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Algae Olympics July 2, 2008

Posted by davegoblog in Environment, Pollution, Sports.
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With about five weeks until it plays host to the Olympic sailing regatta, the coastal city of Qingdao, China, is experiencing a huge algal bloom that covers a third of the course.  Local officials have mobilized 20,000 people and 1,000 boats to help with the clean-up and haul away the algae.  They believe the sailing area should be clear by July 15, and the government plans to install a fenced perimeter in the Yellow Sea more than 30 miles long in attempt to block the algae from floating into the area.

Water quality has been a concern for the sailing events, given that many coastal Chinese cities dump untreated sewage into the sea.  At the same time, rivers and tributaries emptying into coastal waters are often contaminated with high levels of nitrates from agricultural and industrial runoff.  These nitrates contribute to the red tides of algae that often bloom along sections of China’s coastline.

However, Qingdao officials say there isn’t a “substantial link” between the pollution & poor water quality and the current algal bloom.  They instead blame it on increased rainfall and warmer waters in the Yellow Sea.

Either way, algal blooms can result in dead zones (where many fish and aquatic insects cannot survive) like the one in the Gulf of Mexico.  With the world watching the upcoming Olympics, I hope that this event will bring more needed attention to what’s happening to the oceans and seas as a result of our actions.

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Is the science settled? June 12, 2008

Posted by davegoblog in Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Pollution, Science.
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The latest National Journal Insiders Poll asks Democrats and Republicans if “it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made pollution.”

  • 95% of Democrats answered yes, compared with 26% of Republicans.

If there’s one thing poll after poll indicates, it’s that the science is not settled on this issue.” – one Republican respondent.

Aaahhh…science by polling.

Insiders of both parties agreed, however, that the most urgent priority facing the next president and Congress will be the economy.

  • 59% of Republicans said the economy is at the top of the nation’s priority list, while 44% of Democrats said the same. But global warming was the second-most pressing matter, according to Democrats, while energy took the second spot for Republicans.

Adapted from The Hotline.

Climate Security Act May 29, 2008

Posted by davegoblog in Climate Change, Environment, Future, Politics, Science, Technology.
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Members of Congress are scheduled to begin debate next week on Senate bill 2191 “America’s Climate Security Act of 2007,” which was introduced by Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA).  The two purposes of this Act are:

(1) to establish the core of a Federal program that will reduce United States greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough between 2007 and 2050 to avert the catastrophic impacts of global climate change; and

(2) to accomplish that purpose while preserving robust growth in the United States economy and avoiding the imposition of hardship on United States citizens.

I’m sure we’ll hear the same old arguments from “global warming” deniers such as the economy will suffer, temperatures are actually cooling, and carbon dioxide is good for plants.

As a scientist, it’s frustrating to see when the waters are being muddied to produce doubt in the minds of people.  If the data for global warming and subsequent climate change were shown to be incorrect, then I would gladly acknowledge that our science is wrong.  But science seeks to explain how things happen in the universe, and science is self-correcting.  The evidence is overwhelming, and as the IPCC has previously said, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Read Chris Mooney’s new article The Price of Planetary Gambling for a more in depth analysis of the upcoming debate.

“Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” April 1, 2008

Posted by davegoblog in Environment, Future, Politics, Pollution, Science, Technology.
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ImaBill

Even though it’s April Fools’ Day, this is no joke.  Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann introduced H.R. 5616, the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act,”

To provide for the repeal of the phase out of incandescent light bulbs unless the Comptroller General makes certain specific findings.”

Those findings are that:

  1.  Consumers will save money on the combination of electric bills and expenses for new fixures.
  2. Overall carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 20% in the US by 2025.
  3. The phase-out will not pose any health risks, including those associated with mercury containment in certain light bulbs.

This coming about two weeks before the Bush Administration appealed a federal court’s decision throwing out an EPA regulation to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.  They argued that the ruling requires EPA to set “inappropriate and unnecessary emission standards for power plants.”

So, mercury may not be okay in certain light bulbs, but it’s okay in coal-fired power plants?  And, what about mercury in dental fillings?  Hell, we’re Americans, and we can damn well choose what type of light bulbs we want, what sort of fillings we get, and what type of big ass cars we drive!

Note: I don’t like it when science gets distorted by politics on either side of the spectrum.  /off soap box

The Doomsday Vault February 26, 2008

Posted by davegoblog in Environment, Future, Science, Technology.
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Vault

The Doomsday Vault sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones movie or a Harry Potter novel, but it isn’t.  That’s merely the nickname the media has given to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which opened today in Longyearbyen, Norway.  Think of it a backup to the 1400 other seed banks scattered throughout the world.  Those seed banks are subject to natural and manmade disasters, whereas the Doomsday vault was built to survive an earthquake or a nuclear strike.  War has destroyed seed banks in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a 2006 typhoon caused another seed bank to be flooded in the Philippines.

The vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples, which is equivalent to about 2 billion individual seeds.  The giant air-conditioning units keep the temperature at -18 ºC or about 0 ºF, which experts believe is cold enough for many seeds to last 1000 years.  Even if the power systems failed, the permafrost surrounding the vault would help keep the seeds at a temperature to last 200 years in the worst case scenario.  Let’s hope the Global Crop Diversity Trust only has to worry about the polar bears there.

ScienceDebate2008 December 14, 2007

Posted by davegoblog in Climate Change, Environment, Future, Politics, Pollution, Science, Technology.
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Right now we have a confluence of issues facing candidates: embryonic stem cell research, global warming, science and technology education, biotechnology and energy policy — it’s just becoming an avalanche,” says Lawrence Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western University, and author of the bestselling The Physics of Star Trek. “I think at some level, you have to get some insight into what the candidates know, or what they’re willing to learn.”

Since its launch earlier on Monday, there has been has been a fair amount of attention surrounding ScienceDebate2008 (at least in the science layer of the blogosphere and MSM) and it’s continuing to grow.

What is it? According to GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted), it “is focused on clarifying how each presidential candidate plans to deal with scientific and technological research, and how they plan to integrate their personal philosophies into a workable public policy, and how they plan to direct and support (or interfere with) scientific and technological progress in this country.”

Given the way science has been suppressed during the current administration, we need to move forward on both sides of the aisle and bring science and its objectivity back into the decision and policy making processes in our government.

In addition to the ScienceDebate2008 site, you can join their Facebook group or become their Myspace friend.

Going Green in Ohio November 2, 2007

Posted by davegoblog in Environment, Future, Pollution, Science, Technology.
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Green BulbWCPN reported on Wednesday that millions of Ohio electric customers are getting the chance to “buy” green energy if they’re willing to pay a little extra per month.  Customers of Duke Energy in Southwest Ohio currently have the option, and American Electric Power customers in Northern Ohio now have an opportunity as well.

According to their site, AEP Ohio recently acquired Renewable Energy Certificates and rebundled them into Green Product blocks. Each block costs $0.70 and equals 100 kWh.  Customers must buy at least two blocks ($1.40 additional per month) to take part in the program.  For $7.00 per month (10 blocks), the purchase represents 100% of the average residential customer’s monthly usage.  The extra cost is because the company already has enough capacity from traditional energy sources and it has to purchase surplus energy from the “green” sources.  Hopefully, the added charge will be reduced or eliminated as demand for alternative energy increases.

In the next few months, FirstEnergy (our electric company) is scheduled to offer similar choices, so we’re looking forward to see what they’ll have.