Quirks & Quarks

IPCC: You're Getting Warmer * Handful of Asian Carp Could Overwhelm Great Lakes * Cheetah's Savvy Hunting Strategy * Population Countdown

The world's population has exploded in the last century, and it seems like our planet is bursting at the seams.  We speak to the author of a new book on tough questions like just how many people can our planet hold, and how we reverse the population trend.  Also today, we'll hear how few Asian carp it would take for the invasive...
The world's population has exploded in the last century, and it seems like our planet is bursting at the seams.  We speak to the author of a new book on tough questions like just how many people can our planet hold, and how we reverse the population trend.  Also today, we'll hear how few Asian carp it would take for the invasive fish to take over the Great Lakes, we'll find out the secret to the cheetah's hunting strategy; and we'll look at climate in the hot seat. play-icon.jpg Listen to the whole show (pop up player) or
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You're Getting Warmer

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Earthrise, taken from Apollo 8
This past week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Summary for Policymakers of its 5th Assessment Report.  This condenses the larger IPCC report, which is produced every 5-7 years, and which summarizes the best consensus on the current climate conditions and projections for the future of our climate.   Dr. Greg Flato, research scientist with Environment Canada and manager of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, is an IPCC contributor and was part of the Canadian delegation in Stockholm this week.  He says the report adds stronger confirmation that humans are having a profound effect on the climate system, and that the planet is continuing to warm as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.  He also discusses issues around climate sensitivity and the "warming hiatus" that has been much discussed in the media.  
 
Dr. John Stone, former Chief Climate Scientist with Environment Canada, and currently adjunct professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University, has contributed to several IPCC reports.  He discusses the IPCC process, and the contributions Canadian scientists have made to the IPCC, as well as as the state of Canadian climate science.
 
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Handful of Asian Carp Could Overwhelm Great Lakes

The Asian Carp was first introduced into the southern United States in the 1970's as a means of keeping commercial catfish ponds free of algae.  But by the 1990's, the carp, which can grow to a weight of 50 kilograms and well over one metre in length, had found its way into several rivers, including the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois, where its appetite for algae and other plant life, together with its prolific reproduction capability, were quickly starting to crowd out other species of fish.  Although measures are being taken to try to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes, a handful have already made their way into Lake Erie.  New research by Dr. Kim Cuddington, an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Waterloo, estimates that it may take as few as 20 carp to establish a population over the next few decades.  The result could be the destruction of commercial and sport fishing on the Great Lakes.

Related Links

  • Paper in Biological Invasions journal
  • University of Waterloo release
  • Earth Sky Science News story

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Cheetah's Savvy Hunting Strategy

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A cheetah moves quickly across the Kalahari.  Michael Scantlebury

The cheetah is the world's fastest land animal.  It can reach speeds of over 100 kilometres per hour.  It was thought that the cheetah uses this speed to simply out run its prey, but new research has found something different.  Using accelerometers and GPS data loggers attached to the animals, Dr. MichaelScantlebury, a Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University in Belfast, found that the cheetah only uses its maximum speed to reach the vicinity of the prey.  From there, it actively slows down to mirror the escape manoeuvres of the various prey.  The cheetah must match the quick turns of the hare or ostrich, or catch up to the larger wildebeest or springbok that run away in basically straight lines.  This tactic saves the cheetah the energetic cost of over-running the prey.  


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Population Countdown

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How many people can our planet hold?  After all, we aren't making any more land, we're running out of cheap energy and arable soil, we're destroying our oceans and our atmosphere - but we are increasing our numbers at an alarming rate.  Every 4-and-a-half days, we add another million humans to the mix. Our planet is literally bursting at the seams. So just what is the optimal human population for the world?  How many people can we sustainably feed, clothe and keep warm - without destroying the environment? And if that number is lower than where we are headed, then how do we reverse the population trend - before Nature does it for us?  Those are some of the provocative questions posed in Alan Weisman's new book, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

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