Archive | Politics & Politicians

China Discusses Carbon Emissions and Greenhouse Gases Targets

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 7 (UPI) — As world leaders gathered for the Monday opening of the U.N. climate-change conference in Copenhagen, a Chinese minister said his country’s carbon emissions would peak between 2030 and 2040.

Wan Gang, minister of science and technology, told the Guardian he hoped the maximum output of Chinese greenhouse gases would come as soon as possible within that range.

While Wan’s comments to the newspaper are not official policy, it is the nearest China has ventured in setting a target for when emissions will begin to decrease. Various experts, research groups and academics in China have estimated that emissions could peak between 2020 or 2050, although the government has yet to officially announce a target.

Determining a peak date for developing countries, which are experiencing quickly rising emissions, is a crucial issue for some 192 world leaders meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 7-18 to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Under Kyoto, China was exempt from any requirement to control emissions.

“There are some uncertainties here, so it is difficult to say whether it will be in the beginning, the end or the middle, but I can say for sure it will be within that range,” Wan said in predicting the emissions peak occurring between 2030 and 2040. “As the minister of science and technology I would say the sooner the better.”

Wan said unpredictable factors such as the pace of China’s economic growth, increases in urbanization, and the level of scientific strides would affect the timing of the emissions peak. Attaining the earlier date in the range, he added, would be possible if China continued to invest in renewable energy efficiency, implemented carbon capture technology and promoted changes in consumer behavior.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, will account for approximately 29 percent of total global emissions by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration,

Beijing announced its first carbon intensity target Nov. 26, saying it would cut carbon emissions per unit of its gross domestic product by between 40 percent and 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. Even with this cut, the country’s output of carbon dioxide is expected to increase by about 90 percent if the economy grows by 8 percent.

China’s Nov. 26 announcement “has assisted in triggering fresh momentum” in the days running up to the Copenhagen talks, Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the office of the U.N. Environment Program executive director, told state news agency Xinhua Saturday. “It underscores China’s determination to continue and accelerate the decoupling of CO2 emissions from economic growth,” he said.

Nuttall noted that China’s announcement, alongside commitments and pledges by other countries or blocs like the European Union, Brazil, Mexico and the Republic of Korea, is bringing the opportunity of a decisive agreement in Copenhagen much closer than perhaps was the case only a few months ago.

Xinhua predicts tough negotiations at the Copenhagen meeting.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy Efficiency, Office, Other, Pollution & Toxins, Science, Space, & Technology, Urbanization0 Comments

Changes in Land Use Proven to Reduce Vegetation Cover and raise Surface Temperatures

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 3 (UPI) — A new study shows most U.S. land-use changes reduce vegetative cover and raise regional surface temperatures, scientists said.

Researchers from the University of Maryland, Purdue University and the University of Colorado-Boulder said they found nearly any change that makes land cover less “green” contributes to warming. However, they said they also found conversion of any land to agricultural use results in cooling.

The scientists said their findings add significant weight to a growing recognition for the need to more fully incorporate land-use change into computer models that are designed to forecast future changes in climate conditions.

“We found that most land-use changes, especially urbanization, result in warming,” said University of Maryland Professor Eugenia Kalnay, one of the study’s co-authors. “A clear exception is conversion of land from other uses to agriculture, which produces relative cooling, presumably because of increased evaporation.”

The study, led by Purdue University researchers Souleymane Fall and Dev Niyogi, also included Roger Pielke Sr. of the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Kalnay emphasized the findings don’t negate the effects of greenhouses gases like carbon dioxide.

“I think that greenhouse warming is incredibly important, but land use should not be neglected,” she said. “It clearly contributes to warming, especially in urban and arid areas.”

The study is to appear later this year in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Effects Of Air Pollution, Global Warming & Climate Change, Other, Regional, Urbanization0 Comments

Yemen's Water Crisis a Mideast Warning for Decades That Lie Ahead

SANAA, Yemen, Oct. 29 (UPI) — Sanaa may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water. If that happens, it will be a signpost to the conflicts over shrinking resources that scientists and sociologists see coming in the decades ahead.

