Boston Marathon hit by terrorist bombs

Live Blog by Zuri Berry on Apr 15, 2013 at 5:15 PM
Video shot by Steve Silva, Boston.com Producer, at the scene of the first explosion

BREAKING NEWS:

Two explosions occurred near the Boston Marathon finish line at 2:50 p.m. The race was diverted before being halted as police and fire crews swept the area. Another device was found, which was purposely detonated by Boston Police at Boylston Street. Another incident at JFK Library, which was thought to be a fourth-related incident, is now being considered as a fire-related issue by the Boston Police Department. Two people are dead and 107 are injured. >>> This is a developing story.

A 100% renewable power system could have been bought and paid for – instead of the Iraq War


American leadership skills in Iraq

Wind energy expert Paul Gipe reported this week that – for the amount spent on the Iraq war – the U.S. could be generating 40%-60% of its electricity with renewable energy…

The war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2013, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. That’s trillion, with a “t”. Including future costs for veteran’s care, and so on, raises the cost to $2.2 trillion.

Because the war was financed with debt, we should also include a charge for interest on the debt. The Iraq war’s share of cumulative interest on the US debt through 2053 will raise the total cost of the war to $3.9 trillion…

…If we want to develop an integrated system that will replace the mix of fossil fuels and nuclear power we use today, we will need a mix of renewable resources as well. Ideally, we would develop our wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources simultaneously. However, it is wind and solar that will provide the bulk of new generating capacity. So I’ve simplified this analysis by only considering a mix of wind and solar…

Based on a conservative estimate, the US could have built between a quarter-million to nearly a half-million megawatts of wind energy, and 300,000 to 600,000 megawatts of solar capacity.

For comparison, today there are only 60,000 MW of wind in the US, and a paltry 7,000 MW of solar.

If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply…

…Unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come…

Moreover, given that war is very harmful for the economy, the costs of the Iraq war including the drag on the economy raises the price tag well above $6 trillion. So 100% of renewable energy funding may be realistic.

It is ironic, indeed, that the Iraq war was largely about oil. When we choose subsidies for conventional energy sources – war or otherwise – we sell our future down the river.

Unfortunately, selling our future down the river doesn’t bother the bottomfeeders in Congress or the White House a whole boatload of heartache. While I differentiate between Republicans and Democrats on many social issues, when the question is one of war – especially one which profits truly “important” corporations – our elected officials fall over one another in the rush to Armageddon.

We debate the differences between “stupid” and just plain “ignorant” a lot on the Web. Fact remains that the average American – for whichever excuse – rarely has the backbone or independence to challenge war cries from on high. While reticence may appear after a few thousands kinfolk are sentenced to death along with tens of thousands crippled for life, it takes a mighty heap of dead bodies to get my fellow Americans to reconsider the glory of war deemed crucial by priests, pundits and politicians.

This counterpoint of the common good versus dedication to death and destruction is only an exercise in semantics and logic until and unless the voters of nation declare truth and progress more important than, say, parades for mission accomplished.

Arctic will be nearly free of summer sea ice this century

For scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic, it’s not a question of “if” there will be nearly ice-free summers, but “when.” And two scientists say that “when” is sooner than many thought — before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two.

James Overland of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Muyin Wang of the NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, looked at three methods of predicting when the Arctic will be nearly ice free in the summer. The work was published recently online in the American Geophysical Union publication Geophysical Research Letters.

“Rapid Arctic sea ice loss is probably the most visible indicator of global climate change; it leads to shifts in ecosystems and economic access, and potentially impacts weather throughout the northern hemisphere,” said Overland. “Increased physical understanding of rapid Arctic climate shifts and improved models are needed that give a more detailed picture and timing of what to expect so we can better prepare and adapt to such changes. Early loss of Arctic sea ice gives immediacy to the issue of climate change.”

“There is no one perfect way to predict summer sea ice loss in the Arctic,” said Wang. “So we looked at three approaches that result in widely different dates, but all three suggest nearly sea ice-free summers in the Arctic before the middle of this century…”

The “trendsetters” approach uses observed sea ice trends. These data show that the total amount of sea ice decreased rapidly over the previous decade. Using those trends, this approach extrapolates to a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by 2020.

The “stochasters” approach is based on assuming future multiple, but random in time, large sea ice loss events such as those that occurred in 2007 and 2012. This method estimates it would take several more events to reach a nearly sea ice-free state in the summer. Using the likelihood of such events, this approach suggests a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by about 2030 but with large uncertainty in timing.

The “modelers” approach is based on using the large collection of global climate model results to predict atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea ice conditions over time. These models show the earliest possible loss of sea ice to be around 2040 as greenhouse gas concentrations increase and the Arctic warms. But the median timing of sea ice loss in these models is closer to 2060. There are several reasons to consider that this median timing of sea ice loss in these models may be too slow.

Taken together, the range among the multiple approaches still suggests that it is very likely that the timing for future sea ice loss will be within the first half of the 21st century, with a possibility of major loss within a decade or two.

Predictive conservatism obviously limits how far these folks are willing to stick out their necks. If you’re thoughtful about material reality, science and computational analysis, you will pay attention to the news from NOAA.

OTOH, if you’re ideologically driven and silly enough to rely on cynics paid to call themselves skeptics – Good Luck!