Daily Archives: February 26, 2011

UN unveils vision for global green economy

AFP | Feb 21, 2011

By Marlowe Hood

PARIS, Monday 21 February 2011 (AFP) – The United Nations Monday unveiled a strategy to ensure a sustainable future for the planet by investing two percent of wealth generated by the global economy, or some 1.3 trillion dollars annually, in ten key sectors.

This paradigm shift toward a “green economy” would also help alleviate chronic poverty, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a report, released as more than 100 environment ministers meet in Nairobi.

Under the UN strategy, individual incomes would outstrip trajectories forecast by traditional economic models while halving humanity’s per capita ecological footprint by 2050.

Reshuffling the global economic mix will challenge vested interests and disrupt employment, UNEP acknowledged.

But the plan promises to generate growth rates equal to or higher than a business-as-usual approach which — even as it stoked two centuries of breakneck industrialisation — slowly eroded Earth’s capacity to cope.

“We must continue to develop and grow our economies,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in unveiling the study, entitled Toward a Green Economy: A Synthesis for Policy Makers.


James Cameron, Alison Brie And More Attend Global Green Pre-Oscar Party

“But this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in our atmosphere that sustain our economies and thus the lives of each and every one of us.”

The report notes that long-simmering crises erupted into plain view during the first decade of the 21st century.

Accelerating climate change, the dramatic loss of biodiversity, flaring food shortages, a growing gap between demand and supply for fresh water, the destruction of life-giving tropical forests were reminders that Earth’s balance and bounty cannot be taken for granted, it said.

At the same time, the financial meltdown of 2008 points to deep-seated structural problems in the global economy.

“Although the causes of these crises vary, at a fundamental level they all share a common feature: the misallocation of capital,” said Pavan Sukhdev, a Deutsche Bank analyst who headed the UN’s green economy initiative.

The report singles out “perverse” incentives that encourage unsustainable behaviour, including $600 billion doled out every year in fossil fuel subsidies, and 20 billion to industrial fisheries chasing dwindling stocks.

The UN called on political leaders to blaze the trail.

“Governments have a central role in changing laws and policies, and investing public money in public wealth to make the transition possible,” said Sukhdev.

Action from the public sector will “unleash trillions of dollars of private capital in favour of a green economy,” he added.

The report seeks to counter what it describes as “myths” about so-called green growth, starting with the idea that greater environmental sustainability meant less economic progress.

“There is now substantial evidence that the ‘greening’ of economies neither inhibits wealth creation nor employment opportunities,” it says.

A green economy is defined as one that is “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”

Future investment, it argues, must shift to renewable energy, public transportation, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture and measures to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.

Energy-related investment alone would top 350 billion a year, followed by nearly 200 billion for developing and greening the transport sector, and 134 billion each for the building and tourism sectors.

More than 100 billion dollars is earmarked in the plan for both waste and water management, with another 76 billion going toward improving efficiency in industry.

The report aims to help set the agenda for “Rio+20”, a global summit next year slated to take stock of Earth’s environmental health two decades after the landmark Earth Summit in Brazil laid out bedrock principles for sustainable development.

Shoppers wary of GM foods find they’re everywhere

This undated 2010 handout photo provided by AquaBounty Technologies shows two same-age salmon, a genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. The Agriculture Department approved more genetically engineered crops in the last month, and the Food and Drug Administration could approve modified salmon for consumption in 2011. If the sale of salmon is approved, it will be the first time the government has allowed such modified animals to be marketed for human consumption.(AP Photo/AquaBounty Technologies)

Associated Press | Feb 25, 2011

by Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON – You may not want to eat genetically engineered foods. Chances are, you are eating them anyway.

Genetically modified plants grown from seeds engineered in labs now provide much of the food we eat. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States have been genetically modified to resist pesticides or insects, and corn and soy are common food ingredients.

