Archive for September, 2006

Climate Skeptics working New Zealand as well

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

– Climate skeptics are working world-wide.  Even in such an environmentally enlightened country as New Zealand, the claims and counter claims rise to confuse the public over what’s best for all of our futures.   Hopefully, they’ll be smarter than we’ve been to date.


News from new Zealand:

Call for TVNZ Balance on ‘Alarmist Doomcasting’

A challenge to TVNZ to balance what he termed “alarmist doomcasting” in its Tuesday evening 6 pm OneNews, has been issued by the secretary of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, Terry Dunleavy.

“TVNZ chose to broadcast a hugely exaggerated claim about global warming by an American supporter of global warming, James Hansen, on precisely the same day that Mr Hansen was being denounced in the U.S. Senate, by Senator James Inofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. I challenge TVNZ to balance the record with the following except from Senator Inofe’s speech,” said Mr Dunleavy:

“On March 19 of this year ‘60 Minutes’ profiled NASA scientist and alarmist James Hansen, who was once again making allegations of being censored by the Bush administration. In this segment, objectivity and balance were again tossed aside in favour of a one-sided glowing profile of Hansen.


Agency Blocked Hurricane Report

Saturday, September 30th, 2006


The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 27, 2006; 8:34 PM

WASHINGTON — A government agency blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disputed the Nature article, saying there was not a report but a two-page fact sheet about the topic. The information was to be included in a press kit to be distributed in May as the annual hurricane season approached but wasn’t ready.

“The document wasn’t done in time for the rollout,” NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said in responding to the Nature article. “The White House never saw it, so they didn’t block it.”

The possibility that warming conditions may cause storms to become stronger has generated debate among climate and weather experts, particularly in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

In the new case, Nature said weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration _ part of the Commerce Department _ in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report on the views of agency scientists about global warming and hurricanes.

According to Nature, a draft of the statement said that warming may be having an effect.

In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chair Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported.


060930 – Saturday – life returns to normal

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

A beautiful cool crisp morning here in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. A brisk motorcycle ride to the Starbucks a mile down the road, a cup of coffee sitting outside, and reading about the problems of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional character, Amory. It’s been a good start to the day after nearly two weeks of near hell.

Sharon and I have been working incessantly on our rental property (please shoot me if I ever acquire another). After the last tenant moved out, we went in to change the carpet and look into a few minor problems. It’s an older manufactured home and the minor problems quickly become rather major as we looked into them. A leaky faucet and a little rot, became a full bathroom tear-down and redo from the two-by-fours out.

We were running under a deadline because the new tenant had given notice and was committed to having to move in by today. So, everytime a project expanded, our time to get it all done diminished and it wasn’t clear until 5 PM last night that we’d be able to get everything done before they arrived. But, at 5 PM last night, I screwed a cover plate on the last electrical plug (with a new GFI installed within) and took one last look around and deemed it ready.

And, it is a good thing too. We’ve been so focused on the rental that we’ve neglected our nursery business and we should be getting into high fall sales just now.

Last evening, after cleaing up, we walked over to our neighbor’s place to the east and had a few drinks with them and talked. They are a very nice older couple who are just on the brink of moving and it was our last chance to socialize with them before they leave to Redmond to their new house near the Microsoft campus.

Then we came home and got out some store-bought sushi Sharon got earlier at the market and sat back and watched a 1947 movie entitled, “From out of the past” with Robert Mitchum. It was good even though it ended badly for everyone in it.

Today, it’s Saturday and it should be good weather and hopefully, we’ll have good nursery sales. The rental’s done and we can concentrate on business.

It’s also time for me to begin thinking about this winter. In another month and a half, I’ll be returning to Christchurch, New Zealand for two and a half months. I’m going to need to work out how to deal with the nursery’s accounting from there and I haven’t really started to think through that problem yet. Sharon’s going to stay here and the nursery will close for the winter just after Thanksgiving (a week or two after I depart for New Zealand). During the winter period, from Thanksgiving to mid-february, we’ll be closed except for by-appointment-only activities and, hopefully, Sharon can work on some of her personal art projects and get some rest.

I’ve negelected some of my personal E-mail over the last two weeks much to my regret. I’m going to turn to a bit of that before we open the nursery gate in an hour or so.

Coal Said Top Enemy in Fighting Global Warming

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

OSLO – Cheap coal will be the main enemy in a fight against global warming in the 21st century because high oil prices are likely to encourage a shift to coal before wind or solar power, a top economist said on Thursday.

Coal emits far more greenhouse gases, blamed by most scientists for a rise in world temperatures, per unit of energy when burnt in power plants or factories than oil or natural gas.

“The most important environmental problem in the 21st century is coal, or you could say coal is the most important enemy,” Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told Reuters.

“Coal is cheap, it is plentiful and it is quite evenly distributed over the entire planet,” he said, noting that oil was more concentrated in a few regions such as the Middle East.

Many countries, led by the United States, are trying to create “clean coal” technologies to strip heat-trapping gases from the exhausts of power plants or factories. The gases could then be buried below ground.

“Coal plays an important geopolitical role, and for the next 300 years it will be plentiful,” he said. With oil prices above about US$50-US$60 a barrel “then it is competitive to go from liquids to coal”.

Electricity can be generated more cheaply and easily from coal than from renewable energy sources.

Without restraints on greenhouse gases from coal “the next substitution process is not from oil to wind power, or to solar power or to biomass,” he said. “The next step would be liquids to coal,” he said.


India Digs Deeper, but Wells Are Drying Up, and a Farming Crisis Looms

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

This problem extends further than just the Indian Subcontinent. Globally, important water tables are falling and mountain winter snow packs are deminishing. And these water supplies are the life blood for millions and millions of people.  The future is coming upon us like a train but few seem to hear the whistle and the roar of it yet.


