Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Bush Deregulates Industries, Economic Downturn Worsens & more

Bush pushes new deregulation rules, or as I talk about at SquareState, Bush Launches Last Attacks on Americans.

The economic downturn speeds up. Among the new problems, consumer spending is down by the largest amount in four years.  Consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity.  I expect that number to continue to decrease.  After all, home equity is tapped, credit cards are tapped, wages remain stagnant, workers are being laid off, and the Bush administration bails out industries.  Where are consumers supposed to get the money to buy their crap?

Another story has received almost no attention in the glare of the 2008 election: refugees from Ike.
The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season caused a lot of damage and death this year.  Do we have disaster fatigue?  If so, it doesn’t bode well for the future.  Extreme weather events are likely to become more common.

Early voting numbers look strong.


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Climate Change: Core Climate Solutions, Greenland Ice Loss, CO Forest Health

Climate Progress has a Core Climate Solution Primer.  Recommended reading.

The rate at which Greenland’s ice sheets are losing mass has dramatically increased compared to rates in the 20th century, according to a new Geophysical Research Letters article.  From the abstract:

We find that the ice sheet was losing 110 ± 70 Gt/yr in the 1960s, 30 ± 50 Gt/yr or near balance in the 1970s–1980s, and 97 ± 47 Gt/yr in 1996 increasing rapidly to 267 ± 38 Gt/yr in 2007.

The 2007 number is just astounding.  Quantifying it is important for other research.

Gov. Bill Ritter has sent a letter to the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service requesting a larger portion of an upcoming federal allotment of forest health funding.  Citing Colorado’s ongoing drought and recent record fire years coupled with an expected explosion of human-forest interfaces in the next 20 years, Ritter made the argument that the current average of $6 million per year in funding wasn’t sufficient.  From his letter:

Regional Forester Rick Cables estimated the costs of addressing these concerns on national forests to be nearly $40 million dollars in fiscal year 2009 alone – a calculation that does not include any support to address equally critical needs on state and private lands.

More below.

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Hubble Takes Perfect New Pix & Other Space News – 10/31/08

Just prior to the scheduled launch of the last Hubble Space Telescope’s repair/upgrade mission, an onboard data router failed.  The shuttle launch was delayed until next year.  Scientists and engineers worked to use an onboard backup (thank you, redundancy!).  That backup unit is up and running.  A test photo was released by NASA and things look real good!  Unfortunately, the already delayed upgrade mission was delayed a little more.  NASA wants to send up a replacement part to the unit that failed last month.  It won’t be ready for another six months.  That could delay NASA’s plans to reconfigure the launch pad to accomodate the next generation of launch vehicles.  Fortunately, Endeavour’s Nov. 14th launch to the International Space Station remains on schedule.

A Google Lunar X-Prize contestant is not only planning to send their craft to the Apollo 11 landing site, they’re planning to launch five additional missions for lunar polar exploration.  To win the Grand X-Prize ($20 million), a private company must achieve a series of goals by Dec. 31, 2010.  Astrobotic now wants to send it main craft to the moon in 2010, then two smaller rovers in 2011 and 2012.  An additional lander would also land in 2012, then another rover in 2013.  This is exactly the kind of plan I want to see: a medium-term, aggressive approach to lunar exploration.

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander entered an inactive safe mode late Tuesday.  Very cold overnight temperatures and a dust storm has reduced Phoenix’s ability to generate enough power to conduct full science.  It’s not supposed to be a permanent condition.  Phoenix’s primary mission phase ended in August.  It has had its mission extended ever since.  Eventually, Phoenix will not be able to power itself.

NASA’s shuttle replacement might come online one year sooner than originally planned.  Plans are being drawn up to try to move the first test launch date up from 2015 to 2014.  They will be finalized in December.  This news came out prior to NASA’s announcement that the Hubble upgrade mission was going to be delayed again.  As I wrote above, the launch pad needs to be reconfigured for the Orion vehicle launch aboard the Ares rocket.

