evolutionary news

German birds are changing migration patterns. Canadian red squirrels are reproducing earlier in the year. Mosquitoes in Newfoundland remain active longer into August.

Traditionally, scientists have viewed such changes simply as behavior modifications in the face of a changing environment—in this case, global warming.

“Over the past 40 years, animal species have been extending their range toward the poles, and populations have been migrating, developing, or reproducing earlier,” said William Bradshaw, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

But scientists say these shifts provide mounting evidence that for some animals, global warming is sparking genetic changes that are altering the ecosystems we live in.

National Geographic News, 8 Jun 2006

waiting with bated breath

Now a new study, published Tuesday and coinciding with the UN climate talks in Paris, adds to the grim tableau: the risk that warming at the far end of the scale could rob our planet of oxygen.

We have identified another possible consequence of … global warming that can potentially be more dangerous than all others, say a pair of scientists from Britain’s University of Leicester.

Their study, based in the peer-reviewed journal the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, is based on a computer model of phytoplankton, the microscopic sea plants which produce about two-thirds of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

“The message from this study is that there may be another disaster approaching us as a consequence of global warming, and it may be much worse than all other consequences identified previously,” co-author Sergei Petrovskii told AFP.

“There may be very little warning signs before the disaster actually happens… but once the critical threshold is passed (as estimated at 6 C), then the catastrophe will develop fast,” he explained by email.

Phys Org, 1 Dec 2015

we should have stayed in the trees!

The world’s first farmers and their slash-and-burn agriculture may have set off global warming.

A new analysis of ice-core climate data, archaeological evidence and ancient pollen samples is being used to suggest farming some 7,000 years ago helped put the brakes on a natural cooling process of the global climate, possibly contributing to the warmer climate seen today.

The study was the work of an international team led by William Ruddiman, a University of Virginia climate scientist, who first grabbed attention a dozen years ago with a controversial theory that humans altered the climate by burning massive areas of forests to clear the way for crops and livestock grazing.

“Early farming helped keep the planet warm,” Ruddiman said in a statement, regarding the study that appeared in a recent edition of the journal Reviews of Geophysics, published by the American Geophysical Union.

FoxNews, 20 Jan 2016

snowjob

Snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries …

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community …

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

The Independent, 2000

no clean bill of ….

Now, the nation’s leading medical practitioners — with the White House behind them — are stepping forward with a diagnosis that all of us should heed, because the symptoms are becoming undeniable and the risks tremendous: Climate change is a health threat.

The nation’s public health leaders, doctors, and nurses are seeing more and more evidence — both in their patients and in epidemiological data — showing the direct and indirect links. We’re seeing more respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, and heat-related deaths.

Generations ago, doctors used to advise tuberculosis patients to spend time in drier or warmer climates to improve their health. In our time, it’s the climate we live in that needs the attention.

The evidence, increasingly, is showing up in our patients and in our examination rooms.

Grist, 4 May 2015

a hard days night?

Climate change is coming for you in the night. That’s the conclusion of scientists who study how heat disturbs sleep—and how projected warming is expected to make bad sleep even worse.

Led by Nick Obradovich of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, a team of researchers are the first to document the relationship between rising temperatures and poor sleep.

Their new study links that most individual of experiences—falling asleep—with a truly planetary phenomenon—global warming. Besides, the vagaries of climate modeling are secondary to the findings of the paper, Obradovich points out.

“Unusually warm temperatures produce reports of worsened sleep outcomes, even in a wealthy, mostly temperate country like the U.S.,” he said. “The warmer the future world becomes, the more we anticipate sleep to be affected.”

Bloomberg, 27 May 2017

thanks to David Hanig

deserts on the move!

Over the past 25 years the tropics have expanded by as much as 300 miles (500 kilometers) north and south—evidence of climate change in action, a new study says.

This not only means that rain-drenched regions near the Equator are growing, experts say, but also that global warming may be pushing deserts poleward in places such as the U.S. Southwest, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean.

“The rate of increase is pretty big,” said study lead author Dian Seidel of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Air Resources Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland. “It’s several degrees of latitude over the course of 25 years.”

National Geographic, 3 Dec 2007

cutting South America loose

As noted by Michael Marshall in New Scientist, we could relink the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans: Destroying the Isthmus of Panama, the slender strip of land that joins North and South America, would reunite the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Underground nuclear explosions would do the trick. With the land gone, the ocean current that once flowed around the equator would restart and, allegedly, stabilise the climate.

