Communicating the Science and Human Significance of Climate Change

by Ellen Broaddus

Seidler and Stevenson (2017) review two books dealing with the psychological factors that impact the personal and societal undervaluing of humanity’s role in causing climate change and its effects on them. They stress that this is not a new issue: even in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized the need for a systemic change in energy production and consumption. Almost 30 years later, CO2 emissions have more than doubled, and it is still unclear whether current efforts such as the Paris Conference (COP) will lead to meaningful action.

The two books, What We Think About When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming and Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change suggest that our inaction is caused not by a data gap or lack of understanding of the risks but our “psychic habits, social dynamics, and ethical quirks”. In the first book, author Stoknes discussed the need for effective marketing. While studies show that “scary” emotional marketing tactic is successful among almost all audiences, Stoknes poses some important questions about the role of marketing and persuasion: is the societal denial of climate change a result of too few messages? What is the balance between sufficient advertisement and evoking denial and rationalization? Are we presenting enough range of marketing tactics to engage everyone? Continue reading

CO2 Impacts Tropical Forest Resistance to Climate Change

by Leta Ames

It is well known that fire can play a crucial role in the reproduction and development of plant populations. The availability of water and CO2 also impact plant growth, especially of larger species. It is believed that the interactions of climate, fire, and CO2 greatly influence the shift between savanna and tropical forest ecosystems and their permanence thereafter. Previous research has relied on data collected from intact tropical forests, but although useful, these data only provide a snapshot of the impact of CO2, fire, and climate on these ecosystems. To gain a better understanding of what factors influence tropical ecosystems Shanahan et al. (2016) used the concentrations of carbon and hydrogen stable isotopes from sedimentary leaf wax n-alkanes (δ13Cwax and δDwax) and the frequency of charcoal layers from sediment obtained from Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana to construct a history of changes in vegetation and hydrology, as well as to estimate the annual fire frequency. Continue reading

Comparing Measurements of GHG Emissions Between Conventional Brazilian Farms and Those with Sustainability Programs

by Grace Reckers

Greenhouse gasses (GHG) constitute a number of gasses (CO2 being the most prevalent) that are released from the earth’s surface and trap heat in the atmosphere. They have become of primary interest to many environmentalists because of their impacts on agriculture, human health, ecology, and other environmental systems. Countries across the world have committed to reducing GHG emissions due to general increased recognition of their detrimental effects. One such country, Brazil, aims for a 37% reduction of their 2005 emission values by 2025. As the second-largest producer of beef in the world, Brazil has acknowledged the notable fraction of GHG emissions derived from livestock production (18% of Brazil’s annual GHG) and the particular relation between the effects of cattle ranching and beef production on national emissions. Continue reading

Is Climate Change to Blame for the Rise in Shark Attacks?

by Alex McKenna

After the release of Jaws in 1975, people started thinking twice before getting in the water. Decades later, they still remember the stories, newspaper articles, and photographs of swimmers collapsed on the shore, covered in shark bites. But do they have reason to be concerned? Recent trends in climate change suggest that they actually do. Over the past 30 years, the frequency of unprovoked shark attacks has drastically increased, with the majority of bites being recorded in Florida, South Africa, Australia, and the Bahamas. While researchers argue that there are many reasons behind this influx, Dr. Blake Chapman, professor at Bond University in Australia, points to climate change as one of the principle explanations. He believes that rising temperatures, heavy rains, and anomalous weather patterns, all results of climate change, fundamentally alter marine ecosystems and are ultimately to blame for the recent spike in shark attacks. Continue reading

The Blind Side of Climate Change Economics

by Rachel Ashton Lim

How accurate are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) economic estimates of Climate Change-induced damage? A post-Paris agreement review of its Fifth Assessment Report (Stern, 2016) calls for an imperative revision to its economic model. The review’s main suggestion is for the social science to become better integrated with the natural sciences in order to accurately evaluate the economic consequences of Climate Change, which are direr than is currently estimated. However, the review also suggests that the benefits of transitioning to low-carbon growth are underestimated in the report and must be evaluated more holistically. Combined, these two factors will enable the public, private and non-profit sectors to make decisions that will drive the world into the net-zero carbon economy it must achieve within this century. Continue reading

Climate Change and Mass Migration

by Ethan Lewis

An African Independent writer from the Washington Post investigated the large scale issue of mass human migration stemmed from climate change. The writer met with ANM Muniruzaman, a Bangladesh Politician, who recently attended an international migration policy meeting and said “The international system is in a state of denial.” He then continued to say “If we want an orderly management of the coming crisis, we need to sit down now.” Displacement of humans due to climate change is already ongoing with natural disasters like droughts, floods, and storms. Saying exactly how many people will have to migrate in the future is difficult, but statistics from previous years can help form an estimate. Roughly 203 million people were displaced between 2008 and 2015 due to natural disasters. Continue reading

The Impacts of Climate Change on Children

by Ethan Kurz

When thinking about climate change, usually children do not come to mind. However, according to Rema Hanna and Paulina Oliva (2016), children in developing countries are an important aspect to remember when discussing climate change. Climate change is more dangerous to children in developing countries than in developed countries because of the developing countries’ limited social safety nets, extreme poverty, poor or no health care systems, and weak governments unable to help the poorest of the poor adapt to climate change. Children in developing countries already start off at a disadvantage, and climate change just increases the difficulty in raising a healthy and thriving child. Most of the population in developing countries relies on agriculture for income. With climate change and the resulting new extreme weather patterns, agriculture becomes even less reliable as an income source. A drought could cut off the chances of a child getting medical attention because the family cannot afford it. Children in developing countries also face greater risks of interaction with air or water pollutants. Because of the lack of a strong central government or regulation, children in developing countries have fewer things protecting them from airborne and waterborne contaminants. They also face threats from more parasitic diseases, plagues, and anything that can be contributed to changes in weather pattern or climate change. Continue reading