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Losing sleep over global warming

Science | Atmospheric carbon dioxide likely not as catastrophic as UN special report suggests
by Julie Borg
Posted 8/15/19, 03:17 pm

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week warned human-caused global warming is harming land-based ecosystems and threatening our food supply. If warming increases even a few more tenths of a degree, the panel said food will become scarcer, more expensive, and less nutritious.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep about what the science is saying,” Koko Warner, a manager in the UN Climate Change secretariat, said in a statement. “As a person, it’s pretty scary.”

But her insomnia may be unnecessary. Like other reports, it uses scare tactics to shift power from private persons and corporations to governments and UN bureaucracy, Calvin Beisner, founder of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, told me.

Other scientists believe the doomsday rhetoric overlooks the benefits of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. John Christy, a climate scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, told me the data just doesn’t show slightly warmer temperatures hurting the Earth. He explained the catastrophic predictions result from faulty computer climate models that overestimate the effects of increased carbon dioxide. Instead of devastation, Christy said scientists have observed the greening of the planet, greater crop yields, and falling poverty rates as food production outpaces population growth.

Even though higher carbon dioxide levels do produce more plant growth, the UN report points to new studies indicating they also reduce protein and nutrients in crops. Beisner said only a few food crops become slightly less nutritious at elevated carbon dioxide levels. The nutritional value of most crops remains unchanged, he said, and the greater yield-per-acre from extra carbon dioxide provides a more abundant crop supply and drives down the price of food.

The report also warned that Earth’s landmasses are warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Beisner said nearly 50 percent of the warming likely results from the urban heat island effect. Big cities often experience much warmer temperatures than rural areas because surfaces like cement, asphalt, brick, glass, and steel tend to hold heat.

The IPCC recommends people worldwide decrease their consumption of red meat in favor of fruits, vegetables, and seeds to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from meat production.

But the scientific data does not support a significant connection between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, wrote Vijay Jayaraj, a research associate for developing countries for the Cornwall Alliance. Although carbon dioxide levels did rise alongside global temperatures between 1970 and 1999, they also rose rapidly from 1940 to 1969 when the Earth underwent significant cooling—many scientists even thought we were headed into a mini ice age, he wrote for The Stream. The Earth cooled during the first 30 years and warmed in the second, but in both cases, carbon dioxide levels rose, suggesting carbon dioxide does not significantly affect global temperatures. If carbon dioxide isn’t contributing much to global warming, then “all the meatless, planet-saving, super-diet propaganda is nothing more than fancy folklore,” Jayaraj said.

On the other hand, “the health benefits of eating meat, the best source of protein, would benefit the world’s poor far more than the next-to-zero reduction in global temperature that might come from reduced meat consumption,” Beisner noted.

Associated Press/Photo by Justin Katumwa Associated Press/Photo by Justin Katumwa Esperance Nabintu and her 1-year-old son after being declared cured of Ebola in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Tuesday

Effective Ebola drugs now available

Scientists announced this week that they are one step closer to finding a cure for the Ebola virus. Last November, researchers began a clinical trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a yearlong outbreak of the virus has killed more than 1,800 people. The researchers have tested the efficacy of four drugs, and preliminary data showed superior results from two, one developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and another produced by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The results were so much better the NIH decided to stop the experiment to enable all of the patients involved to receive one of the drugs. The early results show “some very good news,” Anthony Fauci of the NIH said.

The mortality rate among the patient group that received either the Regeneron or NIH drug dropped to about 30 percent compared to about 50 percent for those who received one of the other drugs. If patients received early care, the rate fell to only 6 percent with the Regeneron drug and 11 percent with the NIH one. About 75 percent of people who contract Ebola die if they receive no care.

All of the Ebola treatment units in the Congo have access to the two drugs. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization said he hopes the news will persuade more people to seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear. “The fact that we have very clear evidence now on the effectiveness of the drugs, we need to get that message out to communities,” he said.

Fauci said enough doses of both drugs are readily available. —J.B.

Facebook/R&H Photo Facebook/R&H Photo University of Rochester football players tackle an opponent.

Brain bash

Just as football season gears up, a study published in Science Advances suggests playing even one season of college football, even without a concussion, can result in brain damage. Though the damage might not produce any visible signs, it can nonetheless threaten long-term brain health.

Researchers outfitted the helmets of 38 football players at the University of Rochester in New York with special instruments designed to track the number and force of hits sustained during practices and games. The scientists took MRI scans of the players’ brains before and after three consecutive football seasons. Although only two of the players received a concussion, more than two-thirds showed significant damage to midbrain white matter after just one season, suggesting that repetitive hits can cause brain damage. The analysis also showed hits that knocked the head from side to side or front to back caused greater damage than a head-on impact.

