December 09, 2011 | 1:42 PM
Once again: For scientists, there is no climate change debateHere's a line that's worth repeating: "The vast majority of climate scientists agree that human-caused global warming is happening." Because while you, a regular reader, may be familiar with this fact, many Americans still aren't. In fact, survey results show that almost every other American doesn't know the truth: The scientific community overwhelmingly acknowledges the reality of climate change! Why does this matter so much? A new study finds that people are less likely to say climate change is happening, and that humans are causing it, if they erroneously believe that experts haven't agreed on the science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who think along these lines are less likely to support policies to address climate change. After reading this study, I thought it might be worthwhile to outline just how one-sided the climate change debate really is within the scientific community. So here it goes: According to a recent survey, 97% of top climate scientists (those who have published 20 peer-reviewed papers or more) agree that our climate is changing due to human activities. Moreover, the study found that the few dissenters had substantially less experience than those who were convinced. And many other peer-reviewed studies have turned up very similar results. One even concluded: "The debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes."
December 08, 2011 | 9:32 AM
Clean Energy Reality: If you like airplanes, cell phones and the Internet, say yay for investment in clean energy!This is the second in a series of blog posts to give you the facts about clean energy. To read the first post, click here. [caption id="attachment_5565" align="alignright" width="240" caption="© 2008 Flickr/solarguy100 cc by 2.0"][/caption]Last week marked the start of an independent review of U.S. Department of Energy's loans to 28 clean energy projects around the country. These projects are entrepreneurial business ventures that use innovative technology - and most of them are going strong. The default rate under the program is less than 4%, far lower than the Small Business Administration's 12% default rate. But after just two of these loans have failed (less than 2% of the total loaned amount), some have suggested it's just not worth it for us to invest any more on clean energy. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The truth is, an investment in clean energy is an investment in the future. Let's just take a quick look at our lives, and ask where some of our favorite modern conveniences came from. Guess what - they started with investment from places like the military, the space program and national agencies like the Department of Energy. For example:
- Cell phones: At the heart of a cell phone is the humble microchip. When first invented in 1958, the price of a microchip was staggeringly high, making its commercial future uncertain. However, the military and the space program bought enough first-generation microchips to drive the price down by 50 percent in just a few years, making microchips affordable for private companies. Radiotelephony techniques (two-way communication) used in cell phones also received early public funding. It was the Defense Navigation Satellite System (NAVSTAR) satellite program that first developed the GPS technologies that give your smart-phone so many capabilities.
December 07, 2011 | 3:26 PM
If the earth is our princess, what is your gold coin?[caption id="attachment_5538" align="alignright" width="185" caption="© 2010 Flickr/vtdainfo cc by 2.0"][/caption]The last time I felt passionately about a console-based video game, I was throwing punches. On a Nintendo, I pedaled a bike to the next level in a game called Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. The premise of the game was simple. You box (fight) at increasing levels until you get to the final round, where presumably you go head to head with Mike Tyson. Though I can't be sure, because I never made it there. I was a 6-year-old girl battling an addiction to the Rocky boxing saga, but that's a topic for another blog. But plenty of others did make it to the final round. They honed their skills, moved up from one level to the next, and finally made it to the top. What makes games so fun and addictive? It turns out there's a logic to the way games work that applies outside of Wii or Playstaton -- it also applies to the climate movement. Last week, at the Gaming for Good Concept Reveal in New York, Aaron Dignan, a gaming expert and author of Game Frame, described how playing games helps the mind learn how to evaluate and form habits and expectations around complicated systems. Think about the quintessential video game goal: Save the princess. The first step of the game is never "saving the princess" (or winning the fight with Mike Tyson). It's the last step, and the player is okay with that. The user builds up patience and endurance, with the expectation that layers will need to be slowly -- and times artfully -- peeled away before the solution is found. Before you can save the princess, you have to get into the castle. To do that, you need a key. To find a key, you need a map. But the map is guarded by a ninja. To triumph over the ninja, you'll need a sword. Maybe you need six gold coins before you can unlock the sword. One successful action isn't enough. You need to repeat your successful behavior if you want to make a difference and be victorious.
