from the world's big
'A world with no ice': Confronting the horrors of climate change
The complacent majority needs to step up and call for action on climate change.
GINA MCCARTHY: Climate is always portrayed on newscasts as being some kind of big debate. You know, the big debate among the scientists is that 97 percent of them know it's happening and are really worried about it. Three percent are skeptical. That's not a balance. That's an overwhelming majority and that needs to drive the decision, especially in a democracy.
BILL NYE: The more you think about it everybody, 97 percent of the world's scientists – not 97 percent of some institute that somebody started in a remote part of the world and is releasing press releases. Ninety-seven percent of the scientists in the world are very concerned about climate change.
PHILIP KITCHER: Climate science is built on views about the atmosphere that have been developed very successfully and in a very rigorous way from the nineteenth century to the present. There isn't any doubt about the mechanisms of the greenhouse effect. There isn't really any doubt about the evidence behind the consensus that says we have contributed enormously to the warming effects that are now becoming apparent not only in the present but also from the record of the earth's average temperature.
NYE: You can look at the graphs. You can study the stuff for yourself. If nothing else do this. Wherever you live, get access to the coldest temperature of each year for the last century. And unless you live in just very few places you will see the coldest temperature where you live has steadily increased. They'll be some dips. There'll be some ups, but overall you'll find it – and that's just one that almost everybody who has internet access can get those data, they're available. And just look at that one thing and you'll see the world's getting warmer everybody.
MICHELLE THALLER: Now the reason our atmosphere is getting warmer and warmer and warmer is because we humans are putting lots of carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere. And this acts as what we call a greenhouse gas. Sunlight can get through the atmosphere, but the carbon dioxide traps it and it can't release itself back into space so it gets warmer and warmer over time. Carbon dioxide doesn't just warm the atmosphere. It also affects our oceans. When ocean water combines with carbon dioxide to create something called carbonic acid and it makes the oceans more and more acidic over time. And this is a really big problem for marine life. There are things like algae. The algae in the oceans are responsible for most of the oxygen that we breathe. And the algae are having trouble forming because of the higher acid levels in the ocean. So even if the one thing you solved was cooling the earth down, if we continue to put more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere there will be other serious repercussions. We could end up killing the ocean life system, for example.
NYE: The earth is getting warmer faster than it has ever gotten before and that's the problem. It's not that the world hasn't had more carbon dioxide. It's not that the world hasn't been warmer. The problem is the speed at which things are changing. We are inducing a sixth mass extinction event kind of by accident and we don't want to be the extinctee if I may coin this noun.
DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Climate change challenges, threatens to undermine the entire infrastructure of our modern world, all of our political institutions, all of our social institutions, our national institutions. Everything is vulnerable to the transformations of climate because we all live within climate. There's basically no life on Earth I think that will be untouched by the force of climate in the decades ahead and in most cases that means deformed, damaged, transformed. The UN says that the track we're on now, the trajectory we're on now is likely to take us to about 4.3 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century if we don't change course. So, 4.3 degrees would mean $600 trillion in global climate damages. That's double all the wealth that exists in the world today. It would mean parts of the world could be hit by six climate driven natural disasters at once. It would mean more than double the warfare that we see today. And the impacts would be in our economic activity. It would be in flooding and the refugee crisis. There are so many impacts that we have not really been able to think clearly about because all of us are so reluctant to consider these horrifying outcomes. But the fact that they are horrifying should not make us turn away. They should make us focus on them more intently. We all have all of these psychological reflexes that make us reluctant to consider horrible possibilities. And for that reason it's more important for us to take seriously the science because we need to fight against those impulses to do better planning, to take more aggressive action than we would if we allowed ourselves to slip back into complacency.
KITCHER: Now we can't say, for example, how much the temperature of the Earth is going to rise by 2100. The one that's really important to understand here is that 2100 isn't some magical moment. I mean it's not really going to matter that much if the temperature rises say four or five degrees Celsius. If that comes in 2100 or whether it comes in 2120 or whether it comes in 2150 or whether it comes in 2200. That's going to be a real disaster for human beings on our planet because five degree Celsius above preindustrial temperatures is a world in which there's no ice whatsoever and in which you've got reptiles that are able to live within both polar circles. It's that hot. That would be a world in which lots of the Earth's surface might become quite uninhabitable for us.
