Gardeners Describe Benefits of Global Warming

(p. A15) When Times readers were asked to describe how they saw climate change affecting their area, several people reported that they were already changing their planting habits due to balmier winter conditions.

“I am now able to grow perennials that were once two temperate zones south of me,” wrote William Borucki, of Buffalo.

Raynard Vinson, of Hampton, Va., wrote: “I overwinter plants that once had to be dug up and protected.”

For the full story, see:

NADJA POPOVICH. “As Climate Changes, So Do Growing Zones, and What Plants Will Thrive Where.” The New York Times (Wednesday, MAY 29, 2019): A15.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 23, 2019, and has the title “How Climate Change May Affect the Plants in Your Yard.”)

Forecasts “of Doom and Gloom” Fail Because “Lot of Moving Parts That Are Not Well Understood”

(p. A3) The science community now believes tornadoes most likely build from the ground up and not from a storm cloud down, potentially making them harder to spot via radar early in the formation process. But scientists still struggle to say with certainty when and where a tornado will form, or why some storms spawn them and neighboring storms don’t.

“Sometimes the science and the atmosphere remind us of the limitations of what we can predict,” said Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.

. . .

“We have big outlooks of doom and gloom, and nothing happens because there are a lot of moving parts that are not well understood yet,” said Erik Rasmussen, a research scientist with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

For the full story, see:

Erin Ailworth. “Tornadoes Outrun Forecaster Data.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 30, 2019): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 29, 2019, and the title “New Science Explains Why Tornadoes Are So Hard to Forecast.”)

Ruth Gates Helped Create Strains of Coral Resilient to Acid and Heat

(p. B12) Ruth Gates, a renowned marine biologist who made it her life’s work to save the world’s fragile coral reefs from the deadening effects of warming water temperatures, died on Oct. 25 [2018] in Kailua, Hawaii.

. . .

Dr. Gates was one of the leading scientists trying to protect coral from such a fate. As director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, which is part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, she was developing a “super coral” that could be bred to be more resilient to the heat and acidity assaulting the marine environment.

. . .

In 2013, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation offered $10,000 for the most promising proposal to mitigate problems caused by an increasingly acidic ocean. Dr. Gates and Madeleine van Oppen, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, won the challenge with their plan to develop highly resilient coral strains, much the way farmers breed stronger crops.

The foundation subsequently awarded them a five-year, $4 million grant, with the longer-term goal of creating a stock of tough coral strains that could replace dying coral reefs around the world.

For the full obituary, see:

Katharine Q. Seelye. “Ruth Gates, a Champion of Coral Reefs in a Time of Their Decline, Dies at 56.” The New York Times (Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018): B12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 5, 2018, and has the title “Ruth Gates, Who Made Saving Coral Reefs Her Mission, Is Dead at 56.”)

Lacking Absolute Certainty, Evidence Can Get Us to “True Enough”

(p. A17) As in his earlier books, Mr. Blackburn displays a rare combination of erudite precision and an ability to make complex ideas clear in unfussy prose.

If truth has seemed unattainable, he argues, it is because in the hands of philosophers such as Plato and Descartes it became so purified, rarefied and abstract that it eluded human comprehension. Mr. Blackburn colorfully describes their presentation of truth as a “picture of an entirely self-enclosed world of thought, spinning frictionless in the void.”

The alternative is inspired by more grounded philosophers, like David Hume and especially the American pragmatists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey. Mr. Blackburn repeatedly returns to a quote from Peirce that serves as one of the book’s epigraphs: “We must not begin by talking of pure ideas—vagabond thoughts that tramp the public highways without any human habitation—but must begin with men and their conversation.” The best way to think about truth is not in the abstract but in media res, as it is found in the warp and weft of human life.

Put crudely, for the pragmatists “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” We take to be true what works. Newton’s laws got us to the moon, so it would be perverse to deny that they are true. It doesn’t matter if they are not the final laws of physics; they are true enough. “We must remember that a tentative judgment of truth is not the same as a dogmatic assertion of certainty,” says Mr. Blackburn, a sentence that glib deniers of the possibility of truth should be made to copy out a hundred times. Skepticism about truth only gets off the ground if we demand that true enough is not good enough—that truth be beyond all possible doubt and not just the reasonable kind.

For the full review, see:

Julian Baggini. “BOOKSHELF; Beyond a Reasonable Doubt; A philosopher argues that truth is humble, not absolute: “A tentative judgment . . . is not the same as a dogmatic assertion of certainty”.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 25, 2018): A17.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 24, 2018, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘On Truth’ Review: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt; A philosopher argues that truth is humble, not absolute: “A tentative judgment . . . is not the same as a dogmatic assertion of certainty”.”)

