It’s Urgent. The Impact of Coastal Flooding from Global Warming is Accelerating

A rise of sea level by a meter or more by 2100 would be catastrophic. That’s where we are headed. Every day we delay increases the globalNorth Dakota flooding cost of dealing with this problem

Every day around the globe we see communities struggling in the here and now with the impact of global warming.

The folks and dogs in Fargo believe there is something wrong today.

They are correct:    in 2004, the Journal of Hydrometeorology published an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center that found “Over the contiguous United States, precipitation, temperature, streamflow, and heavy and very heavy precipitation have increased during the twentieth century.” [And yes, this applies to snow, depending on the location, see below.]  Thanks as always to Climate Progress, the indispensable blog, for coverage.

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Coastal flooding threat now ‘urgent’
SEA levels could rise by more than a metre by 2100, significantly more than previously predicted, according to Australian research presented at an international climate change conference.
The new estimate appears to significantly worsen the predictions presented two years ago in a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which projected a sea-level rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres by 2100.
Co-chairman of the session, Konrad Steffen, of the University of Colorado, said the projected rise of up to one metre by 2100 was a global average.
Meanwhile, leading climate change expert Michael Raupach told the conference that the stabilising influence carbon sinks have had on rising carbon emissions was weakening, and could even be reversed.
This would lead to the effects of climate change accelerating about 1� times as fast as predicted.
There would be regional differences, depending on where the source of ice loss occurred, he said.

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The US Needs a Steeply Progressive Tax Structure

A top tax rate that is essentially confiscatory forces the “captains” of the economy to think about how to turn corporate profit back into tax-exempt infrastructure, into solid business assets instead of diverting corporate profit into “retention” bonuses.

The lure of wrecking your business or even the national economy is strong if you can walk away with millions and get to keep it. We need to help folks avoid the temptation to enrich themselves at the expense of the larger community by instituting a top tax rate of 75 to 90%. There is much less interest in wrecking the corporation or national economy if the millions or billions you “earn” along the way are gobbled up by the tax man.

Michael Hitlik gets it. Read below.

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The belief that the wealthy are worthy is waning

Michael Hiltzik

The notion that the poor always will be with us has been ingrained in our culture ever since the sermons of Moses were set down by the anonymous author of Deuteronomy.
The financial crisis of the present day raises a rather different issue, however: What should we do about the rich?
A bit of history will be useful here. The original case for a progressive income tax — that is, one levied disproportionately on larger incomes — was based less on raising revenue for the state than breaking up concentrations of wealth, inherited and otherwise. The nation’s Founding Fathers considered these to be undemocratic — markers of “an aristocratic society, not a free and virtuous republic,” as the tax-law expert Dennis Ventry has written.
There’s also a social value in suppressing income inequality. In a country with only a slightly less ingrained tradition of civility than the United States, the AIG affair would provoke rioting in the streets.

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CO2 at 1000 ppm. This is the Disaster We Face if We Don’t Make Changes

MIT and the IPCC continue to measure and recalibrate global warming and as many of us have said for years, the rate of increase has been underestimated. There are feedback loops, saturation points, tipping points that will predominantly speed up the warming and the accumulation of greenhouse gases. This is an existential challenge.

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In the last two years, our scientific understanding of business-as-usual projections for global warming has changed dramatically (see “M.I.T. doubles its projection of global warming by 2100 to 5.1�C” and “Hadley Center projects 5-7�C warming by 2100“). Yet, much of the U.S. public — especially conservatives — remain in the dark about just how dire the situation is (see “Gallup poll shows catastrophic failure of media, conservatives still easily duped by deniers“).
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Why? Because the U.S. media is largely ignoring the story. Case in point: Where was the coverage of the Copenhagen Climate Science Congress, attended by 2000 scientists, which concluded with this Key Message #1:

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We Need to Demand Solar PV Power Generation

Thanks to Climate Progress for their coverage on this issue. Climate Progress is the top of my list of climate links.

Solar PV electric generation is available here and now. We simply have to demand that our power generation move to sustainable systems now.

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Solar PV market doubled to 6 Gigawatts in 2008 — U.S. left in dust, having invented the technology

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After growing 19% in 2006 and 62% in 2007, world solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations exploded by 110% last year to a staggering 5.95 GW, according to Solarbuzz’s Annual Report, Marketbuzz 2009:
Europe accounted for 82% of world demand in 2008. Spain’s 285% growth pushed Germany into second place in the market ranking, while the US advanced to [a very distant] number three. Rapid growth in Korea allowed it to become the fourth largest market, closely followed by Italy and Japan.
And who is the leading producer of PV cells?
China and Taiwan continued to increase their share of global solar cell production, rising to 44% in 2008 from 35% in 2007.

Graph illustrating the relative portion the United States has contributed to annual world production. The world shipments increased to a record high of 1194 MW during 2004, more than a 35-fold increase since 1989. The largest annual increase in U.S. production since data has been collected, a 60% increase, occurred between 2003 and 2004.  U.S. production reached a record of more than 139 MW in 2004.

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It’s Time to Investigate and Prosecute the Torturers

The Red Cross makes very clear what most of us already knew: the Bush administration tortured prisoners.

It doesn’t matter who was tortured or why. It doesn’t matter if the torturers want to claim that they saved lives through information gained through torture. What matters is that the United States has a legal commitment to prosecute torturers.

You want to make the United States a safer place? Show the rest of the world that we hold criminal conduct to account. This is not the stuff for a truth and reconciliation show, this is criminal conduct of the highest type.

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Red Cross report renews call for probe of Bush era

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A leaked Red Cross report on CIA “torture” of detainees offers fresh ammunition to demands that officials from the Bush administration be prosecuted for their conduct, rights groups have revealed.
The abuse described by the detainees, including being slammed into walls and deprived of sleep and solid food for days, “constituted torture,” the Red Cross document said.
As a signatory to the UN convention banning torture, the United States may be legally obliged to carry out a probe of former officials, Mendelson said.
“And there’s certainly enough evidence out there to warrant the appointment of an independent prosecutor to look into criminal responsibility for the torture of prisoners in CIA custody,” Jaffer said.
“I think there is enough evidence in the public domain to warrant a much more serious investigation than has been conducted thus far,” Jameel Jaffer, director of ACLU’s national security program, told AFP.

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Where and When are We Building the Seawall?

The melting of the icecaps is one part of this story and it’s a big part. The second part of rising sea level is that as the planet warms, oceans warm and warmer water expands slightly. It’s hard to imagine that slightly expanded water could raise sea level, but this is largely an ocean planet, so this slight expansion makes this more of an ocean planet.

The largest amount of sea level rise will be expected from glacial melt, especially melting of the Greenland and Antarctic caps. There is growing evidence that the melting of these critical ice caps is accelerating.

It is likely that there are tipping points in this melting process. One of these tipping points is that the melting water seeps down through the glacier, lubricates and speeds up the glacial flow in to the ocean. The sudden break-up of ice shelves is already documented.

This catastrophic sea level rise will likely happen faster than all predictions because the scientists are conservative in their predictions. This is not a political conservative-ism, it is scientific conservatism. Risk-takers in science, people willing to model aggressively will be wrong on occasion and that single aggressive error will end their scientific career. Most scientists get that.

NASA’s James Hansen is the voice of concerned climate scientists today. If President Obama really wants to deal with global warming, he can always appoint James Hansen to an important post in the administration and give his recommendations a lot of weight.

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A sinking feeling
Mar 11th 2009

From The Economist print edition

Sea levels are rising twice as fast as had been thought


SCIENCE and politics are inextricably linked. At a scientific conference on climate change held this week in Copenhagen, four environmental experts announced that sea levels appear to be rising almost twice as rapidly as had been forecast by the United Nations just two years ago. The warning is aimed at politicians who will meet in the same city in December to discuss the same subject and, perhaps, to thrash out an international agreement to counter it.
Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado, Boulder, leads one study of the Greenland ice sheet. He told the conference that this sheet is melting not only because it is warmer but also because water seeping through its crevices is breaking it up. This effect had been neglected in the earlier report.

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Drug Decriminalization has Worked in Portugal

Hat tip to the always solid Glenn Greenwald for bringing this story and report forward.

It’s time for the US and other countries to recognize that the criminalization of drugs is not the best path to dealing with drug abuse and addiction.

The Obama administration has nominated Gil Kerlikowske, former Seattle Police Chief to head the drug team. Gil is a very good choice. He is a pragmatist. We can hope that he will listen carefully and study the path that Portugal is following.

Mexico and the US need to develop a joint policy regarding drugs. The US drug criminalization policies have created a warlord/druglord environment in Mexico. We have two countries suffering from this stupid approach.

And yes, a joint policy has multiple meanings. All intended.

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Drug Decriminalization in Portugal

In 2001, Portugal began a remarkable policy experiment, decriminalizing all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Some predicted disastrous results—that drug addiction rates would soar and the country would become a haven for “drug tourists.” Now that several years have passed, policy experts can study the results. In a new paper for the Cato Institute, attorney and author Glenn Greenwald closely examines the Portugal experiment and concludes that the doomsayers were wrong. There is now a widespread consensus in Portugal that decriminalization has been a success. The debate in Portugal has shifted rather dramatically to minor adjustments in the existing arrangement. There is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. Join us for a discussion about Glenn Greenwald’s field research in Portugal and what lessons his findings may hold for drug policies in other countries.

Committed to Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace

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Thomas Friedman Gets It.

March 7 2009 op ed in the NYT.

Mr. Friedman sees the first part of the equation pretty clearly in this article. I recommend you read it in whole.

Friedman does not address part two of our economic, climate reality equation which is the way out. Maybe he will address part two in another op-ed.

I think we have several ways out of the crisis. And I do not think this is simply another recession, this is a financial and climate audit being performed by entities that cannot be bought or silenced. As is noted and quoted in the article, Glenn Prickett of Conservation International, “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailout.”

The way we need to proceed is to recognize the opportunity and necessity of re-tooling our economies and our societies by the truly critical elements, like justice and sustainability.

This is going to be a painful transition no matter how we proceed. I see encouraging signs that we may make the right decisions and move human society toward sustainable solutions.

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The Inflection Is Near?

Published: March 7, 2009

The Inflection Is Near?

Published: March 7, 2009

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”
We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …

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Who you gonna call? Trust-Busters!

David Ignatius is absolutely right to be recalling Teddy Roosevelt’s willingness to confront powerful economic interests with the power of the Federal Government to go after trusts and monopolies.

Let’s hope that Mr. Obama and Mr. Geithner are listening. It may be a little tough for Mr. Geithner to really get this message because he is deeply entwined in the very institutions that need to be confronted. Still, hope springs eternal and it is possible that Tim will recognize his responsibilities instead of his origins and potential benefactors.

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The Right Roosevelt?

By David Ignatius

Thursday, March 5, 2009;
Page A19

There has been a lot of speculation about whether Barack Obama can be another Roosevelt, but I wonder if we’re talking about the right Roosevelt. In fixing the financial crisis, Obama could use a little less of FDR’s affection for economic giantism and a little more of TR’s zeal for trust-busting.

A case study for today’s regulators is President Theodore Roosevelt’s response to the financial shenanigans of 1902, when the railroad barons tried to combine the Great Northern and Northern Pacific lines into a huge holding company called Northern Securities Co. Roosevelt wanted to file an antitrust suit to stop the deal. The financiers threatened that the lawsuit would cause a panic on Wall Street, to which TR’s attorney general, Philander G. Knox, memorably replied: “There is no stock ticker at the Department of Justice.”

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