Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Magnificent Seven Nobel Laureates of Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg often touts, and has done so recently, that his Copenhagen Consensus Center works with seven Nobel Laureates. I’ve always let that pass but wondered if it was really true, who they were, and what that involvement consisted of. Graham Readfearn of DeSmog Blog has done the hard work of running this down and he found out that this is not as impressive as it seems. For one thing, one of the Seven is not actually alive. Of the other six, at least one is a very well known climate change contrarian, and overall the amount of work, and the quality of the work, they have produced is unimpressive.

Check out: “Seven Nobel Laureates” Behind Climate Contrarian Bjorn Lomborg’s Think Tank Are Not All They Seem, Or Even All Alive

Here is a meme I made to commerate Graham’s efforts:
Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.07.30 PM

Click the image to get the full size original.

Click here to learn more about Lomborg.

What happened to the dinosaurs?

Did you ever wonder? And if you did wonder, did you Google it? And if you did google it, did you get the results shown above? And if you did, did you click “feedback” and do something like the following?

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.02.10 PM

No? Do so now, please.

This is important. Why? Because we have been hearing rumors lately that Google intends to change the way it produces searches to bias the search results in the direction of more reliable sites. But the number one search result for a key question that a lot of people ask about evolution is a bogus creationist site.

I’ve never, for one moment, gone along with the idea that Google can pull off a better, more reliable search based on the Google view of what sites are more reliable. My position on this has annoyed many of my colleagues. The promise of the Internet being less bogus and more educational is attractive. But it is a siren call. Regarding this particular issue I’ll claim the role of Galileo until proven otherwise.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 9.57.27 PM

Also of interest: In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, set in the Congo.

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    Heat And Death In India: Global Warming’s Direct Effect

    The Earth is warming because of what humans have been doing to the atmosphere. Global Warming has a lot of effects many of which we’ve discussed here, but the most obvious one is, well, it gets warmer. At present, India is experiencing record breaking heat and people are dying.

    It is very difficult to say how many people die from the heat in any region. We can use a standard approach used by epidemiologists to estimate this number. This involves simply looking at mortality rates as they change over time to try to detect a signal, an increase, associated with the variable in question. If all sources of mortality remain the same over a period of time, but a heat wave occurs during that period and with it comes an increase in mortality, then it is possible that those extra deaths are due to the heat. Nothing, of course, is that simple, but epidemiology has some fancy tools to try to tease out reasonable numbers.

    I’m reminded of the Ituri Forest, where I worked for a few years. We kept track of births and deaths, and it became apparent that deaths tended to be seasonal. More people seemed to die during the annual “hunger season.” This season occurred around June, when the first wet season crops (there are two wet seasons) were not ready, and the previous wet season’s crops were mostly used up. At the same time, other crops were not abundant and wild foods (both plants and animals) tended to be hard to come by, as the forest experienced a coeval reduction in productivity of human edible foods. But the people who died during that period rarely seemed to die of hunger. They died of other things, such as infectious disease, but presumably these other causes of mortality were more effective when combined with food stress. One hunger season, two people died in a murder-suicide. An elderly couple lived in a small village, alone, with an orphaned grandchild. It was a bad hunger season for them since their village lacked the resources to produce enough food. It is believed the elderly woman, depressed by the hunger, harvested poisonous wild yams and made a meal of them, knowingly, and fed them to her family. She and her husband died, but the child vomited up the deadly meal and survived. Those were hunger-related deaths, but as is the case with many such deaths, were embedded in a much more complicated scenario.

    Right now people in parts of India are dying of the heat, but many more than those known to die of heat stroke are also dying in this more complicated way. Indian heat waves are increasing in their frequency, being one third more common by the end of a study period covering 1961-2010, according to a 2014 study. The problem has become worse due to anthropogenic global warming, and it is made even worse in El Niño years. And, we seem to be entering an El Niño period. Changes in land use and urbanization are also probably contributing factors in India.

    Heat wave related death spells produce numbers in the hundreds. Something like 500 people are known to have died directly of the heat over the last few days in India. But other deaths caused by multiple factors where heat is a sort of final straw would be in the thousands.

    Right now, India is very hot, and some areas are expected to become even hotter over the next several days.

    Fred Barbash at the Washington Post has a good writeup on the current situation there.

    UPDATE: Jeff Masters has a current write-up of the heat wave in India. At present the death rate (which is certainly an underestimate) for India places it fifth in known historic deadly heat waves.

    Arctic Sea Ice Decline in 2015

    The surface ice in the Arctic has been melting to historic low levels every year for the last several years. The graph above shows the first ten years in the National Snow & Ice Data Center records, meant to indicate what Arctic Sea Ice “normally” does as it melts off during the northern warm months. The thick black line is the average over 1981-2010, and grey shaded area shows two standard deviations above and below that line. The blue line tracking along the lower end of the 2SD shaded area is the ice extent this year. During the period when sea ice is at its maximum, this year’s ice was low. This does not reliably predict the ultimate September minimum, but it is interesting that the sea ice extent is following an extreme course.

