Climate Change and Cities (starts at 5:05) Sea level rise, severe storms, heat waves – these are just a few of the challenges cities might be facing as the climate changes in the next few decades. So how should they adapt to cope with such events? And with urban developments being one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, what can they do to mitigate their impact?
These are questions that the Urban Climate Change Research Network has set out to address in its Second Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities. The report gives the expected climate projections for 100 cities along with guidance on increasing resilience and reducing impact. The Network released its summary for city leaders at the Paris talks only three weeks ago, and Boulder’s Paty Romero Lankao was there to promote the report — she was a co-editor of the report and coordinating lead author of the chapter on governance. Dr. Lankao is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who investigates the interactions between urban development and global environmental change, and in our show she talks with us about the outlook for cities and the report.
Hosts: Jane Palmer, Joel Parker Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producer: Beth Bennett Headline Contributions: Susan Moran, Beth Bennett, Jane Palmer
Island on Fire (04:45): In 1783, a crack opened up in the Earth, began to spew out lava and ash and poisonous gases, and didn’t stop for eight months. The volcano was Laki, one of many volcanoes in Iceland, and the effects of the eruption went global. Laki’s story is one of geology, chemistry, atmospheric science, and biology. Co-host Beth Bartel talks with long-time science writers and co-authors Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe about what we’ve learned from Laki and how we can apply the lessons of Laki today.
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.
War of the Whales: A True Story (starts at 3:35): In the early hours of March 15th, of the year 2000, a Cuvier beaked whale washed ashore a mere 100 feet from Ken Balcomb’s house on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas. It was, for the whale, a fortuitous coincidence: Balcomb was a marine mammal researcher who was uniquely placed to rescue the creature. But that day 17 more whales of various species washed up on nearby islands and some of them weren’t quite so fortunate. The event was the largest mass stranding in recent history but what might have caused it was a total mystery. To Balcomb, it was a mystery that cried out for a solution.
So begins the book “War of the Whales: A true story.” It’s a book that has been described by critics as a tense, page turning eco-thriller, even though it is a work of non-fiction. How On Earth’s Jane Palmer talks with author Joshua Horwitz about what happened after Ken Balcomb’s discovery, and the attempts to solve the mystery.
Arctic Dispatch (starts at 2:18): There is no question that the Arctic is thawing faster than anywhere on the planet, except the western Antarctic Peninsula. But there are still so many unknowns regarding how things are actually changing in different places, and to what effect. How On Earth’s Susan Moran recently attended the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway. Among the scientists who discussed research on how the receding and thinning ice in the Arctic will likely affect different species was George Hunt, a research professor of biology at the University of Washington. Aili Keskitalo, an indigenous Sami from Finnmark, Norway and president of the Sami Parliament, discussed how energy projects, including windmill parks, are negatively affecting reindeer and Sami culture. Hunt and Keskitalo discussed these issues with Moran.
Wind forecasting (starts at 10:40): The wind industry in the U.S. faces several hurdles, including a technical one: discovering how the wind is going to blow near the mountains. For power systems to be reliable, operators must know when to expect the blustery gusts or when to expect a still breezeless calm day. That means they need accurate wind forecasts. The Department of Energy has just given a substantial grant to a coalition of organizations in Colorado to help improve wind energy forecasting in mountain and valley regions. Julie Lundquist, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, discusses the current and planned research with co-host Jane Palmer.
Hosts: Susan Moran, Jane Palmer Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Kendra Krueger Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger
Himalayan Glacial Lakes (starts at 5:20) Some scientists conduct their experiments in a laboratory — think clean white walls, artificial lighting, A.C. and a convenient coffee pot not far away. Not so for Ulyana Horodyskyj, a graduate student at the University of Colorado. For the last few years she’s been looking at glaciers and the lakes on top of them in Nepal. Last year she spent a year looking at how pollution affects glaciers high in the Himalayan Mountains. She hoped to set up the ultimate high-altitude laboratory on the oxygen-thin slopes of Mount Everest, but a fatal accident intervened. On this edition of How on Earth, she talks about her latest research, Himalayan glaciers and what it is like to do science at the top of the world.
Hosts: Jane Palmer, Joel Parker Producer, Engineer: Joel Parker Executive Producers: Jane Palmer, Kendra Krueger Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender
Gulp [starts at 4:25] Bestselling author, Mary Roach has been billed as American’s funniest science writer. In “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” she takes readers on a journey through the alimentary canal, extolling the marvels of spit on the beginning end, then moving on to the man who had a hole in his stomach that allowed a doctor to observe his digestion. And . . . on. Roach even interviews a prison inmate about “rectal smuggling” (including cell phones). So get ready – here’s Shelley Schlender’s conversation with Mary Roach, author of “Gulp”.
Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Beth Bennett Producer: Joel Parker Engineer: Shelley Schlender Executive Producers: Jane Palmer and Kendra Krueger
Do Fathers Matter? (start time: 3:07) If you’re a father or a son or daughter – which pretty much covers everyone – this interview should hit home. Science journalist Paul Raeburn’s latest book — “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” – explores what seems like a no-brainer question. But the answers he discovers surprised even him. After last week’s pledge drive teaser, we now offer the extended version of host Susan Moran’s interview with Raeburn.
Mercury in Waterways (start time: 15:20) Next time you take a sip of mountain spring water or catch a wild trout, you might be getting a bit more than you bargained for. Scientists have found mercury in Colorado waterways and in the fish that swim in them. And recent research shows that wildfires in recent years may have added to the problem. How on Earth’s Jane Palmer talked with Joe Ryan, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Colorado. Dr. Ryan also directs AirWaterGas, a project studying the impacts of oil and gas drilling on the environment.
Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Ted Burnham Executive Producers: Jane Palmer and Kendra Krueger
Living Planet Report (starts at 5:50): The environmental organization World Wildlife Fund just released its science-based biennial Living Planet Report. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture overall; WWF shows that, for instance, wildlife populations across the globe are roughly half the size they were 40 years ago. And although rich countries show a 10 percent increase in biodiversity, lower-income countries are suffering a drop of nearly 60 percent. The report also ranks the ecological footprints of 152 nations, and warns that the world is living beyond its means. But there are bright spots in the report, too. Even in the absence of national legislation and international treaties, some cities in the U.S., including Boulder, and around the world are making progress toward sustainability and greenhouse gas reductions. Co-host Susan Moran interviews Keya Chatterjee, director of WWF’s renewable energy and footprint outreach program.
Finding Exoplanet Water (starts at 18:15): For the first time, scientists have detected water vapor on a cold exoplanet the size of Neptune. Previously, it had only been possible to measure the atmospheres of larger, Jupiter-sized exoplanets, but these findings from the Hubble and Spitzer Telescopes bring scientists a significant step closer to studying the atmosphere of Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. Understanding the atmosphere of exoplanets may tell us more about their evolution and formation – Eliza Kempton, assistant professor of physics at Grinnell College in Iowa, explains in this report from Roland Pease of the BBC’s Science In Action.
Executive Producer: Joel Parker Producer: Ted Burnham Co-Hosts: Susan Moran, Ted Burnham Engineer: Ted Burnham Headlines: Beth Bennett, Jane Palmer
The Meaning of Wilderness (starts 4:30):Fifty years ago last week, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. It was then, and remains today, one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation. It has protected millions of acres of land. And it established a legal definition of wilderness: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Today, many are questioning what conversation should look like hardly a square inch of land around the world is truly “untrammeled.” Co-host Susan Moran discusses wilderness then and now with Dr. M. Sanjayan, a senior scientist at Conservation International. He was a correspondent on the Showtime series on climate change, called Years of Living Dangerously. His next TV series, which will air next February, is called Earth — A New Wild. Dr. Sanjayan will speak this Friday at 4 pm MT at Americas Latino Eco Festival. (www.americaslatinoecofestival.org)
Living Underwater (starts 13:50):This segment continues our series, “The Ocean is Us,” exploring how we all, even in land-locked Colorado, are connected to the ocean, and what’s at stake. Co-host Susan Moran interviews Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the late oceanographic explorer who opened a window into the ocean for millions of people worldwide in the 1960s through his revolutionary scuba diving and underwater-living adventures. Fabien, an aquanaut, oceanographic explorer, and documentary filmmaker, discusses Mission 31, his recent 31-day underwater-living experiment (one day longer than Jacques-Yves’ expedition a half century ago).
All features in the “The Ocean Is Us” series can be found here. Also, checkout KGNU’s year-long series on Colorado water issues. It’s called Connecting the Drops. It’s at kgnu.org and yourwatercolorado.org. To learn more or become active in preserving our watershed and the oceans, go to Colorado Ocean Coalition.
Executive Producer: Joel Parker Producer: Ted Burnham Co-hosts: Susan Moran, Ted Burnham Engineer: Ted Burnham Additional Contributions: Jane Palmer, Beth Bennett