New IPCC Climate Report is a guide to action – Time to choose our future!

It has been eight years since the last major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), though it has produced smaller reports since then. But today, the first piece of the 6th Assessment Report is out. Most of it should not surprise you—the basics of climate science have been known for decades. And the general outlines were already obvious: almost all of the warming is due to human activities, and, without immediate action, we’re poised to blow past 1.5º C of warming.

Still, each report is a little more useful than the last, and we’re going to go over what has changed in terms of the science and what has changed in how that information is being shared with the public.

Today’s release is the Working Group I section of the report. It’s massive — a product of 751 scientists that references over 14,000 studies and data sources…Using the average of the last decade, the report notes that surface temperatures have warmed about 1.09°C (1.96°F) since the late 1800s. The new summary statement about humanity’s contribution to that warming says, “The likely range of total human-caused global surface temperature increase from 1850–1900 to 2010–2019 is 0.8°C to 1.3°C, with a best estimate of 1.07°C.” That is, humans are responsible for approximately all of it.

Putting this into historical context, the report concludes that the present state of the climate goes beyond anything the Earth has seen in quite some time: “In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years[…] Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2,000 years.”

Finally, projections of various future greenhouse gas concentrations highlight the futures we can yet choose between. It is still physically possible to limit warming to 1.5° C or 2° C, given the will to act. It is likewise still possible to cross 4° C or 5° C by 2100, given a sufficiently blatant disregard for current and future life on our planet.

So, what’s the heritage we leave for future generations. People who can afford the best, newest and (probably) most expensive will do OK. The rest of your family in the coming era will be cursed by our inaction…or grateful if we get off our rusty dustys and do something useful to halt and eventually reverse the trend. Scientists are actively pursuing guidelines. A number of educated politicians and activists are trying to provide leadership.

And the rest, a predictable lot, will wallow in the ethos of doing nothing or aiding the Know-Nothings of this century.

Maybe Trump Can’t Read?


Jorge Silva/AFP

❝ President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers Tuesday when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on his reelection — including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

❝ The White House press office declined to comment on the briefing materials given to Trump. Two people familiar with the notecards acknowledged that they included instructions not to congratulate Putin. But a senior White House official emphasized that national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not mention the issue during a telephone briefing with the president, who was in the White House residence ahead of and during his conversation with Putin.

It was not clear whether Trump read the notes, administration officials said. Trump, who initiated the call, opened it with the congratulations for Putin, one person familiar with the conversation said.

Looks like a dork, acts like a dork and quacks like a dork — probably a dork.

Death rates rise for middle-aged white Americans

death certificate
Or get someone who can write to fill it out for you

Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.

That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in for Economic Science, and Anne Case. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

“It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude,” wrote two Dartmouth economists, Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner, in a commentary to the Deaton-Case analysis that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

In contrast, the death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.

Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case (who are husband and wife) say they stumbled on their finding by accident, looking at a variety of national data sets on mortality rates and federal surveys that asked people about their levels of pain, disability, and general ill health.

Dr. Deaton was looking at statistics on suicide and happiness, skeptical about whether states with a high happiness level have a low suicide rate (they don’t, he discovered — in fact the opposite is true.) Dr. Case was interested in poor health, including chronic pain because she has suffered for 12 years from disabling and untreatable lower back pain.

Dr. Deaton noticed in national data sets that middle-aged whites were committing suicide at an unprecedented rate and that the all-cause mortality in this group was rising. But suicides alone, he and Dr. Case realized, were not enough to push up the overall death rates so they began looking at other causes of death. That led them to the discovery that deaths from drug and alcohol poisoning also increased in this group.

Taken together, they concluded that suicides, drugs, and alcohol explained the overall increase in deaths. The effect was largely confined to people with a high school education or less. In that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education…

The least educated also had the most financial distress, Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner noted in their commentary. In the period examined by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case, the inflation adjusted income for households headed by a high school graduate fell by 19 percent.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

America’s Zombie Prison


Alcatraz – prisoners convicted in a court of law, more light, more space – than Gitmo

Why add to something that is not supposed to exist?

The something in question is the United States’ prison in Guantánamo Bay, for which the Pentagon recently requested $49 million in extra funding. Despite Barack Obama’s promise in 2009 – one of his first as President – to shut down “Gitmo,” the US evidently has no intention of doing so anytime soon. In fact, the only thing concerning Gitmo that the Obama administration has shut down is the office of the special envoy, Daniel Fried, who had been tasked with its closure. The US State Department reassigned Fried in late January, and he will not be replaced.

How better to memorialize that decision than with a building boom at the prison? The new facility for which the money is to be earmarked will house 106 prisoners (the precise number is uncertain) who have been neither tried nor charged.

Eight of the prisoners are now entering the second month of a hunger strike. According to the spokesman for the US Southern Command, which oversees Gitmo, the hunger strikers are disillusioned, because they believed Obama’s pledge to close Gitmo. Indeed, they are cleared to leave, and it is only Obama’s failure to keep his promise – and the US Congress’s failure to legislate their transfer – that is keeping them there…

One reason why the Pentagon needs to build a costly new facility has to do with the role of private contractors in driving detention policy. …The vast, often undocumentable profits that flow to these companies go a long way toward explaining why facilities like Gitmo – and privately owned and operated prisons in the US itself – never close. The transfer of public money to private corporations is far more attractive than old-fashioned market capitalism…

Then there is the brutality of the prison. I recently toured Alcatraz, the former US federal prison in San Francisco Bay. Like Gitmo, Alcatraz was created, in the 1930’s, to house what was then “the worst of the worst”…Yet I was struck by how much more humane the facility and regime at Alcatraz were compared to Gitmo.

For starters, prisoners at Alcatraz who broke rules or were violent were punished by being put in “D Block,” where the cells had no windows; at Gitmo, all the cells that journalists are shown lack windows or natural light. Solitary confinement in D Block was seen as the harshest punishment, and it was never used for more than 48 hours at a time. At Guantánamo – and in other US facilities – prisoners are placed in solitary confinement for days or weeks at a time…At Gitmo, contrary to Red Cross rules, prisoners may not receive visits or mail from family, their reading is dramatically curtailed, and news is censored. They are not even notified of the deaths of parents and children…

…How is it that a prison too brutal for gangsters, too un-American to house the worst of the worst, was more humane than a place that Americans are spending millions to enlarge?

Yet, President Obama has promised more than once to put an end to Gitmo. I still wait to hear something more than opportunism, wobbly inability to press a case for the United States to live up to internationally-accepted standards of justice.