5 Intriguing Things With Guest MCs Climate Confidential

The scourge of false spring, noise pollution, Whole Foods pseudoscience, solar war, and a large purple jellyfish.
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Meet today's guest MCs Climate Confidential. They're a journalistic supergroup who have formed their own subscription news organization with the aid of a new platform for financially backing writers called the Beacon Reader

They are all brilliant reporters. You may know their bylines—Amy Westervelt, Ucilia Wang, Celeste LeCompte, Josie Garthwaite, Mary Catherine O’Connor and Erica Gies—or you will soon.

They are promising big stories about our environmental future. So, I've invited them to take the conch shell to highlight what they care about. 

 

1. The scourge of 'false spring.'

"The spring of 2012 was the earliest recorded across the United States since 1900. Unseasonable warmth prompted unusually early blooms, particularly on fruiting trees in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions. Observers in Massachusetts and Wisconsin reported that flowering came earlier than it had since Henry David Thoreau took note of when plants began to bloom near Walden Pond in the 1850s or since Aldo Leopold observed flowering times at 'The Shack' in Sauk County in the 1930s and ’40s.

'Then, in what has come to be recognized as a characteristic of climate change — unusual variability — the exceptionally early warm temperatures were followed abruptly by a hard freeze.

'False spring can harm not only the plants that put forth early sprouts, leaves or blooms, but other species and entire ecosystems. The timing of leaf and flower development has effects that ripple throughout an ecosystem because these changes prompt the flow of sap, nectar and nutrients within plants and so affect the availability of shelter and sustenance for other organisms. This can have profound consequences, particularly when species emerge from hibernation or during migration. Desynchronization of seasonal events has been reported around the world, from the American Southeast to New England, and the Rockies to the Tibetan Plateau and across Europe. Rocky Mountain marmots have emerged to find the plants they rely on for food buried beneath not yet fully melted snow. Butterflies in California’s Sierra Nevada have wriggled out of their cocoons in what seemed like spring warmth, only to be felled by the freeze that followed.

'From a food production standpoint, farmers around the world are trying to adjust to the growing likelihood of false springs by planting in ways that accommodate both early warming and temperature and moisture extremes, says Sharon Muzli Gourdji, postdoctoral fellow in energy and environment at Stanford University. Varieties of wheat are being bred for heat tolerance and other variables that come with climate change so they can endure warming temperatures in the tropical regions of Asia, Africa and South America as well as the challenges of both warming and extreme variability in the Northern Hemisphere. 'Farmers are adapting,' says Parmesan.'

 

2. New research on ocean noise pollution from an unlikely source: the energy industry.

'Sakhalin Energy plans on extracting oil and gas from an area that is critical habitat for the Western Pacific grey whale. When the suggestion came up that the Russian energy industry was going into this area to extract fossil fuel, many in the conservation sector were alarmed; and many were prepared to roll up their sleeves and take action against the project.

But with the proposal to use this setting as a benchmark study for mitigation protocols many in the e-NGO community backed down. The research was conducted by a team of industry-leading scientists, and funded by Sakhalin Energy Investment Company. The work was comprehensive and some excellent guidelines were drawn up in the context of what could be done to mitigate for potential acoustic threats to the whales.'

 

3. Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience.

"If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?”

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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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