Posts tagged ‘climate change’

Climate of the Times

Faces@012_RAlley01CC_cropTuesday’s edition of The New York Times ran a special section on climate change, timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit this week in Manhattan. Two Penn Staters with very different perspectives on the issue feature prominently in the package.

The first is Richard Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences in the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences whose work on polar ice cores and quirky, engaging style of bringing science to the masses has made him one of the country’s best known climate scientists. Alley serves as the primary source in the Times‘ explainer on carbon dioxide, our planet’s most prominent greenhouse gas. Alley has a gift for useful analogies, and his “pothole” comparison in the Times piece is a great example.

Then there’s Diane Ackerman ’70, the author whose latest book, The Human Age, continues a career-long passion for the natural world. Ackerman’s new book is one of three reviewed with climate change and its impacts as a unifying theme. As we wrote in our Sept./Oct. issue, The Human Age offers what Ackerman describes as a hopeful take on how humans are impacting the planet: “…how, despite our tendency to alter—and occasionally obliterate—our surroundings, humans still manage to cultivate beauty.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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September 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm 1 comment

The Penn Stater Daily — April 21, 2014

Smile, you’re in Beaver Stadium: Security is a major priority in the second-largest stadium in North America, and as our buddy Bill DiFilippo writes in today’s CDT, that means lots and lots and lots of cameras in the most prominent building on campus. Penn State’s director of physical security, Scotty Eble, says there are “approximately” 63 cameras in the stadium, a number he says is “constantly changing.” That of course doesn’t count the 100,000 or so phones and handhelds in the building seven Saturdays each fall.

The winds (and drought, and flooding…) of war: Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley arrived on campus last fall to direct the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, and as this story from Slate reinforces, there’s a very real impetus for his and the Center’s work: the growing threat of political instability caused or exacerbated by a warming planet. The story includes a Q&A with Titley in which he talks about striving not to politicize the climate change discussion while emphasizing that it’s not “just an environmental issue; it’s a technology, water, food, population issue.”

On the bench, and off: A couple of cool behind-the-scenes features on Penn State sports from student media outlets: The Collegian profiles Dwayne Anderson, a Nittany Lion basketball assistant coach who earned the respect and admiration of Pat Chambers when Chambers was an assistant, and Anderson a player, at Villanova; and Onward State introduces us to the women of Penn State’s nationally competitive club power-lifting team.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

April 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm Leave a comment

Michael Mann Makes His Case

I approached the podium a few minutes before Michael Mann was scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon to ask him a simple question: Were all those police out front there because of him?

“Probably,” he smiled. “I think they’re probably superfluous, but it’s better to be safe.”

I’ve gone to probably a dozen Penn State Forum lunches in the past five years, and Thursday’s event at the Penn Stater Hotel was the first in which I’d seen a police presence. Three armed campus police officers—one from a K-9 unit—stood outside the packed conference room in which Mann spoke. I imagine they were there to stem any potential unrest after ads appeared on local radio this week urging people to boycott or protest Mann’s speech; I imagine those officers were aware as well that Mann has received death threats because of his work.

Mann, of course, is a climatologist, Penn State professor of meteorology and geosciences, and director of the University’s Earth Systems Science Center. If you know his name, it’s probably less because of his work—including his role in developing the iconic “hockey stick” model for measuring long-term global warming—than the reaction to it. U.S. Senators, state attorneys general, and TV pundits (among many others) have all gone after Mann in an attempt to discredit findings that show the reality and alarming rate of man-made global warming. If he’s not the favorite target of climate change deniers, he’s near the top of the list.

Mann’s speech Thursday was titled (more…)

February 10, 2012 at 12:15 am 19 comments

Michael Mann Cleared, Again

Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who was at the center of the 2009 controversy dubbed “Climategate,” did not engage in scientific misconduct, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the NSF has cleared Mann of wrongdoing; the Bloomberg story also includes a link to a download of the NSF’s report.

The controversy arose when a computer server at a British climate-research center was hacked in November 2009, and emails among climate researchers—including Mann—were published on the Internet. Climate-change skeptics claimed that the emails showed that Mann and the others had manipulated data in order to reach the conclusions that global warming is real.

Penn State investigated Mann a year ago in conjunction with the controversy and also found no evidence of research impropriety. Several other bodies, including the National Academy of Sciences, have reached the same conclusion.

Mann’s website at Penn State contains links to some of the news stories about him, including one from last month in which he talks about the attacks he’s experienced from global-warming skeptics and others.

Tina Hay, editor

August 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm 1 comment

What’s on Joe Bastardi’s Mind

Never a guy to shy away from attention or controversy, Joe Bastardi ’78 EMS is in the news lately more than usual. A former Penn State wrestler, prolific local columnist, proud body builder, global-warming skeptic, and respected long-term forecaster, Bastardi last week abruptly quit his post at AccuWeather, a move that made national news.

So this is well timed: Bastardi was featured a few days ago in a Q&A on the Vanity Fair website, in which he discusses his work, his muscles, weird 1970s holiday cartoons, and the reliability of Punxsutawney Phil. It’s highly recommended reading.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

February 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

Richard Alley Warns of a “Tipping Point” in Greenland

Scientists who study climate change point out that no single weather event or natural disaster can be pegged conclusively to global warming. That said, most of those same experts agree that certain catastrophic events — like the record heat wave and huge fires currently ravaging Russia, and the ongoing flooding in Pakistan that the United Nations is calling the worst natural disaster in modern history — match predictions of extreme conditions caused by climate change. Another such event took place last week in the North Atlantic, and a Penn State expert was in Washington this week to weigh in on the potential consequences.

Richard Alley, the University’s Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and a contributor to the U.N. panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke Tuesday in front of a Congressional committee on global warming. Alley’s expertise is glaciology and ice-sheet stability, making him an obvious candidate to discuss the collapse last week of a 100-square-mile chunk of ice from Greenland. His predictions weren’t encouraging: Describing current Arctic melting as “the biggest and fastest thing nature has ever done,” Alley told legislators that warming oceans may mean Greenland will reach a “tipping point” within the next decade, after which the island’s ice mass would be unsustainable. The eventual melt-off would lead to sea-level rise that would devastate coastal cities around the world.

When he took part in our global warming roundtable a few years ago, Alley sounded optimistic — in spite of everything his own research showed him about our changing planet — that humanity could solve such massive problems. I hope he remains so.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

August 11, 2010 at 11:50 am 2 comments

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