Archive for January, 2011

How Global Warming Became Political Poison By Andrew Bolt In The HeraldSun.Com

January 31, 2011

There are no dramatic events happening. Wild Weather is explained away and no one wants to sit around and watch sea levels rise over the next several decades, nations fail over the next several decades, temperatures warm up over the next several decades and ice masses melt over the next several decades. Now is the time to act, but I have not seen that happen on anything instead we like to stare at possible tipping points.

I mean none of this is news next to a lot of things that are happening right now, and are politically relevant to what might happen to the world overnight.
Matt

The chic World Economic Forum at Davos once considered global warming the greatest of threats to the planet:

“We are getting huge demand from our members to place climate change and issues of environmental security at the very heart of the programme,” said Dominic Waughray, head of environmental initiatives at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

But now it considers global warming so yesterday:

Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder told The Australian at the Swiss ski resort of Davos at the weekend … (he) was struck by how climate change had taken a back seat at Davos to concerns about water scarcity and food security as the big emerging market economies drove global growth.

How can an existential threat to humanity suddenly become too boring for words? Impossible, unless it never was really a big threat to start with.

How else to interpret the abrupt lack of interest in planet-saving at not just Davos but almost every big political occasion? Take Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last week:

Barack Obama has paid less attention to climate change in his State of the Union addresses than any other president in the past 20 years, an analysis by a British researcher has found.

Obama made no mention of the words climate change, global warming or environment in his hour-long speech on Tuesday night….

Take the campaign launches of Australian Prime Ministers:

Number of words that Kevin Rudd devoted in his 2007 campaign launch speech to tackling global warming, the “great moral, environmental and economic challenge of our age”:

237
Number of words that Julia Gillard devoted in her 2010 campaign launch speech to tackling global warming, “a profound challenge for all of us”:

12

Take the speech of the British Prime Minister to his party’s annual conference:

Commenting on David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party conference today, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“With not a mention of climate change, this was not the speech we would have expected from the Prime Minister of the self-declared ‘greenest Government ever’.

Something doesn’t compute. Either the politicians were recklessly beating up the climate scare before, or they’re recklessly playing down the danger now. Shouldn’t they tell us which?

UPDATE

Mind you, some people at Davos were still banging the drum – especially those who’d gain power themselves by choking not just Western gasses but Western autonomy:

The world’s current economic model is an environmental “global suicide pact” that will result in disaster if it isn’t reformed, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, warned today.

Ban said that political and business leaders need to embrace economic innovation in order to save the planet.

“We need a revolution,” he told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on how best to make the global economy sustainable. “Climate change is also showing us that the old model is more than obsolete.”

He called the current economic model a recipe for “national disaster” and said: “We are running out of time. Time to tackle climate change, time to ensure sustainable … growth.”

(Thanks to readers Baa Humbug and Steve.)

Serengeti Watch, An Update

January 30, 2011

Coming up with viable alternatives. We can have a world class migration and Tanzania can have its super highwaty and this win,win is rejected…go figure…Matt

Despite world protest and a recent offer from the World Bank, Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania, states that the northern route through the Serengeti will be built.

For many months we’ve been asking lending institutions and donor governments to fund an alternative, southern route. To date, we have more than 25,000 signatures on our “Find and Fund an Alternative to the Serengeti Highway” petition. We know our collective voice has been heard.

Finally, a few days ago, we were heartened to learn that the World Bank will offer the funding.

Astonishingly, however, President Kikwete just told a representative of the World Bank that his government would indeed be going ahead with the northern route. In a press statement that could only be described as doublespeak, he affirmed that the northern route would be built (though he claims it’s not a highway).

Of course, a commercial highway it is. Paving and fencing will inevitably follow, as will towns, bean and wheat fields, wildlife collisions, and increased poaching. A section of the Park will be excised, fragmenting the ecosystem into two parts. The impact is inevitable, and once gone, the Serengeti will be gone forever.

Scientists have spoken clearly and with one voice. Conservation organizations and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee have made their statements of protest. For our part, we will continue to build the case on how this Serengeti highway will affect Tanzania’s economy.

Not fully appreciated yet is the devastation to the economy of Tanzania this project will wreak. Already there is talk of a boycott against travel to Tanzania. We do not want this to happen, so we must make our case as convincingly as we can.

Raptors, A First Cut

January 29, 2011

I first cut hawks by seperating them into eagleformes (3 species around Bozeman, Montana-near Yellowstone National Park; one eagleforme-the Osprey only occurs near here in th summer), large size; buteoformes (4 species seen near here; the Rough-legged is here in winter). Buteoformes are gliders that tend to be in open country and the most common of hawks with broad wings, tend to glide in circles; harrierformes (1 species)-have heavy diehedral shape and tend to tilt or rock as they fly fly near the ground; accipiterformes (3 species around here), tend to have broad, short, stubby wings for chasing birds and quick maneuverability in the forest where they fly the most. Then there is falconformes (4 to 5 species; the Gyr Falcon is occasionally here), skinny winged, fast flyers of open country…that is just for starters.
Matt

Colors In Nature; A Great Attraction

January 28, 2011

The first time I saw brilliant colors in nature I saw the breeding plummage of American Goldfinches as a flock flew by as if flying on a roller coaster while singing a song that sounded like they were singing potato chip. I recall vividly close to were I saw the goldfinch I saw a brilliant male Prothonatary Warbler in a marsh near the C and O Canal…not a National Park back then. Both of these birds were largely brilliant yellow in color.

Then I remember seeing the brilliant blue Indigo Bunting near Antietam Civil War Battlefield National Park in Maryland. Near this bird I saw the brilliant Scarlet Tanager in the top of an oak tree. I saw both birds in Spring. There were more colrful birds I saw from my teen years to my years as a young adult. I especially remember the Painted Bunting, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Oriole and the Western Tanager.

Then as a middle aged adult I remember sporting a snorkle and seeing glimpses of a vibrant undersea world that include Golden Tangs and Yellow-headed Gobis.

I recall that I saw Crimson McCaws and large bright blue Morpho Butterflies and in North America I first saw pink Greater Flamingos…out in nature so many bright colors over the years, these colors especially stood out when outlined by drab habitats or dark greens where these species preferred foods were often found.
Matt

Green Cars Electify Detroit Auto Show by Adam Anston in NRDC’s OnEarth Magaziine

January 27, 2011

The electrification of Motown was in full display this week at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, which runs through January 23. In the past, press previews at the event have featured carnival-style new car announcements. Not this year, but there was still a subdued sense that although Detroit may not yet be fully recovered from bankruptcy and recession, U.S. automakers are getting back on their feet. And electric cars are emerging as central to that rebirth.

The shift is best captured by GM’s all-in bet on the Volt, a plug-in electric hybrid sedan. It’s hard to understate the scope of GM’s conversion with the Volt. GM was poised to pioneer mainstream electric cars with its EV1 over a decade ago, only to curtail the program in a series of decisions made infamous by the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Photo Gallery: Meet the New Electric Vehicles
By the mid 2000s, with sales of big SUVs and trucks spinning off proportionally big profits, I can recall senior GM executives disparaging Toyota’s then small-selling Prius as a bad business strategy, describing it as a costly kludge of electric and gas technologies whose price could never cover its cost to build.

Fast forward a few years. Toyota is the biggest carmaker in the world, and the Prius is a global hit. GM meanwhile is struggling back from bankruptcy and is earning kudos for rolling out an e-car that’s similar to the Prius in more than just looks. The Volt is a 60 mpg, four-door sedan that plugs in and runs on a combination of battery power, a gas engine. And it will cost $40,000, a price that — just like early versions of the Prius — critics have said can’t cover the true costs of its advanced technologies.

If GM failed to recognize the EV1’s potential, it’s not making the same mistake this time. Just as Toyota has benefited hugely from the green halo that the Prius lends the company’s reputation, GM seems to get that even if early Volts are money losers, the reputational benefits are enormous. Thanks to GM’s huge, years-in-the-making publicity campaign for the vehicle, the public is probably more aware of this car than any new vehicle in recent history, gas or electric.

