Differing opinions on climate change

It is no secret that opinions on climate change around the world are all quite different. Countries, political parties, men and women all have differing views. Pew Research Center has conducted multiple studies regarding these differences with the most popular study being the difference between political parties.

Conducted in October 2016 by Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy, The Politics of Climate used several surveys to establish the divide between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in categories such as trust in professional researchers and the information about climate change that they are producing. The study surveyed 1,534 American adults with a margin of error at four percentage points. In accordance with this study, Democrats have been shown to be more positive about the information presented by scientists, while Republicans are more doubtful. The chart below maps the differences.

PEW Research Center

Along with distrust, the study looks at other factors, listed below.

  • “Seven-in-ten liberal Democrats (70 percent) trust climate scientists a lot to give full and accurate information about the causes of climate change, compared with just 15 percent of conservative Republicans.
  • Some 54 percent of liberal Democrats say climate scientists understand the causes of climate change very well. This compares with only 11 percent among conservative Republicans and 19 percent among moderate/liberal Republicans.
  • Liberal Democrats, more than any other party/ideology group, perceive widespread consensus among climate scientists about the causes of warming. Only 16 percent of conservative Republicans say almost all scientists agree on this, compared with 55 percent of liberal Democrats.
  • The credibility of climate research is also closely tied with Americans’ political views. Some 55 percent of liberal Democrats say climate research reflects the best available evidence most of the time, 39 percent say some of the time. By contrast, 9 percent of conservative Republicans say this occurs most of the time, 54 percent say it occurs some of the time.
  • On the flip side, conservative Republicans are more inclined to say climate research findings are influenced by scientists’ desire to advance their careers (57 percent) or their own political leanings (54 percent) most of the time. Small minorities of liberal Democrats say either influence occurs most of the time (16 percent and 11 percent, respectively).”

The differences between political parties may be large on the above issues, however, most Americans, putting aside party affiliation, believe that climate scientists should have a say in policy decisions regarding climate change.

“69 percent among moderate or liberal Republicans and 48 percent of conservative Republicans say climate scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to the climate,” Funk and Kennedy said.

A large portion of this study looks at the gap between republicans and democrats over what can be done to lessen the effect humans have on the climate.

  •             “Power plant emission restrictions − 76 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 29 percent of conservative Republicans say the same, a difference of 47-percentage points.
  • An international agreement to limit carbon emissions − 71 percent of liberal Democrats and 27 percent of conservative Republicans say this can make a big difference, a gap of 44-percentage points.
  • Tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks − 67 percent of liberal Democrats and 27 percent of conservative Republicans say this can make a big difference, a 40-percentage-point divide.
  • Corporate tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce the “carbon footprint” from their activities − 67 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 23 percent of conservative Republicans agree for a difference of 44 percentage points.
  • More people driving hybrid and electric vehicles − 56 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 23 percent of conservative Republicans do, a difference of 33-percentage points.
  • People’s individual efforts to reduce their “carbon footprints” as they go about daily life − 52 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference compared with 21 percent of conservative Republicans, a difference of 31 percentage points.”
PEW Research Center

Six out of 10 liberal Democrats believe that climate change will directly damage the environment while two in 10 conservative Republicans do not.

Funk and Kennedy also note that “scientific literacy” does not affect either party’s opinions on climate change. The entire study can be found here.

In another Pew Research Center study from 2015 by Jacob Poushter, Canadians are more concerned about climate change than Americans are.

According to a chart in the study, 84 percent of Canadians support limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while 69 percent of Americans support it. 73 percent of Canadians believe that people need to make lifestyle changes to help reduce human effects of climate change while 66 percent of Americans believe this. 56 percent of Canadians believe climate change is currently harming people while 41 percent of Americans believe this. 49 percent of Canadians believe that rich countries should do more to address climate change while 40 percent of Americans believe rich countries should do more. Perhaps the most important statistic in the chart is 51 percent of Canadians believe that climate change is a serious problem while only 45 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a serious problem. The low concern for climate change as a serious issue may prove alarming to some.

