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Yesterday was Earth Day, and around the world scientists were protesting
On Earth Day yesterday, hundreds of thousands of scientists representing hundreds of universities, scientific organisations and disciplines took to the streets in over 600 locations across all continents bar Antarctica. This was an unprecedented outpouring from what are usually a pretty staid lot, who prefer to work quietly within their own specialist communities.
The March for Science occurred against a background of widespread rises in pseudo-science (or "alternative facts"), preferring beliefs over facts, disparagement of expertise, reduction in funding, apathy and, in some cases such as the Trump Administration, outright hostility. Scientists worry not just for the future of science itself but for the future of an increasingly threatened planet and its human population. The March's mission, from its official website is to act as:
"the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments….The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest."
Of the dozens of media articles and blogs I have read about the need for a March, none summarises it better than a short video by eminent American scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson. If you do nothing else today, take four minutes to watch it.
- For detailed reasons why two high-profile meteorologists marched yesterday (and a good map showing the extent of the Marches), read Jeff Masters' and Bob Henson's blog.
- For the opposing view, held by some in the scientific community, that the March is a bad idea, read Cliff Mass's blog for the reasons.
- For an impartial account of the day, read the story in The Guardian or this one from Reuters (with extensive video).
- For the perspective from Australia, where marches were held in twelve cities, ABC's AM program interviewed former Liberal leader John Hewson before the marches while The Guardian got the usual candid views of Barry Jones, former Labor Science Minister.
- For a particularly perceptive view of "the war on science", the views of retired US Navy Rear Admiral David Titley, once a climate change skeptic, are worth reading. He explains why it puts us all at risk to National Geographic, with a particular emphasis on sea-level rise.
- And for an earthy editorial on why we have "something Trump, conservatives and fools can win — the war on science", this piece from Colorado's Aurora Sentinel is enjoyable, if the truth it betrays is worrying.
And while on climate
- In what seems to be becoming a routine, the earth just passed its next round-number milestone. The heat-trapping carbon dioxide level measurement at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory on 18 April exceeded 410 parts per million for the first time, less than two years after it exceeded 400ppm continuously in September 2016. The first time it exceeded 400ppm was in mid-May 2013, but seasonal and other fluctuations mean that it takes time to stabilise.
- Another article from Climate Central gives a new perspective on the increasing warmth of the planet. The rather nifty infographic shows there hasn't been a month cooler than the 1881-1910 baseline average for 628 months. There hasn't been a cooler than average month for the globe since December 1964.
- And just as the carbon dioxide level is accelerating upwards, so are temperatures. This NASA graph from Weather Underground shows the monthly temperature anomalies, compared to a 1980-2015 baseline. Notice how the lines for 2016 and 2017 stand well above those for all other years since 1880. 2016 was partly exacerbated by a strong El Niño; 2017 is not.