The ancient city, which dates back to the Sabean dynasty of the 6th century B.C., is expected to run out of drinking water as early as 2025 at current consumption levels, according to the Sanaa Water Basin Management Project funded by the World Bank.

The people of Yemen, which lies on the southwestern tip of the Arabian peninsula, have lived on scarce water resources for centuries. But the current water crisis has been heightened by a rapidly expanding population, accelerating urbanization and the ravages of climate change.

Sanaa’s population, currently pegged at 2 million, had quadrupled since the 1980s and is growing by about 8 percent a year, overwhelming the available water supply. The national growth rate last year was 3.46 percent, one of the highest in the world.

A decade ago Sanaa got water from 180 wells. These days that’s down to 80 as the aquifers dry up.

In 2008 a World Bank report found that groundwater levels across Yemen were dropping by 20-65 feet a year. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that 19 of Yemen’s 21 main aquifers were not being replenished because of lower rainfall.

Many of the people moving into Sanaa are the first wave of what are becoming known as “climate refugees.”

These are expected to number in the millions in the next few decades as global warming melts polar icecaps, floods coastal regions, accelerates the spread of deserts and destroys farmland.

Much of Yemen’s water problem is self-inflicted. An estimated 40 percent of available water is consumed by the cultivation of qat, a leafy stimulant that is chewed by 70 percent of Yemeni males daily. Farmers prefer to grow it for the high profit involved in the narcotics trade.

The government in Sanaa has been unable to do much to ameliorate the crisis. Its authority does not run much beyond Yemen and other major urban centers, and its oil reserves, never particularly big, are running out like the water resources.

It is also grappling with a tribal insurgency in the lawless north, an increasingly volatile secessionist movement in the south and the resurgence of al-Qaida forces in the east.

The water shortage is starting to cause civil unrest. Water available across the country, much of it rocky highlands, amounts to 100-200 cubic meters per person per year, well below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters.

“We have a water shortage that reflects itself in fighting between the people,” says Deputy Planning Minister Hisham Sharaf. “If we continue spending this much water on qat, Sanaa has 10 to 15 years.”

Yemen’s problems are probably more acute than those of other regional states, but not by much, and the danger lies in the seeds of conflict that it contains.

Conditions have been exacerbated by a four-year drought that has affected all of the Middle East, from Iran to Morocco.

The urban population drift this has caused is dramatically changing the demographics of the region and putting greater strain on water resources.

The subsequent poverty and social discontent this engenders increases the risk of destabilization and armed conflict within and between states.

“Water is definitely a security problem in the region,” according to Samir Taqi, director of the Orient Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Damascus, capital of Syria.

“It’s always been this way in the region, but now what’s making it of much greater amplitude is that from one side the drought is much heavier, and second, the region itself is much more vulnerable geopolitically speaking.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Consumption, Drinking Water, Drought, Other, People, Regional, Urbanization0 Comments

NASA Sponsors Water Recycling Competition

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (UPI) — NASA says it’s inviting fifth- through eighth-grade U.S. students to take part in a water limitation management and recycling design competition.

“Participants in the competition will design and test water recycling systems that could be used for future exploration of the moon,” the space agency said in a statement. “The top three teams will receive awards, and the first place team will receive an expense-paid trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.”

Teams should consist of up to six students and one teacher or mentor, with proposals and results submitted for evaluation by Feb. 1. Schools in the United States and its territories, science museums, science centers and home school groups may host teams.

Winners will be announced in May.

Officials said the competition is designed to engage and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines critical to NASA’s missions.

Additional information is available at http://wlmr.nasa.gov/.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Engineering, Museums, Other, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

49 Mediterranean Mammals Facing Extinction

MALAGA, Spain, Sept. 15 (UPI) — New research suggests one in six of 320 Mediterranean mammals is threatened with extinction at a regional level.

