Tag Archives: climate change

20 Science Questions Answered

Shawn Otto, a member of a science oriented organization, sciencedebate.org, has written twenty questions regarding scientific topics that affect our nation’s future  and the organization sent the list to the four main Presidential candidates with the request that the candidates complete the questions as few scientific topics were discussed in the debates so far.

I’ll give it a go:

  1. Remaining at the front of innovation is traditional for American values and essential for meeting the challenges of our changing climate, growing population and limited natural resources. Working towards shifting fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy would support innovative research while helping reduce our carbon footprint and protect the future’s climate. Reducing college loan interest rates would help more students afford a university education. Funding career guidance programs to help guide students towards careers with more need for employees could also help guide them into fields with rapid innovation. Modifying immigration rules for specialized VISA workers could help promote hiring more U.S. citizens for STEM jobs instead of favoring lower paid H-1B VISA workers. [1]
    • [more education and less poverty has been associated with more individuals working creatively in artistic endeavors, 15]
  2. Research and the investment in long-term research projects is essential for driving innovation. The infrastructure of the future will be built in the next few decades. Developing energy efficient solutions for the needs of the future is a priority for funding in addition to renewable energy development. Research into more sustainable and potentially healthier farming techniques is a priority because it impacts the health of citizens and the environment. Funding research to assess hazards of chemicals suspected to be harming the environment or individual health is also a priority. It is easier to not add toxins to the environment then it is to remove them once they have contaminated an area. Funding research into better hazardous waste containment or processing methods is also a priority. To have a safe future we need to protect the present and start building a safer future now.
  3. Climate change is not only real but has been occurring at more rapid rates than expected. Worse storms and flooding and wild fires have been occurring. The next administration needs to make climate change part of every policy decision because it will impact most areas of life. Zoning and building permits should consider flood and fire risks and make changes based on the climate change predictions. Relocating groups of people from some areas into more weather friendly areas could be done gradually over time, before severe weather events occur, but it would take community support too. It might seem like an odd idea but building underground in hotter climates could provide air conditioned living arrangements for less cost to the environment. The future is going to be hotter, deadly hot in some areas, and having air conditioned living spaces will be required to protect health and life for the more fragile, sick, young, and elderly. Underground it is always about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, maximizing use of geothermal energy where the ground allows also is sensible. Investing in flood friendly housing and business development is a point on my platform. The future will be different so planning and building accordingly will help create jobs now and a safer future for our grandchildren later. Fossil fuel subsidies need to end or be modified so the company can only use the money for changing their company into a new renewable energy focused business and shutting down fossil fuel production and facilities safely or for hazardous waste storage and site clean up. I would need to study the topic of carbon taxing more before having an opinion on the value of that strategy for protecting the climate.
  4. Biodiversity is associated with healthier species in the ecosystem. Healthier wildlife helps reduce risk of human infection from insect or animal borne diseases. Funding research into the long term risks and benefits of the agricultural herbicides and pesticides and other industrial chemicals in use would help identify which are too damaging for long term use and should be banned and/or identify ways to use them in smaller, safer amounts. Funding research into the risk of genetically modified genes spreading to weeds and how to reduce that problem from occurring needs to be done for the safety of the future environment. It is an ethical question, we are designing and patenting new forms of life in ways that are not possible with normal plant hybridization techniques. Funding a jobs program for teams to provide the hands on labor necessary to clear invasive plants and animals manually instead of with applications of harsh chemicals would support the economy in the present and help protect biodiversity into the future.
  5. The security of the internet for individuals and the government is a priority that will only increase in importance as more devices and buildings become connected and therefore at risk for being hacked for information or for control of the device or building system. If a hacker can control a city’s street lights, water purification facilities, or voting machines, or a car’s steering controls then the hacker could feasibly create chaos and harm and possibly affect election results. Investing in continuing research and development in the area of cybersecurity is essential to remain ahead of the innovation curve in the world of hacking. Hiring white hat hackers to test systems for vulnerabilities is also an area worth continued funding into the future. As more medical records and medical equipment sensors are going online, cybersecurity has to be there in place first, and needs to be maintained by experts on a regular basis – which requires regulations to be in place for any businesses, or government agencies, which collect and store personal data.
