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A couple of updates

I wrote a couple of bits across the last year related to worrying news stories; this last fortnight has seen further happenings in both stories, and I’ve been a lazy bugger writing-wise, so I’ve done a joint update.

In April, animal researchers broke into a psychiatric animal facility in Milan, and, because Italy is a ridiculous place sometimes, part of the deal allowing them to walk away scot-free (having caused several million Euros of taxpayer-funded damage) was to take some of the animals with them. Some of these animals were immuo-compromised, and as such required careful treatment to make sure they didn’t die; as such, their enclosures were specially designed, and their handling precisely controlled. Below is a picture of where animals from the lab were kept after their liberation:

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 Source: Nature News Blog

Fan-bloody-tastic. The compassionate liberators showing such care for the animals they’ve saved, by putting them in a load of tubs in a bathroom. Certainly, the animals will be suffering far less crammed together in someone’s bog than they did in their individual cages in a controlled atmosphere. The lady who posted this on Facebook ensured she contacted Nature News, having seen this plastered on their blog, to assure them that this was a temporary step, before movement to more suitable accommodation. So that’s alright, then. Viruses and bacteria are well-known for their honourable respect of temporary weakness, and never exploit it.

So things in Italy remain such that they resemble the scientific equivalent of the drunken pervy uncle at a wedding. They should have elected that clown bloke, he’d personify their country’s current world status perfectly. However, in the USA, some brighter flowers bloom, science-wise at least (this isn’t the forum to discuss possible gross miscarriages of justice). A year ago, I wrote a piece condemning the top-dog nation in the world for allowing anti-intelligent views to persist in the face of evidence, with the pathetic excuse that mentally-deficient rednecks should have as much right to decide what is true as evidence-based investigations. In particular, I was irked by the passage of anti-evolutionary laws by the Tennessee legislature. This month, the Next Generation Science Standards, a programme of science education reform across the States (for which I am taking all credit) has started kicking in. Five state education boards – Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland and Vermont – have accepted the standards, with several more to vote in the next few months. The battle to stop lying to American children about evolution and climate change is far from over, with other states to be won over, and legal challenges to be defeated in those states that have accepted already. There are powerful people, including Kentuckian Senator Mike Wilson (R – of course), who are opposed to teaching children established scientific opinion, and these are not foes to be written off lightly. The passage of 11 anti-evolution/climate change bills in the States in 2013 alone shows that this has become a war for the minds of American children; both sides have fired their opening volleys long ago, but the bloodiest battles are just beginning…

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Is it natural to change timing of natural events ?

Climate change is a ‘heated’ issue at the moment and we all now know that average temperatures have already risen roughly by 1° and are predicted to rise more by up to 6° by the end of this century. The already apparent changes in our ecosystems are geographical range shifts, phenology of organisms, ecosystem functioning and composition.

Latitudinal and altitudinal limits of many species are dictated by climate. Thanks to pre- and post-glacial projections, we know that in the past whole biomes had shifted – New York used to be tundra but now is covered in temperate deciduous forest, and tundra moved further north. With current temperature rise, changes like these might not stay only a legacy of the past…

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But what exactly causes geographical shifts in distribution?

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Plants racing the climate

The world is changing. The climate is changing.

Whilst the world’s climate has altered repeatedly and drastically since it formed, its current rate is faster than anything we have observed in the last 12,000 years (the Holocene).  This is having varied effects worldwide depending on the location in question (yes; it doesn’t mean everywhere simply gets hotter and drier: the world happens to be a little more complex than that or otherwise we’d consider climate science with the same derision as geography and surf-science).

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Climate change and how science works

Days ago the earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 400ppm, a level unknown for 2.2 million years, since a time when the seas were up to 40m higher than today and our ancestors lived solely on the East-African savannah, just beginning to discover how to use stone tools.

This should have sounded an alarm bell across the globe, with people crying out for reductions in our emissions; for the brakes to be applied on this train before it’s too late. This couldn’t seem further from the truth however, with the Obama administration recently publishing it’s strategy for exploiting the oil reserves being uncovered by newly thawed arctic ice, the UK slashing investement in renewable energy whilst giving fracking companies tax breaks, and universities across the country opening new research facilities for discovering how to drill deeper for oil, we seem intent on increasing our emissions rather than cutting them.

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