Environment

Stephen Hawking celebrated his seventy fifth birthday on the 2nd July. We can all be delighted that he lived so long, and continues in robust health, after he was diagnosed to survive only three years. May he continue to "live long and prosper" as the fictional Vulcans say in Star Trek (a UK man can expect to live another 12 years if he reaches his 75th birthday, other things being equal). He's a brilliant physicist, everyone agrees, noted for his work in General Relativity and related areas. However he has never done any research in climate change AFAIK.

Last night was the premiere of "Food Evolution", a documentary on the science in our dinner, and I saw it with a large audience for the second time.

Wait, premiere? Second time? Which is it?

It's both. And that is how it became a tale of two cities. And maybe even a metaphor for the two Americas we now live in.

Two weeks ago I moderated a panel on communicating science and, more importantly, risk, at the University of Guelph, Canada's most prominent agriculture school. In the evening, there was a showing of "Food Evolution" in an auditorium there. I don't know how many people attended, it was packed, and before the movie there was a show of hands on how many people were okay with GMOs, how many distrusted them, and how many were unsure.

The nighttime satellite photos of the Earth reveal much about the population distribution of the developed world through the intensity of the artificial lighting being observed.

A paper has linked Monarch butterfly populations to glyphosate - but only when it was first used, and not when it was most heavily used. It also linked the populations to seasonal variation. That is to be expected, except since it's 2017, they try to claim that's climate change rather than wetter weather in some years.
No-till farming uses cover crops to conserve soil and suppress weeds but many vegetable producers haven't embraced it yet.

The reason is simple; small-seeded vegetable crops struggle to emerge through thick cover crop residues. A recent program sought to see how it might work better with string beans, a common staple of many dinners, and possessing larger seeds. In both Illinois and Washington, USDA-ARS agronomist Rick Boydston and University of Illinois ecologist Marty Williams grew vetch, rye, and a combination of the two cover crops before killing them with a roller-crimper—a machine that evenly flattens and crimps standing plant biomass—or with a combination of the roller-crimper and a burndown herbicide.
A primitive, non-photosynthesizing microbe, Methanospirillum hungatei, which is thought to have existed since before the development of photosynthesis, possess genes similar to those that play a role in photosynthesis, finds a new study.

Photosynthesis, creating oxygen and carbohydrates such as glucose from solar energy, water, and CO2, is indispensable for many species on this planet. However, it is unclear exactly how or when organisms evolved the ability to photosynthesize. A team has discovered an evolutionary model for the biological function that creates CO2 from glucose in photosynthesis. 
A lot has been said about the so-called "hiatus" in Global Warming starting in 1998, a major El Niño year. Perhaps the best illustration of the problem with the talking point is an animation titled "The Escalator", over at skepticalscience.com.

There's a more fundamental issue with it, however, than failing to recognize the difference between short-term weather fluctuations and long-term climate change. The talking point is based on faulty reasoning about trend analysis and burden of proof, as I intend to argue.
In 2006, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore predicted that we only had 10 years to stave off our carbon dioxide doom, with plummeting yields in Africa, the Himalayas melting and other doomsday scenarios happening by 2016. 
From 5,000 to 11,000 years ago, what is now the Sahara Desert had 10X the rainfall it does today and was home to hunter-gatherers who lived in the region's savannahs and wooded grasslands. By analyzing marine sediments, rainfall patterns in the Sahara during that 'Green Sahara' period have been pinpointed.
Though environmental activists are aghast that Republicans now control the White House, the Senate and the House for the first time since the 1920s, at least a few have come to some self-awareness that non-stop lobbying against jobs and poor people, and for higher regulations and cost, are to blame for why their candidate lost.

What they don't realize is that there is actually a great deal of opportunity for environmentalists during the Trump years. In most ways, he is a lot more like Democrats than he is like Republicans, they just need to stop being against everyone and everything except higher taxes and more federal rules.

It may be time to mix it up, when the writing is on the wall that being "anti-" is not working for anything except their bank statements.