Convincing the Climate Change Skeptics

Almost any scientist looking at a new idea views it with deep skepticism and doubts it, and that skepticism is only overcome by a consistent preponderance of evidence that keeps supporting the idea that that might be important – that global climate change driven by humans might actually be occurring. As that evidence has been accumulated, skeptic after skeptic among the scientists have decided, "Well, I'd better pay more attention to this." The physics of this is much more well understood. The models that incorporate all of our known aspects of physics and atmospheric chemistry and and climatology and so on, all predict that what we're doing is going to lead to climate change. All these bits of evidence keep falling into place. They all keep saying, "Gee, we'd better pay more attention to this global climate change idea," because when we look at some data that maybe would have rejected it, it doesn't. It supports that idea. I guess what I would say is that the idea is so real now.

There have been so many attempts to test it, so many attempts to reject the idea that we might be causing climate change which have not been successful, which keep supporting that hypothesis. I think it is now incumbent upon us to take it seriously and to do things to help slow the rate of climate change and hopefully stop it. If we find out in the long-term that climate change is not going to happen, we won't have done much to harm ourselves. But if we don't act now, we could have a runaway climate change that could basically greatly decrease the livability of the earth. The science is now solid enough that any reasonable person examining the scientific evidence would decide, "We have to pay attention to it. It's time to have some action.".

Top 10 AMAZING New Green Technologies in the Works

10 Amazing New Green Technologies in the Works 10. Air Purifying Roof Tiles A big problem with green technology is making it as practical as it is useful. With this in mind, a new trend in practical green technology is the coating of roof tiles with titanium dioxide, which is useful in cleaning the air. Titanium dioxide works as a photocatalyst by oxidizing nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds into soluble nitrates and fatty acids when exposed to UV light. Studies have shown that a thick coating of material on roof tiles reduces 97% of target greenhouse gases, while a thinner, cost effective coat still reduces the target gases by 88%. This means that it could cost just five dollars to coat an entire roof with the purifying compound. One home could remove 21g of nitrogen oxide a day, which is the equivalent of what a car releases driving 18,000 km. Widespread application would allow every home in the world to become a mini-air purifier. The idea is still in the testing phase, but early results have been extremely promising. The lighter color of the tiles also has the added benefit of producing a small cooling effect.

There’s also a possibility of producing tiles to remove carbon dioxide, but this would decrease the practicality of the tiles by making the roofs harder to install. 9. Eco-Concrete Eco-concrete is a green technology that combines strength, practicality and air-purification. It’s designed to eat smog and pollution by converting nitrogen oxide into harmless nitrogenous compounds. It has been shown to reduce these gasses by up to 45% in the right weather. The concrete has already been installed and tested in Holland with promising results. The biggest problem with Eco-concrete comes from its cost — compared to normal concrete, it costs quite a bit more because of its use of titanium dioxide. Researchers are currently working to find a solution to the problem and increase the concrete’s financial feasibility. 8. Fixing the Plastic Problem At age 19 most people are worrying about work or college, but Boyan Slat had his eyes on something bigger when he came up with a method to drastically reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans.

Though plastic has been a blessing to us in terms of convenience, it has also become a curse in the way it affects the environment and kills millions of marine animals every year. Slat recognized the severity of the problem and established an organization known as The Ocean Cleanup in response. He went on to develop a method that has been proven to be logistically, technically and financially feasible. It works using natural currents in the ocean and wind to help move the garbage towards collecting platforms, where it would be mechanically removed and recycled. The price tag of this massive cleanup project is $43 million a year, but that’s 33% cheaper than other methods that promise to remove the same amount of plastic. The Ocean Cleanup is currently in the stages of raising money to implement their plan. It has been tested with computer models that show it should be able to clean up half of the garbage in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Furthermore, its proof of concept test was successfully done in the Azores. While this massive undertaking is a great step in the right direction, Slat believes more needs to be done to fix the problem completely.

7. Cool Pavement Dark pavement used for most roads absorbs the sun’s energy and heats up the surrounding area. In the summer, pavement can reach up to 120-150°F, but Cool Pavement has been shown to reduce this by over 40°F. With pavement occupying 35-50% of the space in a city, this could have a huge effect on the overall temperature of the city itself. Researchers at Berkeley are currently trying to figure out what the best color would be for cool pavement to maximize its cooling effects. The two best options are to create reflective coating for existing pavements or create a new type of pavement made from lighter, more reflective material. Other benefits include a decrease in pollution and smog, slowing global warming, saving energy by decreasing the need for air conditioning, and even decreasing the need for street lamps at night because of the reflective surface. While there is no way to know exactly how much coating an entire city would benefit the environment, Cool Pavement has been helping cities like Chicago that have paved their alleys with it.

6. Smog-Eating Buildings Mexico City’s Manuel Gea Gonzalez Hospital constructed a 2,500 square meter facade that breaks down air pollutants when exposed to UV light. The honeycomb increases the surface area by 200% and allows the structure to neutralize the same amount of pollutants in one day that’s produced by 8,750 cars. In addition, the city of Milan is using a smog-filtering concrete facade to purify the air. The architecture firm Nemesi and Partners have revealed their plans to produce an air-purifying structure in front of the Palazzo Italia. The 9,000 square meter structure will take about 2,000 tons of air-purifying concrete to complete. The concrete is made of 80% recycled materials and works by breaking down harmful pollutants into unreactive salt molecules when exposed to UV light. Nemesi and Partners are looking forward to presenting their designs at the 2015 Milan Expo, and plans are already in the works to make these designs a reality. 5.

