GSB News and Notes: Unifi Sustainability Partnership with Pac-12 Will Get Air Time; Historic Sports Photos Help Document Climate Change; Chicken Pot Pie Rats Fall Short in Solar Car Race Challenge

We have a chock-full GSB News and Notes column to start your week.

  • Unifi, one of the world’s leading innovators in the manufacture of recycled performance fibers, recently became the Founding Sustainability Partner of Pac-12 Team Green. One important feature of the partnership is that sustainability-themed content will appear on the Pac-12 Networks. 

  • Footage of old cycling races and marathons is being used by researches to document climate change. 

  • And, in a follow up to a June GSB story, the Chicken Pot Pie Rats, a team of three brilliant eighth graders from a middle school in the San Diego area, were unable to win the school’s second straight Junior Solar Sprint (model car race) National Championship due to a technical issue with the solar panels atop their vehicle. 

 

UNIFI TO HELP PAC-12 NETWORKS #COVERGREENSPORTS 

This seemingly ordinary snippet in the Pac-12 Conference’s recent press release announcing its new sustainability partnership with Unifi caught my eye: “Unifi will…work with the Pac-12* and Pac-12 Networks on creating custom content and media assets to feature sustainability programs.”

A partner helping to improve recycling rates at a stadium or arena? That is ordinary in the Green-Sports world these days.

A partner funding sustainability-themed ads or public service announcements (PSAs) on Pac-12 Networks, with its 19 million subscribers^ — that is EXTRAORDINARY!

The announcement that Unifi∞ will help Pac-12 Networks #CoverGreenSports was light on details. A spokesman for the conference said plans for the sustainability content — subject matter, frequency, etc — will be developed over the next couple of months. The ads/PSAs will likely go live in late-September/early-October, as the Pac-12 football season moves into high gear.

 

Unifi Pac-12

Pac-12 and Unifi executives announce their Team Green partnership (Photo credit: Unifi)

 

Long-time readers know that GreenSportsBlog believes the Green-Sports world is transitioning from its 1.0 version (greening the games at the stadium, arena, road race, etc.) to its 2.0 iteration (reaching the far greater number of people who consume sports via TV, phone, internet with sustainability messaging).

Kudos to Unifi, Pac-12 Networks and the Pac-12 for demonstrating much-needed Green-Sports 2.0 leadership. When will more corporations and college and/or pro sports leagues follow Unifi and the Pac-12? Stay tuned.

 

FOOTAGE OF OLD SPORTS EVENTS HELPS SCIENTISTS TRACK CLIMATE CHANGE 

Here’s a new and welcome aspect of the Green-Sports world: Scientists using sports to document climate change.

Marlene Cimons, writing in the July 18th issue of Popular Sciencetells the story of how climate scientist and cycling fan Pieter De Frenne observed changes to the landscape while watching the Tour of Flanders over many years in his native Belgium.

“[De Frenne] noticed startling changes in the trees and shrubs framing many of the cobbled streets that have been part of the course for years,” reported Cimons. “The landscape had morphed from totally bare to lush with greenery.”

Sports events have, of course, been documented in photos, on film and on video for over a century. Cycling and marathons are ideal for documenting climate change: They’re often held at the same time every year, over the same courses.

That is the case with the one-day Tour of Flanders, which was first contested in 1913. The annual cycling road race always takes place on the first Sunday in April. De Frenne — a scientist in the forest and nature lab in Ghent University’s department of the environment — and his colleagues compared images of the same trees and plants on 12 hills along the route between 1980 and 2016.  They discovered that trees surrounding the course are budding earlier.

According to Andy Furniere in the July 23 issue of Flanders Today, “Before 1990, the trees rarely had leaves during the race. But after 1990, the trees – largely magnolia, hawthorn, hornbeam and birch – were full of leaves. The researchers said that the pictorial evidence suggests that the average temperature in these areas has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius since 1980.”

