Tuesday Roundup: Snakes, Heat and LightSquared

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NASA’s James Hansen and two other scientists say that the Texas heat wave and drought were the result of global warming. 

Scientists are usually reluctant to say any one weather event was caused by climate change, according to a story by Elizabeth Grossman in InsideClimate News. But Hansen and his colleagues at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies say the data they have gathered leads them to believe that the drought and heat wave were “a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.”

Grossman writes:

Their conclusions are based on more than 50 years of temperature data, Hansen told InsideClimate News. By comparing the recent shift toward extreme high summer temperatures with that data, he said his group was able to demonstrate that the record-breaking 2011 Texas heat wave wouldn’t have occurred without global warming. This data also provides a broader context for the summer of 2011, which across the United States was the second warmest on record, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Extremes Index twice the historical average.

Making a connection between the Texas heat wave and climate change could have profound practical and policy implications because, as Hansen and his colleagues write, the global warming trend “has been attributed with a high degree of confidence to human-made greenhouse gases.”

• Republicans in Congress are moving to force the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline permit. Approval could be attached to the big transportation bill. 

•Rural America needs broadband and LightSquared said it could make the connection. LightSquared’s idea was to provide broadband via satellite signals.

But, as DTN’s Todd Neeley explains, things haven’t gone well for the company. Opposition to LightSquared’s plans has come from the Federal Communications Commission, John Deere tractors, an Iowa Senator and the U.S. military.

The opponents to LightSquared say the company’s technology will bollox up GPS gizmos they all use in their work. And now, Neeley reports, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley is alleging that the company has made improper contacts with his office.

Grassley is investigating the conflicts between LightSquared and those who object to the satellite technology and the senator is saying the company has asked him to “pull punches” in that inquiry. Grassley made this charge in a press release.

There are 226 members of a group formed to oppose the LightSquared technology.

Neeley has a good timeline for the LightSquared story. See it here

•The Economist magazine is writing about the “end of America’s coal era.”

The numbers don’t show a decline, the magazine admits. Employment is at its highest level since 1997. There is enough coal supply to meet current demand for the next 200 years, according to the Energy Information Administration. But projections see a declining reliance on coal. 

The magazine continues:

But if the raw numbers look good, the trends tell a different story. Regulatory uncertainty and the emergence of alternative fuel sources (natural gas and renewables) will probably make America’s future far less coal-reliant than its past. In 2000 America got 52% of its electricity from coal; in 2010 that number was 45%. Robust as exports are, they account for less than one-tenth of American mined coal; exports cannot pick up the slack if America’s taste for coal declines. Appalachian coal production peaked in the early 1990s; the EIA forecasts a decline for the next three years, followed by two decades of low-level stability. Increased employment and declining productivity suggest that Appalachian coal is getting harder to find….

The switch away from it will be painful for some. But as Robert Byrd, the late senator from West Virginia, once said, coal-dependent regions “can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it.”

• There is a huge backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is fueled by returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan — and by a policy change that makes it easier for Vietnam vets to file Agent Orange claims. 

“Nearly 1 million veterans today are stuck in the backlog and more than half wait at least half a year to find out if their claim has been processed,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

• Here’s a good Nebraska Public Radio story on Ord, Nebraska, and the town’s remarkable efforts at development. We’ve had two stories on Ord in the Yonder. Here’s a taste of the NPR piece: 

And despite their successes and aggressive attitude toward development, not everyone thinks using sales taxes to fund it is a good idea. In a small town where everyone knows everyone, resentment can build when a neighbor or granddaughter’s project is rejected. 

Others have accused Valley County Economic Development of being too socialist, (economic development official Caleb) Pollard said. 

But he and Ord business owners argued they’re just doing what they can with the resources on hand. 

“That’s one of the unique things, I think, about our economic development strategy, is we’re focused on building from within,” Pollard said. “And that’s a fundamental difference than a lot of other communities that have a focus on economic development. We spend our money on our own human capital that’s here, and we have a really vibrant local economy because of it. Because we’re investing in local people.” 

• We trust everyone has seen the story about how pythons and anacondas are wiping out the small animal population in the Everglades. Nice photos in this Post story.  

 

 

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