A Sensible Climate Change Solution- Borrowed From Sweden (nuclear power) – By Richard Rhodes – The New York Times

By Richard Rhodes
Feb. 5, 2019

How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow
By Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist

Some years ago, while studying how societies transitioned from one energy source to another over the past 200 years, the Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti and his colleagues discovered a hard truth: It takes almost a century for a new source of primary energy — coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power — to command half the world market. Just to grow to 10 percent from 1 percent takes almost 50 years.

You would expect suppliers to switch quickly to a better (more abundant, cheaper, cleaner) source. But infrastructure has to catch up: In America, natural gas needed long-distance pipelines to go national; electric cars need still-scarce charging stations. People have to adapt: Elizabethan preachers condemned coal as literally the Devil’s excrement; some Victorian homeowners comfortable with gaslight thought Edison’s light bulbs too bright. Competition from heavily invested older sources has to be overcome, as with fossil fuels today. These and other changes take time.

Today, with global temperatures rising, time is running short. That’s the starting point of Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist’s smart new study of how we can move away from fossil fuels. A double burden compounds the problem. We have to limit any further increase in greenhouse gas production, as the 2018 Paris Agreement specifies. But this isn’t enough.

“Decarbonization,” the authors write, “requires both replacing existing fossil fuels and meeting new demand from carbon-free sources.” That second challenge has hardly yet been addressed. It must be, especially given the increasing prosperity of the developing regions — China, India, Africa — which the authors correctly say both “want more energy” and “have a moral right to it.” As a consequence, worldwide energy consumption 30 years from now is projected to be about 50 percent higher than it is today. If that number sounds exaggerated, think of four billion Asians installing air-conditioning.

For Goldstein (an emeritus professor of international relations) and Qvist (a Swedish engineer), the only possible solution to this double dilemma is a rapid, worldwide expansion of nuclear power. No other source or collection of sources of energy, they argue, is positioned to meet these challenges in time. Without growth in nuclear power, replacing fossil fuels with renewables simply decarbonizes the existing supply. It doesn’t deal with the increased demand coming from the developing world.

via A Sensible Climate Change Solution, Borrowed From Sweden – The New York Times

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John Donne. Meditation 17. [No man is an island… For whom the bell tolls, etc.]

No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;  any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

via John Donne. Meditation 17. [No man is an island… For whom the bell tolls, etc.]

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Opinion | The Gift of Shared Grief – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By Margaret Renkl
Contributing Opinion Writer

Feb. 4, 2019,  87
William DeShazer for The New York Times

CreditCreditWilliam DeShazer for The New York Times
NASHVILLE — When my mother died in 2012, she left behind a huge collection of memorabilia. Not just the usual love letters, family photographs and cherished recipe cards but also random items that almost no one else bothers to save. Parking tickets. Embossed cocktail napkins from the weddings of people I’ve never heard of. An Alabama Power bill from 1972. Things that meant something to her but whose meaning she never explained to me.

Among those chance pieces of paper, I found my own 1980 report card from our church’s Sunday school program. My teacher was Leo M. Hall, the father of two of my closest friends. Dr. Hall was a decorated medical school professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, but he also taught a high school religion class every Sunday afternoon during my teenage years. It was an unpaid act of service that I’m sure I didn’t recognize at the time for the true gift it was. How many religion students are taught by a scientist? How many high schoolers are taught by a college professor who is untroubled by skepticism or dissent? How many white Southerners of my generation grew up with a mentor who was a passionate advocate for civil rights?

I saved the report card, just as my mother had, and probably for the same reason: the teacher’s comments at the bottom of the page. In his final remarks of the school year, Dr. Hall had written: “Stimulates conversation — likes the controversial topic, accepts a challenge readily. Can be a bit abrasive with classmates but has improved greatly during the last three years. Deep spiritual life. Widely read. A delightful young woman who will do well in her mature days.”

