Author: Iowa Climate Science Education

Big Brother Wants a Quiet Word With You

The Guardian’s scientific watchdogs on matters climatical, Stan Abrahams and Oliver Nuccitelli, have recruited a team of high fliers for their latest piece, including Yale’s Anthony Leiserowitz and Cambridge psychologist Sander van der Linden. When a team calling itself “the 97%” writes an article entitled “Why the 97% climate consensus is important” you know what … Continue reading

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October 2, 2017 at 12:11PM

Funding the arts – or hurricane recovery

With only so much taxpayer cash, what should our priorities be in this year of big hurricanes?

Guest essay by Paul Driessen

A couple of friends recently said it was terrible that some in Congress and the White House could even consider reducing National Endowment for the Arts funding. It’s a critical program, they feel, essential for the very survival of many community and even big-time theaters, orchestras and other arts programs. The thought of trimming the NEA shows a low regard for this important component of civilized society.

For centuries, Kings and princes funded composers, artists, symphonies, operas and artwork, especially back in the days when royalty controlled the lands and wealth – and paid their peasants a pittance (if at all). Letting them listen to or gaze on some of the artistic creations helped keep them happy in an era when illiterate serfs were happy dreaming of being rewarded in the afterlife.

The National Endowment for the Arts was launched in 1965 and has enjoyed steady funding by taxpayers. Its $150 million 2017 budget covers offices, staff salaries, and numerous grants and contracts.

The Los Angeles Times opined in March of this year that the NEA’s budget is “minuscule compared to other federal expenditures.” $150 billion “won’t even get you a Picasso at auction.” It would only buy a thousand Tesla Model S P90D electric cars. The Defense Department receives 3,600 times more money; maybe the Pentagon should economize on toilet paper, the column suggested.

All of this raises compelling issues that could generate interesting congressional or talk radio discussions.

America is the land of millionaires and billionaires – folks who can and do afford Picassos, (taxpayer-subsidized) Teslas, and box seats at symphonies and operas that average taxpayers rarely attend. If just 300 Hollywood, Silicon Valley, social media and other ultra-rich culture devotees ponied up just $500,000 apiece, they’d fully fund the entire NEA program. So would 1,500 of them giving just $100,000 each, instead of buying yet another mansion, yacht, private jet or vacation island.

While the Defense Department is a favorite target for liberal pundits, defending the homeland is one of the most critical roles of government – and one that citizens, communities and even states cannot do on their own. Like it or not, we remain embroiled in conflicts overseas, and bad actors Iran and North Korea are on the verge of getting nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Security expert Cliff May reports that Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuelan dictatorship (likely with Cuban help) is providing passports to a host of Jihadi warriors, so that they can utilize the socialist-Islamist-narco-terrorist-gun-running alliance more effectively to ply their lethal trade here in the United States. National Counterterrorism Center director Nicholas Rasmussen warns that these and other terrorists may soon employ drones to drop grenades or spread poison gases on crowds of Americans.

Gunning people down in California, Florida, Tennessee and Texas, bombing the Boston Marathon, slamming jets full of fuel and passengers into NYC and DC buildings, mowing pedestrians down with vehicles, and murdering police officers reflect pure evil. It will be worse when more ISIS butchers arrive on our shores. We should cut DoD waste, but never protections for our families, lives and freedoms.

The LA Times article was written five months before Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria visited death and rampant destruction on Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and other communities.

The question now is, how does NEA funding stack up against the urgent need to restore electricity to Puerto Rico and rebuild homes, businesses, infrastructures and lives in hundreds of badly impacted neighborhoods? Indeed, how does funding a vast host of federal programs stack up against that need?

President Obama was lucky. He presided over two-thirds of the longest Category 3-5 hurricane drought in U.S. history: eight years out of a record twelve (even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels kept rising). How he would have handled even one, to say nothing of three back-to-back monster storms, we will never know. Nor will we know how he’d have handled these budget questions, though we can guess.