    I’m reluctant to say anything about what will happen this year. The melting rate could slow, storms that may play a role in diminishing sea surface ice in the Arctic may not play a big role. Or, the rate of melt could increase and all the various factors that determine a year’s minimum could drive the ice off the sea to the extent that we have a record low. It would be very hard to beat the 2012 minimum extent, as that was an extreme year. But, that extreme year, show on the figure below, was not as low at the present time as the current extent.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 12.22.18 PM

    The volume of sea ice is in some ways more important than the area it covers, because this reflects the overall Earth’s surface heat imbalance resulting from the human-induced greenhouse effect. Volume includes both new ice (formed over the previous winter) and old ice that does not melt at all in a given year. This old ice probably serves the role of keeping some of the new ice stable so it melts less, so there is a feedback. The more the volume reduces, the more the surface area may reduce, depending on various conditions.

    Andy Lee Robinson has created, and regularly updated, an amazing graphic showing the change over time in Arctic sea ice volume.

    Hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific: 2015 UPDATE

    See below for update.

    You may not have even noticed it, but hurricane season has officially started in the Eastern Pacific. That is because the official date of the start of season is May 15th, though the actual hurricanes rarely get the memo and start whenever they want, but usually after that date. Last year’s Eastern Pacific season was much ore active than usual. The average numbers for named storms, hurricanes, and major (above Cat III) hurricanes for this basin are 15.4, 7.6, and 3.2. Last year’s season was predicted to be pretty much average, but it turned out to be exceptional, with 22 named storms, 16 hurricanes, with 9 major. In addition, there were other notable features such as several storms forming early, two early storms reaching Cat 4 strength, and one storm being the strongest ever recorded in May in the region.

    What about this year? The only prediction I’ve seen suggests a somewhat more than average season (19 named storms, 11 hurricanes, with 4 major). So far there are no named storms, but there is one disturbance that is likely enough to turn into one that I thought this would be a good moment to start paying attention, thus this post.

    The stormy system is currently known as Disturbance #1, and it is sitting in the pacific south of Mexico. The National Weather Service calculatges a 20% chance of this disturbance becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours, but an 80% chance over the next 5 days.

    If Disturbance #1 becomes a named storm, it will be christened “Andres,” a previously unused name.

    Fewer hurricanes that form in the Eastern Pacific hit land than for most other basins, and they very rarely hit the US or Mexico.

    UPDATE (27 May 1:51 Central)

    Disturbance 1 is developing. The National Weather Service says this disturbance has an 80% chance of forming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours, and a 90% of doing so over the next five days. Again, it will be named Andres if it becomes a named storm. Here’s what the region looks like (The red X is Disturbance 1):

    Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 1.51.11 PM

    Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 1.53.49 PM

    UPDATE (28 May 12.27 Central)

    Andres is a named tropical storm.

    Star Wars Fan Film: The Recompense

    I’ve written about The Recompense here, and that writeup includes interviews with the creative team putting the film together. This is just a quick note to remind you that The Recompense has a kick starter project with one week left. So, now, you have to go there and kick in a few bucks!

    The graphic above is the budget breakdown for the film, indicating what has already been invested and what the Kickstarter campaign will fund. Here is a note from the film’s team:

    With just over one week left in our campaign, we wanted to show you how your contributions, if our project is successfully funded, will affect the production of our film.

    Your support enables us to finish building our sets, create the first ever live-action Bothan, bring practical, tangible effects to the film, and provide comfort and a place to rest for our cast and crew to stay in top shape throughout the production of the film.

    In order to make this project a reality though, we need your support now more than ever, as we enter into our final week tomorrow.

    Spread the word on social media, and share our page with friends and family. Chances are, someone you know is a Star Wars fan! Show them what we’re trying to accomplish, and encourage them to contribute even as little as $1. The more backers we have, the more popular our project becomes, and the better chance we have of bringing this tribute to Star Wars to life, and having you all along for the ride.

    Remember – if our project does not reach it’s fundraising goal, we receive none of the funds, and this film can’t be made.

    Strap yourselves in…. Time to make the jump to lightspeed.

    – The Recompense Team

    So, here is the kickstarter you are looking for.

    California Drought Caused By Climate Change

    Human released greenhouse gas pollution changes the climatic system through a variety of mechanisms. Trade winds and jet streams change their patterns of movement, and the distribution of moisture in the air changes, with precipitation either lacking more than usual or being more abundant than usual. The patterns of movement of major air masses and the increased bifurcation of air masses into more wet than usual and more dry than usual can result in long periods where region experiences excess precipitation or a lack of precipitation. When the latter happens, there can be a drought.

