Monday, February 22, 2010

The Dunning-Kruger effect and the climate debate

A wonderful article by John Cook at Skeptical Science about how the dreaded Dunning-Kruger Effect affects climate science debate.

Cook writes,

The most common example is the argument, "why don't climate scientists look up and see that big, fiery ball in the sky - don't they realise the sun drives climate?" In actuality, climate scientists have noticed the big, fiery ball in the sky that provides almost all our climate's energy. Consequently, there are a multitude of peer-reviewed studies examining the sun's role in global warming. These studies have independently come to the conclusion the sun has not shown enough trend to have contributed significantly to recent global warming. More recent papers using the latest data have found the sun is actually moving in the opposite direction to climate. Eg - the sun has been cooling while the climate is warming.

The second most common example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is "don't climate scientists realise climate has changed naturally in the past?" If one peruses the peer-reviewed science, they'll find that yes, climate scientists do realise that climate has changed in the past. There is a whole field of science devoted to examining and understanding past climate change: paleoclimatology. And what scientists find in the Earth's past is that the planet is highly sensitive to changes in energy imbalance. When our climate loses or gains heat, positive feedbacks amplify the temperature change. This is one (of many) lines of evidence that tell us our climate is sensitive to CO2 forcing.

How does one counter the Dunning-Kruger effect, in others or in themselves? Dunning and Kruger propose that improving a person's skills helps them recognise the limitations of their abilities. If there's a question about an aspect of climate science, the first step should be to investigate and improve understanding of the science. Odds are climate scientists have investigated the same question in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Use Google Scholar to find out papers on the topic.

A fun read!

Friday, February 19, 2010

CARE 8th Annual Conference registration open

The CARE 8th Annual Conference will be held April 26 - 28, 2010 at the La Posada De, Santa Fe, NM. Click here for more information, including registration.

Do you have something to teach people?

CARE is currently accepting applications for papers to present at our upcoming Annual Meeting in April, 2010. This year, we will again offer opportunities for you to participate in exciting sessions and hear from experts on reclamation, legislation, new product development, and international opportunities.
Click here to propose your presentation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sustainable food vs. Monsanto

So, you know how antibiotic overuse leads to superbugs? Unsurprisingly enough, overuse of weed killer, such as Roundup, leads to weed resistance. Which, in turn, means more and more toxic weed killers -- in staggering quantities -- drenching our food.

Bob Cesca has a scary article here about the evil that is Monsanto. Anyone and everyone who's interested in sustainability should consider the most basic green business practice of all: environmentally sustainable farming.

Michael Pollan's and Eric Schlosser's smart, passionate discussions of healthy food from farm to plate helped create the movie Food, Inc., and people are trying more and more to be aware of how the food we eat was grown.

And every time, we run up against Monsanto. Cesca writes:

When we consider the rogue's gallery of devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporations, we generally come up with outfits like Microsoft, Bechtel, AIG, Halliburton, Goldman-Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and the United States Senate. Yet somehow, Monsanto, arguably the most devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporation in the world has been able to more or less skulk between the raindrops -- only a household name in households where documentaries like Food Inc. are regarded as light Friday evening entertainment. My house, for example. But for the most part, if you were to ask an average American for their list of sinister corporations, Monsanto probably wouldn't make the cut.

It should.


On January 15, the Obama Justice Department launched an anti-trust investigation against the corporate behemoth over its next generation of genetically modified "Roundup Ready" soybean seeds. The very next day, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, which challenges the safety of genetically modified agricultural products -- the centerpiece of the Monsanto empire. If the investigation fails, farmers will have to switch over to the next generation of Roundup Ready seeds in 2014. And the cycle of corporate abuse and monopolization will continue.

Genetically modified seeds brings us a dystopian spectacle of precipitous loss of genetic diversity -- and weed resistance.

Scientists are trying to raise attention to the fact that global overuse of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is leading to weed resistance. "Farmers are planting too many Roundup Ready crops," said Stephen Powles, an expert on weed resistance at the University of Western Australia. Mark VanGessel, a weed scientist at the University of Delaware spoke of the Roundup (glyphosate) pesticides saying, "My gut reaction is that we do need to limit the use of glyphosate-resistant crops."

In response to the issue that farmers are purchasing and applying a toxic chemical that is no longer working, Monsanto spokesperson Greg Elmore said people are overreacting. In other Roundup news, Denmark officially banned the pesticide this month, saying the toxic chemical is not breaking down in the soil and, as a result, is polluting their water at a level that is 5 times what is considered safe for the environment and human health.

Factory farming is obviously cruel and immoral, extremely unhealthy and dangerous for animals, soil health, and workers -- and for us. By the time factory farmed food ends up on our plates, no amount of antibiotics or washing in ammonia can protect us from superbugs like MRSA or increasingly toxic chemicals soaking our food as resistance increases.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Networking at its best

Congratulations to our upstate NY team and other friends for this nice mention in the Democrat News and Chronicle. Journalist Emily Shearing attended and wrote a smart, fun blurb.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why build green? The EPA explains.

Why build green? The EPA has a page explaining why here.

Environmental benefits:
  • Enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Improve air and water quality
  • Reduce waste streams
  • Conserve and restore natural resources

Economic benefits:
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Create, expand, and shape markets for green product and services
  • Improve occupant productivity
  • Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Social benefits:
  • Enhance occupant comfort and health
  • Heighten aesthetic qualities
  • Minimize strain on local infrastructure
  • Improve overall quality of life