Poushter also notes in his study that “[d]espite the greater concern shown by Canadians on global warming, partisan divides on the issue follow a similar pattern in both countries.” The entire study can be found here.

Pew Research Center’s Richard Wike collected a series of data and charts showing the opinions of the world when it comes to climate change. One of the charts states that countries with higher levels of carbon emissions are less concerned with climate change.

In a less alarming chart, “Climate change is not seen as a distant threat. A global median of 51 percent say climate change is already harming people around the world, while another 28 percent believe it will do so in the next few years.” Latin America is the country that sees climate change as the biggest threat with 77 percent of people concerned about it effecting people today. Looking closer, 90 percent of Brazilians feel that climate change is currently harming people on Earth. The entire study can be found here.

In another study at Pew Research Center from December 2015 by Hani Zainulbhai, women are more concerned for climate change personally harming them than men. Women are also noted believing that climate change is a serious problem. In the U.S., women are 17 percent more likely to believe climate change is a serious problem. In Canada, women are 13 percent more likely to be concerned by climate change while in Australia, the gap is 12 percent.

As for climate change being personally harmful, “The gender disparity also occurs in views of personal harm caused by climate change. American women again differ the most from their male counterparts – 69 percent of women are concerned it will harm them personally, while fewer than half of men (48 percent) express this view. Women are more concerned than men in many of the other countries surveyed, including double-digit gender imbalances in Germany (+15 points) and Canada (+14),” Zainulbhai said. The entire study can be found here.

While all of these studies are different, they do hold one similar conclusion. Climate change is not being taken as seriously as it should be.

Local leader tells her story

 

Photo by Ashley Vedral

Oct. 16 marked the first of two days students from the University of South Florida would conduct interviews in Progress Village, Florida for WUSF, the school’s radio station.

Seated in a long, narrow room covered with art made by children, Linda Washington, President of the Progress Village Civic Council, spoke.

Washington told her own story.

She was born just outside of Tallahassee on Sept. 24, 1957, in a town called Quincy and moved to Progress Village in 1961. Washington still cherishes memories from her time there as a child.

Washington said one lady, the candy lady, had an impact on her life.  She remembed the candy lady vividly.

“Mrs. Washington was the candy lady that lived next door to me,” Washington said.  “It’s nice to have someone in the neighborhood that still provides those little sweets.”

The candy lady was a welcome sight because stores were few and far between Washington said.

“Having a candy lady next door to get a frozen cup or penny cookies, that was ideal,” Washington said.

Washington said that she was on only child for 16 years, so being able to go out in the community and play really met something to her.

Bad memories proved hard to recall but Washington shared her memory of the storm that tore through the village in the mid ’60s.

As she grew up, Washington had many ideas as to how her life would unfold.

” Well I thought was going to be a teacher for the longest because I used to play school in my bedroom,” Washington said.  “So I really thought that I was going to go to college and become a school teacher.”

Washington notes the happiest moment of her life was having her daughter. Before her daughter, she married and moved away from Progress Village, to Bloomingdale, Florida. Several years later, she and her daughter returned.

“You knew almost the entire community whether it was through church, school or just, you know, activities that took place in the community,” said Washington. “I was raising a daughter and I knew that I would have a support structure with my parents living in the community.”

Washington’s return to Progress Village occurred in a way that was almost too good to be true.  There was a home available.

“It was on a Christmas Eve,” Washington said.  “I’ll never forget it, and that’s what started the wheels rolling, like I’m going to move back to Progress Village.”

After returning to Progress Village, Washington began attending meetings for the civic council. She said she enjoyed going, as she wished to be a part of the community. Attending regularly earned her the spot of President.

“I started going to the civic council meetings, and at that time, Mr. Kemp was the president,” Washington said.  “And so, for the 2011 elections I was voted president of the civic council.”

Although she was hesitant to take on the position, because she was working full time, Washington accepted and has not looked back. Washington led the community after the storm of 2011.

“I never knew about storms like that,” Washington said.  “There was a lot of devastation, and it was all material things. No loss of life.”