    Increasingly, the California drought is being seen as an effect of climate change. Air masses that should have contributed precipitation in the form of mountain snow, which in turn feed the western ground water system, have been kept away. Increased temperature has increased evaporation. Other factors related to climate change have contributed. The result is an historic drought over California that shows at present no sign of stopping any time soon. There was hope that last winter there would be additional precipitation, and there was some, but not enough.

    A paper just out in Geophysical Research Letters uses modeling and historic data to confirm that the current California drought is very likely an effect of climate change. The paper is “Temperature Impacts on the Water Year 2014 Drought in California“, by Shraddhanand Shukla, Mohammad Safeeq, Amir Aghkouchak, Kaiyu Guan, and Chris Funk. Here is the abstract, which is pretty self explanatory and understandable:

    California is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. Here we use a hydrological model and risk assessment framework to understand the influence of temperature on the water year (WY) 2014 drought in California and examine the probability that this drought would have been less severe if temperatures resembled the historical climatology. Our results indicate that temperature played an important role in exacerbating the WY 2014 drought severity. We found that if WY 2014 temperatures resembled the 1916-2012 climatology, there would have been at least an 86% chance that winter snow water equivalent and spring- summer soil moisture and runoff deficits would have been less severe than the observed conditions. We also report that the temperature forecast skill in California for the important seasons of winter and spring is negligible, beyond a lead-time of one month, which we postulate might hinder skillful drought prediction in California.

    The caption for the graphic above is: “Percentiles of potential evapotranspiration (ETo) during WY 2014 with respect to 1979 to 2012 climatology.”

    I find the ancillary finding of the lack of skill of temperature forecasts in California. One would expect low skill in forecast models that are designed under a given climatology, when that climatology shifts as it seems to have done.

    New Research: Antarctic Glaciers Destabilized

    A large portion of the glacial mass in Antarctic, previously thought to be relatively stable, is now understood to be destablizing. This is new research just out in Science. The abstract is pretty clear:

    Growing evidence has demonstrated the importance of ice shelf buttressing on the inland grounded ice, especially if it is resting on bedrock below sea level. Much of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula satisfies this condition and also possesses a bed slope that deepens inland. Such ice sheet geometry is potentially unstable. We use satellite altimetry and gravity observations to show that a major portion of the region has, since 2009, destabilized. Ice mass loss of the marine-terminating glaciers has rapidly accelerated from close to balance in the 2000s to a sustained rate of –56 ± 8 gigatons per year, constituting a major fraction of Antarctica’s contribution to rising sea level. The widespread, simultaneous nature of the acceleration, in the absence of a persistent atmospheric forcing, points to an oceanic driving mechanism.

    The paper is “Dynamic thinning of glaciers on the Southern Antarctic Peninsula” by B. Wouters, A. Martin-Español, V. Helm, T. Flament, J. M. van Wessem, S. R. M. Ligtenberg, M. R. van den Broeke, J. L. Bamber.

    Here is a simulation of grounding line retreat in action from NASA:

    Karl Mathiesen at the Guardian has a writeup on the research here.

    The sheet’s thickness has remained stable since satellite observations began in 1992. But Professor Jonathan Bamber of Bristol university, who co-authored the study, said that around 2009 it very suddenly began to thin by an average of 42cm each year. Some areas had fallen by up to 4m.

    “It hasn’t been going up, it hasn’t been going down – until 2009. Then it just seemed to pass some kind of critical threshold and went over a cliff and it’s been losing mass at a pretty much constant, rather large, rate,” said Bamber.

    The estimate of ice loss by this research might be overestimated, according to Andrew Shepherd, who notes that some of the thinning of the glacier could be due to changes in snowfall amounts on tip, rather than melting from the bottom. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

    Caption for the figure at the top of the post:

    Fig. 2 Mass variations for the sum of basins 23 and 24, as observed by GRACE and modeled by RACMO2.3.
    Basins 23 and 24 are defined in (21, 22). The faint blue dots are the monthly GRACE anomalies with 1? error bars (20), and the thick blue line shows the anomalies with a 7-month running average applied so as to reduce noise. Cumulative SMB anomalies from RACMO2.3 are shown in red, with the light red area indicating the 1? spread in an ensemble obtained by varying the baseline period (20). The dashed light blue line shows the estimated dynamic mass loss (GRACE minus SMB). The vertical dashed lines indicate January 2003, December 2009, and July 2010, the start and ending of the different altimetry observations. (Inset) The GRACE time series for the individual basins 23 (blue) and 24 (red), before (full lines) and after (dashed lines) applying the SMB correction.