WALLACE-WELLS: Many of the biggest cities in south Asia and the Middle East would be lethally hot in summer at two degrees which could happen as soon as 2050. These are cities like Calcutta, five, ten, twelve million people. You wouldn't be able to go outside, certainly work outside without incurring a lethal risk and that could happen again just by 2050 which is one reason why the UN expects that we could have 200 million climate refugees by that same date, 2050, 200 million. They think it's possible that we get as many as one billion which is as many people as live today in North and South America combined. I think those numbers are realistic. I think they're too high, but even if we get 100 million or 150 million climate refugees it's important to remember that the Syrian refugee crisis which totally destabilized European politics, led in its way to Brexit and has transformed our politics globally through the way it's affected Europe was the result of just one million Syrian refugees coming to the continent. We're talking about a refugee crisis that is almost certain to be a hundred times as large and it comes at a time when most nations of the world are retreating from our commitments to one another, retreating from our organizations and alliances, retreating from the UN, retreating from the EU and embracing xenophobia and nativism and nationalism. That's especially concerning when you think about what's ahead because there are going to be many more people in much more desperate need in the decades ahead.
KITCHER: Some of the forecasts about the future – rising sea levels, much more frequent heat waves, much bigger storms are really very serious dangers for the habitability of some parts of the world, droughts. All of that sort of stuff in general is very, very well supported by the evidence.
CHARLES FERGUSON: If we let this problem continue to worsen then 20, 30, 40, 50 years from how our children are going to suffer a lot. About half of the world's largest cities are on coastlines and if the Greenland ice melts then the sea is going to rise by over 20 feet and half of the world's cities will be underwater literally.
JON GERTNER: In fact, our civilization has been built on the idea that sea levels are relatively stable and we know that they're not. We know that they're not by looking back in time that ice sheets have melted before, that vast floods have covered our coasts. But we also know now by just watching our tidal gauges, by using our satellites to measure how the tides are going up that sea levels are rising. They're rising at an accelerating rate and that the future bodes poorly for this idea that we can kind of keep colonizing the coast and stake out on these coastal cities.
WALLACE-WELLS: But there are cases that are worse than 4.3 degrees. There are what are called feedback loops in the climate system that could conceivably accelerate warming beyond what human action does. So there's what's called the albedo effect which is a little complicated to explain.
GERTNER: As the ice sort of decreases, the albedo of the Arctic changes and albedo is the reflectivity. Ice, of course, is white and bright and it reflects solar energy back into space. When it exposes dark open ocean that open ocean absorbs more sunlight and more energy and it creates a kind of feedback loop that the more ocean that's exposed, the more energy that's absorbed, the more heat that's actually absorbed as well and it kind of builds on itself.
WALLACE-WELLS: As Arctic ice melts the planet's ability to reflect solar energy back into space would diminish and warming would accelerate. There is froze in the Arctic permafrost a lot of methane or I should say a lot of carbon which could be released into the atmosphere as methane if that permafrost melts. Methane is depending on how you count at least 30 and perhaps 80 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide and there is enough carbon in that permafrost to double the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere that we have today. If that were released it could accelerate warming by a couple of degrees all on its own.
FERGUSON: Weather will be far more extreme. The last time that the world was as hot as it will get this century if we don't fix climate change was about 100,000 years ago and scientists have found evidence of extremely destructive storms. Storms that were strong enough to lift very large boulders from the bottom of the ocean and put them on top of mountains. So Hurricane Sandy is very, very minor trouble compared to what we'll face if we don't handle this problem.
