The Architecture of Trees versus that of Buildings

I used to like to take pictures of UCI buildings as I walked around the campus.  Now I am fascinated by the trees.  There are 53 types of trees in the central, circular area Aldrich Park.  That is named in honor of our first Chancellor, Dan Aldrich, who was a soil scientist, and planned the campus.  There are also a total of 78 types of trees on the academic campus.  The original trees were quite exotic, chosen from Mediterranean climates around the world.  Now they are focusing on native California vegetation, as is the mode in these days of drought.

I have started putting my tree pictures on my flickr account of dennis.silverman

Here is the link to the current Green and Gold list of UC Irvine campus plants, with trees listed from page 2 to 5: http://www.ceplanning.uci.edu/PhysicalPlanning/Green%20and%20Gold%20Plants%201_15_15.pdf

The buildings around the campus all have some unique architectural feature, such as an entrance, or window styling.  But they are large buildings and monotonously uniform from segment to segment.  They are also colored as variations on Mediterranean pinkish, as are the homes in University Hills on the campus.  This color has the advantage of reflecting sunlight, and helping keep buildings cool.  It does, however, warm pathways, and hence shade trees are welcome.

Trees, on the other hand, have their own special types of trunks, leaves, and styles of branching out.  They also have unique shapes even within their own species depending on how they have been trimmed, and how they strive to achieve sunlight among buildings or other trees.  So they grow where the sunlight is best.  They also have different ways of generating, nourishing, and propagating their seedlings.

Trees also have their different cycles of adapting to the seasons.  Some are evergreen or coniferous, sprouting cones. Some are deciduous, with broad leaves, going bare in the winter, but not before they turn brilliant colors of brown or red or gold.  Some have wonderful flowers in the spring.

While architects may spend a few years planning their buildings, trees have been experimenting in design and climate and soil adaptations for billions of years.  While buildings are static after being built, trees keep adapting in shape and growth throughout their lifetimes.

Of course, all trees have some shade of green for their leaves.  But we know that is to generate energy for their functioning from sunlight, and to get carbon to build their molecules.  In converting CO2 to Oxygen, they also create the energy source of fauna. Forests also absorb 30% of CO2 that is man-made.  56% of that absorption is by tropical forests.

The campus is built around an inner and outer circle, with about six academic “quads” arranged about it.  Residences and parking lots surround them.  Students can enjoy the flora while walking around the doubly paved Ring Road, or the inner  ring which is now a split bike path and pedestrian path.  They can also take shortcuts across the inner disk of Aldrich Park.  The Business School, Medical School, and Fine Arts Complex lie outside the inner and outer circle of basic academic area buildings.

The architectural contrast of buildings and trees is also reflected in the activities that go one within or around them.  The buildings have academic offices and labs for intense work and research.  The lecture halls find students concentrating on lectures, and taking stressful exams.  Yet the walks around the trees reflect the beauty and design of nature, the unhurried, slow seasonal response of the trees, and the slow, calm, continuos growth over the 50 years of the campus.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in UC Irvine, UC Irvine Trees | Leave a comment

Replying to the OC Register on the UC Regents, the UCI Law School, and the Cost of UC Irvine Housing

The OC Register had an article by a Contributing Writer, California Assemblyman Tom Lackey, on Sunday, March 15, 2015.  The article was titled “UC system disconnect”, and contained misrepresentations about the UC Regents.   I also wanted to discuss the importance of the UC Irvine Law School to the completeness of the Universities’ engagement with Society.  In addition I will show that there are much lower cost housing units on the UC Irvine campus, than the newest housing cited in the article.

The UC Regents are called “accountable to no one” in the Register article.  Wikipedia has an excellent article describing who the UC Regents are.  First of all, most (18) are nominated by California’s governors to serve 12 year terms.   This means that they are both Republican and Democrat, and are the business and public leaders of the state. Their nominations have to be confirmed by the California State Senate.  There are 26 voting members.  Seven Regents are ex officio members, including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the State Assembly, who are elected, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction and President of the University of California, who are confirmed, and the president and vice president of the Alumni Associations of UC, who are probably elected by those associations.  The non-voting members of the Regents are two faculty members and one student member (for a year).  Most Regents have been lawyers, politicians, public servants, and businessmen.

When you read the remarkable people who are the regents, and their multiple connections to California businesses, social movements, and publications, you find that their description in the article as “out-of-touch” is just the opposite of who they really are.  They are on the boards of many of California’s largest businesses, and are answerable to the people that they serve for the guidance of the University.

