Category Archives: Science

While Washington Implodes, Nature Keeps Obeying Its Laws

The daily barrage of recklessness coming out of the nation’s capitol has us riveted. Mass deportation! Muzzle the scientists! To hell with the refugees! Build more nukes! Repay the Kremlin! Un-insure the poor! Terminate the EPA! Trample on native rights! Bring back the bathroom bills!

It’s hard to look the other way.

But the other way is where we must look. Because nature doesn’t care about the latest midnight Tweet or executive order. After back-to-back-to-back record hot years, the creation is groaning again. The Arctic melt is now happening so fast that it’s hard to predict the climate effects in store for us and our children.

So take a look. It’s not Tweeting, or speechifying, or giving TV interviews. IT’S MELTING.

Source: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

 

 

Trump’s Cabinet and Invincible “Doubt”

I’ve been doing this for a long time now. Ten years ago, it was clear enough that human pollution was jeopardizing a livable future for my children. Clear enough to lead me to commit before God that I would dedicate what remained of my life to prevent or mitigate tragedy.

There was no honest debate about the facts at the time. The earth was warming. From a scientific perspective, the pace of warming was terrifying. The graph was, in fact, a “hockey stick.” Worse yet, we were pouring more and more of the gases that cause the heating into the atmosphere. For centuries, the atmospheric chemistry had been well understood. More of these gases would cause more warming. And with thicker and thicker blankets of earth-warming gases every year, we weren’t just committing the earth to a continuation of last year’s warming, melting and disruption, we were accelerating the pace.

CO2 concentrations off the charts.      Source: NASA

Then my grandchildren began to come along, adding new urgency to my task. We began to see new record after new record: a hotter world, year after year; faster polar ice melting; accelerated rise in sea levels; more and more extreme weather events; massive die-offs of marine ecosystems; mass human migration from regions beset by epic droughts; a spike in billion-dollar storm events.

It became clearer than ever that I’d chosen the right fight.

But always, always, there were opponents. And they weren’t a few scattered voices. They were everywhere. Certainly, dominating the Republican narrative. But also, the evangelical movement. You’re an alarmist. You’re a tax-happy liberal. This is a big hoax. How else can scientists get rich? Relax, God is in control.

Pruitt, Tillerson and Perry.         Source: Common Dreams

When I started, the claim was that global warming simply wasn’t happening. It was “the world’s biggest hoax.” Scientists were “cooking the books.” When outright rejection of temperature records became completely untenable, then those same records were selectively cited to argue for the “warming pause.”  Yes, it once was warming, but that’s over now.

Of course, that’s now impossible to argue, given three straight years of off-the-charts global heat and polar melting. So the “doubters” changed their tactic. Sure, it’s warming, they said. But no one knows why. Things go up; things go down. Change is inevitable. No one knows why for sure.

But sooner or later, the scientific community would be heard. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, NASA and NOAA all made it clear, as did every major scientific society in the world: greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are the main contributors to climatic disruptions we’re seeing all over the globe.

For a time, the “doubters” muddled by, insisting that they were not scientists, and couldn’t be expected to answer basic questions on the topic. But this only lasted for a couple of years, till it began to dawn on people that they were also not oncologists, but still got treated for cancer when diagnosed.

And that brings us to today’s new talking points being rolled out by the Trump transition team. Scott Pruitt for EPA, Rick Perry for Energy, Rex Tillerson for State: they’re all reading from the same script:

Sure, climate change is real. Sure, greenhouse gases are a big part of the problem. BUT, we don’t know how much, or what the future will hold. We don’t know for sure the best way to fix the problem. So, we need to keep debating this.

Let’s keep talking, because no one is positively certain what the future will hold.

What’s the common thread in all these arguments over the years? For an economy addicted to fossil fuels, we’ve got wonderful news: We don’t need to do anything. We can stop the global efforts at climate action, while we talk. We can stop the transition to a clean electric grid, while we talk. We can stop helping flooding and drought-stricken countries, while we talk.

And we can talk for a long, long time.

Please, dear friends: Don’t let them talk while our Father’s world – and our children’s only home – flirts with tipping points to runaway heating. What to do? Start by joining Climate Caretakers, and begin to learn, pray and act to protect the creation.