Cassini is going to pass by Saturn’s mood Enceladus for the third time tomorrow.  A number of very cool things have come from the previous two flybys.

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Economic Numbers Come Out Just Prior to 2008 Election

What will their effect be?  I think they will act as a final reminder to folks that the cons’ economic policies need go no further.  People do want change.  They want to be able to afford their groceries, their gas and their healthcare.  None of them are more affordable now than they were 8 years ago.  They want to have money to retire with and they have seen their pensions and 401k’s eviscerated by the cons.  The numbers that were released today show nothing different than what we’ve seen over the past six weeks.  Here they are:

The economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.3% from July through September.  The previous quarter’s number was +2.8%, but you can’t really compare the two.  Remember, the 2nd quarter saw all the economic stimulus checks beings sent out and spent.  It was a one-time deal and that’s confirmed by the 3rd quarter number.  Without those stimulus checks, the 2nd quarter GDP numbers were likely closer to 0.  Economists are predicting the next two quarters will likely be negative also.  We’re already in a recession.  Most Americans have come to this conclusion, I think.  I doubt we’ll get confirmation of it from the cons, however.  Bush’s crew is likely to let that announcement slide to an Obama administration.

Jobless claims for the week again totaled nearly 500,000.  Unemployment is September was reported at 6.1%, but is expected to increase in the months ahead, possibly to 8%.  Unfortunately, the official unemployment number neglects some aspects of the true labor market.  The actual unemployment number is probably a couple percentage points higher.  Tack on underemployment and the actual condition of labor can be assessed – it’s likely to be 12% or greater.

Here’s a headline that should surprise no one: State budget gaps widening as economy slumps.  As a result of the insane tax policies of the cons, the federal budget has been over-allocated.  That has left state budgets stretched thin during the “expansion” of the previous decade.  There wasn’t an expansion and services were required to cover additional people.  Something has to give.  Either the tax-zealots win and services disappear or taxes are raised and services survive (at lower strength perhaps).  This illuminates the biggest problem with cons’ economics: if public services are halted, people will be forced to buy services from the private sector.  Umm, real wages haven’t risen in more than 8 years.  Where exactly are people supposed to get the money to buy those services, because their cost will assuredly increase (that’s what happens in a capital economy, after all).  When people vote, they need to think about how they want to pay for services.  If everybody invests in them with tax dollars, the government can provide them at a low cost.  If everybody is on their own, the private sector will provide them at great cost.  Which means those providing the services will get richer while the rest of us get poorer.  Or people will just be plain unable to get those services.  Services that include education; health care.  How about the police and fire deparments?  Should those be privatized?


Let me present one more economic number: Big Oil Profits for the 3rd quarter.  Remember, the economy went into the crapper, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and foreclosures are happening at record numbers.  Along with all of that, ExxonMobil once again posted the largest 3-month profit in human history, beating their own record set in the previous quarter.  Just how much did Exxon make in 3 months?  $14.83 billion.  What was their record last quarter?  $11.68 billion.  How about during the 3rd quarter last year?  $9.41 billion.  Did your income go up 58% in the last year?  Because Exxon’s did.  How about 27% more in July-September than April-June?  Exxon did.  And that is only 1 oil corporation – only 1!!  That’s what $4.00 gas did this past summer: it stuffed the pockets of the most profitable corporations even further.  Remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989?  They finally paid some money on that disaster: $170 million.  That’s only 1% of their profit in the last three months.  Pathetic.  Immoral.

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CO-02 Candidates & Climate Change

Last week, CO-02 Republican candidate Scott Starin told the Colorado Independent that humans weren’t forcing the climate system.  Jared Polis, the Democratic candidate in the race, justifiably took Starin to task over his comments.  The issue has now been covered by the Boulder Daily Camera.  Interestingly, Starin backtracked from his comments when talking with the Camera:

Starin, 47, said he may have overstated his views to the Independent, saying Tuesday he simply doesn’t know for sure what the relationship is between the burning of fossil fuels and rising temperatures around the world.

