The much-hyped "Polar Vortex" that plunged much of North America into dangerously low temperatures is giving the climate change denialist crowd an opportunity to gloat—and, typically, display their ignorance. Bloomberg on Jan. 7 presented a sneering Tweet from Donald Trump dismissing global warming as "bullshit" because the "planet is freezing." But the Bloomberg account, as well as a video on the Greenpeace Blog, quotes Rutgers University climate researcher Jennifer Francis explaining how the Vortex was likely unleashed by—yup, global warming! It seems that the Jet Stream, which normally serves as a boundary separating cold air to the north from warm air to the south, is being destabilized; receding arctic sea ice lessens the temperature difference either side of the Stream, thereby slowing its velocity and causing large loops and meanders to form, and even for it to get "stuck." When this happens, North America and Europe are going either into extreme heat or extreme cold, depending on where the jet gets jammed. Recent record-breaking highs in Chicago and Fairbanks, as well as shriveling heat waves across the Great Plains, may have been caused by the same phenomenon now sending the mercury plunging in the Midwest and Northeast.
On Nov. 13, members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota brought representatives TransCanada to the reservation to make the case for the Keystone XL Pipeline—where they met an angry response from many in attendance. Debra White Plume of the Owe Aku International Justice Project told them: "Run home and tell your corporate headquarters in Canada that the Lakota are going to make a stand. Tell them, you're going to have to run over them or throw them in jail. That's the message you have to take home… So I think you need to leave our land! We're ready to go to jail to get you out of here NOW, so you can leave on your own or be escorted out now…" A YouTube clip of the meeting shows speaker after speaker echo this sentiment—followed by the TransCanada reps heading for the door, visibly shaken. (Causes.com, Nov. 16)
From the San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 8:
Man who sought safe streets killed in S.F. crash
A wheelchair-using San Francisco man who fought for safe streets for the disabled is being mourned this week by friends and family after he was fatally struck by a car in one of the city's most dangerous intersections.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on Oct. 17 used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up a protest roadblock by members of the Elsipogtog Mi'kmaq First Nation outisde Rexton, in New Brunswick. An injunction was issued two weeks ago against a blockade in front of a SWN Resources compound, where the oil exploration company is carrying out seismic testing as a precursor to fracking. Elsipogtog Chief Aaren Sock, council members and elders who had been conducting a ceremony at the blockade were among at least 40 arrested by heavily armed police in full riot gear. Some protesters responded by setting police vehicles on fire. Supporters from across Canada are said to be mobilizing a convergence on the area to support the Elsipogtog. (ICTMN, Canada.com, Oct. 17)
A 225-foot "megaload" of oil field equipment being hauled along US Highway 12 through northern Idaho and Montana, bound for a tar-sands site in Canada, was repeatedly blocked by protesters this month. As it passed through the Nez Perce Indian Reservation Aug. 6, some 100 tribal members and their supporters blockaded the road, some throwing rocks as state police moved in. Authorities said 20 protesters were arrested, charged with misdemeanors for "disturbing the peace." Several Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members were among those removed by police. The load was able to proceed after two hours, but was blocked again Aug. 13 by environmentalist protesters outside Missoula, Mont. (AP, Aug. 13, AP, Aug. 8, AP, Aug. 7; AP, Buffalo Post, Missoulia, Aug. 6)
Well, natural gas has stopped flowing from a stricken rig off the Louisiana coast, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement informs us. The rig is owned by Hercules Offshore and operating for the Walter Oil and Gas Corp, about 42 miles southwest of Grand Isle. Hercules admits Mother Nature came to the rescue, saying the well became plugged with sand and sediment, basically snuffing itself out The leak started on the morning of July 23, and the fire burned for some 14 hours. It still isn't quite out yet, by most recent reports. (CNN, AP, Times-Picayune, July 25; ENS, AP, Hercules Offshore press release, July 24)
The Pentagon announced plans March 15 to add 14 missile interceptors to its anti-missile system in response to recent nuclear posturing of North Korea. The new interceptors would augment 26 already deployed at Ft. Greely, Alaska, with four others deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the system is plagued with technical failures. The last successful hit against a target was in December 2008; test launches have failed to hit their targets since then. The Pentagon is said to have discovered a flaw in the guidance system of the newest Raytheon-made model. (LAT, March 16; Bloomberg, March 15) The ABM Treaty, which barred anti-ballistic missile systems during the Cold War, was pronounced effectively dead in the Bush years
Remember the incessant squawking a few years back, when oil prices were spiralling, about how we were approaching "peak oil"? Been mighty quiet from that set recently, hasn't it? Vince Beiser explains why in a piece called "The Deluge" in the Pacifc Standard, March 4:
The widely circulated fears of a few years ago that we were approaching "peak oil" have turned out to be completely wrong. From the Arctic to Africa, nanoengineered materials, underwater robots, side-scanning 3-D sonar, specially engineered lubricants, and myriad other advances are opening up titanic new supplies of fossil fuels, many of them in unexpected places—Brazil, Australia, and, perhaps most significantly, North America. "Contrary to what most people believe," declares a recent study from the Harvard Kennedy School, "oil supply capacity is growing worldwide at such an unprecedented level that it might outpace consumption."