Just recall how many “shovel-ready jobs” were actually created by $1 trillion in stimulus funding.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time the USA was hammered by several monster hurricanes in a very short span. 1879, 1893, 1909, 1933, 1954 and 2005 come to mind. And those are just the big ones that pounded the U.S. mainland. This year’s hurricane season isn’t over yet, so disaster preparedness remains vital.

Thankfully, this year FEMA was on the job in record time. However, rebuilding Puerto Rico alone will top $30 billion, following the worst storm to hit the island since 1928. Repairing damage from Harvey and Irma will exceed $150 billion, Moody’s Analytics estimates.

Families will have to dip into savings and do a lot of the work themselves. However, the financial burden will also be shouldered by private insurance companies, or by the federal government’s flood insurance program, and by FEMA and other disaster assistance loans and grants. Still more will be covered by hundreds of public and private companies, churches, synagogues and nonprofit charities, and direct citizen donations. JJ Watt raised $30 million via YouCaring.com, and Gleaning for the World has been typically efficient in shipping life-giving supplies to Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. Please give!

Congress has appropriated $15 billion in hurricane disaster relief, with more to come for those areas and the islands. Legislators assume and hope that funds will somehow materialize to cover this – and all the other programs that President Reagan liked to quip were the closest thing on Earth to eternal life.

Complying with myriad federal regulations costs us nearly $2 trillion a year – more than all personal and corporate taxes paid to Uncle Sam. If more of those rules are trimmed, and a long-overdue tax overhaul ultimately brings in many billions in additional tax revenues as the economy is reinvigorated, budgetary needs could be met and the private sector could weigh in with yet more help. Here’s another idea.

Federal and state laws could require that anyone from hurricane-impacted areas who expects another welfare or unemployment check must help clean up, repair and rebuild their communities. Many or most people on these “entitlement” rolls are strong and able-bodied. By serving their communities and country, they would learn new skills, find new friends, mentors and role models, and embark on paths to lifetime achievement. Indeed, the return to “workfare” and responsible citizenship should be nationwide.

As George Mason University professor Walter Williams observes, “The No. 1 problem among blacks is effects stemming from a very weak family structure.” This is “a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty” and continued by “politicians, civil rights leaders and academics who assert that every problem confronting blacks is a result of a legacy of slavery and discrimination.”

“Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison,” he states. “They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households.” Indeed, that holds true for white, Hispanic and other ethnic groups.

Williams also points out that federal spending in 2017 will top $4 trillion. At $1 trillion, Social Security will take up most of it. Defense ($598 billion), Medicare ($582 billion) and Medicaid ($404 billion) are the next-largest expenditures. Other federal social spending – on food stamps, unemployment compensation, child nutrition, child tax credits, supplemental security income and student loans – total roughly $550 billion. In fact, social spending by Congress consumes about two-thirds of the federal budget, he notes.

Congress doesn’t get this money from the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, Williams concludes. It uses “threats, intimidation and coercion to confiscate” money from one American, to give it to another American.

As the nation marshals its resources to rebuild shattered communities in this latest year of big hurricanes – and Congress and the White House begin deliberating major changes in the Tax Code – it’s a perfect time to begin debating all these issues, reexamining our priorities, and putting America back to work: for a regular paycheck … or in return for continued welfare or unemployment checks.


Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on public.

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October 2, 2017 at 11:38AM

Giant hole in ice reappears in Antarctica after 40 years

Antarctica: Return of the Weddell polynya supports Kiel climate model
After 40 years, a large ice-free area appears again in the Southern Ocean in mid-winter

Currently, winter has still a firm grip on Antarctica. At this time of the year, the Weddell Sea usually is covered with a thick layer of sea ice. In spite of the icy temperatures in the region, satellite images depict a large ice-free area in the middle of the ice cover. The area of the hole in the ice is larger than The Netherlands and it fascinates climate and polar researchers worldwide. Scientists from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel are closely monitoring the developments. “For us this ice-free area is an important new data point which we can use to validate our climate models. Its occurrence after several decades also confirms our previous calculations,” says Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler in the GEOMAR Research Division “Oceans Circulation and Climate Dynamics”.

