A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause, cancer, obesity, and depression, the troublesome triumvirate of industrialised society. One of the first people to notice this correlation, at least as it applies to cancer, is Richard Stevens, a professor at the University of Connecticut, respected cancer epidemiologist, and mild insomniac. In the early 1980s, Stevens and other researchers were beginning to realise there was little or no connection between diet and rising rates of breast cancer, contrary to what had been suspected. As Stevens puts it, it was like a light bulb going on when he realised that, in fact, a light bulb going on might be a culprit.
The world is not ready for climate change, which poses a number of serious risks, says the planet’s leading body of climate scientists.
On Monday morning in Yokohama, Japan, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major report on the impacts of climate change, with the goal of spurring world leaders to act more decisively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report warns of serious impacts from changing climate on agriculture and human civilization and argues that governments are ill prepared for its effects.
The hundreds of scientists who wrote the report argue that world leaders have only a few years left to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid catastrophic warming. At the same time, governments must step up efforts to protect vulnerable communities from increased natural hazards associated with climate change.
"Observed impacts of climate change are widespread and consequential," the scientists of the IPCC write in the report.
The new report show that "today's choices are going to significantly affect the risk that climate change will pose for the rest of the century," says Kelly Levin, a scientist who studies the impacts of climate change at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.
The polar icecaps are melting faster than we thought they would; seas are rising faster than we thought they would; extreme weather events are increasing. Have a nice day! That’s a less than scientifically rigorous summary of the findings of the Fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released this morning in Stockholm.
Appearing exhausted after a nearly two sleepless days fine-tuning the language of the report, co-chair Thomas Stocker called climate change “the greatest challenge of our time," adding that “each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than the past,” and that this trend is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned.
Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world.
Some impacts of climate change include a higher risk of flooding and changes to crop yields and water availability.
Humans may be able to adapt to some of these changes, but only within limits.
An example of an adaptation strategy would be the construction of sea walls and levees to protect against flooding. Another might be introducing more efficient irrigation for farmers in areas where water is scarce.
Natural systems are currently bearing the brunt of climatic changes, but a growing impact on humans is feared.
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
People in coastal regions of Asia, particularly those living in cities, could face some of the worst effects of global warming, climate experts will warn this week. Hundreds of millions of people are likely to lose their homes as flooding, famine and rising sea levels sweep the region, one of the most vulnerable on Earth to the impact of global warming, the UN states.
The report – Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – makes it clear that for the first half of this century countries such as the UK will avoid the worst impacts of climate change, triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. By contrast, people living in developing countries in low latitudes, particularly those along the coast of Asia, will suffer the most, especially those living in crowded cities.
A final draft of the report, seen by the Observer, will be debated by a panel of scientists set up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week at a meeting in Yokohama, Japan, and will form a key part of the IPCC's fifth assessment report on global warming, whose other sections will be published later this year.
The first and most striking way Tesla kills the dealer service department cash cow is downloads. As part of its sales pitch, Tesla says you should think of its Model S sedan as “an app on four wheels.” That may sound like vacuous Silicon Valley marketing copy, but the company isn’t just being metaphorical. Software is at the heart of what keeps Teslas running. These internet-connected cars are designed to self-diagnose their problems. The vehicles can also download software fixes or updates — even new features — much like an iPhone when Apple puts out a new version of iOS. When fixes happen over the air, there’s no need for a shop in the first place.
The ability to repair a car via software is especially important when the vehicle itself consists of so much new technology that traditional mechanics don’t know how to fix. The flip side is that without an internal combustion engine, there’s not as much to fix. I’ve written before that a Tesla without its outer shell looks like acell phone on wheels. It’s basically just a big battery. That means no spark plugs, no air filters, no fuel pumps, no timing belts. In short, Teslas don’t have any of the parts that force you to take your car in for “regularly scheduled maintenance” — services that can cost dearly at the dealer. But it’s hard to charge for an oil change when there’s no oil to be changed.
To be fair, Tesla isn’t doing away entirely with bringing your car in. The company recommends an inspection once a year or every 12,500 miles. Its service plans start at $600 per year* or less if you buy multiple years at once. The plans include replacement of standard parts like brake pads and windshield wipers. The company will monitor your car remotely and tell you when there are problems, such as faulty batteries. In theory, there are pitfalls in an arrangement where the company that makes your car is the only one that can fix it. But Tesla would seem to alleviate that concern with its flat-rate plans, rather than fee-for-service gouging for every fix. What’s more, the company says your warranty is still valid regardless of whether you get your car serviced at all.
THE HUMAN SPECIES IS, in a word, an environmental abnormality. It is possible that intelligence in the wrong kind of species was foreordained to be a fatal combination for the biosphere. Perhaps a law of evolution is that intelligence usually extinguishes itself.
This admittedly dour scenario is based on what can be termed the juggernaut theory of human nature, which holds that people are programmed by their genetic heritage to be so selfish, that a sense of global responsibility will come too late.
Individuals place themselves first, family second, tribe third and the rest of the world a distant fourth. Their genes also predispose them to plan ahead for one or two generations at most. They fret over the petty problems and conflicts of their daily lives and respond swiftly and often ferociously to slight challenges to their status and tribal security.
But oddly, as psychologists have discovered, people also tend to underestimate both the likelihood and impact of such natural disasters as major earthquakes and great storms.
The reason for this myopic fog, evolutionary biologists contend, is that it was actually advantageous during all but the last few millennia of the two million years of existence of the genus Homo.