Marshall also says we could flood the planet’s vast depressions, such as the Qattara depression in north-west Egypt and California’s Death Valley.

This could serve multiple purposes, including the creation of new bodies of water, the generation of hydroelectricity, and as a means to offset rising sea levels from global warming.

But on that last point, and as Marshall points out: “[It] is not worth doing for this reason alone: even if we flooded all of the world’s major depressions, it would barely make a difference.”

io9.gizmodo, 4 Aug 2015

see also – action plan

under the weather

Weather control is a prospect that remains well beyond our technological reach, but that could change in the relatively near future.

According to nanotechnology expert J. Storrs Hall, the author of Nanofuture: What’s Next for Nanotechnology, we could start to build a weather machine later this century.

His proposed system would consist of a massive but thin global cloud of small transparent balloons stationed in the stratosphere.

It would basically work as a kind of programmable and reversible greenhouse gas. When the mirrors on the hydrogen balloons face away from Earth, they would reflect sunlight back into space.

io9.gizmodo, 4 Aug 2015

bad for your health

Climate change is already having an extraordinary impact on human health worldwide — affecting the spread of infectious diseases, exposing millions to air pollution and heat waves and dramatically reducing labor productivity, according to  a report released Monday.

The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible, the report by the British medical journal The Lancet says, and the situation is so serious that significant gains by modern medicine and technology are being undercut.

The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardized human life and livelihoods, the report says.

“Preventing illnesses and injuries is more humane, more effective and more economical than treating people once they’ve become sick,” said Howard Frumkin of the University of Washington School of Public Health, one of the study authors.

“That’s plain common sense,” he added. “What this report makes clear is that fighting climate change is disease prevention.”

USA Today, 30 Oct 2017

thanks to David Hanig

couldn’t be worse

The latest report on climate change by the economics professor Ross Garnaut is the most disheartening government report I’ve read.

Garnaut quotes an authoritative American study of the consequences if nothing is done to fight climate change and average temperatures rise by 5 or 6 degrees by the end of this century. Such a change would be “catastrophic”, posing “almost inconceivable challenges as human society struggled to adapt”.

“The collapse and chaos associated with extreme climate change futures would destabilise virtually every aspect of modern life,” the study concluded.

Among the destruction would be the extinction of more than half the world’s species. The Great Barrier Reef and other coral formations would almost certainly be killed and much Australian farmland rendered useless.

Worse, the Greenland ice sheet and parts of Antarctica would be highly likely to melt, greatly raising the sea level and inundating coastal areas in Australia and many other countries.

These changes would be irreversible.

Sydney Morning Herald, 10 sept 2008

sustainable fashion

When models take to the catwalk in Chatswood this evening, there won’t be any celebrities hiding behind oversized sunglasses in the front row.

Neither will there be any designer labels on display.

However, the clothes will definitely be cutting edge. Fair Trade labels, recycled clothes, organic and alternative fabrics and op shop finds will be on display as Willoughby Council puts on an eco-ethical fashion show as part of World Environment Day.

The council’s public relations co-ordinator, Rebecca Hill, says: “We want to let people know that sustainable fashion is available and to encourage them to think about the environment and ethical choices when they choose their clothes.”

The council is very proactive in its environmental work and World Environment Day is a great opportunity to get the public involved.

Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Jun 2008

three headed, six legged frog!

Kids at a nursery were shocked when they stumbled across a three-headed, six legged croaking frog! Staff at the Green Umbrella nursery thought it was just three frogs close together.

Spokeswoman Laura Peper said: “The children couldn’t believe it.”

Expert Mike Dilger said: “Frogs are primitive, so the occasional extra toe is not unusual, but this is something different”

He thinks the frog could have been caused by pollution or climate change.

BBC Newsround, 5 Mar 2004

trick but no treat

How scary are your jack-o’-lanterns? Scarier than you think, according to the Energy Department, which claims the holiday squash is responsible for unleashing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Most of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins produced in the U.S. end up in the trash, says the Energy Department’s website, becoming part of the “more than 254 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) produced in the United States every year.”

Municipal solid waste decomposes into methane, “a harmful greenhouse gas that plays a part in climate change, with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide,” Energy says. Washington Times, 25 Oct 2015

thanks to David