It's Getting Hot In Here, Starbursts, Lady Squids With Balls, And More In This Week's Sci-Blog!
Ahoy, Wonkmates! It's time once again for another terrible Wonkette Sci-Blog. Put on your swim fins and come on in! The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to release part 1 of its multi-volume Fifth Assessment Report on the state of the world's rapidly changing climate on September 27. The massive, comprehensive series of reports is the result of six years of work by hundreds of scientists worldwide and incorporates findings from over 9000 published peer-reviewed research articles. It has become the essential reference document to use for planners in government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.
Established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and operating under the auspices of the UN, the IPCC is an organization of scientists that "reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters." It is the world's leading scientific advisory organization on Global Warming, and thousands of scientists contribute their climate data and findings to the Panel on a voluntary basis.
There is a huge amount of data and observations, cutting across many different scientific disciplines, involved in evaluating the rapidity and risks of the changing world's climate. Review is an essential part of the evaluation process and for efficiency the IPCC is organized into three Working Groups and a Task force: Working Group I "assesses the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change". Working Group II "assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change," Working Group III "assesses options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere," and the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI) "was established by the IPCC to oversee the IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Program (IPCC-NGGIP)."
The individual groups produce special reports, technical papers, supplementary materials and contrubute to the periodic IPCC Assessment Reports. All available for download, by anyone, in a variety of languages. The IPCC also maintains a centralized Data Distribution Center where anyone who has an internet connection can have access to actual hard climate data, collected from organizations such as NASA and the British Atmospheric Data Centre and links to other public data sets. There are also Global Climate and socio-economic modeling data available and scenarios for other environmental changes (such as sea level rise).
The Fifth IPCC Assessment Report's Physical Science section, contribution by Working Group I is being released next week. It's expected to conclude (according to draft version leaked to Reuters earlier) with a 95% certainty that human activities have caused the greatest part of climate change observed since 1950. This is up from the last finding of 90% reported in the 2007 report. And by "human activities" we're referring to the primary driver of atmospheric heating -- the Carbon dioxide "greenhouse effect" contributed by the burning of fossil fuels. Just this past May, the earth's atmosphere broke through the 400 ppm milestone for CO2 concentration, more than 100 ppm higher than any time in the past one million years and accelerating at the rate of 2 ppm per year. Although it's difficult (if not impossible) to tie global warming to specific weather events, the severe weather keeps coming and climate records continue to be broken. In 2012, global temperatures were the 10th highest on record. Of the 10 warmest years measured since 1886, 9 of them fell in the last 12 years. Global precipitation patterns worldwide are shifting towards the unpredictable extremes. We are headed towards a completely ice free Arctic ocean for the first time in human history. There's so much Carbon in the atmosphere that the chemistry of the world's oceans is changing, with potentially catastrophic results. Governments, the Insurance industry and the Pentagon among others are taking global warming seriously and making plans for an increasingly unpredictable future climate. Given all this data, all these wildfires, droughts and catastrophic storms, all of the consensus between the scientific, industrial, governmental and military communities, one would think that it is past time to argue about climate change and high time to do something about it. You would be wrong.
Beginning several weeks ago and continuing with no end in sight, a steady stream of news articles, op-ed's and blog postings have hit the print and electronic media all designed to call into question the findings of the IPCC report and the science behind anthropogenic climate change. We have the usual suspects -- Matt Ridley -- writing in the Wall Street Journal that we really need to be Dialing back the Alarm on Climate Change, and Patrick Michaels from the Koch-funded Cato Institute publishing a series of broadsides at the IPCC. There's Fred Singer telling us all to just relax about CO2 already at the Industry funded Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute (also Koch-funded) telling us that a Major New Report just released says that Global Warming is nothing at all to worry about! (It's a report they just released.) David Rose, writing in the UK's Daily Mail gets every available fact wrong and maintains we're in for -- get this - an epoch of Global Cooling. Not ot be outdone, apparently, the Washington Post published an op-ed from the "debunked confusionist" Bjorn Lomborg telling us not to link all the horrible weather to Global Climate Change and the Grey Lady herself, the New York Times, publishes the utterly irresponsible op-ed "Overpopulation is Not the Problem," reassuring us that there is no such thing as human carrying capacity! Your Liberal Media, ladies and Gentlemen.