  6. Mental illness is very personally debilitating and economically also, at approximately $300 billion per year for the American public (per the National Institute of Mental Health’s estimate, information provided in the question). My platform for effective health care suggests a preventative whole health focused approach that would look for the underlying dysfunction and work to teach lifestyle changes to restore function and prevent the dysfunction from returning. Many mental illness symptoms can be related to a variety of nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Studies or treatments that focus on one nutrient at a time are rarely going to be found helpful if  the problem involves several nutrient deficiencies. Genetic differences that cause metabolic susceptibility for nutrient deficiencies to occur may also be an underlying cause. Some people may need high dose supplements of certain nutrients because their body is genetically unable to produce the needed chemical (nutrients are considered essential when all people need them because humans can’t produce the chemical and other chemicals are considered essential for certain populations such as the elderly when normal production of complex chemicals slows down or stops. Funding residential facilities for younger ages is also a need as more young people with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders become adults with limited abilities to live on their own. Residential facilities for the elderly are not a good fit for younger residents as activities would be designed for the older residents abilities and interests. Prisons should not be the primary provider for those with mental illness in the U.S, not if we want to consider the nation fair and just. Prescription medications in use for mental illness need to be assessed for suicide and homicide risks in adults, teens, and children, and funding for research into more effective, and safer therapies should be a priority. Children and teens in foster care and on Medicaid need to be protected from the risks of their being forcibly over-medicated with potentially lethal prescriptions that can also cause significant weight gain, diabetes, and other negative health changes, which can sometimes be permanent. Funding research into the prevention of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders prenatally is also a priority. It would be much cheaper in human and economic costs to simply prevent the mental illness from occurring in the first place.
  7. The energy portfolio of the U.S. does have significant impact on the economy and environment and foreign policy. Working towards energy independence is a goal affecting foreign policy, using fracking as the primary method however may be harming the environment. Making renewable wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects a priority and ending or changing fossil fuel subsidies to support a company’s transition into a renewable energy industry would be part of my energy strategy for the nation over the next four to eight years. Funding research into safer ways to store nuclear waste is a need as there is leaking barrels of hazardous waste waiting to be cleaned up, and use of thorium as an alternate nuclear source might be a cleaner source of nuclear energy for the future, but is still in research phases .
  8. The ranking of American students in science and math performance has fallen compared to other nations. My administration would work towards assuring that all students including female and minority students have an equal opportunity to learn STEM topics by promoting a basic curriculum for all public undergraduate schools and charter or private undergraduate schools. All children should have an equal opportunity to learn what is considered to be standard information in science and technology. An equal opportunity however does not mean that all children will do equally well in the same areas of study. Students should be allowed to fail if that is their skill set and they should be guided towards classes that they can pass. And if that is just a basic life skills curriculum then they would at least have gained skills in caring for themselves and might not have also gained a sense of worthlessness and feeling a failure due to being pushed to pass tests and a curriculum they weren’t capable of passing. Other children who could read ahead of the class should be encouraged to do independent studies and advance their learning instead of having to fit in with the standardized testing goals. Homogenizing our students into average test takers has helped bring up the grades of the middle group but may be encouraging students who are struggling to pass to just drop out instead and it may be holding back the more gifted students who have to pretend to pay attention in a class that is paced too slowly for their learning needs.
  9. Maintaining the public health system is just as important as improving it. Funding for preventative health care needs to be protected as mandates possibly rather than having to be put to vote periodically. My effective health care goals include expanding preventative health care education with group and individualized services. Research on the cost efficiency of preventative health care services in the past has found that money spent on preventative health guidance tends to save more money in acute care health care spending than the cost of the preventative care. Research into the effects of glyphosate on soil bacteria is needed as the herbicide was originally patented as an antibiotic and as it is being used in more areas it may be adding to the development of antibiotic resistant pathogens. Funding for research into more environmentally safe sanitizing products and use of pathogen resistant microbiome friendly cleansers is also a priority. Positive microbes cover surfaces in small amounts and can help protect against more dangerous ones. Providing fluoride treatments topically for children might be safer for the health of individuals across the lifespan and for the environment. Water fluoridation is an old policy that needs to be reevaluated. Vaccinations are important but the safety of all of the ingredients needs to be evaluated and an adverse reaction board needs to be in place that is responsive to all patients and others reporting an adverse reaction. Calcium chloride as an adjuvant in place of aluminum adjuvants should be considered as a safer replacement. Vaccinations have caused encephalitis which can then lead to symptoms similar to autism. Individualized nutrition guidance based on genetic structure could help prevent chronic illness and mental illness and help protect infants’ prenatal development and reduce the number of children who develop autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Nutrient deficiencies can leave the infant and mother less protected against developing autoimmune disease and less able to detoxify environmental toxins.
