But of course it is, all an independent observer had to do was look at the parties kvetching and the parties kvetched about, and weigh who had more credibility. Hint, not the Fox News team…
[Eagles sitting on an Alaskan glacier fragment]
Despite relentless noise from climate skeptics about the so-called “Climategate” email scandal, an independent review released today cleared the scientists involved of wrong-doing.
East Anglia University, home of the Climatic Research Unit whose servers were hacked to obtain the emails in question, commissioned an independent review council to look into whether there was any evidence of malfeasance among scientists involved in the email exchange. The panel concluded:
We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.
The panel did note that there is a need for greater collaboration between climate scientists, outside of just the small group at CRU. But the university called the conclusion “gratifying.”
Other independent analysis has also made it clear that skeptics are making a lot of noise out of nothing.
Still, the ExxonMobil sponsored Rethuglicans use the strategy of the Big Lie. By the time the truth emerges, half of the folks who only pay attention to the surface of the news will be repeating the Big Lie as if it were gospel.
So amazing that public opinion can be such at odds with scientific fact. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, people believe in witches and angels and so forth.
Elizabeth Kolbert, of the New Yorker, writes:
Joe Bastardi, who goes by the title “expert senior forecaster” at AccuWeather, has a modest proposal. Virtually every major scientific body in the world has concluded that the planet is warming, and that greenhouse-gas emissions are the main cause. Bastardi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in meteorology, disagrees. His theory, which mixes volcanism, sunspots, and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is that the earth is actually cooling. Why don’t we just wait twenty or thirty years, he proposes, and see who’s right? This is “the greatest lab experiment ever,” he said recently on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show.
Bastardi’s position is ridiculous (which is no doubt why he’s often asked to air it on Fox News). Yet there it was on the front page of the Times last week. Among weathermen, it turns out, views like Bastardi’s are typical. A survey released by researchers at George Mason University found that more than a quarter of television weathercasters agree with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused “mostly by natural changes.” (The survey also found that more than eighty per cent of weathercasters don’t trust “mainstream news media sources,” though they are presumably included in this category.)
Why, with global warming, is it always one step forward, two, maybe three steps back?
and on the crazy, oft-repeated assertion that somehow a mistake in a United Nations Report invalidated the entire evidence for global climate change:
The e-mail brouhaha was followed by—and immediately confused with—another overblown controversy, about a mistake in the second volume of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, from 2007. On page 493 of the nine-hundred-and-seventy-six-page document, it is asserted, incorrectly, that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035. (The report cites as a source for this erroneous information a report by the World Wildlife Fund.) The screw-up, which was soon acknowledged by the I.P.C.C. and the W.W.F., was somehow transformed by commentators into a reason to doubt everything in the three-volume assessment, including, by implication, the basic laws of thermodynamics. The “new scandal (already awarded the unimaginative name of ‘Glaciergate’) raises further challenges for a scientific theory that is steadily losing credibility,” James Heiser wrote on the Web site of the right-wing magazine New American.
No one has ever offered a plausible account of why thousands of scientists at hundreds of universities in dozens of countries would bother to engineer a climate hoax. Nor has anyone been able to explain why Mother Nature would keep playing along; despite what it might have felt like in the Northeast these past few months, globally it was one of the warmest winters on record.
The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories—these are all a distraction from what’s really happening. Which, apparently, is what we’re looking for.
Mind boggling, and why worry about the small stuff in our daily lives? We’re all going to drown soon as the morons yell down the scientists and influence the politicians to ignore the problem, and we pass the point of No Return.
One final point: I did not realize this schmuck Joe Bastardi1 worked for AccuWeather. I’m deleting their apps from my iPhone and iPad. Why support this asshole?
I’m not making the obvious joke about his name as I’m sure so many have before me [↩]
Shuttering the damn things would be my preference – I can see the Fisk Coal plant from my window, spewing all sorts of toxins, and I don’t even live that close by.
Owners of two coal-fueled power plants on Chicago’s Southwest Side would have to clean them up within the next five years — or shut them down — under a proposal being pushed by an interesting coalition of aldermen and a Chicago environmental group.
The proposed ordinance is aimed at the circa-1920s Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village, both now operated by Midwest Generation LLC.
