Check out the new home of Maribo!!
Recent stories include:
What do you get when you cross art history and climate change?
Changing tides, by more (or less) than you might think
More heat is going into the ocean. Really.
what is maribo ¤ i-Kiribati for the waves that crash over the reef ¤ the place to read about ¤ climate change ¤ global warming ¤ coral reefs ¤ energy ¤ science ¤ policy ¤ what you can do
Posted by Simon Donner at 7:48 PM
Maribo has set sail for new waters! The new site will continue to talk about climate change and other issues at the science-policy interface. We'll also experiment with dispatches from the field, interviews with experts about new research, and contributions from students. Please update your urls!
In 2006, a naïve young climate scientist realized he had become a climatic Kevin Bacon to friends and family. None of them studied or worked in the areas of physical science, environmental science or environmental issues. Yet they were all interested in news about climate change simply because there was one person in their community who studied climate change for a living. Maribo was his attempt to further engage and expand that community.
I remember the uncertainty. I deliberated about starting the blog for months. Was it worth the effort? Would it engage new people, or appeal only to those already thinking about climate and global change issues? Would comments or jokes about policy compromise my scientific career?
The final decision to launch Maribo was made less by an answer to those questions, than by an incident at U.S. Customs in the Toronto Airport. I had a story I wanted to share. Here's an excerpt:
[agent] “What do you study?”
Be calm, remember one wrong word, a customs agent may decide I look a bit Sephardic have me deported to Syria because my ancestors lived there 2000 years ago.
[me] “I’m a climate scientist but I work at the public policy department”
Did I just say that? Way too confusing. What happened to keep it simple, stupid?
[me] “Climate research is important for policy these days.”
Great, now I look too political.
The agent scanned my passport. He looked me in the eye.
Oy. Here we go.
He launched into a tirade about the Bush Administration’s repression of science and failure to address climate change.
With that, Maribo was launched.
Posted by Simon Donner at 10:25 AM
The Toronto Star asked "how much of the tragedy [of Typhoon Haiyan] was caused by nature, and how
much was caused by human actions?"
Here was my answer:
Canada and other developed countries are good at disaster relief. When news of Typhoon Haiyan reached our shores, the Canadian government and the Canadian people opened their wallets and their hearts. Disaster relief, however, is a band-aid, not a cure. If we want to adapt to a climate with higher storm surges, more intense rainfall and stronger winds, we need to be proactive, not reactive. We need to provide the resources to build the knowledge, institutions and infrastructure to help make countries like the Philippines more resilient to future storms. That project requires consistent, long-term technical, political and financial support.
At the UN climate talks two years ago, the developed countries promised to mobilize $100 billion/yr by the year 2020 to help the developing world respond to climate change. Right now, we are nowhere near that target. The devastation of Typhoon Haiyan should serve as an example to the negotiators at this year’s climate talks in Warsaw of that consistent, long-term support for adaptation in the developing world is so necessary.
Posted by Simon Donner at 7:02 PM
Michael Tobis of Planet3.0 has kindly handed me the Woody Guthrie Award for "thinking" earth science bloggers. In the process, he's said many nice things, all of which I wish were true.
On the spectrum of awards, the coveted Guthrie lies somewhere between Darwin "award" and the Nobel Prize. I will allow the reader to judge precisely where on that spectrum it lies.
Over the next twelve months, I will try my best to "think critically and hope for a better world through better education and an honest media", as former recipient John Nielsen-Gammon wrote.
With the award also comes the
burden honour of choosing next year's recipient. Let the grovelling begin!
Posted by Simon Donner at 1:56 PM
If you're looking to escape the dreary weather, head to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on UBC's campus to learn about our field work on the coral reefs of Kiribati.
As part of the Extreme Adaptations program, the museum is featuring two interactive tables about different work led by UBC researchers, Jedediah Brodie and myself, to understand organisms adapted to "extreme" environments.
Hurry up, the equipment goes back to my lab in November!
Posted by Simon Donner at 1:02 PM
The article Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama? by Brysse et al. published earlier this year presents evidence that assessments of climate change science have leaned towards caution because of the dynamics of the scientific community.
