Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for July 16th, 2021

A bluebell flower

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On a sunny June 18th I photographed some bluebells (Eustoma sp.) that were coming up in Cypress Creek Park. Sixteen days ago you saw a distinctively shaped bud of this species, and now from the same session here are two portraits showing an opening flower. As I’ve said a zillion times, bluebells are purple.


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I recently read the book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters. The author, physicist Steven E. Koonin, was Undersecretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration, so is in no way a “climate denier,” meaning a person who denies that the climate is changing. The book’s title, however, indicates that Koonin takes issue with the widely bruited-about notion that climate change is “settled science.” Basing his book entirely on data gathered by the American government and the United Nations, he offers a rational assessment of the current climate situation, free from the hysteria and catastrophism that characterize so many activists and politicians.

As Koonin wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay in 2014: “Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.” (Apropos of that, just last week someone who has worked for decades in a technical field at the University of Texas told me the atmosphere there has become so oppressive that an employee dare not even bring up the subject of climate change.)

I’m attentive to language, so I appreciate one point Koonin makes in Unsettled: some people, especially environmental activists, use “climate change” to mean only that portion of the change in climate attributable to human activity. That usage is misleading because it excludes the not-insignificant changes in climate attributable to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, the wobble in the earth’s axis, and the varying intensity of the sun’s radiation reaching the earth. Distinguishing between natural causes and human causes of climate change turns out to be a difficult problem. Failing to consider the natural and perhaps quite large component of climate change that is natural ends up making the human-caused component seem disproportionately influential and urgent to deal with—which of course is what activists want.

In April I recommended environmentalist Michael Shellenberger’s rational book about climate change, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Now that Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters is out, I recommend it, too.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2021 at 4:42 AM

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