TEJA KA BAS, India – Bhanwar Lal Yadav, once a cultivator of cucumber and wheat, has all but given up growing food. No more suffering through drought and the scourge of antelope that would destroy what little would survive on his fields.

Today he has reinvented himself as a vendor of what counts here as the most precious of commodities: the water under his land.

Each year he bores ever deeper. His well now reaches 130 feet down. Four times a day he starts up his electric pumps. The water that gurgles up, he sells to the local government — 13,000 gallons a day. What is left, he sells to thirsty neighbors. He reaps handsomely, and he plans to continue for as long as it lasts.

“However long it runs, it runs,” he said. “We know we will all be ultimately doomed.”


– this article is from the NY Times.  They require you to register to read their stuff but registration is free and easy.

CNN Fact Checks Inhofe’s Diatribe Against Global Warming Science

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

– This fellow, Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment.  If that’s not scary, nothing is.  He apparently disbelieves in Global Warming though one has to wonder if the $850,000 he took in as campaign donations from the oil and gas industry had anything to do with it.  The U.S. has lagged very badly on coming up to speed with the rest of the world and this man is one of the major roadblocks.  How can I say this politely?  He’s an idiot and we’re all going to pay for his stupidity.   Read this one – it’s chilling!


On Monday, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) took to the Senate floor and launched into a 45-minute diatribe on global warming science. Repeating his claim that global warming is a hoax, Inhofe said, “The American people know when they are being used and when they are being duped by the hysterical left.“

In particular, he attacked the news media. According to Inhofe,  during the past year, “The American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry.”

This morning, CNN hit back with a segment documenting that virtually everything Inhofe said was flatly contradicted by the facts.


The Ascent of Wind Power

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Dilip Pantosh Patil uses an ox-drawn wooden plow to till the same land as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. But now he has a new neighbor: a shiny white wind turbine taller than a 20-story building, generating electricity at the edge of his bean field.

Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world but in fast-growing countries like India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources. And leading the charge here in west-central India and elsewhere is an unlikely champion, Suzlon Energy, a homegrown Indian company.


– This is in the on-line NY Times.   You have to sign up to read their stuff but it’s free.

California gets greenhouse gas law

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) — In a move backers hope will change the U.S. approach to the problem of global warming, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law on Wednesday aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have begun a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history,” the Republican governor said.

The measure passed by the Democratic-led Legislature last month caps the state’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The most populous U.S. state seeks to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of about 25 percent.


Officials Wary of Electronic Voting Machines

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

I’m glad to see articles like this and happy that the officials are wary – but I’m also disappointed. They are not dealing with the essential problem with electronic voting machines. Instead, they are focusing on issues which really ought to be on the periphery of the discussion.

The real issue with these machines, if they do not have verifiable paper trails which are generated and checked, is that their accuracy depends on trust. And trust in politics is a might scarce quantity.

These voting machines are basically computers with a dedicated function which is, on the surface, to record, count and report votes. But, computers are very complex entities and it is possible to add a huge amount of extra fuctionality into one of these machines without apparently altering its basic functionality.

Just imagine a small sub-program, hidden deep in the main counting code, which says, ‘for each vote for a democrat received, generate a random number between 1 and 100 and if that number falls between 1 and 5, then change the vote to be for the republican.‘ This would swing 5% of the votes from the democrats to the republicans and it would be very hard to detect since the 5% of votes changed would seem to be randomly scattered. This is just a very simple example. The manipulations could be more subtle such as not changing any votes unless the race was looking very close.

Without a paper trail, and with all of us just ‘trusting’ the folks who develop the machines, how would we ever know?

Well, there are answers to this conundrum but you won’t find them in articles like this one. I was a professional computer programmer for 25 years and worked deep in the operating system interiors of many different kinds of systems and I can tell you that it is not difficult for people with the knowledge to do what I’m suggesting and it is extremly hard for anyone but another professional to find the manipulations.

The computer programming code in these machines is ‘proprietary’ which means that it is owned by the company that makes the voting machine and it is typically not available for inspection by people outside of the company. Does this sound smart to you? It gives me the willies.


WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A growing number of state and local officials are getting cold feet about electronic voting technology, and many are making last-minute efforts to limit or reverse the rollout of new machines in the November elections.

Less than two months before voters head to the polls, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland this week became the most recent official to raise concerns publicly. Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said he lacked confidence in the state’s new $106 million electronic voting system and suggested a return to paper ballots.

Dozens of states have adopted electronic voting technology to comply with federal legislation in 2002 intended to phase out old-fashioned lever and punch-card machines after the “hanging chads” confusion of the 2000 presidential election.

But some election officials and voting experts say they fear that the new technology may have only swapped old problems for newer, more complicated ones. Their concerns became more urgent after widespread problems with the new technology were reported this year in primaries in Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and elsewhere.

This year, about one-third of all precincts nationwide are using the electronic voting technology for the first time, raising the chance of problems at the polls as workers struggle to adjust to the new system.


Scientists shocked as Arctic polar route emerges

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

PARIS (AFP) – European scientists voiced shock as they showed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe’s most northerly outpost to the North Pole itself.

The satellite images were acquired from August 23 to 25 by instruments aboard Envisat and EOS Aqua, two satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Perennial sea ice — thick ice that is normally present year-round and is not affected by the Arctic summer — had disappeared over an area bigger than the British Isles, ESA said.

Vast patches of ice-free sea stretched north of Svalbard, an archipelago lying midway between Norway and the North Ple, and extended deep into the Russian Arctic, all the way to the North Pole, the agency said in a press release.

“This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low-ice seasons,” said Mark Drinkwater of ESA’s Oceans/Ice Unit.