Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Transparency is convincing

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Climate NYC’s post raises some good points. The skeptics who question climate change are probably in the minority in today’s trendy world (although perhaps that is just my opinion because I’m a geography and environment major). Although these opinions are for the most part unhelpful exaggerations, the use and necessity of the skeptic is undeniable. Without the skeptics politicians and others would be able to convince the public of anything. Al Gore exaggerates in the film An Inconvenient Truth and it hurts his reputation. Skeptics call him out on this and bring his study back down to earth.

The initial predictions that the IPCC reported were not very accurate. Their climate models did not do a successful job at predicting the impacts and rise in CO2; in fact the IPCC’s climate models underestimated these variables. That being said, the public does not want vague estimates. The public wants precise numbers. The IPCC therefore feels compelled to provide the public with quantitative information that may potentially break bad habits.

More recently, as shown by Climate NYC, the IPCC offers multiple climate change scenarios. Not only do they provide the graphs shown below, but they also show future estimates regarding temperature rise using different levels of CO2 reduction. These methods of visualizing error and uncertainty have a positive impact on the public. The transparency of these reports counteract the skeptics’ critiques benefit the research of the IPCC more than if they chose to exaggerate as a scare tactic.

Although perhaps not necessary in all academic reports, it would be interesting to see more visualization of error and uncertainty. Granted, some error and uncertainty cannot be quantified, rather more qualitatively listed, but it gives me the impression of a more honest report.



“The rate of change has never been that fast before” – Dr. Bell

Monday, September 15th, 2008

If you like listening seminars with funny but high-quality speakers in a little and pretty mysterious auditorium, September 11th 2008 at 6 pm in the Redpath museum auditorium was one of those nights.  Dr. Graham Bell is a world-renowned scientific experimental evolutionist and evolutionary ecologist at McGill University and his seminar was a really nice example of a combination of his scientific work and the new global issue; Climate change.  He made a funnel effect to his presentation by introducing large biological concepts and finishing with really precise questions related to his laboratory work.  Before letting people leaving the auditorium, he also clearly identified how this global event may alter biological communities.

In front of packed audience and after his introduction by the chairman, Dr Bell did not wait too much time and jumped feet first in the great word of biology by describing simple biological concepts.  The first one was how species reacts when facing to environmental stressors.  Some species migrate, some adapt and others.  A simple example of how science works.  Water fleas have been introduced as an example of species who adapt (change body shape) themselves in presence of predators.  The second response suggested was migration and explained that plant evidences are obtained through the pollen record.  The last type of response is extinction.  Dr. Bell gave all kinds of example.  He explained that fossil records are abundant and proved most of the extinction currently known.  Mammoths, Moa, Thyadacine, Giant Beaver, Giant Ground Sloth, River dolphin are all extinct species mostly gone by human pressure.  Suddenly, a huge and cold wave of exasperation has hit the auditorium and people have changed their smile to a much more exasperate face.  Dr. Bell tried to rescue the audience by throwing a life buoy called “rapid evolution”.  He has secured the crowd by suggesting famous evolutionary experiences like the two variations of moth type (black and white) in Great Britain and a weed (Vicia sativa) that has been continuously been harvested with regular crops and the plant has evolved in a way that its seeds is no longer identical to the wild type but resemble more to the seed of the crops.

Everyone was then ready to receive the second cold wave of the presentation.  Climate change is the biggest challenge of the human history because it does not affect one species at a time but the entire community.  This is the biggest change that human are facing today because it introduces three type of complications. 

1) How biodiversity will react?

2) How the complexity of an ecosystem will evolve?

3) What will be the species evolutionary change?  


After explaining global issues, he introduced his research to explain how CO2 can drive the evolutionary response to algae.  He found that algae can evolve rapidly.  At high CO2 level,  algea had higher rate of respiration and photosynthesis.  They had also an higher chlorophyll content but reduce in size.  However, these cells were not able to survive when CO2 level went back to normal concentration.  Even if some species are able of rapid evolution, Dr Bell insisted that most of the species are not able to evolve at a fast rate and concluded that the rate of change has never been that fast before.  

Finally Dr. Bell has clearly well identified the type of audience he had in front of him and has adjusted his presentation accordingly.  He had the ability to manipulate the emotions of his audience (like rollercoaster) even if the topic of his presentation does not announce “good news”.  He is not shy to say “we don’t know” as an answer which makes him opened minded (important in science).  This presentation finished with a small snack at the Redpath museum lobby.  This is a really nice idea because it allowed people to discuss of their impressions.  However, I was not able to make it since people at MAC were waiting for me for a soccer game!  Next time, I’ll be… Present!  🙂