As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why

The New York Times looks at our national policy of paying to rebuild vulnerable coastal communities, no matter how ill advised their developments might be.  In effect, we’ve encouraged people to upscale their beachfront shanties into expensive vacation homes, increasing the value at risk next time a storm hits.  As the seas rise, ever more money will be sent down this gopher hole.  Instead, we should prohibit future development, map out the most vulnerable locations, and draw up buy-out offers ahead of time, so when disaster strikes, it can be used as an opportunity to re-direct investment into less risky areas.

A Love Story And A Clearance Sale

A Love Story And A Clearance Sale, musings of an arctic sea ice researcher on the fact that he will probably outlive the object of his professional affections.  A minimum of zero sea ice appears likely between 2015 and 2020, and models suggest that once you get to a minimum of zero, the ice-free season is likely to expand quickly, with significant impacts to northern hemisphere weather patterns.

Heat Waves and Climate Change

A short literature review on the connection between the present fires and heat, and climate change.  No individual local weather event can be reliably pinned to climate change, but the probability of a winter and spring like the ones we’ve had in 2012 without climate change are very low.  We are living in a different world now, and we don’t know how it’s going to work.

Former Xcel CEO Dick Kelly would be fine with no more coal

Former Xcel CEO Dick Kelly would be fine with no more coal.  Unfortunately, the regulatory environment that his former employer works within in Colorado, and the company’s need to protect a couple of billion dollars worth of undepreciated coal assets makes it very hard for them to move away from it.

California Dreaming

An hour long interview based documentary by some Dutch filmmakers about the changing social and economic realities of southern California, in the wake of the financial crisis, and America’s general malaise.

It’s dangerous to cling to an identity which is no longer compatible with reality.  Remember the Norse and their Greenlandic colonies.  In the long run I think adaptability is the greatest kind of power you can wield.  Evolutionary power.

We need, in so many ways, to move beyond thinking of ourselves as consumers, instead of citizens.  Consumers, instead of producers and creators.  Society and culture are almost infinitely flexible, if you’ve got the right mindset and a reason to change.

A dispatch from the future

A firsthand account of the floods in Queensland.  Australia has been living in the (climatic) future for some time, facing the prospect of desalinization plants and admitting that most of their agriculture is not viable, given soil both saline and infertile, and the decade long drought.  The government is buying up the water rights in the Murray Darling basin because it’s cheaper than agricultural subsidies, and the rural vote is given disproportionate weight in Australian law.  There is a dark poetry in the fact that Queensland’s export coal mines are underwater today.  None of this is to say that climate change is necessarily behind the floods or the drought or the bush fires from a few years ago, or the mad cold winter in Europe this year, or the forest fires in Russia this summer.  We won’t ever be able to attribute any particular weather event to anthropogenic CO2, but all this is the kind of thing one ought to expect if one opts to change the composition of the homeworld’s atmosphere:

The Yeti Homeland Project

I’m not sure what to make of our willingness to participate in the terraforming of the Earth.  To explore it, I’ll consider an alternative history in which Antarctica was marginally habitable, and colonized a million years ago by woolly hominids who developed a Yeti civilization.  Our whaling vessels meet up with them in the 1820s, but it’s so cold down there that nobody feels the need to molest them except for few hardy anthropologists, the occasional overzealous missionary expedition, and the usual cohort of scientists who will study the ends of the Earth, no matter how inhospitable.  Inevitably, the Yeti spend some late nights with the scientists in their hot tubs watching the aurorae.

They get to talking about the magnetosphere, some atmospheric physics, and the geology of their ice-clad homeland.  One day they decide their lives would be better if they could inhabit the entire continent, instead of just clinging to the coastal fringe, and so with the help of some misguided sympathizers, they develop a vast clandestine industrial complex pumping long-lived fluorinated super greenhouse gasses like CF4, C2F6, and SF6 into the atmosphere to warm things up.  These compounds are vastly more powerful warming agents than CO2 and methane.  They are also long lived atmospheric species, sticking around for up to 50,000 years.  If a serious industrial complex were set up to produce and release them en masse, they would close a good chunk of the atmosphere’s thermal infrared window and radically alter the climate for tens of thousands of years.  This atmospheric engineering could be done over the course of an election cycle, especially if the Yeti bastards had help from the cold-hearted Canucks and Russkies.

Would the G-20, the OECD or the UN Security Council stand by while a rogue Yeti nation threatened the billions of people who live in coastal cities, or depend on glacial water supplies, all in the name of Manifest Destiny?  Of course not.  We’d be more likely to bomb their furry white asses back into the Ice Age.

Continue reading The Yeti Homeland Project