If all this sounds dreadfully familiar it is -- and not just because I've written about it before. It's a well developed, finely honed tactic used by some industries to deploy hired "experts" and opinion leaders to misuse science with the intent to sow doubt among the general public. It's illustrated in infuriating detail, once again, in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's book Merchants of Doubt: how a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Talk about the Usual Suspects... it's pretty much the same cadre of hired right wing scientists now telling us that the IPCC is a fraud who told us that tobacco smoke is perfectly harmless, DDT is perfectly safe for birds and Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense will work flawlessly. Now they're working for Big Oil and Coal, perhaps because they believe in all their hype but surely because that's where the money is. In the conservation field, there's a term used for "experts" that tailor their reports and testimony in favor of developers and industry: Biostitutes. I'm sure there's an analogous term for these people.
If all this appalls and infuriates you almost as much as it does me and you wish you could just up and do something about it, there's a bit of good news. The good folks at the Climate Reality Project have developed a very powerful, effective online tool called Reality Drop. The Climate Reality Project searches out really hot climate battles full of misinformation online, sends you the latest, most accurate climate science and giving you the means to drop that megaton of Reality on it (yes, I know I've posted this before but we really need this again). Reality Drop will also send you the latest in accurate climate information science to post and share. There's also the IPCC's Climate Science Rapid Response Team site that has a lot of great FAQ's, links and articles for the general public to journalists to scientists. The IPCC and the climate science community is finally learning how to deal with the well-funded Denier network.
In a Perfect World, we wouldn't have to go out and battle paid disinformationists to save the world but we do. In a Perfect World, the most wealthy corporations in human history wouldn't be controlled by a handful of science-denying sociopaths, but they are.
If you're ready for some Science Nice Time now, here's the wonderful Ann Finkbeiner's article on Baltimore's very own Sidewalk Astronomer: Herman Heyn.
The smudge of blue light you see is a representation of the radio signal of Earth's most distant artifact and now interstellar traveler Voyager 1. Voyager took the famous "Pale Blue Dot" photo of us and we're returning the favor. The signal was captured by the NRAO's Very Long Baseline Array.
On September 7, a remote camera at NASA's Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport caught this Flying Frog Photo during the launch of the LADEE moon probe mission. No Frequent Flier miles were allowed, unfortunately...
If you're a fan of rocket launches (and who here isnt?), here's a fantastic photo of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, this Wednesday, Sept. 18. It's carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which will rendevous with the International Space Station. Yes that's NASA'a Instagram page!
A rare, weird and wonderful Roll Cloud was seen moving across the metropolitan D.C. area on September 16. Darrell Issa is now attempting to link its occurrence to BENGHAZI!, we understand.
Australia has just elected its version of a Teabagger government. The new Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, has decided to just bag the Science Minister's post because, hey, Industry can do it better. Or something. Oh, and the Carbon Tax is Right Out also too. Good luck down there.
One of the more interesting findings of the exhumation of King Richard III's remains is the recent discovery that his intestines were a seething mass of horrible roundworms. No wonder he was Cranky.
Florida's not known for having what you might call an enlightened development policy. That's become a huge problem lately with the huge amount of rain and runoff creating a giant toxic bubble ready to burst out of Lake Okeechobee. I blame Obama.
Well, I think it's time for a tune from that heaviest of Heavy Metal bands, Compressorhead.
Hey, Ho, Let's Go!
Through the Miracle of Modern Genetic science, we are finding out now that our genome -- the very thing that makes us unique among all other people -- is not what we think. Alexander Urban, a geneticist at Stanford University, says that we all probably have widespread genetic variations in our own bodies and that, to a certain extent, we're all genetic Chimeras.
Well, now. It turns out that Wendy Davis isn't the only one who has BALLS. The opalescent inshore squid, Doryteuthis opalescens,has been observed to paint herself up with Fake Nuts, possibly to avoid harassment by males. So that's all it takes? Would TruckNutz work too?
On that note, it's time once again for your Cephalopod of the Day -- the truly bizarre Blanket Octopus: