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Philip Bump's Posts


People who don’t accept climate change also don’t accept that it’s hot


Yesterday, we noted that people are once again inclined to accept climate change, given how hot it has been. Here's one thing they may not be willing to accept, however: how hot it has been.

Turns out that perception of the temperature is correlated to political belief. To repeat: political philosophy influences whether or not you think a heat wave exists. From Ars Technica:

Both droughts and floods passed the simple test. These showed a clear trend in response to precipitation changes, and the trend was in the right direction—people perceived more floods and fewer droughts when there was more rain. And, in the statistical analysis, ideology and political affiliation had a weak effect on the accuracy of recollections, having about as much influence as education.

Things were completely different for temperatures. In fact, the actual trends in temperatures had nothing to do with how people perceived them. If you graphed the predictive power of people's perceptions against the actual temperatures, the resulting line was flat—it showed no trend at all. In the statistical model, the actual weather had little impact on people's perception of recent temperatures. Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right, but its magnitude was dwarfed by the influences of political affiliation and cultural beliefs.

And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you'd expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn't gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up.

Read more: Climate Change


Residents of Key West have a choice: dengue fever or GMO mosquitoes?

Floridians don't like dengue fever. No one does: it's a painful ailment spread by mosquitoes that results in skin rash, achiness, sometimes a little bit of death. Oxitec, a biotechnology firm based in the U.K., has a possible solution: mosquitoes engineered to die before they can spread the disease.

Turns out that Floridians don't particularly care for bioengineered mosquitoes, either. From Nature:

[I]t took only three months for Mila de Mier to gather 100,000 names from people opposed to the release of the mosquitoes in Key West, Florida, where the potentially lethal disease is making a comeback. …

“The more questions we ask, the more confused we are,” says de Mier, a Key West business woman, who started the petition in April. “I started thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what if these mosquitoes bite my boys or my dogs? What will they do to the ecosystem?’.”

The good news for de Mier's boys and dogs is that Oxitec's mosquitoes are all male and therefore don't bite. They live short lives mating with the native population, passing on the self-destruct gene. In field tests conducted in Brazil, introduction of Oxitec's mosquitoes dropped the population in a small area by 85 percent in one year. That could make a difference against a disease that's already established a foothold. A 2010 study found that 5 percent of Key West residents already carry the virus. The existing method used to stem transmission, as The New Yorker notes, is to dump insecticide over wide swaths of the area.

Read more: Uncategorized


Hot out? Guess that means that everyone believes in climate change again

These people believe.

Yesterday, we celebrated the 110th birthday of the air conditioner. (Happy day-after-your-birthday, air conditioner!)

We illustrated that post with one of the oldest photos of an air-conditioning system we could find, a unit installed in the Capitol in 1938. It's a huge thing, all pipes and bolts and such.

And installing it was obviously a major, major mistake.

You see, yet again, it turns out that more people believe in climate change when they feel hot.

In the four months since March there has been a jump in U.S. citizens’ belief that climate change is taking place, especially among independent voters and those in southern states such as Texas, which is now in its second year of record drought, according to nationwide polls by the University of Texas.

In a poll taken July 12-16, 70 percent of respondents said they think the climate is changing, compared with 65 percent in a similar poll in March. Those saying it’s not taking place fell to 15 percent from 22 percent, according to data set to be released this week by the UT Energy Poll.

Please note that this is not the same survey as the one in May or in February or last September. This is a whole new survey suggesting that belief has risen again after falling after each of those previous studies.

Read more: Climate Change, Politics


‘Climategate’ investigation winds down with a whimper

Our sources indicated that this sleeping bloodhound was in charge of the investigation. (Photo by SuperFantastic.)

Well, the Norfolk Constabulary has wrapped up its investigation into who hacked the University of East Anglia's computers and stole the emails that formed the basis of the …

Look. I'm just going to cut to the chase. This is about 45 miles down a rabbit hole that, yeah, we could explain, but either you already know the details or you don't. Right? Like if your ears pricked up at the mention of East Anglia, you'll be interested in this story. If they didn't, I'll level with you. This ain't Agatha Christie. You're not going to find this super fascinating.

And, besides, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard already did a great recap. Here's the news, as she outlines it:

The police in Norfolk, UK announced on Wednesday that they have ended their investigation into the theft of a bunch of emails from climate scientists at the Climate Research Center at the University of East Anglia in 2009 -- with no actual conclusion. That means we might never know who was behind what led to "Climategate," an ongoing smear campaign against climate science and scientists.

