Climate Adaptation


I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature. - FAQs - Follow - Face - Ask - Donations - Climate Book Store

Why is it important to publish in a nonprofit journal?

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is one of my favorite science journals. All articles are open-source - meaning they’re free - no registration or fees. They focus on environmental scientific research in an “era of accelerated human impact.” Humans have disturbed virtually every natural system on earth.

So, how do we share knowledge about scientific research? Currently, there’s a maturing debate about whether scientific research should be free or paid. I’m quite interested in this debate. Especially since my tax dollars pay for much of this research, but I don’t have access to it. In fact, most science is publicly funded by taxpayer dollars typically through universities and direct government grants. The balance of journals get their funds from subscriptions, which average about $5,000 per year. Yes, you can subscribe to Scientific American for $25, yet the annual ‘script for the Journal of Coordination Chemistry is $11,000!

When a researcher publishes their findings, scientific journals charge the public very high fees for access, which prevents the majority of the world from learning more.

I think this is reasonably indefensible.

One article from the journal Nature typically costs $20 to $30. One of my articles published with International Journal of Climate Change costs $10 (I share it for free with those that ask).

The debate is so powerful that The Guardian newspaper created a special section called Open Source Scientific Publishing. It focuses on the changing landscape of scientific publishing, and the debates make for fun, if not serious, reading.

And there is a protest movement by senior scientists to boycott some of the bigger scientific journals in favor of open source, free access publications. The University of California has also joined the fight, protesting these high fees.

Some have argued that science journals are more interested in selling subscriptions, where they favor “superstar” researchers who can capture more fees over less flashy researchers. Competition among science journals is a surprisingly ugly business.

So, should science be free? I think so.

For my part, I favor peer-reviewed, open-source science publication generally, and the journal Elementa specifically. Elementa is a non-profit publisher of science with overlap in my field of climate change and climate adaptation. The partners are BioOne, Dartmouth, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington.

Take a minute to read what the editors of Elementa have to say about why open source science matters and why it should be free to everyone.

State officials: Seas will rise

500,000 people affected in Maryland alone.

LATimes: On letters from climate-change deniers

On why the LATimes avoids publishing op-eds by climate deniers. Well done, LATimes.

Introducing Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

Elementa’s Editors-in-Chief share their thoughts on the topic of the Anthropocene, the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to climate change, working with a mission-driven nonprofit publisher, and open access publishing.

Elementa is a new open source scientific journal. It covers climate change issues from a multidisciplinary perspective.

They’re now accepting submissions! Scientists, researchers, profs, students, check it out!

Ambivalent coverage of climate change’s ‘new normal’

On Looking



I came across a photograph on Thursday and set it as my desktop wallpaper. I’ve been staring at it for three days. No, that’s not quite true. I’ve stared at it for maybe a total of seven minutes, looking at it seconds at a time, catching glimpses when browser windows close and open in between work on the novel and a talk I’m giving in Portland next week. You’ve seen the photograph too, I bet. It’s made an appearance on ESPN’s Around the Horn, even though it has nothing to do with sports.

One series of thoughts: How fast is it going? Where does it land? Do frogs land on their feet? What’s that frog thinking, at that moment? Probably something like: ojpifqijovapijwalkjrjpew, because it’s a frog, and frogs are pretty much always thinking ojpifqijovapijwalkjrjpew.

Another series: Rocket launches don’t happen in black, featureless voids. They happen in wetlands. Sudden light heat noise in a place of dark cool calm. The silhouette of the frog also brings to relief to the bits of wild grass threshed about in the smoke.

Man’s ambition. His destruction of the earth in his quest for the stars. The perfect geometry of the heavens. The Vitruvian geometry of the figure; it’s almost … human.

It brings to mind another photograph, taken twelve years prior, nearly to the day: a photograph of a man falling from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The photograph ran on page seven of The New York Times and in hundreds of newspapers around the world, then virtually disappeared. Until two years later, when it became the subject of Tom Junod’s Esquire piece, "The Falling Man".

But Junod’s piece is really about Looking. It’s about what we see when we look, but also what, when we have the freedom to look, we individually and collectively choose not to look at. And what that says about us.

An analogy for a significant life event. Hopes. Horrors. Aversion. The fear of loss. The frame-obliterating nature of an act beyond routine. One moment you’re thinking about flies from your lilypad in the cool still night. You’re thinking about the book you’re writing and the speech you’re going to give. You’re thinking about how sore your feet are and your wife asleep in bed and the order at table five. And then …

This is a lovely meditation on what it means to really look at something and how it feels to actually see what you’re looking at. But my favorite part is the bit about how this photo is a reminder that space flight starts in the swamps of Florida, and how this one little unfortunate frog reminded us all of how little we are and how big we are reaching.

"His destruction of the earth in his quest for the stars."

“ Old people are repositories of information, Caspari says. They know about the natural world, how to handle rare disasters, how to perform complicated skills, who is related to whom, where the food and caves and enemies are. They maintain and build intricate social networks. A lot of skills that allowed humans to take over the world take a lot of time and training to master, and they wouldn’t have been perfected or passed along without old people. “They can be great teachers,” Caspari says, “and they allow for more complex societies.” Old people made humans human.

What’s so special about age 30? That’s when you’re old enough to be a grandparent. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers and historical records suggest that when older people help take care of their grandchildren, the grandchildren are more likely to survive. The evolutionary advantages of living long enough to help raise our children’s children may be what made it biologically plausible for us to live to once unthinkably old ages today. ”

—    Beautiful essay on the Invention of Old People.

Global temperatures 1881 - 2010. Each bar is ten years. Colors just help visualize the graph mo beddah. Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion, here.

