Connect with us

Millions of people are now experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand. Blistering heat waves have smashed temperature records around the globe this summer, scorching crops, knocking out power, fueling wildfires, buckling roads and runways, and killing hundreds in Europe alone.

The dizzyingly quick shift from an abstract threat to an era of tumbling temperature records, megadroughts, and pervasive fires has many people wondering: is climate change unfolding faster than scientists had expected? Are these extreme events more extreme than studies had predicted they would be, given the levels of greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere?

As it happens, those are two distinct questions, with different and nuanced answers.

For the most part, the computer models used to simulate how the planet responds to rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere aren’t wildly off the mark, especially considering that they aren’t geared for predicting regional temperature extremes. But the recent pileup of very hot heat waves does have some scientists wondering whether models could be underestimating the frequency and intensity of such events, whether some factors are playing more significant roles than represented in certain models, and what it all may mean for our climate conditions in the coming decades.

Let’s address these issues point by point.

Is climate change largely to blame for these extreme heat waves?

Yes. Global warming has established a hotter baseline for summer temperatures, which dramatically increases the odds of more frequent, more extreme, and longer-lasting heat waves, as study after study after study has clearly shown. 

“Climate change is driving this heat wave, just as it is driving every heat wave now,” said Friederike Otto, co-lead of World Weather Attribution, in a press statement about the unprecedented temperatures across Europe in recent days. “Heat waves that used to be rare are now common; heat waves that used to be impossible are now happening and killing people.”

Is climate change unfolding faster than scientists expected?

The answer, at least in the broad sense, is no. In fact, the linked rise in greenhouse gas levels and global average temperatures has tracked tightly within the spread of model predictions, even dating back to cruder climate simulations from the 1970s.

Several researchers and studies, including the latest UN climate report, have highlighted just how closely observed temperatures have followed predicted increases. The resemblance is uncanny (almost as if the world should have heeded the warnings of climate scientists decades ago).

Tweeted by Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) on October 23, 2020.

In fact, the current concern among researchers is that the latest generation of models are collectively running too hot, potentially projecting excessive levels of warming from increased carbon dioxide concentrations, as Zeke Hausfather, Kate Marvel, Gavin Schmidt, and other scientists noted earlier this year in Nature.

re climate models wrong about extreme events?

Sometimes, but it’s a complex question.

Certain real-world events have happened faster or to greater degrees than predicted by past or current models, including the loss of Arctic sea ice, the amount of land burned by wildfires, and the rapid increase in extreme temperature events in Europe in recent decades, scientists say.

“When it comes to certain types of extreme events, I think there is some evidence that things are changing faster than had been expected, or are explicitly represented in global climate models,” says Daniel Swain, climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“But,” he adds, “maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising.”

That’s because, for the most part, climate models were not designed to predict regional extreme events. Their main task is to simulate average temperature changes across long time periods and wide areas. 

Researchers are well aware of, and have always been clear about, the shortcomings of climate models. While they’re continually improving, they remain rough computer simulations limited by human understanding of the climate system; the complex interactions among earth systems; computational power; and the cost of running the models numerous times to explore the spectrum of possibilities. And they still divide the planet into relatively large blocks to make the computation tractable—cells ranging in size from dozens to hundreds to thousands of square kilometers. This limits what can be predicted about local weather events with high accuracy.

It can also be difficult to tell whether some of the weather events we’re seeing are occurring outside the bounds of model findings. For

Read More


By: James Temple
Title: Do these heatwaves mean climate change is worse than we thought?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2022 07:55:00 +0000

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


The Download: Big Tech’s AI stranglehold, and gene-editing treatments

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Make no mistake—AI is owned by Big Tech

—By Amba Kak, Sarah Myers West and Meredith Whittaker, members of the AI Now Institute

Until late November, when the epic saga of OpenAI’s board breakdown unfolded, the casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that the ecosystem around generative AI was vibrant and competitive.

But this is not the case—nor has it ever been. And understanding why is fundamental to understanding what AI is, and what threats it poses. Put simply, in the context of the current paradigm of building larger- and larger-scale AI systems, there is no AI without Big Tech.

With vanishingly few exceptions, every startup, new entrant, and even AI research lab is dependent on these firms. Those with the money make the rules. And right now, they’re engaged in a race to the bottom, releasing systems before they’re ready in an attempt to retain their dominance. Read the full story.

I received the new gene-editing drug for sickle cell disease. It changed my life.

—By Jimi Olaghere, a patient advocate and tech entrepreneur

One day a few years ago, I received a package that would change my life. It was from Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and it contained a consent form to participate in a clinical trial for a new gene-editing drug to treat sickle cell disease.

I’d lived with sickle cell my whole life—experiencing chronic pain, organ damage, and hopelessness. To me, this opportunity meant finally taking control of my life.

The drug I received, called exa-cel, could soon become the first CRISPR-based treatment to win approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. But many people who need these treatments may never receive them. Read the full story.

