Sunday, October 19, 2003

More on global warming

From CNN today:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Melting of glaciers in the Patagonian ice fields of southern
Argentina and Chile has doubled in recent years, caused by higher temperatures,
lower snowfall and a more rapid breaking of icebergs, a study suggests.

. . . .

The researchers concluded that the Patagonia ice is melting faster now due to
warmer air temperatures, a decrease in precipitation and a more rapid breaking
of pieces of icebergs into the ocean, known as calving.

The study was conducted by Eric Rignot of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, California; Andres Rivera of the University of Chile in Santiago,
and Gino Casassa of the Center of Scientific Studies in Valdivia, Chile.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Phytoplankton vanishing at a rate that alarms scientists

Were it not for reassurances from the Bush administration that global warming
is (a) not happening and (b) would not be of any significance even if it were,
this report would be worrisome. From a story by David Perlman in the San Francisco Chronicle ....

"Plant life covering the surface of the world's oceans, a vital resource that
helps absorb the worst of the "greenhouse gases" involved in global warming,
is disappearing at a dangerous rate, scientists have discovered.

Satellites and seagoing ships have confirmed the diminishing productivity
of the microscopic plants, which oceanographers say is most striking in the
waters of the North Pacific -- ranging as far up as the high Arctic.

Whether the lost productivity of the plants, called phytoplankton, is
directly due to increased ocean temperatures that have been recorded
for at least the past 20 years remains part of an extremely complex puzzle,
says Watson W. Gregg, a NASA biologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md., but it surely offers a fresh clue to the controversy over
climate change.

According to Gregg, the greatest loss of phytoplankton has occurred
where ocean temperatures have risen most significantly between the
early 1980s and the late 1990s. In the North Atlantic summertime, sea
surface temperatures rose about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit during that
period, Gregg said, while in the North Pacific the ocean's surface temperatures
rose about 7/10ths of a degree.

While the link between ocean temperatures and the productivity of
plankton is striking, other factors can also affect the health of the plants.
They need iron as nourishment, for example, and much of it reaches them
in powerful winds that sweep iron-containing dust across the oceans from
continental deserts. When those winds diminish or fail, plankton can suffer.
There have been small but measurable decreases in the amount of iron
deposited over the oceans in recent years, according to Gregg and his colleagues.


The significant decline in plankton productivity has a direct effect on the
world's carbon cycle, Gregg said. Normally, he noted, the ocean plants
take up about half of all the carbon dioxide in the world's environment
because they use the carbon, along with sunlight, for growth, and release
oxygen into the atmosphere in a process known as photosynthesis.

Primary production of plankton in the North Pacific decreased by more
than 9 percent during the past 20 years, and by nearly 7 percent in the
North Atlantic, Gregg and his colleagues determined from their satellite
observations and shipboard surveys. Combining all the major ocean basins
of the world, Gregg and his colleagues found the decline in plankton
productivity more than 6 percent."

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Clash of civilizations -- Wesley Clark's view of the preparations

The Village Voice has a story by Sydney H. Schanberg about a new book, Winning Modern Wars, written by General Wesley Clark. Evidently the neocons in the Bush administration took him into their confidence about plans for the emerging Pax Americana
in all its arrogant ugliness.

- - - - - - -
Schanberg writes:

"Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general who is one of 10 candidates for the
Democratic nomination for president, has written a new book that is just arriving on bookstore shelves. Called Winning Modern Wars, it’s mostly about the Iraq
war and terrorism—and it is laced with powerful new information that he held
back from the public when he was a CNN military commentator during the Bush administration’s preparations for the war.

For example, he says he learned from military sources at the Pentagon in
November 2001, just two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on
New York and Washington, that serious planning for the war on Iraq had already
begun and that, in addition to Iraq, the administration had drawn up a list of six other nations to be targeted over a period of five years.

Here’s what he writes on page 130:
"As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior
military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going
against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part
of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries,
beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan." Clark
adds, "I left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned."

He never disclosed anything like this information in any of his CNN commentaries
or in the opinion columns he wrote for print media at the time. If Americans had
known such things, and if the information is accurate, would they have supported
the White House’s march to war? Would Congress have passed the war resolution
the White House asked for?

On the next page of the book, 131, Clark writes: "And what about the real sources
of terrorists—U.S. allies in the region like Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia? Wasn’t
it the repressive policies of the first, and the corruption and poverty of the second,
that were generating many of the angry young men who became terrorists? And
what of the radical ideology and direct funding spewing from Saudi Arabia? Wasn’t
that what was holding the radical Islamic movement together? . . . It seemed that
we were being taken into a strategy more likely to make us the enemy—encouraging
what could look like a ‘clash of civilizations’—not a good strategy for Winning the war
on terror."