Turn Off Your Lights Saturday at 8:30pm for Earth Hour

Take a stand against climate change in a small way this coming Saturday by turning off your lights for one hour.  The concept of Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney Australia.  Within a year, people all over the world joined in.  Last year, over 4,000 cities and 88 countries represented.  Join in this year by taking the pledge at www.earthhour.org.

Ways To Be Wrong on Climate Science

As a librarian, I found this blog post by Adam Frank, Ways To Be Wrong: Climategate, Climate Science And Who Gets A Say, to be pretty interesting.  I teach students about evaluating and understanding information, and Frank discusses some ways that errors occur and also the value of expertise.  He outlines a key problem and that is the need for experts to effectively communicate results to non-experts without requiring the non-experts to get advanced degrees to understand.Here’s quote from the post:

Scientific analysis is rarely straightforward. In my own field of astronomy one does not just snap an image through a telescope, write up what you think it implies and move on. Anyone who has ever seen a raw Hubble Space Telescope image knows there are many, many steps requiring years of training, expertise and experience before the pretty — and scientifically relevant — picture emerges.So it is with the climate auditors. So it is with the much larger and more pressing issue of science and culture as a whole. Ultimately these debates are too important, and too easily manipulated (as the politically motivated climate deniers have shown) to simply rely on scientists saying “trust us”. On the other hand most climate scientists did not dedicate 15 years of their lives in training for their field because they wanted to be media communications experts. Nor should they be expected to handhold amateurs (I mean that literally — people who do not do this for a living) who will make countless mistakes and claim them to be verifiable truth.There must be a middle ground here. Perhaps an office should be created in the NSF, NASA and NOAA that works specifically in this new gray area. It would be worth the effort and the money. The stakes are simply to high to let the debate sink to where we are have fallen now. 

Climate Scientists Working to Regain Trust

In a front-page story today, the New York Times (New York Times) reviews how climate scientists have started working to regain public trust, beginning with efforts to change the perception that they withhold or manipulate information. Along with official reviews at Penn State, East Anglia and the U.N., the National Academy of Sciences is developing a paper outlining what’s known and what isn’t known about climate change, and scientists around the world are now under more pressure than ever to be more transparent. They have their work cut out for them.


Chicago Reporter Dirty Secrets

Well, we know that sustainability is a complicated thing.  As we work to find more efficient ways to run our economy, which also put out less CO2, we need to also consider the wide ranging impacts that our decisions may have.  There are many discussions going on about moving to wider use of rail to get tractor/trailers off of our roads.  But, the rail lines that snake across Chicago-land have an impact on our health.  I wanted to pass along this Chicago Reporter story, Dirty Secret, which dives into the health issues related to rail travel.  Here’s a quote:

Residents near rail yards would also be expected to suffer asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiac disease— and premature death—at a higher rate. L. Bruce Hill, a senior scientist for the national advocacy group Clean Air Task Force, said cardiac disease is an even bigger concern than cancer, since particles from the exhaust can get into the blood stream and cause inflammation. “There’s no safe limit for particles,” he said. “Particulate is the most hazardous common pollutant in the air, and diesel trains, buses and trucks really release it where you breathe it.”More than 37,000 rail cars move through the Chicago area each day, carrying a wide range of commodities including coal, gravel, cement, automobiles, oil, gas, lumber, fertilizer, paper, asphalt, metals, minerals and shipping containers stuffed with all manner of consumer goods. According to the CREATE initiative, a partnership between the city and state governments, Amtrak, Metra, and freight rail companies, demand for rail transport through Chicago is expected to double in the next 20 years.And the ill effects of such rail traffic are felt by nearby residents. The Reporter analysis shows that about 57,000 people— a majority of them minority—live within a half mile of Chicago’s 15 biggest “intermodal” rail yards, where shipping containers are transferred between trains and trucks or ships.