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Showing posts from June, 2021

First the Hot, Then the Wet

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  Upper Fraser in Flood The record heat that struck much of British Columbia turns out to have a one-two punch . The heat that buckled roads and sidewalks and sent seniors in their dozens to the morgue also worked its evil on the province's glaciers and mountain snow pack. The Upper Fraser River and Chilcotin River are both expected to, or have already, exceeded their banks. Temperatures in both regions, while forecast to cool on Thursday, are still well above normal. McBride, B.C., located on the Fraser River in the Robson Valley, is forecast to reach 38 C on Wednesday and 31 C Thursday and Friday. The seasonal average is 21 C. On Wednesday, emergency officials said the Fraser River is rising rapidly in the Robson Valley, as high heat melts glaciers and snow capped mountains between Prince George and Jasper, Alta. Farmers are being told to get their livestock to higher ground. Some residents of the Robson Valley are sandbagging.

Order Breaks Down. America's New Civil War.

  There have been a few dark op-eds recently suggesting that America is in the throes of a slow-motion civil war. It is said to be a secession by Red States from the federal order. It sounds like some sort of constitutional breakdown. Washington Post columnist, Paul Waldman, writes the GOP is mounting a " dangerous new rebellion against federal authority." Imagine you’re a member of the National Guard, and your commanding officer informs you that you’re being activated for duty. New orders from Washington? A natural disaster? Nope. It seems a billionaire from another state gave your governor a bunch of money so she could send you and a few dozen of your colleagues to Texas to do border enforcement, something you’re not trained for. While the details are still coming into focus, that’s essentially what is happening in South Dakota: Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who has her eye on the White House in 2024, is taking money from the foundation of Tennessee auto auction magnate Wil

Northern Ireland's Swan Song

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  Boris Johnson freely admitted that he would be willing to lose Northern Ireland if it meant getting Britain out of the European Union, i.e. Brexit. Irish journalist, Susan McKay, writes that the North's days are numbered. Northern Ireland, created in 1921 when Britain carved six counties out of Ireland’s northeast, is not enjoying its centenary. Its most ardent upholders, the unionists who believe that the place they call “our wee country” is and must forever remain an intrinsic part of the United Kingdom, are in utter disarray. Their largest party has ousted two leaders within a matter of weeks, while an angry minority has taken to the streets waving flags and threatening violence. And the British government, in resolving Brexit, placed a new border in the Irish Sea . It’s harsh reward for what Northern Ireland’s first prime minister, James Craig , called “the most loyal part of Great Britain.” But the Protestant statelet is not what it was. Well on its way to having a Catholi

Wet Bulb 35. South Asia's New Reality.

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I was discussing the heat yesterday with one of my doctors. He was born to an affluent family in Pakistan. While we were talking about the heatwave he mentioned that, in his parents' vicinity, there were two places that had reached "wet bulb 35" or 35 C. TW. Wet bulb 35 is a death sentence. It occurs when temperatures reach or exceed 35 degrees Celsius and humidity approaches saturation.  This combination of high heat and high humidity defeats the human body's natural cooling system. The body loses its essential ability to shed heat through perspiration and evaporation.  Wet bulb 35 will kill even a fit young man at rest in the shade within an hour or two. The person cooks from the inside. Organs fail. Death ensues. If you're not young and you're not fit and you're not at rest and you're not in the shade, well it really sucks to be you.  If you're poor it's that much worse. Our leaders have to choose. They can either make the climate emergency

Our "New Normal" - The Guardian's Ode to Lytton

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After the last three days I've about had it with the Petro-Pimps of Parliament Hill starting with our prime-ministerial pipeline pusher, Justin Trudeau. It's hard to put what we went through into perspective. Fortunately The Guardian has taken care of that: On Sunday, the small mountain town of Lytton, British Columbia, became one of the hottest places in the world. Then, on Monday, Lytton got even hotter – 47.9C (118F) – hotter than it’s ever been in Las Vegas, 1,300 miles to the south. And by Tuesday, 49.6C (121F) . Lytton is at 50 deg N latitude – about the same as London. This part of the world should never get this hot. Seattle’s new all-time record of 108F, also set Monday, is hotter than it’s ever been in Miami. In Portland, the new record of 116F would beat the warmest day ever recorded in Houston by nearly 10 degrees. This heat wave was a perfect storm long in the making. After centuries of fossil fuel burning and decades of warnings from scientists, it’s time to say

Three Consecutive Days. Three All-Time Canadian Heat Records

Lytton, B.C., a town on the Fraser Canyon, went into the record books on Sunday when it hit 46.6 degrees Celsius. Lytton went into the record books again on Monday by peaking at 47.9 C. Lytton went into the record books for the third time in three days today with 49.6 C. Three for three . Before this week, the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was 45 C in Saskatchewan in 1937. This week's heat wave has blown that previous record away. On Tuesday alone, seven locations in B.C. met or exceeded the 45 C mark, including Lytton, Cache Creek (47.4 C), Grand Forks (45 C), Kamloops (47.3 C), Kelowna (45.2 C), Lillooet (46.7 C) and Osoyoos (45 C). Fortunately, we have a federal government that has proclaimed a climate state of emergency exists in Canada. Unfortunately it's the Trudeau government. “The danger rating in the Kamloops fire centre is high to extreme which is because of this hot and dry weather so obviously that means we're at a high or extreme risk of fire whic

Who Appointed This Guy?

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  A Canadian senator says Canada should stop criticizing China for its persecution of its Uyghur minority. Independent Senators Group (ISG) Leader Sen. Yuen Pau Woo said Canada should avoid criticizing China for its human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims because our country has mistreated Indigenous peoples. Echoing an argument made by Chinese officials at the UN last week, Woo said China's policy toward the Muslim minority in Xinjiang province is similar to the colonialism directed at Indigenous peoples in this country, and that condemning the Asian country in harsh terms would be hypocritical and "simply an exercise in labelling." Woo, who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, urged senators to reject a Conservative-led motion in the upper house that would denounce China's genocide against the Turkic minorities, because this sort of "cynical" statement would further damage already strained Canada-China relations. Woo says the Chinese

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Coming on the heels of consecutive days of record-busting heat, the Liberal government's latest climate report is nothing short of pathetic. "There is abundant research indicating that current efforts to adapt are insufficient in the face of rapidly accumulating social and economic losses from current and future climate change impacts." "Research also demonstrates that the window for taking action to reduce increasingly severe impacts is rapidly closing." "Much of Canada's core public infrastructure is operating beyond its expected lifecycle and needs replacement or retrofitting." "With the rapid retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and increased physical access to the region and its resources, the Arctic is now on the world stage." Oh, good sir, do pray tell. $1.9 billion annually in natural disasters. Check. Sea ice disappearing - who knew?   1. Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influenc

Lytton, B.C. Melts. Satan Might Not Live There But Some Days It's Hard to Tell.

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  Two all-time records set on consecutive days. Take the sea-to-sky highway to Whistler then on to Pemberton, the sometimes challenging Duffey Lake road, Lillooet and then Hwy 12 south to Lytton, where the route becomes Hwy 1 through Hell's Gate and on to Hope before heading back to Vancouver. On Sunday, Lytton shattered the old Canadian record with 46.6 degrees Celsius. Today it hit 47.5 C. Even here on the island it's bloody hot.  Not Lytton hot but, for a chunk of rock out in the north Pacific, it's still abnormally hot. It's a reminder that, when it comes to global heating, the climate emergency, no place is out of reach. We've been listening to our governments promising action on fighting climate change for almost 30 years and, whether Liberal, Conservative or New Democrat, it's been a diet heavy on greenwash.  Consider these excerpts from Barry Saxifrage's article in the National Observer last April. Despite decades of Earth Days, international climat

A Question Needing Answers

The New York Times' Ezra Klein asks a question on the minds of many - can Western democracy rise to meet the challenge of the climate emergency? Klein has convened a panel of environmental thinkers. Their identities probably won't mean much to those reading these posts and the article is a bit on the long side so I'll just select quotes without attribution.  It can seem an impolite question, even as it’s the path we’re on. President Biden’s climate agenda is both ambitious and, on its own, insufficient. Its political prospects are mixed at best. The international picture is little better. Only a few countries are on track to meet the goals laid out in the Paris agreement, and none of the major emitters are among them. ...With the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration was comfortable using deficit spending because it was an acute crisis. That is not the case for the infrastructure package. They don’t actually consider climate to be that type of crisis. And there is

Yeah, They're There. No, We Don't Know What They Are.

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  That sums up the blockbuster report on "unidentified aerial phenomenon" that have been seen, tracked and recorded zipping through US airspace. The US government has said it has no explanation for dozens of unidentified flying objects seen by military pilots. A Pentagon report released on Friday says of 144 reports made about the phenomena since 2004, all but one remain unexplained. It does not rule out the possibility that the objects are extra-terrestrial. Congress demanded the report after the US military reported numerous instance of objects seen moving erratically in the sky. The Pentagon then established the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force last August to look into the reports. Here's your problem. If you acknowledge these phenomena are zipping through your sensitive military airspace but you don't know what they are and you have shown that you can't keep up with them much less control them, then you don't have secure control of your airspace an

"Failed" - It Sounds Better than "Defeated"

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Former Afghan warlord turned president turned pundit in exile, Hamid Karzai, complains that the US and her allies "failed" Afghanistan and are leaving the country "in total disgrace."  At least he didn't say that the ISAF forces were "defeated." Failure can be spread around. Defeat is something the military wears - Algeria, Viet Nam, that sort of thing. We were defeated. As in Viet Nam, we won all the battles but lost the war. The West went into Afghanistan with clear objectives - to send the Taliban packing for good, to destroy al Qaeda, and to restore civil society to the country, democracy, civil and human rights - that sort of thing.  The Taliban rallied, just enough to deny us our objectives. In other words, we lost. We were defeated. 20 years. The last American  army boot is supposed to leave Afghan soil on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that sparked this madness. 20 years is a pretty long campaign, certainly by modern standards. Despi

Tipping Points - Closer Than We Imagine?

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You don't hear much talk anymore about positive feedback loops, tipping points or runaway global warming. Those things don't fit into the current narrative of our governments, especially the major emitters such as petrostate Canada. 15 years ago the pitch was that we had to hold anthropogenic global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. If we didn't we risked awakening the sleeping giant, nature. Once certain thresholds were crossed, "tipping points" we called them, then nature would start generating its own greenhouse gas emissions that might eclipse the man-made stuff. The term ‘‘tipping point’’ commonly refers to a critical threshold at which a tiny perturbation can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system (T. Lenton). This generally includes an abrupt irreversible climate system switch and an acceleration of change beyond the driving forcing ( NAP 2011 ).  Tipping points have disappeared from our government's narrative. Why? Because they're suc

Government in Action or Government Inaction

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A 12-story condo in Miami suffered a partial collapse. Four residents died.  51 others remain unaccounted for. Some estimates have the missing at 159. Who knew? Who could have known?  A Florida high-rise that collapsed early Thursday was determined to be unstable a year ago, according to a researcher at Florida International University. The building, which was constructed in 1981, has been sinking at an alarming rate since the 1990s, according to a study in 2020 by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment. According to Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer, “This was not an act of God. This was not a natural disaster. Buildings don't just fall.” The county requires commercial and multifamily buildings to be recertified every 40 years. The process involves electrical and structural inspections for a report to be filed with the town. It was underway for the condominium building but had not been completed, town officials said Thursday. It seems

It's Hot Even Where It's Supposed To Be Not

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For most of my considerable life heatwaves were not associated with the far north. Over the past few years that has changed even to the point of wildfires spreading high inside the Arctic Circle. The Siberian town of Verkhoyansk just set a record 118 degrees Fahrenheit . That's 47.8 degrees Celsius . For comparison, Las Vegas is expecting a 43 C heatwave this weekend. 43 in the desert. Just shy of 48 in Siberia.  The knock-on effects of these Arctic heatwaves could be devastating. Even Vancouver Island is in for a heatwave this weekend with temperatures in some areas forecast to hit the mid-30s.   We're also bracing for the arrival of the first wave of wildfire smoke. A recent cool and wet period spared us so far but that rarely lasts into July. The American southwest hasn't been so lucky . This image of Lake Oroville, showing receding water levels surrounded by charred forests, is a metaphor for California's plight.   It was only four years ago that California braced

Of Course It's Dysfunctional, Junior. You Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way.

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  Yeah, Sure. Building the case for an early election, prime minister Trudeau today complained that parliament is afflicted by "toxicity" and "obstruction." Hard to tell what he's complaining about. Toxicity and obstruction are inherent in a first-past-the-post electoral system where something over 30 per cent can land you a minority and you can come in well shy of 40 per cent with a robust majority. If you want parliamentary toxicity, rule a country without the consent of three out of five voters. That's the system this prime minister vowed to end - right up until it gave him a "false majority." Once that lobster was in the pot, electoral reform lost its allure to Mr. Trudeau, solemn promises be damned. Dysfunction returned to parliament for there is no more apt description for a patently undemocratic, false majority government.

Can Joe Biden Finally Bury Milt Friedman?

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  American economist, Milt Friedman, captured the somewhat limited imaginations of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and our own Brian Mulroney and they, in turn, ushered in the era of free market globalism - the neoliberal order . Friedman was convinced that free markets were the solution to just about everything. Think tank scholar and author, Zach Carter, explores the mind of the man who caused so much folly, beginning with Friedman's writings on his 1976 speaking tour of South Africa. Carter writes that a contemporary reading of Friedman's Cape Town lectures is a harrowing experience: His first speech was an unremitting diatribe against political democracy—an explicit rejection of, in Friedman’s words, “one person, one vote,” delivered to a nation in which more than half of the population was disenfranchised by race. Voting, Friedman declared, was inescapably corrupt, a distorted “market” in which “special interests” inevitably dictated the course of public life. Most voters

The Picture of Madness

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The New Normal The American southwest has a problem that most residents prefer to avoid. The region is getting pistol-whipped by climate change, a deadly combination of severe heatwaves and megadrought.  Las Vegas may be the area's poster boy . Las Vegas’s population is booming and the city is sprawling into the surrounding desert. The extra concrete adds to the sizzle. On hot days, the highways and roads are littered with broken-down automobiles – commuter cars, ambulances, delivery trucks and buses that overheat as they made their way to and from the city-center . “Nevada’s climate is changing,” the Nevada government’s Climate Initiative website reports. “In fact, Nevadans say, they are already noticing and impacted by these changes . Climate change has come home.” The changes are particularly pronounced in Sin City and its surrounding areas, which is warming faster than almost anywhere else in the US. Heatwaves are not only getting hotter, they are also becoming more frequen

Bercow Defects to Labour

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  As former Speaker of the British House of Commons, John Bercow became a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. First elected to represent the riding of Buckingham in 1997, Bercow went on to preside as Speaker from 2009 to 2019 which included the tumultuous Brexit years. Now this lifelong Tory has defected to the Labour Party. In an explosive interview with the Observer, Bercow says he regards today’s Conservative party as “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic”. Bercow, who stepped down as Speaker in 2019 after 10 years, says he joined the Labour party a few weeks ago because he now shares its values and sees it is as the only means to removing the current Tory government from office. “I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand,” he said. “The conclusion I have reached is that this government needs to be replaced. The reality is that the Labour party is the only vehicle that can achieve that ob

Something Amazing and Frightening Could Be Unfolding Before Our Eyes

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  Over the past two decades the American southwest has been hit by droughts. That hasn't stopped the region from growing with the arrival of newcomers, especially retirees from the northern states. The droughts - well, they come and they go. Until now. Researchers know that this region, the southwest and the prairie, have a history of megadroughts of a duration between 60 and 80 years at a stretch. And scientists are now warning that the region may be in the opening stages of megadrought right now. John Wesley Powell, the one-armed US army civil war veteran who led the first white expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – a daring boat run in 1869 – later became an ethnographer who wrote a prescient 1878 government paper titled: Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States. In it, he unflinchingly described the scarcity of water, and summarized that much of the American south-west, if it must be settled, should be settled lightly and modestly. O

When Your Entire Planet is a "Heat Island."

In an amazingly brief period of time, the Earth is retaining more of the man-generated heat , double the amount in 2005. The amount of heat Earth traps has roughly doubled since 2005, contributing to more rapidly warming oceans, air and land, according to new research from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented,” said Norman Loeb, a NASA scientist and lead author of the study, which was published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “The Earth is warming faster than expected.” Is Anyone Listening? When there is a positive imbalance — Earth absorbing more heat than it is losing — it is a first step toward global warming, said Stuart Evans, a climate scientist at the University at Buffalo. “It’s a sign the Earth is gaining energy.” Did you get that? The Earth is "gaining energy." How many wake-up calls do we need?   The United Nations now warns of another pandemic-size disaster - global d

Around the World, People are Losing Trust in The System

  The latest Edelman Trust Report finds that people are losing trust in both society's institutions and capitalism itself.  The culprit? Intractable inequality. Despite strong economic performance, a majority of respondents in every developed market do not believe they will be better off in five years' time. This means that economic growth no longer appears to drive trust, at least in developed markets - upending the conventional wisdom. "We are living in a trust paradox," said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. "Since we began measuring trust 20 years ago, economic growth has fostered rising trust. This continues in Asia and the Middle East but not in developed markets, where national income inequality is now the more important factor. The survey was conducted in 28 markets and involved more than 34,000 respondents. Fifty-six per cent of the surveyed global population said capitalism in its current form does more harm than good in the world. Most employees (83 pe

Is This the Night of Reckoning for Annamie Paul?

  The federal council of the Green Party of Canada will convene tonight to consider whether to show leader, Annamie Paul, the door. According to party members with knowledge of the issue, the party's federal council will hold a vote on whether to trigger a complex 30-day process under the party's constitution. If the council votes tonight to launch that process, it will meet again on July 15. If 75 per cent of council members agree at that meeting to let a leadership vote go forward, party members could then vote to remove Paul from office through a motion at an annual general meeting.

Could Cyber-War Trigger Nuclear War? Are the "Bad Old Days" Back to Stay?

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Many of the war-studies types fear that a nuclear exchange could be triggered inadvertently. Nobody would plot to launch a nuclear exchange. Nobody would want it. The risk is that the parties might back themselves into it. An article in Deutsche Welle warns that  a cyber-war is underway and will probably never end. Think of it as major-power permawar. It's a war that pits states against states and criminals against corporations, often blurring the lines between who is who. And increasingly, civilians are getting caught up in it, either as direct targets or as the collateral damage of the digital age. "You have a mix of state level and nonstate actors constantly probing and attacking networks around the world," said Martijn Rasser, a former CIA emerging technology analyst now at the prominent defense think tank, the Center for a New American Security. He was speaking in the recent DW documentary Future Wars — and How to Prevent Them. "That's just the reality of 2