Washington could recall what that storm was like.

“March of 2011, we had tornadoes that hit Progress Village, and that was a lot of damage to homes,” Washington said.  “I mean, it was pretty destructive because there were several tornadoes. It wasn’t just one that hit.”

In addition to making sure Progress Village recovers when tragedies occur, Washington also works to organize the town reunions.

“Every 10 years or so we have our reunion and that is unique in itself,” Washington said.  “This is a community reunion, where people come back and share in the memories of what it was like living in Progress Village, and that’s always fun.”

As a leader of Progress Village, Washington credits the former president of the civic council with teaching her to successfully carry out the role.

“I have to say that, our past president, Mr. Kemp has been very influential in my life,” Washington said.

US needs stricter rules for sand mining

 

The Earth is running low on sand and gravel. Photo courtesy of Ashley Vedral

Sand and gravel are mined all over the world and used to create concrete for the structures and streets humans take advantage of every day. Manufacturing concrete is not the only thing sand and gravel are mined for and because of the continuously rising demand for sand, the world is beginning to run out.

An article by David Owen for The New Yorker states a beach volleyball tournament held in Toronto imported 35 semitruck loads of sand. In addition to the reporters eyewitness account, he also cites a study done in March 2014 by the U.N. Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Global Environmental Alert Service regarding the fact that Earth is losing sand faster than the environment can naturally produce more.

“Globally, between 47 and 59 billion tons of material is mined every year, of which sand and gravel … account for both the largest share (from 68-85 percent) and the fastest extraction increase,” the UNEP study said. “Surprisingly, although more sand and gravel are mined than any other material, reliable data on their extraction in certain developed countries are available only for recent years. The absence of global data on aggregates mining makes environmental assessment very difficult and has contributed to the lack of awareness about this issue.”

The world’s demand for sand and gravel in construction projects is rising as humans construct roads and buildings while working to replenishing shorelines. Alone, China constructed approximately 90,968 miles of roadways in 2013.

“[C]ement demand by China has increased exponentially by 437.5 percent in 20 years, while use in the rest of the world increased by 59.8 percent. Each Chinese citizen is currently using 6.6 times more cement than a U.S. citizen,” the UNEP study said.

The study goes on to note that sand, once mined and extracted from land quarries, riverbeds and streams is now mined and extracted from the ocean and coastlands. Resources from inland areas are declining due to the over mining.

However, sand is still extracted from these areas. This is due in part to the lack of legislation regarding mining of sand and gravel. What follows is an excerpt from ThreeIssues.sdsu.edu which states U.S. law.

“Sandmining from streambeds in the U.S. is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, Chapter 26, Subchapter IV, Section 1344: Permits for dredged or fill material),” it said. “Under this legislation, the government is authorized to deny or restrict the specification of any defined area as a disposal site, whenever it is determined, after notice and opportunity for public hearings, that the discharge of dredged or fill materials into such area will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.”

The entirety of the law can be found here. The law shows that the U.S. is able to issue permits, however, there is no definite law stating punishment for over mining or making any areas illegal to mine from.

Another reason sand is still extracted from areas that are beginning to run low is that certain projects require specific types of sand and gravel.

“For concrete, in-stream gravel requires less processing and produces high-quality material, while marine aggregate needs to be thoroughly washed to remove salt,” the UNEP study said. “If the sodium is not removed from marine aggregate, a structure built with it might collapse after few decades due to corrosion of its metal structures. Most sand from deserts cannot be used for concrete and land reclaiming, as the wind erosion process forms round grains that do not bind well.”

If more strict laws are not put in place around the world, it is possible the Earth could run out of sand in the future. UNEP suggests that a lack of monitoring and regulating leads to over mining and a great deal of damage to the environment.

Over mining of sand and gravel is also drastically affecting marine life.

“The mining of aggregates in rivers has led to severe damage to river basins, including pollution and changes in levels of pH,” the UNEP study said. “Removing sediment from rivers causes the river to cut its channel through the bed of the valley floor (or channel incision) both upstream and downstream of the extraction site. This leads to coarsening of bed material and lateral channel instability. It can change the riverbed itself.”

