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

In today’s On the News segment: According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, 2014 was hotter than any other year in their 120 years of record keeping; California has big plans for the future; scientists have discovered the most Earth-like planet ever found outside of our solar system; and more.

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

TRANSCRIPT:

Jim Javinsky here – in for Thom Hartmann – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, 2014 was hotter than any other year in their 120 years of record keeping. Here in the U.S., NOAA and NASA are expected to make similar announcements in the coming weeks. And, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that if we stay on this path, the result will be dangerous and irreversible. Although some of our lawmakers here at home continue to deny the obvious, just about every scientific agency on Earth is calling for immediate action on climate change. Science-denying legislators may be able to fool their constituents in most of our country, where temperatures were not particularly hot last year. But, try that with someone living in California or Alaska, or anyone who traveled over seas, and you’ll find that they aren’t easily fooled. These extreme temperatures have contributed to California’s intense heat and severe drought, and Alaska’s average temperature in 2014 was more than three degrees higher than the previous year. In Australia, temperatures spiked over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and Europe was hotter than it’s been for 500 years. If ever there was a sign that we need to act, last year was it, and we need to act now if we want to save our species. These rising temperatures bring bigger super storms, more widespread droughts, and more overall destruction. The fight against global warming isn’t just about hotter summers, it’s about saving our planet and our future, and it’s not too late to take action. According to the IPCC, “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.” In other words, there is a lot we can do to prevent the following years from being even hotter than 2014, but all of it starts with the belief that we can, and must, do more to stop global warming.

Science has given a whole new meaning to the term “gut feeling.” According to new research from neurobiologists at Oxford University, a diet designed to boost gut bacteria may be a natural way to lower anxiety. Many people are familiar with probiotics, strains of good bacteria often found in foods like yogurt, but few people talk about prebiotics – the carbohydrates that act as nourishment for those bacteria. Scientists researched what beneficial effects that these fibers have on our bodies, and found an interesting link between our guts and our brains. Researchers found that subjects who consumed prebiotics had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the placebo group, and showed less anxiety when presented with negative stimuli. These results echoed a study from last year, which found the emotional benefits of probiotics, and provided more evidence that what we eat has a big impact on how we handle stress. Studies like this may still be in preliminary stages, but someday they could lead to treating mental illness with healthier diets instead of harmful chemicals.

California has big plans for the future. Last week, the Golden State made not one, but two, big announcements about how they will respond to the climate crisis. On Monday of last week, Governor Jerry Brown was praised for his proposal to get half of all California’s energy from renewable sources by 2030. And, only one day later, that state broke ground on our nation’s first-ever bullet train project, which is expected to reduce the massive carbon footprint of California’s transportation sector. Considering that state has about 32 million registered vehicles on the road, a high-speed rail system will be a great step towards reaching that 50% renewable goal. As the environmental group Earthjustice said, “We applaud Governor Browjn for working to secure a cleaner, brighter future for California and paving the way for the rest of the country and the world to follow.”

Scientists have discovered the most Earth-like planet ever found outside of our solar-system. According to experts from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the planet Kepler 438B is only 12 percent larger than Earth, and it circles an orange dwarf star every 35 days. Scientists say that there is a 70 percent chance that this distant planet is rocky, which means that Kepler 438B is likely made up of solid mass, instead of gases. The announcement was made at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society last week, where scientists also shared the discovery of seven other planets they believe to be in the so-called “habitable zones” of their stars. Together, these new discoveries doubled the number of planets thought to be relative in size to Earth, as well as within a similar distance from their stars. Scientists may never find a perfect match to our planet, but who knows what else is waiting to be discovered out there in space.

And finally… The old saying “fake it until you make it” may have some basis in reality. According to new findings published in the journal Acta Psychologica, acting out our positive emotions can make us remember them, and make us feel more positive. In other words, faking a smile can make us think about a happy memory, and lead us to actually feel more happy. The study coordinator explained, “The data confirmed the hypothesis that ‘re-enacting’ the motor pattenr associated with the emotion helps to recall that emotion.” She went on to say, “This suggests that even during the storage phase of memories, we also encode the motor information and re-use it during retrieval.” Basically, we store the physical expressions of our emotions along with our memories, and smiling can activate happier thoughts. When we’re feeling down, it can be hard to put on a smile, but science shows that doing so just might make us feel better.

And that’s the way it is for the week of January 12, 2015 – I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.