The core argument raised predictable hackles in the blogosphere, despite the fact that several of the examples in the paper, such as estimates of sea level rise in the 2007 IPCC report and Arctic ozone depletion, are widely-known cases of scientists avoiding alarmism.
The news flooding my inbox about some of the largely male blogosphere coming to the defense of an influential male blogger who harassed a female science blogger brings to mind what I think is the most striking and important conclusion of Brysse et al: the gender implications of "erring on the side of least drama".
The risk of being accused of being overly dramatic, even hysterical, raises an additional (and worrisome) aspect of this issue: its gender dimension. Feminist scholars including Margaret Rossiter, Sandra Harding, and Donna Haraway have long discussed the strong association of science with supposedly male characteristics, such that ‘proper’ science is perceived to be “tough, rigorous, rational, impersonal, masculine, competitive, and unemotional” (Rossiter, 1982, p. xv; see also Harding, 1986 and Haraway, 1989). Scientists who come across as ‘too emotional’ or ‘too personal’ may thus be taken to be ‘unscientific’ by their peers, and a woman who exhibits these characteristics may be that much more rapidly dismissed. If this is so, then we may find either that women scientists publicizing the dangers of climate change may be more harshly judged for doing so than their male colleagues, or that women scientists may be particularly reticent to do so—to return to Hansen's phrase—for fear of losing hard-won scientific credibility. This poses another question for future research.
I don't claim to know enough about this particular case of harassment to add anything intelligent to that conversation. I do hope it gets more people thinking about women in science being exposed to overt sexual and subtle psychological harassment.
Most of my students have been women. I watch how here and elsewhere, despite some good intentions and good regulations, the atmospheres in our majority-male institutions, and many of the actual individuals in those institutions, can be unsupportive and at times threatening to female students. The same can be true of the science blogosphere. It is worth thinking about why the blogosphere reacts so strongly and so paternalistically to the few outspoken female researchers, whether the uber-rational Tamsin Edwards, the lead authors of the Brysse et al. paper, both female science historians, or Judith Curry.
By now, I imagine some of you readers are preparing angry rebuttals. That's fine. We need to talk about these things. I ask only that you think a bit about your own gender before you write. The conversations here are, to my great dismay, largely among men. And men may not be best at judging whether men are being fair.
Brysse, K., Oreskes, N., O’Reilly, J., Oppenheimer, M. (2013). Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama? Global Environmental Change. 23(1): 327–337.
Posted by Simon Donner at 11:00 AM
The release of the IPCC report caused a short surge in public interest about climate change, according the Google Trends search data. Like a river after a flood, the waters have receded. Ten days later, the flood wave has dissipated, and search volume is back to baseline levels for the past year, or what hydrologists would call baseflow levels.
A longer view shows that this IPCC flood was much smaller than the last one. After the 2007 report was released, search activity for "IPCC" and "climate change" spiked. The report also left a legacy; searches remained at a higher level than before the 2007 report for several years, no doubt accentuated in late 2009 by the media coverage of and web obsession with "Climategate".
This comparison, however, may be misleading. The long-term trend smooths out the dips between the release of the reports from the different IPCC working groups. There are still two more IPCC reports to be released over the next year, starting with Working Group II's report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in January. One thing that appears to have changed since 2007 is the preferred language. Global warming used to be a far more common search term than climate change; that gap has narrowed in recent years.
What has not changed is the relative public interest in the sister problem of ocean acidification. Search volume for ocean acidification has increased from essentially zero in the mid-2000s, but still pales in comparison to the volume for climate change and global warming. The search volume is too low, even today, to register on the same graph as climate change and global warming:
Posted by Simon Donner at 3:56 PM
Posted by Simon Donner at 11:35 AM
The new IPCC report reminds that through the fits and starts of climate warming, we continue to steadily carbonate the ocean. From the Summary for Policymakers:
|Measurements of CO2 partial pressure and pH from three stations|
|Ensemble mean surface pH from suite of earth system models|
Posted by Simon Donner at 8:30 PM
The Fifth IPCC assessment report on the physical science of climate change will be released tomorrow. It is probably the largest, most comprehensive scientific assessment in history. Not just of climate change, but of any scientific subject. Really. Try to think of any scientific report with more contributors, more citations, more reviewers, more pages, and more preparation time.
