Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 19th, 2008

Climate change note

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From Balloon Juice:

The rapid upward movement of [hardwood forests] indicates little inertia to climatically induced range shifts in montane forests; the upslope shift may have been accelerated by high turnover in canopy trees that provided opportunities for ingrowth of lower elevation species. Our results indicate that high-elevation forests may be jeopardized by climate change sooner than anticipated.

[W]hile walking across the Lamar last fall, Robert L. Crabtree, chief scientist with the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., pointed out a cascade of ecological changes under way. The number of grizzly bears and gophers in the valley has increased, Dr. Crabtree said, an increase supported by the spread of an invasive plant from the Mediterranean that a warming climate benefits.“It’s the early stages of a new ecosystem,” he said, “one that hasn’t been seen here before.”

The plant, Canada thistle, provides food for grizzlies in more than one way but may also be squeezing out native plants that cannot compete.

  • “The thickest, oldest and toughest sea ice around the North Pole is melting, a bad sign for the future of the Arctic ice cap, NASA satellite data showed on Tuesday.”
  • Under the north Pacific, a continent-wide of deep water has not breathed air since it sank in the cold, salty zone between Greenland and Canada. This water, part of a global conveyor system called thermohaline circulation, migrates across the sea floor south along the length of the Atlantic, then around Antarctica and north again under the Pacific until it finally rises and breathes again south and west of Alaska. The journey takes 1,000 years, and everywhere small animals in the cold black water thrive on the organic snow that filters down from the sunlit layers above. In the pitch dark everything respires, nothing photosynthesizes, so that by journey’s end deep conveyor water has become nutrient-rich but almost totally anoxic. Thus when offshore winds pull Pacific deep water towards the surface off the coast of Washington and Oregon, small plants in the oxygen-rich surface layers grow like mad but nearly everything in the middle depths will suffocate and die. This is not a warming phenomenon per se; basic thermodynamics predicts that warmer surface water should prevent deep water from mixing with the surface rather than encourage it. In fact, that is also happening right now. Climate warming is thus causing two kinds of ocean dead zones – in the open ocean where fertile deep water has a harder time reaching the surface, and along certain coasts where changing wind circulation, while having the opposite effect, is equally deadly.

But hey, I hear that Al Gore is a big fat jerk. So it evens out.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2008 at 6:57 am

Posted in Global warming

Greenwald’s reaction to Obama’s speech

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Glenn Greenwald likes it (as do I):

I haven’t written about the Obama speech yet (video here) because I spent much of the day reading the instantaneous reactions of virtually everyone else, and because the issues raised by the speech are complex and my views about it are somewhat ambiguous. Personally, I found the speech riveting, provocative, insightful, thoughtful and courageous — courageous because it eschewed almost completely all cliches, pandering and condescension, the first time I can recall a political figure of any significance doing so when addressing a controversial matter.

There were numerous manipulative tactics which the average cynical political strategist would have urged him to employ, and none of those were found in his speech. It was as candid and sophisticated a discussion of the complexities of race in America as any individual could possibly manage in a 45-minute speech, particularly one delivered in the middle of a heated presidential campaign and a shrill political controversy. Then again, I found the whole Wright “controversy” manufactured and relatively petty from the start, and worse, the by-product of a glaring double standard, so the speech obviously wasn’t aimed at people who had the beliefs about this whole matter that I had.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2008 at 6:50 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

The unregulated free market

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The problem with a free market—free of any government interference or regulation—is illustrated with the recent revelations about Southwest Airlines, which failed to comply with safety directives. Of course, without government regulations, there would be no safety directives, so airlines could pretty much decide for themselves how much they would spend on maintenance and safety.

As this recent incident shows, the inclination of management is to maximize profit, even when maintenance is required. So I think it’s safe to assume that airlines would tolerate a lot more risk than they do now. (As the recent sub-prime debacle shows, greed drives businesses to accept intolerable levels of risk.)

So planes would crash. This would enable consumers to decide to move to other airlines (or other modes of transportation). Eventually, I suppose, airline crashes would become accepted as a norm, much as we accept traffic deaths due to automobile crashes.

I don’t like that solution. I like that the government is charged with enforcing safety standards on airlines (and automobile manufacturers). Without that, we’d have many avoidable deaths.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2008 at 6:43 am

Another great Baltimore shave

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Same as Monday: D.R. Harris, travel brush, HD, Swedish Gillette, and Royal Copenhagen. Another very smooth and easy shave. No wonder people like the Swedish Gillettes. But: 90 cents apiece.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2008 at 6:36 am

Posted in Daily life

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