2019年11月20日 星期三

Climate Fwd: Know your climate facts

Also this week, guarding Arctic researchers from polar bears

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Tyler Varsell

By Susan Shain

Sometimes, Thanksgiving dinner comes with a side dish of climate denial.

Whether it’s grumbling about “the climate hoax” from your parents, a sibling or that cousin you rarely see, it’s time to get ready in case climate myths come up at the dinner table. Here are 10 resources to refresh your understanding of our warming planet.

Websites and Fact Sheets

Skeptical Science — This stalwart’s “Arguments” page lists 197 common myths about climate change (“It’s the sun”) alongside what the science actually says (“In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions”). It’s all backed by abundant research.

Climate Change: How Do We Know? — With a multitude of visuals, and using language that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand, NASA dissects the evidence, causes and effects of climate change. You might want to bookmark the FAQ page.

The 12 Questions Every Climate Activist Hears and What to Say — This PDF from The Climate Reality Project will arm you with evidence-based answers to the “most common arguments against man-made climate change.”



The Origin of Climate Denial — It’s important to remember that climate change wasn’t always questioned. This engaging episode of WNYC’s “The United States of Anxiety” explores how we went from broad climate consensus to having a persistent denial movement.

Today I Learned: Climate — You can’t really argue with MIT scientists. Well, you can, but you’ll probably lose. These nine bite-size podcasts from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology interview professors on topics like clouds, carbon pricing and geoengineering.

The climate crisis is an oceans crisis — On a recent episode of his podcast, Ezra Klein, a co-founder of Vox, had a smart discussion with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, about the water that covers more than 70 percent of the planet and the hundreds of millions of people who depend directly upon it.


Why Climate Change Is Anti-Justice — Talia Buford, a ProPublica reporter, offers an introduction to the subject of environmental justice on the PBS show “Hot Mess.” Also worth a click: this video from its sister show “It’s Okay to Be Smart” explaining where that “97 percent of climate scientists agree” statistic originated, and this video divvying climate science into 24 parts.


13 Misconceptions About Global Warming: Got six minutes? Then watch Derek Muller, host of the YouTube channel Veritasium and holder of a doctorate in physics education research, offer humorous rebuttals to more than a dozen common climate myths.

Short Books

The Madhouse Effect: In just 208 pages, the climatologist Michael E. Mann and the cartoonist Tom Toles dismantle climate change denial with the help of witty writing and cartoons.

What Is Climate Change? This 112-pager from Gail Herman, which made Yale Climate Connections’ list of recommended books for children, will allow you to learn the science of climate change alongside your kids.

There you have it. You’ve got about a week before Thanksgiving, so study up.

As Jamie Margolin, the 17-year-old co-founder of Zero Hour, a youth-led environmental justice group, said: “It’s the one-on-one conversations that are slowly but surely going to change the political climate on, well, the climate.”


Bears explored power equipment on the ice near the research ship Polarstern in October. Esther Horvath

By Esther Horvath


Esther Horvath is a documentary photographer aboard the icebreaker Polarstern, which is frozen into the ice in the Central Arctic on a yearlong science expedition to better understand the region’s changing climate. In preparing for the expedition, Ms. Horvath trained as a guard to protect researchers from polar bears.

My first shift as an armed polar bear lookout was on Oct. 12, before the permanent winter darkness set in. I was assigned to “Met City,” a science station about 2,000 feet from the ship with equipment for making atmospheric measurements. There were 12 of us at the station that day.

After about 90 minutes, I and the guards at the other science stations received an order from the bridge to bring everyone back to the ship immediately. A polar bear and her cub had been spotted. (They had been seen in previous days, but not when people were on the ice.)

Polar bears, by the way, are the largest land carnivores on the planet. And they’re not just big, they’re surprisingly fast. They can run about 20 miles per hour and maintain that pace for a mile.

The bridge gave us the position and distance of the bears — about 2,500 feet from the stern and moving toward us. We had two snowmobiles and two sleds, and made a quick return. All the other groups returned safely, too. I had to stay on the ice with the other guards until all the researchers had scrambled back aboard.

This was the expedition’s first ice floe evacuation because of a polar bear visit.

On my second shift there was another evacuation, and in some ways it was even more stressful.

By then, we were living in the 24-hour darkness of polar winter. I was close to the Polarstern at another research station, the one we call Ocean City, where oceanographic measurements are made through holes cut in the ice.

Guarding Ocean City made me uneasy because the researchers were all inside a tent and I was standing alone outside on a top of a small ridge. I would rather have been closer to the scientists.

Esther Horvath on sentry duty this month. The rifle was not used. Jakob Stark

That day, conditions were different. It was very windy and minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or about minus 26 Celsius. Blowing snow, combined with light coming from the ship, made it difficult to keep a lookout for bears.

But, at least we had the wire. Not long after my first shift on the ice, a perimeter trip wire had been installed some distance from the ship. The idea was that any wandering bear would hit the wire, giving us early warning of a visit.

The wire made me feel more secure but I still had a strange feeling, standing alone in the darkness with only the lights from the ship to help me see.

Then, an alarm went off not far away. The wire had been tripped.

I radioed the bridge and told the scientists in the tent that they had to stop working and get back to the ship. My heart was pumping fast from a rush of adrenaline, but we made it back without incident.

A short time later some other guards went out to check the wire. It turned out that a gust of wind had tripped the alarm; there were no signs of a bear.

After these two experiences, I’ve served my polar bear duties on the bridge, keeping watch from there. It’s a lot less stressful.

Henry Fountain contributed from New York.

From the mailbag

One reader had some criticism for the One Thing column this week: “These ideas, while nice, are almost completely pointless in the face of climate inaction at the regulatory level.”

It’s true: Those smaller actions, by themselves, aren’t nearly enough to solve climate change. But recent research shows they’re far from pointless. In fact, they appear to be directly linked to systemic change.

It made us think we should remind everybody about an item we published in June: Don’t Do Just One Thing.

“It can’t just be one thing,” said Patrik Sorqvist, research director of environmental psychology at the University of Gavle in Sweden, in the item from the summer. “It needs to be one thing and a complete transformation.”

Thanks for reading and see you next week.


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