Ask a Scientist

Our monthly ‘Ask a Scientist’ column answers questions that come from UCS members and supporters.


Satellite view of Gulf of Mexico

Ask an Expert: Reviving the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone

, senior writer

Speaking to UCS Food and Environment Program economist Rebecca Boehm, about Reviving the Dead Zone, a report released this summer that provides the first comprehensive assessment of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone’s economic impact, and warns the root problem—agricultural nutrient pollution—will likely worsen due to climate change. The dead zone causes as much as $2.4 billion in damage to fisheries and marine habitat every year, the report found, but there are proven ways to clean it up that would benefit farmers and the fishing industry alike. Read more >

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Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams/US Air Force

Ask an Expert: Congress Plans to Spend Billions on Dangerous, Unnecessary Nuclear Weapons

, senior writer

This week is the 75th anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only time nuclear bombs have been used in a conflict—and one could only hope the last time. To commemorate the anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to devote this column to taking a hard look at current US nuclear weapons policy, and to do that, I had a chat with our new Global Security Program Washington representative, Kevin Davis Read more >

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Photo by Nathan Waters
Photo by Nathan Waters

Ask a Scientist: What Should a Post-Pandemic Economy Look Like?

, senior writer

Predictions about when the economy will rebound, however, miss a bigger point. Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic—like all pandemics—will eventually come to an end, but what kind of an economy coming out of it would be best for the country? What lessons will we learn from the pandemic, if any? I spoke to one of UCS’ economists, Climate and Energy Program Policy Director Rachel Cleetus, who has been thinking about the kind of economy the United States should build going forward. Read more >

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Ask a Scientist: 2030 or Bust? What is the Importance of the Year 2030 Climatewise?

, senior writer

The immediate threat of the coronavirus pandemic has galvanized international attention, but the long-term threat posed by the climate crisis remains on many people’s minds. We all realize that after the world recovers from this novel virus, we will still have to address the enormous threat posed by climate change. UCS recently received a question from one of our members who, like many, is thinking ahead. “2030 is often cited as the year when climate changes become irreversible,” Raymond K. from North Attleboro, Massachusetts, asks. “What is the real significance of 2030?” To set the record straight about what scientists are telling us and what the world has to do in the next decade to avoid the worst possible consequences of a warming world, I turned to Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for our Climate and Energy Program. Read more >

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Ride hailing from Metrolink
Metrolink

Ask a Scientist: When It Comes to Addressing Pollution and Congestion, Are Ride-Hailing Services Taking Us for a Ride?

, senior writer

A new UCS study examines the impact of ride-hailing companies on seven U.S. cities and found that they increase carbon emissions, worsen air quality, and cause more traffic congestion. The study—the first to quantify the pollution from ride-hailing—found that the average ride-hailing trip emits nearly 70 percent more carbon pollution than the trip it replaces. I asked Elizabeth Irvin, a transportation expert, to explain in more detail what local authorities are doing and what users can do. Read more >

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