    State Of Emergency in California

    Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the Santa Barbara oil spill. Phyllis Grifman, associate director of the USC Sea Grant Program, is quoted i a a University of Southern California press release as saying, “Nothing worked – they found out about this because people camping nearby or living nearby smelled it. Nothing happened on the part of the infrastructure that could shut it down early.” The spill, she notes, sits beteween two areas under protection for endangered marine wildlife. Taj Meshkati, also a USC professor (of engineering) asked, “Why did it take the company so long to detect and stop the leak? This points to an important human problem in the safety culture issue.” Raj Rajagopalan of USC’s Marshall School of Business, an expert on supply chain management, notes “This spill will have an impact on the local tourism industry given that the sight of oil on its pristine beaches does not help and also on local fisheries. There will be a spillover effect from the tourism impact on other local business. But I anticipate that the effect on the economy will be short-term (a few weeks) because the spill is not very large and so hopefully it will be contained soon.”

    Governor Jerry Brown is quoted in the BBC as saying he state would “quickly mobilise all available resources. We will do everything necessary to protect California’s coastline.”

    The spill is believed to have put about 21,000 gallons of oil in the ocean.

    The risk of hot and cold weather

    A new paper is just out in The Lancet that examines the mortality risk of high and low ambient temperatures. The basic idea is that if it is either to hot or too cold, mortality may increase, possibly with the weather being a factor to augment the effects of other health problems, or as a direct result. The paper is methodologically reasonably well done but leads to conclusions that I think will be misinterpreted and misused. The paper implies that a shift to a warmer world would have lower mortality effects than a shift to a colder world might. Or, more significantly, that a shift to a warmer world will reduce ambient temperature related mortality by reducing the effects of cold. This is incorrect for a number of reasons.

    Having said that, this paper does make a valuable contribution to public health, though here I’ll note that only in passing (see below).

    First, I’ll give you the author’s viewpoint directly by quoting from the abstract, then I’ll tell you what I think about it.

    The paper is “Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study,” by Antonio Gasparrini and a host of other authors. It says:

    Background Although studies have provided estimates of premature deaths attributable to either heat or cold in selected countries, none has so far offered a systematic assessment across the whole temperature range in populations exposed to different climates. We aimed to quantify the total mortality burden attributable to non-optimum ambient temperature, and the relative contributions from heat and cold and from moderate and extreme temperatures.

    Methods We collected data for 384 locations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, and USA. We fitted a standard time-series Poisson model for each location, controlling for trends and day of the week. We estimated temperature–mortality associations with a distributed lag non-linear model with 21 days of lag, and then pooled them in a multivariate metaregression that included country indicators and temperature average and range. We calculated attributable deaths for heat and cold, defined as temperatures above and below the optimum temperature, which corresponded to the point of minimum mortality, and for moderate and extreme temperatures, defined using cutoffs at the 2·5th and 97·5th temperature percentiles.

    Findings We analysed 74225 200 deaths in various periods between 1985 and 2012. In total, 7·71% (95% empirical CI 7·43–7·91) of mortality was attributable to non-optimum temperature in the selected countries within the study period, with substantial differences between countries, ranging from 3·37% (3·06 to 3·63) in Thailand to 11·00% (9·29 to 12·47) in China. The temperature percentile of minimum mortality varied from roughly the 60th percentile in tropical areas to about the 80–90th percentile in temperate regions. More temperature-attributable deaths were caused by cold (7·29%, 7·02–7·49) than by heat (0·42%, 0·39–0·44). Extreme cold and hot temperatures were responsible for 0·86% (0·84–0·87) of total mortality.

    Interpretation Most of the temperature-related mortality burden was attributable to the contribution of cold. The effect of days of extreme temperature was substantially less than that attributable to milder but non-optimum weather. This evidence has important implications for the planning of public-health interventions to minimise the health consequences of adverse temperatures, and for predictions of future effect in climate-change scenarios.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Obviously, the main way this paper could derail is when climate change denialists make the claim that global warming is good because cold weather causes more mortality than warm weather, so we’ll have less mortality. This, however, is incorrect for several reasons.

    Assume the paper has correctly characterized mortality effects of weather. From this we assume that there is a certain mortality profile with temperature as the cause. Medium temperatures don’t exacerbate population level mortality but above and below that, mortality increases. This is expected for any species where temperature matters. Key life history traits including maintainance (and thus, basic survival) may be linked to temperature, and if temperature is too high or too low, things go badly. The problem with the assumption that increasing temperatures will decrease mortality is that the more logical interpretation, which fits with what we know about the biology of warm blooded animals, is that any change, up or down, in the range and average of temperatures will have negative effects. In other words it is incorrect to assume that since there is less mortality at the upper end of the range that heading for that direction is good. There is increased mortality at both ends, movement in either direction should be assumed to increase mortality in that direction.