The assessment, which excluded whales and dolphins, was conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Researchers found 3 percent of the mammals are critically endangered, 5 percent are endangered, 8 percent are vulnerable, another 8 percent are near threatened and 3 percent are extinct or regionally extinct.

Scientists said the study marks the first time all Mediterranean mammals have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“The number-one threat is habitat destruction, which affects 90 percent of the threatened species,” Annabelle Cuttelod, co-author of the report, said. “We need international action to protect key areas and preserve natural habitats to ensure we don’t lose the rich biodiversity in this area.”

She said rodents, bats, shrews, hedgehogs and moles, which make up the majority of Mediterranean mammals, are finding it increasingly hard to survive due to habitat loss and degradation from agriculture, pollution, climate change and urbanization.

Large herbivores — such as deer, carnivores, rabbits and hares — are particularly threatened, Cuttelod said. Eight species from those groups have already become extinct in the Mediterranean region.

Of the 49 threatened mammalian species, 20 are unique to the region and found nowhere else in the world, the IUCN said.

The report, co-authored by Helen Temple, is available at http://www.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2009-027.pdf.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Animals, Biodiversity, Conservation, Mammals, Other, Regional, Urbanization0 Comments

Darwin Film on Evolutionism "Too Controversial" for U.S. Distribution

LONDON, Sept. 12 (UPI) — British producer Jeremy Thomas claims his new movie “Creation” has not found a U.S. distributor because of its take on evolutionist Charles Darwin.

The Oscar-winning producer contends that despite positive reviews, the movie about the British naturalist’s struggles while writing “On the Origin of Species” has not landed a single distributor in the United States, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

“It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the U.S., and it’s because of what the film is about,” he said.

The movie portrays Darwin as a man who loses his religious faith due to an accident that kills his young daughter. Darwin is best known for writing 1859′s “Species” that has served as the foundation of evolutionary theory.

Thomas, whose film “The Last Emperor” won the 1988 Best Picture Oscar, told the Telegraph “Creation” does not attack religion.

“Charles Darwin is, I suppose, the hero of the film. But we tried to make the film in a very even-handed way. Darwin wasn’t saying ‘kill all religion’, he never said such a thing, but he is a totem for people,” the producer said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Other, People, Religion0 Comments

Tri-Cities Washington: Environment Blossoms in Shadows of Giant Nuclear Site

If you’re into nature, it’s tough not to love the the Tri-Cities area in Washington. Peering out from the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve to Red Mountain and Rattlesnake Mountain is inspiring, if nothing else. With the Tri-Cities area beneath you, it’s tough to imagine that you’re looking out onto one of the world’s largest environmental clean-up projects.

The Tri-Cities area in Southeastern Washington includes the cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. Earlier this month, The New York Times called our attention to the area, leaving us wanting to know more about the The Hanford Reach National Monument.

In it’s name, it sounds innocent enough. But the monument consumes an environmental nightmare of sorts… the 586-square-mile Hanford Site. Administered by the United States Department of Energy, the Hanford site played a vital role in the development of the world’s first atomic bomb and produced more than half of the United States’ plutonium used in nuclear weapon production through the 1980s.

Now, the Tri-Cities area is home to renowned vineyards, golf courses and rivers – and despite the Hanford Reach National Monument, it’s population and tourism continues to grow.

Jeff Schlegel, a writer for The New York Times article referenced above profiled his journey of the Tri-Cities area and his tour of the Hanford as part of the “American Journeys” feature from the Times.

Here is an excerpt of his, describing the area surrounding the nuclear reactors:

The Hanford Reach National Monument in the arid steppe of south-central Washington is a nature lover’s dream with the Columbia River flowing wide and free below chalk-white cliffs, an abundance of birds, and populations of deer, elk and coyotes…

…The Hanford Reach National Monument, which on a map looks like a crab’s claw clutching the Hanford Site, was left untouched because it was a buffer zone. Recreational activities here include hunting, fishing, hiking and boating, but the park’s Web site warns, “Visitors should be prepared for minimal signing and primitive facilities.”

