American Opinion On Climate Change Warms Up

There should be an image here!Public concern about global warming is once again on the rise, according to a national survey released today by researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities. The results come as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote this week on a resolution to block the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Since January, public belief that global warming is happening rose four points, to 61 percent, while belief that it is caused mostly by human activities rose three points, to 50 percent. The number of Americans who worry about global warming rose three points, to 53 percent. And the number of Americans who said that the issue is personally important to them rose five points, to 63 percent.

“The stabilization and slight rebound in public opinion is occurring amid signs the economy is starting to recover, along with consumer confidence, and as memories of unusual snowstorms and scientific scandals recede,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “The BP oil disaster is also reminding the public of the dark side of dependence on fossil fuels, which may be increasing support for clean energy policies.”

Americans who said President Obama and Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a high priority increased 11 points, to 71 percent, while those who said that global warming should be a high priority rose six points, to 44 percent. In a seven-point increase since January, 69 percent of Americans said that the United States should make a large or medium effort to reduce global warming even if it incurs large or moderate economic costs.

Current public support for specific policy options (and changes since January, 2010) include:

  • 77 percent support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (+6)
  • 87 percent support funding more research into renewable energy sources (+2)
  • 83 percent support tax rebates for people who buy fuel-efficient vehicles and solar panels (+1)
  • 65 percent support signing an international treaty that requires the United States to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90 percent by the year 2050 (+4)
  • 61 percent support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 per year (+2)
  • Support for expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast fell to 62 percent (-5)

“More than seven out of 10 Americans say the United States should take action to power our nation with clean energy,” said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. “Even more Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, including 64 percent of Republicans.”

The results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,024 American adults, age 18 and older. The sample was weighted to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau parameters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percent, with 95 percent confidence. The survey was designed by researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities and conducted from May 14, 2009 to June 1, 2010 by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults.

Copies of the reports can be downloaded from here.

Tara Laskowski @ George Mason University

[Photo above by Cherrylynx / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:Bill McKibben]

New Study Sheds Light On Corals' Susceptibility To Temperature Change

There should be an image here!An international team of marine biologists has found that existing diversity in some coral populations may significantly influence their response to extreme temperature disturbances — such as those predicted from climate warming. The team demonstrated that natural selection acting on the species of algae living within corals may determine which partnerships will survive when confronted with extreme temperatures changes. The results will be published online in the May 5 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Corals form symbiotic relationships with photosynthetic algae in order to survive. The algae provide the corals with nutrients and energy, while the corals provide the algae with nutrients and a place to live. According to the scientists, this delicate symbiosis is sensitive to changes in the environment, and especially to changes in temperature. “A change in sea-surface temperature of just a few degrees above the summer high or below the winter low can cause many coral-algal symbioses to break down and the algae to be expelled,” said Mark Warner, an associate professor of marine biosciences at the University of Delaware and one of the team’s leaders. This process is known as bleaching because it leaves behind the translucent animal tissue and the white skeleton underneath.

The scientists — which include Todd LaJeunesse, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, and Hector Reyes-Bonilla, a professor at Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur — found that corals harboring certain species of symbiotic algae survived a severe cold-water event that took place in 2008 in the Gulf of California (eastern Pacific Ocean), while corals harboring a different species of algae died.

The team focused their research on a genus of coral called Pocillopora that comprises approximately 95 percent of the coral community in the Gulf of California and the larger eastern Pacific Ocean. “In this region, Pocillopora corals typically harbor one of two types of symbiotic algae: a species that is sensitive to environmental changes or another species that is stress-tolerant,” said LaJeunesse. The team found that colonies of Pocillopora corals harboring the sensitive species of algae were bleached following the 2008 cold-water event, which led to a high mortality rate in these corals. In contrast, Pocillopora colonies harboring the stress-tolerant alga were virtually unaffected by the episode.

