Saturday, January 27, 2007

Today in Washington. New York Times photo.
Posted by Picasa

Today in Washington

A soldier's boot and a coffin symbolize all the soldiers needlessly killed and maimed, physically and psychologically, by the Iraq war, launched on false pretenses and continued in self-delusion and willed ignorance. Photo: New York Times.
Posted by Picasa

Today in Washington

But not just soldiers have been killed and maimed in the Iraq war. These shoes, being prepared for today's Washington demonstration, symbolize the tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilians killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. Photo: New York Times.
Posted by Picasa
The Long March

“I grew up during the Vietnam War, but I never protested it and never had my lottery number called to go fight,” said David Quinly, a 54-year-old carpenter from Prairie Village, Kan., who arrived here Friday night with about 50 others after a 23-hour bus ride
“In my view, this one is a war of choice and a war for profit against a culture and people we don’t understand,” Mr. Quinly said. “I knew I had to speak up this time.”

That's from the New York Times report on today's antiwar demonstration in Washington, where "tens of thousands" of protestors focused on the Iraq war. From the podium, Susan Surandon said, according to the Times:

“We need to be talking not just about defunding the war but also about funding the vets,” Ms. Sarandon said, adding that more than 50,000 veterans had been injured while benefits for them continue to be cut.

The Washington Post has this quote:

"When I served in the war, I thought I was serving honorably. Instead, I was sent to war ... for causes that have proved fraudulent," said Iraq war veteran Garett Reppenhagen.

Reuters reports that similiar demonstrations in Los Angeles and San Francisco today were attended by thousands.

Friday, January 26, 2007

African cichlid. Logical.
Posted by Picasa

Very Logical, Captain

Scientists have "discovered" that another species on earth is logical. It's a fish.

Their experiments show that an African cichlid, a spiny-finned fish, demonstrated "transitive inference," or the logic of figuring something out by comparing things.

Thus the fish joins the species that scientists have previously proven are logical: monkeys, rats and birds.

There must be another one. Oh, right.

Posted by Picasa
Is Anyone Listening This Time?

Shortly before the US invaded Iraq, UN inspectors said they hadn't found any WMD but wanted more time to look, as Saddam was finally cooperating. They were ignored.

Yesterday, a UN inspector said this about Iran:

The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency, in an indirect warning to the United States and Israel, said Thursday a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would have “catastrophic” consequences and only strengthen Tehran's resolve to make atomic arms.

Will the White House listen this time?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Comet McNaught, from
Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

Who is About the Future

This was the "recognition" of the Climate Crisis, the new policy direction, Bush taking the lead on an issue he finally acknowledges, even long after many other authorative voices have proclaimed it the biggest challenge of our time, and a greater global threat than terrorism? Big deal. Bush mentioned climate change in one sentence in his State of the Union.

He talked briefly about alternative energy (which for him includes coal, nuclear and ethanol) and reducing gasoline consumption, but he didn't relate it to the Climate Crisis. This isn't leadership. Like on Iraq, Bush stands virtually alone, except for a few fanatical Climate Crisis deniers. This is one child who's been left way behind.

Because the slow movement towards confronting the Climate Crisis is fast becoming an avalanche. There are small indications: no fewer than 3 stories in today's local paper about the Climate Crisis, a week of recommended and front-page commentaries on daily kos, where the few that were written back when I was one of the writers were largely ignored. But also small-seeming but big indications. A poll saying that three-quarters of the American public wants mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases emissions. And on the eve of the address, a dramatic and detailed letter from some of America's largest corporations, asking for government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically.

The letter was signed by CEOs of ten major manufacturing and energy companies, including Alcoa, General Electric, DuPont and Duke Energy. Nor was this just the statement of a general position. It was detailed and technical--as summarized by Blue Climate here. These companies want government regulation to produce something that everybody will have to do (shared sacrifice), and they want to know what they will have to do so they can plan their futures: what kind of investments in what kind of plants and equipment, for example. And they clearly want to be part of the process of creating these regulations, but this time they are asking for it in a public way.

