Daily Archives: April 19, 2016

A New Dark Age Looms – The New York Times

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

By WILLIAM B. GAILAPRIL 19, 2016

Oliver Munday

Boulder, Colo. — IMAGINE a future in which humanity’s accumulated wisdom about Earth — our vast experience with weather trends, fish spawning and migration patterns, plant pollination and much more — turns increasingly obsolete. As each decade passes, knowledge of Earth’s past becomes progressively less effective as a guide to the future. Civilization enters a dark age in its practical understanding of our planet.

To comprehend how this could occur, picture yourself in our grandchildren’s time, a century hence. Significant global warming has occurred, as scientists predicted. Nature’s longstanding, repeatable patterns — relied on for millenniums by humanity to plan everything from infrastructure to agriculture — are no longer so reliable. Cycles that have been largely unwavering during modern human history are disrupted by substantial changes in temperature and precipitation.

As Earth’s warming stabilizes, new patterns begin to appear. At first, they are confusing and hard to identify. Scientists note similarities to Earth’s emergence from the last ice age. These new patterns need many years — sometimes decades or more — to reveal themselves fully, even when monitored with our sophisticated observing systems. Until then, farmers will struggle to reliably predict new seasonal patterns and regularly plant the wrong crops. Early signs of major drought will go unrecognized, so costly irrigation will be built in the wrong places. Disruptive societal impacts will be widespread.

Such a dark age is a growing possibility. In a recent report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that human-caused global warming was already altering patterns of some extreme weather events. But the report did not address the broader implication — that disrupting nature’s patterns could extend well beyond extreme weather, with far more pervasive impacts.

…(read more).

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Divestment: Harvard’s Investments in Fossil Fuels – The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Yale Advances in Shaping a Climate-Minded Portfolio” (Business Day, April 13):

Yale, for stated economic reasons and perhaps unstated ethical ones, has marked certain fossil fuel investments off-limits. Harvard has not. In the apparent hope of improving its recent returns, lower than Yale’s, Harvard will now become a significant “anchor” investor in distressed oil and gas companies.

In the future, when the history is written of what institutions did, or did not do, to mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change, the millions spent on research and teaching will fall in the positive column of universities’ ledgers. Just as surely, the hundreds of millions, even billions, invested in fossil fuel industries, especially those that conduct business as usual in exploration and extraction, will fall in the negative column, never to be erased.

At that time, it will be asked why institutions such as Harvard pursued financial gain in this form, knowing full well that they were contributing to large and growing human suffering and to shortened lives for many, especially the poor, who will come after them.

JAMES ENGELL

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is a professor of literature at Harvard. Eighteen other Harvard professors signed the letter.

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NRLA: Resilient & Robust Resource Management


OSUEcampus

Published on Mar 16, 2016

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AGWA: Climate Change & Water (2015).

Founded in September 2010, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation is a group of regional and global development banks, government agencies and ministries, diverse non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector focused on managing water resources in a sustainable way — even as climate change alters the global hydrological cycle. Water provides coherence to climate change adaptation and mitigation, integrating energy, water, food production and agriculture, and ecosystems and the environment. AGWA is focused on how to help experts, decision makers, and institutions in the water community work more effectively. We want to work with you, through and across our network.

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Hawking at Harvard

At packed Sanders Theatre, theoretical physicist and cosmologist tackles the contradictory qualities of black holes

April 18, 2016 | Editor’s Pick Popular   By Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer

Black holes have long been painted as eternal prisons, regions of space so dense that nothing — not even light — can escape them. But the truth, Stephen Hawking told a packed Sanders Theatre this afternoon, is that the holes aren’t as black as you might think.

In a session that was the hottest ticket on campus in some time, the renowned Cambridge theoretical physicist and cosmologist spoke to more than 1,000 faculty, students, and staff at Sanders, with dozens more watching at simulcast sites in the Science Center and at Jefferson Lab.

Hawking’s lecture focused on his research into black holes and the information paradox, which suggests that physical information is permanently lost in such holes, a controversial notion that violates the scientific tenet that information about a system from one time can be used to understand its state at any other time.

“It is said that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, and nowhere is that more true than in the case of black holes,” Hawking said. “Black holes are stranger than anything dreamed up by science fiction writers, but they are clearly matters of science fact.”

Over the years, Hawking said, the murky nature of black holes has forced scientists to grapple with theories that can contradict each other and — in some cases — our basic understanding of the universe. Early theories argued that black holes retain virtually no information about the stars from which they formed, he said. Instead, only their mass, angular momentum, and electrical charge were preserved.

…(read more).

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Davos 2016: A Brief History of Industrial Revolutions – Professor Ian Goldin


21school

Published on Apr 11, 2016

The rise of machine intelligence will require humans to reinterpret our relationship with the world in the most fundamental way since the Renaissance. In this presentation for the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting in January 2016, Ian Goldin – Director of the Oxford Martin School, Professor of Globalization and Development at the University of Oxford – looks at how new ideas in the Renaissance encountered pushback, and the lessons we should learn about balancing techno-optimism with realism.

Oxford Martin School,
University of Oxford
www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk

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Italy confirms migrant boat tragedy, 400 people are feared dead


CCTV Africa

Published on Apr 19, 2016

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has confirmed reports of a migrant tragedy in Egyptian waters but added he was waiting for more details. Unconfirmed media reports had earlier stated up to 400 victims drowned after their boat capsized near the Egyptian coast as they attempted to sail to Europe. Most of the migrants aboard the boat were fleeing from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, hoping to reach Italy. Somali media reports say that rescue workers have only managed to save 29 passengers from the waters. The Italian Foreign Minister said the tragedy came on the one-year anniversary of the deaths of hundreds of migrants off Libya in April 2015. Gentiloni also added that these recent events are a reminder of the refugee crisis currently plaguing Europe and called for a stronger commitment to addressing the migration crisis.

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