  10. Without water there is no life. Ensuring access to safe clean water is a challenge that will continue to become more challenging as climate change increases the risk of uneven rainfall with increased risk of droughts and flooding. Evaluating and copying best practices from successful communities could help ensure  access to safe water for more people. Preserving water with improved farming methods and regulating where farming can occur is already becoming more critical in areas of California as the drought there has continued for more than one growing season. Water intensive crops should not be grown in areas with limited water. Storage tanks for collecting rain water has helped some California growers get through times with less rainfall. Rainfall storage tanks could help communities and other businesses too. Bottled water companies need to be charged a business price for units of water taken from community water supplies as it is not standard residential or business use of the community resource. Funding for research and development of energy efficient water purifiers and desalinization units is also a priority as we look into a warmer future with more people needing to eat, drink, and bathe. In the present rehabilitation of aging water infrastructure could provide a few jobs and boost the current economy and help protect the future from following in the footsteps of Rome (the lead lined water pipes may have added to population wide ill health and the collapse of the civilization).
  11. Nuclear power does not add to greenhouse gases but security of the hazardous waste is important from an environmental and military aspect. Thorium is an alternate fuel for nuclear power that might produce less hazardous waste and less radioactive material capable of being used in a weapon however technical difficulties with the process are still being addressed. The current nuclear power plants and nuclear waste sites already in existence are risks for radiation leaking. Health information from Chernobyl suggests that the risks of radiation poisoning are less of a risk over the long term than originally feared but are a health concern during the acute exposure phase of a nuclear incident. Thyroid cancer is a risk that can be reduced if adequate iodine is available within the body or during the acute phase of the nuclear radiation incident. Being iodine sufficient prior to a nuclear incident provides the most protection to the thyroid from the risks of radioactive iodine collecting in the organ. Ensuring iodine sufficiency for American citizens could help protect them in the unlikely event of a nuclear incident and could also help protect their health on a daily basis from the more common risks of hypothyroidism, obesity, depression, Type II diabetes, [2], breast and prostate cancer, having a child with autism, and other chronic health issues (iodine is really important throughout the body but is found in more quantity in the thyroid, pancreas, mammary and prostate glands, and other endocrine tissue). Advances in computer technology and environmental sensors should make the design of radiation monitoring equipment easy. The sensors would be placed in areas downwind of nuclear sites and readings would be sent to the internet and to a warning light, buzzer, or human whose job would be to monitor the sensor readings for any increase in radiation levels.
  12. Agriculture needs to be returned to the small farmer and having patents on seeds needs to be a luxury that is a choice for a few farmers rather than an industry monopoly. Farmers have saved seeds from last year’s harvest to plant for next year’s crop for thousands of years. It is not traditional to patent seeds and require them to be purchased each growing season. Regulations need to protect individual farmers not just corporations who produce agribusiness products. The agribusiness products need to be evaluated for their long term impact on human and ecosystem health. If the business is in the business of producing food then the food ideally should be nourishment for humans and animals rather than being a substance that is adding to chronic illness risks. Soil health also needs to be monitored and protected and sensors are being developed with internet connections capable of sensing nitrogen levels for more precise application of fertilizers (excess fertilizers can cause more acidic wastes to runoff into the ocean). Agriculture industry workers are the ones most at risk for acute illness due to exposure to industrial chemicals. Should our food be raised in an environment that places it’s workers at acute risk of chemical injury? Or could our food be raised in more labor intensive but environmentally safe ways that create jobs? Farm subsidies need to be stopped or shifted to support more labor intensive vegetables and fruits rather than supporting big business commodity crops. A tax code with incentives for hiring more employees instead of supporting capital investments and depreciation of capital expenses could help the small organic farmer. Interplanting a few types of crops together can help reduce harmful weeds and pests without needing as many chemicals but the method is not possible with large scale planting or harvesting equipment. A mixture of large and small agribusinesses is likely needed for a future with an expanded population. Foraging animals can be raised in areas with soil that can’t support crops.  Studies into viable diets for a larger population suggest that an omnivore diet with less meat than currently is common would be more sustainable than an all vegetarian diet because of the areas that could support foraging animals but not crops. Research and development of algae crops for human and animal consumption  and other alternative protein sources (aka insects and cultured proteins) needs to continue as ocean health and fish industries may be adversely affected by climate change sooner than predicted.
  13. Global threats that can cross international borders such as pandemic disease and climate change effects need to be met cooperatively by working with other nations, large corporations, and international non-profit organizations. Peace is more likely when a nation has enough food and water for its citizens. Rioting and civil war has occurred after drought conditions affected crops negatively. Pandemic disease is also more likely to occur in a population who is under-nourished and where there is inadequate sanitation facilities (running water and bathrooms). Helping nations improve infrastructure that supports sanitation facilities and agriculture may also be helping prevent pandemics and civil disturbances. Helping developing nations build infrastructure that is efficient and based on renewable energy could help reduce the carbon footprint of the developing nation and help prevent more severe climate change from occurring in the future. We only have one planet, if it goes down, it takes the rest of us with it (and vice versa, there’s many of us and our failures might take the planet down with us and a lot of the rest of the planet’s species too).