This excellent graph is from the World Meteorological Organization’s new summary report: The Global Climate 2001–2010 a Decade of Climate Extremes

Most impressive (to me) is how well written it is. Check out how they describe and compare three systems:

El Niño and La Niña episodes, for example, result from rapid changes in the sea-surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. They influence weather patterns around the world through the subsequent large-scale interactions and transfers of heat in the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. Other patterns affect the climate by strengthening or weakening high-altitude air currents known as jet streams.

The closely related Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation often affect the northern hemisphere winter. Since the 1990s, these two oscillations have remained mostly in a positive phase, which is associated with warmer and wetter winters in northern and central Europe and the eastern USA, drier winters in the Mediterranean and cold, dry conditions over northern Canada and Greenland.

Unlike these natural back-and-forth oscillations, human-caused climate change is trending in just one direction. This is because atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases are increasing steadily, due to human activities. According to the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, global-average atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose to 389 ppm in 2010 (an increase of 39 per cent compared to pre-industrial times), methane to 1 808.0 ppb (158 per cent) and nitrous oxide to 323.2 ppb (20 per cent).

This changing composition of the atmosphere is causing the global average temperature to rise, which, in turn, exerts a significant influence on the hydrological cycle and leads to other changes in climate and weather patterns.


Geoengineering: Our Last Hope, or a False Promise?
Sponsor shout-out: New, nonprofit, open-access scientific journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is now accepting submissions online

Elementa is one of my favorite projects and I’m honored that they are one of my sponsors. It’s an open access (free) peer-reviewed science journal that focuses on, among other things, adaptation and climate change. They’re holding an open call for submissions.

Spread the word on your university’s listserv or wherever you can! Overview and instructions:

Elementa is an open-access, nonprofit journal, founded by BioOne and five collaborating academic institutions: Dartmouth, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington.

Elementa will publish original research reporting on new knowledge of the Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems; interactions between human and natural systems; and steps that can be taken to mitigate and adapt to global change. Embracing the concept that basic knowledge can foster sustainable solutions for society, Elementa is organized initially into six knowledge domains, each led by a prominent Editor-in-Chief.  The following domains are now accepting submissions:

  • Atmospheric Science Detlev Helmig, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Earth and Environmental Science Joel D. Blum, University of Michigan
  • Ecology Donald R. Zak, University of Michigan
  • Ocean Science Jody W. Deming, University of Washington
  • Sustainable Engineering Michael E. Chang, Georgia Institute of Technology

Elementa is published on an open-access, public-good basis. Open access allows research to be freely available to all—including those from developing countries whose academic institutions may not be able to afford costly publications—in the interests of accelerating scientific progress, and ultimately resulting in public good. Open access not only ensures the widest dissemination of research possible, but also the greatest impact, by allowing others to cite, re-purpose, and build upon existing published research.

Elementa is now accepting submissions through its online peer-review system ( Benefits of publishing with Elementa include rapid, rigorous peer-review; a detailed manuscript tracking system for authors; and publications of articles through a variety of human- and machine-intelligible formats: XML, HTML, JSON, PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket. Elementa’s first articles will be published on September 3rd.

Visit the site and follow us on Twitter for more details:, @elementascience.

True Nature: Revising Ideas On What is Pristine and Wild

What is Resilience? is a nifty, free, 20page, visual ebook overview defining resilience. It’s free, and published by the researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. (Free ebook is free.)

Resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about the capacity to use shocks and disturbances like a financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.

This publication presents the major strands within resilience thinking and social-ecological research. It describes the profound imprint we humans have had on nature and ideas on how to deal with the resulting challenges.

The publication is based on three scientific articles that were prepared for the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on global sustainability, which took place in Stockholm in May 2011. The articles were later published in the scientific journal Ambio. They represent a mix of necessary actions and exciting planetary opportunities. They also illustrate how we can use the growing insights into the many challenges we are facing by starting to work with the processes of the biosphere instead of against them.

Chapter One describes in detail the complex interdependencies between people and ecosystems. It highlights the fact that there are virtually no ecosystems that are not shaped by people and no people without the need for ecosystems and the services they provide. Too many of us seem to have disconnected ourselves from Nature. A shift in thinking will create exciting opportunities for us to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.

Chapter Two takes us through the tremendous acceleration of human enterprise, especially since World War II. This acceleration is pushing the Earth dangerously close to its boundaries, to the extent that abrupt environmental change cannot be excluded. Furthermore, it has led scientists to argue that the current geological period should be labelled the ‘Antropocene’ – the Age of Man.

Chapter Three highlights the fascinating paradox that the innovative capacity that has put us in the current environmental predicament can also be used to push us out of it. It introduces the term social-ecological innovation, which essentially strives to find innovative ways to reconnect with the biosphere and stay within planetary boundaries.

Enjoy! :)

Considering how humans’ affect the climate, land use, oceans, species, and habitats, many scientists think the earth has entered a new period in historic time. But what are the criteria for a new epoch, one defined by humans? A few scientists and a journalist discuss the issue.

Have humans had such a dramatic impact on the globe that we’ve created a new geological era? That’s what some scientists think. They’ve proposed that the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century marked the end of the Holocene (a period that began with the last ice age 11,700 years ago) and the beginning of the Anthropocene, the “Age of Man.” Not everyone agrees. In fact, some say the Anthropocene began 11,500 years ago and completely overlaps with the Holocene. And still others say the Anthropocene has yet to begin.

Who’s right? What are the implications for science and the planet?

Dr. Mark Brandon, a Polar Oceanographer (@icey_mark), discusses how humans impact the Arctic. It’s a high-level talk, meaning it’s easy to follow and not very sciencey. He makes much use of the fact that fire retardants are routinely found in the fat of polar bears and other animals to show how our pollution travels north.