Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Obama Follows Bush In Abusing War Powers Act

The Obama administration has sent a report to Congress detailing why it doesn’t need the legislature’s approval for continued American military action in the Libya theater.  To no one’s surprise, the Teabaggers don’t like the administration’s justification.  But here’s the problem with that: the Teabaggers were silent when it came to Bush & Afghanistan and Bush & Iraq.  No declaration of war was made by the Congress in 2001 or 2003.  And before this argument gets construed to be partisan, I will gladly point out that far too few so-called Democrats challenged the Bush administration regarding their abuse of executive powers.

So more to the point, Congress (members from both parties) is complaining that they aren’t satisfied with the administration’s approach to the Libya crisis.  While I agree with the basis of their argument, it’s hypocritical for the Teabaggers especially but for most Democrats as well to decide now is the time to complain.  Now that Congress hasn’t been handed a $1.5 Trillion budget surplus; now that Congress abdicated its responsibilities with regard to Afghanistan (where we’ve been invaders/occupiers for over 10 years now); now that Congress abdicated its responsibilities with regard to Iraq (where a clearly illegal invasion and occupation has lasted over 8 years); now that Congress extended unpaid for tax cuts to the wealthiest 1% of Americans & American mega-corporations; now, Congress is saying there is no imminent national security threat and that the costs are worrisome (even though the costs of Afghanistan’s occupation are estimated to be $455 Billion and the costs of Iraq’s occupation are estimated to be $800 Billion and both represent failed states and our own country has less national security now than it did in Oct 2001).

Go cry somewhere else, Congress.  This American citizen was calling for security and financial accountability since the 9/11 attacks and was roundly ignored by both parties.  Now the Teabaggers want to end Medicare and Social Security because they couldn’t find the courage to stand up to their fellow party members during the Bush Regime?  Now the Democrats want to continue the Bush Regime’s disastrous economic policies?  Only today’s corrupted corporate media would be able to presen such nonsense as “news”, while failing to hold themselves accountable for their lack of action.

Take note, Teabaggers & CorporateDems alike: it’s far too late to pretend to be angry that you decided you wanted to be irrelevant as a part of the government.  By giving away your powers when “your guy” was in the White House, you lost any valid argument trying to claim them when “the other guy” is in the White House.

Take note, Obama administration: your actions are likely as illegal as the Bush Regime’s were.  Nothing is different just because you have a different letter after your name or just because there’s a black man in charge now.  The Constitutional Scholar is proving himself to be anything but.  I have lost nearly all of the respect I had for Obama.  This isn’t the change we voted for.  This isn’t leadership.  This is continued capitalistic cronyism and it’s as disgusting now as it was 3 years ago.

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Climate & Energy News Roudup

Occasionally, there are too many news bits and stories that I want to take more time to comment on but can’t.  Here then are a series of things that caught my eye recently, in no particular order.

The English climate scientists that had their emails illegally hacked have been vindicated in a number of different investigations.  At worst, ‘proper openness’ to data was found.  Unfortunately, the right-wing misinformation apparatus that sprang into over-drive about the emails’ contents might have accomplished its goal: delaying climate action in the U.S. and England.  The short-sighted fools might have put the finishing touches on condemning the next 50 generations to a hellish Earth.  Thanks a lot.  Oh, in the meantime – nobody has investigated the only crime in the story: the original hacking of servers, what a number of us called ‘hackergate’, but was never picked up by the corporate media (go figure).

GE is putting together $200 Million for an “Ecomagination Challenge”, which they describe as a contest to improve smart grid technology.  This is a good role for GE to play.  Smart grids have so far had only limited deployment into the real world and that’s something that public policy-makers need to get busy on.  Those deployments have been delayed and scaled back because of issues found during deployment.  That isn’t shocking, it just means more efforts need to be made to solidify this critical component of our future energy use.  I would be even more impressed if GE put a larger purse together, of course.  How about $2 Billion for a series of contests.  It’s not like they wouldn’t recoup the costs many times over.

I’ve included this in the previous post already, but it really can’t get enough coverage.  A Stanford study found that extreme heat waves could be very common within 30 years’ time.  The effects on people’s health (fatalities) and agriculture would be massive.  Maybe when most of our crops fail and people are dying from heat exhaustion by the thousands, maybe then we’ll take this climate change thing seriously.  I would still expect people like Sen. Inhofe to spout his latest nonsensical climate denier talking points, of course.

Add the Pentagon to the list of pinko-commie, tree-hugging, one-world-conspiracy theorists that “believe” in global warming.  A group of people responsible for national security have let scientists know they want probabilistic climate change risk assessments conducted.  National security folks already come close to speaking the language of climate science.  Instead of expecting perfect projections, experts in both fields use ranges and levels of certainty to ascertain risk.  Get used to news like this, deniers.  After the U.S. military has jumped the shark, there’s no telling who’s next.

Working hand-in-hand with a smart grid (see the GE story above), smart meters remain an unknown technology in terms of how people use them and whether energy usage shifts as a result.  The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a report a few weeks ago that showed that smart meters alone don’t work to trim consumers’ consumption.  Just as Prius owners have discovered, once up-to-the-minute feedback is shared to users, people don’t typically have an incentive to conserve.  If homeowner’s could see real-time energy prices and demand within their home, they would make changes to how and when they did the same activities they’ve always taken for granted.

I found some designs for vertical farms to be used in urban settings recently.  They look cool and they would serve to reduce our food’s carbon footprint dramatically.  Google ‘vertical farming’ and enjoy looking through the results sometime.


Climate Scientists Regain Access to CIA Imagery

Among the hundreds of anti-science actions the Bush “administration” took in the last decade was one to prevent climate scientists from accessing declassified data from the CIA and other federal intelligence sources.  There was no threat to our national security by the data sharing agreement.  There was, however, a threat to the Cons’ War on Science.  If U.S. climate scientists were denied access to data, especially satellite data, it would be much harder for them to gain the understanding of phenomena such as ice dynamics at the poles.  It has been well documented that the poles are experiencing more effects from climate change thus far than any other part of the globe.  Unfortunately, the poles are also the hardest for scientists to access.  There are no permanent surface stations on the Arctic ice, for instance.  Antarctica is very poorly sampled.  These facts lead to the situation where globally averaged temperatures over the past 30 years are likely too low because of the sub-sampling of regions which have experienced the most warming.

The Obama administration is demonstrating that it is more tuned into what science can offer society: the CIA is again sharing data with climate scientists.

The data not only helps out climate scientists, but their work in turn helps out the CIA and other agencies charged with protecting our national security.  As I’ve written before, only fools and ideologues believe that desertification of arable land, rapidly rising sea levels, ocean acidification and mass migration of climate refugees aren’t threats to nations across the globe.  By trying to bury the problem, the Bushies added additional threats to our country.  Cons such as Sens. Inhofe and Barrasso (from two of CO’s neighboring states) fear conspiracy theories more than the real events of our day.

The program resurrects a scientific group that from 1992 to 2001 advised the federal government on environmental surveillance. Known as Medea, for Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis, the group sought to discover if intelligence archives and assets could shed light on issues of environmental stewardship.

In a positive sign that scientists aren’t beholden to a rigid ideology, the resurrection of the program includes a review of past efforts in order to determine which ones should be expanded and what additional needs exist today that need filling.

Scientists and policy makers have a lot to do to make up for the time lost during the dark years under the Bushites.  This is another step in the correct direction.

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Where Are The Angry Hordes Today?

With news that billions in American aid to Pakistan wasted due to lack of Pentagon planning and accounting, I’m sure we’ll hear about all those truly concerned grass-roots-types calling their Representatives and Senators and demanding that the government stop foreign aid to the nuclear country.  Right?  Right?

I mean, after all, their outrage wasn’t manufactured or focused on what a handful of corporations wanted them to be, was it?  That’s what we kept hearing from all of them – “Nobody is telling me to be out here with my Obama=Hitler sign.  I’m real and I’m angry, dammit!”.  So where are they today?  Are the phone lines in Washington jammed with thousands of angry citizens demanding to know why the Pentagon threw away $6 Billion?  Are the servers crashing from all of the traffic as people demand to know via email where their taxpayer dollars are?

Of course they’re not.  Because the outrage was manufactured.  Because the military can do whatever they damn well please with taxpayer dollars.  The righties aren’t concerned about their fellow Americans’ health.  Somehow, they’re just fine with the idea that $6 Billion of our dollars went to Pakistani economic subsidies, including fighting with India, instead of tracking down and killing terrorists.  They’re not truly angry that the government is getting involved with things … as long as the government is involved in the things they want it to be.  The tea-baggers and anti-health care reform mobs that descended on town halls this summer were as fake as can be.  Few of those people would have gotten out to the town halls if they weren’t organized by firms who specialize in such things.  The fact that the people didn’t know they were being used could be considered sad.

But I don’t waste any pity on those who don’t truly care for their fellow citizens.  They deserve to have billions of their tax dollars flittered away by their political leadership.

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US Missle “Shield” Scrapped By Obama

Good.  Talk about an insane giveaway to defense contractors that would never offer any real defense to the U.S. or European countries.  It was designed to funnel billions to corporations for the easiest profit in the world and ratchet up the arms race versus Russia so they would be forced to respond with their own war program.

The silliest part to this development?  Cons spent their time yesterday slamming President Obama over this decision, saying it would weaken the U.S. stance versus Russia and Iran.

To which I reply, what about terrorism and China?

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Climate Change News – 5/22/09: Sea Level Rise Estimates, Oil & Military, Emissions in a Recession

Here are some of the climate-related news stories that I’ve seen this week:

A new study proposes that if the West Antarctic ice sheets melted, global sea level rise would only be 10 feet, not 20 as previously estimated by other studies.  The new study’s author claims that enough of the ice sheet would remain grounded on the Antarctic continent so that only some of the melting ice would find its way directly to the world’s oceans.  If true, this would be at least some good news in the sea level rise arena. One take-away message is that we still don’t know nearly enough about ice sheet and glacier dynamics to reliably forecast their future conditions.  These are interesting results – since they challenge previous findings, they need to be explored further.

Though not my chief concern over fossil fuel usage, a group of retired military officers argue in a recently released report that energy security and efforts to reduce the risks of climate change should be included in the nation’s national security and military planning.  From the article:

The concerns extend beyond America’s dependence on foreign oil, the report says, because no matter what the source, America’s dependence on oil “undermines economic stability, which is critical to national security.”

Also, the report called for modernizing the nation’s electric power system. The country’s “fragile domestic electricity grid makes our domestic military installations and their critical infrastructure unnecessarily vulnerable to incident, whether deliberate or accidental,” said the report.

The report raised alarm about three converging concerns: A future global oil market shaped by limited supplies and increasing demand, rising fossil fuel prices caused by regulating climate-changing emissions, and the impacts of climate change on global insecurity.

Another casualty of the 2008-09 recession?  CO2 emissions.  Many people were curious how the worst recession since the Great Depression would impact emission trends. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions declined by 2.8 percent last year compared to 2007.  The Energy Information Administration attributed the decline to a 2.2 percent drop in energy consumption, largely because of high gasoline and diesel prices last summer and the sharp economic decline in the last half of the year.  It’s not the way anybody wanted emissions to be reduced – millions of Americans are unemployed and our economy is in tatters.  Meanwhile, Cons and ConservaDems watered the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation down significantly, as I’ll cover later.

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News Survery 2/17/09: Oil, Afghanistan & Antarctic Station

Some recent articles caught my eye.  Here are three of them:

Crude oil is getting cheaper – so why isn’t gas?  Short answer first: greed.  Longer answer: the oil price reported in the media is West Texas crude.  It’s currently selling for less than other oil grades around the world.  The gas we fuel our vehicles with?  It’s processsed from that foreign oil.  The article actually mentions that refining capacity for West Texas crude is less than for other types of crude.  Why aren’t more refineries built?  Well, that would cost oil corporations money – money they’d rather see in executive bonuses and stock dividends.  Don’t think this benefits your retirement account.  As most of us are now aware, the only people who benefited from stock payouts were the already mega-rich.  That won’t change anytime soon.  So when you’re paying more than $2 per gallon again this year, keep in mind all the record profits the oil corporations posted last year.  The money that we’re all paying at the pump every day could go to building refineries and lowering the price at the pump, but it’s not.

Escalation of troops in Afghanistan.  I’d be happier to read news reports of large-scale, detailed plans to revitalize the infrastructure of Afghanistan.  At this point, I think troops are necessary.  But they’ll be worth less in the long-term if fundamental issues aren’t addressed at the same time.

New Antarctic research station is carbon-free.  It won’t stop deniers/delayers from further beating their dead talking-point horses, but this article is good news for realists.  The station uses wind mills, solar panels and water recycling … in Antarctica.  If buildings in Antarctica can be built as zero-emitters, do you think they can be built on the rest of the continents?  Darn right.

