May 2013

400 ppm May 10, 2013 : 10:25 AM

Yesterday, for the first time in human history, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming pollutant, hit 400 parts per million in our planet's atmosphere. This number is a reminder that for the last 150 years -- and especially over the last several decades -- we have been recklessly polluting the protective sheath of atmosphere that surrounds the Earth and protects the conditions that have fostered the flourishing of our civilization. We are altering the composition of our atmosphere at an unprecedented rate. Indeed, every single day we pour an additional 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the sky as if it were an open sewer. As the distinguished climate scientist Jim Hansen has calculated, the accumulated manmade global warming pollution in the atmosphere now traps enough extra heat energy each day to equal the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-scale atomic bombs exploding every single day. It's a big planet -- but that is a LOT of energy. And it is having a destructive effect.

Now, more than ever before, we are reaping the consequences of our recklessness. From Superstorm Sandy which crippled New York City and large areas of New Jersey, to a drought which parched more than half of our nation; from a flood that inundated large swaths of Australia to rising seas affecting millions around the world, the reality of the climate crisis is upon us.

Our food systems, our cities, our people and our very way of life developed within a stable range of climatic conditions on Earth. Without immediate and decisive action, these favorable conditions on Earth could become a memory if we continue to make the climate crisis worse day after day after day.

With any great challenge comes great opportunity. We have the rare privilege to rise to an occasion of global magnitude. To do so, our communities, our businesses, our universities, and our governments need to work in harmony to stop the climate crisis. We must summon the very best of the human spirit and draw on our courage, our ingenuity, our intellect, and our determination to confront this crisis. Make no mistake, this crisis will demand no less than our very best. I am optimistic because we have risen to meet the greatest challenges of our past.

So please, take this day and the milestone it represents to reflect on the fragility of our civilization and and the planetary ecosystem on which it depends. Rededicate yourself to the task of saving our future. Talk to your neighbors, call your legislator, let your voice be heard. We must take immediate action to solve this crisis. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Now.

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Top Stories of the Week May 20, 2013 : 12:58 PM

New study finds that the climate crisis is critically endangering the habitat of 57% of plant species and 34% of animals. The good news? We can prevent this catastrophic loss of habitat and species by promptly reducing our emissions.
Huffington Post

In 2004, Naomi Oreskes conducted a landmark survey that showed near unanimous agreement among scientists that humans were the cause of global warming. Just this week, a new paper was published that confirms this finding. 97% of surveyed papers confirm that recent global warming is human caused. The Guardian

Global warming is already affecting fish catch around the world. While the United States is currently insulated from these changes due to our vast import market, it’s only a matter of time before we see the change in our supermarkets, and feel the pain in our pockets. NPR

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse continues to be a powerful and important voice for environmental protection in an otherwise unproductive Congress. Please take a moment to watch his speech: Huffington Post

In reverse of a 60-year trend, people (especially young people) are driving less. There are multiple drivers of this change, but it is an important shift on the path towards reducing our carbon emissions. Change is coming. New York Times

Scientists and medical researchers are in the early stages of understanding the microbiome—the complex network of microbial species that live on and within our bodies that encode 99 percent of our DNA. Microbial cells outnumber human cells ten to one in the human body and regulate several aspects of human health. A medical revolution is sure to follow as we begin to understand human health as “a collective property of the human-associated microbiota.” New York Times

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in creating embryonic stem cells by cloning human cells. The technique will allow scientists to create replacement tissues that are a genetic match to patients, potentially revolutionizing the treatment of many diseases. New York Times

The world’s next global pandemic could arrive sooner than you think, says National Geographic’s David Quammen. Tremendous, yet unsettling opinion piece. New York Times

The Internet of Things is becoming reality—powered by smaller and more powerful computer chips and increased Internet connectivity. Billions of devices are already communicating with each other and sharing data to improve performance—without any help from human beings. Businesses and consumers must prepare for a radical economic transformation as physical objects in our world become increasingly connected and autonomous. Wired

The Department of Homeland Security has warned that cyberattacks against U.S. corporations are increasing, especially attacks on critical infrastructure like energy companies. While most of the recent cyber attacks have focused on stealing valuable, confidential information, newer attacks have focused on taking control of critical energy systems. New security issues will continue to be one of the biggest risks associated with the economy’s increasing reliance on the Internet. New York Times

More sophisticated and intelligent robots are allowing businesses and factories to automate more of their labor. Routine high-skilled labor is being robosourced to automated processes and factory work is increasing performed by robots. The abilities of automation are progressing so quickly that a large portion of the human labor force faces possible replacement by cheaper, automated processes as early as 2030. The robosourcing revolution has many potential benefits, but these benefits will only be realized if governance tackles human labor issue sooner rather than later.
Mother Jones

My good friend Sir Alex Ferguson just announced his retirement from Manchester United. He leaves an unparalleled legacy, 13 Premier League trophies and two Champions League trophies in his 27-year tenure. Truly incredible. Grantland

Congratulations to the Memphis Grizzlies for reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history! It's been such an exciting season and I can't wait to see them "grit and grind" their way to the NBA finals. Go Griz! AP

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