  14. A government’s role in a society is different then that of a business. A business works to maximize its profits for its shareholders and remain in business for the sake of its customers and employees. A government needs to consider profitability, someone needs to pay the bills, but a government also needs to consider safety of the present and future and act as a steward of the land, a caretaker that is maintaining the present and building for future. Regulations for environmental standards and standards for doing business ideally need to be written in clear language with reasonable requirements that could be realistically implemented. Policies that are too stringent or are factually unrealistic need to be identified and rewritten with realistic achievable objectives. Regulations can only help protect us if they are being followed therefore they need to be well designed for effectiveness and efficiency and then jobs need to be funded for adequate numbers of inspectors to enforce the regulations. Realistic, achievable methods should be incorporated into the regulations rather than writing idealistic requirements that may be difficult or impossible for businesses to follow and which may not guarantee that the desired goal will be achieved.
  15. My administration would support vaccine science by creating a stronger adverse reaction reporting system and funding research into assessing the long term health risks associated with the large number of vaccinations that are being given to American children. Fewer vaccinations given slightly later in life (not during the first six months of life when the infant’s immune system is not well developed) might be safer for children with an underlying susceptibility for autoimmune disease.  Forcing all children to get vaccinations against minor illnesses may provide some herd immunity but it may also be causing encephalitis in a few susceptible children. Children with known allergies or autoimmune problems should be allowed to have their parents decline the full schedule of vaccinations. There are more than four times as many shots given to children now than children received in the 1970’s. Vaccinations are important but having good health in the first place is also important. Adequate sanitation and nutrition can help make a population less at risk to catching an infection during an epidemic. Funding for clean water infrastructure can help prevent a variety of diseases, not just the exotic ones. Funding for evaluating the use of calcium chloride as an adjuvant instead of aluminum is a priority to help protect the children with difficulty detoxifying heavy metals and possibly help prevent some children from developing neuro-developmental disorders. Between January and August of 2016 there have been 52 cases of measles reported. In 2015 there was a total of 189 cases of measles reported. [3] For perspective, not to say causal relationship but just to compare the size of the problems, in 2015 the rate of autism diagnosis was estimated to have reached 1 in 45 children. In 2012 it was 1 in 68, in 2000 it was 1 in 150. [4, 5] The 2015 rate of 1 in 45 children would suggest that roughly 448,919 of the children who were under five years old at the time of the  2010 census may have developed autism by now. [6] It is sad that 52 people had measles in 2016 so far but I find it more sad that 448, 919 children born between the year 2010 to 1996 may have gone on to develop autism spectrum disorder by now. Based on my reading of medical research the problem is related to deficiency of vitamin D or vitamin D enzymes, and deficiency of iodine, zinc, folate, magnesium, and possibly vitamin B 12 and B 6 and an excess of formaldehyde and other toxins (the herbicide glyphosate is known to inhibit vitamin D enzymes) or heavy metals such as aluminum, mercury or lead. Vaccinations are important but so is having a functioning and well nourished immune system. Excessive numbers of vaccinations may be over-activating the allergic portion of the immune system and leaving more children with allergies and more children and adults with autoimmune disorders. [7] Vaccinations are important but their use should be limited to the most dangerous diseases and allow children to get sick and recover naturally from milder illnesses such as chickenpox. The natural immunity derived from getting sick and recovering strengthens both the antigen/antibody portion of the immune system which vaccinations work to enhance and the white blood cells which are actually responsible for identifying and killing infected cells using the antigen/antibody system as a identifying label –> the antibody shows the white blood cell which are infected cells that need to be put to death by apoptosis with a little blast of energy from magnesium.
  16. Space exploration and observation of the Earth from space is a priority for monitoring climate change measurements such as the melting of the glaciers and the healing of the hole in ozone caused by fluorocarbons. Space satellite information can also be helpful for monitoring other social changes and actions of groups of people. Estimates of poverty can be made based on the amount of light being produced by a community during night time hours. [8] Research and development of natural resources that might be able to be mined on the moon may become more of a priority as we move into a future with dwindling supplies of rare metals available on Earth. building communities on the moon or another planet seems unrealistic at this stage of our technological capabilities.