For now the best way to explore the monument is by boat. Our jet boat tour left the Richland waterfront and whizzed upriver. We stopped to marvel as American white pelicans floated in the air with their nine-foot wingspans. Deer, coyotes and a porcupine in a tree were spotted on the Columbia’s left bank, which is Hanford Site property.

“Plants and insects are found here that don’t exist anywhere else,” said the boat’s captain, Ray Hamilton. “And, no, they aren’t mutations.”

Wildlife and Ecotourism of the Columbia River
If you’re looking for a historical vacation filled with natural beauty and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors – Tri-Cities Washington and the Columbia River may be an excellent choice for you.

m2s photo
The Columbia River, by Matt McGee (pleeker on Flickr)
Used under Creative Commons License

The area is rich in opportunities for hikers, kayakers and nature enthusiasts. In fact, here’s a list of what we’ve been able to discover about the region…

Trees
There is a wealth of native trees to the area. One great place to get started is the Yakima Area Arboretum who catalogs their list of trees here. Other native trees of Eastern Washington include:

  • Black Cottonwood trees
  • Interior Douglas Firs
  • Netleaf Hackberry Trees
  • Oregon White Oaks
  • Ponderosa Pines
  • Quaking Aspens
  • Water Birch Trees
  • Western Larches

Wildlife
While we weren’t able to find any zoos in the area, many web sites indlucing the Audobon Society helped us to create a list of native wildlife to the area which include:

  • Black Bear
  • Bushy-Tailed Woodrat
  • California Bighorn Sheep
  • Columbian Ground Squirrel
  • Deer
  • Eastern Washington Coyote
  • Elk
  • Moose
  • Nuttall’s Cottontail Rabbit
  • Pacific Tree Frog
  • Side-Blotched Lizard
  • Western Fence Lizard
  • Western Toad
  • Yellow Pine Chipmunk
  • Yellow-Bellied Marmot

Trails, Museums and Expeditions
If you’re looking to head out on foot or paddle the Columbia River or its many tributaries, there are many options for you. The Tri Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau lists out the following options for those looking to learn more about the area’s heritage and ecotourism:

  • Friends of Our Trail
  • Hanford Reach National Monument
  • Historical Presentations
  • Lewis & Clark Attractions
  • Lewis & Clark report
  • Museums & Interpretive Centers
  • Sacagawea Heritage Trail
  • Sacajawea Park Report
  • Sacajawea Report
  • Sokulk Report
  • The Reading Room

Finally, if you’re thinking about kayaking around the Tri-Cities area, look no further than Columbia Kayak Adventures who offers us this information:

There are many locations one can put a kayak in the water near Richland, Kennewick and Pasco. North Richland launches are great for paddling upriver and around the many islands that make up McNary Wildlife Refuge. There are often populated heron rookeries on some of these, plus lots of other birdlife to view.

To paddle around the Yakima Delta, launch on either the east (Marina side) or west of Bateman Island. The delta is an area of islands, channels and wildlife – dear, beaver, herons, hawk and many more can be seen here. The east launch gives access to the west side of Bateman, or you can go up the Yakima into the Chamna area.
Other nearby areas to explore are off any of the riverfront parks, Clover Island, and Yakima River.

The following is a list of launch sites:

    Near Town:

  • Bateman Island: Launch west of Bateman Island for easy access to Yakima Delta; launch east at Marina to go around Bateman into Delta, up or down the Columbia.
  • Leslie Groves: Launch just south of beach area; north or south are good access to Nelson, Gull, and many more islands.
  • Saint Street Dock: Go upriver to go around islands.
  • Above WSU-Tri Cities – Off 1st Street & Waterfront Drive
  • Yakima – Twin Bridges, Van Giesen St.
  • Chiawana Park
  • Clover Island
    Put-Ins (Easy Day Trips):

