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The Environment

On the Truth-Value of Techno-Optimism: the Case of US Farmers

The “truth-value” of a belief or proposition is the extent to which it is empirically justified, i.e., at least partly true. The “use-value” of a belief or proposition is the extent to which it serves a need or provides a benefit.

Conservation Measures in the Multi-Year 2018 Farm Bill

Here’s what the Audubon Society has to say about Working Lands:

“Working lands represent one of the best hopes for conservation. These parcels of forests, ranches, and farms add up to roughly a billion acres—or about half the land in the entire Lower 48 states. Audubon collaborates with landowners, land managers, government agencies, and private industry across the hemisphere to increase the quality of habitat on privately managed lands to benefit 20 flagship bird species. Audubon also helps landowners and land managers apply bird-friendly practices on their lands and develop market-based solutions to build economic incentives that have the potential to engage many more landowners.”  

Behind The Headlines: The Journal Nature Retracts Ocean Warming Study

Original Study published in Nature on November 1, 2018:  “Our result—which relies on high-precision O2 measurements dating back to 1991 —suggests that ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates…” … Nature issues an editor's note about the errors on November 19, 2018: : We would like to alert readers that the authors have informed us of errors in the paper. An implication of the errors is that the uncertainties in ocean heat content are substantially underestimated.” …Retraction published online in Nature on September 25, 2019….

A Possible Near-Future Climate: Like the Mid-Pliocene, But Different

The mid-Pliocene climate may be a decent proxy for the earth’s near-future climate, under the mid-range emissions scenario Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5, otherwise know as RCP4.5, The mid-Pliocene was around three million years ago. The global climate was wetter and 2-3 °C higher than today. Atmospheric CO2 and sea levels were also higher. There was much less ice in the northern hemisphere. Forests, woodland and savanna dominated the landscape.

Different Emissions Scenarios Generate Different Futures: Which Scenarios are the Most Likely?

Note the term “anomaly means a departure from a reference value or long-term average. The above graph starts at 1°C in 2005, because by then global mean temperatures had already increased by one Celsius degree since pre-industrial times (1850-1880). Unfortunately, the  rise in global temperatures has accelerated since 2005, but it’s too early to tell if the above RCP-generated warming trajectories will need to be modified. …How about future sea levels?

Farmer Economics and Saving The Planet: The Case of Herbicides

Luckily, “smart sprayers” have arrived! These sprayers use machine-vision technology that enables weed recognition and the targeting of individual weeds. According to a recent survey, 20% of precision technology dealers indicated they were already offering the sprayers, and half the dealers foresaw offering the sprayers in the near future, given farmer interest and product improvements. …Precision spraying means less herbicide residue outside the target. Good for the soil, good for the water, and good for endangered species everywhere.

GM Crops, Climate Change and Protecting the Environment: The Latest Research

According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) associated with land use account for somewhere between 21-37% of all anthropogenic emissions. Agriculture is the main culprit, both as a cause of deforestation and as a major emitter of GHGs, especially carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Agriculture is also destroying biodiversity and pushing all sorts to species to the brink of extinction.

How Much Do US Farmers Make?

Note that most farms lose money (specifically, 54.2% of all farms have “negative income” from farming). Small farms in particular depend on off-farm income to survive. Midsize farm households do okay - but they take in a lot of nonfarm income too. Not counting the nonfarm income, midsize farm households earn about what a mid-career registered nurse makes. Large-scale farmers are doing a lot better On average, their household income is on par with what a typical plastic surgeon earns in a year.

Astrology, Political Attitudes and Party Affiliation

…twice as many Democrats as Republicans consider astrology “very” scientific and Republicans are more likely than Democrats to consider astrology “not at all” scientific. What’s going on here? Is there a solid scientific case for believing in astrology?

Truth-Telling and Persuasive Intent in Conversations about the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change, Part III: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Verheggen et al gets the final word:

“Different surveys are not directly comparable, due to different groups of people being asked different questions…. Different surveys typically use slightly different criteria to determine their survey sample and to define the consensus position, hampering a direct comparison. It is possible that our definition of “agreement” sets a higher standard than, for example, survey question[s] about whether human activity is ‘a significant contributing factor’.”

Truth-Telling and Persuasive Intent in Conversations about Climate Change, Part IIa: How was the Consensus Established?

The above graphic conveys two things: first, getting skeptics to accept the scientific consensus on climate change is essential to convincing them of the need for urgent action. Second, in order for skeptics to accept the consensus, you have to convince them that the consensus is overwhelming - not just most scientists, but the vast majority of scientists. So is that what the studies in this graphic show? Let’s find out.

Truth-Telling and Persuasive Intent in Conversations about Climate Change, Part I: What is the Scientific Consensus?

Rule # 1: If you’re going to have an honest conversation about climate change, don’t misrepresent what the scientific consensus actually is.

Rule # 2: If you’re going to have an honest conversation about climate change, be prepared to discuss the evidence for a scientific consensus.

Rule # 3: If you want to have an honest conversation about climate change, remember that conversation is a two-way street. That means it’s just as much about listening as speaking.

Rule # 4: If your goal is to persuade someone to agree with you, then your goal is not to have an honest conversation.

Saving Endangered Species Through Better Farming

To make matters even worse, most of the developing world is moving to beef and cows wreak much more environmental havoc than chickens and pigs. Unfortunately, this trend is likely to continue at least for the next couple generations. Which is a long time if you’re an endangered species.