enviro stuff

This is very wonkish, and it represents a reformist (as opposed to revolutionary) approach to climate change, but it’s an example of where the debate should be. Not “is it happening?”, but “what can we do about it?” The answer is probably “a lot more than any politician has been willing to say yet,” but you knew that.

And that is why the analogy of a massive government Apollo program or Manhattan project is so flawed. Those programs were to create unique non-commercial products for a specialized customer with an unlimited budget. Throwing money at the problem was an obvious approach. To save a livable climate we need to create mass-market commercial products for lots of different customers who have limited budgets. That requires a completely different strategy.

This second one is going to be worth following, I think:

And in case you missed this earlier in the week:

And more cheerful news:

OK, tomorrow will be better news. Maybe some pirates, and I’ve already got a zombie lined up for you.

food, enviro, climate

Stop cutting down the forest or fucking tigers will eat you. No, really:

Haven’t you ever thought there was something a little funny about our obsession with the softest possible toilet paper? It’s one of those metaphor things. Anyway, the NY Times agrees:

More about your food- it’s really worthwhile for the link to the Michael Pollan article from last year:

A dollar will buy 1200 calories of cookies or chips but only 250 calories of carrots. If you don’t have a lot of money, the most rational thing to do is buy junk food to get the most calories for your buck.

Obama’s going to get lots of mileage out of just repealing stupid shit left behind by Bush:

Coolest year since 2000, sure, but still one of the ten warmest since 1880:

swissinfo: Humans are incredibly adaptable. Is there not a way for us to just live with a warming climate?

H.W.: The only problem with global change is that we have enough money in these northern continents to adapt but what will people do in the not-so-developed areas like Africa? They don’t have enough water today and the available water will decrease. In policy, we really have to deal with this situation and help these other countries. If we don’t help with our technology and do not find the best solution we will see huge problems in the future.

Speaking of which…

A report by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers will next month call for governments to accept that climate change is now inevitable. Strategies must be put in place now to protect our infrastructure from its worst effects, alongside existing efforts to reduce emissions, it will argue.

In a month’s time IMechE will launch its three-pronged plan to a select group of MPs in an urgent bid to start implementing long-term adaptation.

And here’s the report. I haven’t read it yet.

arctic, nukes and food (updated with genuine science!)

The researchers, 26 corn-insect specialists, withheld their names because they feared being cut off from research by the companies. But several of them agreed in interviews to have their names used.

The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.

This has been coming for a while- good number of enviros are going to be looking at nuclear power as the only way to get off of fossil fuels. As nothing continues to be done on climate change, it’s going to become more palatable as a last-ditch effort.

The one-time opponents of nuclear power, who include the former head of Greenpeace, have told The Independent that they have now changed their minds over atomic energy because of the urgent need to curb emissions of carbon dioxide.

They all take the view that the building of nuclear power stations is now imperative and that to delay the process with time-consuming public inquiries and legal challenges would seriously undermine Britain’s promise to cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

And no matter how safe it becomes, here’s one good reason that it will remain a bad idea:

I’m not going to try to cover the big fights over the melting Arctic that have been happening for the last few weeks. Here’s one good little piece that brings two of the big issues together, and today’s news with an  interesting paragraph:

“We’re beginning to get hints of change in ocean circulation, that’ll have a dramatic impact on the global climate system,” IPY director David Carlson told journalists.

Changes in ocean circulation are one of the big climate predictions to watch out for.  If that’s what they’re really seeing, then it has the potential to set off some large-scale changes that people don’t really expect yet.

And the awesome thing about the Arctic for the true news nerd is that it’s a scientific and environmental story, but it’s also about politics and navies and such:

EDIT: And this, by way of Technoccult:

so much trouble in the world

It’s been a bad week for Obama, and so air bases in Kyrgyzstan may not seem like the most pressing matter. But this may be his most significant defeat:

We could very well end up using the base under some new arrangement, but this makes clear it will be an arrangement with Russia, not KZ. So this means that we have to accept Russia reclaiming its sphere of influence, if not its old borders, in Central Asia. It also threatens our supply lines to Afghanistan, which are already threatened from the other side as well:

It was not immediately clear whether supply convoys could reach Afghanistan through alternative, smaller routes in the region. Another official in the area, Fazal Mahmood, said repair work had begun on the bridge.

Up to 75 percent of the fuel and supplies destined for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel through Pakistan after being unloaded at the port of Karachi. Most are driven along the Khyber Pass.

Meanwhile, the news from space…. Iran managed to launch a satellite this week, but it remains to be seen if it’s a big move or just a propaganda ploy:

“The rocket is not that sophisticated,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, told The Washington Times. “That Sputnik technology, a little metal ball that goes ‘beep beep beep,’ is not the same as a nuclear warhead or a telecommunications satellite. It’s harder to send heavier objects and more sophisticated objects into space or across a continent.”

And assorted bumps along the way:

Back on Earth, the stimulus bill may turn into more life support for Detroit. A generation’s worth of debt to prop up a failing industry:

The word on the street is that after some small victories in the House ($3B added to capital funding for transit) there will be another fight in the Senate where various amendments are being proposed to strip transit funds and move them to highways, or to simply add $50B to highways.

