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n this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and Earth in the same frame. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Why Universe Today Writes on Climate Change

9 Apr , 2014

by

Online science reporting is difficult. Never mind the incredible amount of work each story requires from interviewing scientists to meticulously choosing the words you will use to describe a tough subject. That’s the fun part. It’s just after you hit the blue publish button, when the story goes live, that things get rough. Your readers will tear you apart. They will comment on any misplaced commas, a number with one too many significant figures, and an added space in between sentences. They will criticize and not compliment.

Now I’m not saying this isn’t welcome. By all means if I have misspoken, do let me know. I need to be on top of my game 100% of the time and readers’ comments help make that happen. They can improve an article tremendously, allowing readers to carry on the conversation and provide a richer context. Thought-provoking commenters always bring a smile to my face.

But then there’s online environmental reporting. From day one, reader comments made me realize that I needed to develop a thicker skin. I won’t go into the nasty details here, but in my most recent article, readers asked why Universe Today — an astronomy and space news site — would report on the science and even the politics regarding climate change. Well dear readers, I have heard you, and here is the answer to your question.

Universe Today is a dedicated space and astronomy news site. And I am proud to be a part of the team bringing readers up-to-date with the ongoings in our local universe. But that definition covers a wide variety of subjects, some might even say an infinite number of subjects.

On any given day authors from our team might write about subjects from planets within our solar system to distant galaxies. We want to better understand these celestial objects by focusing on their origin, evolution and fate. And in doing so we will discuss research that utilizes physics or chemistry, biology or astronomy. We might even write about politics, especially if NASA’s budget is involved.

I argue that writing about the Earth falls into the above category. After all, we do live on a planet that circles the Sun. And unlike Venus, where thick skies of carbon dioxide and even clouds of sulfuric acid make the surface incredibly difficult to see, we can directly study our surface, even run our fingers through the sand.

Intensive geologic surveys of the Earth below your feet help astronomers to understand the geology of other environments, including our nearest neighbor Venus and distant moons. We now know Enceladus has an ocean because of its combination of two compensating mass anomalies — an effect we see here on Earth. Perhaps one day this research will even help us understand geologic features on distant exoplanets.

Any study, which helps us better understand our home planet, whether it looks at plate tectonics or the sobering effects of global warming, exists under the encompassing umbrella of astronomy.

Now for my second, philosophical, argument. On the darkest of nights, thousands of stars compose the celestial sphere above us. The universe is boundless. It is infinite. We stand on but one out of 100 billion (if not more) planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, which in turn, is but one out of 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. We live in complete isolation. It’s both humbling and awe-inspiring.

Carl Sagan was the first to coin the phrase “pale blue dot” and in his words:

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Sagan argues that we have the moral duty to protect our home planet. This sense of obligation stems from the humble lessons gained from astronomy. So if Universe Today is not the appropriate platform to write about climate change I’m not sure what is.

All comments welcome.

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Pete
Member
Pete
April 9, 2014 8:26 AM

Very well stated. The stirring words of Carl Sagan do indeed remind us how precious and fragile our home world is — and yet it has its place, however tiny and remote, in the cosmos.

Fraser Cain
Admin
April 9, 2014 8:31 AM
As the publisher of Universe Today, I stand by this 100% – great article Shannon. There are so many aspects to climate change that relate directly and indirectly to astronomy and space exploration. Satellites are used to capture the data, space agencies are at the forefront of research in this field. The Earth is a planet, just like the other 7 planets in the Solar System, and the deep understanding of weather systems and climate change is key to research into planetary systems. It’s rare in this field when research can directly affect the lives of human beings. Nobody’s life changed when dark energy was discovered. But climate change has a real impact on everyone on the planet.… Read more »
FarAwayLongAgo
Member
FarAwayLongAgo
April 9, 2014 12:42 PM
No, it is anti-astronomy! It is completely human-centric. Humans control the climate. Just like the astrology that planets control the destiny of indivual humans. I I I, just me in the center of the universe. Yeah, sure! The climat panic people have totally ignored the influence of the Sun, that little astronomical object you know, on our climate. And what do you mean that climate change, in the actual form of ZERO degrees global temperature change last 18 years, have had an impact on the planet? How could it have had? How does no change in temperature melt polar ice? When it comes to climate politics, you just repeat phrases you’ve heard, without using your brain, and that… Read more »
Todd Main
Member
Todd Main
April 9, 2014 1:39 PM

A fundamental aspect of the human mind is that we often reach a conclusion that aligns with our beliefs, then ignore the facts that contradict our conclusion. Congratulations, you’re human.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
April 9, 2014 1:48 PM

Yeah sure, and the pollution is also to be blamed on the Sun
And the deforestation is also blamed on the Sun.
And the species dying out also blamed on the Sun.
Hey even my high living costs are blamed on the sun.

