America in peril

The American West is once again on fire.

Huge blazes in California have destroyed over 1,500 homes and killed at least eight people, with others raging in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. Overall, fires burn twice as many acres today as 30 years ago.

Wildfires are also raging across Europe, with fires 43 percent above average. At least 70 people in Greece have been killed and hundreds more were temporarily driven into the sea, while Sweden has asked for help with its own infernos.

This is just a tiny taste of our coming future if climate change is not halted. Murderous heat waves, drought, vast wildfires, super-powerful storms, floods, and sea level rise will lay waste to great swathes of the American landscape and built infrastructure. It is unquestionably the greatest threat to the nation.

As usual, one cannot say that these particular fires are unquestionably the fault of increased global temperatures, because that’s not how climate change works. Instead, warming increases the background likelihood of extreme weather events. Global climate models predict that a warmer future will make those extreme events — just exactly the kind of thing we are seeing today — more frequent. Statistical collections are ratifying those predictions, proving beyond question that rising sea levels and heat waves are on the increase, while rarer events like extreme hurricanes are still being tabulated (but initial science is coming in as expected).

But basically, the simple intuition that extreme weather is getting worse while warming keeps increasing, and will keep getting worse if the world keeps warming, is certainly correct. Don’t let duplicitous climate trolls trip you up on this point.

Conservatives (when they aren’t denying climate science altogether) portray climate policy as some expensive hippie nonsense that will allow China to …read more

Source:: The Week – Science


The great Chinese dinosaur boom

Not long ago in northeastern China, I found myself being driven in a Mercedes-Benz SUV down a winding country road, trailed by a small motorcade of local dignitaries, past flat-roofed brick farmhouses and fields full of stubbled cornstalks. Abruptly, we arrived at our destination, and my guide, Fangfang, slipped out of her high heels into fieldwork gear: pink sneakers with bright blue pom-poms on the Velcro straps.

We were visiting a dinosaur dig, but there was also a museum under construction — steel beams riveted together to form layers, stacked one atop another, climbing a hillside in two parallel rows. The two wings connected by a central pavilion looked like a bird about to take off. The new museum — its name roughly translates as Liaoning Beipiao Sihetun Ancient Fossils Museum — is due to open sometime in 2019. It was unmistakably huge. It was also expensive (Fangfang estimated $28 million for construction alone). And it was in the middle of nowhere.

We were in a rural village called Sihetun, about 250 miles northeast of Beijing. In the exuberant fashion of a lot of modern development in China, the new structure is going up in anticipation of visitors arriving by speed train from the capital, except that the speed train network hasn’t been built yet. The new museum is located at an epicenter of modern paleontological discovery, an area that is at least as rich in fossils, and in some ways as wild, as the American West during the great era of dinosaur discovery in the late 19th century.

In the mid-1990s, on that hillside in Sihetun, a farmer stumbled onto the world’s first known feathered dinosaur, a creature now named Sinosauropteryx (“the China dragon bird”). Actually, the farmer found two halves of a slab, each preserving a mirror image of this …read more

Source:: The Week – Science


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