"I'm All About That Oil, 'Bout That Oil….and Profits!"

When people debate over Keystone XL, the opponents argue it’s the dirtiest oil on the planet barrel-for-barrel, destroys the world’s largest boreal forest in Alberta in order to procure the bitumen, creates a huge environmental threat along the entire pipeline route, and is a clear move in the wrong direction when it comes to fighting global emissions. Proponents of Keystone XL talk about how much it will benefit the economy and the number of jobs it will create. Although both of those arguments for the pipeline are rather misleading—the bitumen will be exported and the permanent jobs will be very few—at least they try to fool everyone into thinking it’s a good thing.

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline has no such plans to mislead. Straight out, their plan is all about exporting oil so they can make money. It’s not a made-in-Canada energy solution at all. Up to 90 percent of Energy East’s oil would be exported unrefined as bitumen. All the arguments against Keystone XL still apply: dirtiest oil, destroying the boreal forest, environmental threat along its route, and contributing to worsening emissions. And just like Keystone XL, as an export pipeline it won’t create many permanent jobs or have lasting economic benefits to local communities along the route. The main difference here is that TransCanada isn’t even suggesting those benefits exist. In other words, they’re simply asking Canadians to allow this pipeline to be built so they can make lots of money, plain and simple.

If you live in Canada and would like to stand up against the Energy East pipeline, you can take action here: http://ow.ly/LQMol

President Obama's Translator Gets Angry

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner always offers a great opportunity for the President to have a little fun and poke some criticism at his opponents through humour at the same time. This year, President Obama managed to achieve this by bringing up his anger translator Luther, played by Keegan-Michael Key. The five-minute sketch is hilarious all the way through and I’d encourage you to watch it in its entirety, but I’ve keyed it up to the last two minutes where Obama’s translator gets angry about climate change. The ending is hilarious.

All I can say is it’s about time he said it!

March 2015 Was the Hottest Ever

Despite cooler temperatures in the eastern half of North America that continue, this was still the hottest March globally that we’ve ever recorded, making it also the hottest year to date ever. It’s far too early to predict for sure, but 2015 will beat 2014 for the all-time record if this trend continues. This is all according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s latest monthly report highlights some of the key findings:

    • March 2015 was the hottest March in their 135-year of keeping accurate records, beating “the previous record of 2010 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).”
    • January-to-March was the hottest first quarter of any year on record, beating “the previous record of 2002 by 0.09°F.”
    • Arctic sea ice hit its smallest March extent since satellite records began in 1979.

The human-caused global warming trend that made 2014 the hottest year on record is unfortunately continuing. So make no mistake: it’s becoming much more likely that 2015 will be the hottest year we’ve ever recorded. An El Niño year like the one we’re now in helps to break temperature records—that’s the main reason 1998 was such an outlier year—because the short-term El Niño effects are simply superimposed on the already present long-term global warming trend. NOAA predicts we have a 60 percent chance that the current El Niño our planet is experiencing will last all year long rather than just a few months. If so, don’t be surprised if 2015 doesn’t just beat the 2014 record.

It will smash it to pieces.

It's Earth Day—How About Earth Night?

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
Vincent Van Gogh

Thanks to NASA satellites, we’re able to see some of the world’s wonders for the first time during this generation. During the daytime, images of Earth are all land, water, and clouds. But the nighttime is something altogether different.

With all the bad things happening to our planet—increasing global emissions, droughts, floods, record-breaking temperatures—I wanted to find something a little more inspiring for today, but something that still shows what’s happening on our planet.

This video uses the Earth at night view created by NASA’s Earth Observatory with data processed by NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center and combined with a version of the Earth Observatory’s Blue Marble: Next Generation. It shows Earth at night completely free of cloud cover. Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (a joint program by NASA and NOAA) captured this nighttime image. Not only do these images depict city lights reflecting our tremendous energy use all over the planet (most of which is generated by the combustion of fossil fuels), it also shows gas flares related to obtaining those fossil fuels, and wildfires contributed to by global warming related to the combustion of those fossil fuels.

This video took 312 satellite orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of land surface.

I think it shows the beauty of Earth and what we have accomplished as a species, but also reminds us of what we need to change.

Neil deGrasse Tyson's New Talk Show Starts Tonight!

“We are trying to reach people who don’t know they like science, and people who know that they don’t like science. We are doing this through the use of three pillars: science, pop culture, and comedy.”
—Neil deGrasse Tyson

What will you be doing tonight at 11 p.m.? I suggest you watch my hero Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new show StarTalk. For astronomy geeks like me, Tyson has been well-known for many years, but he came into more mainstream prominence last year with his amazing reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series. Tonight marks the first episode of a new weekly science talk show on the National Geographic Channel. But it’s not just science: pop culture manages to make a significant presence in the show. You can expect a number of comedians to help keep things light.

Tyson is adapting his popular podcast into a talk show format but promises that by bringing pop culture into it, the science part will be easy to take for non-science viewers. For example, tonight’s episode has George Takei as his guest, and everybody loves the original helmsman of the Enterprise. Others you can look forward to later in the season include former President Jimmy Carter, director Christopher Nolan (the Batman trilogy), evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (sometimes referred to as “Darwin’s Rottweiler”), and my favourite astronaut Chris Hadfield (thanks again for recommending my book, Chris!).

I strongly recommend you watch this series, whether you’re scientifically minded or not. It will promise to be both enlightening and entertaining. And if one responsibility of a scientist is to help educate the masses about the current understanding of science in a way they can appreciate, then no one today is doing a better job of this than Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And just maybe this will help achieve our goal of tackling the problems our planet faces today, because without understanding there can be no real action.