Thursday, November 3, 2011

11/2 and 11/3

RealClimate takes a look at Keystone XL and reports that while it won’t necessarily be “game over” for climate, things will nevertheless be pretty bad if the Obama administration betrays the environment, as expected, and approves the pipeline:
[T]he pipeline itself is really just a skirmish in the battle to protect climate, and if the pipeline gets built despite Bill McKibben’s dedicated army of protesters, that does not mean in and of itself that it’s “game over” for holding warming to 2C. Further, if we do hit a trillion tonnes, it may be “game-over” for holding warming to 2C (apart from praying for low climate sensitivity), but it’s not “game-over” for avoiding the second trillion tonnes, which would bring the likely warming up to 4C. The fight over Keystone XL may be only a skirmish, but for those (like the fellow in this arresting photo ) who seek to limit global warming, it is an important one. It may be too late to halt existing oil sands projects, but the exploitation of this carbon pool has just barely begun. If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, it surely smooths the way for further expansions of the market for oil sands crude. Turning down XL, in contrast, draws a line in the oil sands, and affirms the principle that this carbon shall not pass into the atmosphere.

The UNDP reminds us that the protecting the global environment and eradicating global poverty are inextricably linked:
“Even if someone’s a climate skeptic, this report says, ‘Put that aside for a second,’ ” said William Orme, a spokesman for the United Nations agency. “If you believe in something like a moral commitment to the global community and in getting people out of poverty, we must address these environmental problems.”

Each region of the world faces unique challenges between now and 2050, the report warns, but most are linked to environmental complications arising from climate change.

The companies who manufacture cars may be on board with increased fuel efficiency standards, but the lobby representing the sellers of those vehicles isn’t, choosing instead to trot out the same old tired arguments about the high cost of environmental regulations.

California’s climate targets are ambitious, and reaching them won’t be easy, but there is still “a basis for optimism.”

Our idiotic support-Israeli-idiocy-at-all-costs foreign policy now means UNESCO, WHO, IAEA, and other UN bodies will suffer.

If extreme weather events are the new normal, are the power disruptions experienced across the Northeast this autumn the new normal, too?:
[I]n recent years, suburban and rural residents have found themselves facing multiple disruptions like Mr. Frohne’s. Experts say the violent weather of the past few years in the Northeast is stressing the 20th century above-ground utility grid as never before, along with the people who depend on it.

Few solutions are in sight. A report by the Edison Electric Institute updated at the end of 2010 said that over the past 10 years, at least 11 states studied putting utility lines underground — usually after devastating storms — only to find it too expensive. “To date, no state utility commission has recommended wholesale undergrounding of the utility infrastructure,” it concluded.

Octopi are delightful and smart:
Occasionally an octopus takes a dislike to someone. One of Athena’s predecessors at the aquarium, Truman, felt this way about a female volunteer. Using his funnel, the siphon near the side of the head used to jet through the sea, Truman would shoot a soaking stream of salt water at this young woman whenever he got a chance. Later, she quit her volunteer position for college. But when she returned to visit several months later, Truman, who hadn’t squirted anyone in the meanwhile, took one look at her and instantly soaked her again.


The common octopus has about 130 million [neurons] in its brain. A human has 100 billion. But this is where things get weird. Three-fifths of an octopus’s neurons are not in the brain; they’re in its arms. 
“It is as if each arm has a mind of its own,” says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a diver, professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an admirer of octopuses. For example, researchers who cut off an octopus’s arm (which the octopus can regrow) discovered that not only does the arm crawl away on its own, but if the arm meets a food item, it seizes it—and tries to pass it to where the mouth would be if the arm were still connected to its body.

Tim DeChristopher challenges you to be a soldier of resistance:
“Until we force Obama into that choice between ending the war against the young, ending the war against the living, or waging it openly, then it’s our fault! Then we condone it!”
(Bonus: two great pieces on DeChristopher from public radio’s Alex Chadwick.)

ProPublica analyzes recently released CBO data on wage stagnation and the increasing income gap, and Paul Krugman chimes in with some additional thoughts on our American oligarchy.

Oh, white people

The new project from Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile perform two songs from their recently-released “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” on The Colbert Report.

And lastly, as Don Pappy reminds us, never forget Rule #1 of Dining Etiquette: “To not let your meal see itself go to waste.” (Also, thanks for the Twitter love, Don Pappy.)

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