Thursday, May 31, 2007

Change in the Weather

“Seeking to end America’s isolation on the issue of global climate change, President Bush called today for the 15 countries that are major producers of greenhouse gases to confer this fall and adopt a common goal on curbing emissions,” The Times tells us.

Is this a major breakthrough, or should we feel the president’s proposal “just re-warms old ideas,” as Rep. Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, put it?

David Roberts at Grist is unimpressed:

This announcement from Bush is not a genuine change of heart on climate change. The U.S. still will not agree to any emission reduction targets. It will not agree that the developed countries bear primary responsibility for climate change. It will not sign on to the growing consensus among developed nations about how to tackle the problem. This announcement is an attempt to run out the clock on the Bush administration without committing to anything but sweetheart deals for corporate backers.

Daniel Drezner is also skeptical, but hopeful: “If Bush can even convince China and India to attend this proposed meeting, he’ll have achieved a significant political victory. Why? Because by their very attendance, China and India will be implicitly acknowledging that they are part of the global warming problem.”

The Bush administration doesn’t all seem to be on the same page here, however. Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science reports that Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator, had made these interesting comments on NPR’s “Morning Edition” today:

I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. … I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

“I’m not sure this is an argument you can sell in an island nation that’s on a trajectory to being underwater,” retorts Stemwedel. “And irreversible changes seem like a different kind of thing from little temporary fluctuations. If they turn out to be very bad for a significant number of people, you’re kind of stuck. More broadly, Griffin seems almost to be saying that just because scientists can build understanding of phenomena, you ought not to try to stick them with any of the responsibility for intervening on them.”

Well, while everybody else is looking at the long term, a few scientists are sticking with the here and almost now. Chris C. Mooney at The Intersection tells us that two of the nation’s premier hurricane forecasters, Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray of Colorado State University, have given their prediction for the upcoming season: “17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes.” The key factors, according to Mooney: “Warm sea surface temperatures…and relatively weak trade winds over the Atlantic (meaning less surface evaporation, and thus less heat getting out of the ocean).”

How does the expected storm count compare to past years? Let’s just say that if you’re scouring Expedia for an idyllic week in Barbados this fall, be sure to click on the vacation insurance box.


Friends Like These

  • Who is the big loser if Fred Thompson really joins the Republican presidential race? Taegan Goddard, as usual, has a good guess:

    The most striking thing about a Thompson candidacy is that his strategy of raising money in June threatens to derail his long time ally, Sen. John McCain, who must show progress in his own fundraising after a disappointing first quarter. Thompson backed McCain in his previous White House bid. The Arizona Republic quotes a resigned McCain: “Fred’s a very good friend. I guess my words are, ‘Come on in, the water’s fine.’”

  • At the Huffington Post, Sally Satel, psychiatrist and kidney recipient, gives a mixed blessing to the upcoming Dutch reality TV show in which a dying woman will decide which of three contestants will receive her kidney: “It’s crazy alright. And, yes, sick and shocking. But despite my discomfort, I’m for it. Sensationalism is a powerful way to call attention to the desperate shortage of kidneys and to the tens of thousands of needless deaths each year that occur all over the world because not enough altruistic donors step forward.”

  • Technoblogger Virginia Postrel, who not coincidentally was the one who donated a kidney to Satel, cheers her friend on: “It’s about time somebody with some clout got angry about this egregious situation. Kidney patients need ACT-UP. Instead, they’ve got the way-too-complacent National Kidney Foundation, an organization more for doctors than patients.”

  • – Tobin Harshaw

    No comments: