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climate change

Top 5 Science Stories of 2015: From Pluto to the Deep, Blue Sea

Dec 28, 2015

It was a year of big scientific achievements, with New Horizon's flyby of Pluto and the discovery of what may be a new species of early human topping the list. The historic climate agreement reached in Paris might be called a victory for science, though many consider it a victory of diplomacy. 

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Despite super computers and complex algorithms, climate change modeling is far from perfect. What’s needed is more data, and climate scientists are looking for it in some unusual places.

A tulip placed on a melting piece of iceberg brought from Greenland to Paris as part of an art installation called Ice Watch.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

At noon on December 12th - 12 o'clock on 12/12 - the bells of Notre Dame were tolling non-stop, as the electronic notification went out that international climate negotiators had released a final agreement. The two things were completely unrelated, but it was a memorable moment, nonetheless.

Clock Winds Down on Climate Talks

Dec 11, 2015
Heather Goldstone

Delegates have been working behind closed doors all day and a new draft agreement is not due until tomorrow morning. In the meantime, there's fair bit of confusion because the talks have entered murky scientific territory. 

The current text sets a goal of limiting warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius." That has been a long-standing goal, but this draft of the agreement also includes language that says warming should be kept closer to 1.5C above pre-industrial revolution temperatures.

That could make a huge difference in what’s required to meet the goal.

Republic of Kiribati

Sea level rise and increasingly extreme weather are among the most visible impacts of climate change. Coastal communities around the Cape and Islands are facing skyrocketing insurance rates, and damage to homes and infrastructure. But for the residents of small island nations, climate change poses an existential threat. 

Kerry Blasts Climate Change Deniers as Hope Builds for Strong Agreement

Dec 9, 2015
Heather Goldstone

International negotiators in Paris have just two days left to hammer out an agreement to address climate change. There’s an air of renewed energy and excitement running through the conference center after the release of a draft agreement this afternoon.

Women, Business Leaders Make Their Voices Heard at Paris Talks

Dec 8, 2015

Clean energy advocates from New England are at the climate talks in Paris this week, sharing lessons they say could help regions around the world trying to improve both the carbon footprint and the bottom line of their energy systems. The advocates, from businesses, non-profits, and academia, presented a success story in which business flourishes while greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

Science Alone Won't Save the Planet, Only Love Can Do That

Dec 8, 2015
Kairos Earth

The modern environmental movement has its roots in the idea that we humans have obligations not just to other people, but to the earth itself. 

In the United States that thinking goes back to the early part of the last century with the writings of conservationist Aldo Leopold.

Now that the effects of global climate change are showing themselves more clearly, a new group of people are arguing that the environmental movement needs to reclaim its spiritual roots in order to succeed.

White House Advisor Speaks on Climate Education

Dec 8, 2015
The White House

White House science advisor John Holdren says how we talk to children about climate change is important. 

"The key... is to be clear about the basics of climate change," he said at a forum on climate education at WGBH in November. "Namely, what climate change is, and why it matters. "The second thing in talking to kids is, don't just paralyze them with all the bad news. End with solutions, with opportunities."

Glaciers Melt in Paris During Climate Talks

Dec 7, 2015
Heather Goldstone


Science correspondent Heather Goldstone is in Paris this week for the climate talks.  

The conference center officially closed on Sunday, but related events continue and evidence of the climate talks was visible throughout the city. Rev. Deb Warner of the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole, who is also in Paris for the talks, says that as she walks around the city, she’s struck by the feeling that Paris has embraced the climate negotiations.

Local mother and son headed to Paris climate talks

Dec 4, 2015
Sue Natali

At four thirty in the afternoon – pitch dark and raining – Sue Natali is waiting for her son, Clancy, to get home from school. But she’s not meeting a bus. Each day, Clancy takes a ferry from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, and back, to attend Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School.

A forty-five minute ferry ride may be an unusual commute for a seventeen-year old high school junior, but it’s nothing compared to the trip Clancy makes this week, to the climate talks in Paris. It’s an opportunity he earned in an essay contest his school held last summer.

Meet the Directors: Three New Presidents Take the Helm in Woods Hole

Nov 2, 2015

Three big scientific non-profits in Woods Hole have hired new presidents in the last year, marking a major moment of change for this science and engineering town.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Biological Laboratory, and Woods Hole Research Center all have new chiefs. And they’re all dealing with similar pressures, especially when it comes to government funding.

Climate Change a Pervasive Reality on Cape Cod

Oct 26, 2015
Sharon Petersen of PJ's Cranberries in East Sandwich loads cranberries into a cranberry seperator. Owner Pete Hanlon says he's concerned about climate change.
Steve Haines / Cape Cod Times

What if climate change isn’t something that is going to happen in the distant future, somewhere far away? What if it’s happening right here, right now? That's the question the Cape Cod Times is asking - and answering - all week in a special series on the local impacts of climate change, from shrinking beaches and disappearing lobsters to more aggressive storms.

Fossil Record of Plants May Hold Clues to Their Future

Oct 5, 2015
Some ferns have remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. Others, like this seed fern, Neuropteris flexuosa, exist only in fossilized form.
James St. John / Wikimedia Commons

Chances are, you have a pretty good idea what a plant looks like. Roots, stems, leaves, flowers ... these are the things that make plants, plants. But it wasn’t always so.

Plants arose some 500 million years ago, and the fossil record is full of bizarre evolutionary dead-ends, as well as amazing innovations. For example, some extinct ferns looked much like modern ferns on the outside, but their insides appear jumbled. And then, there's the fact that early plants had no leaves.  

Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Jellyfish

Sep 1, 2015
White cross jellyfish on a Maine beach reported using Twitter hashtag #Mainejellies.
Trina Stephenson

Science-based weather forecasting dates back some 150 years, and we've grown used to detailed, daily predictions of temperatures, precipitation, winds, and clouds. But nowhere in all those forecasts is there anything about the arrival of lobsters or jellyfish in nearshore waters, or the number of ticks and mosquitos one might encounter.

Courtesy of Buzzards Bay Coalition

Long before crowd-sourcing and citizen science were buzzwords, volunteers for Buzzards Bay Coalition were monitoring water quality along the estuary's edges, from Westport to the Elizabeth Islands. The resulting data set spans twenty four years, and includes information about nutrients, temperatures, oxygen levels, and algral growth at two hundred locations. It's a scientific treasure-trove, but one which has gone relatively un-mined ... until now.

Pope Francis Puts Spotlight on Faith-Based Climate Action

Jul 20, 2015
Pope Francis has called climate action, variously, a moral, religious, and ethical imperative.

Pope Francis recently released a 184-page letter, Laudato Si, dedicated to environmental issues. In it, he argues that respect for the poor, future generations, the Earth, and God all demand major changes in how we use resources.

Northeast Waters a Hotspot for Global Warming

Jul 13, 2015
The waters off the coast of the northeastern U.S. are currently much warmer than normal, and have been warming at a dramatically accelerated rate.

You may have heard that global warming has slowed down in recent years. It's true, the rate of warming has been slightly less over the past fifteen years than in preceeding decades, if you look at atmospheric temperatures alone. But add in the ocean, and it's a different story altogether.

Peter McGowan / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: climate change is happening, we’re largely to blame, and the effects are not as far off as you might think. What effects, you ask? Well, there's increasingly frequent and intense heat waves, drought, torrential rains. There's melting glaciers and rising sea level. Now, new research add some less intuitive climate change impacts.

Naomi Oreskes' work as a science historian has pulled back the curtain on a small group of scientists and others who have deliberately worked to obscure the true risks of tobacco smoke, CFCs (remember the ozone hole?), and greenhouse gas emissions. Now, she and co-author Erik Conway have turned to science fiction to spread their message about the urgent need to address climate change. Living Lab had a few questions about that choice.

Naomi Oreskes
Wikimedia Commons

Science historian Naomi Oreskes stumbled upon what has become one of the most contentious facts of our time: the nearly unanimous consensus that humans are causing climate change. She subsequently uncovered a small group of scientists who’ve helped sew doubt about climate change, the ozone hole, even the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Why Corals Are Losing the War Against Sponges

Jan 12, 2015
Most Caribbean coral reefs are now covered with more algae and sponges then coral.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Coral reefs may look benign but, really, they're war zones. Pollution and climate change have tipped the scales against corals, in favor of sponges.

Liven Up Thanksgiving With Cranberry Fun Facts

Nov 24, 2014

Can't talk about politics or religion at Thanksgiving dinner? No problem. Talk about cranberries, instead.

Islands Cope With Encroaching Seas, Some Better Than Others

Nov 17, 2014
Cape Cod Times

Sea level rise and erosion have become defining features of coastal living in New England. Islands are particularly vulnerable.

Why We Should Be Paying More Attention to Methane

Sep 10, 2014
Natural gas often co-occurs with oil and is burned off by oil producers.
Varodrig / Flickr

Methane. It's the other greenhouse gas - less common and shorter-lived than carbon dioxide, but also a much more potent heat trapper.