Just open Google maps. Look at the satellite images, and tell me that humans have ZERO effect on the environment.

Fraser Cain
Admin
April 11, 2014 10:23 AM

Your cholesterol… that’s also the Sun’s doing.

Random63
Member
April 10, 2014 11:10 AM

Well said FarAwayLongAgo….a little harsh, but well said.

Aqua4U
Member
April 9, 2014 1:03 PM

Thanks Frazer! You the man!

Brett Simon
Member
Brett Simon
April 9, 2014 5:30 PM

Hi, Fraser. I don’t claim to know much. Right now, I am reading NASA’s 2014 Strategic Plan in which Objective 2.2 clearly states, “Advance knowledge of Earth as a system to meet the challenges of environmental change and to improve life on our planet.”

NASA does astronomy and space exploration, too, right? smile

ioconnor
Member
ioconnor
April 9, 2014 8:50 AM

Please don’t write about climate change. Just state it your position and move on. Embroiling yourself in endless arguments detracts from the Universe Today. Remember if you wrestle with the pigs you’ll end up getting dirty while they’ll end up enjoying it.

Fraser Cain
Admin
April 11, 2014 10:25 AM

We just post about the new science whenever it comes up. Haters and anti-sciencers can start up their own websites to rant about whatever they like. But they don’t get a platform here.

Ringshot
Member
Ringshot
April 9, 2014 9:57 AM
I don’t mind articles on climate, I just hate this whole idea of “settled science”… it’s ridiculous! I’ve looked at many sites and I find the arguments against Anthropomorphic Global Warming (which is really the issue here) are compelling. So here is my challenge to UniverseToday: use your research talent and some time to do a good, unbiased article on the arguments against AGW. I’m not saying do a hit piece on why these people should be banned from public discourse (as some of your commenters call for), just present the arguments and the main players and let the readers decide. I would enjoy reading such an article, but I’m sure your “Climate Change” orthodoxy readers would “tear… Read more »
Tometheus
Member
Tometheus
April 9, 2014 11:16 AM

Anthropomorphic Global Warming

I’m sorry, I had to laugh at that.

(I’m picturing a planet with baby arms and legs stumbling around like a toddler with its climate rapidly changing reflecting its emotions.)

Manu
Member
Manu
April 9, 2014 10:07 AM

As a merciless commenter of the first category, I approve of this article =)

geckzilla
Editor
geckzilla
April 9, 2014 10:37 AM

I am for climate change reporting as well as moderation of anti-science comments in the comments section. I sometimes try to comment on things I am knowledgeable about to dispel some confusion and that is hard enough without having to write an entire article. Thanks for the work you do.

rkarl39
Member
rkarl39
April 9, 2014 2:54 PM
So you are for silencing the voices of those who do not agree whole heatedly with “global warming”, eh hmm, excuse me, “climate change”? Debate is the foundation of scientific process and closing your mind to other people’s findings simply because they do not match your beliefs would be blasphemous to Galileo, Copernicus, and the likes. Some in the scientific community have turned out to be who they hated the most throughout history, religious-like Zealots persecuting dissenters. That being said, I will leave you with a quote from one of the co-founders of Greenpeace because he obviously knows more than you and I both and likely even more than the author of this article. Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder… Read more »
geckzilla
Editor
geckzilla
April 9, 2014 4:18 PM

Yup.

geckzilla
Editor
geckzilla
April 9, 2014 4:35 PM

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments
The comments sections of controversial articles must either be disabled or heavily moderated. Imagine if every user went straight to the science paper or a referenced source instead of to the comments section below and began to understand the science rather than the political rubbish you’ve just spewed at me. You are not Galileo or Copernicus. Science is not a religious doctrine.

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
April 10, 2014 3:50 AM

Funny you go there, as most of the people that argue against climate change offer no science at all in their arguments, only politically bent refutations of policy stances.

Forty
Member
Forty
April 9, 2014 7:10 PM

“So you are for silencing the voices of those who do not agree whole heatedly with “global warming”, eh hmm, excuse me, “climate change”?”

Yep. They are clowns. Not scientists.

mewo
Member
mewo
April 9, 2014 9:17 PM

Precisely. Let them make a scientific case for their position, then we’ll listen. So far they have not made a coherent case.