Although this issue is one that is not widely known, it is staring to garner attention as popular news sites report on it.

The New Yorker

New York Post

Smithsonian

NPR

New York Times

Tom Scott via YouTube

The entirety of the  UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service’s study can be found here.

Military sonar disrupts whales

Bardock, Wal Cuviera, CC BY 3.0

 

It is no secret that everyday human activity is continuously destroying the Earth’s environment and atmosphere.

A recent study suggests that carbon emissions and disposed trash in the oceans, among other prominent forms of pollution, are not the only factors contributing to environmental peril; something unexpected is now harming animals in the ocean.

In a study conducted by Erin A. Falcone et al. and published by Royal Society Publishing, it is shown that mid-frequency sonar used by the military to track submarines is beginning to negatively affect Cuvier’s beaked whales. The scientists tagged and studied 16 whales off the coast of Southern California and noticed this species of whale will beach themselves when they come in contact with these mid-frequency sonars. Upon further study of the beached whales, scientists discovered what resembled decompression sickness. This discovery is groundbreaking, as it was believed that decompression sickness — more commonly known as the bends — was not possible in marine mammals.

According to the study, scientists had a difficult time researching these whales due to the amount of information that is unknown about them. They have not been observed much over the years, and their basic behavior was relatively undocumented prior to the beginning of the studies regarding the beaching of these whales due to sonar contact. Cuvier’s beaked whales are known “to perform a stereotypic [sic] pattern of deep, foraging dives separated by a series of shallower, non-foraging dives,” per the study. Two specific whales were tagged for controlled exposure, and upon exposure to the mid-frequency sonars, the whales were observed to completely change their behavior. At times, they stopped foraging mid dive. On other occasions, the whales would dive deeper and longer than normal and rush back to the surface too quickly. The whales, in some instances, were known to stop diving completely. One rare occasion showed a whale completely unaffected by the sonar; however, this whale was farther out of the sonar’s range.

After compiling the data regarding deeper dives made by the whales post-contact with the mid-frequency sonars, these were the results.

“Deep dives became longer as the distance to the nearest mid-power MFAS decreased. Using the Complete dataset [sic], the mean deep dive duration was predicted to increase with proximity to mid-power MFAS from approximately 60 min to approximately 90 min beginning at around 40 km. The SOAR dataset [sic] predicted that the mean deep dive duration returned to MFAS-free levels by approximately 20 km, after increasing to approximately 107 min with mid-power MFAS at approximately 5 km. The second-ranked models added distance to the nearest high-power source, with a comparable AIC weight for the Complete dataset [sic] (0.224) but a weight roughly half that of the best model in the SOAR dataset [sic].”

The study also showed data about length of surface intervals as well.

“Surface intervals tended to be longer, but also more variable in duration, during either type of MFAS use. This effect was most apparent on SOAR, where predicted surface time during confirmed MFAS-free periods was brief and constrained to a very narrow interval, relative to both periods with MFAS use on SOAR and periods with no reported MFAS use in the Complete dataset [sic].”

The study concluded the sonar is — in fact — the cause of the behavioral changes in Cuvier’s beaked whales. Although high frequency sonar was tested as well, the mid-frequency sonar showed higher levels of response. The full study can be found here.

Earth’s extinction history could be repeating

 

During the 4.54 billion years Earth has existed, five mass extinction events have occurred. According to scientists, a sixth mass extinction may possibly begin in fewer than 100 years.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Daniel Rothman, after studying the carbon cycle and 31 extinction events from the previous 542 million yeas for some time, has noticed alarming parallels between the present and the Permian-Triassic extinction event that took place about 252 million years ago. This event is nicknamed “The Great Dying” due to a loss of 96 percent of the species on Earth. Per World Atlas, this catastrophic happening was triggered by a volcanic eruption that emitted so much carbon dioxide that it triggered extreme global warming and causing the acidity level of the oceans to rise.

The next mass extinction will be called the Holocene extinction if and when it occurs. This would be the first time carbon will once again be a factor in the extinction process.

