State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Climate News Roundup: Week of 4/10

Fewer penguins survive warming Antarctic climate, Reuters, Apr. 11

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that in Antarctica, only 10 percent of juvenile chinstrap and Adelies penguins now survive the first independent trip they take from their winter habitat back to their colonies, know as the penguin’s “transition to independence”. In the mid-1970s, the survival rate was about 50 percent. The study points at diminishing krill populations as the cause. Krill, which form the basis of the marine food web, feed on phytoplankton growing on the undersides of ice floes. As warming temperatures cause ice to form later and cover less area, populations are negatively affected.

Congress Details Cuts in 2011 Budget Deal as Votes nears, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 12

As the details of the 2011 budget deal approved by Congress are revealed, it is becoming clear that although Republicans did not achieve all of the cuts to environmental programs desired, substantial reductions were made.  While the deal does not remove the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases, it does reduce the organization’s budget by $1.6 billion. In addition, climate related programs are cut by 13%.  The deal also officially eliminates the position of the president’s special advisor on climate change, deemed by some as the president’s “climate czar”.

Shale gas ‘worse than coal’ for climate, BBC, Apr. 12

A new study finds that natural gas extracted from shale through “fracking” may have a larger “greenhouse gas footprint” than coal, perhaps more than twice as large on the 20-year time scale.  This is primarily because shale gas wells leak methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) on the relatively short term.  Many had been promoting the expanded use of natural gas as a “transitional fuel” while developing non-fossil fuel options, such as renewables, as burning natural gas produces half as much CO2 as burning coal.

Care About Climate? Wearing a Coat Today? Discovery News, Apr. 13

In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers at Columbia University present that people’s perception of current temperatures impacts their opinions regarding climate change. Surveys revealed that those who thought the day was unusually warm were more likely to be concerned about global warming than those who thought the day was unusually cold.  These findings may help explain why public opinion concerning climate change wavers while a large consensus exists within climate specialists.

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Lana Lovette
Lana Lovette
13 years ago

It’s so true that actual experience influences what one believes rather than what one learns in the media. Having now experienced three unusually bitter winters and exceptionally cool and gray summers in Sweden, nobody here talks about global warming anymore, only about climate ‘change’. So sad about the baby penguins though.

Steven Earl Salmony
13 years ago

—–Original Message—–

Sir John Sulston, Chair
People and the Planet Working Group
UK Royal Society
March 31, 2011

Dear Sir John Sulston:

Your recent comments regarding the review of research on the human population and its impact on the planet we inhabit by a high level panel of experts give rise to hope for the future of children everywhere. Thanks for all you, the Planet and the People Working Group and the UK Royal Society are doing to protect biodiversity from massive extirpation, the environment from irreversible degradation and the Earth from wanton dissipation of its finite resources by the human species. I am especially appreciative for two quotes from you,

…… “we’ve got to make sure that population is recognized…. as a multiplier of many others. We’ve got to make sure that population really does peak out when we hope it will.”

…….”what we want to do is to see the issue of population in the open, dispassionately discussed…. and then we’ll see where it goes.”

Inasmuch as you and an esteemed group of professionals with appropriate expertise are examining scientific evidence regarding the unbridled increase of absolute global human population numbers, please note there is research that has been summarily dismissed by many too many of our colleagues regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation which I would like to bring to your attention. For the past ten years I have been unsuccessfully attempting to draw attention to certain evidence that to date remains both unchallenged and ignored by virtually every top-rank professional. They appear unable to refute the evidence and simultaneously unwilling to believe it. Their unexpected conspiracy of silence has served to conceal certain research by David Pimentel and Russell Hopfenberg. How else can it be that so many established professionals with adequate expertise act as if they are willfully blind, hysterically deaf and electively mute in the face of scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation? The conscious denial of what could somehow be real about the growth of the human population in our time is not doing anything that can be construed as somehow right and good for future human wellbeing and environmental health, I suppose. It appears as if we could be witnesses to the most colossal failure of intellectual honesty, moral courage and nerve in human history.

Peer-reviewed professional publications, letters to the editor, slideshow presentations et cetera can be found at the following link,

Thank you for attending to this request for careful, skillful and rigorous scrutiny of research from two outstanding scientists. Please know I am holding onto a ray of hope that the research of Hopfenberg and Pimentel is fundamentally flawed; that human population dynamics is different from, not essentially similar to, the population dynamics of other species; and that human population numbers are not primarily a function of an available supply of food necessary for human existence. That would be the best news.

Sometime soon, I trust, many scientists will speak up with regard to apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome science of human population dynamics and human overpopulation the way people in huge numbers in the Mid-East are calling out for democracy now.

Respectfully yours,

Steve Salmony

Human beings with feet of clay are in possession of all that is needed to change the world. All that is required is for us to speak out now here loudly, clearly and often with one voice. All that the self-proclaimed masters of the universe… among us control now will change. After all, the masters of the universe are a few million in number; whereas, human beings with feet of clay number in the billions.

Speaking out about what could somehow be true is the requirement for change. Otherwise the endless production of ideological idiocy and self-serving logical contrivances by the overly educated sychophants and absurdly enriched minions of the masters of the universe will continue to be streamed into the mass media… as if such specious thinking represented what is real and true.

As things stand now here and in many other time-spaces, the silence of human beings with knowledge of what is somehow real could not be more deafening, nor the dark clouds gathering before all of us more forbidding. Elective mutism by the knowledgeable has vanquished ‘the light’ and the hope for a sustainable future that only science can provide to the human family.

Rachel Carson was correct years ago, I suppose, when noting,

“We stand now where two roads diverge…… The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road-the one “less traveled by”-offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

I fear we will not choose to take ‘the other fork of the road’ until it is too late to make a difference that makes a difference for the future…

The United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference occurs next year, 455 days from now. If circumstances are favorable, I will find a way to attend the conference just as I found a way to attend the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. I do not know why I went to South Africa then and do not know why I will go to Brazil next year. Perhaps there will be a chance to speak out.

The human community has enormous human-induced global challenges looming before us, ones that could likely descend with a vengeance upon our unaware children, if not before, and we refuse even to talk about the “mother” of these global challenges. Ecological threats to human well being and environmental health are already visible in the offing, but we choose silence over science; ideological idiocy over evidence-based research.

To leave the children unaware and unprepared to address and overcome global challenges because their soft, sanctimonious, silly, selfish and stupid elders refused to so much as acknowledge the best available science regarding human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth seems somehow not quite right.

A single generation has shown itself to be quite ready, willing and able to ravage the Earth and leave the mess made in the process for the children to clean up. What are we to say, finally, about a generation that mortgages the future of its children, threatens their very existence and chooses in every present moment to willfully deny their adult responsibilities so they can keep greedily doing just as they like, come what may?

If greed-mongering rules the world, the world we are blessed to inhabit, the one we are borrowing from our children, does not “ruffle some feathers” and arouse us to speak out, then what is the point of speech? We have evidently chosen to forget the words of an ancestor who reminds all of us, even now, “Speak out as if you are a million voices because your silence kills the world.”

13 years ago

Since diminishing krill populations due to warming temperatures and less ice floats has become rampant, I wonder what the opposing force is that has taken the place of the affected krill population? For instance, because there are now significantly less penguins than before, how does that now affect the tapestry of life? I would venture to guess that penguins play a role in their ecosystem, perhaps as predators. If they are expected to keep certain fish levels down, I wonder what now happens if the fish population explodes and becomes rampant..