Thursday, August 17, 2006

2006 Climate Philosophy Conference

Here is the program for the 1st International Conference on Climate & Philosophy at the University of South Florida, September 14-16.

Thanks are owed to the many volunteers for their effort, time, and resources, particularly to the staff of USF Philosophy, the Philosophy Graduate Student Organization (PGSO), and the Society for Classical Pragmatism Studies (SCPS). We expect a large turnout of faculty, students, and the public.

To avoid legal constraints that would otherwise be imposed on us by the university, no registration fee will be charged. Climate change is a sensitive topic in the US, and academic freedom should be top priority. We are proud to rely only on departmental funds. The conference is not sponsored by any corporate or governmental entity.

The conference meets in the Grand Ballroom and two adjacent rooms in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, University of South Florida main campus, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa FL 33620. For directions and accommodations please see below. Session length is 45 minutes (30 min presentation, 15 min discussion).

Thursday, September 14
9:30-10:15: Robin Attfield (University of Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom): "Mediated Responsibilities, Global Warming, and the Scope of Ethics"
10:15-11:00: Thomas Heyd (Univ. of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada/Univ. of La Laguna, Spain): "Responding to Rapid Natural Changes and the Role of Culture"
11:15-12:00: Toby Howe (University of West Florida, Pensacola): "Chrono-Climatology: Temporal Factors and their Anthropogenic Features"
1:30-2:15: Ruth Irwin (University of Auckland, New Zealand): "Climate Change, Hurricane Katrina, and Heidegger on Technological Enframing"
2:15-3:00: Bruce Morito (Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada): "The Ethics of Climate Change -- an Empirical Approach to Moral Concern"
3:15-4:00: Nancy Tuana (Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania): "Contributions of Philosophy to the Global Science and Policy of Climate Change"
4:00-4:45: Rupert Read (University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom): "Climate Change and the Unsustainability of Rawls' Difference Principle"
7:00 reception and dinner (contact Nancy Keen, Office Manager, USF Philosophy, 813-974-5698 or

Friday, September 15
9:30-10:15: Roger Ariew (USF): "Descartes, Leibniz, and the Heresy of Global Science"
10:15-11:00: Martin Schönfeld (USF): "Kant on Climate -- Natural Dynamics and Sustainable Policies"
11:15-12:00: Ronnie Hawkins (University of Central Florida, Orlando): "Biocentrism -- A Conceptual Framework for Addressing Global Climate Change"
1:30-2:15: Denise Kleinrichert (USF): "Climate, Community, and Cultivation -- Implications of Reciprocity"
2:15-3:00: Alex Levine (USF): "Representing the World -- Climate and Weltgeist"
3:15-4:00: Joanne Waugh (USF): "Let's talk about Culture, not Climate Change"
4:00-4:45: Kwasi Wiredu (USF): "African Ontology and the Concepts of Climate" 

Saturday, September 16
9:30-10:15: Ivan Marquez (Bentley College, Boston) "Truitt's Marxist Ethics and Climate Change"
10:15-11:00: Robert Litke (Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) "Climate Change  and the Grammar of Sustainability"
11:15-12:00: Michael Brannigan (Center of Bioethics, Kansas City): "Watsuji's Philosophy of Climate Applied"

1:30-2:30: Think Tank Panel I: Climate & Philosophy -- Theory
Panelists: Kevin Aho (Florida Gulf Coast University)  West Gurley (USF) Denise Kleinrichert (USF) Melinda Rosenberg (University of North Florida) Martin Schönfeld (USF)

2:45-3:45: Think Tank Panel II: Climate & Philosophy -- Practice 
Panelists: Sidney Axinn (USF/Temple University) Steve Geisz (University of Tampa) Martin Schönfeld (USF) Roy Weatherford  (USF) and, representing skeptical dissent, Brook Sadler (USF)

4:00-5:00: Think Tank Panel III: Climate & Philosophy -- Teaching 
 Panelists: Philip Bishop (USF) West Gurley (USF) José Haro (USF) Christopher Kirby (USF) Martin Schönfeld (USF)

Thursday-Saturday Poster Sessions
"Questioning the Earth's Value: A Proposal for a Carbon Sink Industry" Michael Eldred, University of Cologne, Germany
"Reconnecting Socially Constructed and Physical-Biological Realities"
Ronnie Hawkins, University of Central Florida, Orlando  

 The University of South Florida is located at the northeastern edge of Tampa Bay about 20 minutes from Tampa International Airport. Coming from I-75, take the Fowler exit and head west; the campus is on the right side. Coming from I-275, take the Fowler exit and head east; the campus is on the left side. The Phyllis B. Marshall Center is at the very center of campus. The university can be reached by car, but in line with Florida's fossil politics, there are naturally no trains and only surreal bus services. The campus, however, has a shuttle service, many parking lots, and nice walk ways.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

climate data spring 2006


On Feb 3, Science (v. 311, p. 592) reported a meeting at the request of UK’s Tony Blair and warned “of catastrophic consequences if steps are not taken now to mitigate global warming.”

On Feb 7, the National Climatic Data Center announced that January 2006 was America’s warmest January on record. “The country’s average temperature for the month was 39.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 8.5 degrees above average for January … the old record for January warmth was 37.3 degrees set in 1953.”

On Feb 10, The Independent reported “World at its Warmest for a Millennium”. Read the article.

On Feb 11, Der Spiegel reported on weather chaos in Bavaria with its Guinness Book of World Record snowfalls. Snow piled up so high on roofs that it threatened to crush houses. Pics are here: (click on the first image to open the album).

If such freak weather continues in Germany, expect anti-Americanism to worsen – the planet knows who perpetrates climate change.

Also on Feb 11, The Independent ran an editorial titled “Global warming: passing the ‘tipping point’” by M. McCarthy. The first sentence says, “A crucial global warming ‘tipping point’ for the Earth, highlighted only last week by the British government, has already been passed, with devastating consequences.” Read here.

On Feb 13, CNN reported, “more than 20 inches of snow blanketed some spots from Maryland to New England. In Central Park in New York, a record 26.9 inches of snow piled up Sunday, breaking the mark of 26.4 inches in December 1947, the National Weather Service said.” Confused? How does global warming cause hotter and colder weather extremes? Then please read “Global Warming in 90 Seconds” on my website.

On Feb 14, Der Spiegel reported that the “Snows of Kilimanjaro” are melting currently faster than previously measured. A 2002 prediction (L. Thompson, Ohio State U, in Science) claimed that Africa’s highest mountain will be ice-free by 2015 or 2020. Thompson did a follow-study at the glaciers there, retracted his previous prediction, and now expects Kilimanjaro to be snow-free sooner than first thought. See before and after pics.

On Feb 17, E. Rignot and P. Kanagaratnam reported “Changes in the Velocity Structure of the Greenland Ice Sheet” to Science (v. 311, p. 986-990). The editorial summary (“This Week in Science) says:

“A comparison of their results to past data shows that there has been a widespread acceleration of ice flow since 1996; that mass loss has doubled in that time, and that ice dynamics, which are particularly dependent on warming, dominates the rapid retreat of Greenland’s glaciers.”

The authors presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in St Louis, Missouri. P. Rincon from BBC reported Feb 16 about the result and sums up:

“It was thought the entire Greenland ice sheet could melt in about 1,000 years, but the latest evidence suggests that could happen much sooner. It implies that sea levels will rise a great deal faster as well … the comprehensive analysis found that the amount of ice dumped into the Atlantic Ocean has doubled in the last five years. If the Greenland ice sheet melted completely, it would raise global sea levels by about 7 meters. Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise today is two to three times greater than it was in 1996.”

The authors told BBC:

“We are concerned because we know that sea levels have been able to rise much faster [than] in the past – ten times faster. This is a big gorilla. If sea level rise is multiplied by 10 or more, I’m not sure we can deal with that.”

On Feb 24, another news blurb from Science, on a paleontology find about sea floor temperatures in the Cretaceous, boils down to that “climate modelers are underestimating the link between carbon dioxide and warming.” (Science 311 p. 1095)

Postmodern relativists, neocons, and evangelicals can debate this all day long, but the fact is the more CO2 you produce the more you pump up climate dynamics.

On Mar 1, R. Harrabin from BBC reported on a new consensus on climate change. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IGPCC) had previously said that gases such as CO2 were ‘probably’ to blame,” Harrabin writes. But now “the global scientific body on climate change will report soon that only greenhouse gas emissions can explain freak weather patterns.” The background to this report is that the IGPCC is working on a new report, scheduled for release in 2007, whose draft will be sent to world governments next month -- more bad news for the USA.

On Mar 11, A. Fuchs, a naturalist and explorer, was interviewed by Der Spiegel. The title of the story, translated, is “Arctic ice is melting off at dramatic speed”. video and pics here.

Also on Mar 11 in Der Spiegel, is a report on research by the Alfred Wegener Institute on the pollution now reaching Spitsbergen at the 79th parallel. Before & after pics here.

On Mar 12, Der Spiegel’s Spitsbergen story was picked up by The Observer: “Pollution soaring to crisis levels in the Arctic”. The piece begins: “Researchers have uncovered compelling evidence that indicates Earth’s most vulnerable regions – the North and South Poles – are poised on the brink of a climatic disaster. The scientists, at an atmospheric monitoring station in the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, have found that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere near the North Pole are now rising at an unprecedented pace.”

On Mar 24, The Toronto Star reported “Ice caps melting faster than forecast.” The header of the article says: “’It’s not a gradual change. It’s like flipping a switch,’ researcher says. New reports warn of sea levels rising up to 5 meters, extensive flooding.” The article is by P. Calamai. Shawn Marshall, of U Calgary, is quoted as “The melting is going to happen faster than we thought. It’s already begun to happen. We could be past the point of no return for Greenland this century.”

On Mar 27, SourceWatch—A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy posted a useful entry on Exxon Mobil, in Wikipedia style, that lists the US research institutions funded by Exxon Mobil by name and by donation amount. Check it out here.

Also in March (no exact date given), the Pew Center released a nice summary of recent scientific research on global warming, compiled by Jay Gulledge. The first sentence says: “In the past two years the science attributing global warming to human enhancement of the greenhouse effect has progressed dramatically.” The last sentence says: “So not only do we see species extinctions as a result of human-induced climate change, but also the migration of disease-causing organisms to new habitats.” In between are specific facts and useful links. The summary (a PDF file) is here.

On Apr 5, freak weather, with “hail as big as ping-pong balls,” was reported in Israel.

On Apr 7, BBC reported that “Reduced air pollution and increased water evaporation appear to be adding to man-made global warming,” citing research by M. Wild from IACETH Zurich presented at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna.

On Apr 23, wire reports announced that typhoon Monica near Australia broke all known records of pressure systems.

On May 3, G. Vecchi et al. published “Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing” in Nature 441 (p. 73-76). M. Ritter at AP (May 3), sums it up as follows: “An important wind circulation pattern over the Pacific Ocean has begun to weaken because of global warming caused by human activity, something that could alter climate and the marine food chain in the region.” M. Hopkin, at Nature, puts it this way: “Global warming weakens Pacific winds: dwindling circulation could worsen El Nino effect”. The news summary starts with the paragraph: “Climate change is weakening a vast system of circulating winds that traverses the Pacific Ocean from coast to coast, say climate experts. Global warming has caused the system, which is crucial for monsoon rains in Southeast Asia and fisheries in South America, to decline since the advent of industrial times. The system, known as the Walker circulation, has weakened by more than 3% since the mid-nineteenth century … The cause, they say, is greenhouse gases. And with emissions still climbing, Pacific winds could potentially decline by more than 10% by the end of the century, they predict.” Read more.

On May 17, Reuters reported that “China evacuated more than 600,000 people as the strongest typhoon on record to enter the South China Sea in May bore down on the south coast on Wednesday.” Read more here.

Are you unclear on typhoons, hurricanes, tropical cyclones? Go to the FAQ site of the Atlantic, Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

On May 18, Der Spiegel reported on the misinformation in USA. The title of the article, translated, runs, “They call it pollution, but we call it life.” The header says: “In ads whose absurdity is hard to beat, the US energy lobby asks American citizens: ‘how would the world be like without carbon dioxide?’ The ads target Al Gore’s climate change documentary. The content of the ads are at the cutting edge of dumbing down the American people.” (Read here.)

On May 22, AP reported that “Hurricane Season Won’t Match ‘05” citing M. Mayfield from the National Hurricane Center. The predicted hurricane activity 2006 will remain below the peak recorded 2005.

On May 24, D. Attenborough published an essay in the Independent, which ends on a Kantian note:

“I’m 80 now. It's not that I think, like any old man, that change is wrong. I recognize that the world has always changed. I know that. But the point is, it's changing more extremely and swiftly than at any time in the past several million years. And one of the things I don't want to do is to look at my grandchildren and hear them say: "Grandfather, you knew it was happening - and you did nothing."

That’s the Categorical Imperative in action.

Kant couldn’t have said it better.

On May 25, R. Heinberg published “Energy Geopolitics 2006” at the online Energy Bulletin. It’s an essay contrasting the illiteracy of the Bush/Cheney junta in America with the cleverness of Putin’s rule in Russia. Heinberg writes:

“When Washington succeeded in engineering the economic and political collapse of the USSR at the end of the 1980s, some heralded this as the ‘end of history’—a judgment that proved premature at best. After a decade of turmoil, during which foreign (mostly American) companies plundered Russia’s treasures, that nation elected as president Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB officer who, as a career move, had recently spent a stint at the St. Petersburg Mining Institute writing a dissertation titled ‘Toward a Russian Transnational Energy Company.’ His thesis: Russia should use its vast energy reserves for geostrategic advantage."
(Read more here.)

Also on May 25, the NGO Christian Aid released a report that is summed up in the headline of the British Independent: “West’s Failure over Climate Change ‘Will Kill 182 Million People in Africa’”. The content of the report is supported by John Houghton, former chair of the scientific assessment working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IGPCC). Read the story here.

On May 31, Der Spiegel reported on a “Nasty Surprise in the Arctic Drill Core,” being that “researchers have found further evidence that CO2 heats the global atmosphere far greater than thought.”


BBC News created a nice website with climate change information and policy links.

Oxford University is performing an experiment relying on volunteer computation power. If you want to donate spare PC time, here’s what to do.

Yahoo News has a continuously updated news archive about global warming.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Wilma" 2005 & "Monica" 2006


Here's Monica. Current info (4/23/06) describes the monster offshore Australia's north coast as "strong category 5"; "much stronger than 1974's Tracy, the benchmark storm for the area," with gusts near the center at 350 km/h.

Storm intensity depends on central pressure, quantified in hectoPascals (hP) in the metric world, and in millibar (mb) in quaint overseas colonies. Nasty weathers are low pressure systems. Really nasty weather has really low pressure. The lowest ever recorded was 882 mb of Wilma in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

Until today, that is. Monica measures at 879 mb.

The Monika-Puzzle:

In 2005 all meteorological records came crashing down.

The Atlantic hurricane season started weeks earlier and ended a month later than normal; a record 28 storms formed; a record 15 hurricanes formed; 2 hurricanes spun all the way from Florida over to Portugal and the Canary Islands; the US weather service ran out of alphabet names and switched over to Greek letters.

And I don't even mention the 2005 weather madness in China, Japan, and Taiwan.