Under its terms, scrubbers and related anti-pollution equipment would have to be installed by 2013-15, four to five years earlier than now required by state regulators.
“The purpose is to get two of the oldest, dirtiest coal plants located in any urban neighborhood cleaned up soon,” said Howard Learner, executive director of Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center.
“These are the two biggest (single) point sources of pollution in the city,” Mr. Learner added. But modernization of the plants repeatedly has been deferred, and the city now has an interest in making the plants “clean up or shut down,” he said.
A statement e-mailed by Alderman Joseph Moore (49th) said the measure will be co-sponsored by him and colleagues including Sandi Jackson (7th), Eugene Schulter (47th) and Toni Preckwinkle (4th).
Ms. Preckwinkle’s presence is particularly notable since she is the Democratic nominee to head the Cook County Board and is heavily favored to win that position in the November general election.
Unlike virtually all of its competitors, JPMorgan Chase steeled itself early for the collapse of the subprime market and emerged from the rubble of the global financial meltdown with both its balance sheet and reputation intact. But the storied firm stands alone among its Wall Street rivals in another area, too. JPMorgan backstops one of the most destructive mining practices in the world: mountaintop removal coal mining. And it continues to do so even as other major banks have cut ties to this practice.
“Chase is the single largest remaining player in this game,” says Scott Edwards, advocacy director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental advocacy group comprised of lawyers, scientists, and activists, among others. “They just absolutely refuse to take responsibility for their role in this absolutely devastating industry.”
Mountaintop removal (MTR) mining, focused in Appalachian states like West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, involves deforesting huge swaths of land and blasting the summits off of mountains to expose the black veins of coal underneath. The waste and rubble from the demolition is then dumped into nearby rivers and streams, burying local water sources in toxic byproducts, choking off tributaries that feed into larger rivers, and wiping out plants and wildlife, according to numerous scientific studies. Despite the mining industry’s claims, there are no successful ways to mitigate the effects of MTR, according to Margaret Palmer of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The effects on the nearby environment, she says, are long lasting and often irreversible.
Chase is happy to make some short-term profits at the expense of all our lives
Over the past 17 years, JPMorgan Chase has helped to underwrite nearly 20 bond or loan deals, worth a combined $8.5 trillion, for some of the biggest players in the MTR mining business, according to data from Bloomberg. Other large banks have either halted financing companies engaging in the practice outright or signaled their intent to do so. In December 2008, for instance, Bank of America publicly announced plans to “phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal.” Wells Fargo has cut ties with coal giant Massey Energy. And a Credit Suisse official says the bank has a “global mining policy” that ensures “we explicitly do not finance the extraction of coal in a mountaintop removal setting.” But JPMorgan continues to back the practice.
By underwriting MTR, JPMorgan ties itself to some of the nation’s biggest polluters. Take Massey Energy, which leads the nation in MTR mining. In 2008, the company extracted more than 21 million tons of coal using mountaintop removal mining, according to opensourcecoal.org, an online database for coal production statistics. That same year, JPMorgan acted as lead manager on a $690 million bond offering by Massey, according to financial records.
For your depressing global climate change news of the day:
WEST BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — It’s on the calendar. It’s widely advertised. This year, everybody knows about it but the trees. And they are the central characters in Vermont’s annual maple syrup open house this weekend, when tourists descend on the state to watch trees being tapped and sap being boiled
Sugaring season ended early for many syrup farmers in southern Vermont, sabotaged by unseasonably warm weather.
Lisa Hamilton has finished making her maple syrup. “We were done last week,” said Ms. Hamilton, who was able to boil out just over 100 gallons of syrup — about a third of what she produced last year.
Maple syrup season was always my favorite time of year as a kid: spring meant snow was beginning to melt, plus there was lot of opportunity to play in mud as I walked the mile home from where the school bus dropped me off. I didn’t participate much in the actual maple harvesting process, but it does have an evocative smell which I can still recall after all these intervening years.
I usually don’t discuss my own dreams publicly, but this particular scene has stuck in my mind for a few days now, and I might as well add it to the Aether.
I was walking downtown, in some urban environment. Could have been Chicago, or New York, or even San Francisco, none of the buildings were familiar, just typical office buildings of glass and steel. The sidewalks were crowded, and people in business attire were exiting one of the buildings, wearing suits, or business casual attire, talking to each other and jostling and acting as if it were a typical summer day in the city. I noticed however that one of the guys had his pet on a leash, and then noticed that his pet was actually a seal.
The streets were filled with water, this was slightly in our future, and global climate change meant the oceans were now encroaching into the cities. Seals had become the trendy pet, and this gentleman was about to take his seal, and let him frolic in the former street, before returning after his lunch break.
Could our nation’s love affair with the defense contractors sabotage a possible solution to global climate change? Nuclear power is much more efficient than coal and natural gas, there just was that little problem of nuclear (uranium) waste.
But the book [Fluid Fuel Reactors] inspired him to pursue an intense study of nuclear energy over the next few years, during which he became convinced that thorium could solve the nuclear power industry’s most intractable problems. After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts. Because it’s so plentiful in nature, it’s virtually inexhaustible. It’s also one of only a few substances that acts as a thermal breeder, in theory creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely. And it would be virtually impossible for the byproducts of a thorium reactor to be used by terrorists or anyone else to make nuclear weapons.
Weinberg and his men proved the efficacy of thorium reactors in hundreds of tests at Oak Ridge from the ’50s through the early ’70s. But thorium hit a dead end. Locked in a struggle with a nuclear- armed Soviet Union, the US government in the ’60s chose to build uranium-fueled reactors — in part because they produce plutonium that can be refined into weapons-grade material. The course of the nuclear industry was set for the next four decades, and thorium power became one of the great what-if technologies of the 20th century.
Perhaps the contemporary energy crises will encourage nations, and their engineers, to re-examine thorium.
Thorium is a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive metal. It is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth’s crust.
Thorium was successfully used as an alternative nuclear fuel to uranium in the molten-salt reactor experiment (MSR) from 1964 to 1969 to produce thermal energy, as well as in several light-water reactors using fuel composed of a mixture of 232Th and 233U, including the Shippingport Atomic Power Station (operation commenced 1957, decommissioned in 1982). Currently, officials in the Republic of India are advocating a thorium-based nuclear program, and a seed-and-blanket fuel utilizing thorium is undergoing irradiation testing at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. Advocates of the use of thorium as the fuel source for nuclear reactors state that they can be built to operate significantly cleaner than uranium based power plants as the waste products are much easier to handle.
I have slightly more than zero knowledge to apply to this question, but I’m intrigued by the thought of thorium becoming more widely utilized. What are the downsides to transferring nuclear power plants to thorium from uranium, other than cost? What is this somewhat celebratory article leaving out? What’s the flaw? Nothing is ever this simple. I don’t think…
Any-hoo, our building had to replace its roof a few years ago, and we opted for the off-white variant. This minor change has really altered our cooling bills in the summer. I haven’t noticed an increase of heating costs in the winter either.
[non-color corrected iPhone photo of our roof. To my eye, this photo is not quite white enough, but it’s pretty close]
Relying on the centuries-old principle that white objects absorb less heat than dark ones, homeowners like the Waldreps are in the vanguard of a movement embracing “cool roofs” as one of the most affordable weapons against climate change.
Studies show that white roofs reduce air-conditioning costs by 20 percent or more in hot, sunny weather. Lower energy consumption also means fewer of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
What is more, a white roof can cost as little as 15 percent more than its dark counterpart, depending on the materials used, while slashing electricity bills.
The scientist Mr. Chu calls his hero, Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission who has been campaigning for cool roofs since the 1980s, argues that turning all of the world’s roofs “light” over the next 20 years could save the equivalent of 24 billion metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.
“That is what the whole world emitted last year,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.
This doesn’t bode well for my portable water slide business1
A combination of record-high heat and record-low rainfall has pushed south and central Texas into the region’s deepest drought in a half century, with $3.6 billion of crop and livestock losses piling up during the past nine months.
The heat wave has drastically reduced reservoirs and forced about 230 public water systems to declare mandatory water restrictions. Lower levels in lakes and rivers have been a blow to tourism, too, making summer boating, swimming and fishing activities impossible in some places.