Read more: Climate Change


How the White House weakened EPA’s soot standard

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new standard on soot, small particles that cause a variety of unpleasant health effects. Now the Washington Post is reporting that the White House watered down the proposal behind the scenes:

EPA had originally wanted to tighten the annual exposure to fine-particle soot from 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 12 micrograms per cubic meter, according to an e-mail between Office of Management and Budget and EPA officials.

But OMB directed the EPA to make the limit between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

The Post got hold of an email attachment [Word document] in which an OMB employee makes corrections directly to the EPA's announcement.

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.
Read more: Politics


How’s the weather, America? July 18 edition

It's time for everyone's favorite gameshow: Let's Make Jokes About the Horrible Weather In Lieu of Weeping! Current summary: droughty.

The drought is still no joke.

We outlined the impacts of the drought earlier this week: the impact on food prices, the record temperatures, the ongoing dryness. The Week relayed some of the numbers around the drought, including that Indianapolis hadn't had a drop of rain from June 1 to July 16, breaking a record that stood since 1908.

Read more: Climate Change


China’s per-person carbon emissions rival Europe’s, but U.S. is still on top

CO2 seeds.

From The Guardian:

The average Chinese person's carbon footprint is now almost on a par with the average European's, figures released on Wednesday reveal.

... [T]oday's report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) show that per capita emissions in China increased by 9% in 2011 to reach 7.2 tonnes per person, only a fraction lower than the EU average of 7.5 tonnes.

The population of Europe is 595 million. The population of China is 1.35 billion. In otherwords, China emits 9.75 billion tons of CO2 to Europe's 4.46 billion. Less per person, but far more overall.

Read more: Climate Change, Coal


Nefarious forces hampering Shell’s Arctic drilling include air, water, ice

Yet another fake ad from the ArcticReady spoof site.

Guys, I have some bad news. Shell's attempts to drill exploratory wells in Alaska aren't going that great. Cue the Shell-denfreude.

First, there was that ship that tried to escape, only to be dragged back into servitude. Then the company had to go hat-in-hand to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking if maybe, just this once, the agency would be cool with a little more air pollution coming from their drilling rig.

“Shell was then and remains now committed to making every effort to meet the emission limits imposed by EPA,” the company said in its application, adding that its testing has “demonstrated compliance with a vast majority of limits.”

Yeah, EPA. Be cool! Shell has complied with the vast majority of rules about not polluting the air, and the all of the air pollution that results from the burning of their oil is the consumers' fault. Oil doesn't pollute the air, people that burn the oil pollute the air.

And now this: Shell might not get the permits it needs in time to drill all the wells it wanted.

Read more: Oil


Japanese stage mass protest against nuclear power

Between 75,000 and 175,000 Japanese citizens rallied in Tokyo yesterday to protest the restarting of idled nuclear plants. National Geographic describes the growing movement:

The first rally in March was modest: a few hundred citizens joined against nuclear power, marking the anniversary of the earthquake- and tsunami-triggered Fukushima Daiichi disaster a year earlier. But in recent weeks, since [Prime Minister Yoshihiko] Noda decided to restart two of Japan's 54 idled nuclear reactors, the protest has swelled into a mass demonstration blocking the streets of Japan's political center.

Building on their Friday night momentum, protestors on Monday staged their largest rally yet, with tens of thousands of people congregating at Yoyogi Park, and then marching in three groups through the capital.

Photo by mpeake.
Read more: Nuclear


Teenage Afghan whistleblower has a lot to teach us about mine safety

The footage above was captured by a teenager in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal:

Children as young as 10 toil in illegal mines, often for 12 hours a day, activists say. Afghan officials agree the problem is stubborn despite recent efforts. The boys represent a thorny obstacle to the nation's push to transform its antiquated mining industry into a modern economic engine. …

"I saw some children working there loading and unloading donkeys," said Khalilulla ... "All the people working there are extremely poor and don't have any other job to feed their families except working in the mines."

By Afghan government estimates, as many as a third of the nation's children—more than 4 million—take part in some sort of work, from picking fruit to mining coal. U.N. officials estimate about 18% of Afghan children work—1.4 million between the ages of 6 and 15.

The United States banned child labor in 1938. Not as long ago as one might assume, but still two generations. Child labor is illegal in Afghanistan -- but so was the mine in the footage.

Read more: Coal