    One result of the paper, only briefly touched on but clear from the data, is that the lower end of ambient temperature mortality effects has a long distribution, while the upper end (warmer temperatures) have a lower end. This means that the two phenomena, too cold and too warm, have different statistical characteristics. For this reason, comparing the two is a rather dicy affair. It is like comparing the negative effects of driving too slow and driving too fast. Either one can mess you up on the highway, but there is a lot more room at the lower end. Where the speed limit is 60, a very very fast speed is 20 miles an hour faster, but a very very slow speed might be 50 miles an hour slower. Not only are the statistics very different (and thus not comparable between the two ends) but the mechanisms are different. With respect to temperature, colder conditions probably exacerbate mortality by requiring that the body spend more energy on maintenance, thus taking away energy from immune response. At the upper end, added heat does something entirely different, requiring an entirely different mechanism (cooling) to kick in, and in more extreme cases, causing a direct pathological outcome, heat stress.

    Human Evolution

    I think it is helpful to put this paper in evolutionary context. Humans are primates, and as such, evolved in the tropics. We evolved, in other words, at the higher end of the temperature range discussed in this study, and should be adapted to warm conditions. Humans are hominoids (apes) which, among primates, evolved in the warmer end of that range, with extra humidity. We are hominins, a special kind of ape, that extended its habitat to include somewhat (but not too much) drier conditions. When our genus arose, we began to spread into novel habitats, including some that were cooler, but for nearly two million years various human ancestors were limited to tropical or sub tropical conditions. It was not until our species evolved that we fully adapted to the full range of conditions from very cold to very warm, from very dry to very wet. Indeed, technologically modern humans who rely on agriculutre have been excluded from the most extreme environments our foragering ancestors occupied thousands of years ago, and adapted to both physically and culturally.

    In other words, from our evolutionary history we would predict that humans would suffer relatively low levels of heat related mortality and high levels of cold related mortality, and that many of our more recently developed, and limited, adaptations are to cold while our deeper and longer-term adaptations are to heat. We may even walk upright because of heat (that is one theory that has never been tossed out to explain why a chimp-like ancestor was selected to become more upright). Modern humans mostly have the physical form of a tropical African because we mostly come fairly recently from tropical Africa. Our heat related adaptations tend to be physical, long-evolved, built in. Our cold adaptations (with a few exceptions) tend to be cultural, technological, added-on. The range of temperatures that actually occur on Earth that heat stress us is limited, the range of temperatures that actually occur on Earth that cold-stress us is very large.

    Our evolutionary biology predicts that we would have a higher mortality rate under cold than under heat, and this paper confirms that.

    This isn’t your great great great great grand daddy’s planet

    The problem arises when we leave the Earth in which we evolved and arrive on a hot new planet. Most of the physical evolution (our exact ratio of body parts, our respiratory adaptations, skin and hair related adaptations, fat distribution, etc.) and our cultural adaptations (fire, clothing, shelter, mobility, diet) that related to temperature, cold or hot, arose over the last two million years, which is coincident with the Pleistocene. During this period atmospheric CO2 levels ranged around an average of about 250ppm, rarely going above 300ppm, and never approaching 400ppm. CO2 levels correlated well with the surface temperatures in which we live, and the current atmospheric CO2 level is 400ppm and rising. It will take time (a few more decades) for the new temperature regime, the one human greenhouse gas pollution is causing, to be realized. But when that happens we’ll be living on a planet with temperature characteristics not seen during the entire course of human evolution. Some regions will have temperature ranges that go well beyond the ranges explored in this paper. Extrapolating the effects of high ambient temperatures from the last several decades to the middle of the 21st century is difficult at best.

    Normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. That is higher than the average daily temperature for most places humans have lived over the last 2 million years, but within the range of the highest daily temperatures. The problem is, when ambient temperatures are higher than this amount, our brains are at risk, and cooling adaptations have to kick in. If average ambient temperatures in a warm region go too high, these adaptations will not be adequate, and heat spells may become routinely fatal. If, on the other hand, in other regions of the world, average ambient temperatures went way down (like, if Florida became like Minnesota) we would adapt by changing the geographical distribution of the use of existing and well established technologies.

    Putting this another way, humans can adapt, and in the past have adapted, to cooling. We can not adapt, in the warmest regions, to heating. There is not a mechanism that allows this, and there is no practical technology other than air conditioners, and it is not really practical, ore even possible to create air conditioners that would allow survival in tropical regions for anyone other than the elite and ex patriots.

    Another factor, already implied above but I’ll underscore it, is the fact that moving towards warmer conditions does not remove colder conditions. The mortality induced by cooler ambient temperatures discussed in this paper is not from people freezing to death on ice flows. It is from ambient temperatures mostly above freezing, which in the absence of a technological fix, cause added stress. Even with increased surface temperatures caused by global warming, these conditions will still persist. The range of temperatures over which this cold induced stress occurs is, as stated, very large and even if overnight temperature minima rise with global warming in a given region, most of those temperatures will still be regularly represented.