The Ordovician-Silurian extinction occurred 439 million years ago and caused an 86 percent loss of life. The event was triggered by falling sea levels and the formation of glaciers. The extensive vegetation caused an extreme lack of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating the glaciers. The Late Devonian extinction wiped out around 75 percent of the species on Earth about 364 million years ago. Plants on Earth during this time littered the oceans with nutrients, creating massive algal blooms and causing a lack of oxygen in the oceans. The next mass extinction has been mentioned previously; the Permian-Triassic extinction from 251 million years ago. The Triassic-Jurassic extinction from 214 million years ago was caused by asteroid impacts and global climate change. The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction from 65 million years ago was caused by volcanic eruptions and asteroid impact – all according to World Atlas.

Scientists started wondering how soon it could happen again since these mass extinctions are relatively common in Earth’s history.

The critical level for carbon in the oceans is 310 gigatons and, according to Rothman, humans have the possibility of adding anywhere from 300 to 500 gigatons of carbon to the oceans by the beginning of the next century. By the time the year 2100 rolls around, the carbon cycle will have bypassed the critical threshold. Despite this, it could take up to 10,000 years for an actual extinction level event to happen. The number of years is determined by the time it takes for the carbon cycle to reset after it has been imbalanced. At current rates, this process usually takes around 10,000 years. According to Rothman and MIT, “the critical threshold is no longer tied to the rate at which carbon is added to the oceans but instead to the carbon’s total mass. Both scenarios would leave an excess of carbon circulating through the oceans and atmosphere, likely resulting in global warming and ocean acidification.”

As The Sun reporter Jasper Hamill states, humans have created 1,540 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

“This is not saying disaster occurs the next day. It’s saying, if left unchecked, the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable and would behave in a way that would be difficult to predict. In the past this type of behavior is associated with mass extinction,” Rothman said to Hamill.

According to IFLScience, biodiversity on Earth is the highest it has ever been and the next event will bring about unknown consequences.

Melting of permafrost awakens fears of ancient diseases

As the Earth’s temperature begins to rise, not only are the ice caps melting, but the permafrost is melting as well. As this thick, usually frozen layer of soil begins to melt, rumors start to surface regarding ancient and, in some cases, unknown diseases resurfacing and posing potential threats to mankind. However, many of these rumors are false.

As Jasmine Fox-Skelly reports in BBC Earth, “scientists have discovered fragments of RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia.” They suspect that black plague and smallpox DNA fragments are also frozen in the permafrost. These disease fragments have been discovered in buried, frozen bodies of humans and animals alike.

In addition to these fragments, NASA scientists discovered and revived Carnobacterium pleistocene, a lactic acid bacteria, frozen since the era of woolly mammoths over 32,000 years ago.

While scientists are not too concerned, the possibility that dormant plague and small pox viruses could reawaken and spread across the globe has caught their attention.

“Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark,” Jean-Michel Claverie, microbiologist at the Aix-Marseille University in France said, per Jasmin Fox-Skelly at BBC. Yes, these viruses are concerning, but with modern medicine, including penicillin, they can be easily eradicated.

According to an article by Stephanie Pappas on Live Science, strains of the Zika virus — which has been of recent concern due to mosquitoes — have been discovered in the melting ponds and permafrost. Pappas also reviewed a 2014 study from the American Geophysical Union, which stated warmer climates could also cause outbreaks of Cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease, more so in areas with poor sanitation than others. Additionally, The Indiana Times suggests diseases like malaria and dengue fever will become more common with warmer climates; although, it is not made clear if these specific diseases are coming from the melting permafrost.

Business Insider adds to the list with the discovery of Mollivirus sibericum, from the Siberian permafrost. While it is unclear exactly how this virus affects humans, it is a massive virus, containing 500 genes, causing it to be placed in a category known as Megaviridae, according to Ancient Origins website. The website further reports the discovery of Pithovirus sibericum and Pandoravirus (more large, ancient viruses discovered in 2003), also from Siberia’s permafrost. Erin Brodwin and Lydia Ramsey of Business Insider report a 2005 discovery of Mimivirus in the melting Russian permafrost, which is a virus with 1,200 genes that is twice the length of the viruses infecting the population today. Fox-Skelly notes that tetnaus and pathogens that cause botulism can survive in the frozen ground as well.

