that he's skeptical about man-made climate change. Supporters of the NGSS say science standards for Wyoming schools haven't been updated since 2003 and are six years overdue. 'If you want the best science education for your children and grandchildren and you don't want any group to speak for you, then make yourselves heard loud and clear,' says Cate Cabot. 'Otherwise you will watch the best interests of Wyoming students get washed away in the hysteria of a small anti-science minority driven by a national right wing group – and political manipulation.'"

UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming 987

iONiUM (530420) writes "'The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned.' A document was released by the IPCC outlining the current affects on climate change, and they are not good. For specific effects on humans: 'Food security is highlighted as an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice and wheat are all hit in the period up to 2050, with around a tenth of projections showing losses over 25%.'"

Australian Icebreaker Tries To Get Through To Stranded Antarctic Research Ship 188

The shipload of researchers and tourists stuck in the Antarctic ice are still stuck. A Chinese icebreaker, the Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, has gotten tantalizingly close but was hampered by "unusually thick ice." Now, an Australian vessel, the Aurora Australis, will attempt to rescue the 74 people aboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.

What the Insurance Industry Thinks About Climate Change 385

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joseph Stromberg reports at the Smithsonian that if there's one group has an obvious and immediate financial stake in climate change, it's the insurance industry and in recent years, insurance industry researchers who attempt to determine the annual odds of catastrophic weather-related disasters say they're seeing something new. 'Our business depends on us being neutral. We simply try to make the best possible assessment of risk today, with no vested interest,' says Robert Muir-Wood, the chief scientist of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a company that creates software models to allow insurance companies to calculate risk. Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn't happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming. 'Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,' says Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. 'It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.' A pronounced shift can be seen in extreme rainfall events, heat waves and wind storms and the underlying reason is climate change, says Muir-Wood, driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions. 'The first model in which we changed our perspective is on U.S. Atlantic hurricanes. Basically, after the 2004 and 2005 seasons, we determined that it was unsafe to simply assume that historical averages still applied,' he says. 'We've since seen that today's activity has changed in other particular areas as well—with extreme rainfall events, such as the recent flooding in Boulder, Colorado, and with heat waves in certain parts of the world.' Muir-Wood puts his money where his mouth is. 'I personally wouldn't invest in beachfront property anymore,' he says, noting the steady increase in sea level we're expecting to see worldwide in the coming century, on top of more extreme storms. 'And if you're thinking about it, I'd calculate quite carefully how far back you'd have to be in the event of a hurricane.'"

How Human Psychology Holds Back Climate Change Action 530

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Cass R. Sunstein writes at Bloomberg that an understanding of human psychology — specifically, what human beings fear and what they do not — helps to explain why nations haven't insisted on more significant emissions reductions even as scientists warn that if the world continues on its current course, we will face exceedingly serious losses and threats including a significant rise in sea levels by century's end. First, people tend to be especially focused on risks or hazards that have an identifiable perpetrator, and for that reason produce outrage. 'Warmer temperatures are a product not of any particular human being or group, but the interaction between nature and countless decisions by countless people. There are no obvious devils or demons — no individuals who intend to create the harms associated with climate change.' The second obstacle is that people tend to evaluate risks by way of 'the availability heuristic,' which leads them to assess the probability of harm by asking whether a readily available example comes to mind. For example, an act of terrorism is likely to be both available and salient, and hence makes people fear that another such event will occur. A recent crime or accident can activate attention and significantly inflate people's assessment of risk. Finally, human beings are far more attentive to immediate threats than to long-term ones. They may neglect the future, seeing it as a kind of foreign country, one they may not ever visit. For this reason, they might fail to save for retirement, or they might engage in risk-taking behavior such as smoking or unhealthy eating that will harm their future selves. 'All the obstacles are daunting skepticism about the science, economic self-interest, and the difficulties of designing cost-effective approaches and obtaining an international agreement,' concludes Sunstein, 'But the world is unlikely to make much progress on climate change until the barrier of human psychology is squarely addressed.'"

