This week on How on Earth, Beth interviewed Scott Lehman of the University of Colorado here in Boulder. Dr Lehman collaborated with a team at NOAA, to develop a novel technique to identify the CO2 released by burning of fossil fuels, allowing its exact calibration in the global carbon budget. Due to technical difficulties, you can’t hear Beth’s questions in the audio, but Scott’s responses are very clear. You can find more information at his website and read his recent paper published two weeks ago in PNAS.
What You Can Do About Global Warming (starts at 5:20): We interview Craig Hover, author of A World to Come Home To: Ending Global Warming in Our Lifetime. Craig is a licensed professional engineer with more than 30 years of engineering, project and facilities management, financial services and consulting. In his book he lays out a comprehensive vision of implementing sustainable strategies for reducing carbon emissions and reversing the current trends in climate change.
Climate Scientists (starts at 1:00): Climate scientists (scientists in general) tend to steer clear of speaking out as activists about concerns that are politically volatile. But that’s changing. Many climate scientists are stepping out of their research comfort zone to offer personal stories of why they care and what we all can do about the crisis. A group of scientists launched a video campaign last week. It’s called More Than Scientists. We speak with Dr. Josh Lawler (University of Washington), who one of the founders of the campaign.
Polar Bears (starts at 6:30): It is well known that, right now, life for polar bears looks bleak. Warming temperatures mean the season for sea ice cover in the Arctic has become shorter and shorter. As sea ice provides a home and hunting ground for polar bears, both the number of bears and their health has suffered. There is even talk of them becoming extinct. But is this something that we should worry about in Colorado and other non-arctic regions around the world? We don’t have bears, right now we don’t have ice, and we have plenty of other concerns. Dr. Steven Amstrup, the Chief scientist for Polar Bears International, joins us on How on Earth to explain why we should care. He thinks that polar bears are the sentinels of global health and that they provide advance warning of some of the challenges coming to all species. That includes us humans. But he thinks if we act soon, we can save both the bears and ourselves.
The rightful place of science (starts at 6:22): In 2014, the world certainly saw more than a few costly weather disasters. Flooding in India and Pakistan in September killed more than 600 people and resulted in economic losses of more than $18 billion. Super Typhoon Rammasum, which hit the Philippines, China and Vietnam in July caused more than 200 deaths and losses of $6.5 billion. And, closer to home, in August, rainfall and flooding in Detroit, Baltimore and Long Island damaged homes and cities leading to economic losses of about $2 billion.
At the same time, the United Nations Weather Agency states that 2014 was the warmest year on record. So, the question is: Are these natural disasters related to the warming climate? And are natural disasters becoming more costly because of climate change?
The team considers noteworthy science on the last day of 2013. What’s worth mentioning? Too many people, too much carbon, and way too much fun in astronomy!
Biology and Health (start time 00:56). This year marked the passing of long-time Boulder resident, Al Bartlett. Bartlett was one of the world’s most eloquent voices calling for population control. He will be missed. One of the champions picking up the torch is New York Times bestselling author, Alan Weisman. Weisman offers exciting solutions to population growth in Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth.
How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender reports that this is a hard book to read, because it’s long, and thorough, and urgency of the need for population reduction worldwide is often not a happy topic. She admits that sometimes, she even switched to a detective novel before reading more of Countdown. But she kept at it because Countdown provides some exciting solutions to population growth. One of the most compelling is to provide women with education and access to birth control. It turns out these two offerings are often a key to women deciding, voluntarily, to limit their families to two children, and sometimes, fewer.
Co-host Shelley Schlender hosts this interview with Weisman about perhaps the greatest problem facing humanity–too many people.
Physics and Astronomy (start time 08:56). Co-host Jim Pullen couldn’t decide on the best physics and astronomy story of 2013, so he dipped into the rich happenings of the year, taken from all over the world: superbolides skipping over Russia, bitumen dripping in Ireland, Voyager 1 long-ranging somewhere in the galaxy, and Icecube spying far-flung neutrinos down at the bottom of the world (and beyond). We’ll learn that the news of 2013 owes much to 2012, 1977, 1944 and even 1927. And that leaves WIMPS, dark matter, LUX, two-dimensional graphene, trapped quantum states, quantum computers, and so much more for 2014!
Environment (start time 16:44). What a year it’s been! We shot past 400 ppm of CO2 in the ever-warming blanket of air skinned over the planet. And disasters! Mighty and perilous Super Typhoon Haiyan, with the fastest winds ever recorded, crashed into the Philipines in November. More locally, in September here on the Northern Front Range, a flood of historic proportion. Co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman look at the perils of 2013 and portents.
Happy 2014 to you, our KGNU and How On Earth family!
Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Jim Pullen, Susan Moran Producer: Jim Pullen Engineer: Jim Pullen Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Big Game and Climate Change (start time 5:00) Last week, the National Resource Council released some serious warnings about climate change, saying its impacts could be abrupt and surprising. But as How on Earth contributor Brian Calvert reports, the National Wildlife Federation says big game is already getting hit. Species from mule deer to antelope to bear are all dealing with climate change in their own ways. Only elk are faring better, at least for now. All of that could mean serious changes for Colorado’s hunters and wildlife watchers, says, Dr. Doug Inkley, the senior wildlife biologist for the organization and the lead author of a recent report, “Nowhere to Hide: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World.”
Hour of Code (start time 12:30) Coding is not just a magic trick where ones and zeros make Angry Birds. But it can be surprisingly simple to learn. You can do it in an hour. But you might want to use a game built by a team here at CU-Boulder. The tutorial is being offered as part of Computer Science Week. In the studio with How On Earth’s Joel Parker to explain the university’s so-called “Hour of Code” is Alex Repenning, a computer science professor at CU.
Hosts: Brian Calvert, Joel Parker Producer: Brian Calvert Engineer: Jim Pullen Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
We feel it when we step into the heat outside; something weird is up with the climate. . Not only is it hot, we’re weathering a drought of historic proportions. That drought has set the stage for crop losses and for wildfires that are burning up the homes of people who live in the mountains here in Colorado. And the strangeness continues across the globe. We learn on the internet that ice at the poles is melting feverishly. And we’ve just lost another huge chunk. Last week scientists announced that in Greenland, a mass of glacial ice twice the size of Manhattan Island is slipping away. To help us make sense of the strangeness, we talk with Michael Lemonick, coauthor of the new book: Global Weirdness, Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future.
We next turn to new ideas about how humans can adapt to global weirdness, by undoing what we’ve always done. Marcus Moench, the Director of Boulder’s Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, joins us to talk about why de-engineering the floodplains in South Asia may be best.
Hosts: Jim Pullen and Joel Parker Producer: Jim Pullen Engineer: Jim Pullen Executive Producer: Susan Moran