Nearly 80 of Texas’ 254 counties are in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the worst possible levels on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s index. Though other states are experiencing drought, no U.S. counties outside Texas currently register worse than “severe.” In late April, the USDA designated 70 Texas counties as primary natural-disaster areas because of drought, above-normal temperatures and associated wildfires.
[The Pedernales River running over limestone formations at Pedernales Falls State Park, west of Austin.]
and in the 21st century Water Wars we often joke about, these sorts of restrictions will only become more dire.
As Texas aquifers and reservoirs dip to record lows, threatening municipal water supplies, the biggest cities — Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio — and 230 others have implemented water restrictions on residents.
San Antonio’s water department is encouraging residents to report neighbors if they catch them violating restrictions, and since April more than 1,500 citations have been issued, said department spokesman Greg Flores.
In Central Texas, Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are down 55% and 49% in volume, respectively. They provide drinking water to more than a million people, including residents of Austin.
[Sunrise over Lake Michigan]
Does make me glad to be living so close to such a massive amount of fresh water in the Great Lakes, and not in Texas.
The new carboncredit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.
Here’s how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.
The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap” on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion.
Goldman wants this bill. The plan is (1) to get in on the ground floor of paradigmshifting legislation, (2) make sure that they’re the profitmaking slice of that paradigm and (3) make sure the slice is a big slice. Goldman started pushing hard for capandtrade long ago, but things really ramped up last year when the firm spent $3.5 million to lobby climate issues. (One of their lobbyists at the time was none other than Patterson, now Treasury chief of staff.) Back in 2005, when Hank Paulson was chief of Goldman, he personally helped author the bank’s environmental policy, a document that contains some surprising elements for a firm that in all other areas has been consistently opposed to any sort of government regulation. Paulson’s report argued that “voluntary action alone cannot solve the climatechange problem.” A few years later, the bank’s carbon chief, Ken Newcombe, insisted that capandtrade alone won’t be enough to fix the climate problem and called for further public investments in research and development. Which is convenient, considering that Goldman made early investments in wind power (it bought a subsidiary called Horizon Wind Energy), renewable diesel (it is an investor in a firm called Changing World Technologies) and solar power (it partnered with BP Solar), exactly the kind of deals that will prosper if the government forces energy producers to use cleaner energy. As Paulson said at the time, “We’re not making those investments to lose money.”
The bank owns a 10 percent stake in the Chicago Climate Exchange, where the carbon credits will be traded. Moreover, Goldman owns a minority stake in Blue Source LLC, a Utahbased firm that sells carbon credits of the type that will be in great demand if the bill passes. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, who is intimately involved with the planning of cap-and-trade, started up a company called Generation Investment Management with three former bigwigs from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Harris. Their business? Investing in carbon offsets. There’s also a $500 million Green Growth Fund set up by a Goldmanite to invest in greentech … the list goes on and on. Goldman is ahead of the headlines again, just waiting for someone to make it rain in the right spot. Will this market be bigger than the energyfutures market?
“Oh, it’ll dwarf it,” says a former staffer on the House energy committee.
Why are we privatizing cap and trade and not just making a straight tax on carbon emission?
Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and-trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private taxcollection scheme. This is worse than the bailout: It allows the bank to seize taxpayer money before it’s even collected.
“If it’s going to be a tax, I would prefer that Washington set the tax and collect it,” says Michael Masters, the hedgefund director who spoke out against oilfutures speculation. “But we’re saying that Wall Street can set the tax, and Wall Street can collect the tax. That’s the last thing in the world I want. It’s just asinine.”
Sarah Palin knows more about energy policy than anyone else in America, or so claimed John McCain. Hmm, surprisingly1 Ms. Pal-Around Palin seems to have lost most of her knowledge since last fall.
Sarah Palin, the soon-to-be-ex-governor of Alaska, has an opinion piece (a screed, really) in Tuesday’s Washington Post in which she shrilly blasts away at “President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan,” calling it “an enormous threat” to the U.S. economy.
Palin’s thesis comes loaded with plenty of rhetoric and zero facts. It offers nothing more than assertions about the emissions reduction part of the bill, ignores the energy investment and green jobs provisions, blames “Washington bureaucrats” for hampering oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (not Congress, where elected lawmakers have repeatedly expressed the American public’s desire to keep ANWR off limits), and fails to even take note of the underlying issue—catastrophic climate change.
