Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Action on Climate Change Threatened by Partisanship

Roll Call has an insightful piece that states that the partisan divide in US politics threatens progress on reducing CO2 emissions.

Rather than going into a long discussion about partisanship in the US, I recommend reading the piece.

I believe the most important point made is that only “major institutional and technological change” can address the climate change/fossil fuel emissions problem.

One of the points coming across my Twitter Feed has been that major governmental and nstitutional support for science and technology is a main driver of such change. This argument has recently been made by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger.

The Horror in Iraq

Five minutes after I finished writing this, the following headline appeared at the top of Google News: Joint Chiefs Chairman: Iraq has asked for US air power to counter militants. This has been confirmed by the BBC

I guess that's what they call "reading the writing on the wall"

"Governments constantly choose between telling lies and fighting wars, with the end result always being the same. One will always lead to the other." - Thomas Jefferson

Nafeez Ahmed has a provocative column on the current situation in Iraq. He links the rise of the ISIS terrorist cabal to the West's insatiable demand for oil. This is augmented by China's growing oil demand.

Some of the comments below the piece are fairly interesting.

I believe that the the US would be heading almost immediately back to war in Iraq if it were not for these two factors:

Despite these mitigating factors, I believe there is a high risk that the US will become re-involved in Iraq. The reasons I say this relate to the psychology of the elites that led the United States to war in Iraq the first two times. These psychological factors involve pride and the refusal to accept the mission defeat that is now obviously occurring.

The only way to avoid this is for there to be a very deep soul-searching in the US about what happened during 2002-2003 during the run-up to the Iraq war. I do not believe that has occurred.

Let me say that if the US becomes reinvolved in Iraq, not only will more young Americans lose their lives, but also more damage will occur to the anemic and marginal, lopsided economic recovery that has lifted far too few working Americans out of a cycle of debt and stagnant wages. The recovery is weak enough as it is, and another war and the associated government deficit expenditures would quickly kill it.

The following newspapers have editorialized against reinvolvement:

Most of these newspapers not only fault the Bush Administration for starting the war, but also fault the Obama Administration for failing to reign in Iraqi president Maliki who has worsened the sectarian divide in Iraq.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright, Eat Your Heart Out!!

Presentation of concepts matters in how the public views a subject.

These are pictures of a newly-completed office building located in Ecuador.

The Bauhaus or Modernist influence is quite marked, as it is with a number of other buildings in Latin America.

There has been a paucity of building in the United States since the 2008 Recession.

It's very different in the so-called "developing" world, where there is a great deal of commercial and residential building happening.

From time to time, I will share pictures of some of the buildings I see.

Frank Lloyd Wright, eat your heart out!

Friday, June 06, 2014

What Dr. Keeling Knew That We Need To Know

This is a post about the "climate wars," but I´ll try to make it entertaining with some music references that go back to 1976-1979.

Anyone who is over 40 will remember how polarized the music world was around 1978. On one side of the Great Music Divide, were the fans of Classic Rock who flocked in the hundreds of thousands to concerts given by Aerosmith, Led Zepellin, KISS, and others. On the other side of the Great Music Divide were the fans of the BeeGees, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and other Disco artists who danced the night away to recordings and mix tapes.

Jackson Browne and John Denver were mellow folk-rock artists whose sometimes-acoustic-only music lacked the volume and intense guitar riffs of Rock and also didn´t have the then-novel pulsating electronic beat of Disco. Both artists were associated with what was thought of as the environmental movement of the time - Denver with natural resource conservation and Browne with the anti-nuclear movement. Later in this post, we´ll read about how Dr. Charles Keeling had a very important work assignment that arose out of the questions that people like Jackson Browne were asking.

Looking back on all of this is a good way to both laugh at some temporary, silly polarizations, and also see the origins of more serious polarizations that continue to this day and that impede effective corrective action against climate change.

First, let me say that I accept the scientific consensus on climate change. However, I also believe that the much more interesting discussionn is what to do about it.

So, what polarization was temporary, silly, and entertaining? Yep, the Rock vs. Disco wars.

Music changed and a new generation grew up listening to Nirvana, Green Day, and Korn. Rap, Techno and Trance grew and developed into separate genres. With the growth of mp3´s and song downloads, bands are returning to local live music scenes rather than trying to sell millions of albums through commercial channels.

Now, people listen to a much more diverse array of music. Perhaps a Chopin etude for a romantic evening in a restaurant and the next day something just a little louder to remodel the kitchen by. You´ll never hear a ballad playing while this is going on...

However, there is now a huge polarization concerning the climate issue, which I think should be addressed as a fossil fuel, rather than a technology issue.

Just as Led Zep was the epitome of Rock and the BeeGees were the epitome of Disco in the Music Wars, some people take iconic "sides" in the so-called "climate war." Unfortunately, the sides they are taking are leading to obstruction and impasse in resolving the CO2 emission issue.

Certain people whom I would say are mostly "fans of technology" have unfortunately aligned themselves with the politics of "climate science skepticism" even now with abundant evidence coming in about climate change. I have been rather perplexed (and annoyed) at how many nuclear energy supporters, who certainly don´t dispute physics make statements that dispute climate science results.

Why did the technology fans align with the mostly non-scientific "climate skeptics" and supporters of fossil fuels?

On the surface, it`s illogical for a fan of technology to reject a growing scientific consensus. Honestly, it´s a backlash and social thing. It goes all the way back to the same years when the rest of us were preoccupied with the trenchant question of Rock vs. Disco.

Backlash Against Whom?

The sociopolitical aspect of the technology fans´ backlash is against the "Green" movement as it has been constituted since the 1970s. An influential portion of the "Green" movement originated in the 1970s-1980s anti-nuclear movement, and has refused to change that position despite the fact that nuclear energy is the best way to make BIG decreases in CO2 emissions, fast. These people profess to be "climate hawks," but they refuse to give the go-ahead to CO2 emission mitigation strategies that involve nuclear energy.

I decided to look for insight into the problem in Dr. Charles Keeling´s 1991 autobiography.

Charles Keeling who discovered the curve of rising CO2 emissions that is named after him, noted the presence of the anti-nuclear movement and its threat to CO2 mitigation strategies in his autobiography on pp.v 55-56. In fact, the urge to "find out" whether fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions were more "risky" than nuclear energy gave the impetus to Dr. Keeling´ historic research!!

(I have taken the liberty of adding emphasis to a couple of Dr. Keeling´s sentences).

This same year (1976) the issue of rising atmospheric CO2 attracted the attention of a new US administrative division called the Energy Research and Development Agency (ERDA). It had recently been carved out of the US government’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) along with a new Nuclear Regulatory Commission, following accusations that the AEC had not adequately addressed risks attending the use of nuclear energy. ERDA continued the AEC task of overseeing national laboratories devoted to nuclear studies but was mandated to consider energy issues more broadly than the AEC.

Pursuant to this new mandate, the director of ERDA’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dr. Alvin Weinberg, appointed a Study Group on the Global Environmental Effects of Carbon Dioxide. He did not hide his motive. The application of nuclear energy to electrical power generation was regarded as unsafe by a vocal group of objectors to nuclear energy. Owing to the CO2 green-house effect, the burning of fossil fuels might be more dangerous to mankind than any perceived side effects of nuclear energy. It was time to find out.

After brief deliberations the Study Group, chaired by Weinberg, recommended that ERDA sponsor a Carbon Dioxide Effects Research Program. In July, 1977, as a first step, a group of scientists was asked to prepare a development paper. NOAA’s leading proponent of CO2 research was asked to be “interim director.” A “broadly based group of experts” was called on to prepare papers recommending “what should be done.” I was asked to participate. My assigned subject area was “the exchange of CO2 gas at the interface of air and sea.”

As you can see from Dr. Keeling´s own words, the scientists (Weinberg on the nuclear aspect and Keeling on the climate aspect) were looking for the truth about risks from energy sources.

Unfortunately, many people who accept the CO2 data refuse to accept the original reason the monitoring project occurred!

It´s pretty obvious by now that risks from increased CO2 emissions are worse than risks from nuclear energy.

However, certain peoplec who profess to be concerned abiout climate changec refuse to accept Dr. Keeling´s research´s answer to the questions askedc way back in 1976.

Barbara Boxer, this is about you. Germany, this is about your increased CO2 emissions from your anti-nuclear Energiewende strategy. Jackson Browne, this is about you.

I believe that the "climate war" impasse would start to break if one thingb happened. If more members of the environmental movement simply stepped forward and said, "Sorry, we were wrong about nuclear energy," this would address the situation. Just this one thing.

That´s why I´m a big fan of folks like Dr. James Hansen and the late Dr. Keeling.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Ground Rules

Comments will only be open for certain current posts. Most posts will not allow comments.

There may occasionally be topics that are of greater-than-usual importance or interest, or that are particularly appropriate for discussion. I will open the comment section for a limited time on these topics.

I expect that these posts will constitute less than one-quarter of all future posts here.

The blogger reserves full rights to delete submitted comments with no explanation whatsoever owed to the submitter. The entire content of this blog, including submitted comments, is property of the author, and the author has absolute rights to do as pleased with the content.

How can you avoid having your comment deleted? Here are a few simple rules that provide a general guideline. Note that these rules do not cover all possible reasons for your comment to be deleted.


  • Don't spam
  • Only real human beings may comment here
  • All comments that contain profanity, vulgarity, or epithets against various societal groups will be deleted. Comments that appear to be insults will be deleted.
  • Keep comments related to the topic of the post. In other words, avoid bringing up extraneous topics.
  • Comments that question or deny established science will not be published. Lets use gravity as an example. If you question the existence of gravity, your comment will be deleted without explanation. Your comment will also be deleted if you make remarks that acknowledge that gravity exists, but imply that gravity lacks consequences for life on Earth. For example, if you say that you can drop a flower pot onto a busy sidewalk from a second-story window without hurting anyone, that comment will be deleted without explanation. There is indeed a chance that the flower pot will hit the sidewalk away from passersby and not injure anyone. However, there is also a chance that the flower pot will hit someone with sufficient force to cause injury.
  • Comments that are overly ideological are likely to be deleted

Provisional Opening

Am opening We Support Lee on a provisional basis. There are two basic reasons for reopening the blog in general:
  • Climate change impacts are becoming stronger and more obvious than in 2006-2007. Acting, or failing to act on the issue is becoming a moral and ethical issue.
  • Recent announcement of Clean Power plan by EPA to reduce CO2 emissions
For now, I'll just link readers to the draft EPA Clean Power Plan. If you haven't read Dr. James Hansen's articles (including non-technical articles), I invite you to do so. The next post lays down the new ground rules for this blog and attached comment section.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014