The Agriculture Department has approved three more genetically engineered crops in the past month, and the Food and Drug Administration could approve fast-growing genetically modified salmon for human consumption this year.

Agribusiness and the seed companies say their products help boost crop production, lower prices at the grocery store and feed the world, particularly in developing countries. The FDA and USDA say the engineered foods they’ve approved are safe — so safe, they don’t even need to be labeled as such — and can’t be significantly distinguished from conventional varieties.

Organic food companies, chefs and consumer groups have stepped up their efforts — so far, unsuccessfully — to get the government to exercise more oversight of engineered foods, arguing the seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating pure crops. The groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods.

Many of these opponents acknowledge that there isn’t much solid evidence showing genetically modified foods are somehow dangerous or unhealthy. It just doesn’t seem right, they say. It’s an ethical issue.

“If you mess with nature there’s a side effect somewhere,” says George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the nation’s largest organic farming cooperative, which had more than $600 million in sales last year. “There is a growing awareness that our system makes us all guinea pigs of sorts.”

The U.S. government has insisted there’s not enough difference between the genetically modified seeds its agencies have approved and natural seeds to cause concern. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, more so than his predecessors in previous administrations, has acknowledged the debate over the issue and a growing chorus of consumers concerned about what they are eating.

“The rapid adoption of GE crops has clashed with the rapid expansion of demand for organic and other non-GE products,” Vilsack said in December as he considered whether to approve genetically modified alfalfa. “This clash led to litigation and uncertainty . . . Surely, there is a better way, a solution that acknowledges agriculture’s complexity, while celebrating and promoting its diversity.”

Vilsack later approved the engineered alfalfa for use — along with sugar beets and a type of corn used in ethanol — to the disappointment of the organic industry, but he said the department would do additional research on ways to prevent contamination of natural seeds and improve detection of contamination.

Organic companies have praised Vilsack for even acknowledging the issue, as large seed companies like Monsanto and the substantial chunk of agribusiness that use their seeds have long held sway at USDA.

The organic industry has a lot to lose. USDA regulations do not allow genetically modified seeds to be used in organic production, and organic farmers say that as engineered crops become more common, it will be harder to prevent contamination. The industry also is concerned fears of contamination could hurt its sales, especially in Europe, where consumers have been extremely hesitant about biotech foods.

While opponents of engineered foods haven’t found federal agencies overly receptive to their concerns, they’ve been able to delay some USDA approvals with lawsuits. The alfalfa decision followed a lengthy court battle that was closely watched not only by the organic industry, but by consumers — a development that opponents believe will help their cause.

“We’re seeing a level of reaction that is unprecedented,” says Jeffrey Smith, an activist who has fought the expansion of genetically engineered foods since they were first introduced 15 years ago and written two books on the subject. “I personally think we are going to hit the tipping point of consumer rejection very soon.”

Many consumers also have followed the Food and Drug Administration’s consideration of an engineered salmon that grows twice as fast as the conventional variety. If the FDA approves the fish for sale, it will be the first time the government has allowed genetically modified animals to be marketed for humans to eat.

Consumer interest in the issue has magnified in the past five years, along with interest in eating locally grown and organic foods, said Organic Valley’s Siemon. Young, educated consumers who are driving much of the organic market have no interest in eating crops derived from a laboratory, he said. With as much as 80 percent of the foods in grocery stores containing some sort of engineered ingredient, according to the food industry, some companies have started labeling foods as non-modified to grab onto that share of the market.

Genetically modified crops were introduced to the market in 1996. That year, engineered corn accounted for less than 5 percent of the total crop. Last year, the USDA estimated that 70 percent of the nation’s corn acreage was planted with corn engineered to resist herbicides and 63 percent had been planted with insect-resistant seeds. Rates for soybeans and cotton are even higher.

The federal government approves genetically modified plants and animals on a case by case basis, with the FDA and USDA looking at the potential effects on food safety, agriculture and the environment. Critics say the process needs to be more thorough and more research should be done with an eye on potential dangers. Agencies often rely on companies’ own data to make their decisions.

