The Australian Bureau of Meteorology recently had to add two new colors to their temperature maps because the previous colors did not go high enough.
Andrew Sullivan pulls together commentary on a recent research paper that shows that the costs of waiting to act on climate change, far outweigh the costs of acting now. The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost to prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the costs of waiting will be paid in the future (as will the benefits), so there’s less motivation to act now.
Two degrees is the level that is currently supported by over 190 countries as a limit to avoid dangerous climate change …
“Ultimately, the geophysical laws of the Earth system and its uncertainties dictate what global temperature rise to expect,” said Rogelj. “If we delay for twenty years, the likelihood of limiting temperature rise to two degrees becomes so small that the geophysical uncertainties don’t play a role anymore.”
On top of this, Fiona Harvey reports on an International Energy Agency report that suggests:
The world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be “lost for ever”, according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.
The website Influence Explorer has a lot of easily accessible data about the contributions of companies and prominent people to lawmakers. As a resource for civics research it’s really nice, but the time series data also makes it a useful resource for math; algebra and pre-calculus, in particular.
Last summer’s drought, and more weather extremes probably due to large-scale global climate change, is having dire effects on shipping on the Mississippi River. Suzanne Goldenberg has an excellent article in the Guardian.
Students look upstream at the Missouri River from the Melvin Price lock and dam, just north of St. Louis, and close to its confluence with the Mississippi River. The dam is tasked with maintaining about 9ft of water in the river for shipping.
Shipping companies say the economic consequences of a shutdown on the Mississippi would be devastating. About $7bn (£4.3bn) in vital commodities – typically grain, coal, heating oil, and cement – moves on the river at this time of year. Cutting off the transport route would have an impact across the mid-west and beyond.
Farmers in the area lost up to three-quarters of their corn and soya bean crops to this year’s drought. … Now, however, [they] are facing the prospect of not being able to sell their grain at all because they can’t get it to market. The farmers may also struggle to find other bulk items, such as fertiliser, that are typically shipped by barge.
The proposed solution is to release more water from the Missouri, however there would be a steep price to pay.
The shipping industry in St Louis wants the White House to order the release of more water from the Missouri river, which flows into the Mississippi, to keep waters high enough for the long barges to float down the river to New Orleans.
Sending out more water from the Missouri would doom states upstream, such as Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota, which depend on water from the Missouri and are also caught in the drought.
“There are farmers and ranchers up there with livestock that don’t have water to stay alive. They don’t have enough fodder. They don’t have enough irrigation water,” said Robert Criss, a hydrologist at Washington University in St Louis, who has spent his career studying the Mississippi. “What a dumb way to use water during a drought.”
The key countries at the heart of the Arab Spring: Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Image adapted from Wikimedia Commons User:Danalm000.
What are the chances that the revolutions of the Arab Spring succeed at creating democracies? According to a regression model created Jay Ulfelder: maybe.
[T]he probability that each of those new democracies would make it to their sixth birthday…:
Ulfelder’s blog post is worth the read. It’s an excellent (if somewhat technical) example of how to do (and write up) some quick research, and how the ability to blog is changing the way scientists share ideas, and get feedback (check out the comments section).
C.B.P. Grey explains how primary elections work. Right now the Republican Party is conducting its primaries to choose a candidate to face Pres. Obama in the November general elections, and all their debates, as well as the sequence of primaries highlighting different parts of the United States, provides for a quite interesting view of the social and political diversity in the country. The video below, however, focuses on the details of the voting process.
The Fund for Peace has been doing a lot of thinking about what it takes for a country to be considered peaceful, and what it takes for a state to fail. For the last seven years they’ve been putting together maps of the world with an index of how stable different countries are.
Finland - the most sustainable state, at least according to the Failed State Index.
While it’s pretty in-depth and makes for rather sobering reading, it’s worth taking a look at the criteria they’ve come up with to determine a country’s stability. It may be useful to include some of this information in the cycle where we focus on peace.
Inequality – especially when driven by active discrimination (wealth inequality is something to watch out for).
Economic decline – pushes trade into the black market and increases criminality and corruption.
Illegitimacy of the state – if people don’t believe the people in government have everyone in the country’s best interests at heart, and are only looking out for themselves and their friends, then there’s probably going to be trouble.
Public Services go kaput – It’s a really bad sign when the government can meet people’s basic needs – like picking up the garbage.
The Rule of Law goes kaput – when you’re ruled by the caprice of men, and your rights under the law are not respected, you may begin to consider and agitate for other options for government.
Personal Armies – forces that are tied to individual leaders, like private militias or super-secret police for example, are very damaging to a country’s cohesion.
Fighting elites – healthy countries need robust arguments in their political class – think checks and balances – but it can go too far and lead to things like extreme nationalism and ethnic cleansing.
Invasion – both overt invasion and covert meddling in the affairs of a country are unhealthy for that state’s stability.
It’s also very nice that you can download their index data as a MS Excel spreadsheet, which you can let students analyze to answer their own research questions. For example, I was wondering what was the difference between the best, the worst and the USA, so I plotted this graph.
Comparing the best (Finland), worst (Somalia) and the USA using the Fund for Peace's Failed State Indicies.
The USA is much closer to Finland than Somalia, thank goodness, but should probably watch out for that Uneven Development (wealth inequality).
I think something like this would make a good experiential exercise for the science of geography.