Paris

Superman is dead, and it looks like the Justice League is on its own.

The American Century is over. We’re going to get a lot of hate for saying that, but the way we see it, it’s a little like climate change: It’s a global shift that is big, has a lot of moving parts, is uncomfortable to think about, and will definitely be something that Trump supporters will deny. When it comes to Europe, the Paris Accords, NATO and more, the world is on its own. We seceded our position as world leader the moment that a minority of us elected a self-invested, egotistical, narcissistic, car salesman with questionable mental stability as President. Most people thought our decline would be gentle and gradual, like an old dog slowly dying in the comfort of its home, but last week Donald Trump brought that old dog out behind the shed and decided to put it out of its misery.

Justice League of Nations
The United States’ position as a superpower and a leader in the free world has been in decline for a while. Factors like globalization, the rise of the European Union, our drop in STEM related fields and education, the accessibility of information and technology, and many many other factors -many of which we initiated or put into motion- have doomed our sole position of dominance. Donald Trump did not cause the decline of American power and influence in the world. That was going on long before he ever put his tiny hands on any piece of legislation, but the factors that got him elected are inexplicably linked to that decline: ignorance, fear, bigotry, scapegoating, corruption, ignorance, and ignorance.

It has become abundantly clear that our of President no longer deserves the title of “Leader of the Free World,” nor does he seem to want it. He wants to be the leader of “Pittsburgh not Paris,” but by doing so he has made America less safe… again. Global cooperative treaties, like NATO or the Paris Climate Accord loose some of their power without the United States, and our country will not survive as a lone ship on the sea of coming change. In the past two weeks, The Donald has gone out of his way to alienate allies, embrace global controversy, and deny even the most basic niceties of international diplomacy. Unsurprisingly, the only country still applauding his efforts is Russia.

We could make some joke where we compare Trump to Lex Luthor, but that would be an unfair comparison. At least Lex Luthor had a plan. Trump is led solely by his impulses and his need for complete self-importance. He berated NATO allies for owing “massive amounts of money,” –which is untrue– and made several statements that prove he may not fully understand what NATO is or how it works. He then made sure to physically push aside the Prime Minster of Montenegro, refused to listen to advice from other world leaders, and forgot to reaffirm Article 5 of the NATO treaty… which is kind of the point of the NATO. Article 5, is the article that assures mutual defense of all allied countries. Of course it came out later, that he may only have failed to endorse it because he just made up his own speech as he went along.

Paris Climate According to Trump
After Trump spent a week arm wrestling our closest allies, and posing like a real-freaking-to-life-super-villain, he then announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. He cited several misleading and incorrect statements about the historic international accord, but basically admitted that he pulled out of the Paris Agreement because he thought people were laughing at us. For the record, Paris is a non-binding agreement that held no penalties or international sanctions, and was signed by almost every country in the world, including China, Russia, and North Korea. Despite what Trump claims, experts believed it would have actually grown the US job market. There are currently 374,000 people in America employed in solar energy, compared to the 160,000 currently employed in the coal industry. Trump is mistakenly focused on saving an industry that employs less people in America than Arby’s restaurants.

By snubbing Paris and the EU, Trump is only hurting American leadership in the world. China, has already begun to take the lead on green energy initiatives, and that is great for the environment, but bad for the US economy. Renewable technologies, resources, and energy are going to be the industries of the future, and by clinging to old ideas, the US is conceding future jobs and influence. One of the reasons for America’s success has always been our ability to invent the future. Planes, cars, telephones, the Internet, smartphones, and a thousand other common everyday items were all first created in America. We created the modern world and that put us firmly in charge of it. Now, we will be playing catch-up, and in ten years the world may be buying solar panels manufactured and invented in China.

The Last Moron of a Dying World
Trump has this fascinating -and dangerous- ability to make decisions in service to two personal deities: narcissism and greed. Any choice he makes seems aimed at stroking his ego or padding his wallet. Yet, he only has a rudimentary understanding of diplomacy, politics, and history. He operates with a very narrowed perception, mostly focused on himself, and that is a dangerous way for any leader and diplomat to make decisions. Take his withdrawal from Paris as an example. He incorrectly perceived it as an economic sanction, and failed to weigh all the other factors surrounding the agreement: environmental, defense, political, and more. Europe and the world will now turn toward China for leadership, which is something that American Presidents have been trying to avoid for decades.

Remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty? Think what you will of the TPP, it was not perfect, but it also was not the terrible deal that Donald Trump made it out to be. First of all, it was very good for American farmers, but part of the power of the TPP was not in its economics. It strengthened trading alliance between friendly Pacific nations, while keeping westernized Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, from needing to rely heavily on China for imports. The TPP weakened China’s economic hold and social influence over Asia, but without it our allies have no where else to turn, which makes them more susceptible to Chinese influence in international political and military decisions. The TPP is also a little moot, as it was dead in Congress before Trump ever took office, but that did not stop him from signing his jagged name to a worthless piece of paper to confirm it, all for some cheap applause… which he loves.

A lot of Trump’s grandstanding on his past international trip seems aimed at his supporters back home: his tough talk with NATO, his pulling out the Paris Agreement, and even his manhandling of world leaders. He was not thinking about what those things would do on the global landscape, he was thinking about how they would play to Joe and Jane Smith at his rally in Ohio, or Missouri, or Mar-a lago. Do you know what other world leader talks tough, rattles sabers, and threatens other nations, all in the sole name of domestic popularity? Kim Jong-un -also any strongman dictator in history- but North Korea is the most obvious modern-day example.

The Daily Planetary Crisis
FDR once said that Americans have nothing to fear, but “fear itself.” Donald Trump tells us we should be afraid of everything, terrorists: the news media, refugees, and basically the rest of the world, but that is absolute bullshit. The United States of America is not a country built on fear. We are the risk-takers, the home of the brave, the land of the rebel. When did we become a country that jumps at its own shadow? When did we become a country that hides behind bans and border security? When did we become a country that kicks our friends and throws out the “huddled masses,” all because we are afraid? That is not America. That is not the America we want to live in, but that is the American vision that Donald Trump offers: A paranoid, fearful America who only sees the rest of the world as enemies or suckers.

Trump has no understanding of “cause” and “effect.” To him it is like the world began on November 9, 2016. We need a leader who brings people together, and not one that gets into fights with city mayors who just suffered terrorist attacks. We can no longer survive with an “every man for himself” attitude, nor can we survive by being petty and mean-spirited toward our allies or our enemies. Superman is not a hero if he only considers his own interests -as we saw in Batman v Superman- because when that happens the Justice League is better off without him. So, maybe -for the time being- the world is better off without us.

In the comics Superman dies a noble death and comes back again a hero. We are suffering an ignoble death, but if we continue on this path there may be no coming back for us.

Science March

They came out. They came out in their lab coats. They came out in their rain ponchos. They came out in their Starfleet uniforms. They came out in their Ms. Frizzle and Captain Planet outfits. Even The Doctor came out. They came out with signs, and slogans, and science-jokes. Yes they did, despite the rain and the heat and the cold. Scientists and science-supporters alike all came out for this past weekend’s Science March. In similiar fashion to the Woman’s March, April 22nd’s March for Science took place, not just in Washington DC, but across the nation and across the world. Over 15,000 marched in Washington; 12,000 in Los Angeles; 20,000 in New York, 40,000 in Chicago, and even 2,000 in Oklahoma City. Over 600 marches took place on Saturday, not just in the United States but also in cities like London, Sydney, Auckland, and more. 10,000 people marched in Philadelphia, which included a few members of the NYRD staff.