Couldn’t Palin’s ghostwriters have cribbed from any of the well-researched, highly technical criticisms produced by just about every conservative think tank in the land?
Amazingly, the Post has published an op-ed on climate change legislation by the governor of the state that is currently the most battered by climate change, without any discussion of climate change or its impacts on that state. Heck, even Alaska GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski pointed out in a May 2006 speech on climate change that the tremendous recent warming had opened the door to the “voracious spruce bark beetle,” which devastated over three million acres in Alaska, “providing dry fuel for outbreaks of enormous wild fires.”
In one of the most unintentionally humorous pieces of crap the Post has ever subjected on the public, Palin states:
Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges. So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be:
I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan, and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.
[Silver lining note: In a perverse way, perhaps we should be grateful to the Post. Probably the best thing that could happen to climate legislation is if Palin becomes the lead spokesperson attacking it.]
Moreover, even in 2012, the total value of the allowances will be under $50 billion (in a $15 trillion economy) and all that money is going to be returned to the economy, so again, like all economic models show, the bill will have no significant negative impact.
No, what’s so laughable about this piece is that Palin wouldn’t even be considered by the Post as a suitable candidate for an op-ed on the climate bill if it weren’t for the national media’s focus on personality-driven politics.
Jonathan Schwarz cites a telling tidbit about George Will, Noam Chomsky and Newsweek in the days before blogs were around as an open-source fact checking organization:
CHOMSKY: [A] few years ago George Will wrote a column in Newsweek called “Mideast Truth and Falsehood,” about how peace activists are lying about the Middle East, everything they say is a lie. And in the article, there was one statement that had a vague relation to fact: he said that Sadat had refused to deal with Israel until 1977. So I wrote them a letter, the kind of letter you write to Newsweek—you know, four lines—in which I said, “Will has one statement of fact, it’s false; Sadat made a peace offer in 1971, and Israel and the United States turned it down.”
Well, a couple days later I got a call from a research editor who checks facts for the Newsweek “Letters” column. She said: “We’re kind of interested in your letter, where did you get those facts?” So I told her, “Well, they’re published in Newsweek, on February 8, 1971″—which is true, because it was a big proposal, it just happened to go down the memory hole in the United States because it was the wrong story. So she looked it up and called me back, and said, “Yeah, you’re right, we found it there; okay, we’ll run your letter.” An hour later she called again and said, “Gee, I’m sorry, but we can’t run the letter.” I said, “What’s the problem?” She said, “Well, the editor mentioned it to Will and he’s having a tantrum; they decided they can’t run it.” Well, okay.
Matt Taibbi is not going to get invited to Tom Friedman’s 12,000 square foot mega-mansion anytime soon after publishing such a fun evisceration of Friedman’s “green” book, Hot Flat and Crowded. Especially when Mr. Taibbi’s review veers on tangents like:
I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying—and when you tried to actually picture the “illustrative” figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.
Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? “It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,” he wrote, “as long as you remember you’re driving without one.” Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:
The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.” First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen.
before even tackling the ridiculousness that is Tom Friedman’s latest tome:
Many people have rightly seen this new greenish pseudo-progressive tract as an ideological departure from Friedman’s previous works, which were all virtually identical exercises in bald greed-worship and capitalist tent-pitching. Approach-and-rhetoric wise, however, it’s the same old Friedman, a tireless social scientist whose research methods mainly include lunching, reading road signs, and watching people board airplanes.
Like The World is Flat, a book borne of Friedman’s stirring experience of seeing IBM sign in the distance while golfing in Bangalore, Hot, Flat and Crowded is a book whose great insights come when Friedman golfs (on global warming allowing him more winter golf days:“I will still take advantage of it—but I no longer think of it as something I got for free”), looks at Burger King signs (upon seeing a “nightmarish neon blur” of KFC, BK and McDonald’s signs in Texas, he realizes: “We’re on a fool’s errand”), and reads bumper stickers (the “Osama Loves your SUV” sticker he read turns into the thesis of his “Fill ‘er up with Dictators” chapter). This is Friedman’s life: He flies around the world, eats pricey lunches with other rich people and draws conclusions about the future of humanity by looking out his hotel window and counting the Applebee’s signs.