    From the paper:

    Despite the attention given to extreme weather events, most of the effect happened on moderately hot and moderately cold days, especially moderately cold days. This evidence is important for improvements to public health policies aimed at prevention of temperature-related health consequences, and provides a platform to extend predictions on future effects in climate-change scenarios.

    This is an important and valid point. This cold related mortality can be addressed with some simple technological fixes, including even a modest amount of insulation or other improvements in constructions in homes in tropical or subtropical areas where it is warm enough that many people at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum (i.e., almost everybody) does not typically bother with such things. This is an important result of the paper that has nothing to do with global warming but should be paid attention to.

    A potential bias

    The paper relies on mortality data for cold vs. hot ambient temperature periods. However I question the ability to obtain data on heat related deaths that are comparable to cold related deaths. In the more extreme cool areas, the northern countries, there are good data on mortality. In the more extreme warm areas, along the equator, the mortality data one would ideally use are virtually non existent. Of the seven billion people who live on the earth, the one billion that are most unlikely to show up in any systematic data of any kind live along the equator, and very few (some reindeer herders in Siberia, for example) live in the cooler climates. I don’t think the authors address this kind of bias adequately.

    It’s about time

    The study period ranges from the 1980s to recent. This is the period of time during which about half of the surface warming experienced during the 20th century has occurred, and at a high rate. The authors do not examine change over time in mortality at either end of the temperature range. Since the key variable, ambient surface temperature, changes dramatically over the study period, this should have been addressed. It may be that due to the nature of the data this could not be done, but the paper explicitly makes assertion about change over time in the future without addressing change over time during the study period. This makes me sad.

    In summary, shifting to a warmer world will have more negative effects than shifting to a cooler world, when it comes to human health related response to ambient conditions. The paper implies that warming is not as bad as cooling might have been, and this will be used by those who deny the very existence of, or human fingerprint on, or importance of, or ability to address, climate change. The paper lacks contextualization of the problem in terms of well known human adaptations. There may be significant biases or problems with respect to reported mortality an change through time during the study period in the key variable, ambient surface temperature.

    Why is FOX News Anti-American?

    It is a fiction that the right wing, and the Republican party, and their primary philosophical guru (Rush Limbaugh) and mouthpiece (FOX News) are more American, more security-savvy, and more patriotic than Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats. This fiction is part of a common bully tactic you already know about because you were either bothered by the bullies, or you were a bully, in middle school. The bully takes his nefarious trait and projects it on his victim. And now, we see yet another piece of evidence for this, one among many. FOX News has attacked President Obama for his acknowledgement of what the United States Military has been saying for some time now: Climate change is a national security issue.

    President Obama made mention of this problem yesterday in his Commencement Address at the National Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Then, according to the watchdog organization Media Matters for America, “Fox personalities criticized President Obama for calling climate change ‘an immediate risk to our national security’ during his U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement address. But security experts agree with the president that global climate change does threaten U.S. national security.”

    FOX’s Lou Dobbs in what was labeled as a “news alert” but amounts to little more than editorial Koch sucking-up-to:

    FOX’s Charles Krauthammer substituted scare mongering over North Korea for addressing the existential issue of our time, climate change:

    FOX’s Eric Bolling dismisses global climate change as a threat, despite what the military says. Another commenter asks if Bill Nye and President Obama are the same person. Bolling misses the point that ISIS as a phenomenon arose largely because of climate change:

    And it goes on. What does the Department of Defense say? From Media Matters:

    “Climate Change Will Affect The DOD’s Ability To Defend The Nation And Poses Immediate Risks To U.S. National Security.” The Department of Defense’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap warned that “a warming climate ‘poses immediate risks to U.S. national security’ and could trigger anything from ‘infectious disease to terrorism.'” As Mic noted, this was not the first time those in the military community have sounded the alarm on climate change:

    A May report by 11 retired commanders cautioned that installations in Virginia could experience up to 7 feet of sea rise by the end of the century. The Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick argued earlier in 2014 that “water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of Syria’s economic conditions,” helping aggravate the country’s political divisions and spawn the ongoing civil war that now involves U.S. bombing runs. And Retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley argued that climate change will be “one of the driving forces in the 21st century” and says that inaction could result in massive and lethal extreme weather events that do damage on the level of major wars.

    “Water shortages in the Middle East could benefit terrorist organizations, who can exploit hunger and unrest to tighten their grip on locals,” McDonnell wrote. “Increased shipping traffic in the melting Arctic could spark political tension between polar nations. Increasing prevalence and severity of natural disasters worldwide will become a more significant burden for military-led relief efforts.”