Plant Hardiness Zones Racing Toward the Poles

“Sweetheart, what hardiness zone are we in?” It’s getting late in the fall season, and Barbara is reading up on whether or not to bring her thyme plants indoors.

What plant hardiness zone are we in?

What hardiness zone are we in?

Like all growers, we care about plant hardiness zones. They guide us with regard to planting times and suitable plant varieties. They tell nurseries when to ship saplings to us, and when we ought to plant them. Just now, they’re going to settle for Barbara whether or not to dig up her thyme. But at the moment, I somehow can’t remember.

“I think we’re in seven. Or maybe six. Let me check.”

There are eight plant hardiness zones in the United States, as determined by the USDA. Zone 3 is a thin strip up along the Canadian border. Only the hardiest plants will survive the winter up there. Zone 10 is basically South Florida, where winter is always balmy.

It turns out I had a good reason for my confusion about our zone at Good Hand Farm. When we started farming here, almost all of New Jersey was Zone 6. Fifteen years later, it’s basically all Zone 7. The plant hardiness zone has moved about 200 miles north in sixteen years. That’s about twelve miles per year, around here.

But it’s happening just about everywhere. In 1990, virtually all of Kentucky was Zone 6. By 2006, the whole state was zone 7. In the Upper Midwest, the border between Zones 4 and 5 ran through Sioux City, Iowa. Now it runs through Minneapolis, more than 200 miles north. Virtually every state has experienced one zone change in less than twenty years. At this pace, in one century, New Jersey would be about four hardiness zones hotter, like Miami, or maybe South Texas.

changes15

Notice the black zone (Zone 3): Almost all gone since 1990.

Repeat that: New Jersey would be like South Texas in one century.

So, how do you grow trees when you’re changing the climate this rapidly? Trees can live for hundreds of years. Two sugar maples out our front door are nearly two centuries old. What happens to them now, as every couple decades ushers in a whole new climatic zone? And what happens to our forests, brimming with cold-weather species, but now subject to increasing heat every decade?

We are performing a massive, uncontrolled experiment upon ourselves, and upon all the creatures who share our communities. When are we going to grasp how reckless it is to radically alter climate conditions within a single human generation?

Climate change is real. It’s high time our politicians own up to the fact, and begin to work on solutions. Why not contact your Congressional representatives, and ask them where they stand? Otherwise, you might have New Jersey feeling like South Texas or Miami. And if so, those places would feel like something straight out of your worst nightmares.

The time to do something is now. This world belongs to God, and we’ll surely have to account to him for what we’ve done to it — or for our silence while others did so.

Contact your Congressional Representatives.

NEWSFLASH: Earth Just Had a Not-Record-Hot Month!

It had to happen sooner or later. After sixteen consecutive months of record monthly global heat since record-keeping began, September 2016 fell short of the prior September’s heat by a scant 0.04 degrees Celsius, making it only the second hottest September in the last 137 years.

That is, if you believe the National Oceanic & Aeronautic Administration (NOAA). If you prefer NASA’s analysis, the record heat continues, with this September edging out last September’s record heat by a razor thin margin.

NASA's global temperature has been this color for many, many months

NASA’s global temperature map has been this color for many, many months

Of course, we still run into people who remind us that temperatures go up, and they also go down. So with all these record hot months recently, we looked for the most recent record low month, and found it! It was February 1929, eight months before the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.

Facts are stubborn things. It’s been a long time since the earth has been cool, and the string of record hot global temperatures is becoming downright terrifying. The politicians who control Congress may wish they could hide it, but they simply can’t cling to “I’m-not-sure” any longer, without condemning our children to a dismal future.

My own congressman (Scott Garrett, Republican NJ-5th) is one of these climate-science deniers. I beg him, as I hope you will beg yours: It’s not too late yet. God’s entire creation is in peril from our reckless carbon binge. You may hate the solutions that have been proposed to date. Fine. Propose your own. But we’re not the only ones who have children. When we are dead, and answerable to the Lord of Creation, all of our kids — yours included — will inherit whatever world we have left them.

Isn’t it time we decided to do something to spare them from the chaos we are leaving behind?

The Debate: Breaking the Silence on Climate Change

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off Monday night before 100 million viewers, they covered a lot of important ground – including their visions of prosperity, security, and the direction of our country.

