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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Homicidal White Supremacist Case Begs A Question

After reading the story of a then 14-year old Californian white supremacist that shot a middle school classmate at school because of alleged “unwanted sexual advances” (the shot teen was gay), I want to ask the lawyers and society at large something.  Just a little more detail on the story, then the question.

The shooter pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder after a jury was unable to decide a verdict in the case earlier in the year.  “Brandon McInerney, in a fit of homophobic rage, killed classmate Larry King because he was offended by King’s dress and how the victim interacted with him. ”

“King, 15, was openly gay, and McInerney’s attorneys argued he made sexual advances against their client.”

And now the question: does anybody seriously think a heterosexual woman would be offered a plea deal due to a hung jury if she killed a man because he made unwanted sexual advances against her?


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Oil Back Near $100/Barrel: Where Is The Demand?

The price per barrel of oil is back up near $100 as of the end of last week and through today’s trading.  According to the free-marketeers, that must mean gasoline demand has been through the roof.  Oops, not so much: demand is down -4.3% YoY, at 8671 M gallons vs. 9056 M a year ago, as noted at The Bonddad Blog.

Clearly, something other than just demand is and has been at work.  Oil trading is as much gambling as the stock market is.  All the volatility that consumers are affected by arises primarily from large amounts of bets placed on anticipated prices.

Why is this important?  As NDD notes, “This [oil’s price] is back above the recession-trigger level calculated by analyst Steve Kopits. Gas at the pump declined $.03 to $3.42 a gallon. Measured this way, we probably are still about $.15 above the 2008 recession trigger level.”  Those bets have real-world implications.  Recessions are easier to trigger when oil and gas prices remain high.

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Keystone XL: Obama Plays His “Base” Like A Fiddle

There’s lots of cheerleading going on from the environmental sidelines over this:

There will be a “supplemental” environmental impact statement — presumably one that isn’t rigged. It “could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013.”

A SEIS completed in 2013.  Hmm, what about that date might be important?  Oh, I know – it’s the quarter after the 2012 general election.  After Obama wins because environmentalists and others vote for him, convinced that he’s playing 11th-dimensional chess after all of his stunning successes in his first term.  Or after he loses because the Teabaggers remain more motivated than the trod-upon Democratic base.

Either way, I fully expect the Keystone XL project to more forward starting in 2013.  Bill McKibben can bluff all he wants: “The president should know that If this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built”.  What leverage will McKibben or any other environmentalist have on Obama or his Republican Teabagger replacement in 2013?

A delay is not a victory, Bill & Joe.  But keep cheering.  I just know that will make all the difference in 2013 since climate change is one of Obama’s highest priorities.

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Excellent Financial Crisis Write-Up

Hale Stewart has an excellent post describing the timeline leading up to the 2008 financial collapse.  Unsurprisingly, there is a good amount of Republican hypocrisy thrown into the mix: they were pushing for entities to provide more high-risk loans before they blamed those entities for the entire crash.  Of course, only a small fraction of high-risk loans were made by those entities, but when did a Republican let reality get in the way of their delusion?

The post’s premise is supported by a ton of research done by a wide variety of folks.

If you’re at all interested in knowing exactly what happened, read this post.  There is some economic jargon thrown in, but slog your way through it.  You’ll be better off because you’ll know what to look for in the future.


2010: Largest Increase in CO2 Emissions On Record -> Actions To Date Insufficient

I wanted to share just a few brief words on an article I saw in the Denver Post (from the AP) today: Greenhouse gas levels rise. Somewhat surprisingly, a reference to the article appeared on the top of the front page of the print edition of the paper. The story, at the back on 11A, was a little too filled with various quotes from experts in the field for my taste, with no real context for readers to grasp why the news is so important.

This graph encapsulates the importance of this news item:

What this graph shows is the observations of emissions (as calculated by the IEA) represented by the black curve and 5 of the 6 emissions scenarios used by the IPCC AR4 in colored lines. The SRES begin in 2000, which was the starting year used for future simulations in the AR4. You can clearly see the effects of the partial collapse of the global economy in 2009 emissions: they went from higher than the worst-case scenario to the middle of the pack.

In 2010, however, emissions jumped back up to the top of the pack, almost as if 2009 never even happened. I would be willing to bet the 2011 numbers will demonstrate a further increase.

The simplicity of this graph should in no way distract from the deep problems underlying the data: we continue to emit more and more greenhouse gases. As a result, we are locking in more and more future warming and ensuring a cascade of resultant effects that we can’t envision today. In contrast to some of my earlier posts, I want to make sure I don’t convey that I think those effects will be apocalyptic because I don’t think they will be.

There will be changes forced on us and on ecosystems worldwide as a result of these emissions. But what I want to start spending more time on are the solutions to the grand challenges we’re facing instead of just the depths of those challenges themselves.

In short, it is clear that actions taken to date with respect to emissions clearly have been unsatisfactory. That is because the approach to developing policies that could affect emissions have been woefully inadequate. I have solidified my opinion that the IPCC is not the best approach to dealing with the adaptation or mitigation strategies. Neither do I think that the Conference on Parties, which is set to meet in a handful of weeks to discuss roles and responsibilities for developed and developing countries, is suitable for the task. I’m not sure what the best approach is, but neither of these two primary tacks have proven themselves capable of dealing with the problem to date.