In addition to their work in the Gulf of California, the team also surveyed reefs along the western coast of Mexico and into Panama. Pocillopora corals were significantly impacted at several of these sites during substantial warming and cooling when there was a particularly strong El Niño/La Niña in 1997 and 1998. In fact, up to 90 percent of all corals died after bleaching. Much like their work further north, the team noted that the majority of corals growing in these locations contained the more tolerant species of algae. “The differential mortality that we witnessed suggests that the relationship between certain populations of Pocillopora and the species of algae they associate with is quite stable,” said Warner. “And this stability, ultimately, is an Achilles heel for Pocillopora. The inability of the corals to shuffle their symbionts or to establish symbioses with different species of algae means that we may see a significant loss of coral populations in the future, especially if extreme temperature disturbances, such as the cold anomaly we documented in 2008 or the hot anomaly that took place in 1997, become more frequent or severe.”

Andrea Boyle @ University of Delaware

[Photo above by Richard Ling / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:Underwater to Get Out of the Rain]

Study Gives Green Light To Plants' Role In Global Warming

There should be an image here!Plants remain an effective way of tackling global warming despite emitting small amounts of an important greenhouse gas, a study has shown.

Research led by the University of Edinburgh suggests that plant leaves account for less than one percent of the Earth’s emissions of methane — which is considered to be about 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at global warming.

The results contrast with a previous scientific study which had suggested that plants were responsible for producing large amounts of the greenhouse gas.

The findings confirm that trees are a useful way of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, as their output of small amounts of methane is far outweighed by their capacity to store carbon from the atmosphere in their leaves, wood and bark.

To reach their conclusions, scientists created artificial leaves made from plant pectin and measured the methane produced when the leaves were exposed to sunlight.

They combined their results with satellite data on the leaf coverage of the Earth’s surface, ozone in the atmosphere, cloud cover, temperature, and information on sunshine levels to help work out the amount of methane produced by all plants on Earth.

Their results refine previous studies that had indicated that the quantity of methane produced by plants might have been much higher. Future research will examine methane production from parts of plants other than leaves, and the amount of methane given off by different species of plants in different regions of the Earth.

Dr Andy McLeod, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Our results show that plant leaves do give rise to some methane, but only a very small amount — this is a welcome result as it allays fears that forestry and agriculture were contributing unduly to global warming.”

Catriona Kelly @ University of Edinburgh

[Photo above by Salz / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:Climate Cover-Up]

Decades Of Research Show Massive Arctic Ice Cap Is Shrinking

There should be an image here!Close to 50 years of data show the Devon Island ice cap, one of the largest ice masses in the Canadian High Arctic, is thinning and shrinking.

A paper published in the March edition of Arctic, the journal of the University of Calgary’s Arctic Institute of North America, reports that between 1961 and 1985, the ice cap grew in some years and shrank in others, resulting in an overall loss of mass. But that changed 1985 when scientists began to see a steady decline in ice volume and area each year.

“We’ve been seeing more mass loss since 1985,” says Sarah Boon, lead author on the paper and a Geography Professor at the University of Lethbridge. The reason for the change? Warmer summers.

The High Arctic is essentially a desert with low rates of annual precipitation. There is little accumulation of snow in the winter and cool summers, with temperatures at or below freezing, serve to maintain levels. Any increase of snow and ice takes years.

This delicate equilibrium is easily upset. One warm summer can wipe out five years of growth. And though the accelerated melting trend began in 1985, the last decade has seen four years with unusually warm summers – 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

“What we see during these warm summers is the extent of the melt is greater,” says Boon about the results of a five-year remote sensing study that ran between 2000 and 2004.

The white surfaces of snow and ice reflect heat — a process known as the albedo effect. Retreating ice exposes dark soil and gravel, which absorb heat and increase the melt rate of ice along the periphery of the cap. But it’s not only the edges of the cap that are losing ice. At lower altitudes the ice is thinning as well.

Changes to the Devon ice cap, which covers approximately 14,400 sq. km, could have multiple impacts on everything from ship traffic to sea level.

There has already been an increase in the number of icebergs calving off from outlet glaciers that flow into the ocean. Boon explains that melt water runs between the bottom of the glacier and the ground, creating a slippery cushion that allows the glacier to slide forward more rapidly than it would in colder conditions.

“There are a lot of things we need to consider. One is the iceberg calving and its implications for shipping. These things don’t just go away, they float out into the ocean,” says Boon. A second area of concern is the contribution of increased glacier melt to rising sea level.

The work of Boon and her colleagues demonstrates the importance of long-term research. Work on Devon Island began in 1961 with researchers from the Arctic Institute of North America, including long-time Arctic scientist Roy ‘Fritz’ Koerner, who was part of the current study until his death in 2008. This ongoing research, which is continuing thanks to federal International Polar year funding, has created a comprehensive dataset that contributes to the understanding of the complex play between the ice cap, the atmosphere and the ocean.

“We all know long-term studies are important but they are really hard to pay for.”

Ruth Klinkhammer @ Arctic Institute of North America

[Photo above by Scheherazade Al Arab / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:arctic ice cap]

New Study Shows Rising Water Temperatures In US Streams And Rivers

There should be an image here!New research by a team of ecologists and hydrologists shows that water temperatures are increasing in many streams and rivers throughout the United States. The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, documents that 20 major U.S. streams and rivers – including such prominent rivers as the Colorado, Potomac, Delaware, and Hudson – have shown statistically significant long-term warming.

By analyzing historical records from 40 sites located throughout the United States, the team found that annual mean water temperatures increased by 0.02-0.14°F (0.009-0.077°C) per year. Long-term increases in stream water temperatures were typically correlated with increases in air temperatures, and rates of warming were most rapid in urbanized areas.

“Warming waters can impact the basic ecological processes taking place in our nation’s rivers and streams,” said Dr. Sujay Kaushal of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and lead author of the study. “Long-term temperature increases can impact aquatic biodiversity, biological productivity, and the cycling of contaminants through the ecosystem.”

“It’s both surprising and remarkable that so many diverse river systems in North America behaved in concert with respect to warming,” said Dr. David Secor of the UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory whose work focused on Maryland’s Patuxent River, where he has noted a 3°F increase since 1939.

The analysis indicates that 20 of the 40 streams studied showed statistically significant long term warming trends, while an additional 13 showed temperature increases that were not statistically significant. Two rivers showed significant temperature decreases. The longest record of increase was observed for the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, New York. The most rapid rate of increase was recorded for the Delaware River near Chester, Pennsylvania.

“We are seeing the largest increases in the most highly urbanized areas which lead us to believe that the one-two punch of development and global warming could have a tremendous impact on stream and river ecosystem health,” said Dr. Kaushal.

Given long-term global warming and “urban heat island effects” related to the abundance of buildings, roads, concrete, and asphalt, the authors point out that conserving riparian forests, reducing impervious surfaces, adopting “green” infrastructure practices, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions can help reduce increased water temperatures.

Christopher Conner @ University of Maryland Center For Environmental Science

[Photo above by Eric / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:river ecosystem]

First Study To Link Earlier Butterfly Emergence With Climate Change

There should be an image here!Butterflies are emerging in spring over 10 days earlier than they did 65 years ago, a shift that has been linked to regional human-induced climate change in a University of Melbourne- led study. The work reveals for the first time, a causal link between increasing greenhouse gases, regional warming and the change in timing of a natural event.

The study found that over a 65 year period, the mean emergence date for adults of the Common Brown butterfly (Heteronympha merope) has shifted 1.6 days earlier per decade in Melbourne, Australia. The findings are unique because the early emergence is causally linked with a simultaneous increase in air temperatures around Melbourne of approximately 0.14°C per decade, and this warming is shown to be human-induced (anthropogenic).

Lead author of the study Dr Michael Kearney from the Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne says the findings could help our ability to forecast future impacts of climate change on biodiversity.

“Shifts in these seasonal life cycle events represent a challenge to species, altering the food and competition present at the time of hatching. Studies such as ours will allow better forecasting of these shifts and help us understand more about their consequences,” says Dr Kearney.

The butterfly emergence work was conducted by Dr Kearney and PhD student Natalie Briscoe. Professor David Karoly from the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne contributed the climate modeling work. Co-authors include Dr Warren Porter (University of Wisconsin) and Drs Melanie Norgate and Paul Sunnucks from Monash University. The study was funded by an Australian Research Council grant to Monash, Melbourne and Wisconsin Universities.

