Newsdesk – February 23

Wallace Smith Broecker was a professor at Columbia University in New York. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Climate change science pioneer Wallace Smith Broecker dies. US professor raised early alarms about climate change and popularised term ‘global warming’. With a 1975 article, Broecker correctly predicted that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced warming. He was also an advocate for political action to deal with the problem. In 1984, he told a House of Representatives subcommittee that urgent action was required to halt the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere because the climate system could “jump abruptly from one state to another” with devastating effects. Broecker’s theories have subsequently become proven by events and are almost universally accepted by climate scientists today. “Wally was unique, brilliant and combative,” said the Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer. “He wasn’t fooled by the cooling of the 1970s. He saw clearly the unprecedented warming now playing out and made his views clear, even when few were willing to listen” – The Guardian.

  • Yes, Sustainability Can Be a Strategy – Harvard Business Review.
  • Bold Plan? Replace the Border Wall with an Energy–Water Corridor – Scientific American.
  • The Colorado River is evaporating, and climate change is largely to blame – Mashable.
  • What the 17th century’s “Little Ice Age” teaches us about climate change – Quartz 
  • 11 Things Climate Change ‘Dismissive’ People Say On Social Media – Forbes
  • Australian mammal becomes first to go extinct due to climate change – CNN
  • Climate change will fuel more wars and displacement in the Middle East, experts warn – Independent 
Credit: Marcelo Perez Del Carpio Getty Images

Where Climate Change Fits into Venezuela’s Ongoing Crisis. Last year’s election was so badly compromised that the United States and its European and Latin American allies no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president, and his once-wealthy country is careening toward failed-state status. While global warming isn’t in the foreground of the Venezuelan story, it may be part of the backdrop.  Venezuela got 50 to 65 percent less rainfall than the annual average from 2013 to 2016. That led to rationing of both water and electricity because Venezuela is heavily reliant on hydropower. A dry winter heading into 2016 led to low water levels at the nation’s largest hydroelectric facilities, and months of power shortages. Venezuela’s government’s poor decision-making prior to, and in response to, water scarcity contributed significantly to millions of Venezuelans leaving their homeland in search of better lives in neighboring states,” retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver-Leighton Barrett, a senior research fellow at the Center for Climate and Security, wrote in a recent issue brief – Scientific American.


A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy. The economic thinker who most influenced the Green New Deal isn’t Marx or Lenin, it’s Alexander Hamilton. Like Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Hamilton wanted massive federal spending on new infrastructure. Like Donald Trump, he believed that very high tariffs can nurture American manufacturing. And like Elizabeth Warren, he was willing to bend the Constitution to reform the financial system. Hamilton is the father of American industrial policy – the set of laws and regulations that say the federal government can guide economic growth without micromanaging it. The Green New Deal’s supporters hope that industrial policy can now bring forth another transition—to cheaper energy, faster trains, and an altogether more climate-friendly economy. The Green New Deal is a leftist resurrection of federal industrial policy. It is not an attempt to control the private sector, according to its authors; it is a bid to collaborate with it – The Atlantic.

Why We Stink at Tackling Climate Change.  Global threats result from human culture outrunning human biology.
Biological evolution is Darwinian, moving by the gradual substitution and accumulation of genes, and many generations are nearly always required for any appreciable change to occur. Cultural evolution is powered by the nongenetic “inheritance” of acquired characteristics. Imagine this thought experiment. An infant born on the Pleistocene savannah is switched at birth with another born in 21st-century America. Each would undoubtedly grow up to be a functional member of her society: hunting or gathering roots and berries in one case, and perhaps running a hedge fund or piloting jet aircraft in the other. Delay a few decades and switch these two individuals as adults; the results would be disastrous for both. The biological nature of these individuals will be comparable whereas cultural evolution will not.  The biology-culture disconnect has its imprint in nearly every big-picture problem we currently face. Enter global heating. This phenomenon is largely due to the industrial revolution, barely more than two centuries old, during which time our biological evolution has essentially remained unchanged.  Slow moving biological evolution has left us both reluctant to acknowledge the problem and often disinclined to do very much about it – Nautilus.