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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #31, 2019

Posted on 6 August 2019 by Doug Bostrom

56 articles this week.

What articles are open access?

When Ari was running this page open access articles were flagged as such. That feature is now restored. Note that identification of open access articles is largely mechanized under the new regime and so it's possible there will be omissions. Performance should improve over time.

Open access article titles are appended with "(open access)" in our list.  

What's "open access?" This denotes a scientific article free to read by any member of the public, without them needing to pay money or be affiliated to library privileges at an institution. Open access is closer approximation to ideal means for propagation and transfer of scientific information, refinement made possible by fundamental changes in the mechanics and logistics of scientific publishing. The open access publisher PLOS articulately explains the philosophical underpinnings. of open access.

The drive to open access in the verb sense has been profound and swift. 67% of this week's collection of publications are published as free to read. This begs a question: is the inability of a researcher or research team to pay fees for open access to their work a feature of a true meritocracy?

The Earth as systems engineering task

The International Space Station (ISS) functions as required— as a semi-closed system— because it's the subject of fanatical measurement and analysis. Everything that can possibly be accounted for, is. Rational planning coupled with regulation makes the operation of the ISS feasible. In a similar vein, today's largest cruise ships can support total human occupancy of nearly 9,000 persons for a few days at a time thanks to accounting, planning and boundaries on behavior. Passengers and crew of space stations and ships are not expected to figure out how they'll eat and breath without any plan or engineering support, and they're not free to behave exactly as they choose at all times.

With the Earth increasingly filling the role of a cruise ship packed to the gunnels with passengers and crew (7.5 billion souls on board, growing) and traveling an endless circular course around the Sun, it seems as though more "systems thinking" along the lines of what we freely admit is necessary for successful operation of smaller artifacts would be good practice to adopt. In this week's roundup of climate research pertaining to human affairs we find an explicit reference to that philosophy, The Earth System Governance Project as a network organization: a critical assessment after ten years Many articles in the human affairs related section of research news are reflective of systems thinking of a kind we've not previously had to adopt but which is now increasingly obviously missing in our habits, to our detriment. Star-shaped cities alleviate trade-off between climate change mitigation and adaptation integrates various findings to produce a more systematic approach to urban design, an attempt at engineering cities that will function better than a random assemblage:

One strand of literature demonstrates that compact cities of sufficient density result in lower GHG emissions in the transport and the buildings sectors compared to sprawled cities. Another strand of literature, however, reveals that compactness hinders climate adaptation by amplifying the urban heat island (UHI) effect. As a result, mitigation and adaptation objectives of cities appear to contradict each other. Here, we develop a geometrical optimization framework and model of a three-dimensional city that minimizes this conflict. It makes use of the observation that low-carbon efficient transport can be realized via linear public transport axes, and that GHG emissions and UHI effects scale differently with varying geometric properties, thus enabling design that reflects both the economics and the climate of cities. We find that star-shaped cities, in contrast to radially symmetric cities, are well suited to alleviate the problematic trade-off. ... The results are of particular importance for city planners of rapidly urbanizing cities in Asia and Africa who still have the potential to shape urban layout.

What's the probability of this work being realized in a pure implementation? Probably low, but formally exploring engineered cultural systems allows us to assess our real world results against the realm of the possible, and to have tools readily available when we find improvement is mandatory.

More broadly, it's hard to say if our human culture systems thinking will evolve and its results be implemented with sufficient rapidity. So far our adjustments are lagging. But we can certainly bear in mind lessons from operation of our smaller engineered artifacts. It's safe to say that a cigar shop and cigar smokers on the ISS would require an engineering response to handle effluvia or a "no, you can't do that." Similarly, here on Earth it seems incumbent on promoters of coal mines to either provide a successfully engineered outcome for the side-effects or their trade, or be told that coal sales are not permitted as combustion of coal has proven incompatible with successful operation of Earth.

Engineering implies regulation. Regulation of behaviors isn't a radical concept— regulation of usage is part of successful engineering outcomes. A bridge is engineered to handle a certain amount of weight and this is not a matter of controversy. As it is performing the same effective role of the ISS at a much larger scale but without possibility of supply missions to make up for inefficiencies, Earth is also an engineering topic and conclusions necessarily arise from that fact. 


Please let us know if you're aware of an article you think may be of interest for Skeptical Science research news, or if we've missed something that may be important. Send your input to Skeptical Science via our contact form.