The study will be published in Biology Letters, a prestigious international journal of the Royal Society.

The team raised caterpillars of the Common Brown Butterfly in the laboratory to measure the physiological impact of temperature on its rate of development. They used this information to model the effect of observed historical climate trends in Melbourne on the speed of the butterfly’s development. They combined this with global climate model outputs for the Melbourne area over the same period to examine whether natural climate variability or human influence on climate was more likely to have caused the air temperature change seen in Melbourne.

“Scientists have previously observed that biological events are happening progressively earlier in spring over the past few decades. This new work has tied the earlier emergence of butterflies directly to a regional temperature increase, and has tied the temperature increase very strongly to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations caused by humans,” says Professor Karoly.

Nerissa Hannink @ University of Melbourne

[Photo above by Allison Taylor / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:climate change biology]

38 Percent Of World's Surface In Danger Of Desertification

There should be an image here!“Despite improvements in the LCA, it has a methodological weakness, which is a lack of environmental impact categories to measure the effect of human activities such as cultivation or grazing on the soil”, Montserrat Núñez, lead author and a researcher at the Institute of Agro Food Research and Technology (IRTA), tells SINC.

The research, published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, is the first study in the world to include the impact of desertification in the LCA, based on classifying 15 natural areas or “eco-regions” according to their degree of aridity. By simultaneously using the LCA and a Geographic Information System (GIS), the researchers have shown that eight of these 15 areas can be classified as at risk of desertification, representing 38% of the land surface of the world.

The eight natural areas at risk are coastal areas, the Prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate Steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical Steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.

“The greatest risk of desertification (7.6 out of 10 on a scale produced using various desertification indicators) is in the subtropical desert regions – North Africa, the countries of the Middle East, Australia, South West China and the western edge of South America”, the scientist explains.

These are followed by areas such as the Mediterranean and the tropical and subtropical Steppes, both of which score 6.3 out of 10 on the scale of desertification risk. Coastal areas and the Prairies are at a lower risk of desertification, with 4 out of 10.

“Unsustainable land use may lead to soil becoming degraded. If this happens in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions, such as Spain, this degradation is known as desertification, and the effects can be irreversible, because they lead to areas becoming totally unproductive”, says Núñez, who worked on the study with scientists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the National Technological University in Mendoza, Argentina.

In order to establish their methodology, the researchers used four biophysical variables that are the main causes of desertification – aridity, erosion, over-exploitation of aquifers and risk of fire. “This makes it possible to satisfactorily evaluate the impact of desertification of a particular human activity, and compare the impact of the same activity in a different place, or the impact of different activities carried out in the same place”, explains the researcher. The methodology proposed by the scientists is currently being put to use in various case studies in Spain and Argentina.

Completing The Study Of Desertification

The new research shows that using the LCA in combination with GIS makes it easier to adapt the LCA to study the impacts of land use, not only in the case of desertification, but also in terms of loss of biodiversity, erosion, or even water consumption.

This new methodology will provide the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with an environmental impact category that will make it possible to measure “the desertification potential caused by any human activity”, adds Núñez.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a scientific methodology that objectively analyses the environmental impacts of an activity or process, taking in the full cycle, from extraction of raw materials right through to management of the waste generated at the end of this material’s useful life.

SINC @ Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

[Photo above by teimoury / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:mad max road warrior]

Living in Fear: Politicians Are Using Fear to Control the Masses

One only has to have lived during the Cold War to remember the indoctrination we received as Children regarding Communism. Being educated in a parochial school we received weekly cartoon handouts on how our lives would be destroyed if the evil Communist dictators ever took over America. Then that was cemented in our thinking by the call for bomb shelters and bomb drills that took place monthly.

However, in the 1990s the Communist block dissolved and nuclear arsenals were supposedly dismantled. Desert Storm quickly took care of the threat of Iraqi expansion into Kuwait so America’s biggest fears and enemies disappeared. We were safe.

The question then occurred to politicians about how to keep control of the masses and force allegiance to specific political parties. Ah ha, why not give Americans and the world something scientific to worry about. How about global warming? The environment is always a good way to get people concerned about the food they eat, the water they drink and the air they breathe. The government could then become responsible for cleaning it all up.