Scientists Explain Why Chairman of House Committee On Science Is Wrong 476

Lasrick writes "Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth take apart Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Tex.) Washington Post op/ed on climate science saying: 'Contrary to Smith's assertions, there is conclusive evidence that climate change worsened the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. Sea levels in New York City harbors have risen by more than a foot since the beginning of the 20th century. Had the storm surge not been riding on higher seas, there would have been less flooding and less damage. Warmer air also allows storms such as Sandy to hold more moisture and dump more rainfall, exacerbating flooding.'"

Billionaires Secretly Fund Vast Climate Denial Network 848

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Suzanne Goldenberg reports that conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, helping build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing 'wedge issue' for hardcore conservatives. 'We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,' says Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust. Ball's organization assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes with a guarantee of complete anonymity for donors who wished to remain hidden. The money flowed to Washington think tanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore. 'The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It's also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,' says Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records. 'These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable.'"

Draft of IPCC 2013 Report Already Circulating 306

First time accepted submitter iggymanz writes "More precise modeling has changed some long term climate predictions: sea levels to rise almost a meter more than present over the next century, but past dire warnings of stronger storms or more frequent droughts won't pan out. Instead there will be less strong storms, but peak winds in the tropics might be slightly higher. Temperature rise of global average will be about 3 degree C total, including the 1 degree C rise over the 20th century. In places where precipitation is frequent, it will become even more frequent; in arid areas, the tendency will be to become even drier. Some new arid areas are expected to appear in the south of N. America, South Africa and Mediterranean countries. Overall, hardly a doomsday scenario."

Global Warming On Pace For 4 Degrees: World Bank Worried 439

iONiUM writes "From the article: 'Over the years at the U.N. climate talks, the goal has been to keep future global warming below 2C. But as those talks have faltered, emissions have kept rising, and that 2C goal is now looking increasingly out of reach. Lately, the conversation has shifted toward how to deal with 3C of warming. Or 4C. Or potentially more." Overall it seems that poorer, less developed nations will be largely impacted negatively, while some countries (like Canada and Russia) will actually experience benefits. Where does that leave the rest of the 1st world countries?"

A Modest Proposal For Sequestration of CO2 In the Antarctic 243

First time accepted submitter Alienwise writes "Judith Curry reports a scientific concept of an atmospheric CO2 sequestration plant. It would be based in the Antartic to profit from the cold weather, which would facilitate the creation of CO2 snow — which would then be buried. The plant could be powered by windmills." The lead author has agreed to let Curry link to a copy of the final manuscript, if you'd like to read more.

Sea Level Rise Can't Be Stopped 521

riverat1 writes "Sea level rise won't stop for several hundred years even if we reverse global warming, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. As warmer water is mixed down into the oceans, it causes thermal expansion of the water. Under the best emissions scenario, the expected rise is 14.2 cm by 2100; under the worst, 32.2 cm from thermal expansion alone. Any water pumped from aquifers or glacial/ice sheet melt is added to that."

Exxon CEO: Warming Happening, But Fears Overblown 288

Freshly Exhumed writes "In a speech Wednesday, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt. The risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated, he said. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said. Tillerson blamed a public that is "illiterate" in science and math, a "lazy" press, and advocacy groups that "manufacture fear" for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations."

In Hot Water: The Effects of Even Modern Nuke Plants On Water 303

Harperdog writes "Dawn Stover has a fascinating article on the newest nuclear power plant to get approval: the Blue Castle Project on the Green River in Utah. Stover details the enormous damage done by nuke plants on local water systems, and points out that the 1-2 punch of climate change and cooling systems is already taking a toll on the ability of nuclear power plants to operate, because in summer the water they use to cool systems with is too hot even before they use it (Tennessee Valley Authority is the example). "

If you're not careful, you're going to catch something.