Archive | January, 2014

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When is late, too late for climate change?

Posted on 20 January 2014 by Jerry

We must stop responding to climate change deniers.  They have had their say and the global scientific consensus rejects their positions.  If the overwhelming preponderance of data is not enough to convince them, we should stop listening to their protestations and assume many of them serve other motives.  It is time to move past them in order to take urgently needed action to save the livability of the planet.

The Nobel Prize winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world’s authority on climate change.  Its reports represent the collaboration of thousands of researchers, the world’s governments and various climate models at the world’s universities.  An early, leaked release of the IPCC’s 2014 final draft report cites the increase of warming on the planet as averaging 2.2% between 2000 and 2010.  That negatively compares to the 1.3% average from 1970 to 2000.

The report states that if the present rate of international foot dragging continues for the next 15 years, it may be too late to control global warming with existing technologies.  There is simply no existing technology that will enable the world to take enough greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere for storage underground.  We will have missed a sure solution to maintain the planet’s livability.

We must remember that climate change accentuates the highs and lows of weather.  The summers become hotter and the winters colder and wetter.  New weather records are being broken each year throwing more and more of the world into serious life threatening weather patterns.  These include the droughts around the world and the changing weather patterns that sent arctic air into North America to produce record breaking cold.

Evidence of global warming abounds. The combined average world temperature over land and the oceans in November of 2013 was a record highest temperature in 134 years. Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2013.  Russia had its warmest November (2013) since record keeping began in 1891.

Droughts declared “extreme” and “exceptional” covered more than half of the continental U. S. in 2012.  Our oceans are acidifying at an “unprecedented” rate and losing their capacity to take up atmospheric CO2.   This decreases their capability to moderate climate change.  Fresh drinking water scarcity has become a major worry the world over.

In the United States take California as an example.  The governor has just declared the state as in a severe drought emergency.  Enough snow has not fallen on the Sierra Nevada Mountains to produce sufficient water for the various areas of the state whose water supply depends on adequate snowmelt.  The state’s snowpack was 20% of the historical average normally experienced.  Lakes and reservoirs are at record lows.  The water level of Folsom Lake has become so low it is now revealing remnants of a Gold Rush ghost town on its dry lakebed.

California is called the ‘breadbasket’ of the world because of the quantity of food produced by its agricultural industry.  Farmers have already let fields go fallow in anticipation of a deepening crisis.  One report cites “an estimated 200,000 acres of prime agriculture land will go unplanted in Fresno County” this year alone.

But the world’s greatest contributors to climate change have done little to stop it.  Earlier articles on this blog have shown the United States is in a political gridlock that keeps the country only “nibbling” at the problem through the executive actions of President Obama.  Politics and climate deniers have effectively kept the world’s greatest polluter and country from providing the world with the leadership it sorely needs.

We must get beyond the pressures of negative forces to effectively use today’s technologies to stabilize the world’s climate.  We must reject the naysayers and treat their pronouncements as we have treated racist remarks.  Our society no longer tolerates racist comments to be spoken out loud.  This same societal pressure should be brought to bear on climate deniers.  The majority must weigh in hard now on this issue.

Use the following links to gain more information or access source documents used in this article. Access this site to see a complete copy of the IPCC draft report.  Unfortunately the accompanying commentary is from a climate change denier.  I would read the New Scientist article for a more balanced view.


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Genetic History: Some Have Made Their Mark

Posted on 15 January 2014 by Jerry

Genome sequencing is rapidly advancing our knowledge of genetic contributions to the human species.   Recent genetic studies indicate interbreeding between Africans who initially migrated around the world and made up the largest part of the modern human genome, with Neanderthals, Denisovans, and an as yet unknown branch of hominid that contributed to our genetic code.

This new knowledge is demonstrating the evolutionary tree of modern humans includes new ancestral groups.  We see their presence in our genetic code.  This is becoming readily apparent from largely mitochondrial DNA, as well as nuclear DNA, extracted from archeological sites widely distributed in Africa, Siberia, Northern Germany, and Eurasia.

A recent article in Nature shows a likely gene flow that puts the contribution of the unknown ancient population in perspective.  It is from a recent article in the January 2, 2014 issue of nature magazine by Ewan Birney and Jonathan K. Pritchard.  It contains a chart showing first the genetic input of an unknown archaic population was followed by the main human tree splitting into two, with modern Africans separated from Neanderthals and Denisovans and a later branching to two separate  directions for Neanderthals and Denisovans.

This article stated “One surprise was the first clear evidence for interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans; another was the discovery of a second type of archaic hominin in Eurasia in addition to Neanderthals.  This group has been dubbed Denisovans.”  Continuing, the article states, “Most provocatively, Prufer et al. find evidence for levels of gene flow into Denisovans of sequence that is different from that of any known group, implying that there is at least one more, so far undiscovered, archaic-hominin group.”

This new information suggests some unusual conclusions can be drawn.  We have dramatically expanded our abilities to extract genetic information from all sorts of ancient remains.  The genetic material used for these studies is from single individuals in the distant past in each population group.  It is clear their presence and existence is indelibly inscribed in our own genetic code.  This knowledge of them has survived the passage of time.  These individuals, who ever they were, have created a lasting impact.

Use the following links to obtain more information regarding this subject matter or to access the source documentation.


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