The Dam Continues to Crumble: Rate of Sea Level Rise Doubled or Tripled.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the rate of sea level rise between 1993 and 2012 was two or three times greater than before 1990. This appears to be partly due to a slight over-estimate in the rate of sea level rise prior to 1990, and partly due to the fact that higher temperatures mean more ice melt and faster thermal expansion.

As I’ve said before, it is inevitable that the waters will rise faster and faster as the planet gets hotter, and while the yearly increase in sea level is still a matter of a couple millimeters, it’s going to be a lot more pretty soon. You can read more on this from Chris Mooney at the Independent.

Rolling Dice on a Crumbling Dam: Running Out of Time to Prepare

As we look at what preparations need to be made for rising sea levels, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the pattern of sea level rise. Over the 20th century, it progressed at a fairly steady rate, and most of the rise was due to thermal expansion of water. The oceans absorbed a huge amount of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gas increase, and that’s what led to the few inches sea level we saw by the year 2000.

The 21st century is different. We’re now facing sea level rise due to melting ice on Greenland and Antarctica, and so the pattern of rise is likely to change. Of particular concern are the glaciers and ice shelves that are currently resting on the sea floor, held in place by the topography of the land underneath them.

As the warming waters get up under the ice sheets, there’s no clear prediction for when they’ll eat away enough ice to let the ice float free. When that happens, we could see a dramatic increase sea level – a foot or more per decade. [Read more…]

Choosing a way forward

The great tragedy of man-made global warming is that we knew it was coming, and we could have avoided it. Our changing climate is bringing with it a whole suite of other predictable problems that we should probably be preparing for, if we don’t want to screw them up as badly as we screwed up the climate. In particular, we need to be thinking about the second-layer problems – the ones caused by the immediate and obvious changes like sea level rise. [Read more…]

Climate teach-in videos from has released a couple good videos on climate science, and climate solutions. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should take a few minutes to watch them. I’ve requested transcripts for people who prefer not to watch videos, or who are unable to see or hear them, and I’ll update with those when I get them.


A Business-Friendly Government Is One That Invests In Research

Research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) contribute to a significant number of private-sector patents in biomedicine, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT professor.

The so-called “small government” politicians of the last few decades have a strong record of undermining or directly attacking science, research, and science education, often as part of their whole “shrink government to help everybody” mantra. It’s a line that seems to appeal to millions of Americans, whether conservative, moderate, or liberal, because on the surface of it, it seems to make sense. The government is discussed as a monolithic entity that takes our hard-earned money and wastes it on all sorts of bullshit, and like all the best lies, this one has a kernel of truth. Pretty much anyone can point to some example of government waste that pisses them off, so it’s easy to hear a bit of rhetoric about how bad the government is, match it to your own views, and agree. As usual, however, if we don’t look a little deeper, we can end up supporting policies that hurt everybody, including ourselves.

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Catastrophic convergence: drug resistance, climate change, and overpopulation

The 20th century saw a  number of failures that were potentially avoidable, and that all seem to be converging on the mid-late 21st century.

Image shows a petri dish with white lines of yeast growing in it.

From Washington Post – A strain of Candida auris in a petri dish

Aside from the many, many failures in the realms of war and economics, there are three big ones that worry me right now, and that I think will feed into each other in a horrific manner. The first, obviously, is climate change. The other two are overpopulation and drug resistance in diseases.


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Potentially electrifying development in battery technology

These days I’m a bit wary about new developments in renewable energy that have shown up in a lab. There are a lot of these that come out on a regular basis, and a vast majority of them have yet to actually be put to any practical use. They’re fun to check out, and it can be encouraging to see the things we could do, if we had a national effort to change our energy infrastructure, but it’s also frustrating, because it seems like most of these developments don’t really go anywhere, or if they are going somewhere, it’s not fast enough.

Another problem I have is that I don’t know enough about electronics, physics, and chemistry to make a concrete assessment of the practicality of any given technology, so I’ve gotten caught up in pipe dreams in the past. I don’t know which this is, but if it pans out, it’s a seriously big deal.

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Dancing on thin ice

In case you missed it, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced last week that Arctic sea ice had reached its annual winter maximum, and that was the lowest on record for the third year in a row. This is bad news, but we knew it was coming.

Over the years, I’ve found it necessary to remind people that the theory of human-caused climate change was a predictive one. We knew the temperature would rise decades before the rise was statistically significant. We knew that sea levels would rise too, and that ice would melt. We also knew that melting arctic ice would increase the amount of heat that the ocean absorbed, and lead to faster warming, and faster melting.

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