Real Flower Power Much of today’s green technology is made to mimic what plants already do naturally to produce energy. Plants are able to create energy by breaking down carbon dioxide and water into sugar and starch with oxygen as a byproduct. Scientists have been able harness this energy by actually interrupting the photosynthetic process. This is done when the enzymes of the plant split the water molecules. At this point, oxygen, hydrogen, and electrons are produced and nanotubes are used to siphon the free electrons before they enter the electron transport chain to run the rest of the process. The process takes place in the thylakoids, which are located within the chloroplasts of the plant cell. The thylakoids were modified to allow the nanotubes to detour the electrons down a wire and generate an electrical current.

Usually, plants aren’t very efficient at producing energy from the sun and man-made cells generate up to 10 times the efficiency of a normal plant. But this new technology has proven especially surprising because the plant was able to generate twice the current of a similarly sized solar cell. While this technology is still in its infancy, researchers are hopeful that it will soon have practical uses and could be used to power household items or even entire power grids. Plus, increasing the use of plants could help purify the air in addition to providing power. 4. Energy Harvesting Concrete Laurence Kemball-Cook put a new spin on energy harvesting when he founded Pavegen in 2009. Pavegen is a new type of energy-harvesting tile that converts the energy of a simple footstep into electricity that can be stored or used directly by devices. While the kinetic energy harvested from footsteps isn’t enough to supply energy to entire power grids, it could be very helpful in powering things like street lamps or vending machines.

Pavegen is a working product in the process of becoming commercialized. In an attempt to showcase its usefulness, Pavegen was actually installed at the finish line of the Paris Marathon and was able to generate 4.7 kilowatt-hours of energy. Another benefit of installing Pavegen is that it allows the footsteps and movement of crowds to be tracked to optimize space and floor management. While the tiles themselves are extremely practical, their installation could pose problems. The tiles have to be made and installed in ground that’s durable, weather resistant, and highly fatigue resistant. Furthermore, the tiles could be vandalized or stolen. There are still many kinks that need to be worked out to make Pavegen a fully commercialized product, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

3. Hyperloop Elon Musk, the man behind electric car company Tesla, has a new idea up his sleeve. Known as the Hyperloop, this system would be able to transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes, traveling at speeds of about 700 mph. The Hyperloop would use an electric compressor fan at the front of each individual passenger pod to surround it with a cushion of air and decrease friction, much like an air hockey table. The capsules would then be accelerated in a low-pressure tube with magnetization. Furthermore, the Hyperloop would be completely self-sustaining by placing solar panels on the top of the tube and storing energy via compressed air. It wouldn’t disrupt the farmland along the route any more than a telephone pole. Musk estimates the project would cost about six billion dollars, which seems like a massive price tag until you realize that California voters already approved nine billion to be allotted for a speed train between San Diego and San Francisco. Musk feels that his Hyperloop will be more cost-effective and sustainable than any other proposed high-speed trains.

It would greatly decrease pollution from cars and commercial airliners, as well as increase the efficiency and speed of travel.1 2. Phoenix Towers Currently, the world’s largest tower is the 830 meter tall Burj Khalifa. It may be in danger of losing its title to two proposed towers for the city of Wuhan, China. These towers would stand at 1000 meters and would serve to clean local air and water pollution. The towers would suck the water in from the surrounding lake, send it through a series of filters and then back out into the lake. In addition, the towers will be lined with a pollution absorbing coating and vertical gardens to pull even more pollution from the air. The chimney in the middle of the towers will serve to naturally pull air across the lake and oxygenate it. The towers will be completely self-sustaining thanks to wind turbines, solar panels, and hydrogen fuel cells that would run on the building’s waste. These elements will not only produce all the energy the towers need, but also generate a little extra energy for the surrounding area.

The towers are currently awaiting the mayor’s approval, but it’s predicted that construction of this massive undertaking will be finished by 2017 or 2018. 1. Tianjin Most green technologies are simply products to help existing cities become environmentally friendly. China is going a step further by simply constructing an entire eco-friendly city from scratch. Known as Tianjin, this sustainable community for 350,000 residents is expected to be complete by 2020 and will span over 30 square kilometers. The entire complex will be powered by solar and wind technologies as well as feature rainwater recycling, wastewater treatment, and desalination of seawater. Carbon emissions will be basically non-existent with 90% of traffic being public transportation.

The city will be divided into seven districts, each with its own sustainability theme. The Lifescape district will be in the heart of Tianjin and feature soil-topped mounds to contrast the surrounding high-rise buildings. Eco-Valley will serve as a corridor for the new light rail system to operate and connect the districts. Solarscape will act as the administrative and civic center. Urbanscape will function as core of the city and utilize vertical layering to reduce emissions and make efficient use of vertical space. Its buildings will be organized as a honeycomb and interconnect using sky bridges. Windscape will serve as a place for recreation and relaxation. Earthscape will function as the residential suburbs and be filled with lush greenery. Lastly, Eco-corridors will bisect the city and provide a path for animals to move about the city without human interference.

If successful, Tianjin could serve as a stepping stone for more green cities..

