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The Complexity Matters blog features the Thursday Complexity Post as well as other complexity inspired news items.

 

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Nature Editorial: Science and Satire Flourish Together

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fanaticism Stifles Satire, Free Speech and Science

The heritage of the eighteenth century French writer Voltaire and the Enlightenment help explain why four million people poured into the streets of France after terrorists murdered 17 people, including eight staff members of the weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, an editorial in Nature asserts. Crowds in Paris surpassed the size of the demonstrations welcoming allied troops that liberated the city in World War II. The Nature editorial says freedom of speech and satire are crucial in challenging the authoritarianism and dogma that undermine science and scientific inquiry. The editorial also calls for social science research to understand origins of violent fanaticism so that terrorism can be addressed by long term policies and initiatives without relying solely on repressive measures. Read the editorial here. Huffington Post writer Lex Paulson summarizes Voltaire’s message: Tolerate others, think for yourself.

Tags:  news 

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Risk, Randomness and Cancer

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, January 08, 2015

The risk of developing many kinds of cancer may rely on random luck.

Cristian Tomasetti, PhD, and Bert Vogelstein, MD, cancer scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, report in a Science magazine article that many cancers are caused by random mutations that happen when healthy stem cells divide. Cancers are known to result from life styles, inherited proclivities, and environmental exposures, as well as causes that can't be identified. A New York Times story by Denise Grady reports that the authors found chance was a bigger factor than they'd expected. "It was about double what I would have thought," Dr. Tomasetti, a biostatistician and professor told the Times. Basically, the risk of cancer is highly correlated with the number of stem cell divisions over time.

A Johns Hopkins press release explains that Tomasetti and Vogelstein charted the number of stem cell divisions likely to occur in 31 tissue types during an average life span, and compared these rates with the lifetime risk of cancer in the same tissues among adult Americans. Adult stem cells are a specialized population of cells in each organ or tissue that divide or self-renew indefinitely to generate replacement parts as other cells wear out.

The researchers report, for example, that the large intestines have more stem cells than small intestines, and those cells divide 73 times a year, compared with cells in the small intestines that divide 24 times a year. The lifetime risk of cancer in the large intestine is 4.8 percent, which is 24 times higher than the risk of a small intestine cancer. Their calculations show that about two thirds of the variation in cancer risk was explained by the number of stem cell divisions, and about one third is explained by heredity and environment.

They compare cancer with a car accident. The longer the trip, the higher the risk of accident. They say the mechanical condition of the car is a metaphor for inherited genetic factors and road conditions are like environmental factors. We may not know which of these three conditions contributed most to a particular wreck, but well maintained roads and vehicles can reduce overall risks. Knowledge that some factors are beyond our control may reduce stigma and comfort some cancer patients who blame themselves for their illness. Findings also suggest more cancers will appear simply because aging increases the number of stem cell divisions, the authors say in the release, so research on early detection, treatment and the biology of the disease is more important than ever.

Breast and prostate cancers were not included in the study because researchers lacked data on breast and prostate stem cell division rates. Lung cancer cases were divided between smokers and non-smokers, leading some readers to note that smoking also contributes to many other cancers. The American Lung Association reports that smoking causes nearly 90 percent of all lung cancer cases.

In a lengthy blog post on the article, oncologist David Gorski, MD, cites research suggesting one third to one half of all cancers are "potentially preventable," meaning they come from environmental factors that could be altered, such as smoking, alcohol use and weight control. He has some quibbles with the article, and wishes the discussion of it had been more nuanced. Bob O'Hara and GirrlScientist writing in The Guardian complain that too many news stories about the research confuse the variation in cancer risk with absolute risk of cancer, thereby blurring what constitutes bad luck.

Sometimes luck is randomly good. In the press release, Dr. Vogelstein observes cancer free longevity in people exposed to tobacco smoke and other carcinogens, often attributed to good genes, is likely to be good luck.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  culture  disease  health  luck  research 

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Some Gene Mutations Are Good

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, January 01, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 05, 2015

For years, researchers have looked for gene mutations that cause disease. Two scientists who started The Resilience Project have flipped that effort upside down and started looking for gene mutations that protect against disease. Discovery of such positively deviant genes paves the way for drugs that mimic the protective qualities.

A New York Times story by Gina Kolata tells the story of a Port Orchard, Washington, man who has a gene for early onset Alzheimer's. The man's older brother, mother, nine of his mother's siblings, and six cousins began showing symptoms in their 40s, and most died in their 50s. The man, now 65, has no signs of the illness, and researchers are trying to learn whether he has a genetic mutation that is counteracting or substantially delaying the horrifying impact of the Alzheimer's gene that he has.

"Instead of trying to fix things that are broken, let's look at people where things are broken but nature finds a way around it," Dr. Eric E. Schadt, director of the Icahn Institute, a medical research institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said in an interview with the Times.

Researchers have found many gene mutations that cause disease or predispose a person to an illness, and those seem to be considerably more common than the beneficial mutations. However, with today's fast and relatively inexpensive methods of sequencing DNA, and the ever-growing databases of study subjects whose genomes have been sequenced, scientists can begin to look for the positive mutations. Dr. Schadt and Dr. Stephen H. Friend, director of Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit research organization in Seattle, are searching databases that hold clinical and genetic information. They are looking for people who, despite having mutations for fatal diseases that strike early in life, have remained healthy far past the age when the illness should have appeared. They have analyzed data from more than 500,000 people, and found only 20 in which a good gene mutation appears to have blocked a bad one. But because no names are attached to the data, the scientists can't contact those people. So they contacted researchers studying extended families with severe genetic illnesses, and they found the Washington man.

Some amazing beneficial gene mutations have already been discovered. One prevents HIV from entering cells and causing AIDS, and that discovery has enabled scientists to treat HIV positive patients by directly editing their cells. Discovery of another gene alteration that prevents build up of LDL cholesterol led to discovery of a drug that is now in the final stage of testing. Researchers using genetic databases have also found mutations in some genes that confer partial protection against heart disease, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes.

The Washington man who seems to have defied his dangerous Alzheimer's gene retired recently. He told the Times his life's work now is to help scientists understand the treacherous disease that claimed the lives of so many members of his family.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  health  positive deviance  research 

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The Long Journey of a Noble Bird

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, December 25, 2014
Updated: Monday, January 05, 2015
Myth and legend surround the history of the turkey and extraordinary international travels precede its prominent place in American supermarkets. Benjamin Franklin called it a "bird of courage," more suitable than the bald eagle to be the emblem of America. And today a roasted turkey is a popular holiday treat.

Charles Dickens may have provided the first literary celebration of the Christmas turkey dinner. In A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, a transformed Ebenezer Scrooge presents his underpaid, overworked employee Bob Cratchit with a fat prize turkey to replace a less expensive thin goose that would have barely nourished the seven members of the impoverished Cratchit family. In England, turkey was already recognized as tasty fare. In America, many still viewed Christmas festivities as unseemly and holiday feasts were frowned upon. While celebration was becoming more common in the middle of the nineteenth century, Christmas wasn't declared a U.S. federal holiday until 1885.

The turkey familiar to us today is extinct in the wild. Its ancestry has been traced to Mexico, where the Aztecs domesticated a wild game bird they called the huexoloti. They regarded the bird as a god, and held festivals in its honor. North American natives also considered the turkey a powerful spiritual symbol, and prized its feathers for warmth and guidance into the next life. "The Flight of the Turkey," a story in the Economist, and a "Short History of the Turkey" by Andrew G. Gardner say that when Hernando Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, came to Mexico in 1519 he found the court of Moctezuma had a ravenous appetite for huexoloti's feathers and meat. Moctezuma gave Cortes about 1,500 turkeys, and gold, right before Cortes's armies razed his capital. Historians think Columbus took turkeys back to Spain after his fourth transatlantic visit in 1502, because in 1511 Spain's King Ferdinand demanded that all Spanish ships returning from the New World must bring back turkeys to be bred. Afterwards, turkeys spread rapidly to France, Italy, England and Scandinavia, and back to America.

The Economist traces the circuitous linguistic path of the creature's name. Initially, the Spanish thought the birds from Mexico were peacocks. Spanish ships were often manned by Arabs from the Ottoman Empire, and Europeans thought of their fowl as Turkey birds even though many were a different bird that came from Africa. The Economist says even Shakespeare was mixed up about turkeys. The bard describes a "swelling turkey cock" in mocking reference a character in Henry V. Historically, The Economist says, the available bird would have been an African guinea hen. In Turkey, turkeys from Spain were called hindi, on supposition they came from India. The French named turkey the dinde for the same reason. The Economist notes Linnaeus was also confused when he classified the bird in 1759: he called it Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo, which translates from Latin as guinea-foul-chicken peacock chicken-peacock-all wrong.

In centuries past, the elite prized exotic creatures and novel foods. Today, elites prize the authentic and home grown. Because commercial domestic turkeys have been bred for large white meat breasts, they can't mate and their eggs have to be artificially inseminated. Heritage turkeys, that can cost more than $200, are an effort to restore earlier bird variants. Linguistically, too, the turkey has evolved. In 1970s slang, a theatrical bomb or an inept individual was called a turkey, presumably because poultry farmers have reported that turkeys do dumb things. Earlier, "talking turkey" meant straight talk, no gobbledy-gook. And the tough talk idea is a likely root of "cold turkey," the phrase often used to describe immediate unassisted cessation of drug use. The turkey has also contributed to a popular American icon: Big Bird's feathers are white turkey feathers painted yellow. So enjoy this noble creature if it graces your table!

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  culture 

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Brenda Zimmerman: Complexity Scholar and Mentor to Many

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, December 18, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brenda Zimmerman, a renowned scholar of complexity science, author, educator and long-time science advisor to Plexus Institute, died December 16 in an automobile accident in Toronto. She was 58.

  

Saddened friends and colleagues in the Plexus community are remembering Dr. Zimmerman's wisdom as they try to make sense of the loss. Liz Rykert, president of MetaStrategies in Toronto and a former Plexus trustee, recalled Dr. Zimmerman as a mentor, colleague, and friend. "Brenda was the one who introduced me to the ideas of complexity and to Plexus even before it was Plexus Institute," Rykert said. "She was great fun to be with and she sparkled when she had a new idea or insight. I will miss her deeply and will always be inspired by her ideas and the methods she shared with me to make sense of the messy world around us."

"My heart goes out to her family and friends," Rykert continued. "Their loss is unimaginable. I suspect the paradox will be that somewhere amid all the loss they, and we, will find the threads to begin our sense-making together."

Plexus President Jeffrey Cohn, MD, MHCM, also sought solace in Dr. Zimmerman's wisdom. "Brenda's work strikes me as being both provocative and practical," Dr. Cohn said. "She challenged paradigms while helping to describe ways to create conditions for groups of people to discover and create solutions that work for them. Brenda developed the framework of the wicked question. In that spirit, how can we mourn her tragic loss while/by celebrating the impact of her work?"

Keith McCandless, co-founder of the Social Invention Group and a practitioner of Liberating Structures, was a friend, professional colleague and frequent collaborator with Dr. Zimmerman. "With loving kindness and verve, Brenda 'translated' complexity science concepts into everyday organization life," he recalled. "She stood out as a great learner, a disciplined scholar, and a fabulous teacher."

Dr. Zimmerman was a professor of policy and management at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto and director of the university's Health Industry Management Program. She was the author of dozens of papers and journal articles applying complexity science concepts to organizational strategy and system level change. Her insights from complexity science have been influential in healthcare, hospitals, and educational systems. She studied public policy and social innovation and researched how distributed control in organizations and systems functions and how an understanding of complexity processes can enhance generative potential in public and professional relationships. She received the Teaching Excellence Award in 2009 for Teacher of the Year in Schulich's MBA program.

Dezso J. Horvath, PhD, CM, dean of the Schulich School of Business, called Dr. Zimmerman a brilliant and innovative thinker and one of the school's brightest stars and one of the most inspirational and well-loved faculty members. "To the Schulich community, Brenda was an excellent researcher, teacher, mentor, colleague and friend."

Dr. Zimmerman is co-author of several books, including Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed, which she wrote with Frances Westley and Michael Quinn Patton, and Edgeware: Insights from complexity Science for HealthCare Leaders, which she wrote with Paul Plsek and Curt Lindberg. She wrote the report "Complicated and Complex Systems: What would Successful Reform Medicare Look Like?" with Sholom Glouberman, published in 2002 by the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. She also wrote numerous book chapters, including "Generative Relationships: STAR," with Bryan Hayday, in Glenda Eoyang's book Voices from the Field, and she authored two chapters in the book On the Edge: Nursing in the Age of Complexity, by Curt Lindberg, Sue Nash and Claire Lindberg.

Curt Lindberg, a founder and former president of Plexus Institute and another of Dr. Zimmerman's co-authors, called her death a tragic loss. Henri Lipmanowicz, a founder of Plexus and its Board Chairman Emeritus, said, "We were lucky to have known her. She was one of a kind. A beautiful and caring person."

Michael Quinn Patton is an organizational development and evaluation consultant, and complexity scholar. "Without Brenda there would have been no Getting to Maybe book and no subsequent Developmental Evaluation book," Patton said of the book he co-authored with Dr. Zimmerman and the pioneering book on evaluation he later wrote. He noted that Chapter 4 in Developmental Evaluation tells something of Dr. Zimmerman's influence on his own work and on the evaluation field generally.

Dr. Zimmerman earned her bachelor's degree in zoology at the University of Toronto and completed her MBA and PhD degrees at Schulich. She led Schulich's Health Industry Management Program for a decade, developing the curriculum as well as executive education programming. She was program director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre Physician Leadership Development Program for the Ontario Medical Association-Canadian Medical Association. She also served on the Advisory Committee to the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and was a member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr. Zimmerman is survived by her husband, Alan Ellis, and two daughters, Stephanie Zimmerman, and Gillian Kennedy, a Schulich MBA graduate who has also pursued a career in the health industry.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  zimmerman 

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Ebola in Liberia: Death by Distrust

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Friday, December 12, 2014

Public Health Campaign Foiled by Rumors

More than 2,800 Liberians have died from Ebola, more than twice the number of deaths in Sierra Leone and Guinea. More than 6,000 Liberians have been infected, ten times the number infected in any previous Ebola epidemic. Armand Sprecher, an Ebola expert with Doctors without Borders, said the staggering number of Ebola deaths in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, was unlike anything medical experts had seen before.

Helen Epstein, biologist, health researcher and author, went to Liberia to learn what was different. She concludes that while poor health infrastructure and many economic, social and cultural factors played a part in the Ebola tragedy in all impacted countries, the problem in Liberia was fundamentally political. "When the epidemic occurred, "she writes in The New York Review of Books, "many ordinary Liberians were so profoundly estranged from their government that they assumed it was lying to them and actively disbelieved the warnings that (Liberian public health official Tolbert) Nyenswah and others were desperately broadcasting to the nation and the world." The distrust, built on decades of upheaval and official corruption, was so deep, Epstein writes, that many citizens thought nurses trying to help were agents of the government who intended to poison them to create the illusion of an epidemic that would bring in international money. Read this thoughtful and disturbing story here.

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Future of Artificial Intelligence: Optimistic or Ominous?

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, December 11, 2014

If computers become smarter than we are, will they just keep us as pets or is civilization doomed? And if artificial intelligence fully surpasses ours, will that change what it means to be human?

Kurt Andersen's Vanity Fair article "Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence" probes these questions. He starts by asking Siri, the artificial intelligence (AI) app on his iPhone "What is the Singularity? Siri replies, "A technological singularity is a predicted point in the development of a civilization at which technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present day humans to fully comprehend or predict." Some futurists predict Singularity by 2050. Some brilliant scientists and scholars differ on what that might mean, and possibilities are being explored in popular films.

In the movie "Transcendence," Johnny Depp stars as an AI genius trying to create an omniscient machine that also has a full range of human emotion. Terrorist Luddites poison Depp's character, but his consciousness is uploaded to the cloud leading survivors to wonder whether the disembodied intelligence is really him. The Spike Jonze movie "Her," set in the not too distant future, explores human-machine interaction as a man falls in love with an artificially female and surprisingly fickle computer operating system. Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who founded computer science in the 1930s, is also the subject of a recent movie. "The Imitation Game" is based on Turing's life, his work cracking the Nazis' Engima code, and his fascination with AI. The title is based on Turing's proposal for a test that would provide proof of when computers can pass as humans.

Andersen interviews Ray Kurzweil, who in 2005 wrote The Singularity Is Near, and who is Google's director of engineering, leading a research team trying to create software that would communicate in a fully human way. Kurzweil is also the co-founder, with Peter Diamandis, of Singularity University based at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley and funded by what Andersen calls a "digital-industrial-complex pantheon: Cisco, Genetech, Nokia, GE, Google." Diamandis is an Ivy League educated entrepreneur whose book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, lays out a utopian future in which technology makes a healthy environment and social harmony possible.

Jaron Lanier, the virtual reality pioneer who now works at Microsoft Research, told Andersen he thinks machines might become convincingly human some time before the end of this century. Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen wrote in the MIT Technology Review that "The Singularity Isn't Near." Kurzweil disagreed in response. In an interview with Anderson, Allen says neuroscience research shows many complexities of the human brain are still mysterious and the scale and scope of the "known unknowns" remain vast, so he doubts human-capable AI will happen soon. He says the deeper we look into natural systems the more we have to expand our knowledge and theories to characterize their detailed operations, and he calls that the complexity break.

Some scientists worry about technological superiority. Jaan Tallinn, who helped create Kazaa and co-founded Skype, thinks technology may not benefit us if we lose control of its development. Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors and founder the space travel company Space X, calls AI "our biggest existential threat." 

Lanier's most recent book, Who Owns the Future, is about politics, power, economics and jobs. He's not afraid smart machines will enslave us. He told Andersen he's worried that machine owners-digital big business-will use technology to impoverish and disempower the middle and working classes. Andersen writes that in Lanier's skeptical view, today's big data and mass market AI "amount to a stupendous con." The crowd sourced digital powerhouses, like Google, YouTube and Facebook, Lanier asserts, "are Tom Sawyer, and we're whitewashing their fences for free because they've bedazzled and tricked us into thinking its fun." Read the provocative Vanity Fair article, with thoughtful interviews and commentary, here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  science  technology 

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Texas Saves Money Treating More, Incarcerating Fewer

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Prison Reform Is Big in Texas

The United States, with five percent of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners. And one tenth of the U.S. prisoners are incarcerated in Texas, a state that has executed 268 people since 2000. Tough on crime talk is politically popular inTexas. But the state has reduced its prison population, pared recidivism rates and saved money with a collection of reforms that fund programs rather than prisons.

Washington Post story by Reid Wilson reports the prison population in 2014 was 168,000, down from 173,000 in 2010. Instead of anticipating more inmates and planning new prisons, Tony Fabelo, a 20-year veteran of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council and two state legislators designed a system with hundreds of new beds in drug treatment programs for substance abusing parole violators, and intermediate and outpatient facilities for criminal sentenced to probation. Pre-trial diversion programs were created for those suffering from mental illness. A Daily Beast story by Olivia Nuzzi explains the bipartisan push for the combined initiatives that save money and reduce incarceration.

A recent study by the Sentencing Project, a research group that advocates alternatives to incarceration showed no strong relationship between imprisonment and crime. However, its statistics show that crime rates declined more in 30 states with the lowest increases in prison populations than in 20 states with higher increases in prison populations. Analysts are watching for future impact of prison policy changes in Texas. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that by the end of 2013 Texas had a modest increase in prison admissions—1.5 percent—and a drop of nearly 10 percent in prison releases.

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Innovations in Organic Transplants

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, December 04, 2014

Healthy human excrement is becoming a valuable commodity.

OpenBiome, a nonprofit launched by MIT graduate students almost two years ago, is the nation's first stool bank. Its mission is to provide doctors and hospitals with safe fecal material from screened donors for use in the growing number of fecal transplant procedures. Microbiologist Mark Smith, a co-founder, explains in a Boston.com story by Chelsea Rice that the organization is modeled after the Red Cross, to make a medical commodity available in a standardized way.

Fecal transplants-known as fecal microbiota transplants, or FMT, have been found extraordinarily effective in treating patients with Clostridium difficile infections that afflict half a million patients a year with intestinal pain and disabling diarrhea. Most are hospital patients who have been treated with antibiotics that wipe out healthy gut bacteria along with targeted pathogens. With the microbial competition wiped out, C. diff takes over, producing toxins that can cause severe and sometimes fatal illness. With introduction of donated stool into the patient's intestine or colon, healthy bacteria fight the C. diff and the normal microbial gut community can be reestablished. The Mayo Clinic first used FMT to treat a C. diff patient in 2011 and the Cleveland Clinic called FMT one of the top medical innovations of 2013.

In The New Yorker story "The Excrement Experiment," Emily Eakin traces the past and current understanding of fecal microbiota, describes its potential for treating several autoimmune disorders, and reports on recent research suggesting the mysteries of the gut biome may hold keys to many medical conditions, including obesity and mental health. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that gut bacteria plays a significant role in obesity in mice. Mice implanted with gut bacteria from a fat human gained weight while those injected with gut bacteria from a thin human stayed slim even when both groups ate the same diet. Research also suggests gut bacteria influences our moods, minds and emotions.

The average human digestive tract hosts at least 100 trillion bacterial, fungal, viral and archaeal organisms that collectively makeup the gut biome. Much of the research focuses on stool, which Eakins explains "remains our best proxy for the brimming universe within." Smith told Eakin part of his inspiration for OpenBiome was a friend who cured his extreme suffering from C. diff by transplanting his room-mate's stool into himself. Transplanting can be done using enemas, colonoscopies or a turkey baster. OpenBiome absorbs the cost of screening donors, whose blood is tested for several diseases, and whose initial stool samples are screened for known harmful pathogens. It is now sending specimens of clinically prepared excrement to dozens of hospitals across the country. Boston.com reports screened doors are paid $40 a day for their contributions. To lighten a gross topic, donors, who are anonymous to recipients, are given code names such as Winnie the Poo, Poop King, and Vladimir Pootin. Note the Boston.com graphic.

Meanwhile, for-profit biotech companies are competing to get stool-based therapies through trials and into the market. Scientists are also designing fecal capsules, which some entrepreneurs call "crapsules," that will be more appealing to patients. And the FDA will have to decide what regulatory measures should be in place. The FDA has viewed medically used stool as a drug. Smith and others hope it will be reclassified as a tissue, which has to meet stringent standards but does not have to go through clinical trials required for FDA drug approval. Read the New Yorker story here.

Tags:  bacteria  buscell  complexity matters  health 

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Scientists See Best Case for Planet: Unpleasant, Not Uninhabitable

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Scientists See an Inevitable Tipping Point

 

A rise in the planet’s atmospheric temperature of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the tipping point at which the world will be locked into a near future of drought, food and water shortages, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and world-wide flooding that will harm populations and economies, according to a significant body of scientific research.

As diplomats and policy makers gather in Lima,Peru to draft an agreement designed to halt the rise of greenhouse gases, climate scientists warn it may be impossible to prevent global temperatures from passing the tipping point because of the amount of greenhouse gas already in the atmosphere and the emissions expected to continue before any deal is implemented. Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton professor of geosciences and international affairs and a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said although he is encouraged by recent U.S. climate agreement with China, large scale transformations in the ecosystem have already taken place. The goal now, he said, is to prevent a 4 to 10 degree rise that would make the planet increasingly uninhabitable for humans. Even if future emissions are curtailed enough to head off worse-case scenarios, scientists say, a relentlessly warming world will be increasingly unpleasant. Read the New York Times story by Coral Davenport.

Tags:  news 

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