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The hills are green, but all’s not well
Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times
… As scientists comb through Southern California’s burnt landscape, they’re finding new evidence that frequent fires are gradually replacing chaparral and sagebrush with highly flammable and prolific nonnative weeds.
Orange County’s canyons offer a stark illustration. The 28,400 acres that burned over three weeks are in various stages of recovery. Upper elevations of the Santa Ana Mountains remain a moonscape.
But throughout the foothills, weeds are in full bloom amid blackened native sagebrush and grass.
Known as “type conversion,” the landscape change is having a profound effect: extending the region’s annual fire season, deepening the threat of mudslides and endangering animal species.
The culprit isn’t the size of wildfires, but their frequency.
(2 March 2008)
Pictures of a changing planet
Satellite photos from new book show how both natural events and people are reshaping the planet.
A new book published this week, Fragile Earth, contains powerful ‘before and after’ photographic evidence and computer models showing the speed at which both natural phenomena and humanity are making an impact on the planet
(4 March 2008)
Tobacco and oil pay for climate conference
Steve Connor, Independent
The first international conference designed to question the scientific consensus on climate change is being sponsored by a right-wing American think-tank which receives money from the oil industry.
The same group has tried to undermine the link between passive smoking and health problems and has accepted donations from a major tobacco company.
The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York appears to be a conventional exchange of ideas on the science of global warming. Yet it is organised by the Heartland Institute of Chicago, which has opposed much of the science of climate change and passive smoking.
(3 March 2008)
Global Warming Paradox?
John Tierney, New York Times (reporter blog)
If only the masses could understand the science of global warming, they’d be alarmed, right? Wrong, according to the surprising results of a survey of Americans published in the journal Risk Analysis by researchers at Texas A&M University.
After asking a national sample of more than 1,000 Americans how much they knew about global warming and how they felt about it, the researchers report that respondents who are better-informed about global warming “both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming.” Another unexpected result: “Respondents who showed a great deal of confidence that scientists understand global warming and climate change showed significantly less concern for the risks of global warming than did those who have lower trust in scientists.”
The researchers offer several possible explanations for this apparent paradox. Paul Kellstedt, the lead author and a professor of political science at Texas A&M, told me that previous researchers found that a campaign to increase public understanding of genetically modified foods didn’t lessen public fears, and that more widespread “scientific understanding” of research on embryos actually diminished support for that research. “What those two studies show, and what ours does, too,” he said, “is that more information given to the mass public does not automatically translate into more support for what are (in the public’s mind) controversial areas of scientific research. In fact, more information, in all three cases, seems to have the opposite effect, creating opposition to the research area in question.”
(29 February 2008)