Kansas: Conservation, the “5th Fuel” (ENERGY QUEST USA)

Narrator: Kansas, a land of wheat, and corn, and cattle. In the heart of the country, it's number 48 out of all 50 states in energy efficiency. So this is a place where energy conservation can really make a difference. Come on, girls. Our region is a region of farmers. We are famously conservative and we have talked from the beginning about putting the conserve back in conservative. Narrator: According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, improvements in energy efficiency have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone. But, they say motivating consumers to take action is the key to unlocking this potential and that was the aim of Nancy Jackson's Climate and Energy project, with its Take Charge! Challenge. Kansans are patriotic, Kansans are hardworking, Kansans are humble.

Narrator: And Kansans are competitive. You all are competing against Ottawa, Baldwin City, and Paola, so really, you gotta beat those guys, yes? Do you want to help us beat Manhattan? Narrator: 2011 was the second year for the Take Charge! Challenge, a friendly competition among 16 communities arranged in four regional groups aiming to reduce their local energy use. Some of the lowest cost, most effective ways that you can take ownership of your energy future is taking ownership of the efficiency and the conservation of your house or your business. Narrator: Ray Hammarlund's office used federal stimulus dollars to fund four prizes of $100,000 for each of the four regions in the competition. Just as important as the grand prize, $25,000 went to each community to fund local coordinators who took the lead in galvanizing grassroots efforts.

Here's how the challenge worked in Iola. The challenge started in January of this year and ends October 1st. You're required to have three community events. We're going to have a lot more than that. Today, we are at the Fight The Energy Hog Festival. Becky Nilges: I love the hog. He was just so ugly that he is cute. He represents energy hogs in your home. You would probably let him in but you don't know the damage he's going to do. Narrator: Competing towns scored points by counting how many cfl bulbs and programmable thermostats were installed and how many professional home energy audits were done. Our job as energy auditors, both for commercial buildings as well as residential buildings is, we're essentially detectives.

What's happening here? Is there a great deal of air leakage? And we're finding that the majority of the houses that we're dealing with actually use a lot more energy than they need to. Narrator: In Lawrence, a house of worship did an energy audit, made changes, and got a pretty nice donation in its collection plate. David Owen: One part of the audit was to contact the power company. Well, during that process we discovered they had been overcharging us. And so we got a check, a rebate check from them for $4,456. Narrator: Other changes start small, but add up. We were a little bit worried at one point that the congregation would not accept the very bright, white type lights. So as an experiment, we took one of these chandeliers and changed all the bulbs in it to the cfls. And then we took the priest over here and we said, "which one did we do?" and he could not tell us.

So that told us it was ok to do them all. Narrator: Changing lights, adding insulation, and upgrading windows paid off. Even though it's an old building, we saved 64% on the consumption of energy in this room. Narrator: Lighting makes up about 15% of a typical home's electricity bill, and lighting all of our residential and commercial buildings uses about 13% of the nation's total electricity. But changing out old bulbs is a lot easier than paying for audits and the energy enhancements they recommend. Here's where the 2011 Take Charge! Challenge promised material assistance using stimulus funds. Ken Wagner: It's a $500 audit that costs you $100. The rest of that $500 is covered under the Take Charge Challenge program through the Kansas Energy Office. We really love the competitive spirit of the program and I think it's really raised a whole awareness of energy efficiency and the importance of energy efficiency to a lot of segments in our community here.

Narrator: Even Baldwin City bankers were grateful for financial assistance from state and federal governments. Dave Hill: Nine months ago, we installed a 14 KW solar power system. I believe the initial cost of the system was basically $65,000 and then we got a substantial grant from USDA, I believe it was $20,000. We have about $18,000 of our own money invested in the system, after all the deductions. We think it will pay out in about 7-8 years. Narrator: David Crane of NRG Energy thinks that kind of approach makes good business sense. Crane: What I say to every businessman who has a customer-facing business, think of a solar panel not only as a source of electricity, think of it as a billboard. You don't even have to write your name on it. Just put it on the top of your store and it will be sending a message to your customers that you're doing the right thing when it comes to sustainable energy. Narrator: Surveys of why conservation is hard to achieve have found that people want one-stop shopping, a place where they can find out what to do and get practical recommendations about who to hire and what it all might cost, just what this new facility was to offer.

Now it's mid-October, time for the results of the 2011 Take Charge! Challenge. MC: Fort Scott. MC: And the winner is Baldwin City. Nancy Jackson: Over 100 billion BTUs were saved as a result of this Challenge, and millions and millions of dollars in each community. Those savings come from measures that have been installed that will guarantee those savings for years to come. So the savings are enormous over time. $100,000 has a nice ring to it and it's a nice cash award for a community of our size. Our challenge now is to continue on with energy efficiency and encourage our community to save. Nancy: One of our real goals was to help people to stop thinking about energy efficiency as the things they shouldn't do, as what not to do, and think about it instead as a tremendous opportunity to both save money in the near term, and to make our electric system more resilient in the long term.

So it's about what we can do, both individually and together, and for us that feels like the real win. The United States today is twice as energy efficient as it was in the 1970s. And I think we have the capability in the decades ahead to become twice as energy efficient again. We believe this is something that can be done really anywhere with great success..