The genetic engineering industry says its products already receive far more scrutiny than most of the food people put in their mouths. It also says 15 years of consumption with no widely recognized health problems shows much of the concern is overhyped.

David B. Schmidt, who heads the International Food Information Council Foundation, a food-industry funded group that has polled consumers on genetically modified foods, said their responses depend on how the issue is framed. When pollsters tell consumers that some foods can be engineered to have health benefits — such as biotech soybeans designed to reduce trans fats in soybean oil — they become more open to them. Most consumers are more open to modifications in fruits and vegetables than in animals, he added.

Still, many people don’t know what to think. About half of the consumers the foundation has polled recently have either been neutral on the subject or didn’t know enough to have an opinion.

Dan Barber, a well-known New York chef who grows his own food and sits on President Barack Obama’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, said the growing popularity of organic foods has given an “economic legitimacy” to the criticism.

He believes messing with nature will always have collateral damage. And, the more genetically modified crops are used, he said, the more pure crops will become compromised.

“Once you head down that road you don’t turn back,” Barber said.

Gadhafi’s stolen billions stashed in London

A woman joins a demonstration against the rule of Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Photograph by: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Saif took the awkward manner of an international plutocrat, forced only by circumstances out of his usual exalted milieu of Blairs, Deripaskas, Mandelsons and Rothschilds, to address Libya’s “little people”.

Daily Telegraph | Feb 25, 2011

By Michael Burleigh

As his country teeters on the brink, the embattled dictator Colonel Gadhafi is clawing for survival – both political and financial. Whether he is toppled or not, Gadhafi is desperate to preserve his fortune – some estimate it to be as much as $94 billion – which has been squirrelled away in safe havens across the globe. Yesterday, we learnt that the Treasury has set up a specialised unit to trace Gadhafi’s assets in Britain.

So should we be surprised to learn that much of his wealth has been salted away here? As we shall see, the warm embrace of the Gadhafis into our society – particularly Saif, the dictator’s second son – may have offered financial gain, but it has also brought shame to our shores. Only now can we see the damage done by those who rehabilitated the Gadhafis on the international stage.

This was painfully revealed when Saif, a supposed friend of the West, spoke on Libyan television this week. Saif took the awkward manner of an international plutocrat, forced only by circumstances out of his usual exalted milieu of Blairs, Deripaskas, Mandelsons and Rothschilds, to address Libya’s “little people”.

The “little people” are the protesters in Benghazi, an area now largely freed from government forces. This region in the east of the country has long been treated as Tripoli’s poor relation – mainly because King Idris’s regime was strong here before Gadhafi’s 1969 coup. How demeaning it must have been for Saif to even talk to such a poor, insignificant rabble. He and his sibling Muatassim are so accustomed to the high life that they have paid $1 million a pop to hear Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Usher sing at their birthday parties. Perhaps Mariah sang Can’t Let Go or Can’t Take That Away From Me – those lyrics of hers seem curiously apt today.

It became clear to me from his 45 minute monologue that Saif, friend of the Duke of York, was just another dictator in a flashy suit. Whatever plutocrat’s polish he had acquired along with his MSc and PhD at the London School of Economics was rapidly shed. Jabbing his forefinger, Saif warned that the besieged Gadhafis would “fight to the last bullet”.

Much of Libya’s wealth, generated by crude oil and gas, has apparently been looted by Gadhafi and his regime. His sons vie between them for such rich pickings as the franchise to sell Coca Cola in Libya.

As well as Saif, the LSE seminarian and habitue of London casinos and nightclubs, other Gadhafi brothers include Hannibal, whose model wife Aline’s face has had several nasty encounters with doors and furnishings in swanky hotels in Geneva and London.

