Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Earth

Scientists Study How Non-Scientists Deny Climate Change (theguardian.com) 680

A new research paper suggest climate change opponents are "simulating coherence by conspiracism". Slashdot reader Layzej says the paper "examines this behavior at the aggregate level, but gives many examples where contradictory ideas are held by the same individual, and sometimes are presented within a single publication." From the paper: Claims that the globe "is cooling" can coexist with claims that the "observed warming is natural" and that "the human influence does not matter because warming is good for us". Coherence between these mutually contradictory opinions can only be achieved at a highly abstract level, namely that "something must be wrong" with the scientific evidence in order to justify a political position against climate change mitigation...

In a nutshell, the opposition to greenhouse gas emission cuts is the unifying and coherent position underlying all manifestations of climate science denial... Climate science denial is therefore perhaps best understood as a rational activity that replaces a coherent body of science with an incoherent and conspiracist body of pseudo-science for political reasons and with considerable political coherence and effectiveness.

"I think that people who deny basic science will continue to do so, no matter how contradictory their arguments may be," says one of the paper's authors, who suggests that the media should be wary of self-contradicting positions.
NASA

NASA: Arctic Sea Ice 2nd-Lowest On Record (earthsky.org) 206

An anonymous reader quotes a report from EarthSky: NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said on September 15, 2016 that summertime Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual minimum on September 10. With fall approaching and temperatures in the Arctic dropping, it's unlikely more ice will melt, and so the 2016 Arctic sea ice minimum extent will likely be tied with 2007 for the second-lowest yearly minimum in the satellite record. Satellite data showed this year's minimum at 1.60 million square miles (4.14 million square km). NASA said in a statement: "Since satellites began monitoring sea ice in 1978, researchers have observed a steep decline in the average extent of Arctic sea ice for every month of the year [...] The sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas helps regulate the planet's temperature, influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems. Arctic sea ice shrinks every year during the spring and summer until it reaches its minimum yearly extent. Sea ice regrows during the frigid fall and winter months, when the sun is below the horizon in the Arctic." The NASA/NSIDC statement explained why the melt of Arctic sea ice surprised scientists in 2016. For one thing, it changed pace several times: "The melt season began with a record low yearly maximum extent in March and a rapid ice loss through May. But in June and July, low atmospheric pressures and cloudy skies slowed down the melt. Then, after two large storms went across the Arctic basin in August, sea ice melt picked up speed through early September." NASA posted an animation on YouTube that "shows the evolution of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, which was reached on Mar. 24, 2016, and was the lowest on record for the second year in a row, to its apparent yearly minimum, which occurred on Sept. 10, 2016, and is the second lowest in the satellite era."
Earth

The Sixth Mass Extinction Will Hit The Biggest Animals The Hardest, Says Stanford Study (gizmodo.com) 156

The sixth mass extinction will be an event triggered by people and will hit the biggest animals the hardest. "There is no past event that looks biologically like what's happening today," says lead study author Jonathan Payne of Stanford University. "Processes like warming and ocean acidification are not the dominant cause of threat in the modern ocean." Gizmodo reports: A paleontologist by training, Payne and his research group started compiling data on modern marine organisms several years back, in order to study how body size and ecological traits have changed over evolutionary time. Payne, who has studied the End Permian extinction event that wiped out more than 95 percent of all marine species 250 million years ago, soon realized that his dataset -- which included living and extinct members of nearly 2,500 marine genera -- could serve another purpose. By comparing the extinction threat faced by modern marine genera (as indicated by their official conservation status) with their ancestral counterparts, Payne and his colleagues discovered that modern extinction threat is more strongly associated with body size. Larger animals face a greater risk of disappearing than smaller animals. Today, the dominant driver of marine extinction is people, and people aren't terribly selective about which environments they pluck animals from. We go for the biggest game, fishing down the food web and removing top predators. Within species, too, we tend to hunt the largest individuals, which is why North Atlantic cod and Chesapeake oysters were historically much larger. "In a sense, we're driving evolution [toward smaller individuals]," Payne said. What's worth noting is that the Stanford researchers only looked at organisms whose extinction risk has been assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which creates a bias towards big, charismatic groups like fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, etc. The marine genera that were analyzed only had fossil counterparts, too. Gizmodo also notes that the study "excluded corals, which are currently in the midst of a catastrophic, global die-off."
Medicine

Sugar Industry Bought Off Scientists, Skewed Dietary Guidelines For Decades (arstechnica.com) 527

