All Posts Tagged With: "climate change"
Science Guy’s talk sells out at University of Ottawa
Bill Nye the Science Guy, star of the eponymous children’s television show that aired from 1993 to 1998, drew what organizers say was the biggest crowd for an event held by University of Ottawa students in nearly four decades.
Elementary school kids, university students and others packed the Ottawa Convention Centre’s biggest room on Thursday evening and listened to the 57-year-old man tell science jokes, personal stories and plead with them to fight climate change and make a difference in the world.
Nye began with the story of his father, who was a prisoner of war in China during World War Two. To tell how much time he spent in the camp, Nye’s dad used a shovel as a sundial. That story was passed down from father to son, and so the science guy became obsessed with sundials, developing what he jokingly called SOD (Sundial Obsessive Disorder). Because of this fascination, he started two projects. MarsDial created three sundials for rovers that were flown to the red planet. The second project, EarthDial, is a program that allows people all over the world to make sundials and learn about astronomy, the scientific method, “and our place among the stars.”
University of Victoria researchers’ warning
Today’s Cool Canuck Research is actually about warming and it’s really not very cool at all.
University of Victoria students Andrew MacDougall and Chris Avis, along with climate scientist Andrew Weaver, say their model shows that thawing permafrost in the Arctic will accelerate the rate of global warming. Their study is in Nature Geoscience Letters. The University of Victoria explains:
Permafrost is permanently frozen soil, sediment or rock. It’s estimated that about 18.8 million sq km of northern soils hold about 1,700 billion tonnes of organic carbon, or frozen compost—the remains of plants and animals that have accumulated over thousands of years. That’s about four times more than all the carbon emitted by human activity in modern times, and twice as much than is currently in the atmosphere.
Hockey, marijuana v. IQ, sex drive, sea ice and Sarah Palin
1. University sports writers are being driven crazy by all this talk of another NHL lockout. Karen Aney of UFV’s The Cascade blames both the players and commissioner Gary “Buttman” Bettman. “Last time there was a lockout, we saw the emergence of poker. Seriously? That was the best that sports networks could do?,” she laments.
2. Teens who smoke marijuana regularly may suffer long-term brain damage according to a study that observed how IQ changed between the ages of 13 and 38 for more than 1,000 New Zealanders. Those who smoked heavily and early are most at risk. IQ dropped among those who were dependent on marijuana before the age of 18 by eight points on average. That’s a big drop.
3. Autumn is here and that means not just falling leaves but falling sex drives. A study that looked at five years of Google searches showed “strong and consistent” seasonal spikes in searches for pornography, online dating and prostitution in spring and early winter, with lulls this time of year.
Tom Harris dismisses 142 “corrections”
A group of scientists has released a report condemning a Carleton University professor who taught a course centred on the idea that climate change is not caused by human emissions.
Tom Harris taught Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective to mostly second-year non-science students between 2009 and 2011.
The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism says in its report entitled Climate Change Denial in the Classroom that Harris hosted speakers who argued that climate change is not caused by humans but hosted “no scientist speaking to the generally accepted consensus.”
Greenhouse gas emissions to be cut 45% by 2015
The University of Calgary announced a plan today that would see its greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 45 per cent by 2015. To meet that target the university will be largely abandoning reliance on the province’s power grid, which relies heavily on coal and university boilers will also likely be scrapped. Instead heat and electricity will be generated by a cogeneration plant that will use a natural gas-powered turbine. Additionally, buildings will be retrofitted to maximize energy efficiency and evening classes will all be held in the same building.
Protesters catch Guelph students and staff off guard during cafeteria strip routine
Students at the University of Guelph shed their clothing Wednesday to protest the Conservative government’s climate change policies. Specifically the students were objecting to Conservative Senators killing Bill C-311, an NDP sponsored bill that would have set firm targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The legislation had been approved by the Commons, before being shelved by the Senate. The protesters caught students and staff in a university cafeteria off guard when music suddenly started playing and the activists began dancing on tables before stripping down to what appears to be underwear.
A video of the incident has been posted to You Tube.
For the government relying on academic research is bad politics
An outsider to Stephen Harper’s Ottawa might easily be forgiven for assuming that this summer’s uproar over the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the long-form census was an isolated event. How could a debate, no matter how heated, over the way government gathers statistics signify much beyond the argument’s own peculiar details? But ask prominent scientists and researchers who’ve struggled to influence federal policy over the past few years, and they’ll quickly link the census flap to wider misgivings about how the Harper government uses data and evidence—or refuses to—in shaping policy.
On sensitive files from crime to health, taxation to climate, the Harper government has often clashed with experts who argue the fruits of their research are undervalued by the Conservatives in the development of new laws and regulations. “I think,” says Gordon McBean, a University of Western Ontario geography professor and internationally respected climate-change scientist, “there is a significant problem—unwillingness to entertain, or invite, or listen to, people who are experts in their fields and want to provide advice and guidance to the government.”
Since he’s a prominent advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, McBean might be suspected of merely having an axe to grind, considering the Harper government’s track record of hesitant steps, at most, on the global warming file. But it’s not just that frustrated academics turn resentful when Conservatives look skeptically, even dismissively, at the recommendations that flow from their work. In fact, the Prime Minister and some of his closest advisers have occasionally expressed reservations about letting expert views directly inform their policies.
