Putting Down the Pipeline

Like addicts, we would love to stick to what is easy, familiar, and dependable. The withering consequences of our actions, abstracted to an intangible future, are easy to deny. Prominent politicians say that global warming is a fantasy, that we can keep doing what we’re doing, that everything will be okay. Meanwhile their speech is paid for by the same corporations we enrich with our emissions. These corporations are addicted to our money like we to their energy and plastic, but corporations are not people, and unlike us, will never have the will to quit. Recently a number of groups including the Charles G. Koch foundation funded a new study hoping to blame the steep increase in temperature since 1970 on urban “heat islands.” Greg Laden explains, “Urban areas can be warmer than surrounding non-urban areas because there is a lot of combustion, pavement and other structure can collect solar heat and retain it for a while.” James Hrynyshyn continues “Their hypothesis is that too many of the thermometers used to record temperatures over the last 200 years have been located in or near cities, and so have produced a warming bias produced by the waste heat generated in urban areas.” But instead the study produced a graph nearly identical to the iconic “hockey stick” it was intended to debunk. Ethan Siegel says that the new work confirms “with great precision the results of the previous studies, showing a rise over the past 60 years of an average of 1 degree Celsius, with the rise accelerating over the past 30 years.” But it’s the next 100 years we really need to consider.

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Using Less Electricity

On Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk sees a future filled with nuclear power, deepwater drilling, hydrofracking, and mountaintop removal. To hell with the consequences, just give us the juice! But when the oil, gas, and coal are gone, the landscape pulverized, and the depleted cores of uranium piling up in the background, we’ll have to change our energy habits the hard way. Sharon says if we want to start stopping now, we must create a new narrative. She writes, “You can endure anything—as long as it is part of a story of heroism and transformation.” On Confessions of a Science Librarian, John DuPuis shares a new book about infrastructure by Scott Huler, explaining “the current troubles in Japan are only more indicative of the need to pay attention to the threads that keep our society running.” And on The USA Science and Engineering Festival Blog, Joanna Pool profiles researcher Angela Belcher, who “is focused on developing tougher and more effective materials and devices for clean energy, electronics, the environment and medicine.” Green technology could be a helpful substitute, but in the long run, only sacrifice will preserve the planet.