The legislatures’ proposal to bring the Regents under control is in fact just the reason that the Regents have twelve year terms, which is to make them and the University independent of political influence.  The University of California has been a great success because of its self governance over a century, and strongly defends this principle.

While saying that the UC should not pursue “rankings and prestige”, part of those rankings are in fact based on undergraduate education, including timely completion, which saves students extra years and costs.  They are also based on keeping the student to faculty ratio down.  The rankings for research represent Federal government funding, which brings money back into the state, which left as federal taxes.  It also represents the new knowledge and advanced graduate student training that creates new innovative businesses in the state, which add to state income through taxes.  I know that all members of the state legislature are concerned about new jobs for the state and for the UC graduates, and these new and expanded businesses are where they come from.  (By coincidence, this blog article follows one showing the UC’s outstanding ratings in The Times World Reputation Rankings of 2015.)

The article criticizes the new UC Irvine School of Law as not needed since there is a surplus of lawyers.  This really overlooks the extraordinary start-up success of the Law School under Dean Chemerinsky, the integration of teaching and expertise across the campus in law that was previously uncoordinated, the importance of the law in society and the need to study its effects, and the creation of new academic areas of campus involvement in society and training students in these areas.  In fact, the School of Law just received its first rating by US News & World Report, and was ranked 30th overall.  This is the highest rating of any new law school.  It was also ranked 11th in clinical training, and tied for 10th in student diversity.

I will just add that in my area of Energy and Environment, I have been attending all of their international meetings and lectures on Arctic law, Law of the Seas and its effects on the oceans, China’s environmental laws, and laws concerning environmental pollution and catastrophes in the US.  They have created several funded entities in adding these and other fields to the expertise of the UC Irvine campus.

The article also says that new apartments were built that will cost their student residents $10,000 or more for their one year lease.  There are many other on campus housing locations that are more reasonable.  On the UCI housing website, I found that Campus Village apartments for one year, furnished, will cost $7,745.  But the nine month academic year cost is only $5,615. A double room in a theme house will cost $6,038, and a double suite, $7,550. If you want full meals for the academic year, that cost looks quite a bit more, but not considering the number of meals and even the cheap cost of fast food at the student center. The cheapest cost with meals is a triple dorm room for $11,702 a year.

It might be a good point to say that with 30,000 students, UC Irvine is the second largest employer in Orange County (first is The Walt Disney Company), and has an economic effect of $4.8 billion dollars.  The University of California as a whole generates $46 billion in economic activity for the state, and contributes $33 billion to the gross state product.  That is a great return for the $3.35 billion that the state contributes to the University System.  The UC brings in about $8.5 billion in funding from out of state, including $7.2 billion in Federal funding.

While everybody would like to avoid further tuition increases to students, the way to do that is not to tear down every aspect of the University of California’s contributions and success story, and then deny more funding, but for the Legislature to provide the needed funding to support our own students, in this era of new economic growth.

 

Posted in California University Rankings, Education, UC Irvine, University Funding | Leave a comment

California Universities in The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015

Here we present the California Universities in The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015.

These rankings are based on reputation, rather than weighting performance in a set of criteria.  They were based on surveying 10,507 experts in academic subjects, who then named no more than the top ten Universities in their fields.  Their opinions on research and teaching were then weighted 2:1.  The attached scores were then on their choice for the best in their field.  That accounts for the fact that Harvard was scored 100.0, but UC Berkeley was rated 60.0 and UCLA 18.9.  There is no other real way that Harvard could be equal to five UCLAs (my alma mater).  In the first place score, the 50th rank University only had a score of 5.3.  This is very much like the US football polls, where coaches vote points, as well as select their choice for the first place top team.  Only one to three teams get any first place votes, whereas many teams get a lot of ranking points.  Past the 50th ranking, Universities are only placed in groups of 10, down to the rank of 100, and no scores are given for these groups.

Here, we give a list of the top 10, and then just list the rankings and scores of the California Universities.  The full list is at http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2015/reputation-ranking  

 

Reputation Rank University First Place Score
1 Harvard U. 100.0
2 U. of Cambridge (UK) 84.3
3 U. of Oxford (UK) 80.4
4 MIT 77.8
5 Stanford U. 72.1
6 UC Berkeley 60.0
7 Princeton U. 35.0
8 Yale U. 33.1
9 Caltech 24.1
10 Columbia U. 21.0
13 UCLA 18.9
38 tie UC San Francisco 6.4
41 UC San Diego 6.3
44 UC Davis 6.0
61-70 group UC Santa Barbara
61-70 group USC

 

While East Coast newspapers are writing many articles about their Ivy League Universities, and how tough it is to get into them, from a California perspective, we have 3 Universities in the top 10, and 9 Universities in the top 100 by reputation.  26 of the top 50 Universities are in the United States, and 43 of the top 100.  Next in line in countries is the United Kingdom with 12 out of the top 100.  Stanford University and UC Berkeley have high status with Harvard among first choice votes scores.  Caltech and UCLA also show up significantly in first place votes in the various fields.

While UC Irvine did not show up in the reputation rankings, it has a distinct position in The Times Top 100 Universities Under 50 years old.  In the 2014 rankings, UC Irvine ranked 7th worldwide, and  1st in the United States.  UC Santa Cruz was 11th worldwide, and 2nd in the United States.  So with California’s 9 Universities in the top 100 by reputation, you could include 2 more young UCs.  UC Irvine ranked tied for 88th in the 2014-15 Times World University Rankings, which are objectively based on performance indicators.

California Universities welcome out-of-state students.  (In my opinion, we have much better weather any time of year than the East Coast Universities.  If you like snow, we have much higher mountains to ski down.)

 

 

 

Posted in California University Rankings | Leave a comment

The ACA and the Meaning of “established by the State”

It seems to me the key to interpreting the Affordable Care Act subsidies to the states that use the federal exchange is the meaning of the word “established”.  The states that have their own exchange and the federal system were in fact not built by states or the federal government – they were contracted out to programming companies who actually built them.  Some states may have used the same companies as the federal government did.  Those States did not build hospitals or health care companies or train doctors to work in the system.  They used already established systems.

So if a State uses the federal system but puts in local health care companies, or in any legislative way or administrative way affirms the choice of the federal exchange, they have actually “established” the federal exchange as the exchange for the State.

The Supreme Court loves to point out words who’s use is not clearly explained in legislation.  Hence, they have to accept the broad interpretation of the word “established” in the ACA.

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House Climate Deniers In Charge of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Subcommittees

In January, 2014, all 24 Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee (E & C) defeated an amendment 24-20 that stated that climate change was occurring and was caused by greenhouse gas pollution.

Two subcommittees recently held hearings on the EPA efforts to cut down on greenhouse gas pollution.  The EPA budget is $8.6 billion, but 42% of that goes to states to assist in their environmental protection projects.  So the federal spending is only about one half of one percent of the federal budget going to protect our clean air and water, and to provide oversight to prevent global warming.

Here we continue our review of the climate change deniers in charge of the committees and subcommittees in the science and pollution areas.  I just found a website on climate change deniers on http://www.barackobama.com/ that lists both the statements of the climate change or greenhouse gas causing deniers, and the effects that climate change will have on their states.  Most of these congressmen are from states that produce fossil fuels, and are heavily backed by those industries.  Most will have effects in their states from the programs to decrease greenhouse gas pollution.  Rather than repeat their denier statements and effects on their states here, I will just link to the appropriate pages in the www.barackobama.com list.  These are all Republicans, since the Republicans have the majority in the House.

Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan is Chair of the House Committee on E & C.   The link goes to the statements that he has made and the effects on his state.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is Vice Chair of E & C.

Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky is Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois is Chair of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

The Democrats on the E & C committee have, on the other hand, organized a Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change.

Posted in Climate Change, Fossil Fuel Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Politics | Leave a comment

House Science Committee Heads Who are Climate Change Deniers, and Effects of Global Warming on Their States

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is now headed by Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas.  He is a denier of man-made climate change, and has complained that the major networks have not aired views of climate skeptics.  Actually, the major networks only spent about thirty minutes on climate change all year long.  The global warming effects on Texas were covered in a previous article on the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, headed by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Representative Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, is Chair of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. She says the jury is out on whether mankind can alter global climate. She has degrees in animal science and biology from the University of Wyoming.