The brain evolved into its present form during this long stretch of evolutionary time, during which people existed in small, preliterate hunter-gatherer bands. Life was precarious and short. A premium was placed on close attention to the near future and early reproduction, and little else.
In a world that produces more food than ever before, far too many people will still go to bed hungry tonight.
"Food security—hunger—is a huge problem," said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. "Almost a billion people are suffering from undernourishment. They simply don't have enough to eat.
"And more than two billion people are suffering from nutritional deficiencies, the lack of things like iron, zinc, and vitamin A. This 'hidden hunger' can cause great damage to people's health and to their productive lives because economic growth really suffers with undernourishment," said Fan.
When the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will be held in Brazil from June 20 to 22, Fan stressed, "poor people's access to food has to be at the center of the discussion."
Of course, the main sources of human food include farms and fisheries. But both of these sources are being exploited unsustainably.
Giant factory farms or “megafarms” are somewhat new to Asia, but rising meat and dairy product consumption in the region, coupled with rapid economic and industrial development, is changing the face of diet and animal agriculture in the East.
Yet for the first time, the IPCC is offering a glimmer of hope. It acknowledges that some of the changes will be beneficial – including higher crop yields in places like Canada, Europe and Central Asia – and that in others cases, people will be able to adapt to them.
“The really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change,” said Dr Chris Field, the global ecology director at the Carnegie Institution in Washington and a co-chairman of the report. “We have a lot of the tools for dealing effectively with it. We just need to be smart about it.
“Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried,” said Field. “Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation. This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.”
The time has come: the new IPCC report is here! After several years of work by over 800 scientists from around the world, and after days of extensive discussion at the IPCC plenary meeting in Stockholm, the Summary for Policymakers was formally adopted at 5 o’clock this morning. Congratulations to all the colleagues who were there and worked night shifts. The full text of the report will be available online beginning of next week.
We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. And it’s the 40-hour workweek that keeps us that way.
Last week New Jersey started enforcing a ban on direct sales by Tesla Motors of its path-breaking model S. Tesla’s direct sales have also run into hot water in a number of other states: Ohio lawmakers are debating a ban on Tesla’s direct sales and Texas, Arizona, and Virginia are also opposed. Proponents of a ban on direct sales claim that they are acting in the interest of customers. But is it the interests of customers they’re following or rather the bidding of the powerful car dealership lobby?
That same prince later described an area outside the southern city of Shiraz where hundreds of men hunted day and night. “The mountain is so rich in wildlife,” he wrote in his memoirs, “that if the numbers of hunters were ten times over, there would still be enough game animals for everybody. We stayed here for two months and when we were leaving, the number of animals was still the same.”
“Statements like these,” Kahrom told his audiences, “prove that the Qajar hunters never set out to eradicate entire species of wild animals. In fact, they hoped to hunt forever. They considered natural resources such as wildlife and forests to be renewable resources that simply could not be exterminated by man. But all the species they prized are now rare, or threatened, or extinct: the mighty lion, the Caspian tiger, the Iranian wild ass, gazelles, big-horned mountain sheep, leopards, and the cheetah.”
“Yes, the cheetah,” he says, passing a plate of figs. The walls of his home near Tehran’s Islamic Azad University, where he teaches, are trimmed with ornate molding and hung with brass wall sconces and chandeliers. Small Persian rugs cover the hardwood floors. The brick fireplace is flanked by paintings of migrating cranes and the endangered red- breasted goose that winters in Miankaleh. Above the mantle, a nineteenth-century Tabriz tapestry declares in graceful Farsi calligraphy that God is the greatest protector of all.
The city of Hong Kong is like the mythical Janus, the god who supposedly guarded ancient Roman doors: it has two faces. On the one hand, you have the rich, cosmopolitan city which never sleeps, and on the other hand the metropolis of the poor, with its old, lousy buildings. The two worlds live side by side, hugging each other in a maze of skyscrapers and crappy edifices
To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn't the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren't specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.
At first, the evidence against this revisionist interpretation will strike twentieth century Americans as irrefutable. We're better off in almost every respect than people of the Middle Ages, who in turn had it easier than cavemen, who in turn were better off than apes. Just count our advantages. We enjoy the most abundant and varied foods, the best tools and material goods, some of the longest and healthiest lives, in history. Most of us are safe from starvation and predators. We get our energy from oil and machines, not from our sweat. What neo-Luddite among us would trade his life for that of a medieval peasant, a caveman, or an ape?
For most of our history we supported ourselves by hunting and
gathering: we hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants. It's a life that philosophers have traditionally regarded as nasty, brutish, and short. Since no food is grown and little is stored, there is (in this view) no respite from the struggle that starts anew each day to find wild foods and avoid starving. Our escape from this misery was facilitated only 10,000 years ago, when in different parts of the world people began to domesticate plants and animals. The agricultural revolution spread until today it's nearly universal and few tribes of hunter-gatherers survive.
From the progressivist perspective on which I was brought up, to ask "Why did almost all our hunter-gatherer ancestors adopt agriculture?" is silly. Of course they adopted it because agriculture is an efficient way to get more food for less work. Planted crops yield far more tons per acre than roots and berries. Just imagine a band of savages, exhausted from searching for nuts or chasing wild animals, suddenly grazing for the first time at a fruit-laden orchard or a pasture full of sheep. How many milliseconds do you think it would take them to appreciate the advantages of agriculture?