  17. There is an opioid problem in this nation in part because there is an ineffective health care problem in this country and a food supply that may not be providing adequate amounts of specialized nutrients such as phospholipids and trace minerals such as magnesium, iodine, and selenium. Fewer people would have chronic pain if the underlying concern was identified and resolved rather than maintaining the patient on painkillers. Opioids don’t even work effectively for diabetic patients unless magnesium is given at the same time and giving the magnesium alone was also found to be an effective pain killer for diabetic patients. Recognizing that addiction can be based in genetic differences rather than ‘the moral failing of a weak-willed individual’ could also help. Adequate treatment for people with addiction problems is often not available because addiction treatment is often focused on making the patient withdraw without the medical support of a prescription that could reduce withdrawal symptoms. Treating people with addictions as someone with moral failings rather than as a person with genetic differences may not help them recover as well as admitting that the problem is physically based  and is not just a mental choice. Naloxone given quickly within the time of an opioid overdose can save the patient’s life. Opioid overdoses have become more common because street drugs are being produced and sold as real opioid prescriptions but the strength of the street drug can be more potent and cause death rapidly due to overdoses. Opioids have become a gateway drug for heroin abuse. Heroin can be cheaper and easier for individuals to find on the black market than prescription pills, whether real or fake. Prescribing a dose of naloxone along with an opioid prescription has been suggested by medical doctors. [9] That wouldn’t help the people who got the too potent fake drug on the black market. Having the antidote drug, naloxone/Narcan, available in emergency vehicles and police stations has also been discussed. [10] There are genetic differences in the cannabinoid receptor system that are associated with addictions to a variety of substances including opioids and heroin. Changing the Schedule of marijuana from Schedule 1 to 3 or declassifying it altogether as a controlled substance could help reduce opioid deaths and opioid addictions. Early results from states that have approved medical marijuana have shown a reduced use of a variety of medications including prescription painkillers. [11, 12] If someone has a genetic defect that makes them unable to make phospholipids then they would be unable to make cannabinoids and would need an external source and might experience increased cravings for food, alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, or opioids, and possibly cocaine but there is less of association with that substance and genetic differences in the cannanbinoid system then for other commonly abused drugs. Is a genetic difference a sign of ‘moral failing,’ or a sign of a genetic difference and a need for individualized nutrient support? The second answer is my answer.
  18. The health of the planet’s oceans is already threatened. Increased temperatures and ocean acidity is going to greatly impact fish species which are already threatened by overfishing. Scientists estimate that 90% of stocks are already fished at or beyond sustainable limits according to information provided in the question. Decades from now when the air is even warmer and the ocean is even more acidic we need to have already developed algae and other alternative protein sources because replenishing the numbers of over fished species may not be possible in the hotter more acidic ocean. Reducing our cumulative human carbon footprint would help protect the ocean from temperatures and acidity reaching even more elevated levels. Reducing the amount of acidic fertilizers used on farms and other landscapes would also help reduce the amount of acidic wastes washing off into the ocean or groundwater. Reducing the use of hydraulic fracturing methods could help reduce toxins from leaching into the ground water and reduce the amount of methane being allowed to inadvertently escape into the atmosphere. Regulations regarding which species of fish allowed to be caught and how many are necessary to help support the rebound of the species that have been more depleted. The bleaching of coral reefs is temperature related but acidity is also involved so modifying our use of acidic fertilizers might help reduce their impact on coastal regions of the ocean. Limiting activity in coral reef areas has helped some recover. Oil spills and heavy metals and other toxins and destructive fishing practices are all harmful to coral reefs. The ocean is like our life blood and like our kidneys for detoxifying the planet’s air and water supplies, what is harmful to us can be harmful to it. [13] Cleaning up the giant floating island of garbage is a priority — humans caused that, we can’t deny that fact, so we should accept our responsibility for cleaning it up.
  19. The immigration regulations regarding H-1B Visas needs to be modified to reflect more accurate wages. Businesses are able to hire non-citizen university graduates for a $60,000 per year salary when they have a H-1B Visa. Citizens with a similar degree in this decade would expect a far larger starting salary so the H-1B Visa program requirements have not kept up with modern salaries and may be reducing the number of skilled jobs available to U.S. citizens. A minimal change would be to modify the language of the H-1B Visa to reflect standard starting salaries for technological jobs. Restricting immigration and deporting university student immigrants does not help innovation. Immigrant scholars help keep the U.S. at the edge of advances in technology. [14]  A balance needs to be maintained between encouraging academic studies and employment opportunities for both citizens and immigrants.
  20. My administration would help foster a culture of scientific transparency and accountability in government by encouraging and protecting employees who try to report concerns about questionable research or business practices (protect whistle blowers). Strengthening the adverse drug and vaccination reporting system would also help improve accountability of the FDA and pharmaceutical industries. Devising ways to use blockchain technology in clinical drug trials and other research studies could help make the data on which research is based more transparent, and less able to be modified or dropped from a study if the results didn’t match the desired goal of the company who provided funding for the study. Environmental and other business regulations would be based on best practices of the industry that had previously been found to work, in combination with recommendations from environmental scientists regarding unsafe chemicals or other issues needing limits or environmentally safe techniques.

As pop quizzes go, that was an eight hour brain buster of a pop quiz.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

References:

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/us/large-companies-game-h-1b-visa-program-leaving-smaller-ones-in-the-cold.html?_r=0
  2. http://www.worldhealth.net/forum/thread/99044/low-iodine-found-in-diabetics/?page=1
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html
  4. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/11/13/cdc-child-autism-rate-now-1-in-45-after-survey-method-changes
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
  6. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf
  7. Ken Tsumiyama, Yumi Miyazaki, Shunichi Shiozawa,  Self-Organized Criticality Theory of Autoimmunity, (PLoS ONE 4(12): e8382. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008382, Dec 12, 2009)   http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0008382

  8. Charlotta Mellander, et. al., Night-Time Light Data: A Good Proxy Measure for Economic Activity?, PLoS One. 2015; 10(10): e0139779.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4619681/

  9. Pauline Anderson,  Naloxone Prescribed With Every Opioid? , (March 7, 2016)  Medscape.com, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/859993
  10. Brad Avery, The Cost of an Overdose,  (May 21, 2016, Metrowest Daily News)  http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20160521/cost-of-overdose
  11. http://www.newsweek.com/states-medical-marijuana-painkiller-deaths-drop-25-266577
  12. http://www.natural.news/2016-01-27-opioid-related-deaths-decrease-by-25-percent-in-states-with-medical-marijuana-program.html
  13. http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/resources/res_pdfs/ga-66/inputs/vietnam.pdf
  14. Xueying Han, Will They Stay or Will They Go? International Graduate Students and Their Decisions to Stay or Leave the U.S. upon Graduation, PLoS One. 2015; 10(3): e0118183. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356591/

  15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/05/the-stunning-geographic-divide-in-american-creativity/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_wonkblog-creativity-815pm:homepage/story

A transition plan already exists for coping with climate change but it uses different jargon

This post is a follow up to this post: [http://transcendingsquare.com/2016/05/20/climate-change-is-real-exxon-knew-all-along/]

The 2015 agreement for a global response to climate change was drafted in Paris last year with a group representing 197 countries. As of May 21, 2016, seventeen of the nations represented in 2015 have ratified the agreement.

The plan doesn’t use the word transition or the word plan but the words it uses suggests transition planning is a goal. Mitigation is the word used to represent work designed to directly cope with environmental destruction or changes resulting from climate change such as flooding caused by melting glaciers or by sea level rise or by increased hurricane activity. Adaptation is the word used to represent work designed to cope with the changing climate such as developing more heat tolerant crops. And resilience is the word used to describe how capable a community might be when facing a severe weather event. Financing insurance coverage to help offset costs of weather related damage is a suggestion for improving a community’s resilience.

Jargon and insurance coverage can only help to a certain extent, eventually someone has to get out in the field and shovel sand into sandbags for flood barriers or shovel debris out of the glacial lake drainage channel. And eventually a community’s insurance company (or insuring nation) needs to say sorry we will only provide flood insurance for this community is you are insuring a houseboat or cyclone resistant raft. Break-walls are helpful for protecting a community from occasional wave damage in turbulent weather but if the turbulent weather is occurring every year and the high tide is flooding roads then mitigation, adaptation and resilience might all have to move inland/upland a little farther.

I wrote about cherries in a recent post primarily because that is a crop and topic that is not naturally resilient and for the industry to survive it will need to adapt to the climate changes that are happening rather than just mitigate storm damage. Trees can be pruned after a bad storm to reduce losses but if all the season’s buds are frozen after an early thaw followed by a freezing weather event then there is no crop and only crop insurance left (if financially resilient). Eventually the bank or farmer has to to get fed up with the annual risk and plant new crops that are less risky.  I also wrote about cherries because they are a crop that is important within my region and one that I’ve experience with planting transitionally – in a region on the edge of the zones typically used for the crop.

Being willing to experiment and having some experience with farms and orchards played a role in my life many years ago when I first relocated to an area far in the north of the U.S.. Lack of sunshine and summertime were significant changes for me. And I spent a fair amount of time studying greenhouse designs when I first moved but I never had the budget to do more than make cold frame shelters for planting earlier in the spring. However I also looked into types of fruits and berries that might grow well in the climate, and planted a few different varieties. Semi-hardy cherry trees have continued to do well in my yard, while a semi-hardy dwarf peach and nectarine tree did well for a few years and then were frozen one harsh spring.

Climate change has been happening and people’s lives and careers are being permanently affected. The words we use to cope with change are important and talking about making changes is important but actually making changes is also important. Not ratifying the agreement that was reached by 197 nations will only continue to reduce the time we have to plan ahead and make resilient and adaptive changes instead of waiting for devastation to occur and performing mitigation after the fact.