Unfortunately, the report is being overshadowed by confusion about a perceived slowdown in the rate of global warming. The graph at right, is based on the GISS estimates of global average surface temperatures since the early 1970s. There is a clear signal of rising temperatures amidst the noise of natural variability.
The slowdown in surface temperature change is part of that natural variability. The planet is still gaining extra heat due to human enhancement of the natural greenhouse effect. As Stephan Rahmstorf summarized nicely on RealClimate, the difference is that over the past decade or so, a larger proportion of that heat than normal has gone into the deep ocean. In a few years, the yin of deep ocean heating will give way to the yang of surface temperature warming. When conditions in the Pacific Ocean again allow the development of a strong, traditional El Nino event - a la 1997/8, or 1982/3 - we'll see new global surface temperature records. We should not mistake a landing for the top of the stairwell, as Richard Muller wisely analogized at the end of an article that otherwise is so obtuse I'm reluctant to give it mention here.
The media noise surrounding the perceived slowdown is part of the natural variability of public understanding of climate change. Our research has shown that public attitudes about climate change in the United States ebb and flow with the climate. After a cool period, people tend to be less convinced and less concerned about climate change.
Posted by Simon Donner at 1:02 PM
Posted by Simon Donner at 1:42 AM
Posted by Simon Donner at 7:30 PM
Another assessment of the role of drought in the Syrian conflict from long-time foreign policy expert William Polk:
The domestic Syrian refugees immediately found that they had to compete not only with one another for scarce food, water and jobs, but also with the already existing foreign refugee population. Syria already was a refuge for quarter of a million Palestinians and about a hundred thousand people who had fled the war and occupation of Iraq. Formerly prosperous farmers were lucky to get jobs as hawkers or street sweepers. And in the desperation of the times, hostilities erupted among groups that were competing just to survive.
Survival was the key issue. The senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Syria turned to the USAID program for help. Terming the situation “a perfect storm,” in November 2008, he warned that Syria faced “social destruction.” He noted that the Syrian Minister of Agriculture had “stated publicly that [the] economic and social fallout from the drought was ‘beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.’” But, his appeal fell on deaf ears: the USAID director commented that “we question whether limited USG resources should be directed toward this appeal at this time.” (reported on November 26, 2008 in cable 08DAMASCUS847_a to Washington and “leaked” to Wikileaks )
Whether or not this was a wise decision, we now know that the Syrian government made the situation much worse by its next action. Lured by the high price of wheat on the world market, it sold its reserves. In 2006, according to the US Department of Agriculture, it sold 1,500,000 metric tons or twice as much as in the previous year. The next year it had little left to export; in 2008 and for the rest of the drought years it had to import enough wheat to keep its citizens alive.
So tens of thousands of frightened, angry, hungry and impoverished former farmers flooded constituted a “tinder” that was ready to catch fire. The spark was struck on March 15, 2011 when a relatively small group gathered in the town of Daraa to protest against government failure to help them. Instead of meeting with the protestors and at least hearing their complaints, the government cracked down on them as subversives.
Thanks to Heidi Cullen of Climate Central for bringing this to our attention.
Posted by Simon Donner at 9:48 PM
This is an updated post from two years ago:
One of the perverse thrills of paddling in Vancouver is cozying up to the massive container ships parked out in English Bay. A little while back, I paddled past one rusting behemoth with the word "Monrovia" painted in white on the red hull. Each letter was about the size of my little kayak.
Posted by Simon Donner at 3:22 PM
Posted by Simon Donner at 5:30 PM
|Gas prices in BC, home to N America's only carbon tax (CP)|
Posted by Simon Donner at 5:48 PM
|Image by Olimpia Zagnoli, New York Times|
Posted by Simon Donner at 2:40 PM