Friedman frequently uses a rhetorical technique that goes something like this: “I was in Dubai with the general counsel of BP last year, watching 500 Balinese textile workers get on a train, when suddenly I said to myself, ‘We need better headlights for our tri-plane.’” And off he goes. You the reader end up spending so much time wondering what Dubai, BP and all those Balinese workers have to do with the rest of the story that you don’t notice that tri-planes don’t have headlights.And by the time you get all that sorted out, your well-lit tri-plane is flying from chapter to chapter delivering a million geo-green pizzas to a million Noahs on a million Arks. And you give up. There’s so much shit flying around the book’s atmosphere that you don’t notice the only action is Friedman talking to himself.
Strangely1, the WSJ suggests that climate change is a problem, and worries about our planet’s future. I don’t think Sharon Begley is going to be invited to the Exxon-Mobile annual Climate Change Is Bogus retreat in the Bahamas this year.
…20 years after scientists first warned that greenhouse gases would alter the planet’s climate in dangerous ways, it is possible to assess who is being more realistic. Starting with the first report of the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990, critics have called its projections foolishly apocalyptic. Some earlier reports did miss the mark on a few counts, but not in the way the “realists” contend. In some cases, the reality of climate change has been even worse than the alarming forecasts.
A number of greenhouse projections were spot-on, while others underestimated how radically gases such as carbon dioxide, emitted when fossil fuels burn, would alter climate by trapping heat in the atmosphere. The world’s surface temperature has increased one-third of a degree Celsius since 1990 — the upper end of projections, according to scientists led by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, in Germany. Their analysis appeared last week in the online issue of the journal Science.
With sea level, climate change has outpaced the projections. Satellite measurements show that the waters around the world rose 3.3 millimeters per year, averaged from 1993 to 2006. The IPCC foresaw 2 millimeters per year. “The main message of our [analysis] is to those who have claimed that IPCC is exaggerating climate change or is painting unduly grim future scenarios,” says Dr. Rahmstorf. “Unfortunately, this is not true; the real climate system is changing as fast as, or in some components even faster than, expected by IPCC.”
Ice in arctic seas also is melting faster than expected. (Though that doesn’t raise sea levels; melting ice on land does.) It now covers 11% less area than it did in 1978, and 20% less in the late summer. “That’s about double the mean model projection,” notes physicist Joseph Romm, author of a new book on global warming, “Hell or High Water.
…The IPCC got it right when it projected more downpours and droughts. Already, precipitation falls less often, but when it rains it pours. The basic idea that global average temperatures would rise has also been spot-on, with 11 of the past 12 years among the 12 warmest since instruments began recording temperatures in 1850. Because climate models can’t zero in on extreme weather events, though, except to say they will occur more often, they failed to foresee disasters like the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed some 26,000 people.
In focusing on global averages, climate projections make the coming changes sound gradual, slow, sedate. That’s how ozone loss was originally portrayed, too; no one foresaw the sudden ”ozone hole“ over Antarctica. It remains to be seen if climate reality, too, can suddenly tip into an extreme.
Part of the problem is so many idiots insisting on making stupid jokes about global warming every time the temperature drops, as if proving that global warming is a myth. No, you idiots, cold weather is part of the model too!
a repost to test if my RSS Feedburner feed is fixed, or still fracked [↩]
By chance, just a few days before the US election, I picked up a copy of Richard Cohen’s Washington at Work, a book documenting the nearly decade-long debate over the 1990 Clean Air Act, and which I planned to read post-election in preparation for what I figured would be next year’s battle over climate legislation.
The book highlights the antagonistic relationship between two major forces in the House Democratic caucus – the curmudgeonly, industry-friendly Michigan representative John Dingell, and a wily environmentalist from California, Henry Waxman. It’s been nearly two decades since that law passed, but the two men continued to represent the different factions in the House when it comes to passing environmental laws, a division that has long stymied action.
But then came a surprise: mere hours after the election, Waxman announced he was making an attack on Dingell’s chairmanship of the energy and commerce committee, changing the entire tenor of the House when it comes to climate legislation. Even before we get down to serious debate on climate legislation, Waxman’s success yesterday in unseating the “Dean” from his perch in the most powerful House committee signals a new era for Congress when it comes to the environment.