So is it sad to think about the local Cherry Capital having to become the local peach or nectarine capital instead? Yes, it is kind of sad, but it seems more sad to think about having no cherries at all, so planting cherry trees farther north seems prudent whether it is called a mitigation strategy or an adaptive one. It does seem like it would be more resilient to have cherry orchards in a larger number of growing areas so that a severe weather event in one area might not affect the orchards in a slightly different area.

Any way you look at it, having cherry trees in the backyard is nicer than having a glacial lake or 50’C/122’F weather. We as a species need to recognize that our planet is our permanent home and unless we take better care of it, the planet will not be able to continue supporting us in the style to which some of us have become accustomed. Many parts of the world still don’t have electricity or running water for showers or drinking. Insurance policies can’t guarantee that electricity and running water will always be available just because it has been available in the past — not if the region becomes significantly different whether from storm damage or sea level rise or increased average daily temperatures, an insurance company can’t insure against permanent changes.

A community in Sweden is planning ahead where change due to human activity has become a significant risk. The whole town is moving citizens to a new location 3.2 kilometers farther down the road. The town is built over an iron mine which has excavated so much area from the ground under the town that the buildings and infrastructure are sinking. Starting over in a new location before a calamity occurs makes more sense than having to try to retrieve property from a building that has become located at the bottom of a sinkhole. [http://www.sciencealert.com/sweden-is-relocating-an-entire-city-to-stop-it-sinking-into-the-ground]

Moving while moving trucks are still useful is an adaptive change, moving once your property is in the bottom of a sinkhole would be mitigation after a calamity. Resilience might be shown during adaptation or mitigation but more lives and property might be saved if changes occur as adaptation rather than waiting until mitigation is necessary. Moving from a floodplain before a severe flood would be adaptation, building a house on stilts or a cyclone tolerant raft would be adaptive. Buying flood insurance might be financially resilient for the first few floods but eventually an insurance company or nation that tries to insure against flooding in a floodplain would have to realize that that is a loser’s bet and insurance is a game for gamblers rather than for long-term planners.

I’m not suggesting that I’m an expert in planning mitigation efforts or cherry plantations just that I’m a human who cares about the long term health of the planet. Quibbling about who is at fault is important for helping to identify activities that are adding to the problem and that need to be stopped or modified to be less destructive. Quibbling about blame may be a strategy to try to avoid accepting responsibility for cost of mitigation repairs or adaptive changes but eventually change happens whether it is insured against or not.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Climate change is real, Exxon knew all along, now it’s time to plan and do, not just talk

Climate change has already been happening. It is past time to stop arguing about whether human activity is a cause and to start transitioning to life on a different planet. We may be uncomfortable talking about it if we feel others aren’t interested or because we don’t know much about it. [ http://michiganradio.org/post/what-keeps-people-talking-about-climate-change#stream/0 ] And we might not know much about it because we have been given misleading information about it. Some in the fossil fuel industry including Exxon has known about climate change as early as 1981 but funded disinformation research and media stories that suggested the problem wasn’t occurring or wasn’t due to human activity. [ http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/08/exxon-climate-change-1981-climate-denier-funding ][http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/04/06/3766659/fact-97-percent-climate-scientists-climate-change/]

There’s no time like the present, though, to start talking about it. Many people are going to be affected but in different ways around the planet.

Some areas that are already hot may become too hot for humans to live and work safely during more days of the year. The elderly and people with health problems or those working outside might be most at risk. Northern Africa and the Middle East may have greater than average increases in temperature compared to other areas around the world. Syria suffered a severe drought in 2011 which led to food shortages and may have been part of the cause of civil unrest in the nation that has led to ongoing fighting in the nation. [http://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/05/18/middle-east-and-north-africa-will-become-uninhabitable-due-to-climate-change/]

Increased health risks and crop and infrastructure damage can also result from more severe dust storms in dry climates. Areas in China have been experiencing loss of fertile land to desertification and an increase in dust storms that wind spreads to affect other areas in Asia as well. The dust can carry airborne disease risks. Erosion control grasses are being planted in some areas with desertification and duststorms.   [http://www.businessinsider.com/china-is-turning-into-a-desert-and-its-causing-problems-across-asia-2016-5]

Building more underground living spaces might help provide a cooler environment naturally and protection from a duststorm. Caves are always around 55’F after a certain depth – fact checker needs to look that up.

