Megadrought in the American Southwest


Mario Tama/Getty

When the NASA climatologist James Hansen testified before Congress in June 1988 about a warming planet, the temperature in Washington DC hit a record 100F. It was a summer of unprecedented heatwaves, and 40 states were grappling with drought.

His warning was seen as a historic wake-up call – but instead of heeding the existential smoke alarm, the US removed the batteries and kept on cooking.

Nearly four decades later, the consequences of a sweltering Earth are hitting home in the US south-west and mountain west – comprising states from California to Colorado. Over the past two decades, extreme heat and dwindling moisture levels have converged to create a “megadrought” deemed the driest period in 1,200 years…

The west is now in uncharted territory, as once singular conditions become the norm. Its mightiest reservoirs – Lake Mead and Lake Powell – are at record low levels and steadily shriveling. Prolonged, triple-digit heatwaves are making cities like Phoenix, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, almost unlivable during summers. And wildfires now spark year-round as parched forests and grasslands are more primed than ever to burn…

“We were given an excellent warning by climate scientists,” says Bill McKibben, the journalist turned climate activist. “And, yet, instead of mustering the will to do something about it, our political and economic systems rallied to do nothing.”

This is the beginning of a series by THE GUARDIAN. Dunno if the hacks in DC and Congress will be any more responsive (or unresponsive) than they have been to date. It is another opportunity to stick a fist in their collective faces and make rude noises along with suggestions for action. Again.

Remember electric mail trucks?


MELISSA MATHIESON

Mail trucks, which mostly drive short and predictable routes, are perfect candidates for leading the electrification revolution. But the USPS, as an institution, is not

But what began as mostly good-natured celebration over a cute, much-needed truck went downhill fast. It increasingly became clear the massive order was utterly unfit for the modern age. In a legally-mandated environmental review, the USPS revealed the gas version of the truck will get essentially the same miles per gallon with the air conditioning on as the current truck gets, or about 8 mpg, worse than the RAM ProMaster, which the USPS also uses, which gets roughly 14 mpg. It also revealed the truck’s weight was selected to be precisely one pound heavier than the “heavy duty truck” cutoff which frees it from various environmental regulations, including getting better gas mileage. And, most controversially of all, only 10 percent of the trucks will be electric, even though the USPS itself said in the environmental review that 95 percent of its routes are fit for EVs…

The USPS’s responses to this criticism have only yielded more questions. On February 6, the USPS released a lengthy statement defending its decision. The USPS said it would buy more electric vehicles if it could afford them. But, it also said its own calculations found more electric vehicles would be more expensive and not be fiscally responsible (an assertion its critics vehemently reject as based on fundamentally flawed analyses, citing a 2021 Atlas Public Policy study that found the USPS could save as much as $4.3 billion over the lifespan of the vehicles, or almost the total cost of the vehicles themselves, by going electric)…Despite the criticism, the USPS finalized its environmental review and says it will move ahead with the procurement.

It is easy to conjure theories of corruption or politically motivated decision making…What these theories—and much of the commentary about the new delivery trucks in recent weeks—miss is not just the history of the lengthy procurement process itself, but the context of the USPS‘s recent history. That recent history is of an organization that considers innovation a synonym for risk, and risks a prospect that it cannot afford to take. The USPS doesn’t want to be anywhere close to the cutting edge of anything, up to and including leading an electric revolution.

Just about every single reason, analysis and process our incompetent bureaucracy might muster to blockade progress which included the word, “electric”, was brought into play throughout the decision-making process. Read this and weep for simple, material reasoning.

As TV News puts it…”This story is ongoing”

The FBI is conducting “law enforcement activity” at the Washington, DC, home of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an FBI spokesman.

The activity is connected to a federal investigation out of New York, the spokesperson said, but could not provide any more information. A source familiar with the matter said the investigation has been “ongoing” but also provided no further details…

Deripaska was sanctioned by the US back in 2018 in response to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Treasury Department statement announcing the sanctions said he had been investigated for “money laundering, and has been accused of threatening lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.” Earlier this year, Deripaska lost a lawsuit to have the sanctions lifted…

Deripaska has rejected any link to Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election that [Robert] Mueller investigated.

Deripaska once loaned [Paul Manafort] $10 million, according to court filings from Mueller’s investigation. [Trump’s campaign manager] Manafort was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison for bank and tax fraud and foreign lobbying-related crimes, but received a pardon last fall from President Donald Trump.

Which is to be expected from the corrupt aiding the corrupt. No doubt, the same would be a promise given to Republicans convicted over the next few years…if and when the Populist Pimp runs, again, in 2024.

Did PG&E start the 2nd largest fire in California History?

On Sunday, the Dixie Fire, a three-week-old blaze that has ravaged more than 463,000 acres and forced thousands of people from their homes, became the second-largest fire in California history. Eight people have been reported missing so far, and the mountain town of Greenville has been mostly destroyed.

Now, a federal judge wants to know whether Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the state’s largest utility company, played a role in starting the fire.

On late Friday night, US District Judge William Alsup, who oversees PG&E’s probation for its role in the San Bruno gas explosion in 2010, ordered the utility to provide inspection information on a tree that fell on a power line where the Dixie Fire started. He also asked the utility to disclose information about vegetation and equipment in the area…

PG&E, which was aware of the judge’s order, has indicated in electric incident reports filed to the California Public Utilities Commission that its equipment may have sparked the Dixie Fire, though no official cause has been determined…

Between 2014 and 2017 alone, PG&E disclosed that its equipment had caused more than 1,500 wildfires. The company has been linked to five of the most destructive fires in California’s history, including the most deadly, the Camp Fire, which state investigators concluded was caused by “electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) located in the Pulga area.”

PG&E’s record of mediocrity has been an open book. The eyes of regulators and politicos alike have viewed this company’s history in action, year after year. What have they done? What have they ordered in the name of public safety, what actions required of PG&E?

Conspiracy theories are killing us

When popular opinion is fuelled by good sense and sane laws then popular opinion can serve us well. When it’s fuelled by conspiracy theories it can serve us poorly. It can lead us to reach bad conclusions about historical events, like the Kennedy assassination or the moon landings or the attacks of 9/11.

And sometimes the consequences of conspiracy theories can be deadly. They can lead us to think that the side effects to vaccines are somehow worse than the diseases they cure, that global warming is a hoax and we don’t need to recycle, that racism isn’t a real problem, that it’s a scam of the “woke.” People actually lose their lives every single day because of these conspiracy theories, and there is every indication that conspiracy theories are increasing in number at an alarming rate.

We are, in short, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and I am not talking for once about coronavirus. Conspiracy theories are a major sociological problem and they are going viral thanks to the internet. Conspiracy theories — such as the 2020 election was rigged or that masks and social distancing are taking away our Constitutional freedoms or that coronavirus vaccines have a microchip in them — are being cynically and deliberately employed to powerful effect by the Republican Party.

Nothing new about politicians lying to get their way. In a nation with a significant portion of the economy governed by advertising dollar$, we might think folks had already figured that out. But, on one hand [this is strictly subjective], I think advertisers simply can’t getaway with lying as much as life before the Internet. On the other hand…the article even suggests this…the Internet swallows up any critical evaluation of information that might straighten out the gullible and spits crap back out as fact…when offered by cultural heroes of no value whatsoever. Like the meathead up top of this post.