I am well into my mature days now, and I don’t much remember the 18-year-old girl Dr. Hall is describing, but I believe this to be a fair assessment of my strengths and weaknesses at the time. (“Delightful” was, and still is, a stretch.)

via Opinion | The Gift of Shared Grief – The New York Times

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Teenagers Emerge as a Force in Climate Protests Across Europe – By Milan Schreuer- Elian Peltier and Christopher F. Schuetze – The New York Times

By Milan SchreuerElian Peltier and Christopher F. Schuetze

BRUSSELS — Tens of thousands of children skipped school in Belgium on Thursday to join demonstrations for action against climate change, part of a broader environmental protest movement across Europe that has gathered force over the past several weeks.

In Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere, activists have come together on social media to gather in large numbers and without much apparent preparation, the protests taking a different shape in each country.

In Germany, students have protested on Fridays, communicating mainly through the messaging app WhatsApp; in Belgium, they organize on Facebook and have skipped school by the thousands on four consecutive Thursdays.

Last Sunday, climate protests in Brussels swelled to an estimated 100,000 people of all ages. That same day, an estimated 80,000 took part in cities across France — more than turned out for the “Yellow Vest” protests the day before.


via Teenagers Emerge as a Force in Climate Protests Across Europe – The New York Times

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Opinion | Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans- Strength Is in Unity – The New York Times

By Juan Guaidó
Mr. Guaidó is leading the effort to remove Nicolás Maduro from office.

Jan. 30, 2019,  369 c

CARACAS, Venezuela — On Jan. 23, 61 years after the vicious dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez was ousted, Venezuelans once again gathered for a day of democratic celebration.

Pérez Jiménez was fraudulently elected by a Constituent Assembly in 1953. His term of office was scheduled to expire in 1958. But rather than calling for free and transparent presidential elections, he was undemocratically re-elected after holding a plebiscite on his administration late in 1957. Following widespread protests and a rupture within the military establishment, the dictator left the country and Venezuela regained its freedom on Jan. 23, 1958.

Once again we face the challenge of restoring our democracy and rebuilding the country, this time amid a humanitarian crisis and the illegal retention of the presidency by Nicolás Maduro. There are severe medicine and food shortages, essential infrastructure and health systems have collapsed, a growing number of children are suffering from malnutrition, and previously eradicated illnesses have re-emerged.

We have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, which is aggravated by the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters. This tragedy has prompted the largest exodus in Latin American history, with three million Venezuelans now living abroad.

I would like to be clear about the situation in Venezuela: Mr. Maduro’s re-election on May 20, 2018, was illegitimate, as has since been acknowledged by a large part of the international community. His original six-year term was set to end on Jan. 10. By continuing to stay in office, Nicolás Maduro is usurping the presidency.

My ascension as interim president is based on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, according to which, if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state, power is vested in the president of the National Assembly until free and transparent elections take place. This is why the oath I took on Jan. 23 cannot be considered a “self-proclamation.” It was not of my own accord that I assumed the function of president that day, but in adherence to the Constitution.”

via Opinion | Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans, Strength Is in Unity – The New York Times

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Opinion | Warning! Everything Is Going Deep: ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 29, 2019

A demonstration using artificial intelligence and facial recognition in a crowd at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this month.CreditCreditDavid Mcnew/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Around the end of each year major dictionaries declare their “word of the year.” Last year, for instance, the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster.com was “justice.” Well, even though it’s early, I’m ready to declare the word of the year for 2019.

The word is “deep.”

Why? Because recent advances in the speed and scope of digitization, connectivity, big data and artificial intelligence are now taking us “deep” into places and into powers that we’ve never experienced before — and that governments have never had to regulate before. I’m talking about deep learning, deep insights, deep surveillance, deep facial recognition, deep voice recognition, deep automation and deep artificial minds.

Some of these technologies offer unprecedented promise and some unprecedented peril — but they’re all now part of our lives. Everything is going deep.

Which is why it may not be an accident that one of the biggest hit songs today is “Shallow,” from the movie “A Star Is Born.” The main refrain, sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is: “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in. … We’re far from the shallow now.”

via Opinion | Warning! Everything Is Going Deep: ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ – The New York Times

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A Closer Look at the Polar Vortex’s Dangerously Cold Winds – The New York Times

via A Closer Look at the Polar Vortex’s Dangerously Cold Winds – The New York Times


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Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

By Somini Sengupta
Jan. 16, 2019,  31 c

Aaron Davis, a British botanist, has spent 30 years trekking across forests and farms to chronicle the fate of one plant: coffee.

He has recorded how a warming planet is making it harder to grow coffee in traditional coffee-producing regions, including Ethiopia, the birthplace of the world’s most popular bean, arabica. He has mapped where farmers can grow coffee next: basically upcountry, where it’s cooler. He has gone searching for rare varieties in the wild.

Now, in what is perhaps his most disheartening research, Dr. Davis has found that wild coffee, the dozens of varieties that once occurred under forest canopies on at least three continents, is at risk of vanishing forever. Among the world’s 124 coffee species, he and a team of scientists have concluded, 60 percent are at risk of extinction in the wild. Climate change and deforestation are to blame.

It matters because those wild varieties could be crucial for coffee’s survival in the era of global warming. In those plants could lie the genes that scientists need to develop new varieties that can grow on a hotter, drier planet.

via Global Warming Is Helping to Wipe Out Coffee in the Wild – The New York Times

Ouch. This hurts. Here are the top three NYT comments I endorsed:


Thanks to Mr. Davis and those who are testing and preserving this remnant of Earth’s heritage.

Thompson Owen commented January 17

Thompson Owen
Oakland, CA

Having visited various coffee variety collections around the world, some formerly supported by the ICO (international coffee org), I can attest to the note about a lack of funding and old specimen plants. I was just at Coffee Research in Kenya a couple months ago and the collection appears on the verge of death. Preserving coffee genetic diversity might hinge on plants in these collections and it’s doubtful those plants will last much longer. When the ICO was strong these gardens were remarkable, well funded and kept fresh with new plant material. It’s so important to underscore the economic importance of coffee to smallholder farmers, how it provides cash income to so many millions globally. It’s already a weak plant with inconsistent fruiting from year to year. If it’s further diminished by climate shift, the effect on small farmers and the rural economies in so many nations is huge. For me, that’s a chief reason to sound an alarm. For the environment, Arabica coffee is almost like an indicator species, and one easy to get the public to pay attention to! Even in the short 20 yrs I’ve been a coffee buyer there are areas that produced good volumes of good coffee that are no longer able to farm due to global warming. Insects (coffee berry borer) and fungus (rust/roya lead fungus) spread in these areas as temperatures rise and devastate the coffee plants. In Colombia, there are parts of Huila that were flush with coffee 20 years ago and can’t grow it now.

Paulie commented January 17


I believe the climate has already passed the tipping point. With human populations continuing to explode I doubt there is any way to avoid the extinction of many species, including humans.


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Opinion | Kindness Is a Skill – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 28, 2019,  419 c
CreditCreditNick Shepherd/Ikon Images, via Getty Images
I went into journalism to cover politics, but now I find myself in national marriage therapy. Covering American life is like covering one of those traumatizing Eugene O’Neill plays about a family where everyone screams at each other all night and then when dawn breaks you get to leave the theater.

But don’t despair, I’m here to help. I’ve been searching for practical tips on how we can be less beastly to one another, especially when we’re negotiating disagreements. I’ve found some excellent guides — like “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable” by Daniel Shapiro, “The Rough Patch” by Daphne de Marneffe and “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker — and I’ve compiled some, I hope, not entirely useless tips.

The rule of how many. When hosting a meeting, invite six people to your gathering if you want intimate conversation. Invite 12 if you want diversity of viewpoints. Invite 120 if you want to create a larger organism that can move as one.

Scramble the chairs. If you invite disagreeable people over for a conversation, clear the meeting room, except jumble the chairs in a big pile in the middle. This will force everybody to do a cooperative physical activity, untangling the chairs, before anything else. Plus, you’ll scramble the power dynamics depending on where people choose to place their chairs.

via Opinion | Kindness Is a Skill – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
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U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on North Korea and Iran – By Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger – The New York Times

By Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger
Jan. 29, 2019

WASHINGTON — A new American intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” all of its nuclear stockpiles, and that Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” needed to make a bomb, directly contradicting two top tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy.

Daniel R. Coats, the director of national intelligence, also challenged Mr. Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State had been defeated, a key rationale for his decision to exit from Syria. The terror group, the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report to Congress concluded, “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” and maintain eight branches and a dozen networks around the world.

via U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on North Korea and Iran – The New York Times

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