Posted by: mazibuko | August 10, 2011

More progress on fuel efficiency standards

The Obama Administration has just established new fuel efficiency and GHG standards for heavy trucks. Looks like a good result that has industry buy-in.  Hopefully such rule changes spur the sort of innovation needed to get us into a lower carbon economy:



Posted by: mazibuko | August 1, 2011

Record area of US under exceptional drought

Nearly 12 percent of the US (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) under exceptional drought in the first half of July.   July was DC’s warmest recorded month.

I recall that Georgia, which is 95 % dry, got hit by a pretty bad drought a few years ago, also.

The beginning of a trend, or a once off?


Posted by: mazibuko | July 12, 2011

Future liability for climate misinformers?

I was reading an article that relayed something Al Gore was saying about misinformation tactics used by some climate denialists:

Gore compares these actions to those of the tobacco companies that spent decades denying that smoking causes cancer but eventually came to a multi-billion dollar legal settlement with 46 states.

It got me to wondering if we might see similar legal outcomes for prominent, deep-pocketed misinformers 10, 20, or 30 years down the track, as/if damages start rolling in from climate change and attribution gets easier and more reliable.

Posted by: mazibuko | September 28, 2010

The Long View

Been a while since I posted (I don’t see how one can both hold a job and blog frequently), but since the 2010 midterms are coming up, it is a good time.

Seems like the Republicans are going to make some major gains now, knocking out decent people like Russ Feingold and replacing them with flat-earth types.  This is particularly galling, since:

1. We just got rid of the bums two years ago;

2. They have actually become worse since then–they think that becoming even more right-wing is the answer;

3. They have done absolute nothing to deserve the reward they are going to get–they are simply benefiting from a terrible economy (but I guess Obama did, too).

However, when I consider points 2 and 3, it forces me to take a long view on things, and I think that long view looks pretty good. Here’s why:

The GOP’s reaction to their 2006 and 2008 drubbings has been to double-down on conservatism, kill off all their moderates, and become ever more insane. I realize this is fairly obvious, but what might be less widely appreciated is the fact that the GOP will almost certainly do exactly what they accuse the Dems of doing – reacting as if their gains are a strong voter mandate for their policies, rather than sheer disgruntlement. While I acknowledge that the US is a center-right country, it is certainly not an extreme right country, yet it seems that the GOP will try to govern as if it is.

Once voters get another look at where the GOP is and how it tries to govern, they will pretty quickly realize that the Repubs are an even poorer fit than the Dems are currently perceived to be.  In fact, they might even realize that Dem policies are a lot more centrist than what they now think in the midst of their economic angst (remembering that much of the policy that is presently reviled was adopted to prevent a meltdown).  Republicans can no longer see this, because (to rejig a metaphor Bush employed against Kerry in one of the 2004 debates) they are standing so far to the right of the mainstream that they can no longer see the water. All they can see are people standing somewhere near the stream, but they can’t tell if those people are in the stream, just to the right of it, just on the other side, or far across on the left.  Since this is their perspective, anybody over in the direction of the stream is perceived to be “liberal”, and not to be engaged.

So, we might see a GOP blip for the next 2, 4, or even 8 years. It might take people these few additional years to realize how truly out there the party has become (the first realization happened after Bush’s reelection–I consoled myself after he won that people would finally realize how bad the GOP + W were, and that actually happened fairly soon thereafter).

Thus, in the long term, the GOP’s stock will again lose most of its value outside of the South and places like Idaho, unless they buck the trend (unlikely given the rise of the Tea Party) and start bringing moderates back into the fold.

Either result will make me happy, but the latter would be best for the country.

Update 14 October: Here are two stories from today that support some of the above: (see the last paragraph or two)

Update 28 Otober: Another good piece along these lines, this time also bringing in Democratic mis-interpretation of what voting means.

I just came across this post on the American Enterprise Institute’s blog.

I have seen this idea–that the best thing for the environment is to make everyone rich, because in rich countries the environment is so much cleaner and better protected–pop up frequently from critics of environmentalism (usually conservative), who think that efforts at sustainability, conservation, greenery, etc. will harm economies and keep everyone in rags–thereby leading to worse environmental conditions.

Beyond the obvious fact that this critique’s base assumption is questionable–after all, the US economy has grown quite nicely since the Clean Air and Water Acts and other environmental legislation largely responsible for our clean, healthy environment were enacted–the assertion made by this author is partially right, but mostly wrong. An excerpt from an exchange I recently had on a climate blog explains why:

[To the] point about more wealth=better environment. Sure, if you are only looking at the wealthy society’s immediate environment. It is true that America and Europe have more forest and cleaner air than 50-100 years ago. But our cleaner and greener backyards come at the expense of large environmental impacts shifted elsewhere (the greater amount of resources we consume must come from somewhere). Let’s forget carbon [emissions] for the moment, and think of the direct impacts of our appetites, which lead to the clearing of forest and cerrado in Brazil for soybean production, extensive salmon farming in Chilean fjords, clearing of mangroves for prawn aquaculture in many tropical coastal countries, just to name a few. The 20+ kg of catalogs that each American receives annually comes from pulp supplied in part by boreal forest clearcuts, as does much of our toilet paper. And of course there is China’s dirty air and water, which is directly related to all the manufacturing of low cost goods that go to satisfy wealthy markets.

Wealth does indeed lead to local greenery, but arguably results in greater, albeit more diffuse, environmental impacts.

So, I am not sure why this argument is made so often, but it seems to me that those who make it only look at their immediate surroundings when drawing their conclusions, and fail to appreciate that wealthier countries’ environmental impacts are more global than local (after all, we all want to live in a clean, green neighborhood, and the wealthier we are, the more we can afford to live in such neighborhoods). Perhaps it’s a simple case of out of sight, out of mind.

Posted by: mazibuko | April 13, 2010

Developments in SA

An interesting recent statement by the South African Institute of Race Relations following Eugene Terre’Blanche’s death at the hands of two employees. The piece basically states that the ANC is using the race card too often to delegitimize opposition and to shift blame for its delivery failures, and this may well blow up in its face, to the detriment of South Africa as a whole. Is the country following along in Big Bad Bob’s footsteps?

It doesn’t help that one of the most prominent ANC leaders frequently makes outrageous political statements and sings a song that calls for shooting amabhunu (boers), with what seems to be the tacit approval of the most senior leadership (in that he is not reined in). It really amazes me that this guy is in charge of anything, actually.  Here’s a recent taste of his leadership style.

Posted by: mazibuko | March 12, 2010

Excellent piece by Brooks on Obama

From today’s NYTimes.

I agree with this excellent, clear-eyed assessment of Obama, but I hope that Obama will ultimately prove him wrong regarding his lack of seriousness in tackling long-term fiscal issues, once (and if) he has tackled his major agenda items (health, energy, financial reforms). Of course, the big question is, are voters mature enough to stomach the tough choices that will ultimately have to be made? I am not optimistic, as it seems that the average American thinks that he/she can have a supermodel’s figure AND eat unlimited amounts at the fixed-price buffet table. Politicians, quite naturally, tell the voter that this is possible.

Underlying this piece is the important point that most political discourse–at the least the most visible sort–consists of people living in alternate universes shouting past each other. Will it ever change, or was it always thus?

Posted by: mazibuko | March 10, 2010

Benefits of eating less meat–maybe not so obvious

An interesting piece in Science News:

Could Less Meat Mean More Food? By Erik Stokstad

This piece presents some interesting possibilities arising from a modeling study that investigates what might happen if the more carnivorous nations cut back on their flesh consumption.

For one, this could result in an overall increase in global meat consumption by making meat more affordable:

…in 2020 if rich nations cut their per capita demand for meat to half of what it was in 1993…the simulation found that as demand for meat fell, prices declined and meat became more affordable worldwide. As a result, in the developing world, per capita meat consumption actually increased by 13% as poorer consumers could buy more.

In addition to the above, increasing vegetarianism in the developed world, where most meat is grainfed, wouldn’t necessarily lead to more food security, because the crops used to fatten animals aren’t necessarily consumed by people:

Surprisingly, however, when the rich halved their meat habit, the poor didn’t necessarily get that much more grain—their largest source of calories. According to the model, per capita cereal consumption in developing nations rose by just 1.5%…farmers usually feed their livestock corn or soybeans. When the farmers produce less meat, demand for corn and soy drops and the grains become more affordable. That’s good for people in the parts of Africa and Latin America where corn is a dietary staple. But people in many developing countries, particularly in Asia, don’t eat much corn; they eat rice and wheat.

Indeed, cutting meat consumption could make people even hungrier:

Eating less meat could even backfire and make food insecurity worse, suggested the simulation, which was published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. For instance, when consumers in developed countries replaced meat with pasta and bread, world wheat prices rose. That actually increased malnutrition slightly in developing countries such as India that rely on wheat.

The conclusion: cutting meat consumption would help overall food security, albeit very modestly. However, I think the environmental benefits would likely be substantial, in that less grainfed livestock = less land brought under cultivation.

On the other hand, the slack could well be taken up (and then some) by increasing demands for biofuel production.

From DotEarth.

Not entirely sure how I stand on this, but I am more inclined to go with Nisbet on this one. I think he has a good grasp of the big picture on how peoples’ views of climate change are influenced. To those caught up in the blogospheric climate wars, where participants are akin to primary voters (only the most passionate and least persuadable show up), it might be hard to imagine that most people’s views on what to do about climate change are not necessarily influenced by the latest postings at, say, Climate Audit, Wattsupwiththat, Realclimate, or Climateprogress.

I would do well to remember this next time I peruse the comments sections of the blogs I visit.

Posted by: mazibuko | December 12, 2009

First placeholder post….