On the News With Thom Hartmann: We May Have Reached a Climate Tipping Point, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Human activity has compromised about half of the natural processes that maintain the stability of our planet; BP is being pressured by their investors; the Senate voted 98-1 that “climate change is real and is not a hoax”; 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. We may have reached the tipping point. According to new research published in the journal Science, human activity has compromised about half of the natural processes that maintain the stability of our planet. In other words, the systems that make our planet habitable have been thrown dangerously out of balance. This alarming report came from an international team of 18 researchers who documented big changes in four of the nine processes that regulate our planet. The researchers found significant disruptions in biodiversity, climate, and forestation. And, they documented serious changes in the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle, which is vital to food production and clean water. These systems make our planet liveable, and each has a point in which it cannot be saved from our destruction. Those breaking points are known as “planetary boundaries,” and passing them is not good news for our species. For example, Professor Elena Bennett explained why changes to the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle are so dangerous. She said, “We will see more lakes closed, will have to pay more to clean our water, and we will face temporary situations where our water is not cleanable or drinkable more and more frequently.” She added, “That’s what it means to have crossed this planetary boundary. It’s not a good thing for any of us.” Just like the other systems that keep our planet stable, we can’t survive without a functioning nitrogen-phosphorus cycle. And, just like those other systems, our actions are throwing this cycle way off its natural course. The level of carbon in our atmosphere is not the only environmental threshold that we must be concerned about, and rising temperatures are not the only danger that we face. Our consumption and pollution are destroying the very systems that keep us alive, and if we don’t act now, we may not get a second chance to fix these mistakes.

If you want to earn someone’s trust, a little lavender may go a long way. A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology says that the lavender plant promotes relaxation, which helps promote mutual trust. To determine this, researchers exposed one group of study participants to lavender, while another group was exposed to peppermint. Then, the participants played a game that used money to demonstrate trust. The researchers found that the “trustor” participants gave more money to their fellow players when they were exposed to lavender, and less when exposed to peppermint. This may not seem like an important experiment, but one researcher explained, “Our results might have very serious implications for a broad range of situations where interpersonal trust is an essential element.” They cited examples such as a car dealership establishing a more trusting environment for a sales negotiation or sports teams using the scent to build trust between players. There are many ways that a little extra trust can have a big impact on a situation. Let’s just hope that we remember that the next time we walk into a lavender-scented negotiation.

BP is being pressured by their investors. A coalition of more than 150 company shareholders are calling on the oil giant to assess and manage its climate risk. That group of shareholders, which includes the Church of England and the UK’s Environment Agency, has filed a resolution to be considered at BP’s 2015 annual meeting in April. That resolution asks BP to stress-test its business model against greenhouse gas emission limits suggested by the UN, and it calls on the oil giant to stop rewarding climate-harming activities. This same group of shareholders also filed an identical resolution with Shell Oil last month, and they will continue pressuring the companies to mitigate climate risks. James Thornton, the CEO of ClientEarth, one of the parties involved with the resolution, said, “Climate change is a major business risk. BP and Shell hold our financial and environmental future in their hands. They must do more to face the risks of climate change.” We already know that these oil giants won’t change over global warming, but maybe they’ll listen to reason when it comes to their bottom lines.

Do you love the smell of the rain? Well, science has finally explained why so many people do. According scientists over at M.I.T., raindrops actually release tiny aerosols when they impact on a surface. Researchers used high-speed cameras to watch raindrops as they fell, and found that the raindrops trap tiny air bubbles at the point where they make contact with a surface. Those bubble shoot up through the rainwater and release a fizz of aerosols, which are responsible for that after-the-rain smell that so many of us enjoy. These findings were published recently in the journal Nature Communications, and include the results of about 600 experiments on 28 different surfaces. One of the scientists involved with the study said, “Rain happens every day – it’s raining now, somewhere in the world. It’s a very common phenomenon, and it was intriguing to us that no one has observed this mechanism before.” Thanks to those inquiring minds, we finally know why things always smell fresher after it rains.

And finally… The United States Senate has finally accepted reality. Last week, the Upper Chamber voted 98-1 that “climate change is real and is not a hoax.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island attached the amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, and every senator except Roger Wicker of Mississippi voted to approve it. That amendment lacked the additional wording that specified human activity contributed to climate change, but the fact that senators like Jim Inhofe and Ted Cruz approved it should still be considered a win. That vote came just days after President Obama called out Republican talking points in his State of the Union address, saying, “Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and NOAA, and at our major universities.” It’s a bit ridiculous that we had to hold a Senate vote to agree on common sense, but hopefully it gets us one step closer to dealing with the very real, very much not-a-hoax issue of climate change.

And that’s the way it is for the week of January 26, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.