Science Debate 2008, Congressional scientists, and more holiday fun

I had a few days of spotty internet and blog account access, so I'm reposting some items that were originally in the comments section of some older entries.

First up, some exciting news about ScienceDebate 2008, courtesy of Chris and Sheril at The Intersection: the steering committee is now co-chaired by Vern Ehlers and Rush Holt, on Republican and one Democrat from the House, both with PhDs in physics. There is more fun at the hotlinked Intersection post above.

Second, I've continued to update my list of Congresspeople that have a background in science, technology, and engineering. The list is still pretty paltry, so please help me add to it if possible!


Gifts for friends, family, and the planet

This year, I'm cutting back on the number of store-bought treasures that I'm handing out. After all, I certainly don't need more stuff, and I figure that most of my friends and family don't need it, either. So instead of baubles and lotions and other knick-knacks, I'm giving gifts to help...
Looking for other places that you can make donations in honor of friends and family? Check out these...


Republicans talk climate change (maybe) - and a call for real science debate

At their last debate before the Iowa caucuses today, CNN reports that there was some discussion of climate change:

When asked to raise their hands if they believed global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson said he wasn't "doing hand shows today."

Other candidates agreed. Thompson asked if he could answer the question instead, but was told no.

Arizona Sen. John McCain said he knows "climate change is real."

"I've been involved in this issue since the year 2000. I have had hearings. I've traveled the world," he said. "It's real, we've got to address it, we can do it with technology ... with capitalist and free enterprise motivation. And I'm confident that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren a cleaner, better world."

One of the questioners, former Ambassador Alan Keyes, said, "I'm in favor of reducing global warming, because I think the most important emission we need to control is the hot air emission of politicians who pretend one thing and don't deliver."

Given the light treatment this and other science-related issues have received in recent debates, it is painfully obvious that there is a need for a debate devoted specifically to science. Which is a perfect introduction to a project that one of my fellow former Knauss fellows is working on: a call for a Presidential science debate. Sheril and her co-conspirators have cooked up quite a plan and discussion in the blogosphere is already whirling. Check out Sciencedebate2008 for all the information.


Speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize...

Yesterday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore split the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change. While the text of Gore's speech is widely available, I had less luck finding the full remarks of R. K. Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC. So, I went straight to the source - Nobelprize.org - and got the text of both speeches. You can also get the text in Norwegian and see videos. Click below for the direct links:

R.K. Pachauri, for the IPCC
Al Gore


The 50th Anniversary of the Global Carbon Dioxide Record

Who can say no to a trip to Hawaii - especially when it is to celebrate one of my favorite scientific records? That's right - the global carbon dioxide record, aka the "Keeling Curve" turned 50 this year. At the end of November, I traveled to Kona, HI for a special celebration of this record. Presentations during the three-day symposium included talks by Susan Solomon, Ralph Keeling, Robert Socolow, Julio Friedman, and many others (most conveniently archived at the conference website). The conference was excellent, bringing together scientists, industry folks, Congressional staffers, and many others to discuss the importance of the record as well as where to go from here with emissions controls, carbon capture, and other options for mitigation and adaptation.

After the talks were over, many of the participants stayed on an extra day to visit NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory, where Dave Keeling started keeping track of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere 50 years ago. Despite a slight headache brought on by traveling from sea level to 11,000+ ft in the space of just a few hours, it was very exciting to see the observatory - and to get out of Kona and see some of the rest of the Big Island!

Which members of Congress have science backgrounds?

Having recently trawled the Internet to find an answer to this question, instead I found hardly any answer at all. So I'm asking for some help...If you know of a Representative or Senator with a background in science, engineering, math, or another related field, please add to the rather meager list I have so far assembled. So far I have all PhDs - but I'm willing to take any degree, college or higher. I'll keep updating this list as I find more Congresspeople with science training.

Rush Holt (NJ-12th), PhD in physics (also a 5 time Jeopardy winner, assistant director of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, etc.)
Jerry McNerny (CA-11th), PhD in Mathematics
Bill Nelson (FL-Senator), Mission Specialist on Space Shuttle Columbia (January 1986) [does anyone have further information about his educational background?]
John Olver (MA-1st), PhD in Chemistry

Vernon Ehlers (MI-3rd), PhD in Nuclear Physics
Ron Paul (TX-14th), MD specializing in OB/GYN - bonus point for being a Presidential candidate