mdsolar writes: "More than 400,000 people turned out for the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world's leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit.
Early reports from event organizers are hailing the turnout as the largest climate march in history, far bigger than the Forward on Climate rally held in Washington, D.C., last year. High-profile environmentalists including Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva marched alongside policymakers such as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore were also there, and more than 550 buses carried in people from around the country."
mdsolar writes: The ozone layer was saved http://news.slashdot.org/story... without a huge amount of fuss. Scientists explained the problem to governments. Governments went to Montreal and came back with a treaty. The progress gets checked periodically and the problem gets fixed. There were certainly people writing letters to their representatives and there was a broad public health initiative to use sunblock but it is hard to say that change came through a social movement the way, for example, apartheid was defeated. But, on climate change, basically a scientific issue like ozone, an effort to spark a social movement has been long running. Al Gore's film and education campaign were an early effort. The StepItUp and 350.org efforts are more recent. And, Stanford recently decided to divest from coal companies, http://news.slashdot.org/story... reminiscent of the anti-apartheid movement. Now, a mass march is planned for September 21 in NYC to get the UN to do more on climate change with a film called "Disruption" released on line in concert with this effort. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... Perhaps new combinations of social media, social movement and science will make a difference.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Darryl Fears reports in the Washington Post that according to the government’s newest national assessment of climate change, Americans are already feeling the effects of global warming. “For a long time we have perceived climate change as an issue that’s distant, affecting just polar bears or something that matters to our kids," says Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University professor and lead co-author of the changing climate chapter of the assessment. "This shows it’s not just in the future; it matters today. Many people are feeling the effects.” The assessment carves the nation into sections and examines the impacts: More sea-level rise, flooding, storm surge, precipitation and heat waves in the Northeast; frequent water shortages and hurricanes in the Southeast and Caribbean; more drought and wildfires in the Southwest. "Residents of some coastal cities see their streets flood more regularly during storms and high tides. Inland cities near large rivers also experience more flooding, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Insurance rates are rising in some vulnerable locations, and insurance is no longer available in others. Hotter and drier weather and earlier snow melt mean that wildfires in the West start earlier in the spring, last later into the fall, and burn more acreage. In Arctic Alaska, the summer sea ice that once protected the coasts has receded, and autumn storms now cause more erosion, threatening many communities with relocation." The report concludes that over recent decades, climate science has advanced significantly and that increased scrutiny has led to increased certainty that we are now seeing impacts associated with human-induced climate change. "What is new over the last decade is that we know with increasing certainty that climate change is happening now. While scientists continue to refine projections of the future, observations unequivocally show that climate is changing and that the warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come mainly from burning coal, oil, and gas, with additional contributions from forest clearing and some agricultural practices."
mdsolar writes: The report from Working Group II of the IPCC is out now and is getting headlines like: Worst Is Yet to Come. But the really new thing about the report is the inclusion of a feasible low emissions mitigation pathway in the modelling. We've never really been treated to an exploration of what technology could do to help us, but now that has started (somehow that slipped past the Saudis). In the summary for Policy Makers, http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images... Figure SPM.5 shows how mitigation could avoid species extinction. Figure SPM.4 puts everything nicely on the same scale and shows that even with a scenario with substantial future emissions, RCP 2.6, but feasible reduction from present levels, things can be kept from getting worse. So, the headlines may be missing the newest thing in the report.
mdsolar writes: Alan Guth's cosmological theory of inflation solves a number of problems in cosmology. Now it is getting new observational support:
"On Monday, Dr. Guth’s starship came in. Radio astronomers reported that they had seen the beginning of the Big Bang, and that his hypothesis, known undramatically as inflation, looked right.
Reaching back across 13.8 billion years to the first sliver of cosmic time with telescopes at the South Pole, a team of astronomers led by John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detected ripples in the fabric of space-time — so-called gravitational waves — the signature of a universe being wrenched violently apart when it was roughly a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old. They are the long-sought smoking-gun evidence of inflation, proof, Dr. Kovac and his colleagues say, that Dr. Guth was correct.
Inflation has been the workhorse of cosmology for 35 years, though many, including Dr. Guth, wondered whether it could ever be proved.