  • McNary Wildlife Refuge – Off Hwy 12
  • Walla Walla River Delta
  • Snake – Charbonneau Rec Area, Levey Park
  • Hanford Reach
  • Potholes
  • Lake Roosevelt
  • Umatilla Wildlife Refuge

For more information on the Tri-Cities area, please see the following resources:
Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau
City of Kennewick
City of Pasco
City of Richland

Posted in Ecotourism, Museums, Nature & Ecosystems, Nuclear, Other1 Comment

The Top 9 Greentech Predictions for 2009

On nearly the eve of the new year, a couple of noted industry observers have already gone public with their greentech predictions for 2009. On December 4th, Cleantech Group Executive Chairman Nicholas Parker published their “Nine clean technology predictions for 2009,” which, briefly stated, are the following:

  1. Energy efficiency infrastructure boom initiated
  2. Global climate talks bog down—no serious deal until 2011/12
  3. U.S. passes national RPS, but cap & trade bill only in 2010
  4. Wind stocks come back; thin film PV shakeout
  5. Clean technology VC stabilizes at $7B globally; Private Equity more active
  6. Failure rate of cleantech startups doubles
  7. IT turns to the energy opportunity
  8. R&D stagnates; corporates acquire green growth assets
  9. Energy-water-food nexus emerges

One day earlier, on December 3rd, Lightspeed Venture Partners Managing Director Peter Nieh published their “2009 Cleantech Predictions,” which are:

  1. Cleantech funding will slow significantly, forcing startups to seek alternative growth strategies,
  2. Companies will come under increased pressure to achieve competitive cost economics,
  3. Investor interest in energy storage, especially for automotive and grid-scale applications, to grow strongly,
  4. Government will play larger role in cleantech, as policymakers around the country increase their support,
  5. Cleantech comes of age in China.

Shortly after Nieh’s predictions went public, I had the opportunity to talk with him. The prevailing question underlying all of these predictions, for me, is fairly simple – to what extent is greentech a bubble, and to what extent does reaching the limits of leverage combined with low prices for conventional energy wipe out entire sectors of greentech?

As Nieh put it, “there is the financing chasm where many of the capital intensive cleantech companies will really suffer. The pilot stage, up to about $30 million [invested] is about as far as most VCs want to go – once you go into full scale production you may need $50 million or more, this is where hedge and private equity funds drop in to fill that gap, and those sources are gone. We always knew that was the toughest part of cleantech; the credit crisis has really opened up this chasm again.”

So what is left? Where will serious funding come from, and what greentech sectors are going to win or lose with cheap conventional energy? Nieh had several observations:

On cheap conventional energy: “Our investments never assumed oil staying over $100 per barrel. For example, LS9 claims they can produce diesel fuel from sugar at a cost without subsidies that is competitive with crude oil as low as $45 per barrel.”

On funding: “There will need to be stronger syndicates forming to make bigger initial investments. There will have to be more government support, such as stronger DOE loan guarantees. There may be more interest from corporate partners looking for technology to comply with RPS mandates.”

With oil at $35 a barrel, which greentech schemes will soar
onward, and which will become carrion for Cathartes aura?
(Photo: EcoWorld)

On what sectors may show continued growth: “There are water treatment technologies that are ‘capital light;’ utility scale solar will yield better economics sooner, because half the installed cost for [distributed] solar is balance of system, but at the utility scale the balance of system as a percent of total cost goes way down; thin film PV has a low cost per watt, but at the utility scale this lower efficiency is not a constraint; energy efficiency technologies will be more interesting, but they are not bringing as much upside and don’t have as much proprietary technology; there is a lot of innovation on the installation side of distributed PV, such as distributed inverters that will get more efficiency out of the panels; there is a real opportunity on the efficiency side since greater panel efficiency means less racking, less glass, and less wiring.”

On energy storage: “Sodium sulpher batteries are still very expensive, we need to get storage down to about $100 per kWh for it to get really interesting. The vanadium redox flow batteries have promise.”