This could be interesting- it’s a civil disobedience action that’s actually part of a larger strategy, well-targeted and hopefully well-organized. DC is famously a black hole for media events, but this one might cut through all the crap.

As Congress continues to sputter on solutions for the climate crisis, a national coalition of more than 40 environmental, public health, labor, social justice, faith-based and other advocacy groups have announced plans to engage in civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of March 2, 2009.

The event, known as the Capitol Climate Action (CCA), will be the largest mass mobilization on global warming in the country’s history. The event reflects the growing public demand for bold action to address the climate and energy crises. It means no more waiting, no more excuses, and no more coal.

A couple more along those lines:

I’ve been saving up some Sea Shepherd stories for you. Soon come.

more news from the science-based community

And NASA Watch has got the right angle on that:

The Obama administration is just now naming interim leadership at NASA, after a whole lot of drama from the outgoing boss. The new boss, whenever they arrive, will have to lead NASA through a lot of important decisions: do they proceed with developing the Ares rocket or modify an existing model? What’s the balance between science and exploration? Between human and robotic missions? Between the moon, Mars and other places? NASA needs to get it together in the next 4-8 years, or else get out of the way.

And to bring it back down to Earth:

My analysis of news articles published in national and regional newspapers, wire services, and newsmagazines between December 2007 and June 2008 suggests that for most reporters covering this story, the default role was that of stenographer — presenting a nominally balanced view of the debate without questioning the validity of the arguments, sometimes even ignoring evidence that one side was twisting truth. Database searches yielded a sample of 40 published news and analysis stories that explored the cost debate in some de-tail (see appendix). Of these, seven stories were one-sided. Twenty-four stories were works of journalistic stenography. And nine stories attempted, with varying degrees of success, to move past the binary debate, weigh the arguments, and reach conclusions about this thorny issue.

And finally, I’ve failed now in three efforts to grow an indoor moss garden. The lack of humidity is always the problem, and growing it in a closed container just seems to promote the growth of mold that quickly chokes it the moss. I’ve thought about keeping it in the bathroom, but space has always been an issue. Here’s a solution that never occurred to me:

They also grow it on foam instead of soil, which probably helps a lot with the mold. Still, I’d rather try it in a dish than on the floor.


Good science, bad history:

Based on chemical signatures in a piece of calcite from a cave near Jerusalem, a team of American and Israeli geologists pieced together a detailed record of the area’s climate from roughly 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D. Their analysis, to be reported in an upcoming issue of the journal Quaternary Research, reveals increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D. that coincided with the fall of both Roman and Byzantine rule in the region.

There are lots of people looking at the role of climate in history these days, and it’s generally a good idea. But this one misses the mark. You could just as easily say that the period of dry climate coincided with the rise of Byzantium as the fall. A much more interesting climatic event that relates to the collapse of Rome in the east is the year without summer, around 535.

Now your daily pirate update:

And this one that ties piracy together into the broader crisis over the international order:

The question is: What if anything can outside powers do to bring the rule of law to these troubled lands? In the 19th century, the answer was simple: European imperialists would plant their flag and impose their laws at gunpoint.

Like plenty of neocons, you don’t have to agree with Max Boot’s conclusions to agree that he’s asking some pretty interesting questions. The current international system doesn’t provide a lot of options that were available to the Concert of Europe, and Boot’s examples of Bosnia and Kosovo are hardly reassuring symbols of stability.

I don’t know why I follow this story so closely. It’s kind of morbid:

And this:

Blue Origin is developing New Shepard, a rocket-propelled vehicle that takes off and lands vertically and is designed to routinely fly multiple astronauts into suborbital space at competitive prices.

Flight tests of the suborbital craft have been staged at a private launch site in Texas.

Blue Origin is now noting that, in addition to providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight, New Shepard will also provide frequent opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment.

assorted news

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response — a nearly sevenfold increase in five years — “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture,” he said.

I posted an earlier development of this a couple of months ago. I warned people then not to be stupid- this didn’t mean martial law. The reason for that warning was that the paranoid left was going through one of its occasional panics about martial law, canceled elections, etc. that never seem to pan out. I think these panics are a symptom of ignorance, and more effort needs to be made to educate people on the practical matters of politics.

But this shouldn’t obscure the fact that we have a creeping authoritarianism in this country that has its roots before 9/11, and is unlikely to get turned around if we don’t take action against it.  I’m wary of terms like fascismmartial law and police state, because they have specific meanings that don’t necessarily apply the way people use them, but I’m afraid that by shunning the terms, I lose the ability to talk about what’s happening in a way people understand. I suppose we need new ways to talk about these things that reflect today’s world, much like most of the rest of our political vocabulary.

And now, pirates!

Several of these stories indicate pirates attacking in greater numbers than before, or going after new types of targets. I’d suggest this is a tactical response to the increased presence of foreign navies in the region. It may mean the pirates will be able to respond to changing conditions and will not be suppressed as easily as some people expect.

The rare white lemuroid possum hasn’t been sighted for the past three years. Scientists are concerned it might have the ignominious distinction of being the world’s first mammal sent to extinction by global warming.

