Archive for November, 2012

November 18, 2012

Carbon Dioxide Mountains and A “Convenient Excuse”

A few links for your celebratory Harvard Yale weekend!

Making the invisible visible: A remarkable video from Carbon Visuals and the Environmental Defense Fund showcasing how much carbon dioxide we actually emit into the atmosphere (using New York City as a model).

As described in the blurb, NYC added 54 million metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in 2010… almost 2 tons every second. But emissions are transparent, so we never saw that happen. These video producers decided to make the staggering statistics feel slightly more real – again, you can check it out here.

No more coffee?

Climate change might mean saying goodbye to your morning cup of joe.

A Convenient Excuse: One of the best pieces I have read thus far this year on climate change and the media is Wen Stephenson’s “A Convenient Excuse” recently published in the Phoenix. Please do yourself a favor and check this out- it is extremely well-written and really exposes what is so urgently amiss with the status quo of mainstream media environmental coverage.

Stephenson also shares the basic math worth knowing about climate change:

• Two degrees Celsius: the amount, according to international consensus, that we can raise the global average temperature above preindustrial levels and still maintain a so-called “safe” climate, beyond which all bets are off. “Safe,” of course, depends on where you live. We’ve already raised it almost one degree, with disastrous results; if you live in Africa, or Kiribati, one degree is too much.

• 565 gigatons: the amount of CO2 scientists agree we can still pump into the atmosphere and hope to remain below the two-degree threshold.

• 2795 gigatons: the amount of CO2 contained in the world’s proven fossil-fuel reserves, which the fossil-fuel industry shows every intention of extracting and burning.”

Again, you can find the article here.


November 11, 2012

It’s All About the Story

Effective communication is a topic that we bat around quite frequently in REP meetings… if you can flip someone’s perspective or tell an effective story, you can create that illusive, “message stickiness” that every communicator, educator, or campaigner yearns for.

I quite liked this ad from the Rainforest Alliance, and it would be neat to break down exactly what makes this an entertaining and engaging advertisement. I think it’s pretty memorable, but what are your thoughts?


November 10, 2012

Hi readers,

A few interesting links for your long weekend!

Did Obama mess up when he talked about climate change? It is important to be aware of the rhetoric we use to describe global warming and how cautious we need to be so that it doesn’t backfire. When Obama mentioned that “climate change is not a hoax” at the September Democratic convention, he may have unintentionally generated the “illusion of truth effect.” Essentially, the theory is that the more often we hear an idea, the greater credibility we give it… even when it’s presented as a “false claim.” Go with the affirmation, psychologists tell us, over any repetition of the myth.

From the piece: “Although we regularly process negations accurately, the risk of miscommunication is higher than it is for affirmative statements like “climate change is a real problem” because negations require more work. They have been shown to slow response times and lower reading comprehension.

“When discourse of any kind becomes more complicated, including when it contains negation or embedded clauses or passive voice, more working memory resources are necessary to process the information,” said Sara Margolin, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Brockport.”
Psychologist Ruth Mayo has also done research that “shows that negations can backfire when they lack what she calls “an alternative affirmative schema.” The negation “John is not smart,” for example, has a direct affirmative translation in “John is stupid.” By contrast, “John is not romantic,” does not have a clear affirmative counterpart, so the recipient of the message is stuck with associations related to romance and must remember to negate them. “For me, ‘hoax’ doesn’t have an opposite that could serve as an alternative affirmative schema,” Mayo said. “If the alternative doesn’t pop into our mind easily, then I think it’s problematic.”

More climate mind games

What is the future of geothermal designs?

Can the Maya’s collapse be attributed to climate change?

The tragic tale of rising bird deaths and glass buildings in cities is a reminder of how important it is to think beyond the intended consequences of the planned environment.

Time Magazine interviews Barbara Kingsolver about her new novel Flight Behavior and the topic of climate change. 

How to build affordable and sustainable homes.

November 5, 2012

Links for Your Monday!

Hi dear readers,

We apologize for our recent silence over the airwaves, so to speak, but we have a few links for you today to start your week on a climate-conscious note.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our thoughts remain with the families and victims affected by the storm. Sandy has sparked a larger discussion about severe storms and the possible linkage to climate change, so we thought we’d examine how global warming has finally re-emerged in the public sphere.

The elephant in the room arguably started trumpeting when New York mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama post-Sandy (although whether Obama has taken sufficient action to address climate change is another question altogether). You can read the Bloomberg Business Week piece here.

Although it’s difficult to determine whether Sandy can fairly be attributed to climate change, it is true that warmer ocean temperatures and sea level rise will increase coastal flooding . The Scientific American does a great job laying out a basic explanation of the atmospheric dynamics on their blog.

As senior editor Mark Fischetti puts it,

“Here’s where climate change comes in. The atmospheric pattern that sent the Jet Stream south is colloquially known as a “blocking high”—a big pressure center stuck over the very northern Atlantic Ocean and southern Arctic Ocean. And what led to that? A climate phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—essentially, the state of atmospheric pressure in that region. This state can be positive or negative, and it had changed from positive to negative two weeks before Sandy arrived. The climate kicker? Recent research by Charles Greene at Cornell University and other climate scientists has shown that as more Arctic sea ice melts in the summer—because of global warming—the NAO is more likely  to be negative during the autumn and winter. A negative NAO makes the Jet Stream more likely to move in a big, wavy pattern across the U.S., Canada and the Atlantic, causing the kind of big southward dip that occurred during Sandy.

Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us. These changes contribute to all sorts of extreme weather.”  (You can read the entire blog post here).

Meanwhile, Sandy has also contributed to environmental toxins that influence water contamination and hazardous exposure to raw sewage.

What do you think about Hurricane Sandy and the possible connections to climate change? Do you think it will significantly change the conversation on climate change in the long-term?