THALLER: The problem is really getting at our emissions of carbon dioxide and stopping those and stopping these dramatic changes that we see coming. Some of them are going to be very difficult to stop. I mean right now we're observing the icecaps a both poles of the planet in Antarctica and in the North Pole melting very quickly. That won't stop. Those icecaps will largely melt over many, many centuries and the ocean levels will rise in accordance. And I do think that the challenge right now is how are we going to deal with the changes. We might not be able to change very many of them at this point. We need to band together as people, make sure that we have ways to deal with refugees. If people need to leave where they are because the oceans are rising there's going to be a lot of people that need homes and there's going to be a lot of support needed for the changes in agriculture, in fishing, in so many parts of our economy and our lives. There's no easy solution.
DANIEL ESTY: I think this has to be understood as in some regards an ethical issue, a moral issue and one has to see it as a wrong to contaminate the planet and to put at risk the future of humanity on the planet.
ANDREW WINSTON: Often what people call sustainability which is not I think always the perfect word but the things that fall under that that are environmental or social challenges, there's this assumption in business quite often that trying to tackle these issues will be expensive. That there's this tradeoff, this fundamental tradeoff between trying to manage these big challenges in a profitable way and just managing your bottom line in a normal way and that it's going to be expensive. This myth was based in some reality for a long time. There were things that did cost more money and green products or green services they weren't very good for a long time. So there's the sense that green was somehow not good for business. It wasn't out of nowhere but that's really a dated view.
WALLACE-WELLS: There's a huge amount of new research in this area that reverses that logic completely which says that faster action on climate would actually be, would offer huge economic payoffs in a quite short term way. There was one big study in 2018 that said we could add $26 trillion to the global economy just by 2030 through rapid decarbonization. I think that estimate may be a little rosy but it suggests just how completely this conventional wisdom has flipped just in the last few years. I don't think that understanding has yet risen up to the level of our policymakers who are still a little bit bound by the earlier perspective that we'd have to forego economic growth to take action. But I think it will get to them soon and I think our policy and our politics will change actually quite dramatically when that happens. So I don't think it's a question of money. I really think it's a question of political will through the green energy we have now, through the knowledge we have about infrastructure and agriculture. It is within our power to take action and avert our worst case outcomes.
WINSTON: We now have a situation where the challenges are so vast and the world is changing so fundamentally that the only path we have forward is to manage these issues. That's the point of the big pivot so that we will find a profitable path to do it and we have so many options now. There's a whole category of things that companies do that save money very quickly. All things that fall under kind of the banner of ecoefficiency or energy efficiency or using less. I mean in part green is about doing more with less. That's just good business.
WALLACE-WELLS: And you do see Bill Gates doing exactly that. He's made really significant investments in negative emissions technologies and is, in fact, behind the most exciting research in that area which is quite exciting. There's a company called Carbon Engineering led by a guy named David Keith that has found that you can take carbon out of the atmosphere at a cost of about $100 a ton. That would mean, in theory, that we could completely neutralize all global carbon emissions at a cost of about $3 trillion a year which would mean that the economy could continue just as it is. Our agriculture could continue just as it is. Our infrastructure, our industry can continue just as they are and we could just completely suck out all of the carbon that was being emitted for $3 trillion a year which sounds like an enormous amount, but there are estimates that about how much we subsidize the fossil fuel business today that run as high as $5 trillion a year. In theory we could redirect those subsidies to this technology and solve the problem already. That's in theory. There are huge engineering problems. We'd have to find a place to put the carbon which would require the experts say a new industry two or three times the size of the oil and gas business right now that's just to put the carbon back into the ground. But nevertheless, there are really promising technological paths forward.
FERGUSON: In the last decade there's been remarkable progress in renewable energy technology, in electric cars, in sustainable agriculture and now we know how to solve this problem. And, in fact, we could solve this problem in a way that would make the world more prosperous and healthier and happier.
WALLACE-WELLS: There are great technological opportunities for people who are focused on solving the problem through technology. The problem is the most powerful people who we've decided are our technological leaders just seem not all that interested in this problem and I think we really need to change those minds because we need that money. We need that intellectual power. We need that cultural cache focused on this problem. In fact, we need everything we can get. This is really an all hands on deck problem and I don't think we'll be able to address it without technology so we need all those people.
ESTY: The big divide which has often been framed around the science with one side being called science deniers actually hasn't really been about the science. The science is an excuse particularly for some republicans who fear the implications of the science for policy. By the mid-1990s there was a political divide that became a partisan issue. In fact, worse than that it became a wedge issue which the republicans used in one respect to enliven their base. The democrats pushed in another direction and the two parties saw no value in coming together. So I think we really have a serious problem on our hands where this is a partisan issue because frankly, the climate change problem in particular, but the need to move to a sustainable future more broadly cannot be done on a one party basis. Transformative change of the kind that's required here relaying the energy foundation of our economy and our society can only be done when you come up the middle with about 70 percent of the public and the political sphere moving together. And that is by definition not going to happen on a one party basis.
NYE: On my side of it in the science education world, I mean this whole thing is so frustrating. The United States used to be the world leader in technology, but when you have this group of leaders, elected officials who are anti-science you're setting the U.S. back and then ultimately setting the world back.
WALLACE-WELLS: Even though Americans are concerned about climate change nobody wants to spend as much as $10 a month to address it. The median commitment a recent poll found was just $1 a month. So while people are concerned about climate change they're not concerned enough. And my personal perspective is that the main goal for climate action is to make those people who are concerned but still fundamentally complacent about the issue to be really engaged in a way that they prioritize climate change in their politics and their voting and make sure that our leaders think of climate change as a first order political priority, not a third or fourth order political priority, and maybe even a political imperative that governs all others because that is true. If you care about economic inequality, if you care about violence basically every political thing that you could worry about in this world bears the fingerprint of climate change and will be made worse if climate change continues unabated. So, addressing any of them on some level means addressing climate change and that's the perspective I think we really need to have or more of us need to have.
ESTY: I think what you're seeing now is a recognition that the problem is real and that's going to be increasingly accepted across party lines, but that what's really required is a thoughtful new and serious approach to policy. Almost certainly a portfolio approach with a number of different strategies woven together, some price signal. We're going to have to make people pay for the harm they're causing which I think should be done with a slowly escalating carbon charge starting at $5 per ton and going up by $5 per ton per year for 20 years. So that at the end of a 20 years timeframe you'd have $100 a ton price on greenhouse gas emissions and that would immediately change behavior. Not just at year 20 but in year one because people see that rising price and whether they're building a powerplant or building a building or even buying a car, they'll start to think about what it means to have to pay that charge for their greenhouse gas emissions. They'll change behavior and it will spur innovation. So I think there's actually a lot happening that we can be quite excited about and I do see the parties coming together and prospects for progress emerging out over the next several years.
BILL NYE: Acknowledge that not wasting water bottles, not throwing newspapers away, recycling them – that's all good and important. Driving less, driving smaller cars or more efficient cars – electric car. But the main thing we can all do about climate change right now is talk about it.
MCCARTHY: And it's extremely important to recognize your own limitations about who you're good at talking to and who's going to believe you and who are the people you're trying to influence listen to. Because we can talk all we want about the science at EPA, but you need to put that into people's homes and ears in a way that they're going to listen, absorb and know they can be part of the solutions moving forward. That gets them off the dime and builds the constituencies you need to succeed in something that is really as big as this. The challenge of climate change is enormous for us and so you need to attack that from all different angles and make sure to get everybody engaged.
WALLACE-WELLS: I think that there's a bigger risk of advocates and activists talking to one another and not addressing the sort of median concerned liberal who is worried but fundamentally complacent. That, to me, is the main target of messaging and when I look around the world I see many, many more people like that. Many more societies like that than I see people who are really deeply committed or who are really deeply in denial. And I say that as someone who felt that way myself until quite recently and who was awakened from that complacency by fear and alarm which is one reason why I think that talking bluntly about the science and everything that it projects for our near term future is really important. We shouldn't shy away from the projections that science has made for us. We should look as squarely at them as we can even if they horrify us because fear can be mobilizing, can be motivating. We know that from environmental history. We know that from advocacy history. In this case I don't think it needs to be the only way that we talk about climate change, but we shouldn't be scared of fear. We should know that the impacts are terrifying and that we need to do everything we can to avoid as many of them as we can.
- Climate change is often framed as a debate that has split society down the middle and that requires more evidence before we can act. In reality, 97 percent of scientists agree that it is real and only 3 percent are skeptical. A sticking point for some is the estimated timeline, but as Columbia University professor Philip Kitcher points out, a 4-5 Celsius temperature increase that makes the planet uninhabitable is a disaster no matter when it happens.
- In this video, 9 experts (including professors, astronomers, authors, and historians) explain what climate change looks like, how humans have already and are continuing to contribute to it, how and why it has become politicized, and what needs to happen moving forward for real progress to be made.
- David Wallace-Wells, journalist and New America Foundation National Fellow, says that the main goal of climate action is not to win over the skeptical minority, but to "make those people who are concerned but still fundamentally complacent about the issue to be really engaged in a way that they prioritize climate change in their politics and their voting and make sure that our leaders think of climate change as a first-order political priority."
- 5 ways you can personally fight the climate crisis | World Economic ... ›
- This is how people around the world view climate change, according ... ›
- Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change? | Aeon ... ›
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Why mega-eruptions like the ones that covered North America in ash are the least of your worries.
- The supervolcano under Yellowstone produced three massive eruptions over the past few million years.
- Each eruption covered much of what is now the western United States in an ash layer several feet deep.
- The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean the next eruption is overdue.
The end of the world as we know it<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNTM5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTg5NjY5MX0.tvGeUHIw5IB-El9o7ePqt-aLGTV3I_3SMk_B6neP680/img.jpg?width=980" id="7626c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7813ba6f9544a3d25025e682c8b723ba" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bHeinrich Berann's panoramic view of Yellowstone National Park" />
Panoramic view of Yellowstone National Park
Image: Heinrich Berann for the National Park Service – public domain<p>Of the many freak ways to shuffle off this mortal coil – lightning strikes, shark bites, falling pianos – here's one you can safely scratch off your worry list: an outbreak of the Yellowstone supervolcano.</p><p>As the map below shows, previous eruptions at Yellowstone were so massive that the ash fall covered most of what is now the western United States. A similar event today would not only claim countless lives directly, but also create enough subsidiary disruption to kill off global civilisation as we know it. A relatively recent eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia may have come close to killing off the human species (<em>see further below</em>). </p><p>However, just because a scenario is grim does not mean that it is likely (insert topical political joke here). In this case, the doom mongers claiming an eruption is 'overdue' are wrong. Yellowstone is not a library book or an oil change. Just because the previous mega-eruption happened long ago doesn't mean the next one is imminent. <span></span></p>
Ash beds of North America<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNTM5MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTAyNzczM30.klQwU7AQK8v2kcqlWQ_97CWDOYk72nDgT8kXO74aMWY/img.png?width=980" id="ce210" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f73d1cafa92b140b17915c89f097f45f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Ash beds deposited by major volcanic eruptions in North America." />
Ash beds deposited by major volcanic eruptions in North America.
Image: USGS – public domain<p>This map shows the location of the Yellowstone plateau and the ash beds deposited by its three most recent major outbreaks, plus two other eruptions – one similarly massive, the other the most recent one in North America.</p><p><strong>Huckleberry Ridge</strong></p><p>The Huckleberry Ridge eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago. It ejected 2,450 km3 (588 cubic miles) of material, making it the largest known eruption in Yellowstone's history and in fact the largest eruption in North America in the past few million years. </p><p>This is the oldest of the three most recent caldera-forming eruptions of the Yellowstone hotspot. It created the Island Park Caldera, which lies partially in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and westward into Idaho. Ash from this eruption covered an area from southern California to North Dakota, and southern Idaho to northern Texas. </p><p><strong>Mesa Falls</strong></p><p>About 1.3 million years ago, the Mesa Falls eruption ejected 280 km3 (67 cubic miles) of material and created the Henry's Fork Caldera, located in Idaho, west of Yellowstone. </p><p>It was the smallest of the three major Yellowstone eruptions, both in terms of material ejected and area covered: 'only' most of present-day Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, and about half of South Dakota. </p><p><strong>Lava Creek</strong></p><p>The Lava Creek eruption was the most recent major eruption of Yellowstone: about 640,000 years ago. It was the second-largest eruption in North America in the past few million years, creating the Yellowstone Caldera. </p><p>It ejected only about 1,000 km3 (240 cubic miles) of material, i.e. less than half of the Huckleberry Ridge eruption. However, its debris is spread out over a significantly wider area: basically, Huckleberry Ridge plus larger slices of both Canada and Mexico, plus most of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.</p><p><strong>Long Valley</strong></p><p>This eruption occurred about 760,000 years ago. It was centered on southern California, where it created the Long Valley Caldera, and spewed out 580 km3 (139 cubic miles) of material. This makes it North America's third-largest eruption of the past few million years. </p><p>The material ejected by this eruption is known as the Bishop ash bed, and covers the central and western parts of the Lava Creek ash bed. </p><p><strong>Mount St Helens</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980 was the deadliest and most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history: it created a mile-wide crater, killed 57 people and created economic damage in the neighborhood of $1 billion.</p><p>Yet by Yellowstone standards, it was tiny: Mount St Helens only ejected 0.25 km3 (0.06 cubic miles) of material, most of the ash settling in a relatively narrow band across Washington State and Idaho. By comparison, the Lava Creek eruption left a large swathe of North America in up to two metres of debris.<br></p>
The difference between quakes and faults<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNTM5MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODkzMDgxOX0.SbOloPk6Ert6Gr3oO2MjDvFpNpL5UY1lVAqczFyQ6uQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="d410d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="77d3ca41241b28a2dd1d9acf708015ae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Comparison chart of eruption volumes" />
The volume of dense rock equivalent (DRE) ejected by the Huckleberry Ridge event dwarfs all other North American eruptions. It is itself overshadowed by the DRE ejected at the most recent eruption at Toba (present-day Indonesia). This was one of the largest known eruptions ever and a relatively recent one: only 75,000 years ago. It is thought to have caused a global volcanic winter which lasted up to a decade and may be responsible for the bottleneck in human evolution: around that time, the total human population suddenly and drastically plummeted to between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs.
Image: USGS – public domain<p>So, what are the chances of something that massive happening anytime soon? The aforementioned mongers of doom often claim that major eruptions occur at intervals of 600,000 years and point out that the last one was 640,000 years ago. Except that (a) the first interval was about 200,000 years longer, (b) two intervals is not a lot to base a prediction on, and (c) those intervals don't really mean anything anyway. Not in the case of volcanic eruptions, at least. </p><p><span></span>Earthquakes can be 'overdue' because the stress on fault lines is built up consistently over long periods, which means quakes can be predicted with a relative degree of accuracy. But this is not how volcanoes behave. They do not accumulate magma at constant rates. And the subterranean pressure that causes the magma to erupt does not follow a schedule.</p><p><span></span>What's more, previous super-eruptions do not necessarily imply future ones. Scientists are not convinced that there ever will be another big eruption at Yellowstone. Smaller eruptions, however, are much likelier. Since the Lava Creek eruption, there have been about 30 smaller outbreaks at Yellowstone, the last lava flow being about 70,000 years ago. </p><p>As for the immediate future (give or take a century): the magma chamber beneath Yellowstone is <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/yellowstone-overdue-eruption-when-will-yellowstone-erupt?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products" target="_blank">only 5 percent to 15 percent molten</a>. Most scientists agree that is as un-alarming as it sounds. And that its statistically more relevant to worry about death by lightning, shark, or piano.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.
- Today's parents believe parenting is harder now than 20 years ago.
- A Pew Research Center survey found this belief stems from the new challenges and worries brought by technology.
- With some schools going remote next year, many parents will need to adjust expectations and re-learn that measured screen usage won't harm their children.
Parents and guardians have always endured a tough road. They are the providers of an entire human being's subsistence. They keep that person feed, clothed, and bathe; They help them learn and invest in their enrichment and experiences; They also help them navigate social life in their early years, and they do all this with limited time and resources, while simultaneously balancing their own lives and careers.
Add to that a barrage of advice and reminders that they can always spend more money, dedicate more time, or flat-out do better, and it's no wonder that psychologists worry about parental burnout.
But is parenting harder today than it was, say, 20 years ago? The Pew Research Center asked more than 3,600 parents this question, and a majority (66 percent) believe the answer is yes. While some classic complaints made the list—a lack of discipline, a disrespectful generation, and the changing moral landscape—the most common reason cited was the impact of digital technology and social media.
A mixed response to technology
Parents worry that their children spend too much time in front of screens while also recognizing technologies educational benefits.
This parental concern stems not only from the ubiquity of screens in children's lives, but the well-publicized relationship between screen time and child development. Headlines abound citing the pernicious effects screen time has on cognitive and language development. Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, issue warnings that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades, weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image, and the fear of missing out—to name a few!
According to Pew's research, parents—which Pew defines as an adult or guardian with at least one child under their care, though they may also have adult children—have taken these warnings to heart. While 84 percent of those surveyed are confident they know how much screen time is appropriate, 71 percent worry their child spends too much time in front of screens.
To counter this worry, most parents take the measured approach of setting limits on the length of time children can access screens. Others limit which technologies children have access to. A majority of parents (71 percent) view smartphones as potentially harmful to children. They believe the devices impair learning effective social skills, developing healthy friendships, or being creative. As a result, about the same percentage of parents believe children should be at least 12 years old before owning a smartphone or using social media.
But a deeper concern than screen time seems to be what content those screens can access. An overwhelming 98 percent of those surveyed say parents and guardians shouldered the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate online content. Far less put the responsibility on tech companies (78 percent) or the government (65 percent).
Parents of young children say they check the websites and apps their children use and set parental controls to restrict access. A minority of parents admit to looking at call and text records, tracking their child's location with GPS, or following their child on social media.
Yet, parents also recognize the value of digital technology or, at least, have acquiesced to its omnipresence. The poster child for this dichotomy is YouTube, with its one billion hours played daily, many before children's eyes. Seventy-three percent of parents with young children are concerned that their child will encounter inappropriate content on the platform, and 46 percent say they already have. Yet, 80 percent still let their children watch videos, many letting them do so daily. Some reasons cited are that they can learn new things or be exposed to different cultures. The number one cited reason, however, is to keep children entertained.
For the Pew Research Center's complete report, check out "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens."
Screens, parents, and pandemics
Perhaps most troubling, Pew's survey was conducted in early March. That's before novel coronavirus spread wildly across the United States. Before shelter-in-place laws. Before schools shuttered their doors. Before desperate parents, who suddenly found themselves their child's only social and educational outlet, needed a digital lifeline to help them cope.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many parents to rely on e-learning platforms and YouTube to supplement their children's education—or just let the kids enjoy their umpteenth viewing of "Moana" so they can eke out a bit more work. With that increase in screen time comes a corresponding increase in guilt, anxiety, and frustration.
But are these concerns overblown?
As Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and the media at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told the New York Times, parents don't always need to view screen time as a negative. "Even the phrase 'screen time' itself is problematic. It reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when the reality is much more nuanced," Radesky said.
Radesky helped the American Academy of Pediatrics craft its statement about screen time use during the pandemic. While the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences and maintain limits, the organization acknowledges that children's media use will, by necessity, increase. To make it a supportive experience, the statement recommends parents make a plan with their children, be selective of the quality of media, and use social media to maintain connections together. It also encourages parents to adjust their expectations and notice their own technology use.
"We are trying to prevent parents from feeling like they are not meeting some sort of standard," Radesky said. "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don't be on it all day."
This is good advice for parents, now and after the pandemic. While studies show that excessive screen time is deleterious, others show no harm from measured, metered use. For every fear that screens make our kids stupid, there's a study showing the kids are all right. If we maintain realistic standards and learn to weigh quality and quantity within those standards, maybe parenting in the digital age won't seem so darn difficult.