Main

October 24, 2006

Melting Before Their Eyes

 

An 1870 postcard view of the Rhone glacier in Gletsch, Switzerland, contrasted dramatically with the shrinking 21st-century version of it.

via NYTimes:

Frozen in Memories, but Melting Before Their Eyes

By JOHN TAGLIABUE
Published: October 24, 2006

GLETSCH, Switzerland — To hear the locals tell it, you would think they were referring to a loved family member declining in old age.

The New York Times

Experts say the Rhone glacier may melt completely in this century.

"It hurts, it hurts," Philipp Carlen said of his feeling toward the vast Rhone glacier, which once came to the edge of his hotel, but now has receded several hundred yards. The glacier, whose soft contours and dirty gray surface make it resemble some huge sea creature, a whale perhaps, is rapidly shrinking, in the mild autumn weather, by 12 to 15 feet a day.

Eight thousand years ago, Mr. Carlen said, the glacier was the largest in Europe, with arms that reached all the way to Lyon, in France. Indeed, it remains the source of the Rhone River, which flows westward into France and from there into the Mediterranean. Now, however, it is only the fifth largest glacier in Switzerland, and experts foresee the day, probably in this century, when the glacier, all six miles of it, will melt away to nothing.

The shrinkage has consequences for the little village that owes its name — Gletsch means glacier in Swiss German — and its very existence to the icy behemoth.


Continue reading "Melting Before Their Eyes" »

July 30, 2006

Disasters of War: Lebanon oil slick

 

via Breitbart News:
Lebanon oil slick 'worst environmental disaster' in Med
Jul 29 7:03 AM US/Eastern

The Mediterranean is threatened by its worst ever environmental disaster after Israel's bombing of a power plant in Lebanon sent thousands of tonnes of fuel gushing into the sea, the environment minister charged.

"Up until now 10,000-15,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil have spilled out into the sea," after Israel's bombing of the power station in Jiyeh two weeks ago, Lebanese Environment Minister Yacub Sarraf told AFP Saturday.

"It's without doubt the biggest environmental catastrophe that the Mediterranean has known and it risks having terrible consequences not only for our country but for all the countries of the eastern Mediterranean."

Israeli forces bombed the tanks at the power station on July 14 and July 15, just days into their offensive on Lebanon which has seen blistering air strikes across the country and a bloody ground incursion in the south.

The leak from one of the tanks, which are located just 25 metres (80 feet) from the sea, has now stopped but another containing 25,000 tonnes of fuel oil is still on fire and is in danger of exploding. Between 8,000-10,000 tonnes of fuel are on the shore and 5,000 on the open water.

"Until now, the worst ecological disasters have taken place in the oceans and it's the first time that an oil spill has happened outside the open sea," said Sarraf. "We can have no illusions."

Sarraf said that the cost of cleaning up Lebanon's once golden beaches -- which until the bombardment were major attractions for locals and tourists -- will cost between 45-50 million dollars and would not be finished until next summer.

The spill is now affecting 70 kilometres (40 miles) of Lebanon's 220-kilometre-long (140 miles) coast, a third of its coastline. Beaches and rocks are covered in a black sludge which has reached the famous tourist town of Byblos, north of Beirut.

"If nothing is done, not only will currents flowing towards the north mean that one third of Lebanon's coastline be hit, but also Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Greece and even Israel," Sarraf said.

"The fauna and the Mediterranean ecosystem risk suffering badly and certain species are threatened with extinction," he warned.

Sarraf said that owing to the Israeli blockade of Lebanon's waters, it was impossible to send ships to clear up the pollution.

"I have appealed to Britain, Italy, Spain, the United States, all the countries which have already suffered oil slicks to ask for technical assistance as we cannot act on our own," he said.

Kuwait has sent 40 tonnes of material that would allow the petrol to thicken and also special carpets which absorb petroleum products.

A resident of Byblos, known worldwide for its seafood restaurants and historic harbour, said "for the last four days, fish, crustaceans and crabs have been coming in black, and they are dying as victims of this oil slick."

Fuad Hamdan, director of Friends of the Earth, Europe, and founder of Greenpeace Lebanon, agreed that "it is certainly the worst environmental disaster ever on the eastern Mediterranean coast."

Hamdan said the eastern Mediterranean coast from the Israeli port of Haifa until Syria's Lattakiya was already heavily polluted from Israeli industry, Lebanese sewage and industry from east Beirut and from Syria.

He advised people against eating fish from coastal areas. "Anyway it will smell bad and put people off."

Besides the oil slick, the fire from the oil tanks has caused atmospheric pollution which has already reached Beirut. "Now the toxic cloud is stretching over a 30 kilometre distance," said Sarraf.
The image “http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/07/29/world/650-envrio.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
via NYTimes, Environment:
Casualties of War: Lebanon's Trees, Air and Sea
By HASSAN M. FATTAH
Published: July 29, 2006

JIYEH, Lebanon, July 28 — As Israel continues the bombing campaign that has turned parts of Lebanon into rubble, environmentalists are warning of widespread and lasting damage.

Spilled and burning oil, along with forest fires, toxic waste flows and growing garbage heaps have gone from nuisances to threats to people and wildlife, they say, marring a country traditionally known for its clean air and scenic greenery. Many of Lebanon’s once pristine beaches and much of its coastline have been coated with a thick sludge that threatens marine life.

As smoke billowed overhead on Friday, turning day into dusk, Ali Saeed, a resident, recounted how war has changed this small industrial town about 15 miles south of Beirut.

Most people have left, he said. It is virtually impossible to drive on the roads, and almost everyone hides behind sealed windows.

"There's nowhere to run," Mr. Saeed said, showing off the black speckles on his skin that have turned everything white here into gray. "It's dripping fuel from the sky."

 

Continue reading "Disasters of War: Lebanon oil slick" »

July 06, 2006

Farmers to get their own biennale

 

via The Art Newspaper:

Farmers to get their own biennale
By Gareth Harris | Posted 22 June 2006

LONDON. Just when you thought farming in the UK was in terminal decline, help may be at hand from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The Art Newspaper has learned that representatives from the UK’s Rural Cultural Forum (RCF) met with officials from the DCMS at Tate Britain on 23 May to request funding for the first Farmers’ Biennale of Art and Agriculture, scheduled to open in Yorkshire in the summer of 2009.

The RCF, a lottery-funded umbrella organisation for 25 rural associations such as the National Farmers’ Union and the Soil Association, campaigns for “cultural investment in rural creativity”, said a spokeswoman.

The biennale will focus on three areas, according to Ian Hunter of Littoral Arts, a member association of the RCF. These include commissions for artists working on farms and in disused farmers’ markets, field-art including crop circles and urban projects such as growing “corn fields in the cities”.

Mr Hunter told The Art Newspaper that research into the project had been funded by the Arts Council, which provided £22,350. He said: “Why can’t we appropriate urban cultural models such as the Liverpool Biennale and then re-deploy them to renegotiate our relationship with agriculture?”

Other issues under discussion at Tate Britain, said Mr Hunter, included a new national gallery for rural art and culture to “promote new contexts for contemporary art practice in challenging rural and agricultural issues”. The National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, near Coventry, is the proposed site for the new museum.

The RCF is also in discussions with Tate Britain about the possibility of hosting, in 2010, a survey of art inspired by agriculture, with works by Stubbs and Damien Hirst.

June 23, 2006

Beached

 

via NYTimes:
Next Victim of Warming: The Beaches
By CORNELIA DEAN
Published: June 20, 2006

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — When scientists consider the possible effects of global warming, there is a lot they don't know. But they can say one thing for sure: sea levels will rise.

This rising water will be felt along the artificially maintained beaches of New Jersey, in the vanishing marshes of Louisiana, even on the ocean bluffs of California. According to a 2000 report by the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, at least a quarter of the houses within 500 feet of the United States coast may be lost to rising seas by 2060. There were 350,000 of these houses when the report was written, but today there are far more.

"If it is as bad as people are saying, at some point it will be a crisis," said Thomas Tomasello of Tallahassee, Fla., a lawyer who represents many owners of coastal property. But he does not dwell on it. "I cannot deal with sea level rise," he said. "That's such a huge issue."

Though most of the country's ocean beaches are eroding, few coastal jurisdictions consider sea level rise in their coastal planning, and still fewer incorporate the fact that the rise is accelerating. Instead, they are sticking with policies that geologists say may help them in the short term but will be untenable or even destructive in the future.

Florida is a good example. To prepare for hurricane season, which began June 1 and has already brought Tropical Storm Alberto, Floridians were still repairing storm damage from 2005 and even 2004, building or repairing walls to shield beachfront buildings.

Until May 1, when turtle nesting season forced them to stop, they were also pumping hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand onto eroded beaches. Florida has relied on this approach for decades, but after the past few storm seasons, there has been an increase in applications for sea wall permits, many from Mr. Tomasello's clients. "If you have a house or a condo that's threatened, it's really the only alternative," he said.

Maintaining eroding beaches with artificial infusions of sand is difficult and costly, and as sea levels rise, it may become economically impractical or even impossible. "The combination of sea walls and rising sea level will accelerate the rate of land loss in front of those sea walls," said Peter Howd, an oceanographer who conducts shoreline research for the United States Geological Survey in St. Petersburg. "So people with a sea wall and a beach in front of it will end up with just a sea wall."

Many people "want to disagree" that global warming is a threat to the coast, said Daniel Trescott, a planner on the staff of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, one of 11 such boards in the state. "But the first place you see these impacts is on the beach."

The council is participating in a federal program to map areas that are vulnerable to rising sea levels, identify crucial infrastructure there and assess how much will probably end up protected by armor. Mr. Trescott said he hoped that the effort would put sea levels "on the radar, to start addressing how we are going to respond to this rise."

Elsewhere, scientists are studying data from ancient sediment formations to predict how the barrier islands that form most of the East and Gulf Coasts will respond to rising seas. "As scientists, and especially as federal agency scientists, it's our responsibility to think long term," said S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal geologist at the United States Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Mass., who is organizing a session on sea level rise at a meeting of coastal scientists next year. "What are the cumulative impacts we can expect over the next 50 to 100 years?"

Dr. Williams pointed to a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers for beach maintenance on the South Shore of Long Island, from Fire Island to Montauk Point. The project relies on historical rates of sea level rise, measured by an array of instruments in many locations, rather than on predictions of future acceleration, said Cliff Jones, a project manager for the corps. That is typical of the corps, he said, "to take advantage of what history has shown, as opposed to what might be predicted."

It is an understandable approach, Dr. Williams said, but "it is going to build up false expectations."

As with climate change and other environmental problems that develop imperceptibly, it is hard for people to see rising sea levels as a threat.

"It's a slow process," Dr. Howd said. "It's not something that is visible right now or next week or a year from now."

And the remedies are not attractive, to say the least. Few coastal residents want to see their towns walled off and surrounded by water. And few want to elevate their houses by 20 feet or more, as flooding experts are beginning to recommend in some coastal areas. The approach favored by many scientists, a gradual retreat from the coast, is a perennial nonstarter among real estate interests and their political allies.

"Socioeconomically, politically, it's an ugly mess," Dr. Howd said. [read on...]

May 28, 2006

On 'An Inconvenient Truth'

 

An Inconvenient Truth [view the trailer]
Official site
Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Davis Guggenheim; produced by Laurie David, Lawrence Bender and Scott Z. Burns; released by Paramount Classics and Participant Productions. Running time: 96 minutes.

via NYTimes:
MOVIE REVIEW
MORE ON 'An Inconvenient Truth'
Warning of Calamities and Hoping for a Change in 'An Inconvenient Truth'
By A. O. SCOTT
Published: May 24, 2006

CANNES, France, May 23 — "An Inconvenient Truth," Davis Guggenheim's new documentary about the dangers of climate change, is a film that should never have been made. It is, after all, the job of political leaders and policymakers to protect against possible future calamities, to respond to the findings of science and to persuade the public that action must be taken to protect the common interest.

But when this does not happen — and it is hardly a partisan statement to observe that, in the case of global warming, it hasn't — others must take up the responsibility: filmmakers, activists, scientists, even retired politicians. That "An Inconvenient Truth" should not have to exist is a reason to be grateful that it does.

Appearances to the contrary, Mr. Guggenheim's movie is not really about Al Gore. It consists mainly of a multimedia presentation on climate change that Mr. Gore has given many times over the last few years, interspersed with interviews and Mr. Gore's voice-over reflections on his life in and out of politics. His presence is, in some ways, a distraction, since it guarantees that "An Inconvenient Truth" will become fodder for the cynical, ideologically facile sniping that often passes for political discourse these days. But really, the idea that worrying about the effect of carbon-dioxide emissions on the world's climate makes you some kind of liberal kook is as tired as the image of Mr. Gore as a stiff, humorless speaker, someone to make fun of rather than take seriously.

In any case, Mr. Gore has long since proven to be a deft self-satirist. (He recently told a moderator at a Cannes Film Festival news conference to address him as "your Adequacy.") He makes a few jokes to leaven the grim gist of "An Inconvenient Truth," and some of them are funny, in the style of a college lecturer's attempts to keep the attention of his captive audience. Indeed, his onstage manner — pacing back and forth, fiddling with gadgets, gesturing for emphasis — is more a professor's than a politician's. If he were not the man who, in his own formulation "used to be the next president of the United States of America," he might have settled down to tenure and a Volvo (or maybe a Prius) in some leafy academic grove. [read on...]

 

more via NYTimes:
'An Inconvenient Truth': Al Gore's Fight Against Global Warming
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: May 22, 2006

The frustrations of a man whose long-sought goal remains out of reach are vividly on display in the first few minutes of "An Inconvenient Truth," a new documentary about former Vice President Al Gore's quest to spur action against global warming.

And the scene has nothing to do with the Supreme Court vote that denied Mr. Gore a chance to win the 2000 presidential election.

He is tapping on his laptop, adding yet another tweak to the illustrated climate lecture he has given more than 1,000 times since 1989 in ever more sophisticated ways: first with flip charts, then slides, then a mix of digital imagery, animation and high-tech stagecraft, and now through this film itself, which was screened at Cannes and opens on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles.

He laments being unable so far to awaken the public to what he calls a "planetary emergency" despite evidence that heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases are warming the earth, and even after Hurricane Katrina and Europe's deadly 2003 heat wave, which he calls a foretaste of much worse to come.

"I've been trying to tell this story for a long time, and I feel as if I've failed to get the message across," Mr. Gore muses.

The question now is whether the documentary, with the potential to reach millions of people instead of a roomful of listeners at a time, can do the job.

For the moment, opinions on its prospects range from hopeful to scornful, not so much a reflection on the film's quality as the vast distance between combatants in the fight over what to do, or not do, about human-caused warming.

In a recent interview in Manhattan, Mr. Gore said he was convinced that Americans would move on the issue, not just because of his documentary (and companion book), but also because of the vivid nature of recent climate-related disasters.

"The political system, like the environment, is nonlinear," he said. "In 1941 it was impossible for us to build 1,000 airplanes. In 1942 it was easy. As this pattern becomes ever more clear, there will be a rising public demand for action."

"An Inconvenient Truth" came about after Laurie David, a prominent Hollywood environmentalist, saw Mr. Gore give a short version of his presentation two years ago at an event held just before the premiere of the climate disaster movie "The Day After Tomorrow."

Ms. David said she was stunned by the power of Mr. Gore's talk and helped organize presentations in New York and Los Angeles for people involved in the news media, environmental groups, business and entertainment. By the time she had done the Los Angeles event, "I realized we had to make a movie out of it," she said. "What's the guy going to do? There are not physically enough hours in the day to travel to every town and city to show this thing."

She helped recruit a team of filmmakers and investors and, after pressing Mr. Gore, persuaded him to be followed by a film crew. [read on...]


Books of The Times | 'An Inconvenient Truth'
Al Gore Revisits Global Warming, With Passionate Warnings and Pictures
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
Published: May 23, 2006

[...]

Fourteen years ago, during the 1992 campaign, the current president's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, dismissed Mr. Gore as "Ozone Man" — if the Clinton-Gore ticket were elected, he suggested, "we'll be up to our neck in owls and out of work for every American" — but with the emerging consensus on global warming today, Mr. Gore's passionate warnings about climate change seem increasingly prescient. He has revived the slide presentation about global warming that he first began giving in 1990 and taken that slide show on the road, and he has now turned that presentation into a book and a documentary film, both called "An Inconvenient Truth." The movie (which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday) shows a focused and accessible Gore — "a funnier, more relaxed and sympathetic character" than he was as a candidate, said The Observer, the British newspaper — and has revived talk in some circles of another possible Gore run for the White House.

As for the book, its roots as a slide show are very much in evidence. It does not pretend to grapple with climate change with the sort of minute detail and analysis displayed by three books on the subject that came out earlier this spring ("The Winds of Change" by Eugene Linden, "The Weather Makers" by Tim Flannery and "Field Notes From a Catastrophe" by Elizabeth Kolbert), and yet as a user-friendly introduction to global warming and a succinct summary of many of the central arguments laid out in those other volumes, "An Inconvenient Truth" is lucid, harrowing and bluntly effective.

Like Mr. Gore's 1992 book "Earth in the Balance," this volume displays an earnest, teacherly tone, but it's largely free of the New Age psychobabble and A-student grandiosity that rumbled through that earlier book. The author's wonky fascination with policy minutiae has been tamed in these pages, and his love of charts and graphs has been put to good use. Whereas the charts in "Earth in the Balance" tended to make the reader's eyes glaze over, the ones here clearly illustrate the human-caused rise in carbon dioxide levels in recent years, the simultaneous rise in Northern Hemisphere temperatures and the correlation between the two. Mr. Gore points out that 20 of the 21 hottest years measured "have occurred within the last 25 years," adding that the hottest year yet was 2005 — a year in which "more than 200 cities and towns" in the Western United States set all-time heat records. [read on...]

 

May 16, 2006

HALLIBURTON SOLVES GLOBAL WARMING


via The Yes Men:

May 9, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

   Contact: mailto:EPDU@halliburtoncontracts.com
   Photos:  http://www.halliburtoncontracts.com/EPDU/

HALLIBURTON SOLVES GLOBAL WARMING
SurvivaBalls save managers from abrupt climate change


An advanced new technology will keep corporate managers safe even when climate change makes life as we know it impossible.

"The SurvivaBall is designed to protect the corporate manager no matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way," said Fred Wolf, a Halliburton representative who spoke today at the Catastrophic Loss conference held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida. "This technology is the only rational response to abrupt climate change," he said to an attentive and appreciative audience.

Most scientists believe global warming is certain to cause an accelerating onslaught of hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, etc. and that a world-destroying disaster is increasingly possible. For example, Arctic melt has slowed the Gulf Stream by 30% in just the last decade; if the Gulf Stream stops, Europe will suddenly become just as cold as Alaska. Global heat and flooding events are also increasingly possible.

In order to head off such catastrophic scenarios, scientists agree we must reduce our carbon emissions by 70% within the next few years. Doing that would seriously undermine corporate profits, however, and so a more forward-thinking solution is needed.

At today's conference, Wolf and a colleague demonstrated three SurvivaBall mockups, and described how the units will sustainably protect managers from natural or cultural disturbances of any intensity or duration. The devices - looking like huge inflatable orbs - will include sophisticated communications systems, nutrient gathering capacities, onboard medical facilities, and a daunting defense infrastructure to ensure that the corporate mission will not go unfulfilled even when most human life is rendered impossible by catastrophes or the consequent epidemics and armed conflicts.

"It's essentially a gated community for one," said Wolf.

Dr. Northrop Goody, the head of Halliburton's Emergency Products Development Unit, showed diagrams and videos describing the SurvivaBall's many features. "Much as amoebas link up into slime molds when threatened, SurvivaBalls also fulfill a community function. After all, people need people," noted Goody as he showed an artist's rendition of numerous SurvivaBalls linking up to form a managerial aggregate with functional differentiation, metaphorically dancing through the streets of Houston, Texas.

The conference attendees peppered the duo with questions. One asked how the device would fare against terrorism, another whether the array of embedded technologies might make the unit too cumbersome; a third brought up the issue of the unit's cost feasibility. Wolf and Goody assured the audience that these problems and others were being addressed.

"The SurvivaBall builds on Halliburton's reputation as a disaster and conflict industry innovator," said Wolf. "Just as the Black Plague led to the Renaissance and the Great Deluge gave Noah a monopoly of the animals, so tomorrow's catastrophes could well lead to good - and industry must be ready to seize that good."

Goody also noted that Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society was set to employ the SurvivaBall as part of its Corporate Sustenance (R) program. Another of Cousteau's CSR programs involves accepting a generous sponsorship from the Dow Chemical Corporation, whose general shareholder meeting is May 11.

Please visit http://www.halliburtoncontracts.com/EPDU/ for photos, video, and text of today's presentation.

May 13, 2006

Thousands Flee From Active Volcano in Indonesia

 

via NYTimes: 

Thousands Flee From Active Volcano in Indonesia
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: May 13, 2006
Filed at 7:43 a.m. ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia on Saturday ordered the immediate evacuation of thousands of people who for weeks have refused to heed the ominous rumblings of Mount Merapi and the burning lava oozing from its mouth.

Hundreds of people began fleeing the 9,700-foot peak after authorities put the region on highest alert, having observed two days of steady lava flow. Bambang Dwiyanto, head of the region's volcanology center, said an eruption may be imminent.

''Because there has been constant lava flows that cause hot gases, we have raised the status to the highest level,'' Dwiyanto said.

The crater had been relatively quiet for years until it began rumbling and spewing clouds of black ash a few weeks ago. On Saturday, experts recorded 27 volcanic tremors, said Ratdomo Purbo, who heads an observation post on Merapi.

He said the mountain belched hot ash at least 14 times over the course of the day and that lava flows reached nearly a mile down the slopes.

Officials were using buses and trucks to relocate women, children and elderly to shelter in schools and government buildings elsewhere in the densely populated province of Central Java. Merapi, about 250 miles southeast of the capital Jakarta, is about 20 miles from Yogyakarta, a city of 1 million.

Many people had been evacuated from homes closest to the crater prior to Saturday, but thousands who live further down the fertile slopes refused to leave. Officials have said as many as 7,000 people still needed to go.

Even after the latest warning, some farmers insisted on staying, reluctant to leave previous livestock and crops. ''We will not leave soon,'' vowed one cattle farmer who declined to give his name.

Merapi is one of at least 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, part of the Pacific ''Ring of Fire'' -- a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

Many people who live in the mountain's shadow believe that spirits watch over the peak and will warn them of an eruption.

Although most Indonesians are Muslim, many also follow animist beliefs and worship ancient spirits. Often at full moons, people trek to crater rims and throw in rice, jewelry and live animals to appease the volcanoes.

Merapi last erupted in 1994, sending out a searing cloud of gas that burned 60 people to death. About 1,300 people were killed when it erupted in 1930.

 

May 02, 2006

Climate Change Casino?

Martucket2

 reBlogged via NEWSgrist:
via The Boston Globe
:
Artist, deadpan, floats a proposal
Cape turbines' critic offers a Vegas spin

By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff  |  May 2, 2006

Senator Edward M. Kennedy has flexed his considerable political muscle to try to block a wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Governor Mitt Romney strongly opposes the project.

But how would they handle this? A floating theme park, described by its designer, Provincetown artist Jay Critchley, as ''a Las Vegas version of the Cape and islands," to be built on an enormous triangular platform in the midst of the wind turbines.

Some dismiss it as an extravagant -- and expensive -- joke. But Critchley isn't laughing, at least not in public. He says that by proposing the theme park he is trying to bring attention to what he believes is the lack of oversight that the proposed wind farm has received and that he is challenging regulators to give his project similar treatment.

Dreamed up by Critchley, the plans for the Martucket Eyeland Resort & Casino read like classic political satire. Attractions would include the Climate Change Casino & Sweat Lodge, the Captain Ahab Fitness Center, and an amusement park ride called Jaws, Jaws, Jaws, which Critchley describes as ''a simulated eating by a shark -- for the kids."

To be taken even remotely seriously, the 59-year-old Cape Cod artist and provocateur has to insist he has every intention of actually building the theme park. And he does insist. He even filed an application in March with the US Army Corps of Engineers, seeking a permit to move forward with construction.

According to the application, the platform would be anchored between three of the 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound that would comprise Cape Wind.

But in this game of showmanship, federal officials, who admit they were initially amused by Critchley's submission, now caution that the artist is risking serious consequences by forging ahead with his permit request. Applicants found to have knowingly made ''false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations" may be fined $10,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, said Tim Dugan, a spokesman for the Corps' New England district.

''We're working at taxpayers' expense, and we don't want to waste their money," Dugan said with all deliberate earnestness.

Critchley said he is not worried about being prosecuted, though some of his friends are concerned. ''I have other things to worry about, like raising a billion and a half dollars to build the park," he said with equal earnestness.

Corps officials have conducted an initial review of Critchley's application and have asked him for more information. If he does not reply, a spokesman said, his file will be closed. If he moves the process forward, the Department of Justice could be called in to decide if he applied in good faith.

The fate of the Cape Wind farm, while farther along in the planning stage, is still uncertain.

Kennedy supported an effort by Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, to block the development by inserting a provision in a sure-to-pass bill funding the Coast Guard that would give the governor of Massachusetts the ability to veto the project. But the provision -- inserted without public debate, after being considered by only the handful of House members and senators negotiating the Coast Guard bill -- has rankled members of both parties.

A group of House members persuaded House leaders to delay a vote on the bill. In the Senate, the chairman and the ranking Democrat on the Energy Committee say they will try to block the Cape Wind provision when the bill comes to the floor.

April 22, 2006

Laurie David on Global Warming

via NYTimes:

Laurie David Raises Awareness of Global Warming

By FELICIA R. LEE
Published: April 22, 2006

"I am terrified," Laurie David said between bites of her Cobb salad, avocados on the side. "I'm terrified. I'm terrified. And fear is a great motivator."

Ms. David was talking about her fears of global warming. Not exactly an aid to digestion, but talk of global warming is what she does, as the reigning media queen of the issue. She has chatted about weird weather on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," recently shepherded two TV projects on the issue onto Fox News and TBS, and is the executive producer of the global warming primer "Too Hot Not to Handle," to be broadcast on HBO today, Earth Day.

Tall, elegant and intense, Ms. David was also the guest editor of the May issue — "The Green Issue" — of Elle magazine. ("Clean up your act with eco-chic fashion, travel food.") And she is a producer of "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary film based on former Vice President Al Gore's decades of research on global warming. The film had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will be in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on May 26. You might have caught Ms. David (who seems not at all like the TV wife of her husband, Larry David) on "The Bold and the Beautiful," a soap opera. In an episode in January she played herself, trying to talk a shipping magnate into making some changes in his business to cut back on global-warming pollution.

"Yes, that was the low point of my life," Ms. David said. "Not because of the soap opera, but because of my hideous acting. But guess what? I got to talk about global warming on the No. 1 soap opera in the country."

For the near future, at least, Ms. David has resolved to stay behind the camera, and her latest endeavor, "Too Hot Not to Handle," is a sober documentary, full of leading scientists and statistics explaining how global warming is already upon us. If it's scary, she said, then good.

Early in "Too Hot," Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton, intones, "We're headed toward a completely different world than the one we're used to."

The film provides "a non-wonky" explanation of what, exactly, global warming is, Ms. David said. When you add junk into the atmosphere, blocking some of the energy exchange between the Earth and space, it traps heat near the Earth's surface, a Stanford scientist explains.

Besides watching scenes of hurricanes, heat waves and parched fields, viewers learn that heat waves lasting four days or more have almost tripled in the last 50 years; that moderate rains have decreased while heavy rains have increased. According to the film a quarter of the plant and animal species could face extinction by the end of the century, because of global warming.

If that doesn't grab you, yet another "Too Hot" authority talks about the commonplace ways global warming will be felt: leaves will change color at odd times of the year, ski resorts won't get snow, spring geese will no longer come in the spring.

"And by the way, you know, global warming is good for one thing: bugs and pollen," Ms. David said, tucking into her salad.

"I do not want to be talking to the converted," she said of the film. "We want to talk to people who say: 'O.K., wait a second. What the heck is this and why should I care? And you know, hey, when my kids come home, we're going to all watch it tonight.' "

Her own family is, of course, environmentally correct. Mr. David drives a Toyota Prius, a so-called hybrid car (which runs on both a gas engine and an electric motor) on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the HBO show in which he plays a curmudgeonly comedian with a tolerant wife. The real-life Davids both drive a Prius, too, and live in Los Angeles with their 10- and 12-year-old daughters. She's a model-thin, sparkly 48-year-old, and Mr. David is 10 years older.

The Davids are well aware that in some quarters Ms. David is caricatured as a celebrity do-gooder. She was infamously labeled a "Gulfstream liberal" in a 2004 article in The Atlantic magazine that noted that she chartered private planes even as she pressed for improved fuel-economy standards. An article in The Hollywood Reporter this week said that Ms. David has become "a symbol to some of showbiz grandstanding at its most self-righteous."

Ms. David said she only occasionally uses a private plane and the majority of her air travel is commercial. "This comes from people trying to marginalize celebrity, trying to marginalize Hollywood," she said of the criticism. "It comes from people not wanting you to be effective. Celebrities who lend their names to causes to raise lot of money for important issues should be admired and not marginalized and made fun of."

She grew passionate about global warming, she explained, when her first daughter was a baby. She felt lost and isolated after leaving a hot career of managing comedians, and when she met some big brains with the Natural Resources Defense Council, she recognized her calling. She now sits on the board of the council, which is dedicated to protecting the public health and the environment.

Frances Beinecke, the council president, gives Ms. David credit for changing the public perception of environmentalists as somewhat overwrought tree huggers and for playing an enormous role in moving the global warming conversation "off of the science page and squarely into the middle of American popular culture."

For instance, Elle magazine, which reaches a huge audience of avid consumers of the fashionable and the trendy, is "green" for May. Roberta Myers, Elle's editor in chief, approached her about being a guest editor, Ms. David said. Vanity Fair also has a "green issue" for May, Ms. David noted.

"This is her great passion, she knows a lot about the environment, she's the fulcrum for a lot of activity," Ms. Myers said of Ms. David. "It was just important to us that we get her voice."

Ms. David started her professional life as a talent coordinator for the David Letterman show (which is how she met Larry David) and now juggles her roles as wife, mother and activist from a home office. She travels extensively but generally limits her time away to three days. At 6 p.m., without fail, the whole family eats dinner together.

"I have taken advantage of my husband, to the extent that I even got HBO to do a documentary with me," she said. "He won't even promote his own show, and I'm like, 'Honey, "Nightline's" coming tomorrow, and you have to talk to them for a couple of minutes.' He went on Oprah with me, which I begged him to do. He's shy."

But you don't have to be famous to help, Ms. David said. Her easy to-do list of suggestions includes buying recycled paper products, unplugging appliances not in use and joining a virtual march on Washington against global warming at www.stopglobalwarming.org.

"I'm completely and totally optimistic," Ms. David said of the green movement, betting that she will win new converts when "Too Hot" is broadcast.

Ms. David called global warming a disaster that must be halted before the crash is too intense. "It's better to be in a car accident at 5 miles per hour," she said, "than one at 60 miles per hour."

March 18, 2006

Blown Away at "Out of the Blue"

via NEWSgrist: Blown Away at "Out of the Blue"

Looking skyward for a spark

Artworks inspired by natural phenomena are the impetus of a new show.
By Edith Newhall
For The Philadelphia Inquirer, Fri, Mar. 17, 2006

It used to be that creative people tapped into the metaphorical possibilities of strange weather. I'm thinking in particular of Martin Johnson Heade's gorgeously glowering painting, Approaching Thunderstorm, which is said to have reflected his sentiments about the impending Civil War.

Headethunderstorm_1
Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904). Approaching Thunder Storm, 1859.
Oil on canvas; 28 x 44 in. (71.1 x 111.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In these more self-absorbed days, however, human creativity itself is increasingly compared to atmospheric and geological phenomena. "Out of the Blue," a group show of 22 contemporary artists at the Abington Art Center, asks one to consider the creative process as a kind of natural phenomenon. Why not?

Artists Joy Episalla and Joy Garnett, who conceived the exhibition, and Abington Art Center director Amy Lipton, who organized it, have tested their thesis with a broad range of works. Among the most clearly atmospheric and geological-event-evoking works include Diane Burko's painting of a volcano in Iceland; Emily Brown's painting of a jet trail floating in an otherwise blue sky; Dawn DeDeaux's photograph of a tree ravaged by Hurricane Katrina; and Garnett's two paintings of volatile skies, from her aptly titled "Strange Weather" series.

Dedeaux
Dawn DeDeaux's digital photograph "Shrouded Tree #1," can be seen
in the Abington Art Center's "Out of the Blue" exhibition through May 6.

The show's more abstract works are phenomena in themselves - among them, a pile of cellophane-wrapped candies by Felix Gonzalez-Torres installed to look as if they were spilling, lavalike, out of a fireplace; a shiny blue Mylar and urethane-resin wall piece by Carrie Yamaoka that resembles both a TV screen and a view through a jet's window; and a sculpture by Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks that is composed of a suspended bird cage and watercolor paintings.

Fortunately, the exhibition does not take itself too seriously. It allows for the inclusion of a knitted baby's cap by Andrea Zittel and a molded plastic Frosty the Snowman, as well as museumlike glass vitrines containing such influential ephemera inspired by natural phenomena as Richard Long's artist book, A Walk Past Standing Stones (1980); a photograph of Robert Smithson's Glue Pour, 1970 by Christos Dikeakos; and a 1969 book, Airborne Camera: The World From the Air and Outer Space, by Beaumont Newhall. Heade would have been blown away.

Abington Art Center, 515 Meetinghouse Rd., Jenkintown, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays (Thursdays to 7 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Through May 6. Information: 215-887-4882 or www.abingtonartcenter.org.

March 13, 2006

Land Boom: Bad for Whales

 
Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times
A gray whale pops up for air in Baja California, where advocates of tourism and the environment clash with those favoring heavier development.

Mexican Land Boom Creates Commotion in Whale Nursery
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: March 12, 2006

LAGUNA SAN IGNACIO, Mexico, March 7 — This remote lagoon, surrounded by salt flats, mesas and desert, has been a sanctuary for gray whales for centuries.

Every year they return in January to these quiet, protected waters to give birth and nurse their calves through the first few months of life. Then they mate again in a swirl of water and fins, and frolic in the warm waters, breaching and flopping their gargantuan bodies.

Fishermen, who serve as guides during the whales' three-month stay, ferry tourists to the center of the lagoon, and the whales play with the boats. Sometimes, enthusiastic visitors can pet and scratch the leviathans' blubbery, sensitive skin.

But the lagoon has proved a powerful draw for more than just nature lovers. The area's salt and oil deposits have long drawn development interests, pitting environmentalists and local fishing and tourism concerns against big companies and land speculators in battles that have intensified in recent years.

In 2000, for instance, environmentalists won a long-fought victory over the Mitsubishi Corporation, which had sought to build a giant salt-mining complex on the lagoon, which would have devastated fishing and the whale-watching industry.

Another company, Exportadora de Sal, has received a 50-year concession from the government to mine salt, suggesting another looming battle. Environmentalists also say that plans to exploit oil deposits near the lagoon and build a big marina near its entrance threaten the whales.

From ecologists' standpoint, though, perhaps the greatest threat to the lagoon is the land boom that is sweeping the peninsula. All across the Baja California, land speculators are buying out members of ranching and fishing cooperatives, which own vast tracts including beaches on some of the most pristine and rich marine habitats in the world.

But here, environmental groups have reached an unusual agreement with a cooperative that will help protect the lagoon, the last undisturbed gray whale nursery, from industrial development or land speculation.

Under the accord, the cooperative, the Ejido Luis Echeverría, has agreed to protect 120,000 acres around the lagoon from development, in return for a $675,000 trust fund put together by several groups, among them the Natural Resources Defense Council and Wildcoast.

Trust earnings go to the cooperative to be invested in projects to create permanent jobs and give its 43 members a stake in protecting the whales and their habitat.

"This is a long term project, a project for perpetuity," said the president of the cooperative, Raúl López. "We have to be an example for the other cooperatives."

Still, the Echeverría cooperative is only one of six that own land around the lagoon, and the environmentalists have their work cut out for them persuading the rest to commit themselves to protecting the whales.

Serge Dedina, the executive director of Wildcoast, has tried to convince the cooperative members that they have more to gain in the long run from developing tourism around the whales, as well as sustainable fisheries, than from a one-time windfall of cash for their land.

The gray whales migrate every year from the seas off Alaska to Mexico's waters. They begin arriving in January and stay until early April. The lagoon, along with two other less pristine bays, are vitally important to their survival, since it is here the mothers give birth and here the calves gain enough strength to handle the perils of the open ocean.

The lagoon is also home to 221 bird species. Ospreys, cormorants and pelicans fish the waters, while falcons, gold and bald eagles sweep the skies. Rare species like endangered peninsular pronghorns and green sea turtles can be spotted here, too.

The whales are the big draw, however. Eight camps are scattered along the southeastern shore of the bay and 16 boats have permits to take tourists out.

Mr. López said that the idea of the local cooperative, or ejido, was that the trust fund's support of small projects would bring in jobs and erase the temptation for people to sell out to mining or other development concerns.

But leaders of other cooperatives around the bay are not convinced. To the north, the San Ignacio Ejido is controlled by ranchers and businessmen who have little or no stake in the whale-watching business.

Their president, Rodrigo Martínez Zapien, a grocer, said most of the 81 members were ranchers or small-business men and would support selling their beaches to a salt-mining company or anyone else who would produce jobs. Already, they have been approached by land speculators, he said. "The truth is there is not much interest in going to exploit this business of the whales," he said.

Others say they see the whales as a resource. The whale tours are a lot less work than hauling in fishing nets. And the money from the trust will help small businesses that provide jobs. The only other option, they say, is to sell, move to the city and run through the profit.

"Sure there have been people who have come around wanting to buy, but for us it doesn't interest us to sell the land, because almost all of us work in tourism now," said one local fisherman, Alejandro Ramírez, 35, who works at a whale-watching camp. "If I sell out, sure, I'll have more money, but money in your hands goes quickly, and with this natural area my family has a way to make a living for a long time."

March 07, 2006

Rain Forest Gets Too Much Rain...

 

Courtesy of Grace Wong

From left, Grace Wong, Dr. María Fernanda Mejía and Gustavo Gutiérrez-Espeleta working on a squirrel monkey in December in the Corcovado National Park near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

via NYTimes:

Rain Forest Gets Too Much Rain, and Animals Pay the Price
By HILLARY ROSNER
Published: March 7, 2006

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — Eduardo Carrillo was on a field trip to Corcovado National Park with a group of his biology students last November when he realized that something was wrong. In just over a mile, the group found five dead monkeys.

Three more were in agony, he said later — emaciated, near death, sitting on the forest floor unable to climb a tree.

"I had never seen something like this," said Dr. Carrillo, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Costa Rica. At first he suspected yellow fever, which swept through monkey populations in the 1950's. So he hurried back to San José, the capital, and convened a team of scientists, which included wildlife biologists, a microbiologist, a geneticist and a veterinarian.

Tourists in the park, a relatively remote 212-square-mile tropical rain forest preserve that stretches along the Pacific coast and inland, reported sightings of other dead animals, including deer, toucans, macaws and sloths.

In mid-November, park officials closed Corcovado to visitors after tourists, despite warnings not to handle wildlife, began bringing sick animals to ranger stations in the hope of saving them.

Dr. Carrillo and his colleagues, as well as government officials, worried they might have a mini-epidemic on their hands. But tissue samples from Corcovado spider monkeys — Costa Rica's most endangered species of monkey — sent to a laboratory at the University of Texas for analysis showed no evidence of a virus or other pathogen.

The story of what really happened in Corcovado, or at least the prevailing theory, is less worrisome in the short term than a disease outbreak, but it has the potential to be deadly serious.

Costa Rican researchers think the affected animals starved to death because of a lack of available food sources and an inability to forage for food during several months of extreme rain and cold.

September, October and November brought excessive rainfall, nearly twice the monthly averages, and unusually low temperatures to many parts of Costa Rica, especially the Osa Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific in the south.

Corcovado averages about 24 inches of rain in September, 31 inches in October and 20 inches in November. In 2005, more than 39 inches fell in the park in September, 59 inches in October, and 41 inches in November.

While it is impossible to know if the weather in late 2005 is related to climate change, the Costa Rican team studying Corcovado worries that if the climate changes and produces more extreme weather events like this, animal populations may not bounce back easily, said Gustavo Gutiérrez-Espeleta, a wildlife population geneticist at the University of Costa Rica.

The weather caused several problems for the monkeys. Some fruit trees did not bear fruit during the rainy months. Others produced fruit but it fell to the ground early, leaving nothing on the trees for long periods of time.

Compounding the problem, researchers say, was that monkeys were unable to look for food because of the incessant rain. [read on...]

The Greening of Greenland's Glaciers

 
via CNN: SCIENCE & SPACE:
Greenland glaciers dumping ice into Atlantic at faster pace
Thursday, February 16, 2006; Posted: 11:40 p.m. EST (04:40 GMT)

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) -- Greenland's southern glaciers have accelerated their march to the Atlantic Ocean over the past decade and now contribute more to the global rise in sea levels than previously estimated, researchers say.

Those faster-moving glaciers, along with increased melting, could account for nearly 17 percent of the estimated one-tenth of an inch annual rise in global sea levels, or twice what was previously believed, said Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

An increase in surface air temperatures appears to be causing the glaciers to flow faster, albeit at the still-glacial pace of eight miles to nine miles a year at their fastest clip, and dump increased volumes of ice into the Atlantic.

That stepped-up flow accounted for about two-thirds of the net 54 cubic miles of ice Greenland lost in 2005. That compares with 22 cubic miles in 1996, Rignot said.

Rignot and his study co-author, Pannir Kanagaratnam of the University of Kansas, said their report is the first to include measurements of recent changes in glacier velocity in the estimates of how much ice most of Greenland is losing.

"The behavior of the glaciers that dump ice into the sea is the most important aspect of understanding how an ice sheet will evolve in a changing climate," Rignot said.

"It takes a long time to build and melt an ice sheet, but glaciers can react quickly to temperature changes."

Details of the study were being presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The study appears Friday in the journal Science.

The researchers believe warmer temperatures boost the amount of melt water that reaches where the glaciers flow over rock.

That extra water lubricates the rivers of ice and eases their downhill movement toward the Atlantic. They tracked the speeds of the glaciers from space, using satellite data collected between 1996 and 2005.

If warmer temperatures spread to northern Greenland, the glaciers there too should pick up their pace, Rignot and Kanagaratnam wrote.

The only way to stem the loss of ice would be for Greenland to receive increased amounts of snowfall, according to Julian Dowdeswell of the University of Cambridge, who wrote an accompanying article.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

February 08, 2006

Bush Appointee Resigns Post at NASA

 

via NYTimes:
A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: February 8, 2006

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation.

"Under NASA policy, it is inappropriate to discuss personnel matters," said Dean Acosta, the deputy assistant administrator for public affairs and Mr. Deutsch's boss.

The resignation came as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing to review its policies for communicating science to the public. The review was ordered Friday by Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, after a week in which many agency scientists and midlevel public affairs officials described to The New York Times instances in which they said political pressure was applied to limit or flavor discussions of topics uncomfortable to the Bush administration, particularly global warming.

"As we have stated in the past, NASA is in the process of revising our public affairs policies across the agency to ensure our commitment to open and full communications," the statement from Mr. Acosta said.

The statement said the resignation of Mr. Deutsch was "a separate matter."

Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document.

According to his résumé, Mr. Deutsch received a "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003."

Yesterday, officials at Texas A&M said that was not the case.

"George Carlton Deutsch III did attend Texas A&M University but has not completed the requirements for a degree," said an e-mail message from Rita Presley, assistant to the registrar at the university, responding to a query from The Times.

Repeated calls and e-mail messages to Mr. Deutsch on Tuesday were not answered.

Mr. Deutsch's educational record was first challenged on Monday by Nick Anthis, who graduated from Texas A&M last year with a biochemistry degree and has been writing a Web log on science policy, scientificactivist.blogspot.com.

After Mr. Anthis read about the problems at NASA, he said in an interview: "It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated."

He posted a blog entry asserting this after he checked with the university's association of former students. He reported that the association said Mr. Deutsch received no degree.

A copy of Mr. Deutsch's résumé was provided to The Times by someone working in NASA headquarters who, along with many other NASA employees, said Mr. Deutsch played a small but significant role in an intensifying effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of information to the public.

Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.

Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.

"He's only a bit player," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. " The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."

"On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed," he said. "The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here."

 

 

January 29, 2006

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

 

via NYTimes: 

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: January 29, 2006

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.

Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.

"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush administration and Vice President Al Gore.

In 2001, Dr. Hansen was invited twice to brief Vice President Dick Cheney and other cabinet members on climate change. White House officials were interested in his findings showing that cleaning up soot, which also warms the atmosphere, was an effective and far easier first step than curbing carbon dioxide.

He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews. [read on...]

January 26, 2006

The Difference a Degree Makes

via SFGate:

Chronicle environment writer Jane Kay and photographer Kat Wade traveled from Alaska to Mexico to see how global warming is changing life along the coast of North America.

Sunday: Polar bears signal changing ice cap in the Arctic.
Today: Subtle seaside transformation in California.
Tuesday: A family sees its way of life threatened in Mexico.

E-mail Jane Kay at jkay@sfchronicle.com

Nature out of sync

Sea life depends on the intricate workings of wind and current, driven by temperatures of ocean and air. Animals depend on the natural timing of seasons to find food. In the past 60 years, as ocean temperatures off the California coast warmed by about 3 degrees, the tiny animals at the base of the food chain declined by 70 percent.

A WARMING WORLD: THE DIFFERENCE A DEGREE MAKES
SEASHORE SEA CHANGE

- Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Monday, January 16, 2006

 

Click to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to View

 [excerpt]:

Pacific Grove, Monterey County -- On the edge of the California coast, in the tide pools that tourists can see from Cannery Row, delicate anemones and sea stars are helping to tell the story of a warming world.

At low tide in the dawn light, John Pearse, a retired professor of biology at UC Santa Cruz, kneeled in the water in hip-high waders examining sunburst anemones. He found pink barnacles encrusting rocks, and the hard white shells of worm snails.

Those invertebrates normally are more common in warmer southern waters. But over decades, they have increased in numbers here. Invertebrates that do well in colder water, such as giant green sea anemones and porcelain crabs, have declined. Central California has become more like Southern California.

"Animals are responding to changes in temperature, and the change in temperature is very rapid,'' said Pearse, who began studying the low-tide zone as a graduate student nearly 50 years ago.

Unlike in the Arctic, where floating sea ice and land glaciers dramatically melt before Alaskans' eyes, along the California coast the signs of a changing environment are more subtle.

Those who know where to look can see that a few degrees increase in the temperature of the Pacific and a couple of inches rise in sea level have already changed life in Monterey Bay's fragile tide pools.

While some species will prosper, others may die. The question scientists up and down the coast are pursuing is just how the continued warming of the atmosphere and water may disrupt the ocean's intricate web of life.

In the ocean, the whales, seabirds and fish at the top of the hierarchy depend on lower organisms for food. In the last six decades, as sea water temperatures on the Monterey coast increased about 3 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists measured a 70 percent decline in zooplankton, the tiny animals at the base of the food chain.

What does it matter if a warmer world loses some inedible crabs or sea stars?

"It's hard to predict,'' said George Somero, director of the Hopkins Marine Station, the state's oldest marine laboratory, which looks down on the rocky shore here. "If you remove one species from the ecosystem, there could very well be severe perturbations in the system. In many cases, we can't predict what that means.''

[read full article

January 13, 2006

Debris Fire Burns in New Orleans

 

Bill Haber/Associated Press
A fire was burning in a 100-foot-high pile of hurricane debris in the Lower Ninth Ward. 

via NYTimes:

Debris Fire Burns in New Orleans
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: January 13, 2006
Filed at 10:54 a.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A smoky fire was burning Friday in a 100-foot-high pile of furniture, refrigerators and other hurricane debris in the city's hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward.

The fire, reported late Thursday, covered about 4.6 acres and was largely under control, firefighters said. They were dropping water from helicopters and planned to let the blaze burn itself out.

No injuries were reported. The area remains largely uninhabited due to the extent of the damage from Hurricane Katrina's floods.

The pile included wood, furniture, water heaters, stoves and refrigerators.

 

January 09, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

 

[image source

The New Red, White and Blue
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
NYTimes OP-ED, Published: January 6, 2006

As we enter 2006, we find ourselves in trouble, at home and abroad. We are in trouble because we are led by defeatists - wimps, actually.

What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence - that is for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values eroded at home and abroad.

Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a national security imperative.

The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It's petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices - in oil states from Russia to Nigeria and Iran - that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil. Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one's citizens with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate or buy off one's enemies, and using oil profits to build up one's internal security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power, without any transparency or checks and balances.

When a nation's leaders can practice petrolism, they never have to tap their people's energy and creativity; they simply have to tap an oil well. And therefore politics in a petrolist state is not about building a society or an educational system that maximizes its people's ability to innovate, export and compete. It is simply about who controls the oil tap.

In petrolist states like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan, people get rich by being in government and sucking the treasury dry - so they never want to cede power. In non-petrolist states, like Taiwan, Singapore and Korea, people get rich by staying outside government and building real businesses.

Our energy gluttony fosters and strengthens various kinds of petrolist regimes. It emboldens authoritarian petrolism in Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Sudan and Central Asia. It empowers Islamist petrolism in Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It even helps sustain communism in Castro's Cuba, which survives today in part thanks to cheap oil from Venezuela. Most of these petrolist regimes would have collapsed long ago, having proved utterly incapable of delivering a modern future for their people, but they have been saved by our energy excesses.

No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil - thereby bringing down the price of crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the lives of our young people.

That's because there is a huge difference in what these bad regimes can do with $20-a-barrel oil compared with the current $60-a-barrel oil. It is no accident that the reform era in Russia under Boris Yeltsin, and in Iran under Mohammad Khatami, coincided with low oil prices. When prices soared again, petrolist authoritarians in both societies reasserted themselves.

We need a president and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to also impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with long-term incentives for renewable energy - wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

Green is the new red, white and blue.

A Dozen Weird Weather Moments

 

[image source

via Bruce Sterling's Viridian Note #00456: The State of the World 2006

From LA Times, 1/6 - 1/12: 

Zeitlist: Politics
Running Hot and Cold: A Dozen Weird Weather Moments
by JUDITH LEWIS

Katrina turned the weather into the year’s biggest news event, as the natural world against which Bush has made war since 2000 decided to send back a return salvo. The storm quickly became a political portent for both ends of the spectrum, with Christian conservatives interpreting the supposed fetal shape of Katrina to be a pro-life meteorological statement sent by a vengeful Lord to ravage the Gulf of Mexico, and the sane world noting apprehensively that hurricane season has been worsening with steadily increasing ocean-surface temperatures. Bad as it was, the scientists added, 2005’s weather is just a taste of what’s to come. Here’s the rest of the year in bad weather.

1. 2005 was the hottest year on record. This year’s global average temperature topped the previous record, set in 1998.

2. The Amazon River basin experienced its worst drought in recorded history.

3. The National Climate Data Center (NCDC) reported that nine of the 10 warmest years in history have occurred in the past decade.

4. Satellite monitoring in September revealed that the summer Arctic sea ice has shrunk as much as 40 percent since monitoring began in the late 1970s. At the current rate of decline, there will be no summer Arctic ice pack within two decades.

5. Multiple studies showed that the higher average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the last decade are unprecedented over the past 2,000 years.

6. Swiss and U.S. climatologists working in Antarctica built “EPICA Dome C,” the longest ice-core record to date. Gas bubbles trapped in ice crystals record the atmospheric compositions over time. From this, researchers reported that today’s levels of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years.

7. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico this summer were the highest since measurements began in 1890.

8. The warm waters contributed to the year’s record-breaking hurricane season, with 26 named storms forming in the Atlantic. Fourteen became hurricanes, and Katrina, Rita and Wilma created an unprecedented triumvirate of category 5 storms. The NOAA also exhausted its pre-assigned list of storm names, and for the first time had to turn to the Greek alphabet. On the last official day in hurricane season, tropical storm Epsilon strengthened into a hurricane.

9. Wilma played second fiddle to Katrina despite being the stronger storm. In Florida, Wilma was “the Big One” they’ve been expecting for a century. It knocked out the power for weeks, and left a destruction path wider than any previous hurricane in the state. With a central ultralow pressure of 882 millibars, Wilma surpassed 1988’s Gilbert as the strongest hurricane on record.

10. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology reported in the May issue of Science that the long-term process of global dimming, a diminishing of the sun’s effects caused by an accumulation of particulate matter in the atmosphere, began to turn around in 1990. Since global dimming has a cooling effect, its decline could speed the effects of global warming.

11. Researchers on a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean discovered that the strength of the current that drives the Gulf Stream — and bathes Britain and Northern Europe in warm waters from the tropics each summer — has slowed by 30 percent in just the past decade. Thought to be a consequence of global warming, the weakened current could trigger severe winters and cooler summers on both sides of the North Atlantic.

12. Outlandish weather effects materialized all over the world. On July 26, 37 inches of rain fell in Mumbai, India’s financial center, during one 24-hour period. Four hundred thirty-eight people drowned or were buried in landslides in India’s highest recorded rainfall. A record 22 tornadoes hit Southwest Australia in May, causing the state’s most expensive natural disaster. In October, 78.9 inches of snow fell on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, nearly doubling the previous record of 39.8 inches, set in 2000.

January 02, 2006

European satellite launch challenges GPS

The fully deployed Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites, positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit planes. Credit: ESA

European satellite launch challenges GPS (Reuters)

The European Union launched its first Galileo navigation satellite on
Wednesday, moving to challenge the United States' Global Positioning
System (GPS).

Russian space agency Roskosmos said the 1,300-pound satellite named
Giove-A (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element) went into its orbit
15,000 miles from the earth after its launch on a Soyuz rocket from the
Baikonur cosmodrome in the middle of Kazakhstan's steppe.

"The launch of Giove is the proof that Europe can deliver ambitious
projects to the benefit of its citizens and companies," EU Transport
Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement.

The $4.27-billion Galileo program, due to go into service in 2008 and
eventually deploy 30 satellites, may end Europe's reliance on GPS and
offer a commercial alternative to the GPS system run by the U.S.
military.

"Radio-navigation based on Galileo will be a feature of everyday life,
helping to avoid traffic jams and tracking dangerous cargos," Barrot
said.

GPS is presently the only worldwide system offering services ranging
from driver assistance to search-and-rescue help. Critics say its
services for civilians offer less precision than those for military or
intelligence purposes.

Galileo's accuracy in positioning is to be 3 feet or less, while GPS's
precision is more than 15 feet.

EU officials also say Galileo would never be switched off for strategic
reasons, which could sometimes be the case with GPS. [read on...]

December 31, 2005

Out with the Old + In with the New?

via NEWSgrist:

Out with the Old + In with the New?

Katrina
Satellite view of Hurricane Katrina, August 29, 2005.

The year 2005 in Art: reflections from here and there:

via Artforum:
Best of 2005: 11 Critics + Curators Look at the Year in Art

John Kelsey:
HURRICANE KATRINA - Ask Stockhausen. As if timed for the opening of the Whitney's Robert Smithson retrospective, this was arguably less a natural disaster than a case of Land art gone horribly wrong. An environmental and political tragedy of Spielbergian proportions, Katrina produced images of the sort of "naked life" we'd previously only identified with non-sites like Iraq. The drowned ghetto, the shooting of homeless looters, the police suicides, the forced evacuations, the superdomes filled with refugees—these are visions we can only try to erase. For some reason it was impossible not to imagine the hurricane as a terrorist act. And I guess it was—Made in USA.   [...]

 

December 30, 2005

Mercury rising, stormy weather

 

 

via Common Dreams:

Published on Friday, December 30, 2005 by the Independent / UK
Review of the Year: Climate Change
Mercury rising, stormy weather - our world is taking a battering
by Michael McCarthy

You see it in heat, you see it in ice, you see it in storms. Climate change without doubt became the critical environmental issue of 2005. The evidence of global warming occurring here and now mounted up during the year and is proving ever harder to ignore, even by habitual sceptics.

The past 12 months have been one of the hottest periods ever recorded. When all the figures are in, this may prove to have been the warmest year in the global temperature record, although in mid-December British meteorological scientists were saying it was still just exceeded by 1998.

But, around the world, there have been unprecedented heat-waves. The thermometer reached an astonishing 50C - that's 122F - in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. Canada and Australia had their hottest-ever weather, while a record drought in Western Europe saw bush fires devastate much of Portugal's countryside.

Two other phenomena besides high temperatures pointed directly at climate change in 2005. One was the record melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and of land-based glaciers and ice sheets; the other was the record incidence of tropical storms.

In September, satellite measurements showed that the Arctic sea ice had melted to a record low extent - about 20 per cent below the long-term average - prompting fears that an irreversible decline has set in, and that the whole of the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free relatively soon, perhaps within two to three decades.

This means not just that the North Pole will be a point in the sea; it means that animals that need the ice to live, such as polar bears, may be doomed. In December, there were reports of polar bears being drowned because the gaps between ice masses were too great for them to swim.

There are other significant reports of ice melting, especially in the glaciers and ice-sheets of Alaska and Greenland. Measurements taken in 2005 showed that the Kangerdlugssuaq glacier, which drains about 4 per cent of Greenland's massive ice sheet, is moving into the sea three times faster than a decade ago. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels around the world would be raised by about seven metres (23ft). But even a rise of just one metre would be catastrophic for many low-lying areas, such as Bangladesh. In November, American scientists revealed that sea levels are now rising by about two millimetres a year, twice as fast as 150 years ago.

Stronger, more frequent tropical storms are the other pointer towards a changing climate. Scientists predict that the greater energy available in a warmer atmosphere will intensify hurricanes and typhoons, and 2005 has indeed been a record year in terms of both intensity and frequency.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, there were 26 tropical storms in the 12-month period, exceeding the previous record of 21, set in 1933. Of the year's storms, 14 reached the status of hurricanes. Hurricane Wilma, which hit Florida in October, was confirmed as the strongest hurricane ever recorded.

But it was Hurricane Katrina, of course, which attracted the most publicity. The devastation of New Orleans in August posed the critical question - was there a link with climate change? Some scientists are uncertain about this, but in September Sir John Lawton, who chairs the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, said unequivocally that the super-powerful hurricanes battering the United States were the "smoking gun" of global warming.

Not surprisingly, the mounting evidence of a destabilised atmosphere gave a new urgency and dynamic to the politics of climate change during the year, although the administration of George Bush continued to stonewall on the issue. Tony Blair, with his special opportunity as chair of the G8 group of rich countries, while at the same time holding the presidency of the European Union, put climate change at the top of the agenda (along with Africa) at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland in July.

What emerged was not a change of heart from the US over the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions - as the environmental pressure groups had been demanding, entirely unrealistically - but something just as important. China and India, whose future emissions of carbon dioxide will be a crucial factor in the struggle to control climate change, agreed to talk about them for the first time.

Later in the year, the world took another step forward when almost 200 countries agreed at the UN climate conference in Montreal to start shaping a second stage to the Kyoto treaty to replace the first emissions reduction period, which ends in 2012.

There was a mix of good and bad news on other fronts, such as rainforest destruction and wildlife. The Amazon was struck by its second-greatest bout of forest clearance, new figures revealed - but in September, in Kinshasa, nations home to populations of the four great apes - gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) and orang-utans - agreed on a strategy to try to preserve man's closest relatives in the face of ever-increasing threats to their existence from habitat destruction and hunting.

© 2005 Independent News and Media Limited

 

December 28, 2005

After the Tsunami


Editorial: NYTimes:
One Year After the Tsunami
Published: December 28, 2005

The tsunami that cut a swath of destruction through the Indian Ocean region last year was an extraordinary catastrophe. It struck 12 countries and displaced more than two million people, according to the United Nations, destroying their livelihoods, tearing apart families, annihilating entire towns. The ensuing natural disasters that have followed in the 12 months since then - from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to the earthquake in Kashmir - have been measured against the horror of the number left dead by the Indian Ocean tsunami: at least 183,172.

The tsunami also generated a record $13.6 billion in pledges for immediate and regional aid, and long-term help for specific countries. About three-quarters of that aid has actually been secured. Clearly, the world can make good on its promises when it wants to.

Indeed, the pledges actually exceed the initial requests for help. According to the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, the estimate of the amount needed for long-term tsunami recovery in each of the affected countries was $10.12 billion, and the amount pledged was $10.51 billion. Indonesia, which was hit the hardest, needs an estimated $5.5 billion; it got $6.5 billion in pledges. Sri Lanka asked for $2.15 billion; it got promises of almost $3 billion.

Given the devastation involved and the extreme poverty of many victims, the money pledged is by no means over the top. But the agencies entrusted with spending the donations have a special responsibility to spend wisely.

There's some good news: swift intervention by aid groups prevented major outbreaks of disease. A tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean region, which would prepare every country's weather service to receive warnings, should be ready for installation in mid-2006. In Sri Lanka and Indonesia, nearly all of the children affected by the tsunami are back in school.

The progress report on relief and reconstruction remains mixed. Only 20 percent of the people left homeless are in permanent homes, with many thousands still languishing in refugee tents. In Sri Lanka, squabbles over aid money, combined with a legacy of distrust between the Tamil separatists and the backers of the government, have sent the country to the edge of a renewed civil war.

Still, the good by far outweighs the bad, and it is important that both the donor governments and the countries hit by the tsunami stay the course in reconstruction.

This is a rare opportunity to do things right, to actually put muscle behind all the usual talk of rebuilding stronger and better, and to heed the tsunami's greatest lesson: early warning saves lives. There are few people involved who wouldn't trade that surplus aid money to get back a few of those more than 183,000 lost lives.

via the UNDP & Tsunami Recovery page:

UNDP has published a report on its assistance to the tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts for the past year. It is meant to provide examples of how UNDP is helping people who survived the tsunami rebuild their lives now, and for the future.

Download Report (PDF 2.0 Mb)

More links:

Commons

Wikimedia Commons: Media, Maps, Photos, Diagrams, etc. related to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

 

Wikinews
Wikinews has news related to this article the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami