Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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New Satellite Data: East Antarctica Also Losing Mass

If the results of the study I’m discussing are robust, and not just true, many more climate change effects will become apparent sooner than many think.  It has been known for a number of years that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has, on net, lost ice mass since ~2005.  This phenomenon has occurred concurrently with the Greenland ice sheet also losing mass over a similar time period.  That mass loss has contributed to a, until now, relatively small amount of sea level rise.

A new study suggests that sea level rise scenarios may need serious revision quickly: the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) has, according to NASA’s GRACE satellite data, also lost mass in the 2005-present time period.  Why is this a potential big deal?  Because east Antarctica contains enough water to raise sea levels by 50-60m (160-200 feet!) if they melted completely.  In contrast, the water in the WAIS and Greenland amount to “only” 6-7m (~20 feet) each if they melted completely.  So the EAIS contains an order of magnitude more water than the other two large ice sheets on Earth.

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FasTracks Study: Northern Lines May Not Get Built?

According to a Denver Post article, RTD (mass transit entity for the Denver, CO area) may be unable to build a number of lines it proposed back in 2004 as a part of FasTracks.  A study was conducted by BBC Research & Consulting, and was prepared for the North Area Transportation Alliance.  The group was formed in response to announcements in the past couple of years that the taxes passed by Denver metro-area voters back in 2004 wouldn’t cover the cost of all the planned light-rail and bus lines.

Commodity prices skyrocketed in the years after 2004 – that certainly didn’t help the plans laid out during good economic times.  But what is really threatening the plan is the Great Recession.  Tax receipts have tanked in the past two years.  The 0.4% tax passed remains in effect, but is producing considerably less money because people simply aren’t spending.  Those that hate everything government does and stands for have wasted no time in attacking RTD in the Post article’s comment section.

I’m sympathetic to the very large set of hurdles the FasTracks and RTD is facing.  I think the system is good, but not perfect.  I like light-rail; I like the idea of high frequency bus service.  But the article shares the following view that I think deserves attention:

“Simply stated, and now repeatedly stated by others, RTD needs to contemplate and discuss Plan B, and perhaps Plan C and Plan D,” said Ford Frick, BBC’s managing director, in the report. “If revenues fall short, or costs rise, what’s the plan? At what point will it be triggered?”

I agree with this assessment.  RTD has lined up three pathways to get all the lines built on time and close to originally advertised.  If one of the three falls through, what happens to the project?  Which lines get the axe?  Which lines get reduced service?  Are most contingencies well planned for or not?  Because I know a large number of north metro-area folks are going to be very upset if we’ve been taxed to pay for lines that we’ll rarely, if ever, use.  Opening two or three lines by 2017 and having the remainder wait until 2034, as proposed earlier this year, isn’t a viable solution.  Perhaps asking voters to increase the tax from 0.4% to 0.8% is, but in this economic environment, it faces strong headwinds.  I maintain that those two solutions aren’t and shouldn’t be the only two available.  But whatever the solution set looks like, RTD needs to be more aggressive to engage the public.  Communication looks to be stagnant or intermittent.  The apparent lack of fall-backs doesn’t engender confidence that RTD will be able to handle further shifts in the picture.


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Rewriting of History by Republicans

Former Bush “administration” officials did an outstanding job of screwing up this great country of ours.  How has the party of “responsibility” responded since losing power?  By doing their damndest to rewrite history.  This might take the top prize for Most Unbelievable Statement by a Republican for this year:

But, you know, we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically.

That little doozy came from Dana Perino, one of Bush’s press secretaries, talking to Sean Hannity on the Fox Propaganda Outlet.

The party and “administration” that used 9/11 as a political weapon for seven years is now claiming that 9/11 wasn’t a terrorist attack during Bush’s terms.  I’d like to know just what the hell they think it is now.


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Vincent Carroll – Not Going To Pay For Climate Catastrophe

Actually, he just might pay for some small part of it, if rapid climate change occurs more quickly than forecasted.  He doesn’t want to pay for it, that much is obvious from this weekend’s climate disinformation piece in the Denver Post by Vincent Carroll.

He tries to couch his argument in terms of looking out for undeveloped countries’ peoples “knocking on modernity’s door”.  I call shenanigans.  If you’ve read his opinion pieces before, you know Carroll is someone who looks out for himself and what he can get before everybody else has a chance.  I’m curious how many organizations Carroll has started or joined that works to introduce clean energy to those poor impoverished people he’d like us to think he cares so much about.

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Birther Billboard In Denver, CO

One thing that irritates me about the birthers (people who, despite objective proof to the contrary, insist that President Obama is somehow not a U.S. citizen) is they don’t understand the responsibilities that accompany their 1st amendment right of free speech.  It’s not terribly surprising that the same people who scream at liberals for not accepting responsibility for their actions are in fact guilty of what they’re accusing others of – it’s a hallmark of hypocrisy.

What’s disturbing is the level of racism and underlying hatred and fear of everything with which the right-wing doesn’t identify.  Today’s unfortunate example: Wolf Automotive, a Colorado car dealership, has donated space on a billboard they regularly pay for in Wheatridge, CO (a small suburb of Denver) for a poster questioning whether Barack Obama was a legitimate President or part of a jihad.

While people have the freedom of speech, this purposeful display of hatred clearly steps over bounds of civility.  Remember, these are the same people that demanded every American pay constant tribute to George Bush, who wasn’t elected in 2000, but instead selected by 5 Supreme Court members to his position.  Anybody who didn’t agree with Bush was instantly and then constantly derided as traitors by the faux patriots that cropped up around the country.  Now they’re trying to delegitimize Barack Obama’s position as President – a position that he cleanly and clearly won by a huge margin (a bigger margin than Bush ever enjoyed).

This billboard is a local result of the racist radio shock-jock Peter Boyles.  Peter could be the poster-child of the birther movement.  He’s an older, white, angry male who makes his living pushing hatred and fear.  It wouldn’t matter if President Obama went to Peter’s studio or house with his birth certificate, Peter would still stoke ignorant peoples’ fears.  Someday, somewhere, a birther will lash out and hurt or kill someone.  When that happens, Peter and everybody else like him will hide behind the 1st Amendment rights they so callously abuse today.


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Colorado News Stories: Connecting Some Dots

Today was another day in which a number of news articles caught my eye.  They warrant additional context, especially the connections between some of them.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been working behind the scenes to talk with what the corporate media likes to term “centrist”/”moderate” Democratic Senators regarding health care.  He will continue to try to convince CorporateDems to vote to allow debate on the Senate health bill.  What’s the center position between corporatist lackeys and principled public servants anyway?  Another very popular Washington buzzterm came into play: Salazar is involved because he was involved in several bipartisan agreements while a Senator.  He was at the forefront of what I term the Gaggle of Gangs in the Senate – joining with other “centrists” to keep the filibuster around but ensure Democrats wouldn’t use it while in the minority.  Which is part of the reason why Salazar is being sent back to work on his former colleagues: the Cons are threatening to filibuster the health bill (though Democrats won’t actually force them to carry one out) and -gasp- Democrats might join them.  That’s the answer to “How did that bipartisanship end up working out”.  Whatever happened to the Cons’ “Upper-down-vote!” they couldn’t get enough of?  One person of concern is Sen. Lieberman, the man who campaigned for Sen. John McCain in last year’s presidential election and is doing everything he can to keep himself in the news this year.  Salazar was “mentored” by Lieberman when he joined the Senate, so I’m sure Lieberman can be convinced to play nice – aren’t you?  Oh, and after watering down the bill with nonsense to appease “centrist” Republicans, where are their votes to move to debate?  MIA?  Why did we negotiate with them exactly?  They’re not going to vote for the final bill.

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How Declining Arctic Ice Volume Affects Northern Hemispheric Weather Patterns

Evidence continues to emerge regarding the effects of declining ice volume and areal extent in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere.  In a general sense, some kind of effects are of course to be expected.  But what kind, what are their magnitude, etc. need to be explored.  If it were up to the Cons, science would be defunded and we would have no idea what these emerging trends are.  This is the critical importance that science plays in our society.

I’m going to link to another diary and allow readers to explore the material there.  It’s decently written and links to science centers and refereed journals.  Here is the summary:

Today’s Arctic sea ice extent is hovering at the historic record low level for today’s date observed in 2007. Warm water entering the ice free zone from the Atlantic ocean is adding heat to the Arctic, changing the northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation pattern – the weather of the whole northern hemisphere. Even El Nino is different from what it used to be.

Enjoy.


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U.S. Record High Temperatures Recorded At Twice The Rate Of Record Lows This Decade

A news release was issued last Thursday that I flat out missed, which was unfortunate (though I’m glad I eventually found out about it).  A study (submitted to Geophysical Research Letters for publication) was conducted by climate scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO, Climate Central in Princeton, NJ, the Weather Channel, and the National Climate Data Center in Asheville, NC.  They examined trends in record high temperatures and record low temperatures over the past 6 decades, through 2006.  What they found isn’t terribly surprising: the ratio of record highs to record lows became unbalanced in the 2000s.  There were twice as many record highs as record lows across the continental United States.  That’s an increase from 1.36:1 for the 1990s and 1.14:1 for the 1980s.  Climate change is affecting us today.  Not tomorrow, not later this century.  Today.

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Even Progressive Senators Don’t Grasp Importance of Climate Change

I read a blog post about progressive Senate Democrats pushing Sen. Reid for a public option.  I wholeheartedly support such a push for a number of reasons.  Because I’m like most Americans, I encourage the push because I want true health care reform legislation to pass.  Not the watered down health insurance “reform” crap that CorporateDems and Republicans have forced in the House, but real reform, which is increasingly more unlikely this year, to the detriment of our country.

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Oil Peak: Fantasy or Already Here?

A whistleblower has said that the IEA has purposefully overestimated the future availability of oil.  Furthermore, the US has played a major role in the effort.

My take: I wouldn’t be surprised if the whistleblower is correct.  New fields have come online and have produced longer than previous estimates due to technological advances.  But that won’t last forever.  The biggest problem: we’ve put every egg in the oil basket.  There are no other sources of energy that could take oil’s place tomorrow if oil ran out today.  That’s not to say that that situation can’t ever change – we’re taking small but steady steps to alleviate our over-dependence on the finite dirty energy sources we depend on.  But if we’re as close as this whistleblower and other credible sources say we are, the price shocks and resultant massive economic disruptions that we’re trying like mad to avoid could still occur sooner than anyone would like to admit.

We need to develop our renewable energy infrastructure today, for multiple reasons.  Catastrophic climate change is the most important reason, followed by basic energy security as it relates to geopolitical stability.

On a related tangent: if peak oil is staring us in the face, it really makes the Iraq invasion and occupation look stupid.  How many trillions of dollars will we have wasted to secure a resource that is ever-dwindling?

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