Aerial view of the Weddell polynya in the Southern Ocean. Photo: Jan Lieser, ACE CRC, Australia

Polar researchers refer to a large ice-free area in otherwise frozen seas with the Russian word “polynya”. In the Arctic and Antarctic, polynyas occur regularly, but typically in coastal regions. They play an important role in the formation of new sea ice and deep water. In the open ocean, however, polynyas are rare. The so-called Weddell Polynya only once has been observed during the satellite era, namely in the mid-1970s. “At that time the scientific community had just launched the first satellites that provided images of the sea-ice cover from space. On-site measurements in the Southern Ocean still require enormous efforts, so they are quite limited,” says Dr. Martin.

Map of the sea ice distribution around Antarctica on Sept. 25, 2017, derived from satellite data. The red circle marks the actual Weddell Polynya. CREDIT http://ift.tt/2wtbmS5

Nevertheless, the Weddell Polynya is reasonably well understood. “The Southern Ocean is strongly stratified. A very cold but relatively fresh water layer covers a much warmer and saltier water mass, thus acting as an insulating layer,” explains Prof. Dr. Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR. Under certain conditions, the warm water of the lower layer can reach the surface and melt the ice. “This is like opening a pressure relief valve – the ocean then releases a surplus of heat to the atmosphere for several consecutive winters until the heat reservoir is exhausted,” adds Professor Latif.

Yet two major questions remain: how often does the polynya occur and does climate change influence this process? “If there are hardly any observations, computer models help to simulate the interactions between the ocean, the atmosphere and the sea ice,” explains Dr. Annika Reintges, first author of the most recent study by the Kiel group about this topic. The models apply fundamental physical laws to simulate climate. Real data such as the bathymetry and actual climate observations used as a starting point provide a framework in which the models run.


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However, data uncertainties lead to a range of results. “Therefore, we are always trying to compare the simulations with real phenomena to improve the models. Unfortunately, many data series are too short to evaluate the simulated climate variability with periods of several decades. We therefore also compare the models with each other,” says Dr. Reintges.

US-American scientists have calculated that the Weddell Polynya would probably not occur again because of climate change. Higher precipitation levels in the region and melting ice would decouple the surface from the deeper water layers. However, in several studies applying the “Kiel Climate Model” and other computer models, the research group in Kiel described the polynya as part of long-term natural variability, which would occur again sooner or later. “The fact that now a large, ice-free area can be observed in the Weddell Sea confirms our theory and gives us another data point for further model studies,” says Dr. Martin.

In general, the climate scientists at GEOMAR, like many colleagues around the world, are keen to differentiate natural climate variability from manmade changes. “Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system. The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system”, resumes Professor Latif.

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October 2, 2017 at 11:38AM

We Pay ISPs to Use Internet, NOT to be Used or “Reached”

In the battle for fake net neutrality, there are also non-political motives behind this disguised attempt to take away our freedom. These ideas were best expressed by George Takei, an actor and activist, in a 2014 interview with WaPo that touched on the subject of net neutrality (2):

“Brian Fung, WaPo: Would you be open to paying a toll — or would AARP be open to paying a toll — to Internet providers to reach your audience?

George Takei: Well, this audience was built not by them, but by our efforts, by our creativity. And once we have that audience built, they want to charge us for it? … a policy has to be created to deal with the fact that access to large numbers of people was built by us, using platform.”

Apparently, some in Hollywood regard us as property they have built and own.  They want the government to protect their “ownership rights.”  The order FCC-15-24 puts the FCC in control of the U.S. Internet, leaving the private companies that had built it with little more than the title but with just enough to blame them for everything that will go wrong.  Such “regulatory framework,” first implemented by Mussolini’s fascist regime, was applied by the Obama administration in many areas.  To repeat, nobody proposes to charge content providers to reach the audience, provided the audience is willing to be “reached.”

Takei words are not a fluke.  The BattleForTheNet has adopted not only this ideation but also his exact words.  Its website states that net neutrality regulations should prevent ISPs from “charging apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience”.

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October 2, 2017 at 09:27AM