The book under review is:

Blackburn, Simon. On Truth. Reprint ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

“The Grapes Are Beautiful, the Heat’s Good for Them”

(p. A4) A 2016 study by NASA and Harvard of grape harvest dates going back to the 1600s found that climate change pushed harvests forward drastically in France and Switzerland in the second half of the 20th century.

. . .

(p. B5) Claudio Roggero, who as enologist at the Castello di Neive, decides, among other things, when to pick the grapes, strolled with satisfaction through the corridors of vines, saying the grapes looked perfect.

“If I left these grapes another week they could have been like this,” he said stopping in front of a rare sunburned bunch. “It’s very dangerous.”

In the middle of August, a thermometer planted in one of their vineyards showed heat in excess of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. “It went off the charts,” the wine estate’s owner, Italo Stupino, 81, said as he looked over the hills.

Mr. Stupino also pointed at vineyards destroyed by a hailstorm in April, and yet he expressed doubt that global warming drove the change.

“I believe it up to a certain point,” he said with a shrug. “The temperature goes up and down. We had hail in April, and I remember some hot, hot Augusts as a boy.”

That sentiment ran through the hills.

In Monforte d’Alba, just outside the town square, Giovanni Rocca stepped out onto his hills and happily chewed a grape he picked from his vineyard.

“The grapes are beautiful, the heat’s good for them,” he said, arguing that the vintage, which he said would probably come 10 or 15 days earlier than usual, was likely to yield a lower-quantity but higher-quality Barolo.

His son, Maurizio, 37, also spoke of the benefits of the sunshine. But he added that temperatures above 100 degrees “are not good for the wine; the berries become unbalanced and too fat, with too high an alcohol content.”

He said that they knew how to deal with anomalies, but that if intense heat waves became permanent, “We’ll have to plant bananas and pineapples.”

. . .

An enclosed observation deck hangs like a giant helicopter cockpit over the hills of Alba at the headquarters of the Ceretto family, which produces nearly a million bottles a year.

The company’s employees will be out in the fields a week earlier than usual to pick arneis grapes for its wildly popular Blangé white wine, said Roberta Ceretto, 44.

But she was mostly unbothered by the heat, saying that while her employees might not be able to go on vacation in August in the future, the quality and culture of the area’s wines would survive.

“The dinosaurs didn’t go extinct in 20 years,” she said with a smile.

For the full story, see:

Jason Horowitz. “LA MORRA JOURNAL; The Harvest of a Changing Climate.” The New York Times (Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 22, 2017, and has the title “LA MORRA JOURNAL; In Italy’s Drought-Hit Vineyards, the Harvest of a Changing Climate.”)

Foresters Using “Assisted Migration” to Help Forests Adapt More Quickly to Global Warming

(p. A14) Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.

. . .

So foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally. One controversial idea, known as assisted migration, involves deliberately moving trees northward. But trees can live centuries, and environments are changing so fast in some places that species planted today may be ill-suited to conditions in 50 years, let alone 100. No one knows the best way to make forests more resilient to climatic upheaval.

. . .

It is also complicated. On Lake Michigan, one adaptation planner trying to help the Karner blue butterfly survive is considering creating an oak savanna well to the north, and moving the butterflies there. But the ideal place for the relocation already hosts another type of unique forest — one that he is trying to save to help a tiny yellow-bellied songbird that is also threatened by warming.

In other words, he may find himself both fighting climate change and embracing it, on the same piece of land.

For the full story, see:

Moises Velasquez-Manoff. “Can Humans Help Trees Outrun Climate Change?” The New York Times (Friday, April 26, 2019): A14-A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 25, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

Mayor de Blasio Seeks “Ban” on “Glass and Steel Skyscrapers”

(p. A23) As he stood on the Queens shoreline on Earth Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a stern warning that the familiar Manhattan skyline behind him was about to change.

“We are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming,” he said on Monday. “They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore.”

. . .

“Everyone is trying to figure out what the mayor meant,” said Adam Roberts, director of policy for the American Institute of Architects New York. “We just hope that the mayor misspoke.”

For the full story, see:

Jeffery C. Mays. “Mayor’s ‘Ban’ of Glass and Steel Skyscrapers? Not Quite That Harsh.” The New York Times (Friday, April 26, 2019): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 25, 2019, and has the title “De Blasio’s ‘Ban’ on Glass and Steel Skyscrapers Isn’t a Ban at All.” The online version says that the New York Edition print version had the title “A Ban on Glass and Steel? ‘Perhaps the Mayor Was Overenthusiastic’.” My National Edition print version had the title “Mayor’s ‘Ban’ of Glass and Steel Skyscrapers? Not Quite That Harsh.”)