Friday, November 18, 2011


The IPCC issues a special report on the risks of extreme weather and other climate-related disasters. Proper management actions can mitigate some of these risks:
Many measures, when implemented effectively, make sense under a range of future climates (medium evidence, high agreement). These “low regrets” measures include systems that warn people of impending disasters; changes in land use planning; sustainable land management; ecosystem management; improvements in health surveillance, water supplies, and drainage systems; development and enforcement of building codes; and better education and awareness.
Remembering the human vulnerability to hazards is comprised of exposure to a hazard, sensitivity to its impacts, and ability to access resources enabling adaptation, the NYTimes write-up notes that:
Even as such extremes are projected to increase, human vulnerability to them is increasing as well, the report said. Rising populations and flawed decisions about land use, like unchecked coastal development, are putting more and more people in harm’s way, the report said.

“Rapid urbanization and the growth of megacities, especially in the developing countries, have led to the emergence of highly vulnerable urban communities, particularly through informal settlements” — meaning slums — “and inadequate land management,” the report said.

In the context of adaptation, Time blogger Bryan Walsh points out that the greatest impact of adapting to climate change may be in the way such efforts divert limited resources (if such resources are even available for adaptation efforts):
The MTA could try to raise its tracks to higher ground and take other steps to adapt to higher sea levels and stronger storm surges, but that protection will cost billions of dollars at a time when the system can barely make ends meet. That's how climate change—along with the other factors intensifying the effects of natural disaster—will really make itself felt, draining away resources. And that's just in developed nations that can afford—if barely—to take the needed steps to prepare for a warmer world. Poorer countries will pay in human lives. "We need to see a two-pronged approach, preparing for climate change but also working to mitigate it," says Juanita Constible of the Alliance for Climate Protection. "There just isn't enough money" to adapt alone.

A new report from EDF (.pdf) makes the case for the Clean Air Act via avoided health care costs:
Reducing levels of those dangerous substances will, in turn, reduce rates of premature mortality, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, respiratory hospital admissions, and emergency room visits related to asthma.
That, in turn, will result in health care savings of $82 billion, including;
  • $44.6 billion in Medicare and federal-level health care savings
  • $2.8 billion in state-level Medicaid and other state and local savings
  • $8.3 billion in out-of-pocket individual savings
  • $24.7 billion in private insurance savings

The American Lung Association, Earthjustice and the Clean Air Task Force release a report arguing that limiting fine particulate matter would prevent 35,700 deaths each year, while saving $281 billion.
Amy Goodman hosts a great roundtable on the paramilitary policing of OWS; former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper makes this excellent point about those in the 99% who are working to protect the interests of the 1%:
[T]here are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, "bad apples." What both of them have in common is that they occupy, as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy.

Matt Taibbi on the double standard in treatment between the fraudsters and other criminals who destroyed our economy and your typical citizen:
You get busted for drugs in this country, and it turns out you can make yourself ineligible to receive food stamps.

But you can be a serial fraud offender like Citigroup, which has repeatedly been dragged into court for the same offenses and has repeatedly ignored court injunctions to abstain from fraud, and this does not make you ineligible to receive $45 billion in bailouts and other forms of federal assistance.

This is the reason why all of these settlements allowing banks to walk away without "admissions of wrongdoing" are particularly insidious. A normal person, once he gets a felony conviction, immediately begins to lose his rights as a citizen.

But white-collar criminals of the type we’ve seen in recent years on Wall Street – both the individuals and the corporate "citizens" – do not suffer these ramifications. They commit crimes without real consequence, allowing them to retain access to the full smorgasbord of subsidies and financial welfare programs that, let’s face it, are the source of most of their profits.

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson examines how the GOP went from being willing to consider tax increases when the situation warranted it to an insane, anti-tax party dedicated to benefiting only the richest of the rich:
For all their talk of cutting the deficit in recent years, Republicans have spent far more of the public's money to subsidize the wealthy.

Indeed, since Republicans began their tax-cut binge in 1997, they have succeeded in making the rich much richer. While the average income for the bottom 90 percent of taxpayers has remained basically flat over the past 15 years, those in the top 0.01 percent have seen their incomes more than double, to $36 million a year. Translated into wages, that means most Americans have received a raise of $1.50 an hour since the GOP began cutting taxes during the Gingrich era. The most elite sliver of American society, meanwhile, saw their pay soar by $10,000 an hour.

America became a great nation with a prosperous middle class on the strength of a progressive tax code – one that demands the most of those who benefit most from our society. But the Party of the Rich has succeeded in breaking the back of that ideal. Today, says Johnston, "the tax system ceases to be progressive when you get to the very top of the wealthiest one percent." Above that marker, the richer you get, the lower your relative tax burden. "We have moved toward a plutocracy," Warren Buffett warned in a recent interview. "As people have gotten richer and richer, they have been favored by taxation – and have gotten richer to a greater degree."

Far from creating the trickle-down economics promised by Reagan, the policies pursued by the modern Republican Party are gusher up. Under the leadership of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the House's radicalized GOP caucus is pushing a predatory agenda for a new gilded age. Every move that Republicans make – whether it's to gut consumer protections, roll back environmental regulations, subsidize giant agribusinesses, abolish health care reform or just drill, baby, drill – is consistent with a single overarching agenda: to enrich the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations, even if it requires borrowing from China, weakening national security, dismantling Medicare and taxing the middle class. With the nation still mired in the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, Republicans have categorically rejected the one financial policy with a proven record of putting the country back on a more prosperous footing. "You hear the Republicans say that you don't dare raise taxes in a weak economy," says Stockman. "Ronald Reagan did – three times." Not even the downgrading of America's debt – which placed the world's only superpower on credit par with New Zealand and Belgium – has given GOP leaders cause to reconsider their pro-wealth jihad.

Not only are those artificial islands in Dubai tacky and gaudy as hell, they're destroying the fragile coastal environment, as well.

Drawing attention to the sad, polluted status of the Jamuna River through a large-scale public art installation.

The mighty Colorado isn't so mighty by the time it reaches Mexico.

A Forbes slideshow on America's 20 dirtiest cities.

Visualizing the Farm Bill: where does the money go?

The plutocrats' strangle-hold on wealth in America, in video form.

Where are people going? Where are people leaving? An interactive map of American migration.

Americans don't necessarily believe the morally unconscionable act of using nuclear weapons is taboo as a first-strike option.

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