Norway issues $1bn threat to Brazil over rising Amazon destruction

Stephan:  Norway has become a world leader as a society; a leader because it is a nation that has made wellbeing its first priority. On the basis of social outcome data, they are healthier, have a higher average income, better healthcare, and free or low cost college, and superior eldercare compared to the United States. At the geopolitical level this report describes how such a society acts. It is the individual quotidian choice described in my book The 8 Laws of Change expressed at the societal level.


A strip of forest separates a eucalyptus plantation from cleared land, 40 miles north of Macapa, Brazil. Credit: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Norway has issued a blunt threat to Brazil that if rising deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is not reversed, its billion-dollar financial assistance will fall to zero. The leaders of the two nations meet in Oslo on Friday.

The oil-rich Scandinavian nation has provided $1.1bn to Brazil’s Amazon fund since 2008, tied to reductions in the rate of deforestation in the world’s greatest rainforest. The destruction of forests by timber and farming industries is a major contributor to the carbon emissions that drive climate change and Norway views protecting the Amazon as vital for the whole world.

The rate of deforestation in the Amazon fell steadily from 2008 to 2014, an “impressive achievement” which had a “very positive impact” on Brazil and the world, according to Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister.

But in a forthright letter to Brazil’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho, seen by the Guardian, Helgesen said: “In […]

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Houston’s flooding shows what happens when you ignore science and let developers run rampant

Stephan:  Hurricane Harvey is a normal part of the weather cycle that has impacted the Gulf Coast since time out of mind. Climate change comes into play because it was the increased ocean temperatures that gave the hurricane its power. I see this as an alarm bell going off, because Houston is just the beginning. These extreme events are going to become more frequent, and the trend is towards greater disruption of lives, death, and the destruction of property. Preparing for what is coming requires building or strengthening infrastructure and that takes years.  With a Republican President and congress who deny climate change exists what needs to be done isn't being done.

Memorial Heights in west Houston, Texas.
Credit: Aaron Cohan

Since Houston, Texas was founded nearly two centuries ago, Houstonians have been treating its wetlands as stinky, mosquito-infested blots in need of drainage.

Even after it became a widely accepted scientific fact that wetlands can soak up large amounts of flood water, the city continued to pave over them. The watershed of the White Oak Bayou river, which includes much of northwest Houston, is a case in point. From 1992 to 2010, this area lost more than 70% of its wetlands, according to research (pdf) by Texas A&M University.

In the false-color satellite images below, plants and other vegetation appear green, while urbanized and developed areas appear blue and purple. Drag the slider to see how northwest Houston has changed since 1986.

In recent days, the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey has raised water levels in some parts of the watershed high enough to completely cover a Cadillac. The vanished wetlands wouldn’t have prevented flooding, but they would have made it less painful, experts say.

The Harvey-wrought […]

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LA painting streets white to reduce urban warming

Stephan:  The one place where real climate change preparation is taking place is at the local level, particularly in Blue value cities, which is quite telling. Here is some good news and an example of what I mean.

LA street workers paint the city’s streets white.
Credit: LA Street Services

We already know that the urban heat island effect can significantly increase temperatures and worsen heat waves, even in neighboring cities. But what can communities do about it?

Cities like Louisville, Kentucky, have already been exploring large-scale tree planting as a way to cut down on heat build up, now LA is unleashing another potential tool against urban warming:

They are painting some of their streets—trial roads in all 15 council districts to be precise—white. (Actually, it’s more like an off-white/gray—but the principle is the same.) By covering blacktop asphalt with a more reflective “cool pavement” treatment, LA Street Services claims they’ll reduce temperatures on a summer afternoon by ten degrees or more. In fact, Curbed Los Angeles reports that a similar scheme in Encino reduced surface temperature on a parking lot by a whopping 25 to 30 degrees.

Of course, immediate localized surface temperatures are probably less important than how the build up of heat on hard surfaces impacts the overall urban microclimate, and associated energy […]

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US Energy Agency Asked Scientists to Scrub References to Climate Change

Stephan:  The Christofascist administration of Trump is not only not doing what should be done to prepare for climate change, they are censoring government scientists from telling the truth. It is classic fascist information control. And it is America.

Credit: John Fowler/Flickr

Multiple researchers who received grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) have been asked to remove references to “climate change” and “global warming” from the descriptions of their projects. (emphasis added)

In one case, a lab official at the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, asked an ecologist to elide references to climate change from her grant proposal in order to satisfy US President Donald Trump’s “budget language restrictions”. The scientist, Jennifer Bowen of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, posted an e-mail from the lab official to Facebook on 24 August.

I have been asked to contact you to update the wording in your proposal abstract to remove words such as ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change,’” the official, Ashley Gilbert, a project coordinator at PNNL’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. Bowen’s project will examine how environmental stressors, such as climate change, affect the ecology of saltwater marshes.

Gilbert’s office told Nature that she was unavailable for comment, and a PNNL spokesperson referred questions to DOE headquarters in Washington DC. Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes declined to answer questions about the situation but said “there is […]

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Western IQs drop by 14 points in last century, study says

Stephan:    This should serve as a wake-up call, but I don't think we are smart enough to hear what this research is telling us.

• Simple reaction time has slowed since 1889.

• Psychometric meta-analysis reveals a decline in g of − 1.16 points per decade. • The decline between 1889 and 2004 is − 13.35 points. • The decline between 1889 and 2004 is − 12.45 points. • This is the first direct measurement of a probable dysgenic trend in IQ.   Citation:  Woodley M, Nijenhuis, Murphy R. Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time. Intelligence. Volume 41, Issue 6, November–December 2013, Pages 843-85.

A new study shows that a diabetes drug helps to regrow brain cells in humans.
Credit: Matt Cardy

It’s not just you. People really are getting dumber, according to a new study.

Research published online in the journal Intelligence on Thursday claims the IQ of people in Western nations has fallen by an average of 14.1 points over the past century.

Scientists in Europe used visual response times recorded in Western studies from 1889 to 2004.

The idea is, the faster a person reacts, the smarter you supposedly are.

“Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence and are considered elementary measures of cognition,” wrote researchers Michael A. Woodleya of Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Jan te Nijenhuisc of the University of Amsterdam and Raegan Murphy of the University College Cork in Ireland.

Their findings showed a decline in general intelligence of 1.23 points per decade.

So why are we supposedly getting dumber?

Previous research has found that women of higher intelligence are having fewer children, meaning […]

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