The impacts are significant: Trees getting their leaves earlier in the year lead to shadows being created for a longer period of time. Some flowers thus don’t get enough sun to bloom which negatively effects insects and birds.

 

Tour of Flanders

AFTER: The April 2018 Tour of Flanders in full flower (Photo credit: Tim DeWaale/Visit Flanders)

 

1990 Tour of Flanders

BEFORE: The April, 1990 Tour of Flanders. Trees are much less lush than in the 2018 edition, which reflects the cooler temperatures of that time (Photo credit: Graham Watson)

 

De Frenne told Cimons that the historical visual documentation of sports events like Tour of Flanders, “can be an invaluable, still underexploited resource for climate change research and other types of biological research.”

 

 

CHICKEN POT PIE RATS START STRONG, FALL VICTIM TO SOLAR PANEL FAILURE AT JUNIOR SOLAR SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIPS

Last month, GreenSportsBlog featured the story of the Chicken Pot Pie Rats, a team of three eighth graders from the Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine, CA — about 30 miles east of San Diego — who race model cars powered by small solar panels atop the roofs. The team sought to defend the school’s 2017 Junior Solar Sprint National Championship at the 2018 finals in Atlanta against over 100 teams from all over the United States.

Here’s a report on how the Pie Rats made out from team member Ronan Eddie, his dad Patrick and team volunteer Chris Loarie:

“The Pie Rats recorded the fastest time in the preliminary time trials…and were the number one seed going into the 16-team finals. Before the finals started, we put the car out in the sun and tried to run it and it was not functioning like it normally would — definitely not like it was during local trials and the national time trials in Atlanta. We ran a test with a voltmeter to look at the voltage output and it gave its full voltage. The symptoms of the car’s sluggishness pointed to a problem in the solar panel sill or possibly a problem with the motor.”

“When we were walking back to the classroom after field testing, the light hit the panel just right and we noticed a fine scratch on the cover of the panel. Close inspection revealed that the plastic cover was not scratched. Rather, the actual wafer under the plastic protective cover had a crack in it and that caused the circuit to fail.

“It is a bit hard to swallow that the car made it through many local races and track testing, made a cross country trip in a special plastic box that was put into a foam protective carrying case, and made it through the time trials and recorded an unbelievable time.  Then it was turned over to the race officials for overnight storage and when it was returned, it would not function.”

To be clear, Loarie does not want to imply there was malicious intent on the part of the event organizers. He surmises the damage to the panel was the result of an unfortunate accident.

Despite the disappointment, Loarie sees the bright side: “We know we are creating dominant designs and will use this experience to educate future [Joan MacQueen Middle School] teams.”

 

Chicken Pot Pie Rats 1

Members of the Chicken Pot Pie Rats (from left to right) Josh Handley, Chase Kingston, and Ronan Eddie, along with Josh’s and Ronan’s dads at the 2018 Junior National Sprint Championships in Atlanta (Photo credit: Chicken Pot Pie Rats)

 

 

* The Pac-12 is one of the leading collegiate sports conferences (leagues) in the USA. Its member schools are Arizona, Arizona State, Cal-Berkeley, Colorado-Boulder, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
^ Pac-12 Networks subscriber data per SNL Kagan, 2018
∞ Unifi, through its REPREVE® brand, has transformed more than 12 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new apparel, footwear, and more

 


 

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Renowned Climate Scientist Michael Mann On The 20th Anniversary of Publication of “Hockey Stick” Graph in Nature Magazine; Reprise of our GreenSportsBlog Interview

This is a big week for environmental anniversaries.

Earth Day #49 takes place on Sunday, and this week marks the 20th anniversary of the publication by Dr. Michael E. Mann (et. al.) of the “Hockey Stick” graph that clearly showed a dramatic spike in earth’s temperature since the Industrial Revolution.

Dr. Mann is director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and a worthy, fact-based fighter against the climate change denialism and fiction practiced by many in the Republican leadership in Congress. 

But it is that connection to sports; the metaphorical “hockey stick,” that drew GreenSportsBlog to Dr. Mann. We interviewed him in August, 2016 for our “Sustainability Leaders On Green-Sports” series and are pleased to re-run it here.

Wait a second.

Before you read our GSB interview with Dr. Michael E. Mann from 2016, I urge you to click here so you can link to “Earth Day and the Hockey Stick: A Singular Message,” Dr. Mann’s powerful reflection on his 20 years in the cross-hairs of the fossil fuel industry and the politicians who do their bidding. The article appeared in today’s Scientific American blog.

Did you read it? What do you think?

I think that the piece shows that humanity is the big winner twenty years after Dr. Mann wrote the “hockey stick” article.

You see, thanks in large part to that hockey analogy, Dr. Mann was thrust by climate deniers into a role — climate change scientist-as-target — that he was at first unprepared for but has since embraced in gung-ho fashion. To continue with the hockey metaphor, let’s hope that Dr. Mann’s ability — as well the talents of his colleagues — to advance the climate science “puck,” all the while taking constant body checks from goons like climate change denying senators like James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), will lead to goals (carbon pricing and more) galore and wins (far fewer deniers in positions of power) galore. Perhaps the referees (aka the voters) will eject Senator Cruz come November. What about Senator Inhofe, you ask? His seat is not up this year.

OK, now here is our August 2016 interview with Dr. Michael E. Mann. Enjoy and have a Happy Earth Day!

 

Freestyle Photo Getty Images

Photo credit: Freestylephoto/Getty Images

 

GreenSportsBlog: “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar®-winning documentary film was highlighted by your temperature hockey stick!! That is so cool! We will get to hockey sticks and Congress’ attempt to put you in the climate change penalty box in a bit. Before doing so, I guess I’d like to know how you came to climate science.

Dr. Michael Mann: I came to it circuitously. Growing up in Amherst, MA, while I did like sports—I ran cross country, played basketball, loved the Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Tiny Archibald Celtics—I was really your basic math nerd, hanging out on Friday nights with other math/computer nerd friends.

GSB: Sounds like a blast!

MM: Oh, you have no idea! I come from a math family—my dad was a math professor at UMass in Amherst…

GSB: …The Minutemen!

MM: …Indeed. And then I went to UC Berkeley and studied applied math and physics.

GSB: What is applied math anyway?

MM: It’s geared towards solving real world problems rather than theoretical ones. Then I went to Yale for graduate school to study physics. But, mid-degree, I wasn’t excited about the problems I was being given to solve. So I looked at Yale’s catalogue of scientific research to see where I could use what I had learned to work on a big problem with real world significance. And I found geology and geophysics, which uses math and physics to model the earth’s climate. This was very interesting to me.

GSB: Which is a very good thing for climate science!

MM: So for my post-doc, I went back home to Amherst, to UMass…

GSB: Did you live at home with the folks?

MM: In fact, yes, I did, I lived in an attic apartment in the house. It worked out quite well, actually. And it was there that my interest got piqued in climate change. We worked to use paleo-climate data to extend the climate record, which, at the time, extended to only a century of thermometer-based information.

GSB: Is that where you looked at tree rings?

MM: Exactly! We used tree rings and coral records and other so-called “proxy” data; natural archives that record past climate conditions, to extend back in time our knowledge of global temperature changes. By 1998 we we were able to go back 600 years; by the next year, we were able to extend the record back in time 1,000 years, a millennium.

GSB: And what did you find?

MM: That the earth’s temperature rise since the onset of the Industrial Revolution was unprecedented, as far back as we could go. I was the lead author of the article in Naturepublished on Earth Day—April 22, 1998—that introduced the “hockey stick” curve and demonstrated the unprecedented nature of the recent temperature spike.