Natural dynamics plays out in waves, and any crest is followed by a trough. So you'd think that 2006 should be a breather since 2005 was a peak, and that a higher crest would follow 2007. So why Monica's 879 mb now? Does it have anything to do with the fact that the 2005 extremes unfolded in the northern hemisphere, and that it is now the turn of the points south of the equator?

The Wilma-Puzzle:

Kepler discovered the law of light radiation (photometric measurement), Newton applied it to gravitation, and Kant generalized it to free field radiation.

The idea is well known: As distance from a power point increases, the force expanding into inflating activity-bubbles weakens.

Since the surface area of a bubble increases as the square of its radius, force falls off as the inverse square of distance in three dimensions. Which means it falls off sharply. And that means one shouldn't sense the field beyond rather short limits.

Wilma broke the 2005 power-record with 882 mb offshore Yucatan before noon October 19. Yucatan is quite a ways from Tampa. At noon, I was bicycling to campus. It was hot and muggy but nothing out of the ordinary. But when leaving the classroom at 3:15 EST, I felt like being struck by a hammer. The pressure was the weirdest thing. I ran into Kwasi Wiredu; neither of us could make sense of this. Later that afternoon there was mock-hurricane weather over campus -- blue sky and sunshine alternating every 20 minutes with dark clouds and gusts. But Wilma was far away!

How can one feel weird pressure in Florida when the pressure is weird in Mexico?


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

climate philosophy think tank


I received an overwhelmingly positive response to the announcement of the think tank.

Thank you all!

USF Philosophy is now looking at ways of accommodating the many requests for participation. Since the responses are coming from all over the world, this raises the question of how distant philosophers and experts can be involved. Rupert Read and his colleagues at the University of East Anglia, UK, suggested we should look into virtual participation via videoconferencing. After all, it's a bit paradoxical to fly long-distance to a climate conference!

We are planning with minimal resources and no funding. There is no administrative enthusiasm for green ideas in Florida. The USF Department of Environmental Science & Policy will be dissolved after the end of this term. But that's another story.

The announcement follows.


A conference on “Climate & Philosophy” will be held at the University of South Florida, Tampa, USA, on 15-16 September 2006. The conference is organized by USF Philosophy and aims to be a think tank on the meaning of climate change.

The panel on practical philosophy will discuss the sociopolitical, cultural, ethical, and existential issues of climate change.

The panel on theoretical philosophy will discuss the formal, epistemological, and ontological features of climate change.

The panel on pedagogy and didactics will discuss strategies for integrating climate change in the general philosophical curriculum.Various speakers will talk on first-order and second-order aspects of climate change (individual paper topics TBA).

We will be examining the heuristic potential of European, Asian, and African thinkers, such as Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Zhuangzi, Laozi, Xunzi, Watsuji, or Fanon, for meeting the conceptual challenge posed by the accelerating global warming and the impending climate crash.

Many of us in USF Philosophy think that the unfolding events of the human-nature interplay highlight the potential of thinkers that are marginalized or at best ‘problematized’ in the academy.

Analytic and postmodern mainstreams have retreated to skepticism and have dismissed systematic explorations of deeper questions of being and nature; English-language philosophy is now largely concerned with second-order inquiries.

We feel it's time to bring creative, critical, and synthetic approaches back into the fray. We believe climate change requires a rational and holistic response by scientists, scholars, and philosophers alike.

We hope that other universities can follow our lead.

Martin Schönfeld,PhD "The Mad Hun"
Philosophy FAO 248
University of South Florida
Tampa FL 33620 USA


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

be worried


Polar Caps Melting Faster Than Ever...

More And More Land Devastated By Drought...

Rising Waters Drowning Low-Lying Communities...

By Any Measure, Earth Is At The Tipping Point

by Jeffrey Kluger

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Climate Blog launched



"Learn to swim. Learn to swim."

(photo -- minus water wings - thanks to NOAA's Kathy Crane, Arctic Research Office.)