December 07, 2011 | 1:01 PM
5.9%: The scariest number you'll see this week[caption id="attachment_5521" align="alignright" width="159" caption="© 2010 Flickr/krapow CC BY-NC-SA 2.0"][/caption]First: The bad news. An analysis released over the weekend tells us that global carbon emissions leaped 5.9% in 2010, the largest absolute jump since the Industrial Revolution. Compare the nearly 6% increase in pollution last year to the 3% yearly growth in 2000-2010, and 1% in the 90s. Notice a trend? We've already told you that the amount of carbon pollution we release every year (almost 35 gigatons) would be enough to fill the balloons in two billion Thanksgiving Day parades. And it's only increasing. In 2009, we could take a little bit of comfort in the 1.3% decline in carbon pollution, almost entirely due to the global financial crisis. The fact that we experienced such a large jump in 2010 without a full economic recovery should give even the most hardened climate "inactivist" pause. Moreover, we are causing the climate crisis without even creating revolutionary economic breakthroughs, or a strong foundation for a long-term, sustainable economy. More than half of the pollution growth came directly from regular old coal-fired power plants - not magic job-creating machines, rocket ships to explore other planets, or a teleportation system. So that was the bad news. How about some good news? It's not cause to celebrate in the streets, but as pollution increases, more Americans are acknowledging the reality of climate change. A new report from Pew shows that 63% of Americans believe there is solid evidence global warming is happening -- up from 57% in 2009 and 59% in 2010. Within that group, those who understand that humans are causing global warming increased, while those who think it's natural warming stayed flat. Since last year, there was a jump from 32% to 38% of those who view global warming as a "very serious" problem. These numbers are still below the all-time high in 2007, when 77% of Americans believed global warming was happening. But they do suggest we're moving back in the right direction.
December 06, 2011 | 12:38 PM
How is climate change impacting the water cycle?
Climate change is increasing our risk of both heavy rains and extreme droughts. But why is that? Aren't the two contradictory? Take a look at our new visual guide to how climate change impacts the water cycle. You might remember the water cycle from school: Water evaporates from the land and sea and returns to the earth as rain and snow. Climate change is intensifying that cycle. Higher temperatures mean there is more evaporation. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, which can lead to more intense rainstorms. But much of the water runs off into the rivers and streams, and the soil remains dry. More evaporation from the soil increases the risk of drought. This graphic draws a picture of how global warming changes the water cycle, and in turn is changing the weather we see outside. Take a look at this graphic and share it with your friends. And if you'd like even more detail on climate change and the water cycle, check out my recent blog post here.
December 05, 2011 | 1:26 PM
Extreme weather: A visual guide
Climate change is a problem we are facing right now, and it affects the weather we see every day. The next time someone asks you what climate change is, try using this graphic as a handy visual guide.
December 05, 2011 | 9:35 AM
Clean energy: It’s time to get realOver the next few weeks, we're going to explore the ins and outs of how we can use clean energy to solve the climate crisis. We're going to break down its job creation potential, how energy efficiency can save you money (and who doesn't like that?), the ways the Pentagon is driving clean energy innovation and so much more. Stay tuned.
December 02, 2011 | 1:12 PM
"Debunking" deniers: Practical tips[caption id="attachment_5441" align="alignright" width="202" caption="Source: U.S. Government"][/caption]Have you heard about The Debunking Handbook? It's a must-read for anyone interested in dispelling the misinformation put out by climate change deniers. The Handbook's tips are taken not from the latest climate science, as you might expect, but from psychological research. As its authors, John Cook (creator of the Skeptical Science website) and Stephan Lewandowsky (a professor of psychology at the University of Western Australia) explain, debunking a myth requires more than just "packing more information into people's heads." Our brains don't work like hard drives -- they're much more complex. Rooted in this science of how people think, the Handbook lays out the following advice for effective debunking:
- Focus on the truth, not the myth. You want to increase your audience's familiarity with the right facts, not the misinformation. Don't give the myth more attention than it deserves, or your efforts might "backfire." It even helps, before you mention a myth, to add an explicit disclaimer: "The information to follow is FALSE!"
- Less can be more. Although it might be tempting to list every piece of evidence that disproves a denier's argument, research shows this is "overkill." It's best to keep your argument simple. People are most likely to believe information that's easy to understand.