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in the 1960s, a sugar industry executive wrote fat checks to a group of Harvard researchers so that they'd downplay the links between sugar and heart disease in a prominent medical journal -- and the researchers did it, according to historical documents reported Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. One of those Harvard researchers went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where he set the stage for the federal government's current dietary guidelines. All in all, the corrupted researchers and skewed scientific literature successfully helped draw attention away from the health risks of sweets and shift the blame to solely to fats -- for nearly five decades. The low-fat, high-sugar diets that health experts subsequently encouraged are now seen as a main driver of the current obesity epidemic. The bitter revelations come from archived documents from the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association), dug up by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Their dive into the old, sour affair highlights both the perils of trusting industry-sponsored research to inform policy and the importance of requiring scientists to disclose conflicts of interest -- something that didn't become the norm until years later. Perhaps most strikingly, it spotlights the concerning power of the sugar industry. In a statement also issued today, the Sugar Association acknowledged that it "should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities." However, the trade-group went on to question the UCSF researchers' motives in digging up the issue and reframing the past events to "conveniently align with the currently trending anti-sugar narrative." The association also chastised the journal for publishing the historical analysis, which it implied was insignificant and sensationalist. "Most concerning is the growing use of headline-baiting articles to trump quality scientific research -- we're disappointed to see a journal of JAMA's stature being drawn into this trend," the association wrote. But scientists disagree with that take. In an accompanying editorial, nutrition professor Marion Nestle of New York University argued that "this 50-year-old incident may seem like ancient history, but it is quite relevant, not least because it answers some questions germane to our current era."
Earth

10 Percent of the World's Wilderness Has Been Lost Since 1990s (livescience.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Live Science: Wilderness areas around the world have experienced catastrophic declines over the last two decades, with one-tenth of global wilderness lost since the 1990s, according to a new study. Since 1993, researchers found that a cumulative wilderness area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon has been stripped and destroyed. The shrinking wilderness is due, in part, to human activity such as mining, logging, agriculture, and oil and gas exploration. The researchers said their findings underscore the need for international policies to recognize the value of wilderness and to protect wilderness areas from the threats they face. Central Africa and the Amazon saw the most wilderness decline, the researchers found. Of the roughly 1.27 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers) of global wilderness lost, the Amazon accounted for nearly one-third, and 14 percent of the world's wilderness was lost from Central Africa, according to the study. The researchers determined that only 11.6 million square miles (30.1 million square km) of wilderness is left, which equates to just 20 percent of the Earth's total land mass. The study was published online in the journal Current Biology.
Businesses

Walmart Is Cutting 7,000 Jobs Due To Automation (yahoo.com) 256

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: The clairvoyant folks over at the World Economic Forum warned of a "Fourth Industrial Revolution" involving the rise of the machine in the workforce, and the latest company to lend credence to that claim is none other than Walmart, which is planning on cutting 7,000 jobs on account of automation. But the Walmart decision may be a bit more alarming for those in the workforce. As the Wall Street Journal reports (Warning: may be paywalled), the most concerning aspect of America's largest private employer might be that the eliminated positions are largely in the accounting and invoicing sectors of the company. These jobs are typically held by some of the longest tenured employees, who also happen to take home higher hourly wages. Now, those coveted positions are being automated. The Journal reports that beginning in 2017, much of this work will be addressed by "a central office or new money-counting 'cash recycler' machines in stores." Earlier this year, the company tested this change across some 500 locations. "We've seen many make smooth transitions during the pilot," said Deisha Barnett, a Walmart spokeswoman.
Earth

Global Warming Started 180 Years Ago Near Beginning of Industrial Revolution, Says Study (smh.com.au) 709

New research led by scientists at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth suggests that humans first started to significantly change the climate in the 1830s, near the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The findings have been published in the journal Nature, and "were based on natural records of climate variation in the world's oceans and continents, including those found in corals, ice cores, tree rings and the changing chemistry of stalagmites in caves." Sydney Morning Herald reports: "Nerilie Abram, another of the lead authors and an associate professor at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth Sciences, said greenhouse gas levels rose from about 280 parts per million in the 1830s to about 295 ppm by the end of that century. They now exceed 400 ppm. Understanding how humans were already altering the composition of the atmosphere through the 19th century means the warming is closer to the 1.5 to 2 degrees target agreed at last year's Paris climate summit than most people realize." "It was one of those moments where science really surprised us," says Abram. "But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago."
Science

Bill Nye Explains That the Flooding In Louisiana Is the Result of Climate Change (qz.com) 448

Reader mspohr writes: Our favorite science guy has an interview (and video) in Quartz where he explains how Louisiana flooding is due to climate change:
"As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands," Nye explained. "Molecules spread apart, and then as the sea surface is warmer, more water evaporates, and so it's very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects."
The article also notes that a National Academy of Sciences issued a report with the same findings: "Scientists from around the world have concurred with Nye that this is exactly what the effects of climate change look like, and that disasters like the Louisiana floods are going to happen more and more. According to a National Academy of Sciences report published earlier this year, extreme flooding can be traced directly to human-induced global warming. As the atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, leading to bouts of sustained, heavy precipitation that can cause floods."

Power

New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History (latimes.com) 320

mdsolar quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews. "The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Earth

Every Month This Year Has Been the Hottest In Recorded History (vice.com) 412

Slashdot reader iONiUM quotes an article from Vice that calls attention to the fact that record-setting temperatures in July are just part of the story: On Wednesday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July was the hottest month ever recorded on our planet, since modern record-keeping began in 1880. NASA has reached the same conclusion. July smashed all previous records... "We should be absolutely concerned," [NOAA climatologist] Sanchez-Lugo said. "We need to look at ways to adapt and mitigate. If we don't, temperatures will continue to increase"...

But the truth is that record-breaking temperatures, month after month, year after year, are starting to look less like an exception, more like the norm.

In fact, CityLab reports that the earth has now experienced 14 consecutive months of unprecedented hotness. Although July stands out, Vice notes that "each consecutive month in 2016 has broken its own previous record (May was the hottest May, April the hottest April, etc.)..."
Biotech

Can Cow Backpacks Reduce Global Methane Emissions? (bloomberg.com) 190

Slashdot reader schwit1 shares an article from Bloomberg which argues "It's time to have a conversation about flatulent cows." "Enteric fermentation," or livestock's digestive process, accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. methane emissions, and the manure they produce makes up eight percent more, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency... Methane, like carbon, is a greenhouse gas, but methane's global warming impact per molecule is 25 times greater than carbon's, according to the EPA.
Cargill has tried capturing some of the methane released from cow manure by using domed lagoons, while researchers at Danone yogurt discovered they could reduce methane emissions up to 30% by feeding cows a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (mostly from flax seed). But now Argentina researchers are testing plastic "methane backpacks" which they strap on to the back of cows, and according to the article "have been able to extract 300 liters of methane a day, enough to power a car or refrigerator."
Earth

NASA: July 2016 Was Earth's Warmest Month On Record (weather.com) 271

mdsolar quotes a report from The Weather Channel: Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), operated by the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), calculated the global average July temperature was nearly one-fifth of a degree Celsius higher than previous July temperature records set in 2015 and in 2009. July was also 0.55 degrees Celsius higher than the July average for 1981-2010. Compared to the July average, the south-central part of the United States including Texas and into northern Mexico were the most anomalously warm for North America. Globally, portions of western Russia and the Southern Ocean were warmest compared to average. In Russia, fires and an anthrax outbreak have been blamed on warmer than average temperatures. Each of the last 12 months has been the warmest on record for their respective months. This is due to a combination of global climate variability and human activity according to C3S. July is typically the warmest month of the year globally because the Northern Hemisphere has more land masses than the Southern Hemisphere. (NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) confirms today.)
NASA

Venus May Have Been Habitable, Says NASA (sciencedaily.com) 211

EzInKy writes: Science Daily has an article speculating that Venus may have been habitable which is suggested by NASA climate modeling, which proposes that Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to two billion years of its early history. Talk about global climate change run amok. Venus may represent a near Earth example of what is in store for the future of our world if we don't make it a number one priority to address. Science Daily reports: "Venus today is a hellish world. It has a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth's. There is almost no water vapor. Temperatures reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius) at its surface. Scientists have long theorized that Venus formed out of ingredients similar to Earth's, but followed a different evolutionary path. Measurements by NASA's Pioneer mission to Venus in the 1980s first suggested Venus originally may have had an ocean. However, Venus is closer to the sun than Earth and receives far more sunlight. As a result, the planet's early ocean evaporated, water-vapor molecules were broken apart by ultraviolet radiation, and hydrogen escaped to space. With no water left on the surface, carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere, leading to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect that created present conditions."
Earth

Earth's Resources Used Up at Quickest Rate Ever in 2016 (france24.com) 323

An anonymous reader writes: In just over seven months, humanity has used up a full year's allotment of natural resources such as water, food and clean air -- the quickest rate yet, according to a new report. The point of "overshoot" will officially be reached on Monday, said environmental group Global Footprint Network -- five days earlier than last year. "We continue to grow our ecological debt," said Pascal Canfin of green group WWF, reacting to the annual update. "From Monday August 8, we will be living on credit because in eight months we would have consumed the natural capital that our planet can renew in a year."
Government

FBI Forced To Release 18 Hours of Spy Plane Footage (vice.com) 242

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Motherboard: It's been just over a year since amateur aviation sleuths first revealed the FBI's secret aerial surveillance of the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, in response to a FOIA request from the ACLU, the Bureau has released more than 18 hours of aerial footage from the Baltimore protests captured by their once-secret spy planes, which regularly fly in circles above major cities and are commonly registered to fake companies.

The cache is likely the most comprehensive collection of aerial surveillance footage ever released by a US law enforcement agency... The footage shows the crowds of protesters captured in a combination of visible light and infrared spectrum video taken by the planes' wing-mounted FLIR Talon cameras. While individual faces are not clearly visible in the videos, it's frighteningly easy to imagine how cameras with a slightly improved zoom resolution and face recognition technology could be used to identify protesters in the future.

The FBI says they're only using the planes to track specific suspectds in serious crime investigations, according to the article, which adds that "The FBI flew their spy planes more than 3,500 times in the last six months of 2015, according to a Buzzfeed News analysis of data collected by the aircraft-tracking site FlightRadar24."

Slashdot Top Deals

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison

Working...