28 posts · 18,948 views
Phil Camill is the Rusack Associate Professor and Program Director of Environmental Studies at Bowdoin College. He studies the impacts of climate warming on boreal and Arctic ecosystems.
Each year, we hear that people are gaining weight and that chronic health problems like obesity, heart problems, and diabetes are on the rise. It's commonplace to ascribe these trends to personal lifestyle choices, such as the lack of exercise and diet, as well as the increasingly pervasive nature of fast food and processed, high-sugar foods.
However, there may [...]... Read more »
Siervo, M., Horta, B., Stephan, B., Victora, C., & Wells, J. (2010) First-Borns Carry a Higher Metabolic Risk in Early Adulthood: Evidence from a Prospective Cohort Study. PLoS ONE, 5(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013907
In the Policy Forum of today’s issue of Science, a research team that includes recent Nobel laureate, Elinor Ostrom, issued a call for innovative interdisciplinary approaches to confronting major environmental challenges:
Tremendous progress has been made in understanding the functioning of the
Earth system and, in particular, the impact of human actions. Although this
knowledge can inform management [...]... Read more »
Reid, W., Chen, D., Goldfarb, L., Hackmann, H., Lee, Y., Mokhele, K., Ostrom, E., Raivio, K., Rockstrom, J., Schellnhuber, H.... (2010) Earth System Science for Global Sustainability: Grand Challenges. Science, 330(6006), 916-917. DOI: 10.1126/science.1196263
There have been several critiques of geoengineering as a climate mitigation tool. Two of the most incisive, in my opinion, come from science and ethics.
The first is a 2007 paper in PNAS by Matthews and Caldeira showing that if we establish aerosol clouds or space reflectors while doing nothing to reduce carbon emissions, we run [...]... Read more »
Mary W. Silvera, Sibel Bargu, Susan L. Coale, Claudia R. Benitez-Nelson, Ana C. Garcia, Kathryn J. Roberts, Emily Sekula-Wood, Kenneth W. Bruland, and Kenneth H. Coale. (2010) Toxic diatoms and domoic acid in natural and iron enriched waters of the oceanic Pacific. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1006968107
In an interesting new article in Climatic Change, Christopher Doughty and colleagues at Stanford consider whether raising crop albedo (reflectivity) could decrease solar absorption at the Earth’s surface and cool regional climates. One might consider this a kind of climate “bio”engineering.
How could you do this, and would it work?
Many desert plants have hair-like projections that [...]... Read more »
Doughty, C., Field, C., & McMillan, A. (2010) Can crop albedo be increased through the modification of leaf trichomes, and could this cool regional climate?. Climatic Change. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-010-9936-0
When CO2 from fossil fuels accumulates in the atmosphere, some of it dissolves into the oceans where it reacts with water to form a weak acid (H2CO3) —carbonic acid— that lowers seawater pH and makes it increasingly difficult for corals and other calcitic organisms to form their calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons.
A new study in the [...]... Read more »
Rebecca Albright, Benjamin Mason, Margaret Miller, and Chris Langdon. (2010) Ocean acidification compromises recruitment success of the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora palmata. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/
In a forthcoming article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Patric Allard and Monica Colaiácovo use a nemotode (round worm) system to explore how BPA damages genetic processes in animals.
BPA ranks among the highest production volume chemicals with a global annual production scale of ≈4 million metric tons. It is commonly used in [...]... Read more »
Patrick Allard and Monica P. Colaiácovo. (2010) Bisphenol A impairs the double-strand break repair machinery in the germline and causes chromosome abnormalities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1010386107
Right up there with climate change, biodiversity conservation is one of the most challenging issues at the intersection of nature and culture. Part of this challenge arises because of genuine differences in how people value other species.
In an interesting forthcoming article in Conservation Biology, Chris Sandbrook and colleagues at Cambridge University argue that these value [...]... Read more »
At the 2009 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, renowned climate scientist Richard Alley (Penn State) gave a keynote address, The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon dioxide in Earth’s Climate History, in which he used a variety of paleoclimatological proxy data to show how CO2 changes over much of Earth history have exerted a strong influence [...]... Read more »
Lacis, A., Schmidt, G., Rind, D., & Ruedy, R. (2010) Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth's Temperature. Science, 330(6002), 356-359. DOI: 10.1126/science.1190653
In a fascinating new article in PLOS One (open access), Daniel Nettle asks why we see social gradients in preventative health behaviors:
People of lower socioeconomic position have been found to smoke more, exercise less, have poorer diets, comply less well with therapy, use medical services less, adopt fewer safety measures, ignore health advice more, and [...]... Read more »
Nettle, D. (2010) Why Are There Social Gradients in Preventative Health Behavior? A Perspective from Behavioral Ecology. PLoS ONE, 5(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013371
In 40 years, there will be about 3 billion additional people living on the Earth (~9.5 billion total) compared with today. With all of these new folks, it’s easy to think about the added demands of energy, food, and water required to sustain their lifestyles. And in terms of climate warming, it’s hard to escape [...]... Read more »
O'Neill, B., Dalton, M., Fuchs, R., Jiang, L., Pachauri, S., & Zigova, K. (2010) Global demographic trends and future carbon emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(41), 17521-17526. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1004581107
There’s a new paper in this week’s issue of Science that suggests that growing a landscape mixed with genetically modified (GM) Bt corn and non-GM hybrid varieties of corn can be mutually beneficial to all corn farmers.
Why? They argue that the populations of GM corn knock down the populations of insect herbivores enough that, on [...]... Read more »
Hutchison, W., Burkness, E., Mitchell, P., Moon, R., Leslie, T., Fleischer, S., Abrahamson, M., Hamilton, K., Steffey, K., Gray, M.... (2010) Areawide Suppression of European Corn Borer with Bt Maize Reaps Savings to Non-Bt Maize Growers. Science, 330(6001), 222-225. DOI: 10.1126/science.1190242
When we think of human population change and resource use, it’s easy to assume that more people will consume more resources, such as water, energy, and food. An important corollary is that resource limitations will limit population growth. Thomas Malthus was perhaps the most influential proponent of this idea.
However, several factors complicate this story:
(1) Affluence [...]... Read more »
DeLong, J., Burger, O., & Hamilton, M. (2010) Current Demographics Suggest Future Energy Supplies Will Be Inadequate to Slow Human Population Growth. PLoS ONE, 5(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013206
There has been a lot published recently on the source of happiness and what constitutes the good life, with many articles focusing on levels of personal income that mark tipping points, such as the recent claim that we need $75,000 to be happy.
In this week’s Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of [...]... Read more »
Headey, B., R. Muffels, and G.G. Wagner. (2010) Long-running German panel survey shows that personal and economic choices, not just genes, matter for happiness . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1008612107
Water security is making a bit of a splash this week. CNBC ran this story on the water crises in western U.S. states, where the region is possibly closing in on a day of reckoning, as described by Felicity Barringer in the NY Times, and creating a climate of pessimism among some western water managers.
The [...]... Read more »
Vörösmarty, C., McIntyre, P., Gessner, M., Dudgeon, D., Prusevich, A., Green, P., Glidden, S., Bunn, S., Sullivan, C., Liermann, C.... (2010) Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature, 467(7315), 555-561. DOI: 10.1038/nature09440
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are back in the news. A few days ago, NPR featured a couple of blog posts (here and here) considering whether the new GMO “supersized” salmon will be harmful to aquatic ecosystems.
A concern with GMOs is that—like the early adoption of pesticides—potential risks are being borne by the environment and consumers [...]... Read more »
Jennifer L. Tank, Emma J. Rosi-Marshall, Todd V. Royer, Matt R. Whiles, Natalie A. Griffiths, Therese C. Frauendorf, and David J. Treering. (2010) Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein (Cry1Ab) within the stream network of an agricultural landscape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/10.1073/pnas.1006925107
The rise in global mean temperature of about 0.9 degrees C over the 20th century is one of the most well-known trends in the science of global change. Several modeling and empirical studies suggest that some (~0.3 degrees C) of this warming is due to natural causes like increased solar intensity and decreased vulcanism [...]... Read more »
Thompson, D., Wallace, J., Kennedy, J., & Jones, P. (2010) An abrupt drop in Northern Hemisphere sea surface temperature around 1970. Nature, 467(7314), 444-447. DOI: 10.1038/nature09394
In my series on why people don’t engage climate change, we saw major socioeconomic and demographic differences in how people perceive climate change.
In the current issue of Population and Environment, Aaron McCright authors an article, The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public, in which he examines whether women [...]... Read more »
McCright, A. (2010) The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Population and Environment, 32(1), 66-87. DOI: 10.1007/s11111-010-0113-1
Here’s an interesting thought question: How much would global temperature warm if we used only the existing energy infrastructure (i.e., power plants, furnaces, motor vehicles) until these machines reached the end of their useful lives? Once they died, they would be replaced by devices that did not emit CO2.
Steven Davis and colleagues addressed this question [...]... Read more »
Davis, S., Caldeira, K., & Matthews, H. (2010) Future CO2 Emissions and Climate Change from Existing Energy Infrastructure. Science, 329(5997), 1330-1333. DOI: 10.1126/science.1188566
There have traditionally been two ways to produce more food for an increasing population: Convert native ecosystems like forests and grasslands into agricultural fields (what we call “extensification”) or make the yields on existing croplands go up, through the use of things like machinery, fertilizers, irrigation, pesticides, and GMOs (what we call “intensification”).
Historically, these processes [...]... Read more »
H. K. Gibbs, A. S. Ruesch, F. Achard, M. K. Clayton, P. Holmgrene, N. Ramankutty, and J. A. Foley. (2010) Tropical forests were the primary sources of new agricultural land in the 1980s and 1990s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. info:/
In 1990, I remember driving on a freeway in Phoenix after midnight. The temperature was a cool 102 degrees F after breaking the all time heat record of 126 F that day. Deserts are good at cooling off at night. But with all of the built environment in Phoenix storing heat from the day, the [...]... Read more »
Mark McCarthy, Martin Best, and Richard Betts. (2010) Climate change in cities due to global warming and urban effects. Geophysical Research Letters. info:/10.1029/2010GL042845
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