Archive for October, 2007

Quantum Bogosity

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Occassionally I run across a new word or phrase I just love.

Today I came across Quantum Bogosity.

of Quantum Bogodynamics we speak…

Just too cool – I just had to share it with you here.

Dip your foot in the river of news…

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

There’s a lot happening. Each day, I gather several articles I want to comment on in relationship to the Perfect Storm Hypothesis. Let’s take a ramble through some of them, shall we? This doesn’t need to be a complete sampling – we’re just looking for the broad patterns here.

I’ve had my doubts about some of the new energy technologies like biofuels and hydrogen. I don’t think the people pushing these are doing rigorous full-cycle accounting analyses. They, and the people they preach to, are hoping for magic bullets which will allow us all to go on breeding, driving cars and consuming as we always have. A U.N. expert has called thinking like this a ‘crime against humanity‘. Here are some other stories that relate to this as well: , , , and .

As the world’s resources get thinner and the pressures build, governments will need to keep tighter and tighter controls on their populations. We’ve all heard of The Great Firewall the Chinese government has erected to try to keep external news critical of the regime from the Chinese people. This very blog appears to be blocked by that firewall. Now it appears that Putin and the Russian government are heading down that same path towards control of beliefs and perceptions through the control of information. And here are some other stories that bear on this theme: , , and .

And for an absolutely rip-you-up analysis of what’s going wrong with news reporting here in the USA, read Bill Moyer’s speech to the National Conference for Media Reform from January 12, 2007. It’s a killer.

The father of the concept of Gaia, James Lovelock, has come out with a piece in The Rolling Stone on his thoughts about humanity’s future. It’s best you don’t read this if you haven’t had your morning tranquilizers. It’s also best that you skip it if you haven’t thought about the future and how it may affect you and those you love. James is such a sweetie-pie. I wish he’d tell us what he really thinks and not sweeten it up so much.

Another fellow who can always be depended upon to cheer you up with a good dose of hard-edged thinking is James Kunstler. Here’s his most recent piece called Assumptions. (more tranquilizers, please!)

There’s a new publication out by the United Nations Environmental Programme called, GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK. it is described as:

The fourth Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4) assessment is a comprehensive and authoritative UN report on environment, development and human well-being, providing incisive analysis and information for decision making.

It’s a massive compendium somewhat like the State of the World Report put out each year by The WorldWatch Institute. It tries to pull an entire world of information together so that the reader can see the big patterns. More to the point, it tries to pull these patterns together so that our leaders can make wise and informed decisions. Somehow I think most of our leaders are missing the points made in documents like these.

One of the big problems with leadership type personalities is that they tend to be on ‘transmit’ instead of ‘receive’ most of the time and thus lose a lot of the opportunities they might otherwise have to learn.

And that leads naturally into thinking about what’s wrong with our thinking. We human beings like to think we are logical and reasonable but our own scientific studies reveal just how flawed our thinking processes really are. I’ve written about this before here: , , , , , and

Here’s a piece about how decision-makers make decisions. Granted, this piece is largely about how decision making processes go wrong in psychologically impaired individuals but the underlying mechanisms that drive decisions, as described in this paper, affect us all.

All of this makes me think we are our own worst enemies and the best thing we could do for ourselves is to require that our leaders be well versed on all of these thinking flaws before they take up their positions of responsibility. Otherwise, we truly are the blind leading the blind.

Environmental problems are building up. Of course, the denialists will say these are just statistical aberrations. And, I assume they will continue to say this until the statistical evidence for significance is overwhelming. And that, I suspect will be a good long ways past the time when we could have hoped to do anything about these problems. There’s that impressive human thinking again, eh?

Here are some more stories that came up immediately when I Googled for ‘Water Shortages’: , , , , and .

Well, if everyone’s cheered up sufficiently, then I think I’ll go off and enjoy the rest of my day off.


It’s the Oil

Friday, October 26th, 2007

– This piece explains what the US is actually doing in Iraq – as opposed to what it says it is doing and what most people think it is doing.   What Jim Holt says here parallel’s my own thoughts on Iraq and the US quite well.   It is an excellent article and well worth a read.


By Jim Holt for the London Review of Books

Iraq is ‘unwinnable’, a ‘quagmire’, a ‘fiasco’: so goes the received opinion. But there is good reason to think that, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the US may be ‘stuck’ precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no ‘exit strategy’.