Aline’s not the only one to have come a cropper. When Hannibal was accused of assaulting two maids in a Swiss hotel, and subsequently arrested, Gadhafi retaliated by arresting Swiss nationals in Libya (one poor chap found himself in solitary confinement for more than 50 days) and even suspended oil deliveries to Switzerland, as well as withdrawing money and assets worth nearly $6.3 billion from Swiss banks. Similar “heat” was applied to Blair’s government over the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdulbaset al-Megrahi, together with intercession by former MI6 personalities such as Mark Allen, who had moved on to well rewarded positions at BP.

What’s clear is that just as controversy and violence follows the Gaddafi clan, so does the stench of filthy lucre.

The main vehicle for the Gadhafi’s wealth is the $70 billion Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), a “sovereign wealth fund” set up in 2006 to spend the country’s oil money. Let’s call it Gadhafi Inc. In Britain, its assets include 3 per cent of the publishing giant Pearson, which owns the Financial Times and Penguin Books; and several prestigious office blocks, including 14 Cornhill, opposite the Bank of England, and Portman House, home to several major stores in Oxford Street.

The LIA’s huge investment in Britain happily coincided with the meeting of minds between our leaders and the Libyans over the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Likewise, British investment in Libya has soared in recent years, with some 150 of our companies – from BP to Next – establishing a lucrative foothold there. Extraordinarily, Saif told a British newspaper last year that his “good friend” Tony Blair had become an adviser to the LIA – an allegation the former PM denies.

And it’s not just business. The Gadhafis had ingratiated themselves into the upper echelons of British society, handily aided by Saif’s charm and the sage-like status apparently conferred by his LSE doctorate. It is reported that Saif was even hosted at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle by the Duke of York. To go with this highfalutin, upper-class lifestyle, Saif also purchased a $15 million mansion in Hampstead – complete with suede-lined cinema room and swimming pool. Land Registry documents reveal that he used a British Virgin Islands-registered company, Capitana Seas, to make the purchase.

So successful was his adoption of British ways that he was lauded at the LSE by Professor David Held in a speech. It described his former student as: “Someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration.”

Now keen to prove that it is not as amorally venal as many suspect, the LSE has announced it will not take more of the $2.3 million pledged by Saif than the $472,800 it has already spent on its weighty purposes. It is worth noting that Mark Allen, who is credited with bringing Gaddafi senior in from the cold, and Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell are present on the board of the LSE’s IDEAS cost centre, while its director, Sir Howard Davies, is a quondam adviser to the LIA. Tony Blair is a highly paid consultant to JP Morgan, the U.S. investment bank that handles the LIA’s liquid funds. Small world, isn’t it?

Swinging London is but one hub of Gadhafi Inc. – a useful networking site where the Rothschilds were able to point Saif Gadhafi to investment opportunities in marina complexes in Montenegro. It’s known that Saif had a desire to replicate a Dubai-style tax- and visa-free enterprise zone north of Tripoli, as well as developing luxury resorts near the spectacular Roman ruins of coastal Libya. Funds for the latter emanate from Magna Holdings, a Bermuda-based company chaired by Charles Powell – yes, you guessed it, that’s the brother of Jonathan Powell – and the firm responsible for Gadhafi Tower, a 50-storey development in Tripoli.

Ties between Libya and its former colonial master, Italy, are also dense. A quarter of Libya’s oil and 15 per cent of its natural gas goes to Italy, in the last case via the Green Stream pipeline. Gadhafi Inc. owns significant shares in Italy’s ENI oil corporation, Fiat and Finmeccanica, the Italian aerospace and defence conglomerate. Its 7.5 per cent holdings in the football team Juventus and the Unicredit bank are more controversial, exercising the Northern League coalition partners more than Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. This may not be unrelated to the fact that both he and the Libyans are heavily invested in a Paris-based film company, Quinta Communications, which makes Arabic language thrillers.