For all the attention heaped on GM, Ford is also banking on a small fleet of new electric vehicles designed to appeal to a broader set of buyers. The sole U.S. automaker to avoid a government bailout, Ford introduced three new electric vehicles at the show. The most ambitious is the Focus Electric, an all-battery plug in sedan, which can roll 100 miles on a charge. It will cost around $30,000.

Ford also announced two new green micro-vans. The C-Max Energi (yes, with an “i”) is a five-passenger “multi-activity” vehicle that — like Chevy’s Volt — can be plugged in at night to recharge, then run on only battery power or a mix of battery and gas for a total range of over 500 miles. Its sibling the C-Max Hybrid is a conventional hybrid — similar to Toyota’s Prius — that boosts its mileage by switching between battery and gas power and storing energy from braking in a big battery pack. Ford’s C-Max vehicles will hit markets in 2012, and pricing is as yet unavailable.

On Switchboard: NRDC’s Transportation Program Director
Even Toyota is hoping an electric shock can help rehabilitate its image. This may seem odd given that the world’s largest automaker has been building electric-gas hybrids for 15 years (the Prius debuted in 1997). Yet Toyota is struggling back from a series of embarrassing quality problems and high-profile recalls that damaged the reputations of its main Toyota and Lexus brands.

Its Prius line, meanwhile, remains untarnished. It is also the most widely-recognized and best selling eco-car in the world. Indeed, Toyota has announced a goal to make Prius the best selling “nameplate” in the world by 2020. Building on this pledge, in Detroit Toyota announced both bigger and smaller versions of the Prius, along with a plug-in hybrid to compete with Chevy’s Volt.

Returning to the question of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” it’s fitting to note that the maker of that documentary is putting the final touches on a sequel, “Revenge of the Electric Car,” due in theaters this spring.

Dr. No, How Oklahoma Politicians Can Run Roughshod Over The Politics Of States That They Do Not Live In

January 27, 2011

I read an article yesterday in a magazine called the High Country News entitled Dr. No. The article was basically about how US Senators Coburn and Inhoffe from Oklahoma run roughshood over politics from the west.

My first thought is that Coburn and Inhoffe are nothing like US Senator Jon Tester and US Senator Max Baucus, both moderate Democrats, from Montana.

Tester and Baucus are really not far right wing politicians like Inhoffe and Coburn, both the primary global warming naysayers in the US Congress.

Because states like Montana have so much public land, senators like Coburn and Inhoffe have an inordinate amount of power in the politics of states like Montana that Coburn and Inhoffe live 800 miles from.

This is a broken political system and this article gives you insite as to why.
Matt

Christmas Bird Counts And Global Climate Change

January 27, 2011

I have been on over 20 Christmas Bird Counts and again this year in Bozeman, Montana there were some interesting results

We were in a circle Northwest of Bozeman and we saw a lot of Rough-legged Hawks, Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks.

We did not see Prairie Falcons, but they were seen North of Bozeman and I have seen 2 since the Christmas Count. Goshwks were seen near Bozeman and so was the Merlin; a hunter at my complex.

Neat songbirds were seen; incliding the Common Redpoll. Two years ago it seemed that White-winged Crossbills seemed to be everywhere. Their preffered spruce seeds were everywhere…none sited this year on the count…but Evening Grosbeaks were seen and so were Pine Grosbeaks.

My guess is that climate change will change the use patterns of some of these species over the next decade.

Some of thesee birds will not be on this count in the future…we shall see.
Matt

Washington-Browner Is Leaving As Obama Advisor

January 25, 2011

Browner was one of the “good guys”. I hate to see her go. This energy debate can only get harder (that is saying a lot) without Browner’s political muscle.
Matt
AP-Carol Browner, Obama’s top adviser on energy and climate matters advisor is stepping down, two White House officials confirmed Monday. The departure of Carol Browner underscores that there will be no major White House push on climate change, given that such efforts have little chance of succeeding on Capitol Hill.

Browner, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Bill Clinton, will be leaving the White House just as Republicans in Congress prepare to take on the Obama administration over global warming and the administration’s response to the massive Gulf oil spill.

Browner successfully helped negotiate a deal with automakers boosting federal fuel economy standards and requiring the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles. She also pushed for billions of dollars for renewable energy in the economic stimulus bill.

But the administration fell short on it key domestic priority of passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill to place a firm limit on the pollution blamed for global warming. Just after the November elections, which gave Republicans a majority of seats in the House, Obama admitted the legislation was dead.

One White House official said Monday that Browner was “confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president.” The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Browner was “pleased” with the clean energy commitment Obama would lay out in his State of the Union address Tuesday and in his budget request.

Scott Segal, an energy lobbyist with Bracewell & Giuliani, said Browner’s exit could “be a part of a legitimate effort to pay careful attention to addressing some of the real regulatory obstacles in the way of job creation.”

Besides regulations to curb global warming, industry groups — and Republicans on Capitol Hill — are questioning a host of EPA rules targeting other air pollutants as job killers that will increase the costs of doing business.

And recently Browner’s office had come under scrutiny for politicizing the response to the massive Gulf oil spill. The commission set up by Obama to investigate the disaster said Browner misconstrued on national television the findings of a federal scientific report by saying most of the oil was gone. The White House later said she misspoke.

Browner’s office also has been criticized by the Interior Department inspector general for editing a department document in a manner that implied scientists supported the administration’s decision to place a moratorium on deep water drilling. The commission found no evidence that the change made was intentional, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar later apologized for the misunderstanding.

Browner’s resignation comes amid a series of high-profile staff changes in Obama’s White House.

The president has brought in a new chief of staff, Bill Daley, and is zeroing in on the choice of a new press secretary to replace the departing Robert Gibbs. Senior adviser David Axelrod is leaving the White House to focus on Obama’s re-election, and both of Obama’s deputy chiefs of staff are also leaving.

Staff members who are considering a change have been told to make their moves now or plan to stay for the remaining two years of Obama’s term to ensure continuity.

Ants And E.O. Wilson

January 25, 2011

No dramatic things to report in the global climate change world. I am sure sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, beetles are raveging pines and weather is becoming unpredictable by the day…but I am hardpressed to report anymore about those things for now and yes as I get things I will keep you posted in this climate changing world..So I have limited my disabled world to reading E.O. Wilson’s (a hero of mine) book, Anthill (this ecologist has written over 20 books).

I did see several ant researchers down in Costa Rica, in fact one evening I was on the path back to my cabin on a trail that I almost tripped on collared peccary the night before and I was thinking about 2 different species of venomous snake that come out (more commonly) after dark, when I almost tripped over an ant researcher; a young gal from China who turned her headlamp off temporarily to better hear what turned out to be me.

I would have learned more about ants but her English was real bad and I had no Chinese language abilities so I thought about E.O. Wilson and US ants that I am sure were much like their Costa Rican counterpars.
Matt

What Is Out There In Wild Country To Find

January 24, 2011

I have spent 30 plus years viewing up closely black bear habitat here is a tidbit:
4 falls ago I saw a Douglas Fir with 90 plus black bear scats under it (at base of tree) my guess is that the bear was not a large bear and could have been a mother with a yearling, (I found two different sizes of small bear scats under the tree.) Latrines for bears are not common.

My guess was that the bears were not bedding near the scats and that I was looking at the latrine for these bears. There were other large trees and insect grubs nearby so there was plenty of food for the bears to eat. Less than half a mile away was a clear stream, perfect for bears. Just uphill from there I saw the tracks of a mother blackbear and yealing in snow probably looking for a densite (no food) for those two so that is a guess on my part.

I can only say it was denning time for female bears with young

I was sure fascinated by the things I saw, including the bear latrine in the middle of nowhere.
Matt