The Science March was not a condemnation of anyone or anything -not even the Orangeman-in-Chief. No, it was about supporting science and science-based reasoning. It was, as the organizers put it, “political, but not partisan.” However, we also must acknowledge that these marches are in response to many of the policies of Donald Trump and his top law makers in the Senate and Congress. Scott Pruit, the EPA chief, is a known climate-denier. The Donald is threatening to cut science spending by more than 10% in his budget proposal. Climate change is continuously questioned by the GOP. And all of these are cases of lawmakers not understanding or downright denying real and verifiable facts. These reasons, and more, are why we need events like the Science March.

Scientists are not always known for their politics. In fact, when the Science March was first conceived there was an argument over whether it was a worthwhile idea. Many people hesitate to politicize science anymore than it already has been, but the truth is that if scientists are not part of the policy conversation, than they have no notable impact in the decisions being made. The Science March is a march of necessity, made in hopes of making a better and more rational future. However, Saturday’s demonstrations were only the beginning. Now the real work must commence.

Take a look at the gallery below to see some of Saturday’s marchers and the causes that rallied them on a rainy weekend morning in the city of brotherly love. Don’t forget to share and do your part to support science-based policy.

Heartland Institute

You may have never heard of the Heartland Institute, but if you are a teacher, politician, or even a scientist -especially in the Midwest- you might have received some of their “informational” material through the mail. However, don’t be fooled by their “science.” -Take note of all the quotes- The Heartland Institute is a conservative and libertarian think tank whose past donors have included Exxon Mobil, Philip Morris, and even the infamous Koch Brothers. So as we gear up this week to March for Science, let’s take a look at one of the reasons why the upcoming marches are necessary.

Climate Change Reconsidered(?)
In 2011, the Heartland Institute released their Climate Change Reconsidered: 2011 Interim Report. In this report Heartland, and the authors: S. Fred Singer, Craig Idso, and Robert M. Carter contend the scientific consensus that climate change is due to man made activity. Among its major claims it states:

  • “Models over-estimate the amount of warming that occurred during the twentieth century.” (wrong)
  • Research finds less melting of ice in the Arctic, Antarctic, and on mountaintops than previously feared, no sign of acceleration of sea-level rise in recent decades.” (absurd)
  • “Research suggests corals and other forms of aquatic life have effective adaptive responses to climate change enabling them to flourish despite or even because of climate change.” (ridiculous)
  • “The net effect of continued warming and rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is most likely to be beneficial to humans, plants, and wildlife.” (dangerous)

At best these claims are pseudo-science and at worst they are outright propaganda meant to push a political agenda. For the record, climate change is very real, and very man-made. It is causing all sorts of ecological disasters including Arctic ice melting, extreme weather conditions, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and the World Health Organization is anticipating 250,000 additional deaths over the next 20 years in developing areas affected most by climate change.The Heartland Institute uses a combination of specious reasoning, cherry picked results, and they willfully exploit the reasonable uncertainty found in any scientific understanding.

Think of the Heartland Institute like an anti-science/anti-climate lobbying firm. According to their own website: elected officials are their “key audience.” Though they claim their lobbying expenses have been “trivial,” organizations like SourceWatch, have noted that they spent $415,935 on lobbying in 2011, and $350,348 on lobbying in 2012. They also contributed $612,000 to Scott Walker and four GOP senators in their 2012 recall elections. Additionally, their Climate Change Reconsidered: 2011 Interim Report is sent not only to senators and congressional representatives, but also to schools, colleges, and any place they feel they can affect public opinion against climate change and the majority scientific consensus. The Heartland Institute is a “think tank” in the same way Barney was a “real dinosaur,” and both do their best to influence impressionable minds.

Motives and Motivators
Now, some people may still look at organizations like the Heartland Institute and ask, “why do you question their scientific findings?” Putting aside the fact that real science has already shown us the dangers and origins of climate change, there are other factors -and people- that lead us to this assertion.  According to SourceWatch, one of the Heartland Institute’s leading and often cited “experts” on the environment is James M. Taylor, a lawyer from Florida who is the head of the Environment and Climate News organization, which consistently takes environmental positions that are contrary to the majority scientific opinion. However, he is not alone.

The Climate Change Reconsidered: 2011 Interim Report, created by the NIPCC -which is an organization Heartland created- was authored by three men. The most prominent, Fred Singer, has worked in everything from aerospace to weather. However, he is also a staunch believer in the free market, conservative values, and over the years has made a career arguing against everything from the health-risks of second hand smoke to why UV-B sunlight does not cause skin cancer. He also has possible ties to the Koch Brothers and other conservative policy centers. Craig D. Isdo, the second author of the report, is the founder of the Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. Don’t let the name fool you, this geologist and his group are at least partially funded by ExxonMobil. He has worked closely with the American Legislative Executive Council, where corporate lobbyists and special interest groups craft bills that are then handed to federal and state legislators for implementation.  The last author of the report, Robert M. Carter, who -before his death in 2016- was a marine geologist, and a well-known Australian climate change denier. He was on the Heartland Institute’s payroll as well as the the payroll of the Institute of Public Affairs, an Australian conservative institution funded by the mining, tobacco, oil, and pesticide industries -among others. All of this makes the judgement and findings of these men suspect, and worth remembering when one is reading their “report” on climate change.

As for the Heartland Institute itself, its CEO is Joseph Bast, an economics dropout from the University of Chicago. He has written several articles and other writings for Heartland on everything from healthcare to school reform. Most recently, in 2014, Bast wrote a viral editorial for the Wall Street Journal, which was aimed at denying basic climate science. It is also worth mentioning that under his watch the Heartland Institute thought it was a good idea to create THIS billboard, but we’ll just leave that there and let you form your own opinions.

A Track Record of Wrongness
Many may argue that some of the few people we selected to highlight were actual scientists and “who are we to say that their views are not as valid as the scientists who argue that climate change is man made and dangerous.” We are not making Ad hominem attacks. We are only highlighting the -dubiously- credible people that support the Heartland Institute, and are trying to remind you that these people are in the scientific minority. It is also worth mentioning that most of them have been wrong on every major health crisis from climate change to smoking to skin cancer. Yet, the conservative side still often treats this small minority of scientists as infallible sources of knowledge.

The Heartland Institute itself has taken several positions it now denies. Its most prominent role has been in denying and obscuring the health-risks of tobacco. This was, of course, helped by the fact that they received thousands of dollars annually from the tobacco industry. They are also advocates of privatizing federal services, increasing federal funding for charter schools, opposing federal healthcare regulation, and have also advocated for hydraulic fracking. Yet, those wrong-headed assertions aren’t the most terrifying thing about the Heartland Institute. That would be its constant campaigns of misinformation, which they create to obscure actual/important scientific fact and findings.

In 2012, leaked documents showed that the Heartland Institute not only funded the works of well known climate-deniers, such as Fred Singer and Craig Idso, but actively worked to dissuade teachers and K-12 curriculum advisors from promoting climate change consensus, and instead pushed for teachers to claim that there was no clear scientific consensus on the subject. -For the record: That is factually wrong, but also not the point– To further their political goals, Heartland sponsored the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change to put out a report that undermined the findings of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. Also, the fact that the two names are so similiar is not a coincidence, NIPCC vs IPCC.

