Sunday, November 05, 2017

USA Government: Most of the warming of the past half-century is due to human activities

First published at
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program*, "it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence."

Excerpt from 2017 report, Executive Summary:
    The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally. Without major reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature relative to preindustrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century. With significant reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature could be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) or less. The global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has now passed 400 parts per million (ppm), a level that last occurred about 3 million years ago, when both global average temperature and sea level were significantly higher than today. Continued growth in CO2 emissions over this century and beyond would lead to an atmospheric concentration not experienced in tens to hundreds of millions of years. There is broad consensus that the further and the faster the Earth system is pushed towards warming, the greater the risk of unanticipated changes and impacts, some of which are potentially large and irreversible.(Source)
Excerpt from 2014 report:
Multiple System Failures During Extreme Events
    Impacts are particularly severe when critical systems simultaneously fail. We have already seen multiple system failures during an extreme weather event in the United States, as when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Infrastructure and evacuation failures and collapse of critical response services during a storm is one example of multiple system failures. Another example is a loss of electrical power during heat waves or wildfires, which can reduce food and water safety. Air conditioning has helped reduce illness and death due to extreme heat, but if power is lost, everyone is vulnerable. By their nature, such events can exceed our capacity to respond. In succession, these events severely deplete resources needed to respond, from the individual to the national scale, but disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations. (Source)
(The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.)

* 2014 National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program
1800 G Street, NW, Suite 9100, Washington, D.C. 20006 USA


Monday, June 05, 2017

Make the world a better place (there is no planet B)

On Earth day 2017, a march was organized by scientists, skeptical of the agenda of the Trump administration and critical of Trump administration policies widely viewed as hostile to science. The organizers state that an "American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world." More than a million people participated worldwide.
The Photo album (of the Montreal March) is on Facebook
See also: Something to celebrate

Friday, January 20, 2017

Virtual Politics - Faking Democracy (book review)

Anyone who witnessed the 2016 election in the United States can be forgiven for asking, "what just happened?!" There is a consensus that what happened was surreal - the word became Merriam-Webster's word of the year. But more specifically, with the hyperbole, the bluster, grandstanding, reality TV and yellow press influence, internet fakery, leaks, relentless below-the-belt tactics and much, much more, virtual politics may be a better description. The real politics were/are going on elsewhere, one assumes.

Bloggers do well to check whether their topic du jour has already been covered. So it was with 'virtual politics' - and not only did I find that it has been covered, I found that it was studied extensively by Andrew Wilson in 2005. Mr. Wilson is Professor of Ukrainian Studies at the University College London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. His book is titled Virtual Politics, Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World. So while America sleeps, Russia adapts KGB-style maneuvers to sustain artificially the central authoritarianism that was the real, militaristic foundation of Kremlin rule in the Soviet, Bolshevik and even Tsarist empires.

As Wilson puts it, "Welcome to a paradise for the most brazen liars, where the most staid and respectable political technology agency in Moscow calls itself Nikkolo-M after Machiavelli, and uses his face on its business cards...Virtual politics is the way that elites seek to manage, manipulate, and contain democracy." Political technology is what consultants like Nikkolo-M engage in, engineering political 'reality' contests in which no hold is barred, and no trick too dirty. Wilson goes to considerable detail regarding the players and their often brutal methods. Indeed the book is highly specific regarding state interference measures that are now familiar in the west.

A list of some chapters will give an idea:
  • 1. 'Active measures': a Russian Tradition
  • 2.  Politics as Virtuality in the Post-Soviet World
  • 3. The 'Political Technologist': Machiavelli as Corporate Adviser
  • 5. Politics as Theatre, Disguising the State Holding Company
  • 7. Dishing the Opposition
  • 8. Inventing the Opposition  etc.
Whether or not Russia directly influenced the 2016 American election as alleged, is not the point. What is new is that US politics reached a new low of surreal dirty stunts, possibly inspired by post-KGB methods. The parallels between Wilson's post-soviet 'paradise' and the  so-called populist 2016 campaign can not be ignored.

Some Americans are already wising up; Rubio's questioning of Tillerson mentioned 'active measures' without being too specific, but the reference could only have been to the Russian practice. The FBI investigation of Paul Manafort and his work for Viktor Yanukovych may be a healthy sign.1 Yanukovych features prominently in Wilson's book.

What does this have to do with progress, or progress traps? One of this project's critiques of progress is that societies can become overly technocratic, fall into a progress trap and undo progress. Clinton's campaign had a staff of no less than 60 mathematicians and statistical analysts. One can become blind to the obvious when immersed in too much analysis. As they say at the Pentagon, "analysis paralysis". Another progress trap critique is that mental paralysis can then be swamped by crude passion,2 the kind that includes racism, intolerance and bigotry. As the world knows, these vices often don't end until they have played themselves out.

For a sense of where the United States may be heading, Andrew Wilson's book, Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World is recommended reading.

2. Goleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, 2005 Bantam Books