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
April 10, 2014 3:51 AM

Shut up

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
April 10, 2014 3:49 AM

Actually silencing you all would be more akin to silencing young earthers or creationists… The din of screaming trolls that are WRONG begs it.

tonyross
Member
tonyross
April 9, 2014 10:41 AM

Thanks for all you do and the articles. I see great value in reading about climate change and I find your article was great in explaining its value/validity. Thanks for sharing. … and people, if you don’t want to read about climate change, well, go elsewhere and stop complaining.

Dalibor Frívaldský
Member
Dalibor Frívaldský
April 9, 2014 11:50 AM
I’ll try not to generalize and write this entirely from my point of view. I don’t see a problem with articles discussing climate change ocurring on this site, nor any other site/blog that discusses scientific topics. However, for some reason, these articles are written in a very different rhetoric compared to the rest of the posts. And this goes for both the article itself and the comments below. They try to bring up emotions: “Sobering IPCC Report” “Yes this report is sobering” They try to urge: “There is still time.” “The time for action is now” They try to convince us of reality with words and not only facts: “The evidence the world is warming is indubitable” I… Read more »
M. Malenfant
Member
M. Malenfant
April 9, 2014 11:52 AM

First of all I apprevciate this Blog, which I visit regularly – though commenting only rarely.
I also appreciate coverage of Climate Change as topic and second your respective argumentation. A view on earth as a planet alongside resarch on other planets is well suited.

MrsWhich
Member
MrsWhich
April 9, 2014 12:13 PM

Thank you for this post and for your posts on climate change. I love this blog, and I think all the writers here have been doing a great job.

FarAwayLongAgo
Member
FarAwayLongAgo
April 9, 2014 12:31 PM
I do not understand how this blog post relates to anything about the fact that IPCC have established that temperatures have not increased druing the last two decades inspite of CO2-levels having increased exponentially. The relationship CO2/temperature is obviously not at all as simple as was once believed in the 1990s. There’s no reason to believe that the increase in the number of living human beings and the degree to which each and everyone of us are industrialized, would somehow make the climate worse. More humans and more industry is good for us. The climate doesn’t care, the global temperature doesn’t move an inch because we humans make our lives better and better by employing our ingenuity and… Read more »
Aqua4U
Member
April 9, 2014 12:41 PM

Ahh yessss… Classic Torbjorn Larsson.

mewo
Member
mewo
April 10, 2014 2:21 AM

Nobody wants to abolish technology. That’s just a scare tactic invented by the climate science deliars.

Aqua4U
Member
April 9, 2014 12:36 PM

Thank you Shannon! I always find your writing well spoken and enriching.. so does the wife! We really appreciate you taking this stand and using this forum as an opportunity to express the need for the climate sciences. Your words may may even influence (some of?) those whose interests and investments lie in social, political and earthly usury? Even the greedy have hearts? But I wouldn’t count on it… brain dead is brain dead. No wonder there is a fascination in ‘zombies’ and ‘vampires’ these days?

P.S. We ARE the 99%!

rkarl39
Member
rkarl39
April 9, 2014 3:13 PM

And your understanding of science is just as strong as those leading the Inquisitions in the early days of modern science. You claim those who do not whole-heartedly agree with climate science have interests and investments in unethical dealings and call them greedy all while wondering if they have a heart. Continue marginalizing and labeling all those who do not agree with you because it must comfort you in some way. Do you do this because you intend to maintain the new scientific orthodoxy and stomp out any dissenters like the Catholic Church in the 15th and 16th centuries?

Tony Mach
Member
Tony Mach
April 9, 2014 12:37 PM
If you want to write about climate change (and climate science), go ahead. But… Before I give you further thoughts, I just wanted to you to know from what position I make my comments. I am decisively “pro-science” – science is a wonderful way to learn about the reality of the world. I know about evolution, and I think that the result of evolution is something wonderful and very very worthy of protection. I like to learn about the history of our solar system. My political background is/was decisively “Green”, and over the years it moved somewhat to a more capitalism- and conservative-critical and anti-imperialist point. I try to be a humanist, and if there is something that… Read more »
philw1776
Member
philw1776
April 9, 2014 12:39 PM

No problem with science stories on our evolving climate and the complex interplay of natural and anthropogenic influences. Where it becomes tiresome is when it transitions into hysteria and calls for political solutions. Let’s keep the focus on what we think we know and how we know it.

Even the esteemed Carl Sagan was susceptible to coloring his science with his anti-war politics (nothing wrong with his opinion) writing articles before the 1st Gulf War on how the burning oil wells that Saddam did indeed ignite would cause a nuclear winter. It did not.

