On the News With Thom Hartmann: Last Year Was the Hottest Year Ever, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The rate of human-caused global warming is going to soar in the next decade; new legislation would end federal prohibition on medical marijuana; each of us may carry more than 100 genes from other organisms; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, and there’s a good chance that this year will be even hotter. In fact, new research from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory says that the rate of human-caused global warming is going to soar in the next decade. According to that study, by 2020, the average global temperatures will increase faster than any time in the last 1,000 years. In other words, we don’t only have to worry that our planet is getting hotter, we have to worry about how fast those temperatures are going to climb. The best-case scenario model that this laboratory calculated shows average temperatures rising by one degree Celsius every four decades, and some areas – like the Arctic – warming two times faster. In what scientists call the “do-little” model – meaning that we do little to address climate change – the temperatures rise even faster. That scenario shows global temperatures rising one degree Fahrenheit per decade, and that warming goes on for decades. Joe Romm over at the Think Progress blog explained that that rate of warming “becomes so fast that it is likely to be beyond adaptation for most species – and for humans in many parts of the world.” Several recent studies suggest that temperatures have been rising more slowly over the past decade – which is what Republicans point to when they claim that there’s been a “hiatus” in global warming – but, the experts say that period is just about over. They expect our planet to heat up more quickly, and higher temperatures mean more storms, more droughts and more human suffering. We better get serious about climate change, and we better do it fast, or we may not have a chance to save our species. We only have on planet to call home, so let’s make sure that we can survive here.

Although nearly half of all the states in our country allow medical marijuana, the federal government still classifies it as illegal. But, three US senators want to change that. Last week, Senators Kirsten Gillabrand, Cory Booker and Rand Paul introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act – aka – the CARERS Act. That legislation would end federal prohibition on medical marijuana, reclassify cannabis in the eyes of the DEA, and implement several other reforms that advocates have been calling for. That new law would make it easier for doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans and it would expand access to organizations trying to conduct important research. Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority, said, “It really is a comprehensive bill – it would effectively end the federal war on medical marijuana.” Similar reforms have proven successful in states across the country, and this legislation would go a long way towards ending our ridiculous prohibition on marijuana. Everyone should have access to this safe, natural, miracle drug, and it’s about time that our federal government made that possible.

We know that we’re all human, but it turns out that we’re not as human as we think. According to a new study, each of us may carry more than 100 genes from other organisms. The author of that study, Alastair Crisp of the University of Cambridge, said, “This means that the tree of life isn’t the stereotypical tree with perfectly branching lineages.” Scientists have known for sometime about so-called horizontal gene transfer, which occurs when genetic information moves between organisms, rather than being passed down from parent-to-offspring. However, they had only documented that transfer between bacteria and other simple organisms. Mr. Crisp and his colleagues wanted to see if the same process occurred in other species, so they sequenced the DNA of 40 different animals, including humans. They found hundreds of genes that most likely transferred between organisms, including 17 genes that were previously thought to be inherited. This study will have a profound impact on our understanding of evolution, and it may even change our thoughts on what it means to be human.

Last week, the Sunshine State made national news when Gov. Rick Scott was accused of banning his state’s Department of Environmental Protection from using the term “climate change.” But, it looks like Florida isn’t the only state trying to deny science. According to Emily Atkin of the Climate Progress blog, both North Carolina and Pennsylvania have also removed references to “climate change” from the websites of their respective environmental agencies. Apparently the right-wing lawmakers in these states think that if we simply don’t talk about climate change, we don’t have to do anything to deal with our warming planet. Gov. Rick Scott and his counterparts in these states have publicly denied climate science, and they are putting their personal beliefs ahead of what’s best for the public. We must get serious about global warming, and take immediate climate action, but we can’t do that if our environmental agencies are barred from talking about reality. These policies are as dangerous as they are ridiculous and the people of these states need to demand a change.

And finally… You may just think of them as bugs, but science says that even cockroaches have unique personalities. A new study out of a university in Brussels says that US cockroaches have individual character traits, and that may explain why the bugs are such great survivors. Scientists studied the much-hated insects for three months, and monitored their behavior as individuals and in groups. They found that one roach’s decision might sway the decision of another, and eventually the groups always formed a consensus, but individuals reacted to the other bugs at their own rate. Some of the cockroaches were “braver” than others, and would consistently venture away from the group into a new environment, while others would stay behind until it was determined to be safe. Some of the bugs would immediately follow the actions of another, while others would wait until the majority of the group had already acted. However we view cockroaches – as mysterious creatures or disgusting bugs – it is interesting to know that they have personalities. Maybe you’ll think twice before squashing the next critter you come across.

And that’s the way it is for the week of March 16, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.