Flooding from melting glacier water is a risk in mountainous regions in several regions of the world. The type of flooding is called a glacial lake outburst flood (glof).  The water from the glacier melting collects in lakes at the top of mountain ridges. If too much water collects then surrounding rock and earth can break apart and the lake floods the valley below. is a risk at Thorthormi Glacial Lake in Bhutan. Work to prevent flooding has already been successful over several years of hand labor. The mountain top is too inaccessible to helicopters and unstable for large equipment. Shovels and shoulders are used to move boulders of rock or ice to make channels for the lake waters to drain through. It seems feasible that hydropower equipment could be set up downstream, further down the mountain from the hand digging crew. [http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/summer2013/torrent-consequences ] [ http://climateriskmanagement.org/project-countries.php]

Annual crops that don’t tolerate changes in heat or rainwater can be replaced the next season with types of plants that are more likely to tolerate the more extreme weather conditions. Global warming is a less accurate term than climate change because wet areas are likely to bet wetter, with more extreme storms and flood risks, and dry areas are likely to get hotter and dryer with more risk of drought. Sensitive perennial crops like fruit trees can be affected by earlier thaws followed by refreezing temperatures. The trees blossom early and then the refreeze prevents the fruit from developing. Cherry crops have already been adversely affected by this problem. Climate change and cherries: It’s the pits, (Fe. 2, 2016) https://citizensclimatelobby.org/climate-change-and-cherries-its-the-pits/

Transition planning would suggest that it might be sensible to start planting some more heat tolerant types of fruit trees in the areas that are currently focused on cherry trees and to start some cherry orchards in more northern areas. As the planet warms the types of crops and animals that were once well suited to a region may no longer be able to survive there in a warmer or wetter or dryer climate. Animals might be able to migrate to new areas but fruit trees have to be planted.

Hotter summer temperatures also shorten the growing season for many crops. Soybeans and peanuts are more heat tolerant than corn. Sheep and goats are more heat tolerant and can survive on more sparse forage than cattle. People are moving into urban areas as their coastal or cropland becomes less hospitable but urban areas tend to have even hotter temperatures than rural areas and work may not be available. Staying put and trying to adapt to the changed climate by planting different crops or type of foraging animal might be safer and healthier than trying to migrate to a crowded city. [http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange/publication/turn-down-the-heat]

Disappearing coasts and bleached coral reefs are not the only issues to be considered. [http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/04/26/3769440/great-barrier-reef-bleaching/ ]  Fish and aquatic mammals are already having mysterious mass deaths in many areas. Increased temperatures combined with increasing acidity, lower oxygen levels and changes in salinity may all be factors — in addition to oil spills and other pollutants. Lack of fishing would further impact food supply shortages due to smaller crop yields. Planning ahead now could include more focus on soy and peanuts and other legume crops that are protein rich and heat tolerant.

The oceans act somewhat like kidneys for the planet by detoxifying the excess carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere and like the lungs as part of the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle. Carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere and oxygen is produced within the ocean largely by microbes but also algae and seaweeds. Over half of our atmosphere’s oxygen is produced by ocean plankton and other ocean microbes. That’s just a rough analogy to suggest how important a change in ocean acidity could be to the planet. It’s not just fish on our dinner plate at stake (pun not intended) or the oysters and clams on the half shell but it is also the air we breath our oxygen at stake.

This is a topic that is already impacting lives lets start planning and transitioning to the changing world using sustainable low energy cost methods. Investing in people power and working on strategies for the long term. Rafts built into designs where there’s now beachfront living would be a water-world style transition. Building things starts with ideas and eventually to blueprints and shovels.

The carbon dioxide build up will last for centuries, and increase as we keep adding more to the air. The oceans absorption of carbon dioxide reduces the level in the atmosphere and buffers changes in the global temperature but at the cost of increased  ocean acidity in addition to increased ocean temperature.

The following  is a short article but gets to the point with the title:  “We could be seeing the worst case scenario for climate change now.” [http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2016/05/18/we-could-be-living-through-the-worst-case-scenario-right-now/]

We are already near a 1.5’C average temperature increase. Coral reef bleaching is happening regularly. The glacier and ice sheet melting has been more rapid than anticipated.

Let’s start doing and planning ahead rather than talk about whether climate change exists. What caused it is still an important discussion and topic for ongoing research and data collection by teams around the world because we also need to stop adding to the problem. A 4’C increase by 2100 is predicted to have worse impact than the goal of keeping warming to 2’C but 4’C would be the estimated outcome if we continue at our current rate of carbon dioxide production.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

The Council of Economic Adviser’s Advice – mitigate now to save money later

The Council of Economic Adviser’s recommendations regarding climate change suggests that it will be less costly in the long run to work towards reducing carbon emissions now. Changes now may also be more likely to be effective.

My internet is acting up this morning, so I’m just copying and pasting a link that I had left open, for the report by the Council of Economic Advisers titled, “The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change,” (July 2014):

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/the_cost_of_delaying_action_to_stem_climate_change.pdf