Why I Left Greenpeace

In 1971 I helped found an environmental group in the basement of a Unitarian church in Vancouver, Canada. Fifteen years later, it had grown into an international powerhouse. We were making headlines every month. I was famous. And then I walked out the door. The mission, once noble, had become corrupted — political agendas and fear mongering trumped science and truth. Here’s how it happened. When I was studying for my PhD in ecology at the University of British Columbia, I joined a small activist group called the Don’t Make a Wave Committee. It was the height of the Cold War; the Vietnam War was raging. I became radicalized by these realities and by the emerging consciousness of the environment. The mission of the Don’t Make a Wave Committee was to launch an ocean-going campaign against US hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska, a symbol of our opposition to nuclear war. As one of our early meetings was breaking up, someone said, “Peace,” A reply came, “Why don’t we make it a green peace,” and a new movement was born. Green was for the environment and peace was for the people.

We named our boat “The Greenpeace” and I joined the 12-person crew for a voyage of protest. We didn’t stop that H-bomb test but it was the last hydrogen bomb the United States ever detonated. We had won a major victory. In 1975, Greenpeace took a sharp turn away from our anti-nuclear efforts and set out to Save the Whales, sailing the high seas to confront Russian and Japanese whalers. The footage we shot — young protesters positioned between harpoons and fleeing whales — was shown on TV around the world. Public donations poured in. By the early 1980s we were campaigning against toxic waste, air pollution, trophy hunting, and the live capture of orca whales. But I began to feel uncomfortable with the course my fellow directors were taking. I found myself the only one of six international directors with a formal science background. We were now tackling subjects that involved complex issues of toxicology, chemistry, and human health.

You don’t need a PhD in marine biology to know it’s a good thing to save whales from extinction. But when you’re analyzing which chemicals to ban, you need to know some science. And the first lesson of ecology is that we are all interconnected. Humans are part of nature, not separate from it. Many other species, disease agents and their carriers, for example, are our enemies and we have the moral obligation to protect human beings from these enemies. Biodiversity is not always our friend. I had noticed something else. As we grew into an international organization with over $100 million a year coming in, a big change in attitude had occurred. The “peace” in Greenpeace had faded away. Only the “green” part seemed to matter now. Humans, to use Greenpeace language, had become “the enemies of the Earth.” Putting an end to industrial growth and banning many useful technologies and chemicals became common themes of the movement. Science and logic no longer held sway.

Sensationalism, misinformation, and fear were what we used to promote our campaigns. The final straw came when my fellow directors decided that we had to work to ban the element chlorine worldwide. They named chlorine “The Devil’s Element,” as if it were evil. But this was absurd. Adding chlorine to drinking water was one of the biggest advances in the history of public health. And anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry knew that many of our most effective pharmaceuticals had a chlorine component. Not only that, but if this anti-chlorine campaign succeeded it wouldn’t be our wealthy donors who would suffer. Wealthy individuals and countries always find a way around these follies. The ones who suffer are those in developing countries, people we’re presumably trying to help.

For example, Greenpeace has opposed the adoption of Golden Rice, a genetically modified variety of rice that contains beta carotene. Golden Rice has the potential to prevent the death of two million of the world’s poorest children every year. But that doesn’t matter to the Greenpeace crowd. GMO’s are bad. So Golden Rice must be bad. Apparently millions of children dying isn’t. This kind of rigid, backward thinking is usually attributed to the “unenlightened” and “the anti-scientific.” But I’ve discovered, from the inside out, that it can infect any organization, even those with names as noble sounding… as Greenpeace. I’m Patrick Moore for Prager University..

It’s so Cold, there can’t be Global Warming

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold tow opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald Meanwhile we’ve got this updated Fox news global warming alert, it is still cold, in fact it is getting colder, much colder, environmentalists telling me DUHHH “because it’s winter”…IT IS FREEZING! We’ve heard a lot of talk lately from deniers that cold temperatures are proof that there is no such thing as global waming. It looks like it will be an annual event for me to remind people that winter still follows summer. So, before we get started, a little review. It was a cool summer, right? Chicago, New York, places like that, so, how can it be global warming? This is how. Look at the context. These blue dots over North America represent below average temperatures for the summer, June, July, August, what we call climatological summer.

But look at the context, they’re lost in a sea of red dots, across much of the rest of the globe, just a couple other blue dots here and there, those red dots are above average temperatures. What that translates to in terms of a ranking, for this summer and for august, globally, second warmest on record, period of record going back a little more than a century. June through august globally, the third warmest on record, the oceans, which had cooled for a couple years, now recovered with a vengeance, August the warmest on record, June through August, also the warmest on record, and in the southern hemisphere, August was the warmest on record. The warm summer was followed up by a very warm november, globally, including abnormally warm temperatures in north america. Ironically, unseasonal warmth set the stage for dramatic winter weather, when temperatures did drop in december.

Let’s talk about why we’re seeing such a huge and significant lake effect event. The Great Lakes themselves, the water temperature there is still some 3 or 4 degrees warmer than it should normally be this time of year, because of a very mild November. Now again, its very cold air right now, its about 17 degrees, the cold air is coming over these warm lakes, picking up all this moisture, and dumping inch after inch of snow down wind, and, people, waking up on your friday, dealing with perhaps 2 to 4 feet of snow. People love to talk about the weather, and a series of strong storms and cold temperatures in December and early january sparked a lot of discussion. What scientists are telling us is that an important circulation pattern, the arctic oscillation, is in it’s negative phase. Normally, in the positive phase, the arctic oscillation produces strong winds around the arctic that keep cold air bottled up. When the oscillation is in its negative phase, cold air spills out of the arctic, and flows into north america and eurasia. Paradoxically, while temperate zones feel an arctic chill, the arctic itself becomes warmer than usual, exactly the effect that has been observed over the last several weeks.

The UK meteorological office produced this map, and described the observations. “Canada, North Africa, the mediterranean, and south-west Asia have all seen temperatures above normal, in many places by more than 5° C, and in parts of northern Canada, by more than 10° C.” When we look at the graph of the monthly arctic oscillation index, we can see that the current one is the strongest negative since the 1970s, which is why many people were surprised by the blasts of cold air, that are expected under these conditions. One effect was on air circulation over western europe, which normally flows from the west over the atlantic, delivering warmer air. Under the negative arctic oscillation, the warmer winds are blocked, and most of of the air flow is cold arctic winds, leading to snow and cold in many european countries. This diagram from NOAA shows the pattern of warmth in the arctic and unusual cold in mid latitudes around the northern hemisphere.

Dr Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data center, told reuter’s news agency: “It’s very warm over the Arctic, with air temperatures locally at 10 to 15 degrees F (5.6 to 8.4 degrees C) warmer than they should be in certain areas,” This map from NASA also shows the pattern, which was well illustrated in a BBC report with graphics from the UK Met office. This MET office maps show’s today’s temperatures around the northern hemisphere. There’s cold air over us, but warmer air elsewhere. Look further south and east, there’s an unusually warm band of air there. Then, further east, and over China, another very cold pocket. But just as the arctic was unseasonably warm, other areas of the globe also were not feeling the cold. While much of the Northern Hemisphere suffers from one of the hardest winters in years, the thermometer is shooting way up, down under. On Monday, Melbourne was melting with highs soaring to 110 degrees fahrenheit, monday night, Melbourne sweltered through its hottest night since 1902, the temperatures topping 34 degrees Celsius, or 93 degrees fahrenheit.

Most people think of global warming as a process where the planet sets new warming records year after year. A clearer picture comes in a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric research, described here by senior scientist Gerald Meehl. But what we noticed is in the last 10 or 20 years there’s been this ratio of about 2 to 1, for every 2 record high maximum temperatures, there’s only been about one record low minimum temperature set, on average over the US. We looked at a model simulation going off into the future, and in this model simulation we had a scenario where we are increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases going off into the twenty first century. And as the climate continued to warm, this ratio continued to grow. In other words, you kept having more and more record high maximum temperatures, fewer and fewer record low minimum temperatures. So by the mid twenty first century, this ratio, which is now about 2 to 1, was about 20 to one, by the end of the century, with this continued warming, this continued change in the distribution of records, the ratio is about 50 to 1.

One of the messages of this study is, you still get cold days. Even at the end of the twenty first century, in the model simulation, when the climate’s warmed up by 3° or 4° Centigrade on average across the US, you’re still setting record low minimum temperatures on a few days every year. So, people always get very alarmed if there’s a cold snap in the winter, and they say, “what’s happened to global warming? We’re freezing out here.” And you say, well, that’s just the weather. In the northeast we’re talking temperatures well above average, Boston heading up to 43, warm in New York at 44, DC, we’re in the 50s, that’s about 10 degrees above average. And no cold in the midwest either, we are well above average here, friday temperatures 20 degrees above average in Bismark, at 39 degrees, we’ll be warm in Kansas City, in Denver will be mild, and in Great Falls, Montana, about 20 degrees above average, the warmth hangs on on saturday, all across the midwest.

When I look out at the world from a limited perspective, my senses tell me that the earth is flat. For thousands of years, most human beings probably believed that this was so. But in a technological, scientific world, our perception is greatly expanded, and we have a much larger view of the world and our place in it. We need to understand the larger perspective about our changing climate as well. Sophisticated instruments and advanced science show us details that our senses could never see, and recent satellite measurements show, that in fact, on january 13th, global temperatures were the warmest for a january day in the satellite record. And this week, NASA released data showing that 2009, was the second hottest year in the instrumental record. We’ll be looking more at this new data in coming weeks and months. The science of global climate is vital for us to understand if we are to pass along to our children a planet that is liveable, diverse, and abundant.

It’s the most important task this generation will undertake, and you can keep track of our progress right here, on climate denial crock of the week..

How Your Friends Can Affect Your Opinions

You probably have strong opinions about all kinds of things: like whether Coke is better than Pepsi, which football team deserves to win the Super Bowl, or which Chris is the dreamiest movie star—Pratt, Pine, Hemsworth, or Evans. Why are there so many Chrises? But are all those opinions really yours? Humans are social creatures. And when we talk about anything from TV shows to politics, lots of psychological phenomena come into play. Sometimes, this can lead to bad judgments and biased opinions. But by knowing how your thoughts can be swayed, you can recognize it when it’s happening— and maybe stop it. One kind of bias can come from the company you keep. It’s normal to be friends with people who have similar opinions and values.

But many studies have shown that when you talk with people who feel similarly about things, you can end up with even more extreme opinions. In other words, you get polarized. For example, some experiments have asked people to decide on a risky business proposition together, and found that groups of risk-takers get even more risky, while risk-avoiders get less risky. But it’s hard to escape polarization: it can also happen when you have strong opinions that are challenged by others. One study in 2011 had people with diverse views on a social issue respectfully discuss their opinions. Those who already had more extreme beliefs, both for and against the issue, showed even more polarization afterwards. This is called a boomerang effect, where a counter-argument makes someone believe even more strongly in their original judgment.

Researchers think this is partly due to your social identity: the fact that your beliefs and the groups you belong to are part of who you are, so you defend them. So if you and your friends are die-hard peanut M&M fans, hearing a case for crispy M&Ms could just make you extra defensive of your peanut-loving identity. I know it does that to me. Another way your opinions can be swayed in a debate has to do with what you think of first— because that can act as an anchor, basically a starting point, for the rest of your thoughts. One study in 2000 involved taking an old car to 60 car experts, including mechanics and car dealers. The pretend-customer told the expert what they thought the car was worth, either higher or lower than it actually was, then asked for the expert’s judgment.

And the initial suggestion affected the experts’ estimates, making them similarly higher or lower. Psychologists think this is partially due to selective accessibility, where an anchor makes some information more available in your mind, which affects your opinions. For example, a small study in 2010 even found that when it was warmer outside, or people were simply asked to think about hot things, their responses to survey questions showed that they believed more strongly in global warming. So if you stumble upon a flame war online, for example, the first thing you read in the comments could cause selective accessibility and shape your thoughts— although there hasn’t really been research into that kind of anchoring. Your opinions can also be influenced when you’re trying to make a decision with a group because of something called groupthink, which can make you blind to bad reasoning.

Let’s say you’re a Doctor Who fan and enter a heated debate after someone influential claims that, hands-down, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is the best one. A discussion begins with that anchor, filled with a bunch of pro-Matt Smith arguments. Maybe you’re more of a Tom Baker fan and you think that bow ties just aren't that cool, but you keep your mouth shut in self-censorship, figuring that other people won’t want to hear your opinion. You might notice that any arguments that other Doctors might be better are rationalized by the group, meaning that they are dismissed as bad arguments. Or people might stereotype David Tennant’s fans, saying they only liked him because of his looks, and ignoring their opinions. After lots of keysmashing back and forth, it seems like everyone agrees that Eleven is the best, but that’s not necessarily true— it’s what psychologists call an illusion of unanimity. And when people think everyone agrees, they’re more likely to adjust their opinion.

When deciding on anything, from government policy to a group project at school, all of these and other characteristics of groupthink can influence decisions and shut down critical debate. So … it might seem like your opinions aren’t ever really yours. But there are ways to fight against the influence of polarization, anchoring, and groupthink. Essentially, it all comes down to critical thinking, and considering why your opinion might be wrong or too extreme, not just why it might be right. Some studies have found that having someone play the Devil’s Advocate can help, genuinely arguing against the preferred decision and asking thoughtful questions. But an extreme counter-argument can also backfire and cause the boomerang effect. Other research has shown it can help to talk with others outside of your group, and listen to diverse opinions.

You might discover that what you thought was normal actually was an extreme stance, or that the issue is more complex than you thought. Also, you can learn about something or start a group discussion before forming a strong opinion— like, reading a bunch of news articles for yourself before reading the comments or tweetstorms about them. We’re all naturally influenced by the people around us— it’s unavoidable, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But by being aware of bias and potentially bad choices, you can take back some control and know that it’s okay to speak up, disagree, and change your mind. After all, we’re all learning here. But peanut M&Ms are the best. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych, brought to you by our patrons on Patreon! If you would like to support us, you can go to patreon.

com/scishow. And if you just want to keep learning about brain things, you can go to youtube.com/scishowpsych and subscribe..

Are Electric Cars Actually Better For The Environment?

We’ve gotta get rid of these gas guzzlers and switch to electric cars that plug into the land of rainbows and unicorns. Hi guys, Lissette here for DNews. Often called “zero emissions” vehicles, electric cars are surely better for the environment, right? Ehhh not so fast…Their entire life-cycle, from manufacture to use to disposal, needs to be considered when determining their environmental impact. We can’t just look at their tailpipes. So, taking everything into consideration, are electric vehicles actually better for the environment than our old timey cars? The Union of Concerned Scientists, or UCS, recently conducted a cradle to grave study to dig into this question, starting by comparing the manufacturing of battery electric and petrol cars and materials and resources used. They used a Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf to represent battery-electric vehicles, also known as BEVS, and comparable midsize and fullsize gasoline cars. They found that before they even hit the road – electric vehicles actually are responsible for about 1 ton more emissions than their traditional counterparts. Yes, that’s a winning point for your gasoline powered car. This is largely because of the BEVs lithium-ion batteries, which require the extraction of rare earth metals.

.. often through drilling… just like with oil. Not a very eco-friendly activity. When it comes to disposing of BEVs, they don’t seem to be any better than regular cars either. In fact, they may have a greater environmental footprint because it’s tricky to dispose of their lithium ion batteries. But data here is lacking. Now when on the road, BEVs don’t emit CO2, but their batteries need to be charged from electricity that has to come from somewhere – and this somewhere might have a CO2 output of its own. A report based on 2009 national averages found that If the electricity is coming primarily from a country like India where coal accounts for about 60% of electricity generated, your BEV ends up emitting C02 at about the same levels as a 20 mpg car. In the US, where the fuel sources are cleaner, this figure only rose to 40mpg – which is basically the average for a really efficient petrol car. So, at this point you may be thinking, if electric cars pollute more when they’re built, just about the same when they’re junked, and their battery charges can pollute even more than an efficient gas car… then, of course electric vehicles aren’t greener.

Figures from studies like this one are often cited to make the case against electric vehicles. But, here’s the thing, since 2009 BEVs have become more efficient and while India has added more coal powered plants, the US has not, opting instead for renewable sources. Looking at 2015 data, the UCS determined that BEVs in the US are now the equivalent of cars that go 68mpg. And in countries like Paraguay and Iceland, the electricity is so clean that a BEV there would be like having a car that goes more than 200 miles per gallon Their electricity grids are powered by more water, wind, and solar energy, than other countries. When it comes to emissions, BEVs here are many times better for the environment than petrol cars. What’s more, the longer you drive an electric car, the better it stacks up against gas vehicles. The UCS found that basically, it you drive an EV for a month, you might as well buy a car. But drive that puppy for 2 years and you’re helping the environment.

All said and done, the UCS found that electric vehicles produce about 50 percent fewer emissions than a regular car in the US. Basically, the comparative environmental benefits increase the more you drive and the cleaner the electricity source. CTA video Now, we are of course, only talking about global warming emissions, we’re not saying that one type of car is better than another. You might have personal preference for other reasons. Maybe you’re into salt powered cars. To learn more about those guys, check out this episode here. River Monsters push Now, if you’re a fan of the biggest and baddest water creatures, you can watch the full, season premier of River Monsters online now. Just click the link in the video description below and catch new episodes of Season 8 every Thursday on Animal Planet. What’s your favorite car? Do you prefer petrol, electric, hybrid, diesel, something else? Share your thoughts in the comments and remember to subscribe so you never miss an episode of DNews.

Thanks for watching..

The Fern That Cooled the Planet

Let’s talk about climate change, and I don’t mean the kind that’s happening right now. I mean the massive shift in climate that happened about 50 million years back, when Earth went from toasty warm to ice age. And that huge change may have mostly been caused by … a fern. Alright, so Earth was really hot 50 million years ago. I’m talking like, total greenhouse planet, lots of CO2 in the air, palm trees and alligators living near the poles. That kind of hot. Then something happened. The planet started to slowly cool, and all those poor gators had to relocate as the poles eventually formed ice caps, and the climate eventually shifted into cycles of hundred-thousand-year ice ages with shorter breaks in between them. In 2004, an Arctic Coring Expedition started poking around the North Pole looking for clues about what might have tipped the scales toward that global cooling so long ago.

When they pulled up sediment core samples from under the Arctic Ocean, they found a series of sediment layers that reached back nearly 80 million years. And sure enough, the scientists noticed something unusual right around the 50 million year mark. A column of tiny fossilized ferns that was almost 10 meters deep. That was …. surprising. The ferns were a type of Azolla, a genus of dime-sized, moss-like aquatic ferns that grow floating on the surface of water. Specifically though, fresh water. But if these ferns grow in fresh water, what were they doing in the arctic ocean? Well, you gotta keep in mind that the Earth’s geography was very different back then. The Arctic ocean was essentially landlocked, and researchers think that runoff from rivers formed a layer of fresh water over the saltwater. Which made it a cozy, nutrient-rich environment that Azolla ferns would have loved. Like, really loved.

The little plant flourished for nearly a million years, erupting in blooms that covered millions of square kilometers. Eventually, though, shifting landmasses reopened a connection to other oceans, causing a deadly influx of saltwater. That’s when the Azolla died and sank to the bottom of the ocean, forming the layers of sediment that we’d pull up millions of years later. But what does all this have to do with Earth cooling down? Well, as you probably know, long-term climate cycles have a lot to do with the atmospheric tug of war between various gases. Extra carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases, for example, can trap heat and warm the planet. And Azolla may have helped remove a lot of those gases in a few ways. First, there’s the fern’s relationship with a type of cyanobacteria called Anabaena The bacteria pass between ferns through their reproductive spores, and live within their leaves. Anabaena is great at taking in nitrogen from the atmosphere, and using it to provide the fern with fertilizer. This fertilizing process is so effective that under the right conditions, Azolla can double its mass in just a couple of days. It also would have helped absorb lots and lots of nitrogen from the atmosphere.

There’s also the fact that Azolla, like all photosynthesizing plants, is really good at eating up carbon dioxide. In fact, researchers estimate that over the course of those million years or so, Azolla blooms might have gobbled up about half of all atmospheric CO2 — reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from an estimated 2500 – 3500 parts per million down to like 1500 parts per million, and kicking off a cooling trend in the climate. When the Arctic eventually opened up again, those huge blooms sank deep into the ocean, where a lack of oxygen kept them from decaying, effectively keeping all of that carbon dioxide locked up, and out of the atmosphere. Azolla is still around today, and there are at least six known living species, and there’s enough of the stuff that it’s considered a weed in some places. It can be used as fertilizer, food for livestock, and has shown some promise in wastewater treatment. There’s also a crowdfunded research project that’s currently working on expanding our knowledge of the plant’s evolution and ecology by sequencing the Azolla genome.

Because the question on a lot of minds right now is… can Azolla help cool the planet again? With more research, we might just find out. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this show, you can go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!.

“Preparing to Adapt: Climate Change as a Market Shift” by Andy Hoffman

This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and a generous investment by Julie Ann Wrigley. And as a business executive, you really want to think about climate change as a market shift. You can be completely agnostic about the science of climate change and still see the business implications for how it will change the market for your goods and services as you go out there. In any market shift, there are winners and losers. And companies right now need to be thinking about, what is the form of this market shift? And what does it mean for your competitive position vis-a-vis other companies in your sector? I put this up here. And a lot of my students don’t know what this device is in the bottom left here. [LAUGHING] But they do know what this device is over here in the bottom right.

And I asked them, have you ever heard of Olivetti, or Smith Corona, or IBM? And they all perk up. Yes, I know IBM. Well, these were three of the biggest typewriter manufacturers until the market shift. And only one of them made the transition– IBM. Smith Corona and Olivetti are gone. Are we talking about that big a market shift in climate change? As the price gets set for carbon, as investor and consumer markets start to shift, what will this do to the market that you’re in? That’s the way company executives really need to think about this. Leave the science aside. Debate the science if you wish, but the real question is, what does it do to your competitive position? That’s really the way that you need to think about it. Now some companies have developed capacities to watch the science. Swiss Re has climatologists on staff. They’re looking at this issue as an important implication for their investment portfolio and their insurance instruments. And they feel that getting ahead on this– DuPont as well. DuPont is looking at this and said, we’ve seen this one before.

It was called CFCs. It was called ozone depletion. It wiped out a market for one of our products and we need to innovate to get ahead of it. So watching the science is not necessarily a bad strategy. Believing in the science is not a bad strategy. But recognizing the market implications is where you need to be when you think about this as a business issue. Now, when you think about it as a market shift, there are two questions that emerge. And I hear them a lot. And I want to go through them and why they’re the wrong ones. The first one– how much will it cost? This will cost money. Estimates from McKinsey, from the Stern Report, from others, put the number somewhere around 1% of GDP. Now first of all, that’s an interesting number because we can’t measure global GDP within 1% anyway. But it is real numbers.

This is real money. But again, the question is, how much does it cost you? How does it affect your competitive positioning? How does it affect the other companies in your sector? There’s an expression– the cost you face the most in business is the one you have to incur and your competitor does not. And that’s what you need to be looking at in this. Are you a utility that’s very invested in coal? In nuclear? In natural gas? How is this going to change your positioning in the market. These are the kinds of important questions you need to ask, not just the absolute– how much will it cost? The second question– does it pay to be green? This is a question that– it drives me nuts. It’s a nonsensical question. It’s the exact same thing as asking does it pay to innovate. And it’s not a yes or no question. It depends on who does it, when they do it, how they do it. In the face of a market shift on climate change, you have to innovate. How are you going to innovate? When are you going to innovate? Are you the best one to innovate into this new space? These are the kind of questions you want to ask. So move away from this, does it pay to be green– the question makes no sense.

And really start to think about this in brass tacks as a business issue. This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, for educational, and non-commercial use only..

Thoughts About Some Mind-Bending Earth Images

So, now that we’ve been regularly photographing the Earth from space for decades, we can watch in like time-lapse format, as our planet changes – usually, as we change our planet. Huge scale stuff. And Google has just released a tool that makes this easier. Basically, you can scan around the entire world and watch the last 25 years of life on Earth. What the world was like when I was four versus what the world is like now. So I wanted to share some of the cool things that I found while doing that. First, here’s my hometown of Missoula And if you look carefully, you can see some new neighborhoods being built and all the boxstores going into the edge of town. Bit of a small town but it has changed in the last 25 years. More interesting probably is the amazing sprawl of Orlando, where John, you and I grew up. But really, the most fascinating bits are where humans have had their deepest influences. America’s insatiable appetite for cheap coal power, our wonderful lifestyles has lead to a practice called mountain top removal mining, in much of Appalachia.

I’ve seen these pictures, I’ve seen close-ups and I’ve seen it from satellites but as you scroll around and watch the last 20 years’ progress, it is astounding and terrifying and moving to see the amount of destruction. And of course, I know that I benefit personally from this destruction but it is destruction. Similarly, we all know that lots of the Amazon rainforests has been cut down but you really can’t understand the depth and the scale of it until you watch it happen and are able to move all around Brazil and Bolivia and see how much of those forests are gone now. And then there’s the story of water, which of course, more people consume more of. Las Vegas and Dubai spreading across deserts, Saudi Arabia, with massive irrigation projects making the deserts bloom. Inland seas drying up, either because of drought or because of irrigation but in addition to being terrifying occasionally, it can also be a story of recovery.

Watching the forests take back the land that had been destroyed when Mt. Saint Helens erupted was particularly inspiring, though the nearby clear cutting was not. We humans have a profound and largely negative effect on the rest of the lifeforms of the planet. Science has, for a long time offered us these truths up on a platter in the form of data and numbers and statistics. But we are people, we are not computers and we are not particularly good at understanding what all of those data and statistics really mean. And it might be a better world if all policy was based on science, but it’s not. It’s based on the individual decisions and the individual feelings of individual people, like ME and like YOU. For me, watching all of this change with a very limited span of my own life is intense and it’s moving and it’s terrifying. We have learned a lot but we haven’t really acted on that learning.

And maybe that’s because we don’t really understand it. We know the numbers but we can’t see it, or we couldn’t see it. Maybe taking a look around the Google Earth engine, which I should say, is based on the NASA LandSat program, which is FANTASTIC, good job, NASA. It might give us all a better understanding of the realities that we face and if we really understand those things better, then the decisions we make will be better. At least one can hope. So YAY for NASA, YAY for Google, YAY for Science, YAY for understanding and hopefully, also in the near future, YAY, for action.