Archive for April 13, 2008

Oh, Snap! Absence of Clouds, Not CO2, Responsible for Past Global Warming

ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2008) — In a world without human-produced pollution, biological productivity controls cloud formation and may be the lever that caused supergreenhouse episodes during the Cetaceous and Eocene, according to Penn State paleoclimatologists.

“Our motivation was the inability of climate models to reproduce the climate of the supergreenhouse episodes of the Cetaceous and Eocene adequately,” said Lee R. Kump, professor of geosciences at Penn State. “People have tried increasing carbon dioxide in the models to explain the warming, but there are limits to the amounts that can be added because the existing proxies for carbon dioxide do not show such large amounts.”

In general, the proxies indicate that the Cretaceious and Eocene atmosphere never exceeded four times the current carbon dioxide level, which is not enough for the models to create supergreenhouse conditions. Some researchers have tried increasing the amount of methane, another greenhouse gas, but there are no proxies for methane. Another approach is to assume that ocean currents changed, but while researchers can insert new current information into the models, they cannot get the models to create these ocean current scenarios.

Kump and David Pollard, senior research associate, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, looked for another way to create a world where mean annual temperatures in the tropics were above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and polar temperatures were in the 50-degree Fahrenheit range. Changing the Earth’s albedo — the amount of sunlight reflected into space — by changing cloud cover will produce supergreenhouse events, the researchers report April 11 in the journal Science.

Read the rest here:

That may put quite a crimp in Al Gore’s traveling carbon indulgence circus (you got the money, honey, Al’s got bloviation to spare). Who’da thunk that absence of shading from clouds may have driven up temperatures?

Guess planting orange groves in Canada is probably not feasible at this time.

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Grocery Bills Spark Deadly Riots, Trigger Inflation

CARACAS — Jenny Díaz pays a mark up for scarce eggs, sugar and cooking oil because she sometimes has to buy them from the back of a truck. Dayra Barreto gave up eating pricey asparagus, palm hearts, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. And Andrea González substitutes baloney for ham.

This snapshot of shoppers at a middle class grocery store in Caracas illustrates how rising food prices are hurting not just the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where some people spend more than half their income on food.

Many countries rely so heavily on imports — from rice to cooking oil to beans — that they are especially slammed when costs rise worldwide. A 34-cent increase for a pound of rice — like the spike being felt in Haiti — packs a punch.

The rising frustrations over increasing food costs fueled in part by escalating gasoline prices and globalization have led to street demonstrations in at least a half-dozen countries, including Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

In Haiti, protests erupted in various regions of the country, with the most dramatic and violent occurring in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

With five people dead and more than 60 injured — including three United Nations peacekeepers who were shot — as well as scores of businesses looted there, international agencies are looking closer than ever at the root cause of the region’s latest crisis.

Grocery bills have risen at least 30 percent in the past year in Caracas. A liter of cooking oil that sold for $1.40 a year ago in Nicaragua now costs $2.10. In the first three months of the year, grocery prices in Colombia jumped 6.39 percent, compared to 2.73 percent in the same period last year, causing the government to propose permanently extending price freezes that are usually offered only during Christmas and Lent.

Escalating food costs have fueled double-digit inflation in Argentina and Bolivia, pushing leftist governments there to implement price controls and export bans to try to keep costs down. In Nicaragua, only intervention by President Daniel Ortega kept down the price of beans, which had skyrocketed from 32 cents a pound to $1.10.

”I worry about this issue not only for Haiti but for many countries,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, the head of the Inter-American Development Bank. “On the one hand, they are importers of food as they are importers of oil, and of course that is having a tremendous impact on inflation. In fact, inflation perhaps is the biggest challenge in the hemisphere for countries today.”

Venezuela’s inflation rate last year was 22.5 percent, and it’s expected to reach 30 percent this year. In Nicaragua, it was 17 percent last year, up from 9.4 percent in 2006.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report Friday that soaring prices are likely to continue, despite an increase in crop production. Corn costs at least a third more than last year and wheat and rice have doubled in the past year, the report said.

”We think there is a need for immediate emergency action,” the agency’s director, Jacques Diouf, said in a recording posted on the agency’s website. “To be frank, I think we have already lost a lot of time.”

Prices are so high, experts say, because the success of globalization is also its Achilles’ heel.

The rising price of commodities, ranging from oil and steel to corn and wheat, are in many ways a reflection of the growth in the global economy.

China’s rise has meant it is now taking a greater bite of the world’s soybean and grain exports. As the standard of living rises in China, more Chinese can afford to purchase meat. That means grains are needed to feed chickens, hogs, cattle and other livestock.

The price of food is increasingly tied to the cost of oil. In Africa and Latin America, most food moves on trucks, and the cost to deliver products has soared as a barrel of oil topped $112 last week on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Rising commodities prices cascade through the food and production chain: Seed is up 36 percent and fertilizer 59 percent. The price of wheat? 72 percent higher.

”High food prices are here to stay,” said Haiti’s Finance Minister Daniel Dorsainvil.