 

Hockey Stick

The temperature “Hockey Stick,” resulting from the research of Dr. Michael Mann and colleagues. (Credit: Dr. Michael Mann)

 

GSB: Did your research also include data going back hundreds of thousands of years on atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

MM: The CO2 records, collected from ice core samples, already existed. What was new from our work was the temperature data. And of course it showed a remarkable synchronicity with the already existing CO2 information. It showed that temperatures rose when CO2 in the atmosphere rose. What’s most worrying now is, that CO2 levels are off the charts and temperatures are still in the process of rising in response.

Mann Iceland Glacier

Dr. Michael E. Mann at the edge of a melting Iceland glacier in May, 2016. (Photo credit: Dr. Michael E. Mann)

 

GSB: Believe me, I’m well aware of that from seeing the hockey stick in “An Inconvenient Truth,” and from being a volunteer Climate Reality Leader—I, along with thousands of other everyday citizens from all over the world, have been trained by Al Gore and his staff to give the slide show that was at the heart of his Academy Award® winning documentary to community groups in their own neighborhoods. The “hockey stick” played a key role in the slide show to be sure. Speaking of the “hockey stick,” did you come up with it yourself?

MM: Actually, the hockey stick term was coined by a colleague at Princeton who’s no longer with us by the name of Jerry Mahlman. Because sports analogies and metaphors are so powerful, this framing seems to have clicked with the public, but I have been surprised how strong the click has been. I think the imagery is particularly powerful in Canada—no surprise there. Basically, the “hockey stick” became shorthand that conveys the severity of human-caused climate change.

GSB: Staying with the sports metaphor, you’ve also used the term “climate on steroids” which is, of course, a nod to the link between increased home run totals in Major League Baseball during the 90s-early 2000s and the prevalence of steroid usage during that time…

MM: Yes. Sometimes people ask the wrong questions when it comes to climate change—for example, was hurricane Katrina caused by climate change? That’s like asking whether the 68th home run hit by Barry Bonds in 2001 was caused by steroids. We can never answer that question. But we can conclude that collectively, many of his home runs were due to the steroid use, just as we can conclude that the increased occurrence of devastating hurricanes is due to human-caused climate change.

GSB: And couldn’t you also say Barry Bonds would hit the ball that turned out to be his 68th home run no matter what. But, due to steroids, some portion of that ball’s journey was enhanced by steroids use.

MM: Exactly! And, listen, I also want to bring football into the discussion. Not long ago I saw the movie “Concussion.” It is the perfect analogue to climate change denial.

GSB: How so?

MM: Well, the NFL’s denial of the link between pro football-related concussions and brain related diseases like CTE^ despite knowing the science says the opposite is analogous to the fossil fuel industry denying the reality and seriousness of climate change even though it knows full well the solid science behind it.

GSB:  You can add that certain members of Congress, funded by the fossil fuel industry to spout climate change denial, are like refs paid by gamblers to fix games.

MM: Of course. Look, I’m a scientist and a communicator. You cannot be an effective communicator without recognizing the power of sports—it’s so engrained in our culture—it would be a lost opportunity if you didn’t use sports analogies and metaphors to drive home your points.

GSB: You’ll get no argument from me there. Now, back to “Concussion”: In the movie, Will Smith played Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-American pathologist who discovered the link between concussions and CTE and who thus had to face the wrath and weight of the NFL. Since you have been grilled by hostile members of Congress—as detailed in your 2012 book from Columbia University Press, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” and your research and funding has been challenged by them, are you kind of like the Omalu of climate change in the USA?

 

Mann Hockey Stick

 

MM: I’ll take that comparison any day. And, while it’s certainly not fun to have your work demeaned, challenged and picked at in public, I can handle it. You see I want the ball at the free throw line, down one point, with two foul shots and no time on the clock. Because the climate change fight is one game we have to win and I want to be a part of winning it.

GSB: Somehow I see you making those free throws!

^ CTE = Chronic Traumatic Encephalothapy

 


 

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