Science and Yale Environment 360 on Climate Fatigue

Richard Kerr's recent news feature at Science magazine offers a compelling look at the many communication challenges on climate change, especially at a time of apparent "climate fatigue." As Roger Pielke comments in the Science article, by sounding the alarm on climate change too loudly, campaigners may be causing important segments of the audience to tune out their message.

In a separate article at Yale Environment 360, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger offer a similar argument to those I have made in the past, most recently in a paper at the journal Environment. Here's how Nordhaus and Schellenberger sum up one of the main drivers of public indifference to climate change:

The lesson of recent years would appear to be that apocalyptic threats -- when their impacts are relatively far off in the future, difficult to imagine or visualize, and emanate from everyday activities, not an external and hostile source -- are not easily acknowledged and are unlikely to become priority concerns for most people. In fact, the louder and more alarmed climate advocates become in these efforts, the more they polarize the issue, driving away a conservative or moderate for every liberal they recruit to the cause.

So what might be an alternative engagement strategy? I am quoted at the end of the Science news feature arguing that we need to conceive of the communication challenge not in terms of short term campaigns but long term civic education: What does it mean to be a citizen in an era of disruptive climate change and scarce energy? Part of this challenge requires rebuilding the media infrastructure at the local and regional level so that communities can collectively plan, connect, and adapt to various impacts.

I elaborated on these ideas in a recent blog post on climate change education and review the research in this area in a recent co-authored paper at the American Journal of Botany (PDF).

Many of the issues emphasized in the Science and Yale Environment 360 articles will be addressed in a special workshop session next month at the meetings of the American Geophysical Union. Go here for more information.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

10 paradoxes that will stretch your mind

From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.

Big Think
Surprising Science
  • While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
  • We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
  • Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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