Miles Traer and two colleagues have calculated the carbon footprint for nine heroes from the comic book canon — and realized that Earth might be better off if they stopped trying to save it.
In a poster presentation, Traer attempted to get people to think about their own carbon footprints by analyzing nine super heros: Oracle, the Flash, Batman, Iron Man, Jessica Jones, Firebird, Spider-Man, Superman and Swamp Thing. Spider-Man needs to manufacture his carbon nanotube webbing. Firebird depends on combustion to conjure tornadoes of flame. The Flash must eat a ton of meat to maintain his super fast speeds.
“If I calculate my own carbon footprint, that’s a bummer,” Traer says. “But if I calculate it for Batman, things get interesting.”
To further make his point, Traer considers how his heroes might lessen their impact on the environment. By going vegetarian, the Flash could reduce his emissions from 90 million pounds of carbon dioxide to just 3 million. If Bruce Wayne stopped spending money on Batman gear, he could pay for carbon offsets for the entire population of downtown Chicago.
The implied message: If a masked vigilante with too much money and a shortage of good judgment can redeem himself, you can, too.
For lovers of the stately pine forests of the Northeast, sightings of a destructive tree-eating beetle in recent years have been nothing short of alarming.
Now, new research from climatologists at Columbia University confirms what ecologists feared: Warmer winters mean the southern pine beetle is here to stay, and is set to march ever northward as temperatures rise.
Historically, the tiny beetles, which starve evergreens to death, were largely unheard-of north of Delaware. The Northeast’s cold winters killed off any intruders.
A 2016 study by the Yale Project on Climate Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, found only two-thirds of Americans even believe climate change is happening. Just over half believe it is caused by humans. And only 15 percent are aware that more than 9 out of 10 scientists agree on both points.
The dearth of coverage can be explained, at least in part, by the difficulty in covering an issue that defies most journalistic conventions, says Bud Ward, who has reported on the issue for more than 20 years and is editor of Yale Climate Connections, published by the Yale Project. Climate change is often perceived as an abstract concept, he says, lacking a timely news hook: “It affects only polar bears I’ll never see, or it will only take place in 2150 or beyond.” Just as crucially, since nearly all scientists are in agreement on the problem, the issue often lacks clearly defined sides. “The villain is us, or villains are everywhere.”
The science behind the phenomenon, meanwhile, often lacks headline-grabbing revelations. “Science’s goal is to incrementally advance fundamental understanding on very basic questions,” says John Wihbey, an assistant professor of journalism and new media at Northeastern University who recently collaborated with Ward on a paper about climate change coverage for Oxford Research Encyclopedia. “If they [scientists] can collect data, test a hypothesis, and show something new … they’ve done their job.” By contrast, he says, journalists’ goal is to inform as many people as possible in as accessible a way as possible. “They are both dedicated to truth, but the importance of publicity and the scope of the audience is just very different.”
Spoiler Alert: It may have to do with climate change.
Experts say Harvey has been stuck longer in one place than any tropical storm in memory. That is just one of the hurricane’s extremes; the storm is off the charts by many measures.
Scientific American wanted to learn why, and asked meteorologist Jeff Masters for help. Masters is the co-founder of Weather Underground, a web site that meteorologists nationwide go to for their own inside information about severe weather. Masters also wrote a fascinating article on why the jet stream is getting weird.