These viruses seem intimidating and will require further studying to determine their threat to humans and animals, but they are not the main concern. A reindeer with anthrax died over 75 years ago, became frozen under the soil, and released the disease in 2016 when it thawed and infected about 20 people and killed a young boy in the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle. Bacteria and viruses are normally not able to survive away from a host for too long; however, the dark, frozen, oxygen deprived permafrost creates the perfect environment for these bacteria to survive.

As the ice continues to thaw, it is possible for more ancient viruses and bacteria to be rediscovered; scientists fear that this will only be the beginning. It is entirely possible for many ancient diseases to “rise from the dead” and infect the living.

Hyperactive Hurricane Season

NASA (GOES) Satellite Image

The 2017 hurricane season is the most active since 2005. Seven hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma and Maria have ripped through areas such as Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, devastating a countless number of people and leaving behind many questions regarding the relationship between global warming and hurricanes.

“While there is no clear evidence of an increased number of hurricanes in a warmer world, there is evidence that the hurricanes are becoming more intense,” Jennifer Collins, Associate Professor in the School of Geosciences at USF, said, “studies have also noted that in a warmer environment, we should see more storms which undergo rapid intensification. We have seen such rapid intensification with Hurricane Wilma, Rita, Katrina, Patricia, Harvey to name a few.”

Alexis Black, Environmental Specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and recent USF graduate shares a similar thought regarding the relationship between the two.

“[C]limate change, in context of the 2017 hurricane season, has created conditions conducive to increasing storm intensity since atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are warmer than in the past. Hurricanes feed of warm weather to form, and climate change is allowing hurricanes to form and migrate through the Atlantic and our region with increased intensity,” Black said.

Research from NASA’s Earth Observatory also acknowledged the connection between rising temperatures and hurricane strength, stating that a more humid environment creates a possibility for the development of stronger hurricanes while also saying that global temperature increase will decrease the overall number of storms that form. Fewer storms with higher intensities have the potential to cause immeasurable amounts of damage to tropical coastlines.

Regarding the current hurricane season, which comes to an official end on November 30, there have been several storms ranked Category 4 or stronger. Two of these storms classified as Category 5. This uncommon occurrence is not the only record that was updated this season.

“It is certainly uncommon – this is only the 6th time it has ever happened. This is also the first year that has seen two Atlantic storms make landfall in the continental United States as a Category 4 (Harvey, Irma) in the known record dating back to 1851,” Collins said, ” it is the first hyperactive season since 2010.”

Unfortunately, this hurricane season has not yet officially ended.

“We are only just past the peak of the season and still in the peak hurricane season … so there is still plenty of opportunity for another Category 5 to occur this season,” Collins said, “we need the right ingredients to be present in the Atlantic, such as warm sea surface temperatures, low vertical wind shear and high humidity.  These conditions are present quite frequently in some places of the Atlantic.”

It is widely known that the current president and his administration are not in favor of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change and have even threatened to back out of the agreement if the carbon emissions pact is not altered, per CNN White House Producer, Kevin Liptak.

“I think it is a huge deterrent to making progress on fighting climate change. The United States is one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, and thus would substantially impact the globe’s progress to fight climate change if it diminishes its emissions. This is an international effort and requires participation from all to make a substantial impact in this fight. The current administration is putting the country in a situation where we will not be able to combat climate change independently or rely on other countries to combat climate change as an unit if it withdraws from this agreement,” Black said.

Due to steady increase in global temperature, looking ahead to future hurricane seasons is important.

“It is reasonable to believe that the 2018 hurricane season could be just the same or worse than the current hurricane season, due to the likelihood of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures remaining at or increasing from what they are now. But, in the end, no one can truly say what will happen when 2018 comes around since weather is unpredictable,” Black said.