The only beef I have with the last article is its treatment of two separate facts.  Both are important (and correct) alone, but the writer did nothing to merge them coherently.  They are:

Scientists monitoring global warming predict higher temperatures could hasten melting at Antarctica, the world’s largest repository of fresh water, raising sea levels and altering shorelines. If Antarctica ever melted, world sea levels would rise by about 180 feet.

That would impact some 146 million people living in low-lying coastal regions less than three feet above current sea levels, researchers said.

On the path toward total Antarctic ice sheet melt (the continent itself can’t melt, by the way), sea levels would obviously rise 3 feet before they rose 180 feet.  So if a 3 foot sea level rise would impact 146 million people, what kind of an impact would sea level rises between three and 180 feet have?  More than the number indicated in the article.

A two-year old paper indicated over 400 million people for selected parts of the globe.  That’s bad enough.  When you factor in recorded sea-level rise amounts have already exceeded earlier estimates, that number is likely to be higher.  And what about the rest of the globe that the study didn’t examine, such as the west coast of the U.S. and most of Africa?

While the article could have benefited from some additional context, I was glad to see the information that did make it in.  We must rein in greenhouse gas emissions.  Millions of peoples’ livelihoods and untold numbers of plants and animals depend on it.

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News Items From The Weekend 2/6/09

A number of items caught my eye in local newspapers over the weekend.  Starting with Friday’s paper:
Pentagon expanding funding to woo world public opinion.  $4.7 billion will be spent on spreading propaganda this year alone.  That’s as much as it spent on body armor for America’s troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006.  Interesting to note where the priorities are.

Deal on stimulus elusive.  In this L.A. Times article, the debate is identified as becoming increasingly partisan.  Darn right it’s becoming more partisan – it’s all Republicans know how to do.  They think delaying recovery and reinvestment in America (not Iraq) will somehow lead to winning elections in 2010.  Good luck with that.

A note here.  Most Cons’ objection to the bill centers around, “There’s not enough tax cuts!”  The Cons implemented every tax cut they could during the Bush years.  Guess how many jobs it created?  The fewest since the Great Depression.  Nearly all of them have since been lost as the Cons’ failed economic policies took full effect.  What do the Cons want in this bill?  More tax cuts to the rich, which won’t create one middle-class job.

Politics collide over road tolls in transporation bill.  When do the Cons like a tax?  When it’s called anything else.  They want tolls on highways that the public have already paid for.  The Cons didn’t fund their maintainence for years as part of their Drown-Government approach.  Tolls aren’t the answer.  How about mass-transit instead?

Lennon or Lenin, it stinks.  Right-wing editorialist David Harsanyi does his part to confuse the details of loans and recovery monies.  He asks:

Why did we just allow the president to dictate the pay of private citizens working in the private sector?

After writing that beggars can’t be choosers, he then asks:

However, in Obama’s trillion-dollar “stimulus plan” rushing through Congress, nearly every sector of the economy will, at one point, have allegedly benefited from taxpayer bounty. Does this mean that all industries can be subjected to similar central control?

There is a big difference between the TARP money financial institutions received and the recovery funds currently being negotiated in Congress.  The former went directly from the federal government to individual corporations who were screaming they were about to fail.  Instead of using the money as the TARP legislation spelled out, those corporations instead used the money to buy other banks and give out $13 billion in executive bonuses – for doing a good job, they said.  President Obama rightfully called them out on the practice.  If they want money from the taxpayers, there will be conditions set on it, just like the conditions customers agree to when asking banks for money.  There is really very little difference.

The recovery money will be provided to generate programs and projects, which will create middle-class jobs.  In contrast, none of the money from the TARP program went to creating middle-class jobs.  The other big difference is individual corporations aren’t begging the federal government for corporate welfare.  The government is instituting the programs under which money will be distributed.  The difference is quite clear to those who take a moment to look for it.

And though we didn’t hear Vladimir Ilyich, we are hearing the creeping sound of centralized Western European top-down economics — a system, where even with all the glorious over-regulations, there is a deep recession.

Ah, the token swipe at other industrialized nations’ economic policies.  Of course, Harsanyi doesn’t mention that the U.S. initiated this recession.  It started here and is getting worse here than in parts of Western Europe.  That simple fact is one of the biggest reasons why Western European countries’ economies have also slid into recession.  The demand from the world’s largest economy has come to an abrupt and very significant halt.  That has to have an effect in today’s interconnected world economies.  To warn U.S. policy makers away from Western European economic policies makes no sense.  They didn’t create the problem.  American Cons did.


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