Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss record levels of smog that are forcing the closure of schools and businesses in Northeast China, and heavy-handed tactics by Russia toward its former Soviet neighbors.
University of Oklahoma historian Kyle Harper joins the program to talk about how smallpox and the bubonic plague contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. His latest project focuses on the effects of disease and climate change on the history of civilization.
Listen to Suzette Grillot's conversation with historian Kyle Harper.
University of Oklahoma historian Kyle Harper says there have been thousands of answers to what caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Overexpansion, economics, and the rise of Christianity are all valid explanations, but he’s exploring the role of disease and climate change.
“When we look back at the Roman Empire now, we can see that changes in the Romans' environment, both the climate, but also the kind of species that live in and around humans, especially pathogens, play an enormous role in the collapse,” Harper says.
Now-retired Col. Michael Teague commanded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District, which includes Lake Eufaula, a lake that illustrates the delicate balance of different water needs in Oklahoma.
Traditionally, Oklahoma’s governor has relied on advice from separate officials representing energy and the environment.
But in July, Gov. Mary Fallin moved to combine the two offices into one. “Strong energy policy is strong environmental policy,” Fallin said in a statement accompanying an executive order creating the new Secretary of Energy and Environment cabinet secretary post.
The effects of climate change often happen on a large scale, like drought or a rise in sea level. In the hills outside Missoula, Mont., wildlife biologists are looking at a change to something very small: the snowshoe hare.
Life as snowshoe hare is pretty stressful. For one, almost everything in the forest wants to eat you.
Alex Kumar, a graduate student at the University of Montana, lists the animals that are hungry for hares.
"Lynx, foxes, coyotes, raptors, birds of prey. Interestingly enough, young hares, their main predator is actually red squirrels."
Credit Jean-Erick Pasquier / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Plants accumulate carbon in the spring and summer, and they release it back into the atmosphere in the fall in winter. And a change in the landscape of the Arctic tundra, seen here, means that shrubs hold onto snow better, which keeps the organic-rich soils warmer and more likely to release carbon dioxide that's stored there.
Credit Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center
This chart shows the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide as measured from Point Barrow, Alaska, from 1974 to 2007. Not only has the general trend ticked upward, but the size of the seasonal swings (the "saw tooth" pattern) has increased year to year.
Plant life on our planet soaks up a fair amount of the carbon dioxide that pours out of our tailpipes and smokestacks. Plants take it up during the summer and return some of it to the air in the winter. And a new study shows that those "breaths" have gotten deeper over the past 50 years.
This isn't just a curiosity. Plant life is helping to reduce the speed at which carbon dioxide is building up in our atmosphere. That's slowing the global warming, at least marginally, so scientists are eager to understand how this process works. The new study provides some clues.