Bush won't lead but the new Speaker of the House will. Nancy Pelosi is making the Climate Crisis a priority, and has established a new House committee to concentrate on it, despite opposition even within her party. Her statement: "It says to the American people, we are about the future."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Comet with Human Shadow (Canada)
Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

Worse, Sooner

The much anticipated Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due to be released in early February. Early word on it was that this panel of several thousand climate scientists would scale back on earlier predictions. After all, there are bound to be a lot of differences among thousands of scientists, and the report is a consensus document.

But according to the Observer in the UK, based on a draft report, the conclusions are quite the opposite. The Climate Crisis is going to be worse, and sooner:

"...the frequency of devastating storms - like the ones that battered Britain last week - will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries."

The New York Times has a similiar story, adding that the report states "that it is more than 90 percent likely that global warming since 1950 has been driven mainly by the buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and that more warming and rising sea levels are on the way."

The report is likely to put the Climate Crisis on the front pages in February and high on the agendas of European governments, where weather effects have been stark and unrelenting. There's been some talk that Bush's State of the Union next week will offer new federal U.S. initiatives, and that such apparent new directions on the Climate Crisis, health care and other "domestic" issues will be used to deflect attention from Bush's universally condemned Iraq policy. But others believe Iraq will still dominate the speech, the coverage and the political debate.

The Observer article quotes one scientist as saying there is still time to act. But the time is getting shorter to effectively organize responses to inevitable effects in this decade and the next several decades, and to stop the causes that will lead to catastrophic and perhaps civilization-ending effects a little further in the future. We're playing from behind, where apparently we've been keeping our heads.

The Climate Crisis

Another Reason It's The Climate Crisis

I began arguing years ago that one barrier to understanding all this was nomenclature: while technically correct, the terms "greenhouse effect" and "global warming" were deceptive in tone--they made the whole thing sound mild, even pleasant. "Climate change" was not much better-- again it's technically correct but deceptive (it hinges on the difference between "climate" and "weather," which is weak in the popular mind) and "change" has too many positive connotations: put them together, and you get "a change in the weather," which, if the weather happens to be bad, is good.

I argued for "global heating" to stress the severity, and "climate crisis" to reflect the urgency. But there's another reason to stick with Climate Crisis: the emphasis on "warming" gives the impression that any weather other than a rise in temperature--and especially a drop in temperature--contradicts the global warming/greenhouse effect thesis. And it doesn't.

Cases in point: this month's weather. A few days ago, large parts of Europe were hit with ferocious storms and hurricane force winds. What
Jeff Masters of Weather Underground describes as an "extra-tropical cyclone" caused what would be called Category 1 or 2 hurricane effects if this happened in the Gulf of Mexico. And the extent of it was massive. I saw a clip of a forecaster in Germany saying that they had never seen such a violent storm that affected the ENTIRE country. But it wasn't just Germany--it killed people in England and the Czech Republic as well.

The greenhouse effect does predict storms that arise from the effects of warmer ocean water on air masses and currents. That temperature is additionally increased now by the El Nino phenomenon, which may or may not be related to global heating. Moreover, these storms in Europe were accompanied by relatively warm temperatures.

But parts of Europe are now experiencing cold and snow. Areas of the U.S. are also getting hit with huge snowstorms and frigid temperatures. Global warming? Well, yes.
Two points: in some places where it is usually cold, it's gotten cold, but not quite as cold as usual. And some places usually too cold for a lot of snow are getting huge snow storms because of warmer air holding more moisture. Even the suddenly falling temperatures could be an indication. After a December that was the warmest in centuries across the northern hemisphere, the cold is simply coming late--possibly because the Arctic didn't freeze sufficiently until now to generate the cold air carried down to us.

But the point here isn't that everything can be traced back to global warming. The point is that we're well into the early stage of the Climate Crisis, and we're going to be figuring out the details of what's happening and why as we go along. We aren't that smart yet. (Although I guess that's obvious, since we haven't been smart enough to take this seriously in the 15 to 30 years warning of warming.) But we do know the basics, and we know the basic preventive for the future. We've got a lot of learning and doing ahead of us, in a short time. But we have to face what's happening. It's the Climate Crisis, the crisis of our future. And we have to deal with it in our now.