Syndicate content

Science

Quote of the Week: Mary Midgley

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There is this increasing faith that physical science is the answer to all our terrible questions. I want to fight against the whole idea that it is where you go to for enlightenment.”

- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.

Quote of the Week: Mary Midgley

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In spite of the huge differences between cultures, all that we know about human behavior shows that it can be understood only by reference to people’s own thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears and other feelings. This is not something invented by a particular culture. It’s universal.”

- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.
 

 


 

What Kind of Science Do We Need for the Aid and Post-2015 Agenda?

Duncan Green's picture

Spent an intriguing evening last week speaking on a panel at the wonderful Royal Society (Isaac Newton and all that), on the links between the post-2015 agenda and science. The audience was from the government/science interface – people with job titles like ‘Head of Extreme Events’.

I talked (powerpoint here – keep clicking) about how science can help developmentistas by bringing them up to date with what science is actually about. Less Newton more Darwin, in terms of moving from a 19th Century world of linear causal chains, static equilibria and reductionism, to ecological and complexity thinking. I also tried linking some of the stuff I’ve been reading on complexity thinking with the Cynefin framework. It seems to me we need different kinds of science for the different quadrants:

Longreads: Mobile Internet Traffic Gaining Fast, Polar Ice Melt Quantified, Africa’s Lions Declining, Best Small Ideas of 2012

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

Internet + trends + mobile, along with an image depicting the rapid rise of mobile Internet access in India, gained on Twitter and the Web after venture capitalist Mary Meeker shared the findings of her new Internet Trends report with Stanford University students December 3.  A key finding of the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers report—an update to one released in March—is that, “Mobile traffic is growing so fast globally that in some places it has already surpassed desktop traffic,” says CNET. Meeker also notes several ways we are re-imagining our lives because of rapid technological development and Internet access. Polar ice melt is the topic of a new research paper in Science, A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance, containing the “most definitive” estimate so far of polar ice melt over the last 20 years (11mm), says the BBC, noting that “sea-level rise is now among the most pressing questions of our time.”  Africa’s lion population has declined to as low as 32,000, down from nearly 100,000 in 1960, says a study led by Duke University researchers and funded by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. In a short overview, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment also highlights the continent’s rapid loss of savannah ecosystems where lions live. Small innovations are “quietly changing the world in big ways,” says author Tina Rosenberg in Foreign Policy. Such ideas include “pay for performance” to get kids in school or keep young men out of jail, or helping people with cash or vouchers rather than food aid or refugee camps.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 iRevolution
#UgandaSpeaks: Al-Jazeera uses Ushahidi to Amplify Local Voices in Response to #Kony2012

“Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 campaign has set off a massive firestorm of criticism with the debate likely to continue raging for many more weeks and months. In the meantime, our colleagues at Al-Jazeera have repurposed our previous #SomaliaSpeaks project to amplify Ugandan voices responding to the Kony campaign: #UgandaSpeaks.

Other than GlobalVoices, this Al-Jazeera initiative is one of the very few seeking to amplify local reactions to the Kony campaign. Over 70 local voices have been shared and mapped on Al-Jazeera’s Ushahidi platform in the first few hours since the launch. The majority of reactions submitted thus far are critical of the campaign but a few are positive.”  READ MORE

Closing the Gap Between Climate Change Science and Public Opinion

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The global policy community seems unlikely to take drastic steps with regard to climate change any time soon. Politicians remain hesitant about taking action, although scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming. It’s happening, it’s happening now, and it will cause massive damage. And it’s mostly caused by humans. Public opinion, on the other hand, is far behind the science. Are politicians unwilling to impose dramatic measures to slow down climate change because the public is unwilling to pay the cost – yet? Are they kicking the can down the road because the people are not yet willing to fully embrace the fact and the consequences of climate change?

The Primacy of the Individual, Bah Humbug!

Naniette Coleman's picture

Have you put on weight lately? Are you dating someone who knows a friend or two of yours? Are you a little happier or sadder and cannot figure out why? According to authors Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD, it may be your network stupid. In Connected, Christakis and Fowler set out to overturn the notion of the “primacy of the individual.” They suggest that people we do not even see can influence us in ways previously unimagined. Life many not be solely based on me, myself and my decisions. The beginning and end to all of our problems might be our networks. 

On melting glaciers and science as a contact sport

Flore de Préneuf's picture

This week we were inspired by Skeptical Science.com,  a site for people who are "skeptical about global warming skepticism." On February 10, Skeptical Science put some of its best scientific rebuttals to arguments commonly used by climate change deniers in a handy cheat-sheet format that you can consult from your i-Phone. Leo Hickman, over at The Guardian / Environment blog, wrote about the tempest this tactical app immediately roused in the opposing camp.
 

On Wednesday we asked Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute in Washington DC, to answer simple questions about the facts: Are the glaciers melting faster in the past? Do we know why? What about the sun? And why are climate change debates so heated anyway?!

 Click below for his answers. 

Michael MacCracken on 'melting glaciers' from World Bank on Vimeo.

Michael MacCracken on 'science as a contact sport' from World Bank on Vimeo.

Is the scientific evidence of human-induced climate change unequivocal?

Robert Watson's picture

    Photo ©  Himalayan Trails/flickr
Last December, a very large majority of the scientific community and most politicians would have agreed that the scientific evidence of human-induced climate change was unequivocal and that the only question was whether the world’s political leaders could agree in Copenhagen to meaningful legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. 

But, as we now know, the negotiations only produced an aspirational target—to limit the global mean surface temperature to no more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels—and an accord that does not bind any country to reduce their emissions. 

Since then, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report has been criticized for errors or imprecise wording.

  • For example, the statements that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 or earlier (IPCC admitted that this was an error and not evidence-based);
  • that agricultural production in some North African countries would decrease by up to 50% by 2020 (the synthesis report did not contain the nuances and more detailed discussion in the underlying chapter);
  • and that over half of the Netherlands was below sea level rather than a quarter (this was largely a definitional issue – the Netherlands Dutch Ministry of transport uses the figure 60% - below high water level during storms). 

These inaccuracies, coupled with the controversy surrounding illegally hacked e-mails and temperature data from the University of East Anglia (UEA), have provided climate skeptics and some media with ammunition to undermine public confidence in the conclusions of the IPCC and climate science in general.

To that ghost, I say Rest in Peace

Rachel Ilana Block's picture


Yesterday’s New York Times op-ed piece by Al Gore is well worth a read.  It’s one of those pieces where I found myself nodding along to the computer screen.  Gore helpfully cuts through to the heart of the supposed controversies about the climate science and within the climate science community. 

Photo © iStockphoto.com

His arguments echo what I heard at a recent seminar here at the Bank on the role and functioning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the overblown reaction to mistakes that are real but which in no way alter the overwhelming majority of existing scientific findings about climate change.

During that seminar Kristie Ebi, Executive Director of the IPCC Technical Support Unit for Working Group ll (which authors the volume addressing physical and social impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation) for the next round of assessments coming out in 2013, carefully explained the extensive review process applied by the IPCC.