On China: “The Chinese are able to create capital intensive technologies with far less investment, everything is less expensive, parts, machines, labor. The Chinese are pumping money into urbanization, they will continue to promote and drive this. You can apply energy efficiency in a new city or a new building, you can build them in. In China most development is new instead of retrofit, it is a petri dish of innovation where you have the opportunity to leapfrog what went in place in the west.”

From Lightspeed and from the Cleantech Group we see predictions all grappling with the question of where greentech goes in a capital constrained global economy that has returned to the days of cheap energy. In both sets of predictions a greater role for government and corporate partners is envisioned. In both it isn’t perfectly clear which sectors will continue to thrive, if any. Perhaps the worst possible outcome would be if R&D truly does stagnate (Cleantech Group #8). A second gotcha will be if government involvement results in money pouring into sectors and technologies that aren’t necessarily the best solutions.

The momentum greentech has acquired, the innovations that have been accelerated, the awareness that has been awakened and heightened, guarantee the contributions of greentech are already destined to be lasting. But greentech is undoubtedly at a crossroads. How greentech and the larger environmental movement adapt and evolve as the global economy resets over the next few years is a question of more than passing interest to investors – along with the rest of humanity. Nieh summed it up quite well when he said “predictions are hard to make, in our business we try to profit from the unknown. If it were known everybody would be doing it.”

Posted in Business & Economics, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Urbanization, Wind0 Comments

Aptera-Wingless Flight

San Diego is an urban paradise. Temperatures are always comfortable, the sun shines most days of the year, and locals can spend any day enjoying their time at beaches, museums, zoos, stadiums or any number of shows that occur there. The San Diego Convention center is always booked with events ranging from tech conferences to bridal bazaars and the world renowned International Comic Convention.

Traffic can get out of hand in such a popular place, and paradise isn’t so pretty when seen from the inside of your car in 90 degree weather. The answer to this dilemna lies with smaller electric vehicles that allow drivers to safely speed by traffic with the use of the carpool lane.

Just north of San Diego, sits Aptera, a small company of 15 engineers and fabricators who have produced a sleek, 3 wheel hybrid vehicle of the future. CEO Steve Fambro dreamt up the idea of a safe, fuel-efficient vehicle 5 years ago, when he himself had to deal with the San Diego traffic. His futuristic vehicle design is fundamentally based on aerodynamics (hence the look of a small plane) and environmentally friendly engineering.
post resumes below image


The amazingly futuristic Aptera Typ-1. When will we see these on the roads?
(Photo: Aptera)

According to Aptera, “What emerged, after much designing, conceptualizing, and constructing, was a prototype two-seat, three-wheeled vehicle. This first operating prototype achieved a stunning 230 miles per gallon, Building on this success, Steve expanded his Aptera team and created the Aptera Typ-1, which has been re-designed, re-engineered, and refined into a production ready vehicle. We are excited to announce that the Aptera Typ-1 is now available for reservations.”

$30,000 is the expected price-tag for one of these vehicles, which makes them relatively affordable. This electric car is no weakling either: the production model went from 0-60 in under 10 seconds and reached speeds of 85mph without any problems. This little car also has a range of around 150miles between charges, which is plenty for the average daily commute. Solar panels on the roof provide added energy to run to the air-conditioning that keeps the vehicle at a comfortable temperature, even when it is just sitting in a parking lot. The only bad news is that the cars will only be available in California at first

The Aptera is technically classified as a motorcycle, but is a much safer option. The company made an extra effort to exceed the minimum safety requirements, especially because of the publics’ attitude towards motorcycle dangers: the roof can withstand the pressure from rolling over, the doors exceed the necessary strength requirements, the car boasts airbag in seatbelt technology and the frame is designed to take a large impact and redirect the energy around the passenger and driver.

Aptera means “wingless flight” in Greek, and even if the owners of the sleek, white car don’t feel like they are flying, pedestrians will eye the Aptera like something that just arrived from outer space.