Fossil-fuel emissions are over a million times greater than carbon removal efforts

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are on track to reach a record high by the end of 2023. And a new report shows just how insignificant technologies that pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere are by comparison.

Emissions are projected to reach 36.8 billion metric tons in 2023, a 1.1% increase from 2022 levels, according to this year’s Global Carbon Budget Report. And it also found that one technology that’s sometimes touted as a cure-all for the emissions problems has severe limitations: carbon dioxide removal. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

AI’s carbon footprint is bigger than you think

World leaders are currently in Dubai for the UN COP28 climate talks. But there’s one thing people aren’t talking enough about, and that’s the carbon footprint of AI.

One part of the reason is that big tech companies don’t share the carbon footprint of training and using their massive models, and we don’t have standardized ways of measuring the emissions AI is responsible for. That is, until now. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things AI. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 America isn’t ready for future wars
As conflict becomes increasingly AI-powered, red tape is getting in the way. (Axios)
The internet is the new frontier of warfare. (Motherboard)+ Inside the messy ethics of making war with machines. (MIT Technology Review)

2 It’s a rocky time for renewable energy
Its costs are soaring, and the industry is in trouble. (Economist $)
Yes, we have enough materials to power the world with renewable energy. (MIT Technology Review)

3 We’re waiting for all those robot trucks we were promised
But companies are understandably nervous about automating massive rigs. (The Verge)
Cruise has been accused of withholding key details about its robotaxi accident. (TechCrunch)

4 IBM says it’s hit a quantum computing research milestone
The two new systems should be able to execute the most powerful quantum algorithms to date. (Ars Technica)
Though it appears to have made little progress on finding commercial uses for the technology. (FT $)

5 Internet censorship in US schools is a growing problem
And it’s preventing kids from finding out crucial info about their health, identity, and the subjects they’re studying. (Wired $)
AI is about to make spying a whole lot easier. (Slate $)
The book ban movement has a chilling new tactic: harassing teachers on social media. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Brain implants are helping people recover from traumatic injuries
The implants appear to help them regain the ability to focus. (NYT $)
A brain implant changed her life. Then it was

Read More


By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Big Tech’s AI stranglehold, and gene-editing treatments
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 05 Dec 2023 13:10:00 +0000

Continue Reading


I received the new gene-editing drug for sickle cell disease. It changed my life.

MIT Oleghere Matt Odom Photo002c scaled

On a picturesque fall day a few years ago, I opened the mailbox and took out an envelope as thick as a Bible that would change my life. The package was from Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and it contained a consent form to participate in a clinical trial for a new gene-editing drug to treat sickle cell disease.

A week prior, my wife and I had talked on the phone with Haydar Frangoul, an oncologist and hematologist in Nashville, Tennessee, and the lead researcher of the trial. He gave us an overview of what the trial entailed and how the early participants were faring. Before we knew it, my wife and I were flying to the study site in Nashville to enroll me and begin treatment. At the time, she was pregnant with our first child.

I’d lived with sickle cell my whole life—experiencing chronic pain, organ damage, and hopelessness. To me, this opportunity meant finally taking control of my life and having the opportunity to be a present father.

The drug I received, called exa-cel, could soon become the first CRISPR-based treatment to win approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, following the UK’s approval in mid-November. I’m one of only a few dozen patients who have ever taken it. In late October, I testified in favor of approval to the FDA’s advisory group as it met to evaluate the evidence. The agency will make its decision about exa-cel no later than December 8.

I’m very aware of how privileged I am to have been an early recipient and to reap the benefits of this groundbreaking new treatment. People with sickle cell disease don’t produce healthy hemoglobin, a protein that red blood cells use to transport oxygen in the body. As a result, they develop misshapen red blood cells that can block blood vessels, causing intense bouts of pain and sometimes organ failure. They often die decades younger than those without the disease.

After I received exa-cel, I started to experience things I had only dreamt of: boundless energy and the ability to recover by merely sleeping. My physical symptoms—including a yellowish tint in my eyes caused by the rapid breakdown of malfunctioning red blood cells—virtually disappeared overnight. Most significantly, I gained the confidence that sickle cell disease won’t take me away from my family, and a sense of control over my own destiny.

Today, several other gene therapies to treat sickle cell disease are in the pipeline from biotech startups such as Bluebird Bio, Editas Medicine, and Beam Therapeutics as well as big pharma companies including Pfizer and Novartis—all to treat the worst-suffering among an estimated US patient population of about 100,000, most of whom are Black Americans.

But many people who need these treatments may never receive them. Even though I benefited greatly from gene editing, I worry that not enough others will have that opportunity. And though I’m grateful for my treatment, I see real barriers to making these life-changing medicines available to more people.

grueling process

I feel very fortunate to have received exa-cel, but undergoing the treatment itself was an intense, monthslong journey. Doctors extracted stem cells from my own bone marrow and used CRISPR to edit them so that they would produce healthy hemoglobin. Then they injected those edited stem cells back into me.