In 2011, Wyoming generated more CO2 per capita than any other state, which was 113 metric tonnes. The US average is 17.3 metric tonnes per capita, and California’s was 9.2 tonnes per capita. This is because Wyoming generates all of its electrical power from coal. However, what is not usually stated, is that Wyoming mines 40% of US coal. Also, 41% of Wyoming generated electricity goes to other states, so those emissions should be charged to the recipient states. Because Wyoming has the smallest population per state, its emissions only amount to 1.2% of US emissions. The environmental restrictions or penalties on coal will continue to cut production and jobs in the state, so being realistic about emission lowering goals of the rest of the nation should be important for their state’s politicians.

By 2100, decreasing precipitation may continue, and temperature increases of 4-6 degrees F are expected for Wyoming. The increased temperature will lead to increased evaporation and soil drying. There could be less water for irrigation (Ms. Lummis is a rancher), mining, recreation, public use, and fish and wildlife. There will be more forest fires and tree deaths from insects.

David Schweikert, Republican of Arizona for Northern Phoenix, is Chair of the Environment subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  His education at Arizona State University is in finance and real estate, where he also obtained an MBA.  He says “Understanding what part of climate is part of a natural cycle and what part has human components is the first step.”  Then “Our elected officials must be careful to react to facts and not folklore.”  That first step and the facts have already been established by climate scientists.

The Southwest temperature is projected to increase by 2.5 to 8 degree F by 2100. The Southwest will suffer more severe droughts, which it presently is in. The will be less snowpack for summer water. Groundwater pumping is already lowering the water table. Arizona and Phoenix have been the most rapid growing area in the US. Temperatures will be near 100 degrees F during the summer. There will be more wildfires. The pine bark beetle has already been decimating pinion pines.

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Electric Power, Fire Risks, Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Leave a comment

Robert Reich’s Talk at UC Irvine on Income Inequality

Robert Reich gave a talk at UC Irvine on Feb. 5, 2015.  This is a summary of that talk and the film that he showed.  Robert Reich was Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.  He is now Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.  He was formerly a Professor at Harvard and at Brandeis University.  He is a well known political commentator and contributing editor.  He has published fourteen books.

He showed the movie “Inequality for All” by Jacob Kornbluth, showing Prof. Reich in lecture along with video scenes and graphs.

There is a website for the movie called http://inequalityforall.com which includes a pdf of all the graphs from the movie, which one can download. The movie is on Netflix and iTunes.

There will be inequality because people have different talents, skills, education and goals. However, the question is “how much inequality?” It is getting to the point where the economy can’t function. The median wage has leveled out since the 1970’s.

What happened? What happened to democracy? Wealth translates into political power, which is used to get rid of campaign finance laws.

Don’t leave cynical. Get politically engaged.
Get educated on what’s gone wrong.

The top 400 wealthiest in the US have more wealth than lower half of the US population. The typical (median?) income of the top 1% is $1.1 million.  The bottom of the top 1% is an income of $380,000 a year.

The 1928 crash and the 2007 recession both happened because of speculative investment bubbles. The middle class is in a debt bubble trying to keep up. Consumer spending is 70% of the economy. The economy needs the middle class.

To define the middle class, use the median income of around $50,000, and add and subtract 50% around that to give the range $75,000 to $25,000.

As far as the defense against taxing the rich as “job creators”, what the rich are saving goes around the world, wherever the good investments are, not necessarily to the US.

The customers are the real job creators. Prosperity depends on there being a middle class.

Prof. Reich started out by studying the rules by which a market functions.

Since the 70’s, the economy was growing and productivity was increasing. Yet wages flattened. There was a move to deregulate. The unions declined. There was an assault on unions by employers. There were many nonunion companies.

Since the 1970’s, Gross Domestic Product has risen to 250% of its starting value, but wages have stayed the same.

The rate of union membership declined more than 50% since the 70’s.

Globalization dispersed American jobs. Technology replaced jobs by robots. Examples were Amazon, and assembling companies.

As an example, whereas many think that iPhone costs go mainly to the US or China, iPhone costs go 34% to Japan, and only 3.6% to China, where parts from elsewhere are assembled. Only 6% goes to the US.

Workers were subject to reduced pay, not a loss of the number of jobs.

There has been rising costs of higher education, as states contributed less to funding education.

Many people have no savings.

Bill Clinton adopted helping the middle class by the policy of Putting People First.

(Here are some extra data that were not in the 45 minutes of the movie that we watched, but are in the associated slides.  The average CEO’s salary has risen to 350 times that of the average worker.  Household debt has risen from the same as yearly wages to 12 times that.  Political polarization has increased.)