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world’s oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today’s prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Who will get Iraq’s oil? One of the Bush administration’s ‘benchmarks’ for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq’s 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest – including all yet to be discovered oil – under foreign corporate control for 30 years. ‘The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy,’ the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. ‘They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country.’ As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush.

How will the US maintain hegemony over Iraqi oil? By establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Five self-sufficient ‘super-bases’ are in various stages of completion. All are well away from the urban areas where most casualties have occurred. There has been precious little reporting on these bases in the American press, whose dwindling corps of correspondents in Iraq cannot move around freely because of the dangerous conditions. (It takes a brave reporter to leave the Green Zone without a military escort.) In February last year, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks described one such facility, the Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad. A piece of (well-fortified) American suburbia in the middle of the Iraqi desert, Balad has fast-food joints, a miniature golf course, a football field, a cinema and distinct neighbourhoods – among them, ‘KBR-land’, named after the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the construction work at the base. Although few of the 20,000 American troops stationed there have ever had any contact with an Iraqi, the runway at the base is one of the world’s busiest. ‘We are behind only Heathrow right now,’ an air force commander told Ricks.


Man’s ‘very survival at risk’

Friday, October 26th, 2007

The speed at which mankind has used Earth’s resources over the past 20 years has put “humanity’s very survival at risk”, a study involving 1400 scientists says.

The environmental audit, for the United Nations, found that each person in the world now requires a third more land to supply his or her needs than the planet can supply.

Thirty per cent of amphibians, 23% of mammals and 12% of birds are under threat of extinction, while one in 10 of the world’s major rivers runs dry every year before it reaches the sea.

The bleak verdict on the environment was issued yesterday as an “urgent call for action” by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which said the “point of no return” was fast approaching.

The report was drafted and researched by nearly 400 scientists, all experts in their fields. Their findings were subjected to review by 1000 of their peers.

Canterbury University Professor of Antarctic studies Bryan Storey, whose research team contributed to the Antarctic section of the report, said “a real sense of urgency” was needed over global warming and the Government needed to do “a lot more”, as did every nation.

“We haven’t reached the stage where people think it’s serious enough to change the way we live,” he said.


Get used to high oil prices

Friday, October 26th, 2007

No one is going to come to the rescue on the supply side — and, of course, we remain stuck with an administration that doesn’t believe in demand-reduction strategies.

As the Wall Street Journal (subs. req’d) reported in “OPEC’s Lever Loses Its Pull on Oil“:

Oil prices are hovering near historic highs, but consuming nations shouldn’t expect quick relief from OPEC, the world’s only source for big, quick supplies.

For several reasons, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has neither the clear leverage nor the inclination to open the spigots and drive down the price of crude, which jumped past $90 a barrel in intraday trading in New York last week for the first time.

This figure shows how little spare capacity OPEC has — essentially none outside of Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis have no inclination to initiate a major price drop, especially since these prices do not appear to be destroying demand.

Moreover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned back in July that it saw “OPEC spare capacity declining to minimal levels by 2012.

And the WSJ notes no one outside of OPEC will be coming to the rescue either:

Saudi Arabia has little to fear from the world’s other major producers, such as Russia, which in decades past have ramped up supplies in an effort to capture a greater market share. But at the moment, the world’s major producers for the most part are already pumping flat-out.

“They have little competition from non-OPEC suppliers and few worries about losing market share,” says Jeffrey Currie, senior energy economist at Goldman Sachs in London.

We cannot be far from $100+ oil.


Thanks to climateprogress for this piece.

To the original: 

What to do if you are attacked by monkeys

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Given the folks we have running Washington, D.C. these days, this advice might be apt.


How To Fight Monkeys

What should you do if you’re surrounded by angry macaques?

The deputy mayor of New Delhi, India, fell off his balcony and died Sunday after being attacked by monkeys, his family members say. The city has around 10,000 monkeys, some of which have taken to roaming through government buildings as they steal food and rip apart documents. What should you do if monkeys are picking on you?

It’s like Mom said about muggers: Just give ’em what they want. When monkeys get aggressive, it’s usually because they think you have something to eat. According to one study, about three-quarters of all the aggressive interactions between long-tailed macaques and tourists at Bali’s Padangtegal Monkey Forest involved food. If you are holding a snack, throw it in their direction, and they’ll stop bothering you. If you don’t have any food, hold out your open palms to show you’re not carrying a tasty treat or back away from the monkeys without showing fear. To diffuse the situation, don’t make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing—in the nonhuman primate world, these are almost always signs of aggression.

More politicians monkeys…

Excess Female To Male Births In Canada Linked To Chronic Dioxin Exposure

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

The release of zillions of chemicals, which have never existed in the natural world, into nature is bound to have negative effects.   All of us, no matter how remote a place we live in , have measurable levels of many of these chemicals in our systems now.  And it isn’t just frogs here and there born with an extra leg or two.   It’s us – we are being affected by our own folly.


ScienceDaily (Oct. 23, 2007) — Almost 90 Canadian communities have experienced a shift in the normal 51:49 ratio of male to female births, so that more girls than boys are being born, according to two new studies.

James Argo, who headed the research, attributes this so-called “inverted sex ratio” of the residents in those communities to dioxin air pollutants from oil refineries, paper mills, metal smelters and other sources.

The studies analyzed information in the Environmental Quality Database (EQDB), an inventory of pollution sources, cancer data, and other factors developed for Canadian government research on how early exposure to environmental contaminants affects the health of Canadians.

Argo points out that the EQDB enables researchers to pinpoint the location of 126,000 homes relative to any of about 65 air pollution sources-types and the occurrence of cancer among residents of those homes.

Argo focused on air pollutants from those sources and the corresponding incidence of cancer among more than 20,000 residents and 5,000 controls. He identified inverted male sex ratios, sometimes as profound as 46:54 in almost all of the communities.


Big news: The ocean carbon sink is saturating

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

The long-feared saturation of one the world’s primary carbon sinks has apparently started. The BBC reports, “The amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the world’s oceans has reduced.”

After 10 years and more than 90,000 ship-based measurements of CO2 absorption, University of East Anglia researchers reached this stunning conclusion:

CO2 uptake halved between the mid-90s and 2000 to 2005.

The BBC writes: “Scientists believe global warming might get worse if the oceans soak up less of the greenhouse gas.”

Sigh. Note to the BBC, you don’t need a double hedge: If you’re going to just say “might get worse” you surely can drop “Scientists believe.” Frankly I doubt you can find many, if any, reputable scientists — or even the few remaining deniers — who would say that if the ocean sink saturates, global warming won’t get worse. I would probably phrase it this way: Global warming will accelerate if the oceans soak up less of the greenhouse gas.

The researchers say, “it is a tremendous surprise and very worrying because there were grounds for believing that in time the ocean might become ’saturated’ with our emissions – unable to soak up any more.”

Why is that bad news?

Of all the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, only half of it stays there; the rest goes into carbon sinks.

There are two major natural carbon sinks: the oceans and the land “biosphere”. They are equivalent in size, each absorbing a quarter of all CO2 emissions.

If the oceans stop taking up CO2, the atmosphere will inevitably take up more, accelerating global warming.

To the original article:

Could Warmer Oceans Make Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Rise Faster Than Expected?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

ScienceDaily (Oct. 24, 2007) — Could the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere rise more drastically than previously assumed? The air contains greenhouse gases such as CO2, which are now known to be responsible for global warming because their concentration has risen continuously for a number of years. In contrast to the atmosphere, the concentration of CO2 in the oceans is sixty times higher.

In the global carbon cycle the sea absorbs a proportion of the atmospheric CO2 but also releases CO2 into the atmosphere again. About half of the anthropogenic emission of CO2 is absorbed naturally by the oceans. Thus it is all the more important to understand how the exchange of CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere functions with regard to a world that is warming up. The newly available study shows that the ocean was able to store more CO2 during the ice age than it can today.


‘Unexpected growth’ in CO2 found

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

The train is picking up speed…


Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have risen 35% faster than expected since 2000, says a study.

International scientists found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17%.

The other 18% came from a decline in the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere.

About half of emissions from human activity are absorbed by natural “sinks” but the efficiency of these sinks has fallen, the study suggests.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was carried out by the Global Carbon Project, the University of East Anglia, UK, and the British Antarctic Survey.

It found that improvements in the carbon intensity of the global economy have stalled since 2000, leading to an unexpected jump in atmospheric CO2.

“In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slow-down of natural sinks and the halt to improvements in the carbon intensity of wealth production,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project.