Then fortunately, for the politicians, Al Quida steps into the picture by bombing the World Trade Center and America has a new enemy to fear. Let’s start a war on terrorism, in general. It seemed to most Americans that Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi native, member of the royal family, along with Al Quida would have been the logical target. In fact, as reported in the New York Times on July 11,2002, bin Laden died in December 2001 and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.

With that information came a need to strengthen President Bush’s position so Saddam Hussein, who coincidentally had put out a hit on the first President Bush became the target of choice. Iraq, a once stable country with a viable economy was now targeted as a center for weapons of mass destruction and after 9/11 Americans were willing to buy whatever the government told them. Sadly, this again was a ruse to keep the American public frightened and under control. Remember when Bush wanted to remove term limits on the Presidency.

I believe that what the Bush Administration’s term will show to history is how one president, who refused to listen to reason has single-handedly nearly brought America to its knees.

Thanks to his legacy America is now in trillions of dollars of debt, has a failing economy, is a world laughing stock and has spread its military so thin it is unable to respond to current crises. Now, we are told that Iran is also a threat. Are you afraid yet? Will your children see adulthood? Is Armageddon on the horizon? If so we have the leadership of the present administration to thank.

In reality, our concerns might wish to focus on border control, getting medical care for our citizens, schooling our children so that they can compete on the world stage, and improving our economy so that the average citizen doesn’t have to worry about losing their homes or feeding their children.

The trillions of dollars we are spending on other countries might be better spent improving our own infrastructure from bridges that are collapsing, to an outdated electrical grid, an improved communications network, and securing our transportation system. Stop the idiocy and allow states to get back to work for the people. Stop fighting over separation of church and state. Our country was founded on the premise of freedom of religion so if a state chooses to display the Ten Commandments and allow prayer in schools good for them. If a particular town doesn’t want Christmas displays let them put up Hanukkah candles. In other words, respect the rights guaranteed in our constitution and in the next election look for someone who fight to minimize the federal government and restore the economy.

Hospitality Web Site Launched

According to Grand Times magazine’s member news published by the Hilton Grand Vacations Club resort they have just recently launched a new Web site found at behospitable.com.

 

I found their first article to be an invaluable site for those of us who are starting to entertain guests in our homes, as well as, a mighty resource for the professional host and hostess who desires to make their clients feel wanted and at home. It is truly remarkable that they have managed to include an interactive United States map that even highlights the different customs of certain areas so that the host/hostess will be aware of what might be expected, such as welcoming leis in
Hawaii or slippers in the north for those visitors whose shoes are muddy. To further enhance their site they include an index that allows visitors to share their hospitable anecdotes and to share and collect new ideas for encouraging hospitality in their families and communities.

 

One of the site’s features is the be hospitable show, a video-cast with Brooke Channon, host of HGTV’s “Sensible Chic.” The show spotlights courteous acts in a series of short vignettes, which can be found on the home page.

 

One of the things I like the most about the site was the area dedicated to kids and families where the reader can learn some tips that included:

 

  • Smile at and talk to elderly people, they know a lot that you don’t.
  • Always close every door gently.
  • Take the smaller piece of cake/pie/candy, sometimes.
  • Choose a family charity and donate to it every year.
  • Make sure you know the mane of your mail person and garbage collector.
  • Put heart stickers on the bills you mail out, because even the people who open your bills are human beings.
  • Bring flowers to your local library.

 

The site even offers coloring pages for kids that show hospitable acts, like sharing a blanket, singing a song, asking someone to dance, or applauding and holding the door open.

 

Of course like all web sites you may find yourself listening to a speech from Conrad Hilton which is a plug for his hotels and resorts but overall the site is quite well done. This includes their discussion of the role that they are playing in the be hospitable that includes a rundown of each Hilton branch’s involvement in numerous programs from the “Grow a School Garden” program to support for the National Coalition for the Homeless and a concern for global warming.

 

In general, however, I really appreciated what I found on this web site so if you want to make your family and the world more hospitable you can take the first step by clicking on behospitable.com and reading what it has to offer.

[tags]Hilton Grand Vacation Resorts, hospitality, Web-site, family, children, global warming, Conrad Hilton, Embassy Suites, Hawaii, Grow a School Garden, National coalition for the Homeless, Sensible Chic, Brooke Channon, Grand Times magazine, [/tags]

Local Cooling – Fight Global Warming Right From Your Desktop – For FREE – Review

I found this website lurking unnoticed on the Internet purely by chance. I was actually looking for statistics concerning power consumption usage for people who leave on their systems 24/7 without employing any power savings options, such as turning off the monitor, or hard disk or just turning the whole computer off when they go to bed.

Instead what I found was a website that is offering free software that the author states will do the following:

“LocalCooling is a 100% Free power management tool from Uniblue Labs that allows users to optimize their energy savings in minutes and as a result reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Download the 100% Free LocalCooling Application and it automatically optimizes your PC’s power consumption by using a more effective power save mode. You will be able to see your savings in real-time translated to more evironmental terms such as how many trees and gallons of oil you have saved.”

So I downloaded the Local Cooling software which is about 2.5 MB in size, and after creating a restore point, I installed it on my test machine running Windows XP SP2. Note: This software only works with XP.

Well, this is kind of a unique software. Not only does it allow you to tweak your power settings more efficiently using custom controls, or 3 choices of low, medium, high done automatically, but the GUI is very pleasing to the eye. And there is a feature tab called My Power which actually listed the parts of my PC that were using juice PLUS how much each part was using and a grand total. The software read my hardware perfectly. Which that in itself was amazing, since some softwares I have used were not even close.

Testing: I set the system to turn off my monitor after 5 minutes, hard disk after 15 minutes and to hibernate after 30 minutes. Guess what? After 5 minutes I heard there or four chirping sounds from the PC and nothing happened. Monitor still remained on. However, 5 minutes later, chirping again and the monitor turned off. And 15 minutes later hard disk spun down, and within 30 minutes the system hibernated. So it did work.
The test machine I am using is a dual boot Windows XP and Vista. And on the Vista side, the power scheme works perfectly. Vista has a great built in power saving mode which actually completely powers down my system after 30 minutes, and with just a touch of the mouse or keyboard, immediately kicks the system into gear. Nice, very nice.
So overall the software program worked OK. It is beta [testing] so some bugs are to be expected. It offers more options than the standard power savings built into XP, and it sure is pretty. :-)

Local cooling software can be found here for download.

PS Your mobo must support power saving features for this to work.
[tags]free, software, global warming, [/tags]

Why Some Skepticism May Be More Valid Than Others

Bernhard Muller writes:

You say: “Skeptics get a bad and undeserved press.” I submit that it depends on what one is skeptical of whether the bad press is undeserved, or even bad at all. There are, of course, evolution skeptics. But there are also global warming skeptics, immunization skeptics, fluoridation skeptics, man walking on the moon skeptics; and yoga skeptics, and acupuncture skeptics, and chiropractic skeptics. You might devote a column to the basis for skepticism and why some skepticism may be more valid than others.

Your wish is my command. The paragraph Bernhard refers to is:

…For some reason people who accept the most outrageous assumptions on faith are often valued while their colleagues who question the basis of that faith are held to be in a lower social status. This tendency goes all the way back to Socrates and beyond. Doubting Thomas was a proto-scientist, and Icarus was an enthusiastic test engineer. Everything we learn starts with a skeptical thought.

Bernhard and I seem to agree on the value of healthy skepticism. Even more important, we agree that the quality of being a skeptic is an analog parameter. Bernhard indicates this when he writes “more valid than…” In other words, skepticism comes in degrees. Remember that simple fact and don’t let people try to pigeonhole you into being either a believer or skeptic: that is a classic way of attempting to win debates. Instead of being suckered into thinking of skepticism as a digital parameter (yes or no) imagine a parameter that varies from abject unquestioning belief at one end to total rejection of anything that is not proven absolutely true for all times on the other. A healthy skeptic lives in a range somewhere on the disbelief side. A healthy skeptic moves back and forth on the scale for each idea and for each new bit of data gathered about each idea. This is in contrast to hardcore faithful who reject new data that does not support their beliefs and stubbornly cling to their end of the spectrum.

Many books have been written on faith, skepticism, scientific induction, and epistemology. Attempting to survey the whole field in this short note would not do justice to the topics. Those who want to follow up should visit this site or simply google on some key words. If you are interested in reading a book that attacks sloppy thought, try The Transcendental Temptation: a Critique of Religion and the Paranormal by Paul Kurtz. This book is rather dated now, but still interesting. Any book by him would probably be interesting. A more recent book with a different and more inflammatory thesis is Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Dawkins tells you where is coming from right up front.

I think that a reasonable skeptic’s position is to say that anyone is welcome to believe anything that happens in their head and stays there. But if you make statements about how things in your head affect the world and other people outside your head, then your ideas must submit to scrutiny for me to accept them. An internal revelation to you is hearsay to me. Your unsupported word that you have been talking to God and she is mad at me carries no authority, but might be fun.

The same applies to global warming, acupuncture, and the other topics Bernhard mentions. Skeptics have contributed positively to each topic. We have a better understanding of the causes and likely course of predicted global warming because we had a lively debate over it sparked by skeptics. I turned from suspended belief to believing based on reviewing the data. That debate will likely continue until the issue is tied down and understood as well as we understand evolution.

Skepticism, like any other tool used by humans, has a range of application where it is valuable. Attempting to use it in the wrong place is counterproductive. Alexander Pope says “Be not the first by whom the new is tried nor be the last to lay the old aside.” In a way, that captures the idea that new truths do not enter a society all at once, but grow like an organic thing. A good skeptic accepts nothing at first glance, but looks at it critically. If a reasonably firm decision cannot be supported by physical data, then a new idea must be held tentative until it is either supported or disproven. The difficulty is that false physical conjectures can often be disproven, but true ones can only be supported to some degree of probability. But that is another column.

In response to the interest my original tutorial generated, I have completely rewritten and expanded it. Check out the tutorial availability through Lockergnome. The new version is over 100 pages long with chapters that alternate between discussion of the theoretical aspects and puzzles just for the fun of it. Puzzle lovers will be glad to know that I included an answers section that includes discussions as to why the answer is correct and how it was obtained. Most of the material has appeared in these columns, but some is new. Most of the discussions are expanded compared to what they were in the original column format.

[tags]skepticism, skeptic, proof, faith, The Transcendental Temptation, The God Delusion, Socrates, Doubting Thomas, Icarus, global warming[/tags]

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

State of Fear by Michael Crichton is a scientifically based novel on the theory of global warming. The book is exquistically written with scientific detail and on the edge of your seat suspense wrapped together in an informative and entertaining package.

In State of Fear Crichton, well known for his fast-moving prose combined with well researched data and his occasional controversial plot concepts, reverses field using the incorrectly perceived threats of environmental disaster as the underlying impetus against the hysteria surrounding global warming. In this book, Crichton weaves a story around the real-life manipulation of scientific data that is designed to force a political agenda and develops his story line around the ability of humans to influence the environment and the concept that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. So if you enjoy an avalanche of scientific data on how giant ice bergs, tsunamis and flash floods can be created, this is your book.

The story centers around Peter Evans (an environmental lawyer) in charge of handling negotiations between George Morton (a billionaire philanthropist) and the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF), to which Morton is about to bequeath $10 million. Morton and his co-horts take Evans for a dizzying adventure that zips them to places as far-flung as Antarctica. At first, Peter refuses to accept the idea that things may not be as they seem but after a couple of attempts on his life, he wakes up to the fact that NERF is actually involved in a planned, as well as dangerous, and well-funded, terrorist attack.

I found myself drawn to both the overall theory that things (such as global warming) are not always as they are related to us via the media and the fact that our government has its own agenda and will feed us tainted information so that they can manipulate us into a state of fear. In Addition, I also enjoyed the subplots that Crichton wrote into the story that kept it moving along at an acceptable pace. Despite my pleasure in the book, however, I wouldn’t recommend it to the traditional adrenaline fiction junkie, but if you are looking for a book that has a little substance to it as well as being entertaining this book is a must read.

Overall, State Of Fear is a nice combination for the reader who likes a little substance along with their thrillers.

[tags]book review, Michael Crichton, State of Fear, Global warming, suspense, terrorist attacks[/tags]

Will Technology Save Us Or Kill Us?

I first saw Al Gore speak on global warming when I was a senior in high school (1991, well over a decade ago). That was the year I had been invited to attend and participate in the National Meteorological Society’s annual conference in New Orleans. Seven other students from across the country were with me, sitting in the second row for this seemingly-important presentation. The only thing I remember from that speech? Falling asleep. Everything sounded important, but I wasn’t able to connect enough dots to have his projections make sense (personally). Even so, what could I do about global warming? Can one person really make a difference?

Fast forward to the cusp of 2006 / 2007. Ponzi and I happened upon “An Inconvenient Truth” on our cruise ship’s video network (remember, I’m still on my honeymoon right now – as I have been for the past few days). What we watched in that film was beyond jaw-dropping. Global warming is really happening, and it far outstretches any kind of political affiliations and agendas at its core. Our planet doesn’t give a rip if you’re Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Communist, etc. You don’t have to look very far in today’s news to see how Mother Nature is starting to fight back against the virus known as humanity. The record snowstorms in Seattle, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico? Sure, weather patterns are cyclical – but we’re messing with Earth’s Registry, if you’ll entertain the Windows correlation for a moment.

CO2 in the atmosphere is off the charts – a logical (not just political) outcome from sloppy and outdated manufacturing processes and the increasing amount of nations reliant on fossil fuels. The more populations we industrialize, the more carbon dioxide we produce – it’s really *THAT* simple. It’s scary simple. “Technology” can save us, but it is likely leading us down the path of our own destruction. What we need to apply now is our knowledge, not just our tools. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from – we’re all in this together. Forget about our petty differences for just a split second and realize that we’re facing something potentially cataclysmic. This isn’t a future generation’s problem – it’s our problem. This isn’t happening in the future – it’s happening today.

And let’s just pretend for a moment that global warming is a “Chicken Little” scenario. On which side of the argument would you rather side? Isn’t it better to be safe than to be sorry? In this case, “sorry” may very well translate in the complete destruction of everything that you’ve known and loved. I’ve gotta trust my own circuitry on this issue, and that tells me to start making dramatic changes at home – immediately. It’s not just a New Year’s Resolution to change my own energy habits – it’s a lifestyle change that will put me square in the middle of the “solution” column. It’s time to do a bit more research; what are you doing to save your home, the Earth?

[tags]global warming, inconvenient truth, co2, carbon dioxide[/tags]

Fight Global Warming From Your Desktop With Local Cooling

Hilary Rogers of Uniblue writes:

Global warming and its impact on the environment is a hot topic in the news at the moment. As a software company, we are aware of the fact that the energy required to run the computers belonging to 660 million users worldwide, runs into millions of kilowatt hours each day. It is estimated that more than 30 billion kilowatt hours of energy are wasted each year because many people forget to shut down their computer when leaving the office. The CO2 emissions from all those computers are huge, especially as the emissions from just 15 computers are equivalent in energy terms to the gas consumption used by one car!

Here’s something that every computer user worldwide can do from their desktop, right now, to reduce the output of CO2 from their computer and it’s totally free. LocalCooling.com is a brand new project from the labs at Uniblue Systems. The new downloadable application will automatically optimize the power settings on a PC by using a more efficient and effective power save mode. An easy-to-use interface allows users to change their default power settings, meaning savings on electricity bills for the users, and therefore a reduction in the amount of greenhouse gas that results from powering a computer.

The LocalCooling.com Web site updates the results in real time for power savings, and translates this into meaningful environmental terms, such as how many trees and barrels of oil have been saved since the LocalCooling.com community started. As word spreads and more people download the application, the Web site will display the rapid increases in the savings made globally. Members can set up individual, team, and company accounts showing the savings for one, two, or a whole office network of PCs. There is a fun aspect to LocalCooling.com as users can compete with each other in the “Top 100” League Tables of the biggest savers worldwide.

[tags]LocalCooling.com, Uniblue, environment, greenhouse gas, global warming, Hilary Rogers[/tags]