The recent crisis in Haiti has forced the international community to search for short- and long-term solutions, with several countries and international agencies pledging help.

Some 400 tons of rice, worth more than $1.5 million, is available for delivery as emergency food aid to Haiti, especially for those in greatest need, the Pan American Development Foundation announced Friday.

And the United States plans to redirect more than $5.5 million to generate short-term projects. ”The idea is to get that money into people’s pockets so they can buy food on the local markets,” said U.S. Embassy Spokesman Jim Ellickson-Brown.

While experts agree that the situation in Haiti has not reached famine status, they stress high costs have put basic goods out of reach for the majority of Haitians who live on less than $2 a day.

Poor people are buying rice without beans or one container of milk instead of two.

”`People come when they need something,” said Jeanne Germain, 46, a food vendor at a Haitian market. “Business isn’t good.”

Source: Miami Herald

Pardon my cynicism, but a news report just last week said that food was rotting on ships in Haitian harbors due to changes in ship inspection methods. Using Venezuela as an example is, well, counterproductive. Hugo Chavez is attempting to force farmers to sell food at below their cost of production and is threatening to “nationalize” farms. I think we know how that is going to turn out (see Zimbabwe to see how that turned out).

Africa has an incredible amount of problems, many of them having to do with government corruption.

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Thousands of Texas Muslims Heading to San Antonio for Religious Event

Nadir Meharali knows he has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of a rare religious event.

Today, the Dallas man is heading to San Antonio to join as many as 10,000 other North Texas Shia Ismaili Muslims who are taking part in the Golden Jubilee, a time to celebrate the 50th year of leadership by their spiritual guide, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.

“I think practically everyone from here is going,” Meharali said.

As many as 35,000 Shia Ismaili Muslims from across the state may be there to honor Aga Khan, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, who succeeded his grandfather in 1957 at age 20. He is the 49th hereditary leader of the Shia Ismailis.

Once he reached his 50th year of leadership, Aga Khan, who lives in France, began traveling to different countries for the yearlong celebration, which began July 11, 2007.

Aga Khan tries to meet with state leaders during his stops and talk about initiatives not only to increase access to healthcare and education but also about ways to reduce poverty and find peace.

This month, he plans to visit four states — Texas, California, Illinois and Georgia.

He is scheduled to arrive in Austin today.

On Saturday, Gov. Rick Perry will meet with Aga Khan and hold a special ceremony at the state Capitol to sign a memorandum of understanding between the University of Texas and Aga Khan University, pledging to work together to showcase educational environments, according to information released about the Golden Jubilee.

Saturday night, Perry and his wife, Anita, will host a private gala dinner at an exotic game preserve in Austin to celebrate Aga Khan’s 50 years of service, according to the governor’s office.

By Sunday, Aga Khan will meet with those in the Shia Ismaili Muslim community who gathered at the convention center and Alamodome in San Antonio, during the private celebration that will include speeches, dances, poetry and celebration.

“This is a first in our lifetimes,” Meharali said. “There are a lot of festivities … and a tremendous amount of cooking.”

Prince Karim Aga Kahn IV

Who he is

Aga Khan became the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957, at 20. He succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III.

The 49th hereditary imam, or leader, he is a descendant of the prophet Muhammad and his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Ali, who was the first spiritual leader of the Muslim community.

Born in Geneva in 1936, he grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, and graduated from Harvard in 1959 with an honors degree in Islamic history.

The community he leads

The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, known as the Ismailis, are part of the Shiite branch of Islam.

They believe that after the prophet’s death, Hazrat Ali became the spiritual leader, known as an imam. That leadership continues through his descendants.

There are about 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in about 25 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, as well as central and South Asia, East Africa and the Middle East.

Source: Golden Jubilee committee

Source: Star-Telegram.com

Hat tip: Jeff

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31st Anniversary

Yesterday my brother flew in from Kansas City (where it was snowing), my ex-daughter-in-law got married to the father of two of her three children (the third is my beloved lil’ granddaughter) and I unfortunately had to miss the wedding because the plane’s scheduled arrival changed between the time I left for the airport and arrived at the airport, and today is our 31st wedding anniversary which we spent up at my mom’s house in Georgia where my brother is staying.

My brother leaves early Thursday morning, and SwampMan’s brother and sister in law will be coming in some time during the week for our niece’s wedding.

In the meantime, we both have to work full time, I want to visit my brother in the evening before he leaves as it has been 12 years since the last time I saw him (and had a hard time recognizing him at the airport) and our house is a total wreck because I had started some remodeling projects prior to coming down with the flu which I probably won’t have time to get cleaned up before guests arrive. I *may* have about 5 hours of free time between taking one guest to the airport and the next set of guests arriving.

Hope they enjoy total disarray, piles of ironing and clothes that need folding that I haven’t had a chance to get to, dust, and a house that really needs condemning by the department of health.

And my doctor was wondering why I have elevated cortisol levels.

Blogging will be very light next week except when I need to take a break from reality.

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