Following showing us half the movie, as much as time allowed, Prof. Reich answered questions.

There has been a decrease in upward mobility. 42% of those born into poverty will not get out. In Denmark the figure is only 25%. In Denmark there has been more investment in education. They have stronger unions, and the unions have more political power. They have more infrastructure investment.

The conditions of the Trans Pacific partnership or trade agreement have not been revealed. So far, it looks like the trade agreement may not be good for working people.

As far as Increasing income tax for the rich, the highest marginal rate was 70%. Then under Eisenhower it became 90%. Now it is down to 35%.

What can we do to raise income for the middle class?  First, we need more basic research and development. This is done in Universities, the NIH, and DOE labs. Second, we need to invest in infrastructure needs. Third, we need to invest in education from K-12 to higher education. All investments need funding

How much can the minimum wage be raised?  Raising the minimum wage gives consumers more money to buy stuff.

The current college generation can act politically to bring these advances about.

Reich sees three great threats to our civilization. First is nuclear proliferation. Second is climate change. These are tied together since climate change can lead to more competition for food and arable land. Third is income inequality.

Hilary Clinton needs the public behind her to bring about such changes.

He concluded saying that young adults should get engaged and involved if they want to bring about changes.

Posted in Economies, Education, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Nuclear Weapons, UC Irvine, Wealth | Leave a comment

Decline in California and National Higher Education Funding Since the Recession

Decline in California and National Higher Education Funding Since the Recession

The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities put together data in a paper on May 1, 2014 analyzing the drop in Higher Education funding during the current recession, from Fiscal Year 2007-8 to FY 2013-14.

Nationwide, the expense per student has fallen $2,026 or 23%. The worst fall was in Arizona which had a drop of 48.5%. California had a drop of 15.8% The only states with increases were Alaska of 3.5%, and North Dakota of 38.6%. The drops in some comparative states to California are:
Massachusetts: – 36.3%
Pennsylvania:    – 30.7%
Florida:               – 29.7%
Texas:                 – 22.5%
Ohio:                   – 21.7%
California:          – 15.8%
Illinois:               – 13.5%
New York:           – 11.1%

The recovery in the last year FY 13-14 had 42 states increase funding per student by an average of 7.2% or $449. California increased its funding by 11.1% for a change of plus $728 per student. However, over the recession FY 08 to FY 14, California had the fourth highest tuition increase of plus 62.4%, or $3,474. The change in state funding per student in California from FY08 – FY14 was a drop of $1,373.

Nationwide, tuition revenue as a percent of “total educational revenue” FY88 – FY13 rose from about 23% to about 47%: this is doubling the percentage tuition plays. However, the income of the median household had stayed flat over this period.

Posted in California University Rankings, Economies, Education, University Funding | Leave a comment

Climate Denier Senate Committee Chairs are Ignoring Effects of Global Warming on Their Own States

Climate Denier Senate Committee Chairs are Ignoring Effects of Global Warming on Their Own States.  We illustrate their denial attitudes and excuses, and just scratch the surface on climate effects in their own states that will be worsened by increased global warming.

Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, (a leading state in oil and natural gas production), is the new Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He is not only a denier in human caused climate change, but also causes the science the biggest fraud. He is a religious denier in claiming that man cannot change the climate. Oklahoma is in the middle of the “tornado belt”, and has received serious destruction recently, made more damaging with increased population. Tornadoes occur at weather fronts between hot dry air coming from the West over the Rockies, colliding with warm moist air coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Both the heat from the West and the amount of water vapor for the heating Gulf can increase from global warming. The increase in the West wind with altitude causes horizontal vortex tubes at the front. When these are pushed vertical by rising air, they are tornadoes. Oklahoma also has suffered from a costly drought since 2010, which will occur more with global warming. The drought also leads to wildfires.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is on the Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Chair of its Subcommittee on Science and Space, that oversees NASA and its science. Texas is also a leading oil and natural gas producer, refiner, and shipper. The earth observing satellites that analyze the water and carbon cycles essential to life are launched and funded by NASA. Sen. Cruz is from Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center of NASA. His subcommittee also oversees the National Science Foundation, home to much basic research. Sen. Cruz claims there has been no warming over the years since the 1998 one year jump in temperature from an El Nino. But many years since then have been among the warmest, and the oceans have continued warming and absorb most of the warmth. Texas has been suffering from drought, as Oklahoma has.  Texas is also in the tornado belt. Austin in 2011 had the most 100 degree F days on record and the hottest summer on record, and tied for the hottest day (112 degrees F).