The scientists looked specifically at the midbrain, which controls functions often affected by concussions such as visual tracking, balance, and auditory processing. No matter where the brain receives a blow, the force travels to that centrally located region. Adnan Hirad, the main author of the study, likened the midbrain to the “canary in the coal mine for the whole brain.” —J.B.

iStock/LightFieldStudios iStock/LightFieldStudios

Teaching the immune system to beat cancer

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel developed a vaccine to treat and prevent melanoma in mice. In the study, published Aug. 5 in Nature Nanotechnology, the scientists used biodegradable particles only 170 nanometers in size (a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick). They packed each particle with two short chains of amino acids like those found in melanoma cells and injected the nanoparticles into mice with the disease. The vaccine stimulated the immune system so that it learned how to identify and attack the two amino acid chains in melanoma cells.

Results showed the nanovaccine delayed the progression of the disease and greatly extended the lives of all treated mice. The immune system will remember the amino acid chains, immunizing them against invasion by any future melanoma cells. When the researchers vaccinated healthy mice and then injected them with melanoma cells, the vaccine prevented the mice from developing the cancer.

Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadliest form of skin cancer. Further studies suggest the vaccine can treat melanoma that has spread to the brain. The scientists hope their work will lead to the development of vaccines for other types of cancer, too. —J.B.

YouTube/Cambridge University YouTube/Cambridge University Soft robot technology

Self-healing robots?

A team of European scientists is working to create soft, self-healing robots that can sense damage, fix themselves, and return to work without human intervention. Soft robots already perform tasks such as handling eggs and fruit, picking things up out of bins, or performing some surgeries. But the softness of these machines makes them prone to damage and costly repairs.

Scientists have already designed self-healing materials, which they plan to embed with sensors to detect the location of the damage.

“With this research, we want to continue and, above all, ensure that robots that are used in our working environment are safer but also more sustainable,” said Bram Vanderborght, who leads the project. “Due to the self-repair mechanism of this new kind of robot, complex, costly repairs may be a thing of the past.” —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Thu, 08/15/2019 04:40 pm

    The IPCCs answer sounds so much like how the Pharisees answered Jesus.   When confronted by data showing a greener planet, greater crop yields, and falling poverty rates, the IPCC says, "Well, the food isn't as nutritious".   When Jesus healed a crippled woman who had been doubled over for 18 years, the Pharisees said, "Well, you shouldn't heal on the Sabbath!"  In both cases, naysayers chose their own agenda over the facts.  The IPCC is the real climate denier.

  •  MIKE ROZMUS's picture
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 11:27 am

    Very interesting and concise information across a broad front in the sciences -- as usual. Please keep up the good work, Julie! 

  • Allen Johnson
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 02:36 pm

    World News should be upfront on the post on "Losing Sleep Over Global Warming" and inform readers that its founder and former head, Joel Belz, is on the board of Cornwall Alliance. Calvin Beisner, head of Cornwall Alliance, always has a knee-jerk denial to any whiff that global warming might be true. Beisner cherry picks his small handful of scientists who claim climate expertise, while dismissing the vast majority of accredited climate scientists who carefully study the data and indeed are alarmed.
    If World News purports to be honest, objective, and (importantly) Christian, then it should be responsible and truthful to its readership and allow climate scientists to have their say. I would suggest as a starter, Katharine Hayhoe, a leading climate scientist and researcher with IPCC, who is an outspoken evangelical Christian.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 09:31 pm

    Allen, science shouldn't be about who associates with whom.  The facts are published and well known.  You can look them up for yourself.  For starters, look at what NASA says here..  

  • BjW
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 04:33 pm

    Thanks for publishing the unpopular side of global warming. Protein from meat is a very valuable food for healthy young and healthy old. I am attacked every day by alarmist news. Grazing cattle are an important part of our eco system, sequester carbon, build soil, and in developing countries an important source of income and family stability. -- Christian, conservative, beef producer from Hamilton, Ohio. We are almost neighbors!

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Mon, 08/19/2019 06:15 am

    Thanks Julie. Good stuff. 

    I'm also thankful for the comment section and especially Allen Johnson's specious arguments that actually lend more credibility to what you have written regarding the global warming "debate." Actually there is little debate as is so often the case with many of our so called scientific schisms in today's world. Actual debate is stifled by certain media or academic power brokers who decide what is science and what isn't. In reality it seems to boil down all too often to meaning that true science, or at least acceptable data and implications or applications, is what falls in line with their agenda or preconceived belief system.