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  • feedwordpress 08:01:31 on 2018/06/22 Permalink
    Tags: climate change, , , energy efficiency, , , Rosenfeld, ,   

    “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”*… 

     

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    More than 40 percent of the global population, more than 2 billion people, have a dust problem. Not “dust” meaning the grey puffs under the couch, but the dust of the Dust Bowl: microscopic soil particles, less than 0.05 millimeters across, so small that they get hoisted up into the wind and end up in people’s lungs.

    We know that large amounts of dust are linked to premature death. However, climate change is expected to make the problem much worse in the next century, and scientists still don’t know how much. In the next century, the lethal range of dust is expected to proliferate. Between now and 2050, the many as 4 billion people, half the world’s population, are expected to live in drylands. It’s not because people are migrating there. Drylands are growing because of (you guessed it) climate change

    Dust is known to cause premature deaths, but climate change’s effect on how bad our dust problems will get remains notoriously understudied: “A global Dust Bowl is coming.”

    * T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

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    As we do our best to go green, we might send grateful birthday greetings to Arthur Hinton “Art” Rosenfeld; he was born on this date in 1926.  A physicist at U.C Berkeley, he was moved by the oil embargo of 1973 to turn his attention to energy conservation, founding and leading the Center for Building Science at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  Over the next 37 years he developed new standards which helped improve energy efficiency in California and subsequently worldwide.  His work helped lead to such breakthroughs as low-energy electric lights, such as compact fluorescent lamps, low-energy refrigerators, and windows that trap heat.  In his fight against global warming, he saved Americans billions of dollars in electricity bills– and earned the nickname, “godfather of energy efficiency.”

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    Rosenfeld receiving the 2011 Medal for Technology and Innovation from President Obama

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:41 on 2018/04/18 Permalink
    Tags: Bronze Age, climate change, collapse, , , Midnight Ride, Paul Revere, , ,   

    “We can endure neither our vices nor the remedies needed to cure them”*… 

     

    Pundits who blame 21st-century-style moral rot for the decline of Rome miss the big picture, a new book by Kyle Harper argues. Against plague and drought, the empire never stood a chance…

    At the empire’s peak, the human actors — the political, cultural, economic, and military leaders who set up its institutions — were more than equal to the task. Under Marcus Aurelius, emperor from A.D. 161 to 180, about a quarter of humanity lived under Roman rules and influence. The Roman population swelled, wages rose, cities flowered (at its peak, the city of Rome had perhaps a million inhabitants), and vast trade networks threaded across Africa and into Asia.

    But at the time, it was easy for Rome to make successful moves: Nature dealt it an especially good hand. During much of the Roman Climate Optimum (about 250 B.C. to A.D. 150), the empire was blessed with stable weather, abundant rain, and warm temperatures. Romans grew and shipped prodigious quantities of grain, especially in North Africa, and their leaders sometimes went to great lengths to hold wheat prices down, offer subsidies, and make sure citizens could feed themselves.

    Then, from the middle of the second century onward, nature began dealing out some rotten hands — in the form of natural disasters and vicious germs — and the empire couldn’t hold its winning streak.

    The germs were the most violent and obvious destabilizing forces. For all of the society’s technological sophistication, Roman doctors had no notion of germ theory, and Roman cities hosted a robust resident population of waterborne and airborne diseases —especially malaria, typhoid, and various intestinal ills.

    On top of this, the empire’s densely urbanized populations — connected by intricate trade routes — were excellent targets for major pandemics. Harper demonstrates that the Roman Empire was hit by at least three great plagues, each a powerful blow to both its population and civic institutions. During one wave of the second-century Antonine plague, which was likely a form of smallpox, as many as 2,000 people died every day. A century later, a disease that sounds, from accounts written during that era, a lot like hemorrhagic fever (the gruesome Ebola family of diseases) migrated from Ethiopia across the rest of the empire and took a similar toll.

    Meanwhile, the climate grew more and more erratic. “In winter there is not such an abundance of rains to nourish the seeds,” wrote Cyprian, an early Christian writer of Carthage. “The summer sun burns less bright over the fields of grain. The temperance of spring is no longer for rejoicing, and the ripening fruit does not hang from autumn trees.”

    Drought struck the empire’s breadbasket of North Africa. The combination sent the society reeling, but it was able to recover until the climate swung again. In the fourth century, when the Eurasian steppe also fell under drought, nomadic peoples like the Visigoths and Huns (whom Harper describes as “armed climate refugees on horseback”) began to antagonize and terrorize Roman territories in Europe. Famously, the Visigoth leader Alaric sacked Rome in 410, effectively sounding the death knell of the Western part of the Roman Empire, which eventually fragmented into small, feudal territories…

    More of this cautionary tale at “When Rome Fell, the Chief Culprits Were Climate and Disease. Sound Familiar?

    And further to Mark Twain’s remark that, while history never repeats itself, it often rhymes, see also  1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed,  the story of the fall of the Bronze Age and the civilizations that had defined it– similarly driven by climate change (and the migration that it spawned).

    * Livy, The Early History of Rome

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    As we ruminate on all of the meanings of “recycle,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1775 that a seminal event in the formation of the leader of the world’s current “imperial” regime took place, the “Midnight Ride”: Paul Revere and William Dawes rode out of Boston about 10 p.m. to warn patriots at Lexington and Concord of the approaching British.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:04 on 2018/03/04 Permalink
    Tags: , climate change, , , , Napier Shaw, , tephigram, ,   

    “Men argue. Nature acts.”*… 

     

    Scientists have converged on climate change predictions that a growing majority of Americans accept.  Still, it can be hard to understand– at a visceral level– what a warming globe might mean.  Here’s some help: a clever tool from Greg Schivley, a civil and environmental engineering PhD. student at Carnegie Mellon University (with help from Ben Noll; inspired by Sophie Lewis).  Enter some key birth dates to project how the climate will have changed from your grandma’s birth to when your kids retire.  The chart’s temperature changes are based on NASA’s historical and projected climate scenarios.

    Climate change and life events

    * Voltaire

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    As we sweat it out, we might send temperate birthday greetings to Sir William Napier Shaw; he was born on this date in 1854.  A meteorologist and member of the Royal Society, he developed the tephigram, a diagram of temperature changes still commonly used in weather analysis and forecasting.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:46 on 2016/10/11 Permalink
    Tags: climate change, , , , National Sausage Pizza Day, , , , , vegetarian,   

    “The thought of two thousand people crunching celery at the same time horrified me”*… 

     

    Eliminating meat from our diets would bring a bounty of benefits to the planet’s health and to our own – but, a quick transition would not be without its costs: it could harm millions of people…

    People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons. Some do it to alleviate animal suffering, others because they want to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Still others are fans of sustainability or wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    No matter how much their carnivorous friends might deny it, vegetarians have a point: cutting out meat delivers multiple benefits. And the more who make the switch, the more those perks would manifest on a global scale.

    But if everyone became a committed vegetarian, there would be serious drawbacks for millions, if not billions, of people.

    “It’s a tale of two worlds, really,” says Andrew Jarvis of Colombia’s International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. “In developed countries, vegetarianism would bring all sorts of environmental and health benefits. But in developing countries there would be negative effects in terms of poverty.”…

    More at “What would happen if the world suddenly went vegetarian?

    * George Bernard Shaw (vegetarian)

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    As we opt for the vegiburger, we might recall that, for all our sins, to day is National Sausage Pizza Day. While pizza dates back (at least) to the ancient Greek custom of covering bread with oils, herbs and cheese (in Byzantine Greek, the dish was spelled πίτα (pita)meaning “pie”), pizza-as-we-know-it seems to have been born in modern Italy as Neapolitan flatbread.  An estimated 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. every year, an average of 350 per second; 17% of all restaurants in the U.S. are pizzerias, more than 10% of which are in New York City. [source]

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:15 on 2016/09/17 Permalink
    Tags: climate change, , , , , , Open Society, , ,   

    “The ice caps are melting, Leonard. In the future, swimming won’t be optional”*… 

     

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    * “Sheldon,” The Big Bang Theory

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    As we turn up the air conditioner, we might spare a thought for Sir Karl Raimund Popper; he died on this date in 1994.  One of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, Popper is best known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favor of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments. (Or more simply put, whereas classical inductive approaches considered hypotheses false until proven true, Popper reversed the logic: conclusions drawn from an empirical finding are true until proven false.)

    Popper was also a powerful critic of historicism in political thought, and (in books like The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism) an enemy of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:22 on 2016/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Atlas of American Agriculture, , climate change, frost, , Rock Springs, , , ,   

    “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice”*… 

     

    “Average Dates of Last Killing Frost in Spring,” William Reed Gardner, Charles Franklin Brooks, and F.J. Marschner, 1916.

    Published in a 1936 Atlas of American Agriculture, put together by the United States Department of Agriculture, these 1916 maps of the average dates of first killing frosts in fall and last killing frosts in spring were initially intended to help farmers plan their planting schedules. Now, the maps offer a rough gauge showing how much these dates have shifted over a century…

    The whole story– and larger versions of both maps– at “100-Year-Old Frost Maps Show How Climate Change Has Shifted the Growing Season in the United States.”

    * Robert Frost

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    As we cover our fragile plants, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that a tornado wiped out the town of Rock Springs, Texas, killing 72 persons and causing $1.2 million in damage. The tornado, more than one mile in width, destroyed 235 of 247 buildings, in most cases leaving no trace of lumber or contents. Many survivors were bruised by large hail which fell after the passage of the tornado.

    Rock Springs, Texas after the 1927 tornado

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2015/07/31 Permalink
    Tags: , chlorofluorocarbons, climate change, , heat, , , , tetraethyllead, , Vietnam   

    “Summer will end soon enough”*… 

     

    As temperatures across the globe continue to rise, one might look to areas accustomed to extreme heat for tips on how to cope…

    More helpful hints at “Genius/bizarre/insane methods of beating the summer sun- Vietnam style.”

    [Vietnamnet.vn, via Dangerous Minds]

    * George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

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    As we search for shade, we might recall that it was on his date in 1934 that Thomas Midgley and a team of scientists working for Charles Kettering at GM’s Dayton Research subsidiary filed for a set of patents covering the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)– specifically, Freon– in refrigeration (and ultimately, air conditioning and aerosols).  Midgley had earlier developed the tetraethyllead (TEL) additive to gasoline– that is, leaded gas– an effort from which he contracted lead poisoning.

    While both of these inventions have been effectively banned for their contributions to climate change, they were celebrated in their time.  Indeed, in 1941 Midgley was awarded the Priestley Medal (the American Chemical Society’s highest honor).

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