During the 2008 election campaign, Harper boasted that his party’s platform was grounded in real-world experience. “Grand blueprints that have been done on the blackboard,” he said, “endorsed by experts with no practical experience in the economy or society, are disastrous.” Harper added that he had steered away from that kind of expert-approved policy-making, at precisely the point when Stéphane Dion, then Liberal leader, was moving his party toward it with his elaborate “green shift” plan to tax carbon.
Painful experience lay behind Harper’s conscious move away from the influence of academic research. His former chief of staff, Ian Brodie, talked candidly about the transition at Montreal’s McGill University last year, in a panel discussion on the role of evidence in policy-making. Brodie recounted how Harper had run in the 2004 election on a tax-cuts platform carefully constructed along lines favoured by tenured economists. “We promised a comprehensive system of moving brackets around, cutting bracket rates, multi-year this, multi-year that, a corporate income tax cut as well,” he said. “A program so well thought out that even the people who wrote it can’t remember the details now.”
The Conservatives lost that election. The setback, Brodie explained, led Harper and his advisers to radically rethink their approach. By the 2006 campaign, Harper was pitching a simple idea, cutting the Goods and Services Tax, which was almost unanimously opposed by mainstream economists. But if experts would have overwhelmingly preferred reducing the tax burden on income and investment, voters liked the sound of Harper’s uncomplicated pledge to slash the widely resented consumption tax. That GST promise helped them win, and Harper’s team learned to treat conventional wisdom among specialists with a certain disdain.
On another key Tory policy theme—law and order—Brodie touted conflict with academics as good politics. Most university criminologists say there’s no evidence to back up the Tories’ heavy emphasis on imposing longer prison terms. They point to studies showing that more jail time doesn’t reduce crime. At the McGill panel, though, Brodie said voters tend to side with Conservatives when they argue with “sociologists, criminologists, defence lawyers and Liberals” about prison terms. “Politically, it helped us tremendously,” he said, “to be attacked by this coalition of university types.”
So not only do Harper’s advisers suspect that following expert advice leads to unsaleable policies, they also think battling the experts can boost their popular standing. In the census controversy they seem willing, almost eager, to take on virtually the entire Canadian research establishment. Among the many groups arguing for keeping the mandatory long-form census, which Harper is turning into a less reliable voluntary survey, are the Canadian Economics Association’s executive, the C.D. Howe Institute’s president, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Institute of Planners.
The National Statistics Council found itself in perhaps the strangest position. The 40-member expert group is appointed by the government, supposedly to provide advice on statistical matters. But when it came to deep-sixing the long-form census—the most consequential federal policy change on stats in memory—the council was kept entirely in the dark until the decision was announced. One of its best-known members, former Finance Department and TD Bank Financial Group economist Don Drummond, said discovering they had been frozen out was “shocking.”
Director of Climatic Research Unit accused of manipulating data to silence critics
The chief of a prestigious British research centre caught in a storm of controversy over claims that he and others suppressed data about climate change has stepped down pending an investigation, the University of East Anglia has announced.
The university said in a statement Tuesday that Phil Jones, whose emails were among the thousands of pieces of correspondence leaked to the Internet late last month, would relinquish his position as director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent review.
The university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Trevor Davies said the investigation would cover data security, whether the university responded properly to Freedom of Information requests, “and any other relevant issues.” The statement said the specific terms of the review will be announced later in the week.
Jones has been accused by skeptics of man-made climate change of manipulating data to support his research. In particular, many have pointed to a leaked email in which Jones writes that he had used a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a chart detailing recent global temperatures. Jones has denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been misunderstood, explaining that he’d used the word trick “as in a clever thing to do.”
Davies said there was nothing in the stolen material to suggest the peer-reviewed publications by the unit “are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation.”
But the correspondence from Jones and others—which appears to include discussions of how to keep critical work out of peer-reviewed journals and efforts to shield scientists’ data and methodology from outside scrutiny—have been seized upon by those who are fighting efforts to impose caps on emissions of carbon dioxide as evidence of a scientific conspiracy.
Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and a vocal skeptic of global warming, called Tuesday for Senate hearings on the emails. In a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the environment committee, Inhofe said the emails could have far-reaching policy implications for the United States. Both Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are taking action to curb global warming based on a report that uses data produced by the Climatic Research Unit.
With nearly 80 per cent of the vote, students say yes to a new “green fee”
According to The Sackville Tribune, Mount Allison students have overwhelmingly voted to raise their own student fees by $10. For the planet, that is.
In a recent student referendum, nearly 80 per cent of students voted in favour of the hike, the proceeds of which will purportedly go towards reducing carbon emissions both on and off-campus. The new fee will probably bring in between $20,000 to $24,000 every year.
The so-called SAC Green Investment Fund will fund carbon offsetting projects in the city, which could include solar and geo-thermal projects, installing higher-quality insulation in some buildings and partnering with local business to develop tree nurseries.
According to the group, priority will be given to projects that reduce the most carbon in the shortest period of time.
Student council president Mike Currie says some of the council’s representatives have already met with a number of municipal officials to discuss potential coordination.
“My conversations with town councillors and other members of the community have been very positive,” he says. “Although this is the first project of its kind that we are aware, the town has stressed that it is possible that we will be able to leverage the fund to work on joint projects of even greater impact.”
The environmental fund will be governed by an all-student committee that will solicit project recommendations from university staff and faculty, town representatives, university administration, and local climate change experts starting this fall.