It was an arduous process, from collecting the stem cells, to conditioning my body to receive the edited cells, to the eventual transplant. The collection process alone can take up to eight hours. For each collection, I sat next to an apheresis machine that vigorously separated my red blood cells from my stem cells, leaving me weakened. In my case, I needed blood transfusions after every collection—and I needed four collections to finally amass enough stem cells for the medical team to edit.

The conditioning regimen that prepared my body to receive the edited cells was a whole different challenge. I underwent weeks of chemotherapy to clear out old, faulty stem cells from my body and make room for the newly edited ones. That meant dealing with nausea, weakness, hair loss, debilitating mouth sores, and the risk of exacerbating the underlying condition.

Read More


By: Jimi Olaghere
Title: I received the new gene-editing drug for sickle cell disease. It changed my life.
Sourced From:
Published Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2023 13:30:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…

Continue Reading


The Download: cleantech 2.0, and ‘jury duty’ on Chinese delivery apps


This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Climate tech is back—and this time, it can’t afford to fail

A cleantech bust in 2011 left almost all the renewable-energy startups in the US either dead or struggling to survive.

Over a decade on, the excitement around cleantech investments and manufacturing is back, and the money is flowing again. A recent analysis estimates that total green investments reached $213 billion in the US during the 12 months beginning July, 2022.

However, as ‘cleantech 2.0’ startups inch towards commercialization, many of them still face the same issues that tripped up the green revolution a decade ago. Can they succeed where their predecessors failed? Read the full story.

—David Rotman

Users are doling out justice on a Chinese food delivery app 

Jury trials are plentiful on Chinese apps—especially Meituan, the country’s most popular food delivery service.

Offered as a way for restaurants to appeal bad reviews they believe are unreasonable, Meituan crowdsources help from users by showing them the review, details of the order, and notes from the restaurant. Then users can vote on whether to take down the review from the restaurant’s public page. More than six million users have now participated in ‘jury duty’ on the app.

Even though it has existed for a few years, many people have only recently become aware of Meituan’s public jury feature. It’s now frequently a viral topic on social media—and a source of joy for those nosy enough to weigh in on other people’s business. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

Meet the 15-year-old deepfake victim pushing Congress into action

In October, Francesca Mani was one of reportedly more than 30 girls at Westfield High School in New Jersey who were victims of deepfake pornography. Boys at the school had taken photos of Francesca and her classmates and used AI to create sexually explicit images of them without their consent.

The practice is actually stunningly commonplace, but we rarely hear such stories—at least in part because many victims understandably don’t want to talk publicly. But, within just a day of learning about the violation, 15-year-old Francesca started speaking out and calling on lawmakers to do something about the broader problem. Her efforts are already starting to pay off with new momentum for legislation.

Francesca and her mother, Dorota, say that their activism aims particularly to support women and girls who might be less equipped to push for change. Our senior reporter Tate Ryan-Mosley spoke to them both—read her write-up of their interview.

This story is from The Technocrat, our weekly newsletter all about power, politics, and Silicon Valley. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Inside the bitter feuds that will shape the future of AI
It seems most of today’s top AI companies were born out of arguments between rich, egomaniacal men. (NYT $)
How Microsoft navigated the recent OpenAI board turmoil. (New Yorker $)
OpenAI agreed to buy $51 million of AI chips from a startup backed by Sam Altman. (Wired $)
Adam D’Angelo helped to fire Altman. Now he has to work with him. (WSJ $)
Not every AI expert thinks superintelligence is on its way. (CNBC)

2 Satellite images suggest nearly 98,000 buildings in Gaza are damaged
The pictures were taken before the seven-day suspension of hostilities, which has now ended. (BBC)
 Inside the satellite tech being used to reveal the extent of Gaza’s destruction. (Scientific American $)

3 A group of 56 nations have agreed to phase out coal
Including the US, which sends a strong signal. (AP $)
Why the UN climate talks are a moment of reckoning for oil and gas companies. (MIT  Technology Review)
Climate experts are furious with the head of COP28 for spreading misinformation. (Sky)

4 We badly need to regulate AI in medicine
Here’s how we might approach that mammoth task. (Proto.Life)
+ Artificial intelligence is infiltrating health care. We shouldn’t let it make all the decisions. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Ozempic makes people want to drink less alcohol 
Researchers need to collect more data to understand why, but it’s a potentially promising finding. (Wired $)
 Weight-loss injections have taken over the internet. But what does this mean for people IRL? (MIT Technology Review)

6 As X descends into chaos, news outlets are turning to Reddit
The trouble is, it’s a very different beast. (WP $)
X is

Read More


By: Charlotte Jee
Title: The Download: cleantech 2.0, and ‘jury duty’ on Chinese delivery apps
Sourced From:
Published Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2023 13:15:00 +0000

Continue Reading