Posted in Cars, Energy, Engineering, Museums, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Transportation10 Comments

The Crichtonian Green

In 2004 author Michael Crichton published “State of Fear,” a novel that he uses as a platform to attempt to debunk global warming alarm. Whether or not one finds Crichton’s arguments compelling generally governs how someone might characterize his views on environmentalists and environmentalism. But Crichton, in his own way, is himself an environmentalist. Having obtained a transcript of a recent speech by Crichton on environmentalism, what follows is our synopsis of some of the key points he makes:

“DDT is not a carcinogen…the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people…”

“Second hand smoke is not a health hazard and never was.”

“The evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit.”

“There is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere in the 21st century.”

“The percentage of U.S. land that is taken for urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%.”

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State of Fear)
by Michael Crichton

This is a lot of fairly contrarian stuff, but Crichton is correct about DDT, and assessing DDT – along with second hand smoke – rests on basic toxicology. Properly applied, DDT is a fantastic solution to malaria, and banning it instead of properly regulating its use has been a tragic mistake. Obviously second hand smoke with extreme exposure is harmful, but Crichton is saying the criteria being used to justify smoking regulations are far below genuinely harmful levels.

Our commitment to publishing skeptical analyses relating to global warming and global warming policies is well documented, but Crichton’s statement regarding low levels of urbanization is another area where we add conviction to principle. There is plenty of land in the United States, definitely including California. Declaring “open space” to be endangered is ridiculous. This fatally flawed argument – now buttressed if not guaranteed by the trump card argument of supposedly stopping global warming – is the justification to force people into ultra-dense, punishingly regulated and taxed urban bantustans inside the “green line,” or the “urban service boundary.” It is dangerous nonsense. Here’s one more of Crichton’s contrarian zingers:

“The Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing.”

We are constantly trying to get good information on this and it is astonishingly difficult, given how fundamental these two observations are towards assessing global climate change. But there is strong evidence supporting Crichton’s claim that the total ice mass of Antarctica is increasing. There is data indicating increasing or at least stable rates of snowfall in the interior, as well as data that the total surface area of the icecap is increasing. Furthermore, other than in limited areas where there is rising geothermal heat, or the waters around the relatively insignificant Antarctic Peninsula, most of the ocean around Antarctica is getting colder. In all cases this information is hard to find and often conflicting. Read our Climate page for much more.

Yet through all this, Crichton is an environmentalist – a Crichtonian environmentalist – but nonetheless someone with environmentalist sentiments. Consider this:

“It is incumbant on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved.”

Environmentalism, according to Crichton, has gone well beyond this invocation, and has become a movement that cannot admit to past or present mistakes or excesses. He believes environmentalism has fulfilled an innate urge that urban atheists find fulfilling as an alternative to religion. This may be a bit much at least insofar as environmentalists, including Crichton himself, come from an infinite diversity of faiths and personal perspectives. But Crichton is on to something when he questions the reactions he elicits from many environmentalists to, for example, his observations regarding DDT, second hand smoke, global warming, urbanization, the Sahara or the Antarctic. Why is debate closed on these issues when they can be challenged on a factual basis? Why can’t the facts speak for themselves? The intense reactions environmentalists have displayed towards Crichton are unfounded unless something more powerful than reason is involved – belief, ideology, passion, a primal inner need for meaning and mission.

Crichton’s opening remarks included compelling reminders that humanity has always adapted and humanity has relentlessly improved the collective well being, and this is continuing. In his closing remarks he warns how politicized and entrenched environmental organizations have become, stating “what more and more groups are doing is putting out lies, pure and simple, Falsehoods that they know to be false.”

Of course everything Crichton says is not true, just as everything the current environmentalist establishment maintains is not false, or unhelpful, but in his final remarks, here, he also described his state of fear, and mine – and to paraphrase Czech President Vaclav Klaus – what is at stake, our global climate or our freedom? Or according to Crichton,

In the end, science offers us a way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race.”

Posted in Geothermal, Organizations, Other, People, Policies & Solutions, Policy, Law, & Government, Religion, Science, Space, & Technology, Smoking, Urbanization1 Comment

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