The problem is, when people talk science -real science- they rarely talk in absolutes, because science does not always lend itself to 100% certainty. Most scientifically literate people can understand that, but other politically motivated groups can use that gap of 3% or 4% of reasonable uncertainty to push their own agendas and obfuscate real issues and real scientific findings. That is exactly what the Heartland Institute and other political scientific organizations are doing with the issue of climate change, using tactics of misdirection, inflated doubt, and flat-out denial.

This is why we march…

Science Denial

Kypton was a planet of peace and prosperity. It’s technology was unrivaled, its philosophy beyond thought. It was truly a paradise for the just and a haven for the curious. Yet, among all that knowledge and advancement there was still a blindness. Jor-El, one of their greatest scientists warned of the chain reaction collapsing the planet’s core. The people of Krytpon had pushed their home to the limit. Their utopia was built upon sand and denial, and when Jor-El pointed out their imminent doom they chose to close their ears to the truth. A society that values science chose to deny the findings of their most prominent scientist because they were inconvenient. Krypton paid the price for their silencing of science, so what chance does our planet have?

The Ranting Zone
As you may or may not be aware, this past week Donald Trump and his administration imposed a gag order on several US Government agencies, prominently the EPA, USDA, and the National Parks Service. The order prevented the agencies from sharing things like science findings and climate data with the public. Almost intermediately, most of -if not all of- the gagged agencies created unofficial twitters and rebelled against the order, but that is not the point we are talking about. What is worrisome here is the unprecedented and coordinated move by General Zod… err Trump and his conspirators to silence the scientific community. In fact, the order was so egregious that enough scientists actually rebelled. Now, we do not want to paint all scientists with a broad brush, but politics is not exactly something most scientists willingly engage in. This newest move, however, does not exist in isolation. It comes on the heels of the Trump transition team’s McCarthyian call for the names of people at the Department of Energy who had worked on Climate Change.

What all of this paints is a picture of a Presidential administration that is actively and personally opposed to science. Unfortunately, this tacit and willful misunderstanding is not anything new in American politics. Politicians have been known to deny everything from evolution to Climate Change, but what this new administration brings is a sort of denial-first policy, as if Donald Trump is immune or indifferent to objective facts. This stance would be an incredibly dangerous one for a high school teacher to take, let alone the leader of the free world.

The leaders of Krypton denied the findings of Jor-El, when he brought them proof of the planet’s imminent destruction. They, instead, chose to silence him, and disregarded his findings and his recommendations. When it turned out he was right, it was too late, and only one person survived -well maybe more depending if we’re counting Supergirl, or Krypto, or that stupid monkey. The point is that denying verifiable and quantifiable data has the potential to lead to disaster. Ignoring science and silencing scientists is a road toward ruin and bad SyFy spinoffs. Having a President that doesn’t even want the public to hear the opinions of science agencies because it might contradict what he believes to be fact is the first step toward a scientifically uniformed society. By the way, it is also the first step toward a society that is easily controllable.

The Bottle City of Denier
So, why would an administration or a planetary society want to ignore science? What would they gain from doing so? For Krypton, the answer was peace of mind. According to Paul Applebaum, former head of the American Psychiatric Association, “Denial is the deliberate, often psychologically motivated, neglect of information that would be too upsetting or anxiety-proving to allow into one’s belief system.” For example, look at climate denial. The idea of Climate Change is incredibly scary and an incredibly large issue. As one person, living a comfortable life, it is almost mind-mindbogglingly daunting to think about, let alone begin to make sacrifices for. It is the sort of nebulous boogeyman that most people would simply rather pretend was not hiding under their bed, because the alternative would be too incomprehensible and terrifying. Quite frankly, it is also hard to blame people for their denial. If you’re mind is full of momentary worries: paying the bills, keeping your journalism job, making sure the government doesn’t find out you’re secretly an alien visitor from another planet, etc… It’s hard to keep such larger and uncontrollable worries straight in your head. Its much less taxing to deny that they even exist.

The rulers of Krypton didn’t deny Jor-El’s findings because they were stupid or they hated him. No, they denied what he said because to do otherwise would have meant being force to change from their daily routine. Remember Krypton was a paradise. The people were happy. There was no want or discomfort. It was a utopia and that’s a hard thing to give up, especially in the face of vague threats you can barely perceive. Jor-El wanted the Kryptonian people to evacuate to the Phantom Zone, to leave their luxurious and easy life behind for the harsh unknown of a hostile dimension. When faced with those two choices the Kryptonian rulers chose to simply reject Jor-El’s findings. “He’s highly overrated. Very Sad,” they might have said. “He is not smart. I’m the smartest. I think the best thoughts. I know better,” another might claim. It’s easier to discredit the source than integrate the findings into your own mindset. That is just how denial works. It has nothing to do with intelligence.

The Last Son of a Denying World
Of course, intelligence is hardly a concern in Trump’s America. Anti-intellectualism has been on the rise in this nation ever since Thomas Jefferson proclaimed a fondness for the “wisdom of the common man,” then through the administration of the barely literate Andrew Jackson, and now culminating with the Trump presidency. There has been a myth in America that the college educated elite somehow do not have the best interest of the country at heart, and this label of “elites” very much includes scientists. That is why Trump is now able to do as he wants, including ban Muslim immigration and refugees, which also include foreign scientists and doctors.

Now, we are not saying there is anything wrong with the folksy wisdom of the common man, but there also must come a point where we acknowledge that the prominence of the United States is not built upon the gleeful deniers of science. No, the promise of America -our technology, our accomplishments, our prosperity, the fact that we were able to land humans on the moon- was made possible because of science. In fact, the very concept of America, our Revolution, our way of life is a product of the Age of Enlightenment. We are a country created by college educated elites, and in some ways we have been running away from that fact ever since.

Trump’s attack on the US government science community -and Climate Change in particular- is just another in a long line of science denial. Heck it is almost an America tradition, but it is one we can no longer sustain. This particular tradition needs to be discarded if we are to break the bonds of our self-imposed ignorance. Krypton ignored the findings of their top scientist and it cost them dearly. Their people died along with their planet, but for the United States the end will not be that quick or that painless. No, our fall will be much slower and more prominent. We will slide from the national stage, our leadership and innovation replaced by that of Germany or China. We will become more insular and less willing to accept the criticism of others, holding desperately to the belief that we alone are correct, and that we alone hold the answers to all questions. We will delude ourselves into believing that we are the bearers of absolute truth and anyone who says otherwise will be ridiculed and demonized. In a sense, the country will come to embody our thin-skinned, barely literate President. That will be the new orange face of America if we continue silencing scientist and denying what is in front of us.

Yet, unlike Trump our willful ignorance will catch up with us. The world will warm whether we believe it or not. Sea levels will rise regardless of how much we hide our heads. Then we will finally become like Krypton, nothing but a memory written in the stars of a distant world… With Donald Trump in charge maybe its time we start investing in rocket technology for our infant children.

Climate

We’ve tried this before, and it got a fairly good reception. Now with a Trump presidency looming and the fact that his pick for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is Scott Pruitt -a decidedly anti-EPA type of guy– we thought it was time to try this again. We have talked a lot about climate change and the environment here at The NYRD. We have equated it with everything from Pixar to Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, maybe we have not been clear enough. Sometimes our tendency to try and entertain as well as inform ends up resulting in you being neither entertained or informed. -Personally, we blame the gas leak in our office-

So, let’s drop all the gimmicks, the pop culture references, and even our cutesy -parenthetical- humor. Instead, we want to offer you just the straight facts on Climate Change and how our globe is not only warming, but doing so at an alarming rate. Please understand that we are not giving you “politicized science” here. Climate Change is legitimately happening and it is legitimately being caused by human endeavors. This one thing you must accept or nothing past this will seem believable or urgent in any way. These are the facts of the matter as we know them:

Global Warming
Global Warming “is the gradual heating of Earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere.” It is a part of Climate Change, but not the same thing.