Yes, as in Britain, the Italian political class has not been fastidious in its Libyan dealings. This may be why Italy’s response to the crisis has been mixed, echoing Gadhafi’s warnings of a series of al-Qaida emirates, or of a tidal wave of African migrants, if the Libyan lion ceases to roar at Europe’s southern gates.

And, as one would expect of the self-styled “King of Kings”, Gadhafi Inc. has major investments in sub-Saharan Africa. The ex-footballer Sa’adi Gadhafi, the third son of the dictator, took charge of all the family’s investments in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, where the Libyans were keen on developing agriculture and tourism. Much Libyan money has also been disbursed in Chad, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Various things may happen in Libya, where the army lacks the unity and prestige of its Egyptian analogue, and tribal allegiances are potent. As generals, ministers, diplomats and brave fighter pilots defect, the regime will be reduced to the hardcore of Gadhafi and his sons. Threats to destabilize the flow of oil to Europe are not as effective as they might be since the Saudis, who hate Gadhafi’s guts, can increase production.

There are more local lessons for us in this story. It was predictable that revolutionary Left regimes – Castro, Chavez and Noriega – would defend Gadhafi, even as his jets reportedly strafed “his” own people.

But Britain’s gossip columns and glossy magazines also indulge a deracinated group of international plutocrats whose greed is aroused by the oil and gas revenues Gadhafi Inc. has systematically embezzled. Rather than mouthing empty platitudes about orderly transition to democracy, in a country where civil society has been suffocated by a police state, our government should confiscate all the Gadhafis’ assets, so as to return them to the Libyan people. After all, in all its disgusting dealings with Libya, Britain knows that money talks.

Mariah Carey might be excused – but London’s high society and academic circles might be more fastidious too about consorting with such a grotesque as this ghastly murderous man.

Gaddafi’s son tied to “Global Governance Unit” of the London School of Economics

“In theory Libya is the most democratic state in the world.”

Gaddafi’s son Saif’s ties to LSE and Britain

BBC | Feb 25, 2011

By Matt Prodger

There have been protests at the LSE over its link with Gaddafi

On Sunday Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libya’s leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, appeared on Libyan state television telling protesters to clear the streets or face rivers of blood.

The contrast to his appearance as a guest speaker at the London School of Economics (LSE) two years ago could not have been more stark.

Having just donated £1.5m to the university to fund its Global Governance Unit, he was introduced in glowing terms by the university’s Professor David Held, who said:

“I’ve come to know Saif as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration.”

Donation rejected

But even Saif Gaddafi could not keep a straight face as he began giving a speech about democracy in Libya.

“In theory Libya is the most democratic state in the world,” he said to laughter from the audience, before chuckling and adding, “In theory, in theory.”

Fast forward to the present day and Prof Held is appalled by Saif Gaddafi’s speech on Libyan TV, LSE students occupied offices at the university in protest at its relationship with him, and the university has been shamed into rejecting the bulk of the donation.

As a final embarrassment, the university has been forced to investigate allegations that parts of Saif Gaddafi’s LSE PhD were plagiarised.

The irony of its title – The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions – is lost on no-one.

‘Failure to learn’

But Saif Gaddafi’s examiner, the renowned economist Lord Desai, says that he had earned the PhD, and that the LSE had been right to accept his donation.

His only regret, Lord Desai said on Thursday, was that Saif Gaddafi had failed to learn enough about democracy:

“I read the thesis, I examined him along with an examiner, he defended his thesis very, very thoroughly, he had nobody else present there, and I don’t think there’s any reason to think he didn’t do it himself.”

“This is over-egging the pudding. The man is evil enough – you don’t have to add that he’s a plagiarist as well.”

The LSE is not the only British institution Saif Gaddafi’s name has been mentioned alongside, he has cropped up in all manner of meetings and mutual connections.

He described Tony Blair as a family friend, although the former UK prime minister says he has only met him once since leaving office and has no commercial relationship with him.