This contract is good news, in a sense. It means we’ll be using the Soyuz to send astronauts to the International Space Station, and I certainly wouldn’t argue that we stop going up there. But what’s up with having to rely on the Russians? Once the shuttle is retired, we’ll have no capability to put humans in space. Not until the new system is up and running, and who knows how NASA will fare over the next few years?

news news news

Starting with the mayhem, of course:
Jilted lover accidentally blows up building
Man allegedly steals communion wafers from priest

The Stuart News reported that Ricci was being held down by six or seven offended parishioners when deputies arrived at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Jensen Beach. Police say two parishioners, ages 82 and 61, received minor injuries in the scuffle.

Enviro-ish stuff:

Faced with rising sea levels, the Maldives seek new homeland

Were these countries to be evacuated, the legal status of the global warming diaspora would be unclear. The same goes for that of a submerged country’s sovereignty. No nation in recorded history has peacefully relocated its entire population and remained intact, and, as National Geographic pointed out in 2005, environmental refugees are not recognized by international law.

Not So Green: Voters Nix Most Environmental State Ballot Measures
Critical Mass Transit: Major mass-transit initiatives did well in U.S. election

IEA stokes doubts over world’s climate fight
Peak Oil: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide From Higher Oil Prices

Wood War Bike
Metro, BTA support bike tax concept

And what’s a day without pirates? Things are heating up off of Somalia:
Royal Navy in firefight with Somali pirates

Pirates caught redhanded by one of Her Majesty’s warships after trying to hijack a cargo ship off Somalia made the grave mistake of opening fire on two Royal Navy assault craft packed with commandos armed with machineguns and SA80 rifles.

In the ensuing gunfight, two Somali pirates in a Yemeni-registered fishing dhow were killed, and a third pirate, believed to be a Yemeni, suffered injuries and subsequently died. It was the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory.

By the time the Royal Marines boarded the pirates’ vessel, the enemy had lost the will to fight and surrendered quietly. The Royal Navy described the boarding as “compliant”.

And here are three pirate stories from other parts of the world:
Pirates release 10 hostages kidnapped near Cameroon
Pirates Attack Sailboat in Venezuela
Pirates target slow barges (Singapore)

headlines- pirates space arctic enviro

Hermes Spacecraft Looking to Bring Personal Space Travel to the Masses

Pirates seize two more ships off Somalia

Here’s an update, or maybe a retraction, to a story I had yesterday:
NYC mayor spins back his turbine idea for city

Nope, never saw this one coming:
1998 Missile Strikes on Bin Laden May Have Backfired
It’s a declassified DOE report, courtesy of the National Security Archive.

15 Photovoltaics Solar Power Innovations You Must See
Solazyme: Millions of Gallons of Algae Biodiesel Within 3 Years
Climate Change Negotiations

Iceland to offer oil-drilling licenses in Arctic
China’s Arctic expedition team sets up temporary research station on ice

New Guidelines Would Give F.B.I. Broader Powers

Is war in air in the Gulf?

news stories- lots of ufos and lots of awesome

Some late arrivals for X-day? Sorry, guys. The beer is all gone.
Did you spot the mysterious lights over Sheffield?
Tens of People Witnessed UFO in Kaliningrad
Our garden was buzzed by a UFO!

Yesterday I gave you jetpacks. Today it’s flying cars. Is that awesome? (yes/yes)
Transition roadable-plane/flyable-car prototype on show

Yesterday I gave you Sasquatch. Today it’s Yeti. Is Yeti awesome? (yes/yes)
‘Yeti hairs’ examined

Space is awesome too.
Cracks Appear In Ice Under Mars Lander
NASA Craft To View Solar System’s Invisible Frontier

At the edge of our solar system in December 2004, the Voyager 1 spacecraft encountered something never before experienced during its then 26-year cruise through the solar system — an invisible shock formed as the solar wind piles up against the gas in interstellar space. This boundary, called the termination shock, marks the beginning of our solar system’s final frontier, a vast expanse of turbulent gas and twisting magnetic fields.

Are crazy Russians with multi-barrel grenade launchers awesome? Depends which end of the launcher you’re on. This one earns a rare and coveted “mayhem” tag.
How to beat sea piracy: put grenade launchers on boats

OK, so the Arctic is definitely awesome. But militarizing it and digging it up for oil are not. Neither is global warming. Sorry, kids. Not everything can be awesome all the time.
Arctic sheds huge chunks of ice
Announcement: Arctic Oil Won’t Eliminate Our Energy Needs!

A separate USGS study estimates that a billion-barrel Arctic oil field would cost about USD37 per barrel to produce, plus about USD3 per barrel in exploration costs. It costs about USD2 per barrel to pump oil from the ground in Saudi Arabia and USD5 to USD7 per barrel in Venezuela and Azerbaijan.

And here are more well-armed Russians:
Russian warships resume patrols of the Arctic sea

And finally, just to keep it balanced, things that really suck:
Blackwater May Have Fudged Numbers to Get $100M in Contracts
Flint seeks sponsors for police surveillance cameras; some question whether it’s appropriate