Posts tagged ‘global warming’

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

September 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm 1 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

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

Michael Mann Profiled in Philadelphia Inquirer

We’ve gotten a number of letters to the editor lately from people who have, let’s just say, very strong feelings on the subject of global climate change—and especially on the “climategate” brouhaha involving Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann. Some of the discourse has been a bit less than civil: One reader called Mann “this low life on our faculty”; another said, “I am embarrassed that Mr. Mann is a part of Penn State. I would be disappointed if the University wasn’t doing all they can to send him to a different climate.”

So I was very interested to see a profile of Mann in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Writer Faye Flam came up to University Park this past week to interview Mann and has produced a fairly level-headed profile, one that examines the controversy in a calmer, more nuanced way. It’s worth reading.

Tina Hay, editor

January 9, 2010 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

Michael Mann and ‘Climategate’

The news last week that e-mail exchanges between prominent climate scientists had been hacked and made public — news that, probably not coincidentally, came a couple of weeks before the upcoming international climate conference in Copenhagen — has been overshadowed only by “news” about Tiger Woods’ personal life. Language in some of the e-mails seems to imply that scientists have hidden or altered climate change data. And a Penn State professor has been near the center of it.

Michael E. Mann, professor of meteorology and director of the University’s Earth System Science Center, is one of two climate scientists whose work and reputation are being questioned after the e-mail leak. Mann — one of five Penn State faculty members who participated in our climate change roundtable back in 2007 — has long been a leading voice among those pointing to man-made CO2 emissions as the primary cause of global warming. He’s one of the scientists involved in the Web site And he’s also a favorite target of those who don’t buy the idea of man-made warming — “skeptics” or “deniers,” depending on your point of view.

Plenty of blog space has been taken up on the topic since the story broke. And while the story continues to develop — a few days ago, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences released a statement (which you can read in PDF form here) announcing it would, per University policy, “look into the matter further” — we’ve found a few stories that offer a reasoned take on the controversy to date, including this one from Science Magazine, and this from Bloomberg News. You also can read Mann’s own explanation of some of the e-mails in question.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

December 3, 2009 at 9:55 am 7 comments

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