Playboy lifestyle

Britain’s trade envoy, the Duke of York, has hosted Saif Gaddafi at Buckingham Palace, though a palace spokesman said he is no friend.

Then there is former business secretary Lord Mandelson, who met Saif Gaddafi a number of times – once at the Corfu villa of British financier Nat Rothschild.

Both Mr Rothschild and his business associate Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska were invited to Saif Gaddafi’s 37th birthday party in Montenegro.

In London, Saif Gaddafi has lived a playboy lifestyle. Two years ago he moved into a £10m house complete with suede-lined indoor cinema not far from an area of north London known as Billionaire’s Row.

The Libyan Investment Authority also owns properties in the city, on Oxford Street and at Trafalgar Square.

‘Economic stranglehold’

There has always been a thin line between Gaddafi money and Libyan money – one of the reasons that have made Saif Gaddafi so influential.

“The Gaddafi family controls everything in Libya and no deals are signed either for inward or outward investment without their approval,” Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, who has written a book about the Gaddafi family and heads the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libya, told Newsnight.

“They have had up until now a total stranglehold on the economy. I haven’t seen anything like it around the world.”

The fact is there was always a good reason for cosying up to the man who until recently was considered the heir to the throne of an oil rich wealthy country.

Sooner or later the old man, Col Gaddafi, was going to go and his avowedly pro-Western, and apparently reformist, son would take the reins.

Only it does not appear to be working out that way, and those associated with him are now counting the cost.

Gates Warns Against Any More Wars Like Iraq or Afghanistan

nytimes.com | Feb 25, 2011


WEST POINT, N.Y. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates bluntly told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday that it would be unwise for the United States to ever fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the chances of carrying out a change of government in that fashion again were slim.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.

That reality, he said, meant that the Army would have to reshape its budget, since potential conflicts in places like Asia or the Persian Gulf were more likely to be fought with air and sea power, rather than with conventional ground forces.

“As the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations,” Mr. Gates warned.

“The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third-world country — may be low,” Mr. Gates said, but the Army and the rest of the government must focus on capabilities that can “prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.”

Mr. Gates was brought into the Bush cabinet in late 2006 to repair the war effort in Iraq that was begun under his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and then was kept in office by President Obama. He did not directly criticize the Bush administration’s decisions to go to war. Even so, his never-again formulation was unusually pointed, especially at a time of upheaval across the Arab world and beyond. Mr. Gates has said that he would leave office this year, and the speech at West Point could be heard as his farewell to the Army.

A decade of constant conflict has trained a junior officer corps with exceptional leadership skills, he told the cadets, but the Army may find it difficult in the future to find inspiring work to retain its rising commanders as it fights for the money to keep large, heavy combat units in the field.

“Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging or reconciling warring tribes, may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting PowerPoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties,” Mr. Gates said. “The consequences of this terrify me.”

He said Iraq and Afghanistan had become known as “the captains’ wars” because “officers of lower and lower rank were put in the position of making decisions of higher and higher degrees of consequence and complexity.”

To find inspiring work for its young officers after combat deployments, the Army must encourage unusual career detours, Mr. Gates said, endorsing graduate study, teaching, or duty in a policy research institute or Congressional office.

Mr. Gates said his main worry was that the Army might not overcome the institutional bias that favored traditional career paths. He urged the service to “break up the institutional concrete, its bureaucratic rigidity in its assignments and promotion processes, in order to retain, challenge, and inspire its best, brightest, and most battle-tested young officers to lead the service in the future.”

There will be one specific benefit to the fighting force as the pressures of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan decrease, Mr. Gates said: “The opportunity to conduct the kind of full-spectrum training — including mechanized combined arms exercises — that was neglected to meet the demands of the current wars.”

Western voters mostly skeptical of global warming

wattsupwiththat.com | Feb 25, 2011

by Anthony Watts

This is interesting. The American Spectator tips us to this this poll, conducted under the auspices of Colorado College’s State of the Rockies project one in which most questions were designed to produce environmentalism-friendly results (of the “Do you favor clean air?” “Do you favor clean water?” nature). The results global warming were, shall we say, a bit inconvenient.

