New Scientist is a good place to check daily for science-related news of all kinds, including stories on climate change the regular media doesn't have a lot of space for. This will be a quick post on several recent stories that should give pause....
Arctic sea ice may have passed crucial tipping point - and we're going to be finding out just what that means the hard way.
Elsewhere at the conference, Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway, University of London, offered one particularly scary consequence of Arctic warming. He warned on Tuesday that warming ocean currents east of Greenland were melting ice in the seabed.Has global warming brought an early summer to the US? While some areas of the country got hit with lots of snow, things have been strange elsewhere.
This could trigger landslides on steep submarine slopes in the area, unleashing tsunamis capable of hitting the UK, and releasing buried methane that could amplify global warming. Something similar happened off Norway 8000 years ago in a similar geological setting, Nisbet told New Scientist.
"The duration, areal size, and intensity of the 'summer in March' heat wave are simply off-scale," says Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground. "The event ranks as one of North America's most extraordinary weather events in recorded history." New Scientist takes a closer look.Methane cuts could delay climate change by 15 years This is potentially good news - IF we act on it. It's not all about carbon dioxide. But keep in mind, this is still about buying time.
He [Peter Cox at the University of Exeter, UK] told the conference that a 40 per cent reduction in human-caused methane emissions would permit the release of an extra 500 gigatonnes of CO2 - a third more than previously thought - before we exceeded 2 °C warming. "That is a 15-year breathing space at current CO2 emission rates," says Cox, who admits there are uncertainties in his calculations.Going green won't kill jobs during hard times This is the kind of commentary that terrifies the right wing - especially when now is the best time to go green while the economy is still weak.
"It looks extremely unlikely that we can stop global warming at 2 °C just by reducing CO2 emissions," he told New Scientist. "That probably requires peaking emissions by 2020. But drastic action on methane would make the task much more feasible."
So when the economy is behaving well, environmental regulatory changes are generally irrelevant to job growth. But when the economy is not functioning well, regulatory changes are very likely to create jobs.US scepticism – it's been a long time coming The anti-science voices on the right are not new according to this piece, but they're getting louder.
There are three reasons for this. First, investments in pollution abatement and control do not threaten to crowd out other investments by monopolising scarce financial capital and hence pushing up interest rates. Financial capital is not scarce during recessions, but opportunities to undertake real investment projects are.
Second, increases in energy costs following the implementation of new rules are unlikely to be passed on to consumers. With lots of excess supply around, firms are not in the position to raise the price of their goods without worrying about the effects on demand. Further, profit margins in the US corporate sector are at a 45-year high, meaning that increased costs can easily be absorbed by companies through reduced profits. Empirical research shows that high profit margins do indeed provide such buffers against price increases.
Lastly, the boost to employment provided by new investments accompanied by muted price responses will not be neutralised by the Federal Reserve, at least not in the next few years, as it has committed to holding interest rates low until unemployment returns to more normal levels.
From Rick Santorum's assertion that global warming is a "hoax" to Rick Perry's support for intelligent design, the current Republican presidential primary season has sometimes seemed like a science-free zone.Quite simply, what science is telling us about global climate change calls for action on a scale that can only be implemented through the dreaded "Big Government" - and rather than face up to that necessity, conservatives are determined to discredit science instead for ideological reasons.
But far from being a recent phenomenon, such comments reflect distrust in science among American conservatives that has been building steadily in recent decades. So says Gordon Gauchat of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has analysed results from the General Social Survey, which regularly quizzes a representative sample of US adults.
In 1974, those who described themselves as conservatives placed as much trust in science as self-described liberals. But while trust has remained strong among liberals, for conservatives it has gradually declined.
It would be nice if anyone was talking about this, wouldn't it?