  • Global temperature averages have been on the rise since the earl 1900’s, and the past decade has been the warmest ever on record.
  • Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880.
  • Over the last 35 years the sun has shown a cooling trend, while global temperatures continue to increase.
  • Solar output reached a deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, yet surface temperatures continued to increase during those year.
  • The top 700 meters (2,300 feet) of ocean have grown warmer by about 0.18°F (0.1°C) since 1969.
  • 80% to 90% of the heat from Global Warming is going into the oceans.
  • Antarctic ice shelves lost 2,921 trillion pounds (1,325 trillion kilograms) of ice per year in 2003 to 2008.
  • Sea levels have risen 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in a century, and the rate in the last decade has been nearly double that of the last century.
  • Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006
  • Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • September Arctic sea ice is declining at a rate of 13.3% per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.
  • Abrupt Global Warming patterns, such as the one we are experiencing in modern times, are responsible for mass extinction events, such as the one at the end of the Permian Period, 250 million years ago, that killed over 90% of all species on planet Earth.

Climate Change
Climate Change is a “change in the usual weather found in a place,” of which Global Warming is one part.

  • There is a difference between weather and Climate. New records for cold weather will continue to be set, but Global Warming’s gradual influence will make them increasingly rare.
  • The number of record high temperature events in the US has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950.
  • The US has witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • In 2011, Texas had the driest year since 1895. In 2013, California had the driest year on record.
  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30%.
  • The amount of CO2 absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
  • According to ice core sampling, CO2 has increased by 20 parts per million in the past 400,000 years, and 100 parts per million in the past 50.
  • Estimates of future CO2 levels, based on “business as usual emission scenarios,” indicate that by the end of this century the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150% more acidic.
  • If current CO2 emissions continue the Great Barrier Reef will be dead by 2025.
  • The amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that snow is now melting earlier.
  • The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes have all increased since the early 1980s.
  • The Earth’s oceans can absorb 1000% more heat than the atmosphere.
  • Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors: the added water from melting land ice and the expansion of sea water as it warms.
  • Sea levels projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100.
  • 97% or more of publishing Climate scientists agree that Climate warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activity.

How Will You Be Affected
These are some of the impacts that are currently happening and will increase in frequency  throughout the US going forward, according to the Third National Climate Assessment Report:

  • Northeast. Heat waves, heavy downpours and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.
  • Northwest. Changes in the timing of streamflow reduce water supplies for competing demands. Sea level rise, erosion, inundation, risks to infrastructure and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks and tree diseases are causing widespread tree die-off.
  • Southeast. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.
  • Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes.
  • Southwest. Increased heat, drought and insect outbreaks, all linked to Climate change, have increased wildfires. Declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.

If after reading all that your first instinct is to reject it as “bunk” or “politicized science,” than that’s probably because you’re scared. It is a big issue to think about and one that has a lot of terrifying implications. It’s okay to be a little freaked out by it. That just means you’re rational, but don’t try to rationalize away the dangers of our Climate problems. Don’t try to ignore them. All we ask is that you take the time to read the statistics and follow the links.

Raising Climate literacy is one of the best ways we know of motivating people to get out there and do something. With our new Climate-Denier-Elect coming into office it is more important than ever that the public be rightly informed about the dangers and possible disasters of Climate Change and Global Warming. We now stand at the beginning of a critical time where our actions over the next ten years will either tip the scale toward inevitable disaster or pull us back from the brink. We are going to need everyone’s attention and help, or we are going to experience another mass extinction event and that’s very bad.

The last time the Earth experienced rapid Global Warming, it took 10 million years to recover. We don’t know about you, but we don’t have that kind of time.

barrier-reef

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the Great Barrier Reef, between Outside Magazines viral article and at least two Pixar movies. The barrier reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been declared the greatest aquatic wonder in the world. The GBR is firmly ingrained in our collective human consciousness, and in Australia’s annual tourism brochures. Unfortunately, 22% of the reef is already dead, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Climate change is an undeniable fact, and we now have a 1,400 miles long mound of evidence that we can no longer ignore.

Mr. Ray’s Science Class
The Great Barrier Reef is made up of 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands. It is larger than the United Kingdom, has more biodiversity than all of Europe, and can be seen from space. It is home to 1,625 species of fish, 3,000 species of mollusk, 450 species of coral, 220 species of birds, and 30 species of whales and dolphins. It is also the largest breeding ground for green turtles and has the largest population of dugong -or sea cows- in the world. The  is roughly 25 million years old, and is one of the most vibrant and beautiful places on the planet. We speak that last part from experience.

In 1975, Australia designated large parts of the GBR  as the Great Barrier Reef Maritime Park. This move limited fishing and other activities in the area that could be considered harmful. In 1981, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization declared the area a World Heritage Site. This designation further came with a lot privileges and protections. Unfortunately, also in 1981 the first mass bleaching occured, meaning that the coral lost its color due to soaring ocean temperatures. It would only the be the first in a long line of such incidents, enough over the 35 years to make UNESCO question if they should put the barrier reef on their World Heritage in Danger list as well. We cannot deny the facts any longer, because like a character at the beginning of a Pixar movie, the GBR is dying.

A Crush-ing Reality
During the past 27 years the barrier reef has lost half of its coral covering. Sitting about 1,250 miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia it has been affected by severe storms, invasive species, pollution run-off, coastal port development, dredging, and increased coal shipping. However, even those factors are minimum compared to the coral bleaching that has been caused by massive shifts in ocean temperature, thanks to climate change. The color of coral -as well as their nourishment- comes from the algae that live on their surfaces. The algae photosynthesize the sunlight and make sugars that the coral feeds on. But when temperatures are too high the algae produce too much oxygen. That can be toxic in high concentrations, and the coral are then forced to discard the algae to survive. Unfortunately, that leaves them without their main source of nutrients until new algae can grow back. These coral bleaching events have become incredibly common in the past 35 years, and if they happen in rapid succession the coral starves and dies. Currently, it has been happening every two to three years since the turn of the millennium.

This is compounded by other related factors, such as the explosive growth of seaweed, which thrives in warmer waters. As ocean temperatures increase so does seaweed, and much how trees compete for sunlight in a forest so do the algae and the seaweed. When the seaweed begin to thrive the algae does not and the coral beneath it begin to die and break apart because they are not getting the nutrients they need. The acidity level of the ocean has also been increasing over the past two decades, thanks to an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean and they then eat away at the coral itself, weakening the reef structure.

It’s hard to really fathom the ecological impacts of what the world will look like if -or when- the Great Barrier Reef finally does die. We have already seen what happens on smaller scales. Sections of the barrier reef are already dead. When the coral of an area dies the algae actually starts to consume it. After that, the whole structure is doomed to collapse, along with the entire ecosystem. Small fish -like Nemo and Marlin- that eat the coral no longer have a food source or a place to live/hide from larger predators. Larger fish who eat those smaller fish eventually wipe out their prey, and then they too start to die off without a food source. The same happens to the larger fish and birds that eat them. Without coral acting as homes and breeding grounds for fish and other aquatic creatures the entire landscape of an area undergoes a radical change within only a few years. If that happens to the entire GBR, you are talking an ecological disaster that will affect hundreds of thousands of species up the food chain… including humans.

Finding Common Sense
Maybe that is fitting, considering that it is humans that started this slowly rolling environmental disaster. There is no more way for us to deny that the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere are increasing, and have been increasing exponentially over the past decade. We are the factor. We’re sorry if that upsets you, but it is the overwhelming scientific consensus. Our factories, cars, and even farming has dramatically increased CO2 levels. This means that more sunlight is being trapped in our atmosphere and warming the planet, and a lot of that heat is absorbed by the oceans. Yet, that is not our only problem. As we mentioned earlier, the oceans -which are three-quarters of our planet’s surface- are very good at absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. This increases not only the acidity of our high seas, but also speeds up the process of ocean warming and the growth of nutrient choking life forms, like seaweed.

Thankfully, those aren’t the only things we’re doing. There are also many people on this planet working hard to try and save natural landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef. Leading the charge in this area is Australia itself, which makes sense. The Land Down Under receives almost $6 billion in tourism revenue from the barrier reef each year and that means they have an economically invested interest in saving it as well as ecological. The Reef 2050 Plan is a report of a 151 actions that need to be taken to save the GBR. It also constitutes a $2 billion dollar investment of resources aimed at improving the barrier reef’s health. So far they have accomplished 29 of the stated 151 actions, but it has been acknowledged that the process needs to be accelerated if we truly do hope to save the GBR from destruction.

You see, if the the CO2 levels in our atmosphere reach 450 parts per million -which is estimated to happen in 2025- than there will be no saving the Great Barrier Reef. It will be gone forever and our children will not only live in a world with less biodiversity, warmer oceans, and less seafood buffets, but in a world where they will never get to experience the beauty and wonder of the barrier reef. To them it will just remain as some fantastical and unreal setting in old Pixars movie.

“It takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”

Like Treebeard we here at The NYRD know that we can be long winded at times, but we try not to write unless we have something worth reading -or something about Superman, because apparently we cover him a lot… Yet, perhaps the most important issue we try talk about is climate change. Like a dark power growing in the south it’s going to affect us all, men, elves, hobbits -and even those terrifying giant spiders in Mirkwood- and just like the writings of Tolkein, we may find ourselves looking to the trees to save us and extinguish the fires of global warming… At least if we don’t succumb to the power of deforestation.

An Entmoot Point
Did you ever stop to wonder how many trees there are in the world? Well you can stop wondering. According to the best estimates of scientists there are about 3 trillion trees on the planet Earth. That is about 400 trees for every human, but that is actually the lowest number of trees in the history of humanity’s existence on this planet. The global tree count has fallen 46% since the beginning of human civilization. Estimates say that 12,000 years ago there were more than 6 trillion trees on Earth. Currently, more than 43% of the trees that exist today are in tropical and sub-tropical regions, such as the Amazon. However, the sheer number of trees on the planet is actually irrelevant, as the more important statistic is that they are disappearing, thanks in no small part to human-led deforestation.

Treebeard and his kind would not be happy with us. We have been using forests for everything from generating electrical power to building IKEA furniture, but the good thing about trees is that they grow back. We are not discouraging the use of our greatest natural resource, only the rate at which we are clear cutting forests, such as the Amazon. Deforestation that makes way for things like agriculture, mining, and city building has meant that 17% of the Amazon has been cut down in the past fifty years. Globally, we are losing about 48 football fields worth of trees every minute. Remember, to a centuries old Ent a minute is not a very long of a time at all, unless they’re screaming in horrible pain under the chainsaw of some condo developer.

Please know that we’re not knocking condos or agriculture or even IKEA, because those are important too. We are just are trying to give you all the facts, and the saddest fact is that even if every person on the Earth planted one tree -so, 7 billion trees- that would not even cut our annual tree loss in half. Every year we cut down 15 billion trees. That is remarkable considering that 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity -mammals, birds, insects, etc- call forests their home, and 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihood. Yet, maybe you’re not an Ent or even an elf. Maybe you are just some hobbit or dwarf living in the big city, working your 9 to 5 desk job. Maybe you’re more worried about whether the king is going to raise taxes this year on horse parking or who is going to win the big joust tournament this weekend? Trees don’t affect you. In fact, if you live in the Shire of Brooklyn you probably haven’t seen a tree in weeks. Why should you care?

The Pollutants of Isengard
In Tolkein’s Middle-Earth, the Ents are the shepherds of the forest. They were created to protect the trees from orcs and corporate strip mining, because even the old god, Yavanna, recognized that trees did more than just provide shade and the occasional place to mark the young love of “A&A 4EVR.” Forest loss is a contributor to climate change. Scientists have found that deforestation and changes to the land account for 23% of current man-made CO2 emissions. Though, the exact impact usually varies based upon the type of forest and even latitude, ultimately this still makes sense. Much like how the Ents attacked Isengard, trees attack the C02 in the air. They absorb it to use as nutrients along with sunlight. So, less trees means that less things are absorbing the Co2 in our atmosphere, but it goes deeper than even that.

Fewer trees also lead to less rain. With a process called evapotranspiration, trees and forests take water out of the soil through their roots to use as nutrients. That water is then evaporated by the sun and brought up into the atmosphere. This helps create more rain and greater areas of cooling, which is something that places like California are going to need in the coming summer months. Water can be trapped far beneath the surface, and without the help of tree roots much of that moisture would not normally be able to reach the surface on its own. Thus, it would remain trapped in the ground instead of being evaporated into the atmosphere where it could be used for rain and clouds. In fact, rain forests are especially good at this. Places like the Amazon and the Congo are some of our best natural resources against warming because the water they help to recycle creates albedo, which is a measure of the reflectivity of a surface. The dense clouds of rain forests reflect and absorb sunlight. This actually helps to reduce the overall temperature of the area and generate more rainfall. Remember its not the heat but the humidity that gets yous… also malaria.

Trees also help mitigate already existing climate dangers. They act as a barrier against flooding and mudslides, two things that are becoming increasingly more frequent and dangerous as our planet suffers the affects of climate change. They are very good at holding the soil in place with their roots and they can help drink up excess water before flooding becomes a problem. Similarly, without the help of sun blocking trees, land can dry out quicker and begin to crack, causing once rich soil to turn to useless dust. All of these benefits help battle against the Dark Lord of global warming, and they provide an overall better standard of living for the humans and animals that inhabit the area.

Wisdom of Fangron
“It is easier to shout ‘Stop’, than to do it”

We obviously cannot stop all deforestation in the world, and even if we did it would not solve all our climate change problem. The USA releases 6.2 tons of carbon per person per year. That is roughly about 1.82 billion tons of carbon annually. Even if the US were to plant 44 million more trees in urban areas per year for the next 50 years -for a total of 2.2 billion trees- those new trees would only store an additional 150 million tons of carbon. That means that planting trees alone is not going to be the answer that will solve our current crisis, but it is also a good start. Attacking the problem of climate change is going to be a long and multifaceted process, and though cutting back on deforestation won’t solve all our problems it will have tangible effects on things like helping to stabilize weather patterns and increasing tire-swing-related childhood fun.

After all, if we were to actually dedicate ourselves to planting 44 million more trees annually for the next five decades than we would be able to replace all the trees already lost and increase urban tree cover by 5%. That would help fight soil erosion, flooding, and giant eagle attacks. We here at The NYRD are not advocating that you give your life up and go all Johnny Appleseed -though we’re not not advocating that either- but we do think its time you appreciated everything that trees do for us.

So the next time you have to decide between buying non-recycled paper or raising an orc army, maybe you should stop and remember that Treebeard is watching you… He is always watching you… And if we’re not nice to the trees, there may come a day when they stand up and return the favor.

2016

It is 2016, a shiny new year in the 21st century. There is no denying that we are in the future, a time when our sock hopping ancestors believed we would have things like jet packs and underwater cities. Instead all we have are underwater pollution and -criminally mislabeled- “hoverboards.” Still, our modern era is not all bad, and we here at The NYRD are optimistic about what is yet to come. 2016 holds a lot of promise and we thought it would be best to start the year off right and talk about all the good possibilities, trends, and breakthroughs for the coming year, because we all know there will inevitably be bad enough ones too.

Virtually All Reality
2016 will mark the beginning of consumer virtual reality. VR headsets are set to become the next big “thing” in the technology and gaming world. This year will see the release of the Oculus Rift as well as several other devices. These new VR sets will range from premium high end models to cardboard boxes that can be fit around your smart phone, but rest assured our reality will never look the same again. Whether it will be playing games, watching movies, or even experiencing news stories first hand, the world is going to start to look  a lot different in ways even we cannot imagine.

Franchise, Franchise, Franchise
We would be remiss if we did not use this opportunity to bring up some of the most anticipated video games, movies, and TV shows coming out in 2016. This new year will most assuredly be the year of the shared universe, with movies like Batman V. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse, Ghostbusters and of course, Star Wars: Rogue One. Disney will be certainly looking to shove even more Star Wars and Marvel down our collective gullets, and -truth be told- we are sort of okay with that. On the small screen side there will be plenty of old and new shows to look forward to, including the return of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Sherlock. However, we are also looking forward to new Agent Carter and Daredevil, not to mention a possible Luke Cage show near the end of the year. Meanwhile, other shows like Preacher and the new X-Files have our interest piqued, and, of course, we would hate to leave out that 2016 will mark the last season of Mythbusters.

In the literary world, everyone is talking about a possible 2016 release date for The Winds of Winter, George R. R. Martin’s next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, we would advise that you don’t hold your breath, unless you want to be just another causality in the long list of deaths attributed to the blood soaked career of Martin. JK Rowling is also getting back into the Harry Potter game with her newest movie Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them, and a new stage-play following the adult Harry Potter titled, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

On the video game side, there is only one title we here at The NYRD want to talk about, No Man’s Sky. This self-creating infinite galaxy MMO has the possibility to blow the lid off the immersive video game genre, and has the potential to pave the way for all new gaming experiences. Last year, NMS “stole the show” at every conference and convention where it was previewed. This could mark the next leap forward in video game experiences and we fully expect that we will have to shut down our office for a week just to get a grip on it.

Juno, the Dragon, and Beyond
This year in space exploration will see the Juno probe visit Jupiter in hopes of unlocking more of the gas giant’s secrets, including the moisture content of its atmosphere and how it was originally formed. There is still a lot we don’t know about the largest planetary body in our solar system and Juno is going to help us figure it out. We should also see the first manned launch of SpaceX’s Dragon V2.  SpaceX just ended 2015 with the successful landing of reusable rocket boosters that have the potential to dramatically cut costs of space launches. If everything remains on schedule American astronauts will no longer have to be dependent on Russia to reach the International Space Station. Instead NASA will buy them tickets on the Dragon, much like one might buy a bus ticket, except with more explosions and more leg room. Lastly, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will be completed this September in Guizhou Province of China. The largest single-aperture telescope in the world it will be able to gaze three-times further into space than its predecessor, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Weathering the New Year
We ended 2015 on a high note, the Paris Climate Summit was an unmitigated success, but in 2016 the real work begins. There is a lot of reason to be hopeful. In June all the states of the USA need to submit their plans to reduce emissions from power plants. The US Energy Commission is predicting an impressive increase in all renewable energy sources, and a steadying of CO2 based emissions in comparison with the past four years. This includes a 14% growth for solar and wind energy. With hybrids and electric cars becoming more affordable and commonplace, and with increasing EPA emissions standards even car manufacturers and other big businesses are starting to think green.

Around the world places like India and China are starting to slow their pollution. China has even suspended new mining endeavours, which gives real hope that we can stay under the 1.5 degree mark for global warming. One could even say the winds are starting to change, at least as long as that person doesn’t mind using terrible cliched puns. We at the NYRD are completely above all that, of course.

The End of the Rainbow Discrimination
With both Hilary Clinton and Barry Sanders -who co-sponsored the amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964– have expressed deep concern for the fact that 31 states have no explicit law  against firing members of the LGBTQ community for their gender or sexual identity. This is despite the fact that it is now legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. There is a strong hope that 2016 will see an end to this type of discrimination. With the two front-running democrats both claiming they will push for a more protection for LGBTQ people we have high hopes that something will get done this year on this issue. At the very least it should become a topic of major debate both for Presidential nominees and members of Congress.

50 Shades of Gun Metal Gray
President Obama recently announced that he will be enacting an executive order to tighten existing gun laws in the country. This comes after a 2015 filled with mass shooting and nonsensical rhetoric. In fact, 27 Americans were killed by guns on Christmas. We will not go into the specifics of the President’s plan -as he still has yet to announce the majority of it- but hopefully more regulated gun control can make 2016 a much less violent year. Unfortunately we are already off to a rocky start. With any luck things can only improve.

Another hope for less violence comes in the form of an announcement that the Justice Department will begin keeping track of how many individuals are killed by law enforcement officials. In the past, the data collection on either purposeful or accidental deaths caused by police and other law enforcement were voluntary. In other words, it was near impossible to get clear statistics, data, and accountability on the rise and decline of police violence in certain areas. This is only one small piece that has led to more mistrust of law enforcement by citizens, especially by black Americans, in a year already riddled by alleged brutality and possible police misconduct. Having greater statistical accountability is only a small step, but it is one in the right direction. With any luck, in 2016 we will heal the wounds of the previous year and help us move forward not as black or white but as citizens and neighbors.

No Country for Old Politics
Currently, the American political landscape is a mess. The Republican primaries are more bloated than Jabba the Hutt after a large meal, and the front-runners are more extreme and perverse than even some of Jabba’s tastes. On the Democratic side a David and Goliath battle is being waged between the party establishment-hopeful, Clinton, and the social media darling, Sanders. Even worse everybody on your Facebook seems to have an opinion and none of them are completely satisfying, but there is a possible silver lining to this darkening and maddening cloud.

The popularity of Sanders, Trump, and Carson -despite what anyone may think of their politics- is actually a hopeful sign. The Democratic and Republican parties have been controlled for too long by party elders and big donors, all of which seem out of touch with what the common American wants. The fact that any of the “fringe candidates” are still polling competitively at this point in the race shows that things are starting to change. Trump and Carson are especially interesting, because even though they couuld never win a general election, they are exposing cracks in the normal GOP/Tea Party rhetoric. There has been speculation that this could even lead to the dissolution of the party or at the very least to a radical changing of the Republican party in America. That may be an extreme example, but either way nothing is ever going to be the same again for the conservatives.

Bear in mind, that we have made our opinions on Trump and his hate-mongering known before, but he does prove that the power of the people can outweigh the power of the corporations and the lobbyists. Bernie Sanders, too, has practically financed his entire campaign from donors giving $200 or less. Whenever anyone talks about the political system these days it is always in tones of how much worse things have gotten, but for once, let’s take a step back and see the positives of what is going on.

All the Rest
Finally, we cannot forget that 2016 marks the Summer Olympics in Rio, where -surprisingly- the USA Rugby team has a decent chance at winning the gold. -We bet you didn’t even know that the US had a rugby team- Of course, there is also San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and all the other great conventions and annual events look forward to as well. As it stands the coming year offers a lot of promise for a better, stronger, and nerdier America and the world. However, these things are never easy and the path is almost never clear. That is why it takes people like you and us to forge it.

So, if you are looking for a resolution, let us offer this suggestion. Do everything you can to read and educate yourself on the important changes, topics, and events going on around you this year. Use your knowledge to take an active role and not sit on the sidelines. Get out and vote, or volunteer, or even just offer a helping hand to a friend in distress. 2016 can be a truly amazing year, but only with your help. As for us, we here at The NYRD promise to do our part to try and keep you informed and entertained this new year. So stay tuned, because the best is yet to come.

Have a Happy and Hopeful New Year.

Do you remember the Genesis Planet from Star Trek: The Search for Spock? It was created by Dr. Carol Marcus and the Genesis device. Ecologically the planet contained every possible weather system of Earth all “within a few hours walk,” from one another. That meant you could literally stroll from desert conditions to frozen tundras to hurricane level storms all in one leisurely -albeit- wardrobe defying journey. Well the past few weeks have left us here at the The NYRD feeling as if we are living on Genesis with its crazy weather and possible Vulcan graveyard. One day is hot, the next is cold, on the next it’s like Ceti Alpha VI exploded. Looking out the window these days makes us wonder if we should step outside in shorts or a parka, and it has us worried that we may not always “live long and prosper.”

A United Federation of Commitment
Last week, 150 countries made a pledge to cut carbon emissions, lending optimism to supporters that a real climate treaty could be a possibility for France’s 2015 Climate Summit. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany have promised to double their climate spending by 2020. President Obama has laid out a comprehensive plan to cut carbon emissions in the US by regulating power plants and their output of CO2, and more than 80 companies pledged to make big cuts to their emissions. Even more encouraging, a group of countries have agreed to create a $100 billion-a-year green climate fund, which will help fund climate projects around the world, especially in developing nations. These are all very good signs, but unfortunately they are only a start. The truth is that we have yet to feel the full impact of what is to come, and we are still short of realizing any real goals that will be necessary to save the planet from being just another cosmic redshirt.

The commitment of the international community is only going to halt the warming of our planet to about 3 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, most scientists seem to agree that if the temperature of Earth raises by more than 2 degrees the damage to our planet could be catastrophic. It is hoped by many that the estimates of carbon reduction given by the countries are conservative and those amount will increase going forward with better technology and a growing sense of international urgency. More bad news, because damage has already been done. Even containing our levels of global warming below that 2 degree mark still means that we have changed the very balance of our planet’s climate.

The Neutral Zone
Even staying below the 2 degree neutral zone will still mean big changes for the way we live. According to the Proceedings of Natural Sciences who has mined the data of a large selection of different computerized models, they have identified a possible 18 different abrupt climate changes we could experience between now and 2100, even if we stay within conservative warming estimates. The 2 degree limit has been a guardrail of international climate discussions for decades, but we are beginning to realize that any warming -much like any incursion into the Romulan Neutral Zone- could have varying levels of repercussions.

Many simulated models produced events such as: rapid melting of Arctic sea ice, partial or full shutdown of North Atlantic current circulation, and even one model that showed an increased in growth of Indian Ocean sea algae. It is worth noting that other experts have expressed caution about these findings, but they acknowledge that they are not inconsistent with other collected climate change evidence. Messing with Earth’s climate is like letting James T. Kirk monkey around in the past, even the slightest change could alter our future. In fact, if oceans rise a mere meter -3 feet- that still spells a lot of problems for waterfront communities and island nations that could and will lose their homes. Worst of all, this isn’t some future occurrence, this is happening right now. The population of the small island country of Kiribati needs to be evacuated because the country is already sinking and the Maldives could be next.

Climate change is already here and it is already happening. Parts of the Arctic have warmed as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960. Droughts and desserts are expanding all over the world, -just ask California- including place such as the Amazon, which is slowly losing its ability to cleanse the air of Co2. Miami is on the verge of sinking, having already lost 3.7 inches of beachfront. 2015 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded in human history and the top 5 warmest years ever recorded have happened in the past decade. This is not a problem for just Miamians, the Kiribati, Andorians, Arctic polar bears, or people in the developing world -though developing countries will be disproportionately affected by climate change. It is a problem for everyone, “but Captain, what can we do?”


To Boldly Go
The nerd and geek community has never been shy about showing their commitment to anything. Just ask any Klingon at a Star Trek convention. Well, it is time we get involved again, and not just for us but for all the future Trekkies. What can you do to help? Well there is always the mainstays of recycling, conserving household energy, and carpooling to work, but there is  also much more we can do as individuals to help the problem, and the first step is being informed.

One of the most important things you can do is to stay up to date on the science and changes going on in our world today. So much of the climate debate is happening because people are taking what is said on cable news channels at face value. The Internet provides us all with a sort of universal translator. We can take what we hear on the news and certain nerdy/informational websites and go further. We can find out the answers for ourselves. Trust us, it doesn’t take a lot of time to come up with a wealth of resources and opinions on any subject just by doing a simple Google search. The more informed the public is about this -hugely important- topic the harder it will be to fall for misinformation or the scare tactics of the news media.

Secondly, get involved. There are multiple bills currently being considered by the US Congress, and not the least of them is the Keystone Pipeline, or the coming vote to ratify the Paris climate treaty. Let your representatives and congresspeople know how you feel. Remember, back in 1997 the United States signed the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, but it was never submitted for ratification by the Senate. In essence it became just a piece of paper with no binding legal authority. Eighteen years later we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again, because the world followed our example in 1997 and with any luck we can get them to follow it again in 2015. If you do not know who your representative is you can look up their contact information at OpenCongress.org.

I’m a Doctor Not a Weatherman
Regardless of who you are, you can do something, because this planet is worth fighting for. The Federation has the technological ability to terraform planets and heal environmental damage, but we do not. We have to work with what we have and that means slowing and stopping global climate change before it is too late. Our world is going through a change even as you read this, but we can still lessen the severity of those changes and save our world and our civilization from climate chaos. We want to believe that humans have good intentions, even if they sometimes lead us down the path to Gre’Thor.

In the time of Star Trek, the Federation and Starfleet travel the stars. They explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations, but Earth is still their home. Humanity, despite all its technological prowess and drive to go out into the galaxy still cherishes our small blue marble above all else. Perhaps it is ironic that those humans of a fictional future hold Earth in the highest of regards and yet we, a people who are still stuck upon its surface and depend on it for our own lives and health, only rank it as a mild concern or just another political talking point.

Remember the Genesis project resulted in an unstable world of drastic weather and geological shifts. We can’t just let our planet become that, another human failure borne of the best intentions. Green energy independence and other new innovations for slowing carbon emissions are already possible. We just need to have the will to implement them, because this problem can’t be left to The Next Generation. The recent flood of commitments from local, international, and business communities is encouraging, but there needs to be more. If we all do our part, then we can achieve a carbon neutral world. “Yes we KHAAAAAN!”

The words of the Stark family are pretty straightforward. Unlike the other great houses they don’t “roar” or “not sow” or whatever it is the Tully’s do… swim, we’re assuming… Instead, the Stark words are a call to action and a reminder to never forget what waits just beyond the Wall. Yet, despite the ominous family motto, most of their southern and even northern cousins tend to forget that winter is indeed coming, and of all the fantastical elements in Game of Thrones, this denial of the inevitable is perhaps one of the most understandable. After all, it is a crime we are all guilty of in one form or another, and the people in Kings Landing and in other places have their hands full with worries other than snow and ice zombies.

Watchers on the Wall
The only group of people in all of Westeros who take the threat of the White Walkers seriously is the Night’s Watch. This chaste order of outcasts was established to maintain the Wall and “guard the realms of men.” The things they have been charged to guard against, White Walkers -or the Others- have mostly been relegated to fable and childhood nightmares. The Long Night occurred thousands of years in the past and most people in Westeros believe the tales to be nothing more than fantasy, like ghosts, goblins, or grumpkins. So even as the order urgently calls for more men and supply their pleas go unanswered by the great nations of the world.

It is unknown how many members of the Night’s Watch agree that the coming winter will bring a return of the White Walkers, but after the events of the past several seasons, we could probably agree that it would be at least 97%. Coincidentally, that is also the percentage of scientists that agree that climate change is real and it is happening. Like the Night’s Watch, our own chaste order of outcasts could also be considered a sort of “watcher on the wall.” It is their job to range the forests that lie north of all that is known. They are often forced to combat uncivilized wildling ideas in their quest to keep us safe, and worst of all they are seen as a necessary and minor annoyance by the ruling and the powerful of our land.

Perhaps, the allegory is a stretch, and George R. R. Martin never intended the connection to be made between his masterpiece work and the looming threat of global warming. However, authorial intent aside, the similarities are striking. His seminal work is based on an invisible looming force of change that is ultimately connected to intense and strange weather. The coming threat is slow and unbelievable, yet it threatens the known world, while politicians and armies squabble away unaffected and ultimately resistant to the knowledge of the approaching chaos.

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow
The threat in the fictional world is both staggering and real. Neither the Night’s Watch nor the audience can deny the existence of the White Walkers, but neither can we fault the Lannisters or the Tyrells for their willful ignorance. There is plenty we can fault them for, but maybe not for this. According to papers published by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law, it is not simply a matter of “knowledge illiteracy” that stops a rational understanding of science fact. Most people unwittingly shape their world view and their identity based upon a multitude of ideologies, especially politics. Thus, when a person of an opposing view point presents arguments and even cold icy facts that prove something like White Walkers, certain people will tend to reject it and employ a confirmation bias. They will analyze the problem and extract the details that strengthen their already existing world view. In other words, people shape facts to confirm their opinions, instead of the other way around.

Even worse, confirmation bias seems to only get stronger with technology, like the Internet, where people can find like-minded individuals to shelter and grow their opinions from any opposition. In this way, we don’t really get a debate, so much as two separate jousting matches where each opponent is basically facing a straw man. Each knight may sometimes briefly pause in between charges to glare across a wide field at the opposing side, but there is never really any meaningful engagement or change.

Maybe where this analogy falls apart is the fact that the reluctance of the belief for the humans of Game of Thrones is almost understandable. With medieval level education and slow lines of bird-driven communication and rumor, they have the excuse of ignorance to ignore the fact that supposed make-believe monsters are in fact coming for them on the winds of a long winter chill. People in Dorn or the Riverlands, have no evidence to prove the existence of the Others. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for us and our looming threat. The evidence is all around us, and mounting faster than snow in Winterfell.

The Rains of Castamere
CO2 has passed the 400 part per million mark, which is the highest level since it has been in over 800,000 years, which only slightly longer ago than when Martin began writing his book series. Since the year 1900 temperatures around the world have increased almost a full degree, with the majority of the increase happening between 1970 and today. Even more damning, it is only the lower levels of the atmospheres that are increasing in temperature, thus confirming that it isn’t our sun that is getting hotter. If our current temperature change were due to solar activity then we would see a uniformed temperature increase throughout all levels of the atmosphere. The lower levels of the atmosphere is where the majority of CO2 is becoming trapped, and humans are responsible for 2,000 gigatons of it since 1870.

Much like the great houses of Game of Thrones, our own leaders have made it clear by their actions that they have more important things to worry about. Washington D. C. may not have the Sept of Baelor or the Red Keep, but the political maneuvering is no less real. Elections, wars, policy and cultural debates, sports, gun violence, and racism, we have no shortage of immediate problems that require attention. Climate change is nothing but a vague wind blowing down from the north. It seems like nothing to worry about, and nothing that can harm us, especially when there is so much around that can do us real harm. This kind of attitude is often classified as Optimism Bias, which is the belief that we, as individuals, are in less danger than those around us.

Optimism bias is why we think we will never get cancer or be in a plane crash. It’s why we think bad things only happen to other people and Sean Bean characters, and why we believe that any climate change problems will ultimately be a problem for the next generation and not us. Basically, if we can’t see the White Walkers than we do not believe they will do us any harm. That is just how our brain works, because our mental space is only so big.

Human beings only have so much concern they can fit in their head, whether it be about getting the kids to soccer practice, not getting fired from work, or making sure you are not shot to death by the musicians at your uncle’s wedding. Regardless of the reasons, it means we prioritize threats to our happiness and immediate well-being over future ones that seem distant and uncontrollable.

You Either Win or You Die
In 2011, 17 US citizens were killed worldwide in terrorist attacks, but 596,339 American were killed by heart disease, yet when it comes to issues that Americans care about from their elected officials most people will focus on terrorism as opposed to the vague fear of heart disease despite one being noticeably more likely than the other. It is also worth noting that approximately 600,000 deaths occurred worldwide as a result of weather-related natural disasters in the 90s, but again that is a statistic connected to a vague and uncontrollable menace. Our minds do not like thinking about problems we feel are out of our ability to influence. Our brain does not like to deal with problems we feel powerless to stop. That’s why we call it, an “Act of the God.” So we ignore them, and that means even people who acknowledge global warming may not see it as a threat. According to Scientific American, only 33% of the American general public believes climate change to be a serious problem, as opposed to 77% of scientists who say that is a serious problem.

Our leaders may not lose their head, but they know that in the Game of Elections you either win or you lose your pension. So, when every political move you make or enemy you create could mean your very real and immediate end in public office, it’s hard to push to for any real change against some far off threat, especially when their own constituency doesn’t even acknowledge it as a problem. Yet, rest assured, the night is dark and full of carbon dioxide, because if trends continue like this, by the end of this century Earth will be 4.7 F to 8.6 F degrees hotter (2.6 C to 4.8 C). The oceans will be a meter higher, and one third of all ocean life will be extinct. Unfortunately, unlike the Night’s Watch we will not be able to beat back our foes with weapons and dragon glass.

We like to talk to about George R. R. Martin’s epic tale in the light of our own past, equating situations, characters, and happenings to their historic counterparts, such as the events of the English War of the Roses. However, what if A Song of Ice and Fire and its subsequent HBO series is is not so much a nod to history but a true warning of what is to come? Any change will take all of us working together, and forcing this issue into prominence on the national stage. We will need to have an even greater resolve and a greater capacity for sacrifice and ingenuity, because our Wall will not stand forever.