Biology and climate change

The impact of climate change and human activity on the ecological status of Bosten Lake, NW China, revealed by a diatom record for the last 2000 years

Cross?scale interactions dictate regional lake carbon flux and productivity response to future climate (open access)

Ecological water stress under projected climate change across hydroclimate gradients in the north central United States

Diverging phenological responses of Arctic seabirds to an earlier spring

Cloud cover and delayed herbivory relative to timing of spring onset interact to dampen climate change impacts on net ecosystem exchange in a coastal Alaskan wetland (open access)

Impacts of climate and insect herbivory on productivity and physiology of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) in Alaskan boreal forests (open access)

Renewable absorbents for CO2 capture: from biomass to nature

Sugarcane straw management for bioenergy: effects of global warming on greenhouse gas emissions and soil carbon storage (open access)

Large herbivore assemblages in a changing climate: incorporating water dependence and thermoregulation (open access)

Physical science and climate change

Trends in Precipitation Days in the United States (open access)

Future climate and land use change impacts on river flows in the Tapajós Basin in the Brazilian Amazon (open access)

Pliocene warmth consistent with greenhouse gas forcing (open access)

Explaining Differences between Recent Model and Satellite Tropospheric Warming Rates with Tropical SSTs (open access)

The polar stratosphere as an arbiter of the projected tropical versus polar tug?of?war (open access)

Multi?Model Analysis of the Atmospheric Response to Antarctic Sea Ice Loss at Quadrupled CO2 (open access)

The relationship of cloud number and size with their large?scale environment in deep tropical convection (open access)

Sea ice detection using GNSS?R data from TechDemoSat?1 (open access)

Ecohydrology controls the geomorphic response to climate change (open access)

MJO teleconnections over the PNA region in climate models. Part I: Performance- and process-based skill metrics

The 2015–2016 carbon cycle as seen from OCO-2 and the global in situ network

Changes in concentrations of fine and coarse particles under the CO2-induced global warming

Improved probabilistic twenty-first century projections of sea surface temperature over East Asian marginal seas by considering uncertainty owing to model error and internal variability (open access)

Consecutive extreme flooding and heat wave in Japan: Are they becoming a norm? (open access)

Significant feedbacks of wetland methane release on climate change and the causes of their uncertainty (open access)

Development of quantitative metrics of plume migration at geologic CO2 storage sites

Impact of geochemical and geomechanical changes on CO2 sequestration potential in sandstone and limestone aquifers

Humans deal with climate change

Modeling of power sector decarbonization in China: comparisons of early and delayed mitigation towards 2-degree target (open access)

The carbon footprint of Danish diets (open access)

Evidence-informed climate policy: mobilising strategic research and pooling expertise for rapid evidence generation (open access)

Redesigning knowledge systems for urban resilience

Star-shaped cities alleviate trade-off between climate change mitigation and adaptation (open access)

Amplification of risks to water supply at 1.5 °C and 2 °C in drying climates: a case study for Melbourne, Australia (open access)

The development of children’s environmental attitude and behavior

The contribution of carbon dioxide emissions from the aviation sector to future climate change (open access)

Climate change and air pollution: the connection between traffic intervention policies and public acceptance in a local context (open access)

Loss of profit in the hotel industry of the United States due to climate change (open access)

Assessment of policy conflict using systems thinking: A case study of carbon footprint reduction on Irish dairy farms

The Earth System Governance Project as a network organization: a critical assessment after ten years

Scarcity and Safe Operating Spaces: The Example of Natural Forests (open access)

The Effects of Discussion of Familiar or Non-Familiar Information on Opinions of Anthropogenic Climate Change (open access)

Predicting climate change risk perception and willingness to act

Estimating Chinese rural and urban residents’ carbon consumption and its drivers: considering capital formation as a productive input (open access)

Climate change and agriculture in South Asia: adaptation options in smallholder production systems (open access)

Greenhouse gas fluxes and mitigation potential for managed lands in the Russian Federation (open access)

Parametric loss and damage insurance schemes as a means to enhance climate change resilience in developing countries (open access)

Mapping and clustering the adoption of carbon pricing policies: what polities price carbon and why? (open access)

Assessing negative carbon dioxide emissions from the perspective of a national “fair share” of the remaining global carbon budget (open access)

The levelized cost of carbon: a practical, if imperfect, method to compare CO2 abatement projects (open access)

Mid-Century Strategies: pathways to a low-carbon future? (open access)

Carbon storage and CO2 dynamics from wood products harvested in Brazil during 1900–2016 (open access)

Perceived fairness and public acceptability of carbon pricing: a review of the literature (open access)

Impact of climate change on financial analysis of a small hydropower project


The previous edition of Skeptical Science new research may be found here. 

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