    Retired Army Brig. Gen. Chris King told Responding to Climate Change that the threat posed by a rapidly changing planet “is like getting embroiled in a war that lasts 100 years” with “no exit strategy.” He pointed to poor countries like Afghanistan, Haiti, Chad and Somalia as likely participants in climate-triggered conflict. [source]

    FOX and the right wing: Bad for America.

    Climate Change as a National Security Threat

    The White House has issued a press release noting that President Obama will address climate change as a national security threat in a speech later today in Connecticut. Here is the press release.

    White House Report: The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate
    Today, President Obama will travel to New London, Connecticut to deliver the commencement address at the United States Coast Guard Academy. During his speech, the President will speak to the importance of acting on climate change and the risks to national security this global threat poses. The White House also released a new report on the national security implications of climate change and how the Federal government is rising to the challenge.

    As the President has made very clear, no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change, as we are already seeing these threats in communities across the country. We know that climate change is contributing to extreme weather, wildfires, and drought, and that rising temperatures can lead to more smog and more allergens in the air we breathe, meaning more kids are exposed to the triggers that can cause asthma attacks.

    But as the President will stress, climate change does not respect national borders and no one country can tackle climate change on its own. Climate change poses immediate risks to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters and resulting in humanitarian crises, and potentially increasing refugee flows and exacerbating conflicts over basic resources like food and water. It also aggravates issues at home and abroad including poverty, political instability and social tensions – conditions that can fuel instability and enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.

    The Department of Defense (DOD) is assessing the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities to climate change, and studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events. Two years ago, DOD and DHS released Arctic Strategies, which addresses the potential security implications of increased human activity in the Arctic, a consequence of rapidly melting sea ice.

    But we also need to decrease the harmful carbon pollution that causes climate change. That is why, this summer, the EPA will put in place commonsense standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source in the United States. Today, the U.S. harnesses three times as much electricity from the wind and twenty times as much from the sun as we did since President Obama took office. We are working with industry and have taken action to phase down HFCs and address methane emissions in the oil and gas sector. By the middle of the next decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and we have made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and buildings. And as the single largest user of energy in the United States, DOD is making progress to deploy 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025.

    Live Blogging Climate Denial 4: The Best Week So Far

    … because it is Paleo!

    Paleo data, models, expectations, observations, about the past and to some extent the future. The Little Ice Age. The Hockey Stick. And, what people get wrong about it all.

    Denial101x Making Sense of Climate Science Denial goes paleo (and Medieval) this week. Here is a sample video, Andy Skuce on the Little Ice Age:

    Peter Jacobs employs a great analogy of encountering a dangerous bear in the woods to help us understand palaeoclimatology.

    Professor Tim Osborn, Professor Michael Mann, Professor Katrin Meissner, Professor Dan Lunt and Professor Isabella Velicogna get down with a lot of details about past climates, proxies like ice cores and corals, and how this all gets linked to more recent thermometer data. Michael Mann talks about development of the the Hockey Stick research. The nature of climate variability over time.

    Robert Way on the Medieval Warm Period aka the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Lots of great denialism about this topic!

    What does the term “Hide the decline” really mean? Get the real story from the real scientists, Michael Mann and Tim Osborn:

    Dana Nuccitelli explains what models are all about. Professor Dan Lunt of the University of Bristol, Professor Andrew Pitman of the University of New South Wales and Professor Katrin Meissner of the University of New South Wales also talk about climate models.

    OMG the 1970s Ice Age Myth!!!! Daniel Bedford explores what really happened in climate science in that decade:

    See also this: The 1970s Ice Age Myth and Time Magazine Covers – by David Kirtley

    New Star Wars Film: The Recompense

    Bounty hunter Jahdo Kyn intends to start a new life, but in order to leave his troubled past behind he has to buy himself a new future. He has a plan, but as his plan develops he discovers a dilemma, one that requires him to make choices he is not well-prepared to make. This is what happens when you have the kind of past Jahdo Kyn has made for himself.

    The Recompense concept art: Analiese Miller as Aisha Lefu.
    The Recompense concept art: Analiese Miller as Aisha Lefu.
    The beautiful and deadly Aisha Lefu is part of that past. And she’s not the only individual that will make Jahdo Kyn wish he hadn’t gotten out of bed that one morning, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

    A New Star Wars Fan Film

    And that is the setup for The Recompense, a Star Wars fan film directed by Ben Enke. “Making a Star Wars fan film has been unlike any experience in independent filmmaking for me so far,” Enke mused. “Upon receiving permission from the Star Wars ?gods themselves at Lucasfilms, we immediately began to feel a responsibility to ensure that the content we were producing was of the highest quality.”

    The Recompense will will develop the seedy side of the Star Wars world, relating the characters’ past and present to produce a futuristic film noir.

    The screenplay is written by Conrad Flemming, though with a great deal of feedback from the others involved in the film. Flemming told me, “I did write the script, but felt it was more of a collaborative effort, as many fans, filmmakers, authors, and friends provided feedback for each draft I turned over to them for review. I wanted to get it perfect, because this is Star Wars after all, and we’re being watched closely.”

    Shooting The Recompense. Conrad Flemming (Producer/Screenwriter) in the back left, Analiese Miller (playing Aisha Lefu) in the pilot's seat, Matt Roy (playing Jahdo Kyn) on the right, and Heather Peterson in the back right.
    Shooting The Recompense. Conrad Flemming (Producer/Screenwriter) in the back left, Analiese Miller (playing Aisha Lefu) in the pilot’s seat, Matt Roy (playing Jahdo Kyn) on the right, and Heather Peterson in the back right.
    In an effort to capture that certain je ne sais quoi of le film noir and the original Star Wars films, Enke and cinematographer Brent Duncan chose some interesting technology. “The lenses we are using are all vintage 1970’s Canon lenses,” said Duncan. “When I met with Ben and Conrad we discussed the look the film should have and they said they wanted something that would have the feel of The Empire Strikes Back and the look and tone of Blade Runner. After doing massive amounts of research I found out what lenses were used to film not only the original Star Wars (A New Hope), but also Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner and Alien.”

    The lenses have a slightly radioactive coating made with Throium. “Upon doing more research I discovered that Canon also made still photography lenses (SLR lenses) that had this same coating. The still lenses work beautifully and cost a fraction of the cinema lenses cost, so using them was a no-brainer,” Duncan told me. “The next step was to find a vintage anamorphic lens that would help solidify the look to match as best we could the look of the films we all loved growing up. Once I found that, all the pieces fell in place and we were able to achieve a look that we were all very pleased with and that is, in my opinion at least, very close to Blade Runner and the other late 70’s and early 80’s sci-fi masterpieces.”

    Jahdo Kyn.
    Jahdo Kyn.
    The Recompense is set between Episodes IV and V of the original Star Wars series, on Ord Mantell, a Mid Rim planet. Star Wars fans will recognize another planet in that actor, Naboo, and may remember Han Solo telling Leia in the Empire Strikes Back, “Well the bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed my mind.” (“The Bounty Hunter of Ord Mantell” also refers to a 1981 comic strip written by Archie Goodwin, illustrated by Al Williamson.)

    I asked director Ben Enke what technologies Star Wars fans might be looking for are used in the film. He told me, “our most obvious one would be our spaceship, which has a fully functional cockpit with all sorts of buttons and switches that are operable. We have a crotchety old Clone War vulture droid built into the ship that you’ll never really get a chance to see, but he’s definitely part of what gives our ship some personality and life, and he’s fantastic.” Regarding weapons, Enke said there are “plenty of blasters (some really cool ones being developed for this, particularly a modular gun that serves as a few different weapons), and there may or may not be a vibroblade battle! But definitely no lightsabers. That was a very conscious decision by myself and Conrad, based on previous fan films that overuse lightsabers to death.” Screenplay writer Flemming added, “Ben and I decided early on, since this was taking place in a time when the ‘Jedi are all but extinct’ there wouldn’t be a whole lot of lightsaber battles taking place in the middle of city streets and in back alleys. Ben and I each had specific shots we wanted in the movie that ultimately got cut from the script. Ben wanted our hero to shoot a thermal detonator out of the air, and I wanted our villain to fly around on a speeder bike.”

    Enke also told me, “we’re developing some original tech as well, based on the kind of planet and environment we’re going to be in. Ord Mantell, which is the planet that this entire film takes place on, has rain, and it rains all the time, so we’re coming up with some neat tech that plays into that aspect of it.”

    One of the most interesting aspects of this film is how it is being made. Aside from the selection of period radioactive lenses to create a vintage look and feel, the film makers have built sets with a higher than usual degree of interactivity with the actors, and created actual alien prosthetics rather than using motion capture or green screen suits. They make creative use of rear-projection screens to simulate different environments.

    You can help make this film, as it is being crowd funded on Kickstarter. There are a number of cool rewards, including early access packages, an autographed DVD with the original soundtrack, original concept art, your rights to name a character, and props and costumes. At the highest level, you can have the Greasy Mynock itself. See this page for more details!

    The final production will have a 45 minute runtime, and will be shown in 15 minute segments on the internet. Enke also hopes to show the film at various Conventions and similar venues.

    Here’s a tease:

    And, if you are interested in some more Sci Fi, check out my novella about an elusive African Ape, aliens, Bigfoot, and the origins of the Skeptics movement: In Search of Sungudogo.

    Here is a short film by the same production house, TruHaven Studio, “Three Card Draw”: