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February 08 2018


February 07 2018


New research reveals plant wonderland inside China's caves

Over five years (2009-2014) researchers have delved into the depths of some of China's most unexplored and unknown caves in the largest ever study on cave floras. Surveying over 60 caves in the Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan regions, they were able to assess the vascular plant diversity of cave flora in more detail than ever before.

Rainforest collapse 307 million years ago impacted the evolution of early land vertebrates

Researchers have discovered that the mass extinction seen in plant species caused by the onset of a drier climate 307 million years ago led to extinctions of some groups of tetrapods, the first vertebrates to live on land, but allowed others to expand across the globe.

New light shed on antibiotics produced by ants

Ants, like humans, deal with disease. To deal with the bacteria that cause some of these diseases, some ants produce their own antibiotics. A new comparative study identified some ant species that make use of powerful antimicrobial agents -- but found that 40 percent of ant species tested didn't appear to produce antibiotics. The study has applications regarding the search for new antibiotics that can be used in humans.

It ain't over 'til it's over

February 06 2018


I drove to Charleston, SC today and listened to R.E.M. the whole dang way

I'm here:

February 6 & 7, 2018

Socio-Economic Panel
Crowne Plaza Hotel
4381 Tanger Outlet Boulevard
North Charleston, SC  29418

Briefing Book 

Webinar Registration 

February 6, 2017, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM 

February 7, 2017, 8:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Public Comment

Click here to submit public comment on SEP agenda items

Click here to read what others have already said

Note: I listened to Spotify's "This is R.E.M." playlist for about 4 hours. Once that ran out of songs I listened to Radio Free Europe and, my favorite album, Reckoning (1984) to further remind me of my college and grad school days. 


Production of solar fuels inches closer with new discovery

Researchers have discovered how a catalyst splits water using solar power, opening the door to economically viable solar-fuel production.

Venus flytraps don't eat the insects that pollinate them

While most people are familiar with Venus flytraps and their snapping jaws, there is still a lot that scientists don't know about the biology of these carnivorous plants. Researchers have for the first time discovered which insects pollinate the rare plants in their native habitat -- and discovered that the flytraps don't dine on these pollinator species.

There are more mammal species than we thought

A recent study highlights that over 1,000 new species of mammals have been described globally during the last dozen years, a finding that contradicts the notion that our mammalian relatives are well known. This rate of species discovery is driven by advances in DNA analysis methods and field exploration. This new listing of all living mammal species is publicly accessible in the Mammal Diversity Database.

Critical thinking could be key for debunking climate myths

Six-step process helps people detect and analyse poor reasoning

February 05 2018

10 Ways to Stop Your House from Contributing to Climate Change

New alien species invasions still rising globally

Up to 16 percent of all species on Earth could qualify as potential alien species and if they invade new regions, impacts will be difficult to predict.

Controlling fire ants with natural compounds

New research has identified natural, plant-derived that repel fire ants. These compounds, including one found in cinnamon, work by activating a type of ion channel highly expressed in the antennae and leg of one of the world's most invasive insect species.

Changing weather patterns throwing ecosystems out of whack

Species' lifecycles are slowly growing out of alignment, which can affect the functioning of ecosystems, ultimately impacting human food supply and disease.

Extreme flood events now more frequent and severe

Northern hemisphere most affected, study shows

I rage tweeted during executive time this morning


Predicting Adaptation to Climate Change using Regional Heterogeneity in Mortality Effects of Temperature

Hi!  I am glad to have gotten an invitation from John to guest-blog here.  I am an Associate Professor of economics at the Andrew Young School at Georgia State University. My research on environmental economics is in solar geoengineering, health effects of air pollution and climate change, behavioral economics, and some other stuff.  I teach environmental economics at the undergraduate and PhD level.

So let me start by highlighting some recent research that I've done with co-authors Nolan Miller and David Molitor of the University of Illinois.  In this article in The Conversation, we describe the results from a recent working paper in which we use claims data from Medicare combined with weather monitor data to estimate 1) the effect of temperature extremes on elderly mortality, 2) how these effects differ across different regions of the country, and 3) the extent to which this can inform us about the effects of climate change and the potential to adapt to climate change.

We summarize our findings on the first question:

Our key finding is that both heat waves and cold snaps increase mortality rates. For example, the mortality rate from a day with average temperatures between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit is higher by about 1 death per 100,000 individuals than a day with an average temperature between 65 and 70 degrees. Deaths also increase, by about one-half per 100,000 individuals, on days when the average temperature is less than 20 degrees.

There is also substantial heterogeneity in these effects across the country (FYI the editors of The Conversation didn't want us to use fancy words like "heterogeneity," but I trust that readers of this blog will be OK with them):

In hot places like Miami, cold days have a very large impact on mortality, while the impact of hot days is smaller. In contrast, hot days in Fargo have a very large impact on mortality, but an additional cold day has little effect. In fact, the effect of the hottest days (90 degrees or higher) in the coldest places is about two to three times larger than the effect of the coldest days (less than 20 degrees) in the hottest places.

Finally, we use the cross-sectional heterogeneity across regions to predict the scope for future climate change adaptation.  Basically, as currently-cold places like Chicago warm up and start to look more like currently-warm places like Miami, climate-wise, those currently-cold places will begin to exhibit the temperature-mortality relationship that currently-warm places currently have. Make sense?


This graph summarizes our predictions on the effects of climate change, depending on whether we allow for regional heterogeneity or not and whether we allow for future adaptation or not.  Ignoring heterogeneity (blue bars) makes it look like climate change will be bad for hot places but actually good for cold places.  (This incidentally is what is presented in this recent study by Solomon Hsiang and co-authors, which got quite a bit of press.) But, once you account for regional heterogeneity (green bars), that's not true anymore - climate change is bad everywhere and even worse for cold places than for hot places.  Lastly, when allowing for adaptation (gray bars), climate change isn't as bad.

As we emphasize in the working paper and in the Conversation article, this doesn't mean that adaptation is a silver bullet that solves all climate change problems.  For one thing, we don't model the costs of adaptation, which could be substantial.  Second, we don't consider other responses to climate change like abatement or geoengineering. 

The two main takeaways are that 1) we need to carefully consider regional heterogeneity when modeling climate change impacts, and 2) we need to carefully consider adaptation when modeling climate change impacts. 

February 02 2018

Global Ocean Temperature Reaches Another Record High
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