Daily Archives: February 20, 2017

Ecological Systems in the Anthropocene | Harvard University Center for the Environment


The Harvard University Center for the Environment presents the latest installment of the Ecological Systems in the Anthropocene Seminar Series:

“Poverty Traps, Resilience and Coupled Human-Natural Systems” with CHRISTOPHER B. BARRETT, Cornell University.

Christopher B. Barrett is the Deputy Dean and Dean of Academic Affairs at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor of Applied Economics and Management and International Professor of Agriculture in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, as well as Professor in the Department of Economics and a Fellow of the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, all at Cornell University. His research focuses on the interrelationship between poverty, food insecurity and environmental stress in developing areas. His most recent book, Food Security and Sociopolitical Stability, highlights the nexus between global food prices and political unrest in low- and middle-income countries.

Weathering: Toward a Sustainable Humanities | Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University


Lecture by Stephanie LeMenager RI ’17

Stephanie LeMenager’s work at the Radcliffe Institute pursues the question of how the humanities can help to shape modes of being human that are more ecologically connected and prepared for living with climate change. She will take the specific problem of drought as a touchstone from which to build out the concept of what she calls “H2O U,” a university dedicated to thinking through the effects of drought on what humanity is and can aspire to become.

Free and open to the public.


Hundreds gather in Copley Square to ‘stand up for science’ – The Boston Globe


Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Scientists, science advocates, and community members rallied in Copley Square in Boston on Sunday.

By Jan Ransom and Cristela Guerra Globe Staff February 19, 2017

Chiamaka Obiolo was ready to start high school at Boston Latin Academy four years ago when she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. After undergoing a 10-hour-long corrective surgery, the Dorchester teenager had to learn to walk, eat, and dress herself again. She credits science for saving her life.
Obiolo became a climate change activist and was one of nearly a dozen speakers at the Stand Up for Science rally in Copley Square on Sunday, joining hundreds of scientists in white lab coats and supporters to protest President Trump’s efforts to discredit science and climate research and dismantle scientific institutions in the government.

“The good news of science is not exclusive to the elite and thus its message must permeate throughout the masses and empower everyone from the youth to the elderly,” Obiolo, an aspiring scientist, told the crowd

…(read more).

“If there had not been research on scoliosis and how to fix it, there would have been no way for me to be treated, and my spine would have continued to curve,” said Obiolo, 17. “I probably would not be alive.”

AAAS Global Climate-Change Video


Uploaded on Mar 22, 2007

Residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, and experts like John Holdren, exploring the human impacts of global climate change.

Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate


Published on Feb 19, 2017

Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. The loss, however, showed up in some ocean basins more than others. The largest overall volume of oxygen was lost in the largest ocean — the Pacific — but as a percentage, the decline was sharpest in the Arctic Ocean, a region facing Earth’s most stark climate change.

The loss of ocean oxygen “has been assumed from models, and there have been lots of regional analysis that have shown local decline, but it has never been shown on the global scale, and never for the deep ocean,” said Schmidtko, who conducted the research with Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck, also of GEOMAR.

Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate — unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish, Schmidtko explained. Moreover, he added, just 1 percent of all the Earth’s available oxygen mixes into the ocean; the vast majority remains in the air.

Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases, including oxygen. “It’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” Schmidtko said.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

“When the upper ocean warms, less water gets down deep, and so therefore, the oxygen supply to the deep ocean is shut down or significantly reduced,” Schmidtko said.

The new study represents a synthesis of literally “millions” of separate ocean measurements over time, according to GEOMAR. The authors then used interpolation techniques for areas of the ocean where they lacked measurements.

The resulting study attributes less than 15 percent of the total oxygen loss to sheer warmer temperatures, which create less solubility. The rest was attributed to other factors, such as a lack of mixing.

Matthew Long, an oceanographer from the National Center for Atmospheric Research who has published on ocean oxygen loss, said he considers the new results “robust” and a “major advance in synthesizing observations to examine oxygen trends on a global scale.”

Long was not involved in the current work, but his research had previously demonstrated that ocean oxygen loss was expected to occur and that it should soon be possible to demonstrate that in the real world through measurements, despite the complexities involved in studying the global ocean and deducing trends about it.

That’s just what the new study has done.

“Natural variations have obscured our ability to definitively detect this signal in observations,” Long said in an email. “In this study, however, Schmidtko et al. synthesize all available observations to show a global-scale decline in oxygen that conforms to the patterns we expect from human-driven climate warming. They do not make a definitive attribution statement, but the data are consistent with and strongly suggestive of human-driven warming as a root cause of the oxygen decline

AAAS chief puts weight behind protest march


Published on Feb 20, 2017

AAAS chief puts weight behind protest march Rush Holt, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), said that people were “standing up for science”.
His remarks reflect growing concern among researchers that science is disregarded by President Trump
Scientists across the US plan to march in DC on 22 April.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career,” the former Democratic congressman told BBC News.
Image caption
A letter of concern was drawn up at MIT
“To see young scientists, older scientists, the general public speaking up for the idea of science. We are going to work with our members and affiliated organisations to see that this march for science is a success.”
Mr Holt made his comments at the AAAS annual meting in Boston as President Trump appointed a fierce critic of the Environmental Protection Agency as its head. Scott Pruitt has spent years fighting the role and reach of the EPA.
Campaigners accuse him of being too close to the oil and gas industry, and allege that he is “lukewarm” on the threat posed by climate change.
Rush Holt says that the concern among US scientists has gone well beyond the usual uncertainty that comes with a change in the Oval Office.
“It is partly because of the previous statements of the president and his appointees on issues such as climate change and vaccination for children which have not been in keeping with good science,” the AAAS CEO told BBC News.
“But mostly by what we have seen since the new administration has come in, [which] is silence about science. Very few appointments to positions are filled by people who understand science, very few comments about the importance of science; there is no science advisor in the White House now and we don’t know whether there will be one.
“And so the silence is beginning to sound ominous.”
TrumpImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption
Donald Trump has yet to appoint a senior advisor on science and technology issues
There has been unease among researchers ever since Mr Trump was elected in November. More than 600 professors from one of the country’s leading research Universities, MIT, signed an open letter before his inauguration expressing their concerns.
It stated: “The president-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change… Science is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyse, understand, and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.”
Among the signatories’ worries are the president’s statement that climate change is a hoax, his alleged muzzling of environmental agencies and his apparent interest in setting up a commission to investigate whether vaccines cause autism.
Prof Nancy Kanwisher, who is a brain researcher at MIT, explained why she helped organise the petition.
“This is the most frightening and serious threat we have faced in my lifetime,” she told BBC News.
“The political tactic of denying scientific fact is a huge threat to the health of our people. It is also a huge threat to our planet from climate deniers.”

On eve of confirmation vote, judge orders EPA nominee to release thousands of emails – The Washington Post

By Brady Dennis February 16
At his confirmation hearing, President-elect Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee Scott Pruitt outlined his plan for the agency. (Video: Thomas Johnson/Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

An Oklahoma judge on Thursday ordered Scott Pruitt, the state’s attorney general and President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, to turn over thousands of emails related to his communication with the oil, gas and coal industry.

The Center for Media and Democracy has been seeking the release of Pruitt’s correspondence with fossil-fuel representatives under public records laws for more than two years. The group filed suit over Pruitt’s refusal to turn over the documents and requested the expedited hearing that led to the judge’s decision, which was first reported by E&E News.

Pruitt, longtime adversary of EPA, confirmed to lead the

The ruling by District Court Judge Aletia Timmons, who said there had been “an abject failure to provide prompt and reasonable access to documents requested,” came a day before the Senate is expected to vote on confirming Pruitt to head the EPA, an agency that he has sued repeatedly during the Obama years.

Timmons gave the attorney general’s office until Tuesday to release the records, meaning they likely won’t come to light until after he is sworn in to his new position.

“It should never have come to this,” Nick Surgey, the advocacy group’s director of research, said in an interview. “We shouldn’t have had to go to court to force the release of emails that were requested more than two years ago. … It makes it pretty difficult for people to vet his record.”

…(read more).