Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

UN treaty language threatens to ban all “climate-related geoengineering”

Treaty language being written at a United Nations conference on biodiversity is so vague it threatens to bar almost all new development. Here is the language, via Science:

8 (w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean
fertilisation and biodiversity and climate change, in the absence of science-based, global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms for geo-engineering, and in accordance with the precautionary approach and Article 14 of the Convention, that no climate-related geoengineering activities (1) that may affect biodiversity take place, until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts, with the exception of small scale scientific research studies that would be conducted in a controlled setting in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention, and only if they are justified by the need to gather specific scientific data and are subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts on the environment.

(1) Without prejudice to future deliberations on the definition of geo-engineering activities, understanding that any technologies that deliberately reduce solar insolation or increase carbon sequestration from the atmosphere on a large scale that may affect biodiversity (excluding carbon capture and storage from fossil fuels when it captures carbon dioxide before it is released to the atmosphere) should be considered as forms of geoengineering which are relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity until a more precise definition can be developed. Noting that solar insolation is defined as a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given hour and that carbon sequestration is defined as the process of increasing the carbon contact of a reservoir/pool other than the atmosphere. [emphasis mine]

This language is so broad that, if agreed to by the United States, it could easily put almost any activity that affects the environment, including technology, business, property, recreation, or practically anything at all, under the control of UN regulators.

But wait, there’s more. The goal of this UN conference, to quote their own webpage, is to achieve “a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth.” Obviously, this UN group is not merely interested in protecting the biodiversity of life on Earth, but to also redistribute the wealth so as to help poorer nations.

God help us if our government agrees to this.

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Toronto elects conservative mayor by a surprising margin

Is this a hint of what’s to come on Tuesday? Toronto yesterday not only elected a conservative mayor by a very large margin, four incumbent councillors were also defeated soundly. Key quote:

Polls, indicating the race was razor edge close, were proven false in 11 single minutes! . . . [The conservative] Ford won with 383,501 votes—more than the votes of his two main opponents combined.

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New Kepler results!

Scientists released additional Kepler results [pdf] today, this time describing what they are learning about the stars being observed rather than any planets that might be orbiting them. In studying each star’s minute variations of light, the astronomers can track how the star itself is oscillating like a bell ringing. From this they can do a kind of stellar seismology, finding out a great deal about what is going on inside the star. The data has thus:

  • produced the most precise measurements of the size and age of another star beside the Sun. KIC 11026764 has a radius 2.05 times the size of the Sun, and is now believed to be 5.94 billion years old, slightly older than the Sun’s 4.57 billion years. Though larger than the Sun, this star is a G-type star like the Sun. So far, Kepler has observed about 1500 solar-type stars. The astronomers are still analyzing this data, with results to follow.
  • measured the oscillations of a thousand red giant stars, ranging from slightly larger to dozens of times larger than the Sun. The larger the star, the faster the oscillation and the larger the amplitude, which in turn has confirmed the theories about how the nuclear processes in the core of stars evolve over time, shifting from burning hydrogen to helium. Since these red giants are what our Sun will be like when it reaches old age, we are thus learning something about the Sun’s future.
  • and provided the most precise measurements ever of RR Lyrae stars, a class of unusual variable stars that have puzzled astronomers for more than a century. From this data the astronomers hope to find out exactly why these stars fluctuate as they do.
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Spaceport dedication in New Mexico

Mike Shinabery, a fellow science writer who also writes for the New Mexico Museum of Space History, attended the dedication ceremony this past weekend of the new spaceport located about 45 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He took some pictures and kindly forwarded them to me. Below is a shot of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, carrying SpaceShipTwo, as it approached for landing.

WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo

More photos below the fold. » Read more

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Obama takes the money and runs

These politicians are such jerks! A family in Rhode Island put together a fancy “Dinner with Obama” to raise money for Democrats. Obama arrives, collects the money, and then skips out before dinner. And why couldn’t Obama stay? This is what he said, just before everyone else sat down to eat,

“I’ve got to go home to tuck in the girls and walk the dog and scoop the poop,”

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Why this election is important

Mark Steyn explains why next week’s midterm election and what the next Congress does has very special significance. Key quote:

In a two-party system, you have to work with what’s available. In America, one party is openly committed to driving the nation off the cliff, and the other party is full of guys content to go along for the ride as long as we shift down to third gear. That’s no longer enough of a choice. If your candidate isn’t committed to fewer government agencies with fewer employees on lower rates of pay, he’s part of the problem. This is the last chance for the GOP to restore its credentials. If it blows it, all bets are off for 2012.

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Another European on trial for reporting the facts about Islam

Freedom of speech alert! Geert Wilders is not the only European on trial simply for reporting factual information about Islam and the Koran. In Vienna, Austria, feminist and anti-jihad activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff faces prison simply because she conducted “public seminars in which she described Islamic doctrine, quoted from the Koran, and explained to her listeners what she considers the dangers of Islam.” Her trial date is now set for November 23. More information can also be found at Jihad Watch.

The website Gates of Vienna has started a campaign to support Sabaditsch-Wolff, and is asking websites and bloggers worldwide to support her. I am glad to lend my voice to her cause. Any government that wants to put a citizen in jail, merely for expressing an opinion or stating facts, should be condemned as loudly as possble. If you go to the campaign site above, you can read about the history of the case in detail as well as find ways you can lend your own support. Also, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff’s legal defense fund can be found at http://english.savefreespeech.org/ .

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Google Lunar X Prize

The private race to the Moon, led by the Google Lunar X Prize. Key quote:

The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers a total of $30 million in prize money to the first privately funded teams to land robots on the Moon that explore the lunar surface by moving at least 500 meters and by sending back two packages of high definition video and photos we call Mooncasts. Unlike our first competition, the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, the Google Lunar X PRIZE isn’t a ‘winner take all’ proposition: instead, we have a $20 million Grand Prize, a Second Place Prize that will award $5 million to the second team to meet all of the requirements, a series of technical bonus missions that can allow teams to earn as much as an additional $4 million, and a $1 million award that will go to teams that make the greatest contribution to stimulating diversity in space exploration and, more generally, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The competition operates on a “payment on delivery” model: the prize money is only given to teams after they complete a successful mission, meaning that each team needs to raise all the capital needed to design, develop and conduct their missions on their own. We’re now three years into a fairly long effort: the prize is available until all of the prize purses are claimed or until the end of the year 2015. Last week, we accepted our 24th team into the competition.

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The once and future Moon

Paul Spudis provides a very detailed analysis of the recently released LCROSS lunar results. Key quote:

The Near-IR spectrometers on the LCROSS shepherding satellite detected abundant water (H2O) but also hydrogen sulfide (H2S), ammonia (NH3), methanol (CH3OH), methane (CH4), ethylene (C2H4) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The uv-vis spectrometer found carbon dioxide (CO2), sodium, silver, and cyanide (CN). Aboard the distant LRO spacecraft, the ultraviolet LAMP imager detected hydrogen (H2), nitrogen, carbon monoxide (CO), sodium, mercury, zinc, gold (!), and calcium. But water, present in quantities between 5 and 10 weight percent, is the most abundant volatile substance present.

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Wikipedia bans global warming propagandist

Wikipedia bans global warming propagandist. Key quote:

Through his position, Connolley for years kept dissenting views on global warming out of Wikipedia, allowing only those that promoted the view that global warming represented a threat to mankind. As a result, Wikipedia became a leading source of global warming propaganda, with Connolley its chief propagandist. His career as a global warming propagandist has now been stopped, following a unanimous verdict that came down today through an arbitration proceeding conducted by Wikipedia.

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