Then, Starin threw out a tired right-wing attack, calling Polis “arrogant”.  There are many difference between the Polis-Starin race and the Obama-McCain race, but calling the Democrat arrogant (or elite) isn’t one of them.  Voters are tired of the silly personal attacks.  The rabid right-wing base laps it up, but personal attacks don’t translate to good governing once in office.

What Jared is doing, and what more politicians should do, is he’s basing his approach to climate change on the actual research done on the subject.  That research has pointed in one direction for over 30 years now: the climate is being forced by anthropogenic activities.  The big problem is the climate is responding on a time-scale that is unprecedented in history.  There are cases in which greenhouse gas concentrations likely rose to similar concentration values, but the time span it took to do so are much, much longer than what we’re witnessing today.

The case is quite simple: global climate models that do not take into account rising GHG concentrations do not reproduce today’s climate – those climates are significantly cooler.  Global climate models that do take into account GHG concentrations more accurately reproduce today’s climate.  I say more accurately because the models used to produce the 2007 IPCC Report actually underestimate the effects on the climate – they show cooler Northern Hemispheric temperatures than what we’ve witnessed the past two years.  Model solutions diverged from the actual climate in the opposite way that climate change deniers like Scott Starin and other ideologically pure conservatives say they do.

An additional important difference between Starin and Polis is their preferred method of producing energy in the 21st century.  Jared Polis wants to bring renewable energy technologies to market so they can produce a larger proportion of our energy portfolio.  He wants to burn fewer fossil fuels, recognizing their harmful impact on both the environment and our security.  Jared has a ‘can do’ attitude.  Starin is exactly the opposite.  He wants to wait for the magical moment when renewable technologies are mature enough that they can produce all of our energy, at which time he might advocate for their deployment.  He wants to keep burning fossil fuels, which would continue to wreck havoc on the climate system and threaten our security.  Scott has a ‘can’t do’ attitude, like many other conservatives.

Oh, the comments after the Camera article are comedic.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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Afghanistan Personnel Levels; Sen. Lieberman; Credit card defaults; Voter Suppression

Here’s something that got no coverage today.  The requested troop buildup in Afghanistan (set for next year) is quickly growing in size.  The ever-present, mysterious “officials” have said for months that trainers and and two additional combat brigades were needed, or about 10,000 more personnel.  Recently, a third combat brigade appeared necessary, putting the number of personnel at 15,000.  Now, an additional 5,000 to 10,000 personnel might be requested.  That would put the total somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.  There are, of course, over 150,000 U.S. forces currently occupying Iraq.  If McCain were to be elected (thankfully, an increasingly unlikely scenario), where would the 20,000+ personnel come from?  He has no plans to stop occupying Iraq.  Obama, if elected, will face the leftover question: what about the equipment the troops need?  Under Bush, that equipment hasn’t been maintained.  Current estimates of taking care of the maintenance backlog include years of time and billions of dollars.  Expanding operations in Afghanistan isn’t going to make that task any easier.

Sen. Lieberman might lose his committee chairmanship.  It’s about damn time.  He isn’t a Democrat, as seen by more than his b.s. party he formed in 2006.  As chair of the Homeland Security committee, Sen. Lieberman hasn’t held any meaningful hearings on the status of domestic security.  He has allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the worst President America has ever had.

Credit card defaults on the rise.  Not primarily the fault of either banks or borrowers.  It’s the failed CONservative economic policies of keeping workers’ wages low and offering risky credit as the path toward continued consumer spending.  Those policies have allowed executive pay and stock prices to skyrocket in the past 30 years, while workers’ income hasn’t risen.

Fliers in being distributed in minority neighborhoods in Virginia with false information about a change in election day.  It says Republicans are to vote on Nov. 4, while Democrats are to vote on Nov. 5.  There is only one voting day, of course, and that day is Nov. 4.  I’m sure Fox, Drudge and the McCain campaign are going to be all over this immoral voter suppression effort.  Democrats: vote early.  Do not allow the cons to prevent you from voting.