Air quality ranks as a top tier environmental concern in all of these states, and particularly in Utah, where a majority of 52% volunteered the issue as the most pressing environmental concern in the state. Climate change and global warming, on the other hand, rank below 11 other issues as an environmental problem facing their state. The latter is the most politicized issue tested in the survey, with attitudes about whether to take action on global warming varying dramatically along party lines.


Deep freeze puts Baltic on track for record ice

Following another extended stretch of sub-zero temperatures, ice coverage on the Baltic Sea is greater than it’s been in nearly a quarter century, Sweden’s meteorological agency reports.

thelocal.se | Feb 25, 2011

About 250,000 square kilometres of the Baltic Sea are now covered in ice according to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI).

The last time so much of the Baltic was frozen was the winter of 1986-87, when ice covered nearly 400,000 square kilometres of the sea’s surface.

SMHI warns that ice coverage on the Baltic could expand further in the coming days, possibly setting a new record.

“The surface water is cold and if winter-like temperatures continue in the region a few more weeks, we’ll probably get an icy winter on par with 1984-85, one of the toughest winters in the 1980s,” SMHI oceanographer Amund E. B. Lindberg said in a statement.

According to SMHI’s estimates, ice may eventually connect the Swedish mainland all the way out to the Baltic island of Gotland, which lies about 90 kilometres off of Sweden’s eastern coast.

Baltic ice cover is not only unusually wide this winter, but also unusually thick, especially in Gulf of Bothnia off Sweden’s northeastern coast, where air temperatures have consistently hovered around -30 degrees Celsius in recent months.

In some areas far out at sea, ice is more than 60 centimetres thick in the northern parts of the gulf.

Recent cold temperatures near the southern areas of the Gulf of Bothnia have resulted in ice thickness growing by 30 centimetres in just two weeks.

Icebreakers from the Swedish Maritime Administration (Sjöfartsverket) have been working round the clock to ensure that sea routes on the Baltic remain open, but strong winds expected at the weekend may complicate their work.

“For the moment, sea traffic is flowing nicely,” Ulf Gullne, head of the Maritime Administration’s icebreaker unit, to the TT news agency.

“But if storms kick up, there are always problems because the ice begins to crumble and that creates banks.”

Climategate scientists let off the hook for data manipulation

New York Times | Feb 24, 2011


An inquiry by a federal watchdog agency found no evidence that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration manipulated climate data to buttress the evidence in support of global warming, officials said on Thursday.

The inquiry, by the Commerce Department’s inspector general, focused on e-mail messages between climate scientists that were stolen and circulated on the Internet in late 2009 (NOAA is part of the Commerce Department). Some of the e-mails involved scientists from NOAA.

Climate change skeptics contended that the correspondence showed that scientists were manipulating or withholding information to advance the theory that the earth is warming as a result of human activity.


Can anyone defend “hide the decline”?

In a report dated Feb. 18 and circulated by the Obama administration on Thursday, the inspector general said, “We did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data.”

Nor did the report fault Jane Lubchenco, NOAA’s top official, for testifying to Congress that the correspondence did not undermine climate science.

The finding comes at a critical moment for NOAA as some newly empowered Republican House members seek to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, often contending that the science underpinning global warming is flawed. NOAA is the federal agency tasked with monitoring climate data.

The inquiry into NOAA’s conduct was requested last May by Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who has challenged the science underlying human-induced climate change. Mr. Inhofe was acting in response to the controversy over the e-mail messages, which were stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, a major hub of climate research.

Mr. Inhofe asked the inspector general of the Commerce Department to investigate how NOAA scientists responded internally to the leaked e-mails. Of 1,073 messages, 289 were exchanges with NOAA scientists.

The inspector general reviewed the 1,073 e-mails, and interviewed Dr. Lubchenco and staff members about their exchanges. The report did not find scientific misconduct; it did however, challenge the agency over its handling of some Freedom of Information Act requests in 2007. And it noted the inappropriateness of e-mailing a collage cartoon depicting Senator Inhofe and five other climate skeptics marooned on a melting iceberg that passed between two NOAA scientists.

The report was not a review of the climate data itself. It joins a series of investigations by the British House of Commons, Pennsylvania State University, the InterAcademy Council and the National Research Council into the leaked e-mails that have exonerated the scientists involved of scientific wrongdoing.

NOAA welcomed the report, saying that it emphasized the soundness of its scientific procedures and the peer review process. “None of the investigations have found any evidence to question the ethics of our scientists or raise doubts about NOAA’s understanding of climate change science,” Mary Glackin, the agency’s deputy undersecretary for operations, said in a statement.

But Mr. Inhofe said the report was far from a clean bill of health for the agency and that contrary to its executive summary, showed that the scientists “engaged in data manipulation.”

“It also appears that one senior NOAA employee possibly thwarted the release of important federal scientific information for the public to assess and analyze,” he said, referring to an employee’s failure to provide material related to work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a different body that compiles research, in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Joe Bastardi Explains Why the Cold Miser Is Winning the Climate-Change Showdown

Photograph courtesy of Joe Bastardi.

“As far as the global warming goes, to me that’s just a big forecast. Who’s going to be right? There are guys saying C02 is driving the whole thing and making the world warmer. Well, for the last 30 years, since we started the satellite era, the globe has been stacked for warmth. Now it’s changing around, so if the global temperature falls over the next 20, 30 years, we’ll know it’s not C02.”

Vanity Fair | Feb 24, 2011

by Eric Spitznagel

Before Joe Bastardi would agree to speak with me, he wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. “I am IN NO WAY A TV WEATHER ANCHOR!” he wrote in an e-mail, and you could almost hear the carotid artery throbbing on his neck as he typed. If you’re over the age of 18 and writing in ALL CAPS, it’s obviously something you feel quite strongly about. And if there’s one thing Joe Bastardi feels strongly about, it’s that he doesn’t belong in the company of Al Roker. He is, he reminded me in a subsequent e-mail, a “METEOROLOGIST FIRST AND FOREMOST AND ONE TRYING TO BUILD THE GREATEST LONG RANGE FORECASTING CENTER ON EARTH!”

Which isn’t to say he avoids TV entirely. Bastardi frequently appears on CNN and Fox News, arguing against anthropogenic global warming and looking as though he’s about to burst out of his shirt like Bruce Banner. He’s debated Bill Nye the Science Guy on The O’Reilly Factor and gotten into a “Science Catfight ” with Brenda Ekwurzel, a climatologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, on The Colbert Report.

Until earlier this week, he was the “Chief Long Range Forecaster” for AccuWeather, a weather-forecasting service based in State College, Pennsylvania. But his bread and butter, he says, are his corporate clients, the names of which he won’t divulge, saying only that he’s “heavily involved in energy. Some of the companies that I work for were very happy that it snowed as much as it did this winter.”

Why should you care about Joe Bastardi? According to a poll conducted last summer by Yale and George Mason University, 56 percent of Americans trust TV weather reporters to tell them the truth about global warming. An impressive statistic, until you remember that 44 percent of Americans also believe that Jesus will return in their lifetimes. Americans watch a lot of TV, and Joe Bastardi (despite what he says about NOT BEING A TV WEATHER ANCHOR) is on TV a lot. While he may not be the only voice in the climate-change debate, he’s definitely the loudest. Why should you care what Joe Bastardi has to say? Because the guy across the street with the Michele Bachmann bumper sticker on his S.U.V. probably does.

I called Bastardi to talk about the historic winter that may or may not be behind us, depending on which groundhog you believe.

Full interview here