Hilary Rosner: "Is today's media up to the task of covering renewable energy issues? That was the broad topic explored during two panel discussions held in February at the Harvard Kennedy School's "Clean Energy and the Media" series. And despite the solid work the four journalists who spoke are producing, it feels like the answer is leaning toward no. Budget cuts, ever-shrinking story lengths, and a fundamental disconnect between what makes a good story and what makes a well-informed public are the three main obstacles..." (continues)
"...The geologic time scale, which defines geological periods, began to take its modern form only in the 19th century.
"Among scientists, there is now serious talk that the Holocene has ended and a new era has begun, called the Anthropocene, a term first used in 2000 by Paul Crutzen, who shared a Nobel Prize for his work on the chemical mechanisms that affect the ozone layer.
"The Royal Society has devoted a recent issue of its Philosophical Transactions to the Anthropocene. According to one of the papers, the name is "a vivid expression of the degree of environmental change on planet Earth." It means that human activity has left a "stratigraphic signal" detectable thousands of years from now in ice cores and sedimentary rocks...."
Also see Signs From Earth Notes: Welcome to the Anthropocene
Mike Tidwell on the cover of the Washington Post Outlook Section, Feb. 27: "Ten years ago, I put solar panels on my roof and began eating locally grown food. I bought an energy-efficient refrigerator that uses the power equivalent of a single light bulb. I started heating my home with a stove that burns organically fertilized corn kernels. I even restored a gas-free lawn mower for manual yardwork.
"As a longtime environmental activist, I was deeply alarmed by new studies on global warming, so I went all out. I did my part.
"Now I'm changing my life again. Today, underneath the solar panels, there's a new set of deadbolt locks on all my doors. There's a new Honda GX390 portable power generator in my garage, ready to provide backup electricity. And last week I bought a starter kit to raise tomatoes and lettuce behind barred basement windows.
"I'm not a survivalist or an "end times" enthusiast. When it comes to climate change, I'm just a realist...."
:...My actions may seem alarmist to just about everyone else, I realize. And if you think so, I can't really blame you. I'd be confused about climate change, too, if I got most of my information from the half-asleep news media, much less the committed disinformers at Fox News and the Heritage Foundation...."
Lisa Friedman, ClimateWire: "Is it worse to be swallowed by the sea or racked by famine?
"As climate change tightens its grip on the world, institutions charged with protecting the most vulnerable nations could be faced with just such a question. Because there is no international consensus for ranking the possibilities of future devastation -- and because there are limited dollars lined up to help cope with climate change -- some countries already are battling over who will be considered most vulnerable..."
Also @sciam: Which Nations are Most at Risk From Climate Change?
Melting Snow and Ice Warm Northern Hemisphere 1979-2008
NASA Earth Observatory, Feb. 24 "...When snow and ice disappear, they are replaced by dark land or ocean, both of which absorb energy. The image shows that the Northern Hemisphere is absorbing more energy, particularly along the outer edges of the Arctic Ocean, where sea ice has disappeared, and in the mountains of Central Asia.
"On average, the Northern Hemisphere now absorbs about 100 PetaWatts more solar energy because of changes in snow and ice cover," says Flanner. "To put it in perspective, 100 PetaWatts is seven-fold greater than all the energy humans use in a year." Changes in the extent and timing of snow cover account for about half of the change, while melting sea ice accounts for the other half...."
Nature Geoscience: Radiative forcing and albedo feedback from the northern hemisphere cryosphere between 1979 and 2008
From Abstract: "...The extent of snow cover and sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere has declined since 1979, coincident with hemispheric warming and indicative of a positive feedback of surface reflectivity on climate. This albedo feedback of snow on land has been quantified from observations at seasonal timescales, and century-scale feedback has been assessed using climate models...."
NASA: (link to source below) Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change: Line plot of global mean land-ocean temperature index, 1880 to present, with the base period 1951-1980. The dotted black line is the annual mean and the solid red line is the five-year mean. The green bars show uncertainty estimates.
"Scientists and journalists debate why Americans still resist the consensus among research organizations that humans are warming the globe"
Scientific American: Robin Lloyd, Feb. 23: "As glaciers melt and island populations retreat from their coastlines to escape rising seas, many scientists remain baffled as to why the global research consensus on human-induced climate change remains contentious in the U.S.
"The frustration revealed itself during a handful of sessions at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, coming to a peak during a Friday session, "Science without Borders and Media Unbounded"....
also see Andrew Revkin @revkin : Dot Earth: Do Fights over Climate Communication Reflect the end of Scientism?
Feb. 26 edition: 9 stories on the 9 billion-people question
The Economist: "...An era of cheap food has come to an end. A combination of factors--rising demand in India and China, a dietary shift away from cereals towards meat and vegetables, the increasing use of maize as a fuel, and developments outside agriculture, such as the fall in the dollar--have brought to a close a period starting in the early 1970s in which the real price of staple crops (rice, wheat and maize) fell year after year.
"This has come as a shock. ..."
A special report on Feeding the World (free downloadable pdf)
Feb. 24, Financial Times, Javier Blas and Gregory Meyer: "The world faces a protracted bout of extremely high food prices, the US government has warned, overwhelming farmers' ability to cool commodity markets by planting millions of additional hectares with crops.
"The US Department of Agriculture on Thursday forecast nominal record farm-gate prices for corn, wheat and soyabeans in the crop year that begins with the 2011 harvests. It added that food inflation would surge in the second half of this year as wholesale prices filtered through the supply chain, affecting consumers.
Feb. 24, Financial Times: Focus sharpens on food price forecast
"Projections on grain stocks, land under cultivation and prices have become critical to governments and companies grappling with rising food inflation. Higher food prices have helped destabilise regimes as protests sweep the Middle East.
"In his annual outlook Mr Glauber said the US "corn market will continue to be tight" next year, wheat "will tighten further," and soyabeans "remain tight as well..."
Feb. 24, USDA: Prospects for the U.S. Farm Economy in 2011 by Joseph Glauber
"What is causing food prices to soar and what can be done about it?"
The Economist Feb. 24: "...But today's (food price) spike is only part of a broader set of worries. As countries focus on food, they need to distinguish between three classes of problem: structural, temporary and irrelevant. Unfortunately, policymakers have so far paid too much attention to the last of these and not enough to the first...."
"The Dust Bowl -- the seven-year drought that devastated large swathes of US prairie land in the 1930s -- was the worst prolonged environmental disaster recorded for the country. But a study of the American Southwest's more distant climatic past reveals that the catastrophic drought was a mere dry spell compared to the 'mega-droughts' that were recurring long before humans began to settle the continent...."
Study: Extended megadroughts in the southwestern United States during Pleistocene interglacials
Feb. 22, National Press Photographers Association: "National Geographic executive editor of e-Publishing David Griffin will be joining the staff of The Washington Post to fill the newly-created position of Visuals Editor beginning on March 21, 2011, Post assistant managing editor Michel du Cille told News Photographer magazine today...."
National Geographic's version is online, and print copies now on newsstands include (besides the great pictures) an innovative poster showing the "surprising" face of the typical earth citizen in this era of Seven Billion.
Introduction to Issue, Abstract: "Anthropogenic changes to the Earth's climate, land, oceans and biosphere are now so great and so rapid that the concept of a new geological epoch defined by the action of humans, the Anthropocene, is widely and seriously debated. Questions of the scale, magnitude and significance of this environmental change, particularly in the context of the Earth's geological history, provide the basis for this Theme Issue. The Anthropocene, on current evidence, seems to show global change consistent with the suggestion that an epoch-scale boundary has been crossed within the last two centuries."
The British Geological Survey is holding a conference May 11 in London on the Anthropocene (poster above.) The convenors have invited me and others (including NYT"s Andrew Revkin @revkin @dotearth) to join the discussions. My talk will be a slideshow about this new era of the "man-made planet," a presentation which opened the 2010 Aspen Environment Forum last July. Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post wrote about the slide show and "The Anthropocene" here:
The 1969 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, left, and the new 2011 edition of WorldChanging, a User''s Guide for the 21st Century, right.
My whole life I've been a fan of projects like this. First it was the Whole Earth Catalog (above left) and its periodical sister Co-Evolution Quarterly. It was like having the internet before the internet. A stream of ideas, tools, visions, and dreams of what could be. Whenever an issue showed up in my mailbox it was the highlight of the month, I'd lose myself for hours at time, it was a continuing education. I've still got them all. Luckily they have been put online:
Of late it has been the labor of love over at WorldChanging. Lamentably the organization has closed, but in addition to a website full of ideas and examples, Alex Steffen and colleagues have left us with a new gift, a revised and updated Worldchanging book. It's a vision of what our world can become and how we might get there if only we get to work. More than an update of the original, they say it's a whole new book. The new Worldchanging 2.0 is due March1. I ordered my copy yesterday, and will be looking forward to its arrival next week just like the old days when Whole Earth regularly graced my mailbox.
From Worldchanging: "....Worldchanging 2.0 is an urban book, focusing on cities and the systems we need to change to make them carbon-neutral, zero-waste, walkable and equitable engines of prosperity. It's an ambitious book, full of the kinds of bold thinking we need to engage with to build a truly bright green future: climate foresight and planetary thinking; sustainable design innovations and passivhaus buildings; walksheds, ubiquitous technology and sharing systems; biomimicry and green chemistry; adaptive re-use and rugged green infrastructure; telling the backstories of the things we buy, making transparent the functioning of our governments and rebuilding the ruins of the unsustainable. On a planet hurtling towards not only a population of 9 billion people, almost all living in or around cities, facing a massive ecological crisis and an unfaltering technological revolution, ideas like the ones in Worldchanging are no longer just provocative, they're essential. Worldchanging is a guide to building (and living in) bright green cities. Now, not in some distant, perfect future...."
From Dr. Masters, Weather Underground: "Global precipitation forecast for June, July and August of 2011, made in February 2011. Only a few scattered regions of the globe are predicted to have above-average chances of drought (yellow colors.) These areas include the Northwest U.S., Southern Brazil, and Northwest China. Image credit: International Research Institute for Climate and Society"
Feb. 23, Dr. Jeff Masters, Weather Underground: "...The recent unrest in the Middle East, which has been attributed, in part, to high food prices, gives us a warning of the type of global unrest that might result in future years if the climate continues to warm as expected. A hotter climate means more severe droughts will occur. We can expect an increasing number of unprecedented heat waves and droughts like the 2010 Russian drought in coming decades. This will significantly increase the odds of a world food emergency far worse than the 2007 - 2008 global food crisis. When we also consider the world's expanding population and the possibility that peak oil will make fertilizers and agriculture much more expensive, we have the potential for a perfect storm of events aligning in the near future, with droughts made significantly worse by climate change contributing to events that will cause disruption of the global economy, intense political turmoil, and war...."