CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Scientists and climatologists are saying that it would impact natural resources directly, making some parts of the world virtually uninhabitable. This, inevitably, would result in mass movement of human tide.

Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre affirmed that back in 2011 at the Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement:

Human displacement due to climate change is happening now. There is no need to debate it.”

The realisation, somehow, has not hit authorities in Pakistan, who remain in a state of denial. This, despite the reality of having witnessed a movement (albeit a slow one) of people from rural to urban centres, due in part to climate-related events which have been taking place over the last several decades.

Good read on displacement of people due to environmental impacts.

Abstract

Morphological and phylogenetic analyses suggest that the ability to precipitate carbonates evolved several times in marine invertebrates in the past 600 million years. Over the past decade, there has been a profusion of genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses of calcifying representatives from three metazoan phyla: Cnidaria, Echinodermata, and Mollusca. Based on this information, we compared proteins intimately associated with precipitated calcium carbonate in these three phyla. Specifically, we used a cluster analysis and gene ontology approach to compare ~1500 proteins, from over 100 studies, extracted from calcium carbonates in stony corals, in bivalve and gastropod mollusks, and in adult and larval sea urchins to identify common motifs and differences. Our analysis suggests that there are few sequence similarities across all three phyla, supporting the independent evolution of biomineralization.

However, there are core sets of conserved motifs in all three phyla we examined. These motifs include acidic proteins that appear to be responsible for the nucleation reaction as well as inhibition; structural and adhesion proteins that determine spatial patterning; and signaling proteins that modify enzymatic activities. Based on this analysis and the fossil record, we propose that biomineralization is an extremely robust and highly controlled process in metazoans that can withstand extremes in pH predicted for the coming century, similar to their persistence through the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

- See more at: http://elementascience.org

Labor day reading…

Just ordered this book, “Why Aren’t More Women in Science?. Written in 2007, it’s a bit dated - but at only 7 years old, it’s still modern. I’m interested in the perspective of why, in 2007, some of the researchers concluded that one factor (of many) for the disparity was physiological. My partner, who has a PhD, thinks there’s a significant amount of harassment from both students and faculty that keeps women from excelling, and points to the male dominated culture at her university (University of Barcelona) and indifference from the school’s administration when women complain about harassment. She also mentioned that the Catalan Police are equally dismissive of complaints, so there’s no true enforcement mechanism in Spain that women can turn to when they are harassed at university. She is quite hopeful, however. She thinks that with more and more women entering the sciences, administrations and law enforcement will eventually shift, just not at the time scales noisy advocates expect. So, for the time being, she thinks, it’s sadly true only a small sliver of women are can handle the rough atmosphere and be brave and strong. She argued, rather brilliantly imo, that male dominated spheres take a very long time to transition from one type of culture (e.g., male dominated) to another (equal and just). Anyway, I’m curious what the researchers in this book thought just a few years ago, and whether or not things have progressed in a short time.

As an undergraduate student in biology, I spent several weeks in Costa Rica one summer with an older graduate student on a research project deep in the cloud forest. It was just the two of us, and upon arriving at our site, I discovered that he had arranged a single room for us, one bed.

Mortified but afraid of being labeled prudish or difficult, I made no fuss. I took the lodge owner aside the next day and requested my own bed. The problem ended there, and my graduate student boss never made any physical advances.

Reflecting back, I’m struck by how ill equipped I was to deal with this kind of situation, especially at 19. My university undoubtedly had a harassment policy, but such resources were thousands of miles away. I was alone in a foreign country and had never received any training on my rights and resources in the field.

I’d forgotten about this experience from two decades ago until I read a report published July 16 in the journal PLOS One. Kathryn Clancy, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and three colleagues used email and social media to invite scientists to fill out an online questionnaire about their experiences with harassment and assault at field sites; they received 666 responses, three quarters of them from women, from 32 disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, biology and geology.

Almost two-thirds of the respondents said they had been sexually harassed in the field. More than 20 percent reported being sexually assaulted. Students or postdoctoral scholars, and women were most likely to report being victimized by superiors. Very few respondents said their field site had a code of conduct or sexual harassment policy, and of the 78 who had dared to report incidents, fewer than 20 percent were satisfied with the outcome.

The findings are depressingly similar to the data some colleagues and I collected this year from an online questionnaire sent to science writers. We received responses from 502 writers, mostly women, and presented our results at M.I.T. in June during Solutions Summit 2014: Women in Science Writing, a conference funded by the National Association of Science Writers.

More than half of the female respondents said they weren’t taken seriously because of their gender, one in three had experienced delayed career advancement, and nearly half said they had not received credit for their ideas. Almost half said they had encountered flirtatious or sexual remarks, and one in five had experienced uninvited physical contact.

Frightening study that quantifies sexual harassment and assault across the sciences. The journalist also notes there’s significant gender discrimination.

I haven’t personally witnessed or heard of harassment in any of the fields I’ve worked in (e.g, international development, city planning offices, or climate adaptation implementation or policy making). And over the years, I guesstimate working with at least 50% women, possibly more. There are some countries that I work in that will not accept women in a decision making role, but that is a cultural difference that takes time to collapse. We’re actually quite prepared for this type of systemic discrimination.

But, internally, on any team I’ve worked on, this is unheard of. I also work with one research institute (USC’s HURDL) that focuses on gender and vulnerable populations in climate impact contexts - but again, haven’t heard anything like this.

Are you a rising researcher? Have you been harassed while conducting your field work? Have you heard stories or rumors of harassment? Send me a note if you like, I’ll keep your replies private. Thanks, Michael

A survey by George MasonU’s Center for Climate Change Communication. Via Yale360.

It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization:

1. “Try not to cough on one another.” More humans have died from epidemics than from all famines and wars. Disease precipitated the fall of Greece, Rome, and the civilizations of the Americas. People used to bunch up around the infected, which pushed local disease into universal plague. Now we can head that off with Net telepresence, telemedicine, and medical alert networks. All businesses should develop a work-from-home capability for their workforce.

2. “Don’t lose things.” As proved by the destruction of the Alexandria Library and of the literature of Mayans and Minoans, “knowledge is hard won but easily lost.” Plumbing disappeared for a thousand years when Rome fell. Inoculation was invented in China and India 700 years before Europeans rediscovered it. These days Michelangelo’s David has been safely digitized in detail. Eagleman has direct access to all the literature he needs via PubMed, JSTOR, and Google Books. “Distribute, don’t reinvent.”

3. “Tell each other faster.” Don’t let natural disasters cascade. The Minoans perished for lack of the kind of tsunami alert system we now have. Countless Haitians in the recent earthquake were saved by Ushahidi.com, which aggregated cellphone field reports in real time.

4. “Mitigate tyranny.” The USSR’s collapse was made inevitable by state-controlled media and state-mandated mistakes such as Lysenkoism, which forced a wrong theory of wheat farming on 13 time zones, and starved millions. Now crowd-sourced cellphone users can sleuth out vote tampering. We should reward companies that stand up against censorship, as Google has done in China.

5. “Get more brains involved in solving problems.” Undertapping human capital endangers the future. Open courseware from colleges is making higher education universally accessible. Crowd-sourced problem solving is being advanced by sites such as PatientsLikeMe, Foldit (protein folding), and Cstart (moon exploration). Perhaps the next step is “society sourcing.”

6. “Try not to run out of energy.” When energy expenditure outweighs energy return, collapse ensues. Email saves trees and trucking. Online shopping is a net energy gain, with UPS optimizing delivery routes and never turning left. We need to expand the ability to hold meetings and conferences online.

See the webinar explaining these things, here.

These hard to dispute maxims were developed by the flashy neuroscientist, David Eagleman. He presented them to the Long Now Foundation, an institute that makes a boat load of money selling guru-esque science, technology, and economics books and seminars. Like TED Talks, the Long Now Foundation presents new thinking in a compelling way, salesy way. 

Yes, I’m skeptical of TED and Long Now, mostly because they present information with a tone of all-knowing infallibility. One also has to be particularly “alpha” in order to make a presentation with either of these organizations - a disposition that the vast majority of researchers do not have. This method of presentation only supports a certain type of researcher, while thousands of others are left behind.

So, on the one hand, these organizations vacuum-up large sums of cash from an easily-entertained, science hungry public. On the other hand, ‘science-as-entertainment’ might be the best way to communicate heavy and complex ideas to wider audiences. Is “sci-tainment" sustainable? How long until the public becomes jaded from watching TED Talks and Long Now? How long will these organizations last? What are the long term effects of these things on various fields of scientific research?

Has anyone quantified the social impacts or value of TED Talks and the Long Now Foundation?

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on these venues?

The researchers surveying employees in the environmental sector in Boston and Philadelphia. If this is you, give them a hand if you can…

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hereby directs each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government.
This includes any results published in peer-reviewed scholarly publications that are based on research that directly arises from Federal funds, as defined in relevant OMB circulars (e.g., A-21and A-11). It is preferred that agencies work together, where appropriate, to develop these plans.

99.999% of new peer-reviewed articles agree humans causing climate change (up from 99.998%. See here.).

Science and Global Warming

by James Lawrence Powell

I have brought my previous study (see here and here) up-to-date by reviewing peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals over the period from Nov. 12, 2012 through December 31, 2013. I found 2,258 articles, written by a total of 9,136 authors. (Download the chart above here.) Only one article, by a single author in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. I discuss that article here.

My previous study, of the peer-reviewed literature from 1991 through Nov. 12, 2012, found 13,950 articles on “global warming” or “global climate change.” Of those, I judged that only 24 explicitly rejected the theory of man-made global warming. The methodology and details for the original and the new study are described here.

Anyone can repeat as much of the new study as they wish—all of it if they like. Download an Excel database of the 2,258 articles here. It includes the title, document number, and Web of Science accession number. Scan the titles to identify articles that might reject man-made global warming. Then use the DOI or WoS accession number to find and read the abstracts of those articles, and where necessary, the entire article. If you find any candidates that I missed using the search criteria described here, please email me here.

Document leaked to Wikileaks. Allows companies to pollute, avoid fines, and generally skip environmental treaties and laws.

[T]he Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.

Today, 15 January 2014, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs’ Report. The TPP transnational legal regime would cover 12 countries initially and encompass 40 per cent of global GDP and one-third of world trade. The Environment Chapter has long been sought by journalists and environmental groups. The released text dates from the Chief Negotiators’ summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013.

The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty’s subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.

Information is king in within the climate science community. Scientific information can help society cope with current climate variability, prevent deaths and disasters, and save communities a ton of money. The information can help limit the economic and social damages caused by climate-related disasters.

The best available climate science needs to be made readily available to people in agriculture, water, health, infrastructure, cities, and other sectors.

How?

A bunch of very smart climate scientists got together to make climate science information easily accessible. They formed a group*, called the Climate Services Partnership, and recently held a major conference. 

The presentations from this conference are now available online, and they are pretty amazing. You can download them, share with your colleagues, researchers, fellow students, etc.. Dive in (and bookmark) if you can!

Research vessel trapped in Antarctic ice rescued by Chinese icebreaker still waiting to be rescued. Numbers: trapped 4 days; 6-9 feet of ice; 74 scientists, researchers, tourists, and crew; 1,700 miles south of Australia; 2 failed rescue attempts (Australia, Russia); 1 blizzard; dozens of penguins. 

Via NBC and AFP.

Called MAGIC (Multi-scale Adaptations to Global change In Coastlines), the project addresses a classical wicked problem: how to respond appropriately to risk and vulnerability in coastal zones.

With threats coming from the direction of the land and the sea and with many stakeholders with differing objectives feeling the pressure and wanting to push their agendas, conventional blueprint planning is insufficient to bring about transitions to sustainability in coastal areas. 

Adaptations developed in such a blinkered manner frequently lead to perverse policies or poorly planned development with unforeseen consequences beyond the focal scale. Instead of reducing vulnerability they in fact increase it.

The project addresses four linked questions: 1) How do human perceptions of risk and adaptability, and capacity to adapt, influence the adaptive actions and strategies of decision makers? 2) How do such adaptations affect the vulnerability of external groups, places or ecosystem services? 3) Which feedbacks occur when people engage in dialogue, social learning and critical inquiry? And 4) How do perceptions change when decision makers are actively involved in, learn and reflect, in a process of situated social learning?

This project is looking for post-docs.

Secretary Jewell personally welcomes back furloughed employees from Dept. of Interior.

70,000 Interior employees are back on the job, as national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, energy bureaus, and BIA offices begin to re-open.