Outside the debate venue, a group of students and young people from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action joined hands to pray and demand that the moderator and candidates address the threat of  manmade climate change to humans and God’s creation. Observing the debate from home, I’d have to say that their prayers were answered, if only just as a start.

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action praying outside the debate venue

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action demand that candidates present climate change plans at Hofstra Univ.

Yes, Clinton did stake her flag on making the U.S. “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” She even got specific: “We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs. That’s a lot of new economic activity.”

And she challenged Trump on his longstanding climate denialism: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.”

Of course, Trump denied the charge: “I did not — I do not say that. I do not say that.” The mid-sentence change in verb tenses (“do” not “did”) provided a bit of a fig leaf for the billionaire. As almost everyone knows, Trump tweeted the “Chinese climate hoax” idea in 2012. In fact, he has been recorded on video or in his tweets eleven times calling global warming a hoax, as recently as July 26, 2016.

So, “I did not” clearly doesn’t fly. But “I do not” is one of those imponderables: As-I-stand-on-this-stage, I do not? Well, okay then. We’ll wait for tomorrow.

Well, in fact, tomorrow arrived. The morning after the debate, Trump’s campaign manager said that the candidate has traded the “climate hoax” narrative for new story: “He believes that global warming is naturally occurring,” said Kellyanne Conway.

Naturally occurring. Well that’s something. In the last month, Mr. Trump has learned a lot of new things. He’s discovered that there is no hoax going on, despite four years of being certain that the opposite was true. But even more remarkable, he’s learned that global warming is happening due to natural causes, not manmade carbon emissions.

Natural causes? So, where he did he do his research on this? We decided to look:

  • Maybe the U.S. National Academy of Science? We checked, but no luck there: “Scientists know that recent climate change is largely caused by human activities,” they write in a landmark study, “from an understanding of basic physics, comparing observations with models, and fingerprinting the detailed patterns of climate change caused by different human and natural influences.”
  • Okay, how about the world’s largest scientific society – the American Association for the Advancement of Science? Hmm, strike two. Their website banner trumpets the conclusion before you even get to the details: “Based on the evidence, about 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening.” We kept looking.
  • How about the peer-reviewed science journals, like Science or Nature? More bad news. They virtually all agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
  • Well, there must be someone. How about any American or international association of sciences from any discipline whatsoever? We checked. Again, no dice. Just this summer, 31 scientific societies representing millions of geologists, chemists, biologists, agronomists, mathematicians and researchers from many other specialties wrote to Congress to inform our leaders that “greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver” behind climate change, and warned of “broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health.”

We’re not giving up, and will let you know when we find where Trump got his new scientific information, or whatever else he may have found instead.

In our view, this debate was not wasted. People are now talking. Twitter is abuzz with references to climate denial. Perhaps voters may see their choice this year as a choice for the future of the world’s ecosystems. That would be redemptive, we think.

Young Evangelicals, thank you for your prayers and your demand for open discourse. Whatever our political leanings might be, we now have a fuller idea of where our country – and our world – might go regarding the climate crisis in the next four years. Clinton promises to lead a transition to a clean power economy. Trump promises to stop the transition – stop the Clean Power Plan, the global Climate Accord struck in Paris, and to turn back the clock on the burning of coal to where it was when our grandparents were young.

We have a choice. And the faithful witness of Young Evangelicals has helped us to see it more clearly.

An Appeal for Climate Realism to Candidate Trump

Sir, this will not end well for you. Or us, I’m afraid.

You may not even realize what you’re saying, but when the public figures it out – and many surely will – you will have lost all but the small fraction who still deny the most obvious facts — facts acknowledged by every country in the world.

Calling climate change “a hoax” in an even minimally-educated country is no way to become president.

We remember that last year you said that climate change was invented by the Chinese to make us non-competitive. It was silly, of course. But during the primary, who could keep track of all the silliness? We assumed you’d tack to something more credible if you ever became the actual nominee. But then last week you reiterated your view of climate science on Fox News. Sure, it was a little murky, but we got the gist. Here’s the transcript:

  • BILL O’REILLY: Did you ever call climate change a hoax?
  • DONALD TRUMP: Well, I might have because when I look at some of the things that are going on, in fact if you look at Europe where they had their big summit a couple of years ago, where people were sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax and they were laughing at it. So, yeah, I probably did. I see what’s going on and you see what’s going on.

Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and the climate “hoax”

Hmm. Let me see: You say it’s a hoax, because of, um, a summit, Europe, emails, scientists, and laughing. That can only refer to the “ClimateGate” conspiracy theory, right? It wasn’t a summit, and it wasn’t a couple of years ago (seven years, actually). But nothing else remotely captures the litany of other references. It’s not China anymore, but the lying scientists of “ClimateGate.”

Of course, the ClimateGate conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked (see FactCheck.org , Union of Concerned Scientists, and Politifact). Every investigation — from the National Science Foundation Inspector General, NOAA’s Inspector General, Penn State University, and the UK Parliament — reached the same conclusion: the hacked emails revealed nothing to compromise the overwhelming consensus of climate science.

But whatever you were referring to, one thing is clear: You have doubled down on accusing researchers of defrauding the whole world. Yes – you have confirmed – climate change IS a hoax. It means nothing that tens of thousands of scientists conduct peer-reviewed research — normally worthy of our trust. The planet is NOT warming; oceans are NOT acidifying; sea levels are NOT rising; and the rise in greenhouse gases is NOT coming from fossil fuel emissions. All a hoax.

This is no longer “I am not a scientist.” And it’s not “I’m still not convinced as to the causes.” It’s a full-throated charge: “They are all lying to us!” Like you said: “Scientists practically calling it a hoax” and “laughing at it.” It’s a massive fraud on the whole world.

Okay. We’ve heard enough to expect some pretty outlandish charges from you by now. But have you considered the electoral implications of this line of attack? Let me cite a few that might concern you:

  • Some of your supporters may doubt the truthfulness of climate scientists in particular. But none of them think ALL scientists are liars. Did you know that 31 scientific societies got together last month to write a letter to every U.S. legislator, telling them that “climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver…”? They spoke on behalf of every discipline, from geophysics and chemistry to geology and meteorology. Taken together, they represent essentially all of science, and we Americans are pretty proud of our sciences.
  • Gallup now tells us that 64% of Americans are worried about climate change. 59% believe its impacts are already visible. 65% percent of us agree that its causes are mainly pollution from human activities. Only one in ten of us thinks that it’s not real, and that its effects will never hit us.
  • And Yale University reports that 67% of Americans think global warming is happening, while only 16% think it’s not.

So, sir, you want to become our president, right? You want to make American great again? Well, how are you going to do that while vilifying the smartest American researchers from every field of science? By dismissing as a hoax what two-thirds of us are already worried about? And by standing with a tiny minority of Americans who dismiss this global threat?

Source: The Gallup Organization

Source: Gallup: US Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High

And how do you propose to be a world leader, when you have promised to kill the global climate agreement endorsed in Paris last year by virtually every country in the world?

Mr. Trump, there must be a smarter way to land American votes. Here’s an idea: You’ve bucked party orthodoxy in the past. Why not do it again regarding climate action? The days when anti-science front groups managed to paralyze us with doubt have come and gone. You’ve got the nomination. Party leaders are afraid to touch you no matter what you say. Why not use your power to improve your odds of winning with all of us climate realists?

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Source: Gallup: US Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High

Like every potential occupant of the Oval Office, you are faced with choices for great good or great evil. If you would just drop this hoax thing, and listen to the huge majority of your countrymen (and the scientists who inform us) you might have the chance to do something really good.

Think about it, sir. You could do something good.

Reader’s Poll: What January’s Record NYC Snowstorm Tells Us

During the three days from January 22nd to the 24th, a mammoth blizzard paralyzed New York City with 27.5 inches of snowfall – the city’s biggest snowstorm since record-keeping began in 1869.1171676_630x354

Beloved Planet wants to know what you think about this. Please choose the answer that most closely reflects your response to this news:

  • Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and his Congressional allies are right in dismissing climate change as “a massive hoax” perpetrated by greedy scientists getting richer and richer.
  • NASA, NOAA and the EPA are right in stating that “as temperatures rise and the air becomes warmer, more moisture evaporates  into the atmosphere. More moisture in the air means we can expect more rain and snow.”
  • Yet another example of President Obama’s feckless leadership. Thanks Obama!
  • The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.
  • It’s mainly Elsa’s fault, with all that stuff about “I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on ….”