Windfall
Member
Windfall
April 9, 2014 2:02 PM

Even the most insightful get it wrong sometimes. Carl Sagan discussed this at length in a chapter of his book “The Demon-Haunted World…” and even referenced specifically how he was wrong about the breadth of the effects of burning oil wells. I disagree, however, that this means it was colored with his politics as he had legitimate reasons to believe his postulations were correct.

rkarl39
Member
rkarl39
April 9, 2014 3:20 PM

You do realize Carl Sagan also said this: “In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

westof113
Member
westof113
April 9, 2014 3:29 PM

Mastery of orbital space has given us the gift of perspective. Space-based satellites have given us a comprehensive way of looking at our home planet in unprecedented detail and over time. The data generated by such observation has led to discoveries and understanding of trends in many fields of study. From any sane person’s point of view, our little biosphere is THE most important part of the Universe Today or any day. There’s a reason that the major space agencies of the world are leading the scientific study of the Environment. Of course, Universe Today should cover the science that Earth observation satellites make possible.

Jason Blankenship
Member
Jason Blankenship
April 9, 2014 4:30 PM
Personally, I have no problem with the site posting information on “climate science”, but I do have a problem with this kind of absolutist position, that it is 100% human caused, and that we need to stop driving cars, stop using coal, and start living like it’s the Middle Ages again. There is A LOT of information out there that refutes much of what mainstream scientists say, and it is done by reputable scientists, so it would be nice to see that information presented as well. In closing, please don’t ignore the fact that most of the “climate scientists” are vehemently anti-capitalist, and are calling for quite draconian steps to be taken, particularly here in the United States.… Read more »
Forty
Member
Forty
April 9, 2014 7:12 PM

“start living like it’s the Middle Ages again”
Who says so? Please bring sources…..

Jason Blankenship
Member
Jason Blankenship
April 10, 2014 12:40 PM

http://www.caranddriver.com/columns/the-year-2000-and-al-gore-too

Al Gore, in his “Earth in the Balance” book stated the car was the “most dangerous technology invented by man.” Should we go back to horses?

Forty
Member
Forty
April 15, 2014 12:10 PM

So I ask for a proofen source, and you present me *your interpretation* of something Al Gore said? Alright, case closed.

Jason Major
Editor
April 9, 2014 4:49 PM

Nice article Shannon. I agree 99.999%. (Hey, one should always leave room for error!)

As someone who’s written on NASA climate research here several times, I can say that Universe Today is NOT an “alarmist” site (and there are some out there.) We post about the findings and the analysis thereof, and do not wax into arm-flailing conjecturing. Universe Today does its utmost to remain on the scientific end of things, not the political. Of course, all the writers here are human and are entitled to their own personal opinions (but, as Moynihan said, not their own facts.)

Brett Simon
Member
Brett Simon
April 9, 2014 5:36 PM

Great article, Shannon. Right now, I am reading NASA’s 2014 Strategic Plan in which Objective 2.2 clearly states, “Advance knowledge of Earth as a system to meet the challenges of environmental change and to improve life on our planet.”

This is straight from NASA website. People are allowed to cherry pick what they like or want to hear about NASA (just as they are with you and UniverseToday), but it doesn’t mean this topic isn’t relevant in EVERY WAY.

Steinar Midtskogen
Member
April 9, 2014 6:01 PM

The wisest thing to do is to stay away from climate change. It’s too politicial and will only create noise. The universe is big, so there’s plenty else to write about. Just as you likely sometimes remove a tough paragraph from an article before you post because you anticipate that people would just pluck it apart, and/or you realise that the article will be just fine without the paragraph, be confident that Universe Today will be just fine without climate change.

Blueberrysky
Member
Blueberrysky
April 9, 2014 6:47 PM
Politics has now become stagnant, out dated and obsolete. Politics is a crap shoot were people try to vote in the most charismatic person they believe will do the right thing. Time for people in the U.S. and the world over to adopt a new way of dealing with problems on our planet. I say let’s bring back the Technocracy movement were we put Scientist and Engineers (people who are qualified) in the position of power to make vital decisions based on Science to make the world a better place. It’s time we end opinion based politics and move into a more emergent society where science and technology, which are based on facts, is used to make important… Read more »
themightypen
Member
themightypen
April 9, 2014 8:44 PM

Technocrats would work if people were machines programmed to do what is best for humanity. People are too imperfect to impose their wills on others. This type of thinking frightens me.

mewo
Member
mewo
April 10, 2014 2:35 AM

Better that than having a bunch of lawyers and economists impose their wills on others.

Jeffrey Boerst
Member
April 10, 2014 3:54 AM

HUZZAH, indeed!

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