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, now Chairs the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which oversees NOAA.  NOAA is the weather predicting service which uses the same atmospheric, ocean and land physics that is the basis of climate models as well. Florida is one of the states which will most be affected by sea level rise. Miami is already flooding on super high tide days. The peak pass I encountered in driving across the Everglades was three feet above sea level. Three feet is a possible sea level rise by 2100. Where are all those alligators going to go? Florida is also subject to severe hurricanes. Hurricanes are driven in size and magnitudes by the potential energy of water vapor, which increases the hotter the Atlantic and Caribbean are. The wonderful coral reefs that bring tourists and cruise ship passengers to the region are endangered by increasing ocean temperatures and increasing ocean acidity from CO2 dissolving as carbonic acid. Florida has the Florida Keys, where 90% of the land is at 5 feet or less above sea level. Its flooding would cause a loss of $27 billion, with 56,000 residents displaced. Hurricane Wilma caused severe storm surge flooding to the Keys in 2005.

NOAA has a vast number of programs in Florida, which is mostly surrounded by the Gulf and the Ocean. It runs the National Weather Service and the National Marine Fisheries Services. It calculates the global warming data, showing 2014 to be the hottest year on record worldwide. It runs the geostationary weather satellites, and polar satellites to observe the oceans. Hopefully, Sen. Rubio’s exposure to all of their scientists and facilities will teach him about their science capabilities and knowledge, and alter his uninformed opinions on the climate and on sea level rise.  Sen. Rubio also could not decide whether the earth was only four thousand years old, or 4.5 billion years. Hopefully, scientists will also answer this for him.

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, heads the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  He admitted that man has caused some climate change, but says the climate is changing all the time.  The answer to that is that the climate has been changing rapidly, and will continue to do so, due to known cause. His committee oversees the EPA budget on toxic substances and automobile CAFE fuel economy standards. Despite admitting some man made warming, he is worried about the costs of acting to mitigate it.  In South Dakota, climate change has led to cold Arctic storms being pushed South by warming highs in the Arctic, also called the Polar Vortex. This has led to earlier and more harsh winters. The Eastern part of South Dakota is also in tornado alley, which we have discussed above.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, Chairs the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  Her committee oversees the Department of Energy, and many of the areas dealing with Alaska oil and mining, and its wildlife preserves.  She thinks man’s contribution to climate change could be 5% to 50%, or 5% to 90%, lately.  With Arctic warming increasing at a far greater rate than the rest of the world, she has to worry about Inuit communities being melted away.  Melting permafrost limits the frozen roads needed for the winter Arctic drilling seasons.  The retreat of summer sea ice endangers sea life. President Obama is proposing to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and endangered coastal areas, like the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.  Offshore drilling is also very risky and expensive, coupled with the threat of storms.

Alaska spans a vast area and a vast number of ecosystems. The warming of the Arctic has been 4 degrees F, while the earth has warmed about 1.4 degrees F. So the consequences of warming in Alaska have been far greater than elsewhere. Alaska also has unique wildlife both in the sea and land, and unique ecosystems. But the oil industry has vast profits and exploitation in Alaska. Taxes on oil drilling cover 90% of state revenue, and there are not only no income taxes, but there is a payoff to the states citizens from oil taxes. A previous governor stated their policy as “drill, baby, drill.”

From the Encyclopedia of Earth, we learn that South Central Alaska has the largest spruce bark beetle destruction due to longer summers and not freezing in winter, due to warming. Also, other trees have been destroyed from other insects due to warming. Alaska also has had record size fire seasons. Alaska glacier retreat has been 50% of the world’s. There also is the retreating and thinning ice sheets. Polar bears that hunt from ice sheets have been declining, as have walruses and ice seals. In the Bering Sea the water is warming and endangering fish and sea mammals.

 

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Ocean Acidification, Politics, Sea Level Rise | Leave a comment

A Scientist’s Reaction to The New Anti-Science Leaders of Congressional Science Committees

There are many national and science repercussions of putting anti-science Republicans into the Chairs of Senate and House science committees and sub-committees. There are also a lot of personal reactions of scientists and those who rely on science to these choices and to the effects on scientists and science that will result from their policies over probably at least the next four to six years or more.

Scientists are not just scientists as a job. They have essentially adopted the belief in science as the way that knowledge can be gained about life, the earth, and the universe. They hold themselves and their colleagues to the highest standards of honesty and thoroughness in their work, and in their approving of and using government grants. While they tolerate expressions of anti-science under freedom of thought, speech, and perhaps religion, they know that given a fair hearing, that settled science can win the day. The fact that the science and technology committees are now run by anti-scientists and in some cases religionists who will not conduct fair hearings or policies for deciding funding is a severe disappointment and a very practical setback for science, for scientists, for their present and future students, and for the worldwide respect and competitiveness of US science and US industries and American jobs.

The fact that these anti-science committee heads and majorities are politicians who are really servants to their monied backers of polluting or other industries is well known to everybody, and a great danger to the interests of the US public. It is the recent freedom of determined funding by such industrial billionaires and their companies to subjugate government to their robots and manipulation that have brought this about at all levels of government, and have undermined our Democracy.

The politicians who deny scientific expertise or mislead the public about the overwhelming agreement of scientists, are not fooling a lot of people who accept science. They know that these politicians are just taking positions to support their donors, or key voters in their party or their party’s primaries.

Some parts of the public believe in the religious, anti-science, approach to issues, not knowing that you can be both religious and scientifically oriented, as the Catholic Church has recognized.

Of course scientists know that scientific knowledge will win out, despite determined efforts to defund certain areas, as in climate change, economics, politics, and the effects of guns on America. It’s just that the US may not lead the way if areas of research are defunded.

Leading countries around the world are science oriented, and dedicated to educating more scientists and engineers, and are basing their industrial development on it. The United States will only look foolish with anti-science politicians running its congressional budgets. The anti-science committees may also carry out hearings which will provide nonsense about climate change, pollution, and other subjects well understood around the world. That would be very embarrassing to US scientists and the country as a whole. Anti-scientists may well self reinforce with their fellow anti-science legislators and backers, as well as Fox News, and start believing the anti-scientists that they will call up, without being aware of how silly the hearings appear.

The basic fallacy of claims of not knowing or trusting scientists is that everything in our modern life was researched by scientists and designed by engineers using science. If you did not believe in science and scientists, how could you trust driving a car, flying in an airplane, even turning on a complex electronic system such as a computer or tv set. How could such congressmen fund such complex and potentially dangerous systems as the manned space program or the space station? How could they work for oil companies that carry out complex deep sea drilling projects or massive fracking arrays without trusting in their science and engineering? How could farm state congressmen rely on improved crops and livestock using genetics without believing in evolution that is mapped by the same genetic analyses?

Holding embarrassing anti-science hearings is only going to embarrass and sully the reputations and billionaires of the companies that fund anti-science legislators. After years of Benghazi and IRS political bias hearings, the House committee turned up no large scale conspiracies, and those hearings are now considered as purely politically motivated. Even Fox News, which wasted a vast amount of time covering them, got nothing real out of them. It is odd that Sen. Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma (oil and natural gas), and Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, claims that man-caused global warming is the biggest science fraud ever. It sounds like a lot more time in the Senate committee will now be wasted on such nonsense, embarrassing the oil companies and billionaires that back Sen. Inhofe and other Republican members of the committee.

Oil and natural gas companies actually depend on a lot of geological science for exploring and new drilling engineering techniques, and chemistry and physics to design fracking and well sealing to make them leak proof. All of their scientists and engineers have to believe in science, and many undoubtedly understand the science behind global warming, and its main cause by fossil fuel emissions. The geologists also know that all of geology is based on the science of a 4.5 billion years old earth. Finally, the funders of anti-science politicians, the Koch brothers, all have chemical engineering degrees from MIT. David Koch also funds the scientific NOVA series. This has to be embarrassing to all of these company scientists to use the profits of their successful companies to fund anti-science politicians and such a viewpoint.

A majority of liberal and moderate Republicans believe in global warming (66%) , but not conservative Republicans (28%). The majority of the American public, 61%, believe in warming and 51% believe it is due to human activities. A new study says that 56% of Republicans want action to reduce climate. It can’t be a long range advantage to the Republican party, or to its goal of electing a President, to take such unreasonable anti-science stances. People want high paying jobs in technical industries, and don’t want America to lose its leadership in science education or in science discovery or innovation.

I hope in this essay that I have made it clear that an anti-science stand benefits neither the Republican party, nor their billionaire and industrial funders, nor the anti-science politicians that aspire to rise in political status and position.

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