If corroborated, Dr. Kovac’s work will stand as a landmark in science comparable to the recent discovery of dark energy pushing the universe apart, or of the Big Bang itself. It would open vast realms of time and space and energy to science and speculation."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Dick Ahlstrom reports that Irish researchers have discovered a previously unknown model of the universe written in 1931 by physicist Albert Einstein that had been misfiled and effectively “lost” until its discovery last August while researchers been searching through a collection of Einstein’s papers put online by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “I was looking through drafts, but then slowly realised it was a draft of something very different,” says Dr O’Raifeartaigh. “I nearly fell off my chair. It was hidden in perfect plain sight. This particular manuscript was misfiled as a draft of something else.” In his paper, radically different from his previously known models of the universe, Einstein speculated the expanding universe could remain unchanged and in a “ steady state” because new matter was being continuously created from space. “It is what Einstein is attempting to do that would surprise most historians, because nobody had known this idea. It was later proposed by Fred Hoyle in 1948 and became controversial in the 1950s, the steady state model of the cosmos,” says O’Raifeartaigh. Hoyle argued that space could be expanding eternally and keeping a roughly constant density. It could do this by continually adding new matter, with elementary particles spontaneously popping up from space. Particles would then coalesce to form galaxies and stars, and these would appear at just the right rate to take up the extra room created by the expansion of space. Hoyle’s Universe was always infinite, so its size did not change as it expanded. It was in a ‘steady state’. “This finding confirms that Hoyle was not a crank,” says Simon Mitton. “If only Hoyle had known, he would certainly have used it to punch his opponents." Although Hoyle’s model was eventually ruled out by astronomical observations, it was at least mathematically consistent, tweaking the equations of Einstein’s general theory of relativity to provide a possible mechanism for the spontaneous generation of matter. Einstein's paper attracted no attention because Einstein abandoned it after he spotted a mistake and then didn’t publish it but the fact that Einstein experimented with the steady-state concept demonstrates Einstein's continued resistance to the idea of a Big Bang, which he at first found “abominable”, even though other theoreticians had shown it to be a natural consequence of his general theory of relativity.
mdsolar writes: ""BY many measurements, this summer’s drought is one for the record books. But so was last year’s drought in the South Central states. And it has been only a decade since an extreme five-year drought hit the American West. Widespread annual droughts, once a rare calamity, have become more frequent and are set to become the “new normal.”
Until recently, many scientists spoke of climate change mainly as a “threat,” sometime in the future. But it is increasingly clear that we already live in the era of human-induced climate change, with a growing frequency of weather and climate extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods and fires.
Future precipitation trends, based on climate model projections for the coming fifth assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicate that droughts of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the century unless human-induced carbon emissions are significantly reduced. Indeed, assuming business as usual, each of the next 80 years in the American West is expected to see less rainfall than the average of the five years of the drought that hit the region from 2000 to 2004.
That extreme drought (which we have analyzed in a new study in the journal Nature-Geoscience) had profound consequences for carbon sequestration, agricultural productivity and water resources: plants, for example, took in only half the carbon dioxide they do normally, thanks to a drought-induced drop in photosynthesis.
In the drought’s worst year, Western crop yields were down by 13 percent, with many local cases of complete crop failure....""
The change is so drastic, the paper says, that scientists can claim with near certainty that events like the Texas heat wave last year, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 would not have happened without the planetary warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.
Those claims, which go beyond the established scientific consensus about the role of climate change in causing weather extremes, were advanced by James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, and two co-authors in a scientific paper published online on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.""
mdsolar writes: ""Catastrophic nuclear accidents such as the core meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima are more likely to happen than previously assumed. Based on the operating hours of all civil nuclear reactors and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz have calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) — some 200 times more often than estimated in the past.
The researchers also determined that, in the event of such a major accident, half of the radioactive caesium-137 would be spread over an area of more than 1,000 kilometres away from the nuclear reactor. Their results show that Western Europe is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years by more than 40 kilobecquerel of caesium-137 per square meter. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an area is defined as being contaminated with radiation from this amount onwards. In view of their findings, the researchers call for an in-depth analysis and reassessment of the risks associated with nuclear power plants.""
mdsolar writes: ""Farmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals, in hopes that more judicious use of the drugs will reduce the tens of thousands of human deaths that result each year from the drugs’ overuse.
The Food and Drug Administration announced the new rule Wednesday after trying for more than 35 years to stop farmers and ranchers from feeding antibiotics to cattle, pigs, chickens and other animals simply to help the animals grow larger. Using small amounts of antibiotics over long periods of time leads to the growth of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs’ effects, endangering humans who become infected but cannot be treated with routine antibiotic therapy.
At least two million people are sickened and an estimated 99,000 die every year from hospital-acquired infections, the majority of which result from such resistant strains. It is unknown how many of these illnesses and deaths result from agricultural uses of antibiotics, but about 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animals.""
mdsolar writes: "A nuclear power plant on the coast of Israel was forced to shut down this week when its seawater cooling system became clogged with jellyfish. A similar incident temporarily disabled two nuclear reactors at the Torness power station on the Scottish coast last week. A week before, a reactor in Shimane, Japan was crippled by yet another jellyfish infiltration."
mdsolar writes: "Many possibilities have been raised on slashdot on why girlfriends are so elusive. But, a new study suggests that radioactive fallout from nuclear bombs and nuclear power accidents may provide a part of the explanation. A measured up tick in the ratio of male to female births in the vicinity of radiation releases may be owing to damage to the X chromosome in sperm."