September 28, 2013

Saturday Morning Essay: The New IPCC Report

Brought to you by Peet's French Roast...

Here's your money shot from the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

Quite elegant in its presentation.  About 800 scientists, actually trained to within an inch of their lives in relevant fields of climatology, atmospheric physics, meteorology, oceanography, and paleontology, have concluded to the 95% confidence level that the predominant cause of global warming since 1950 has been the influence of human beings.  The 95% confidence level is sort of the gold standard of statistical analysis; you can almost say, in a way, that if you don't believe this, you don't really believe anything at all except shit that you yourself make up.

Making shit up, of course, is the stock-in-trade of those legions of the Dark Force known as Right Wing Think Tanks.  All of our "controversies" in the United States are generated by Right Wing Think Tanks; we think we're engaging in some sort of two-sided "discourse" on issues, but we're not.  There is reality, and there is the world of disinformation promulgated by Right Wing Think Tanks.  It's really as simple as that.  The propaganda machines of Big Oil, the Koch Brothers, the Pete Petersen Foundation - they're all in on it.  Grinding out falsehoods 24/7 to promote a financial agenda.

You can see that somewhere around 2050, the future lines begin to diverge markedly.  The Report concludes, however, that if strong mitigation (mostly, reduction in CO2) were to begin, you know, soon - then global average temperature rise can be held below 2 deg. C in 2100.  Because of the lag time between emission of CO2 and its effect on climate, we cannot wait until 2050 to begin reducing emissions.  It takes about 30 years before the effects show up, and once the temperature rise is established, it's effectively permanent.

That's the good news within the Blue probability band.  Within the Red band, involving "business as usual," you can see that global average temperature might rise 6 deg. Centigrade by 2100.  Try to imagine that.  This is a consortium of climate scientists from about 125 countries, trying to limit themselves to the most scientifically verifiable results possible (being "conservative," in other words), and in the results of their report they are behooved to tell us that the average global temperature 87 years from now (the length of one long life) will be about 10 degrees F. warmer if we keep living the way we're living now.  Just for starters, this means that the entire ice sheet atop Greenland will melt, resulting in a 7 meter rise in sea level.  That's significant.  For example, I live near San Francisco Bay, but I'm not currently living in San Francisco Bay. 

Blue Pill or Red Pill?  The summary at, available right here on the Pond's blogsite, is very clear and informative.  The blogmeisters at Realcimate, guys like Michael Mann and Raymond Bradley, who were pilloried by mouth-breathing petroleum whores like Joe Barton of Texas, have been thoroughly vindicated in their warnings many years ago.  I ask you whether the Red Band does not in fact show alarming signs of forming a parabolic curve?

As The Most Interesting Man in the World might be paraphrased:  Stay Blue, my friends.

September 27, 2013

This Shit Writes Itself

An old college buddy was in town over the weekend recently and so, as is our custom, we tooled across the San Rafael Bridge to the woebegone flatlands of the East Bay to visit the alma mater. We just walked around.  The Berkeley we attended in the late Sixties isn't there anymore, because nothing is where you left it.  That's the first lesson of four-dimensional Reality; the other spatial dimensions may keep their original shape, Sproul Plaza may look just as it did when Mario Savio warned everyone about the odious machine, but Time and History have moved on, and the present which inhabits Berkeley now is not the present we experienced.  Nostalgia isn't what it used to be, but then it never was.  Going to the site of a bygone era never produces much in the way of immediacy; what is it that people expect to happen?

At a clothing store on Bancroft, across from the Telegraph Avenue entrance to the campus, I saw a stack of red tee-shirts with Will Shakespeare's likeness silkscreened on the front above the words in script, "This shit writes itself."  Years ago I read a Peter DeVries comic novel set in academia, as many of his books were, where that was the central conceit of the protagonist.  William Shakespeare was overrated and concealed banality behind belletristic, highly embellished phrasing which anyone could imitate.  His shit wrote itself.  I found the novel irritating and pretentious; there was nothing banal about Shakespeare, and the Elizabethan language he employed soared on wings of matchless beauty.  The faux-Shakespeare which DeVries attempted in an effort to prove his point only showed that the author's shit wrote itself but did not approach the Bard of Avon's work.

Cowell Hospital, where I worked to put myself through school, is gone now, replaced by the Haas School of Business.  I would describe the architectural style of the school as Chateau-Nouveau.  Big Business is definitely where the money is now, if ever it were anywhere else in American history.  Across Panoramic from the Haas is the newly-refurbished Memorial Stadium, with its inevitable "world class" training facility, built as a shrine to a departed, and highly overpaid, football coach. The clean, modern concourses at Memorial, the graceful apron of white concrete covering the old dirt approaches from the campus, put the stadium in the big time.  UC alums can hold their heads up high whenever they entertain friends from Norman, Oklahoma or Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The football team is still mediocre, of course, but they now lose in a beautiful venue.

We drove back to the West Bay over the new Bay Bridge.  This is another structure of surpassing beauty, the old clunky "cantilever" section that once connected Yerba Buena Island to Oakland replaced by a graceful span suspended over the bay by a single spire, from which hang the suspension cables to either side of the roadway.  The effect is like driving under a pair of immense harps leaning against each other.  I was actually blown away by the ingenuity of the design and its gorgeous realization.

I've been in the Bay Area a long time.  New things keep replacing the old things of my youth here, of course.  So many things are different, yet in some basic way that's difficult to express, it all still looks much the same.  Most of the people I knew growing up here are now gone, one way or the other.  The old college buddy now lives on the South Coast of England, as a single example.  My favorite cousin, the writer who lived in Santa Cruz, left this life altogether four years ago, or at least that corporeal form which existed before his constituent parts were scattered in his beloved Northern California.

I suppose that will be my fate too, some day.  It sounds right.  For now, the Swimmer abides.