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NCSE Round Up: This Week in Evolution and Climate Science

NCSE Round Up: This Week in Evolution and Climate Science

This week at the National Center for Science Education, the NCSE team continues to discuss the new and the old in climate change and evolution topics.

This Week in Climate Change

Steven Newton Discusses Obstacles to International Climate Change Goals, CO2 Measurements

In Newton's Tuesday post, he discusses the UN conference in Germany that aimed to gather countries to reach a universal agreement on climate change.

But according to Newton, the process of editing and revising documents to form a concise and meaningful agreement is flawed. As of now, the countries must spend time editing what Newton calls "a jumbled patchwork of ideas" and 90-page incoherent mess that skews any meaningful conversation about developing policy on climate change.

"Something is deeply broken in the process that creates such a document. But some will argue that the process has to be this way, that the purposefully opaque rhetoric of lawyerese is a necessary vice. Some may argue this, but to me it is clearer that what we need is a different way of creating such agreements," he said.

Also this week, Newton discussed carbon dioxide measurements and the milestone that for the first time in human history, "the global monthly average carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm)."

"We’ve come a long way, baby. In 800,000 years, carbon dioxide numbers have never been this high; in fact, we need to go back over three million years to find comparable numbers. Human beings have never lived in a world with this much carbon dioxide," he said.

The next milestone, he says, is an annual concentration of CO2 that exceeds 400 ppm.

"We have created a different world. No one intended to create it at the start of the Industrial Revolution. But ton after ton of coal shoveled year after year into row upon row of smoking furnaces and hissing boilers, stretching to the crimson horizon, has spawned a sulfurous monster, a sooty golem who now awakens to stalk the earth."

Read his post about the climate conference here and his post about increasing carbon dioxide concentration numbers here.

This Week in Evolution

Ann Reid's Misconception Monday: Learn More About Viruses to Prevent Unfounded Fear

In this week's Misconception Monday, Reid describes the importance of understanding that "Viruses are Not Omnipotent" in her second post of the same title.

Reid discusses the science of mutation to explain "about why the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 (HPAIH5) influenza strain that is currently rampaging through chicken farms in the Midwest is unlikely to jump to humans."

"Viruses are formidable, but they’re not omnipotent, malevolent, or infinitely malleable. They are subject to the same evolutionary constraints as any other biological entity, notably, they cannot 'try' to become more virulent, or gain a set of mutations because they 'need' them in order to switch hosts," she writes.

Read more about the science behind her explanation here

Emily Schoerning: Evolution Explains Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance

As Schoerning continues her argument against denial of evolution as a scientific fact, she points to drug resistant microorganisms causing antibiotic-resistant infections as clear evidence behind the science of evolution.

"Common but serious diseases, like tuberculosis, are once again becoming untreatable. How did we get here? Thank evolution. Over the last seventy years, antibiotics have killed bacteria that lack resistance while bacteria with resistance have survived to reproduce, passing on their genes to their clones," she said.

She argues that to understand and combat the problem of antibiotic resistance, people must best understand and study evolution.

"Deny evolution and it's difficult to understand how drug-resistant genes could find their way into the microbiomes of distant people. Accepting evolution means accepting and understanding change over time; that we live as part of a dynamic living system on a dynamic planet."

Read her full post here

Stephanie Keep: Support Science Savviness

Keep, along with everyone at the NCSE, makes it her prerogative to stop science denial in public schools to make sure students are being taught the scientific facts they need to be responsible individuals.

"[W]e want to help kids learn the science in a way that shores them up against denial in the present and future. We want to help train teachers to root out and address common and festering misconceptions head-on. In short: We want to do everything we can so that kids—who are growing up in a world where science is often misrepresented—won’t be confused by denialists or turn into denialists," she said.

Over the next couple months, Keep and her team will be rolling out new initiatives to support science savviness to help continue touting the importance of proper science education.

Read her post here

Compiled by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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