Ask a Scientist

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


Ask a Scientist: How Can Cereal Makers Help Save Our Soil, Support Farmers, and Take a Bite out of Climate Change?

, senior writer

The grains that make up the primary ingredients of most US cereals all too often are grown in ways that degrade soil, pollute water, and contribute to climate change. Fortunately, major cereal makers are slowly beginning to pay attention to the problems caused by unsustainable farming practices, but the operative word is “slowly.” They have made commitments to promote more environmentally friendly methods for growing grains, but those commitments need to be strengthened and expanded. Read more >

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Photo: UCS

Ask a Scientist: Should Scientists Shy Away from Politics?

, senior writer

Scientists have traditionally been uncomfortable discussing or even acknowledging that science is political, but truth be told, science has long played a vital role in politics. The scientific method is commonly viewed as a process of making observations and answering questions. Once scientists ask fundamental questions and develop hypotheses, they gather data and ask whether the collected evidence aligns with their original hypotheses. This process is called ‘the scientific method’ or scientific inquiry. What policymakers decide to do with the evidence-based results is politics. Think about it this way: Determining whether toxic emissions from an industrial facility harms public health is scientific inquiry. Deciding what action to take do in response to that information is political. Read more >

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© iStockphoto.com/Ridofranz

As Global Warming Increases, Is There an Upper Limit to How Much Additional Water Vapor The Atmosphere Can Hold?

, senior writer

I’m sure you’ve heard that old adage, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Living in Washington, D.C., for the last three decades, I certainly know what it means. That said, it would be more accurate to say, “It’s not only the heat, it’s also the humidity.” Based on a question about water vapor and global warming we recently received from a UCS supporter in Lexington, Kentucky, I talked with the lead author of our recent Killer Heat report, Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist in our Climate and Energy Program, about increasing heat and humidity, global warming, and the choices we face. Read more >

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What Can Concerned People Do about Attacks on Science?

, senior writer

J.V. of Austin, TX, asks “What can ordinary people do about attacks on science?” and Anita Desikan, research analyst with the UCS Center for Science and Democracy, answers. Read more >

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What are the Major Economic Implications of Sea Level Rise?

, senior writer

Dr. Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy director with the UCS Climate and Energy Program, answers the questions “What are the major economic implications of sea level rise?” and “What can we do about it?” Read more >

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