Kansas: Local Effects of Global Warming

Withered Sunflowers

Withered Sunflowers

General Phil Sheridan, of Civil War and frontier fame, was reputed to have remarked that “if I owned all of Texas, and Hell, I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell.” But, if indications from a new interactive map released by The Nature Conservancy prove valid, Sheridan might well have spoken of Kansas instead.

Kansas will be the state most affected by rising temperatures attendant to global warming, according to an interactive map released by The Nature Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group with more than a million members and a long history of action to protect wildlife habitat (look here for Conservancy details).

The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Wizard uses the projections of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and concludes that, under a high emissions scenario, the state of Kansas would experience an increase of 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit in average annual temperatures, highest among all the states. Under the high emissions scenario, Kansas would be followed by Nebraska (10.3), Iowa (10.2), South Dakota (10.0), Oklahoma (9.9) and Missouri (9.9). Under a moderate emissions scenario, Kansas would be projected to experience a 9.1 degree average annual increase, while under a low emissions scenario, the increase would be 6.7 degrees. (Note also that, in the light of Sheridan’s flippant comment above, Texas will experience an increase of 9.2 degrees under the high emissions scenario — nearly as much as Kansas.)

For a one page introduction to the analysis and a brief discussion of its implications, see Climate Change: New Analysis Projects State-by-State Temperature Increases.

For details of methodology along with a ranked state-by-state listing and three maps, one for each emissions scenario (high, moderate and low) see this five page document.

Annual Temperature Change by 2100 (Nature Conservancy Climate Wizard)

Annual Temperature Change by 2100 (Nature Conservancy Climate Wizard)

Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Greenlike Spree: EnviroChic

No Impact Man

“During the past few years, one book after another has organized itself around some nouveau-Thoreauvian conceit. This might consist of spending a month eating only food grown in an urban back yard, as in ‘Farm City’ (2009), or a year eating food produced on a gentleman’s farm, as in ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ (2007). It might involve driving across the country on used cooking oil, as in ‘Greasy Rider’ (2008), or giving up fossil fuels for goats, as in ‘Farewell, My Subaru’ (2008).

“All of these stunts can be seen as responses to the same difficulty. Owing to a combination of factors—population growth, greenhouse-gas emissions, logging, overfishing, and, as Beavan points out, sheer self-indulgence—humanity is in the process of bringing about an ecological catastrophe of unparalleled scope and significance. Yet most people are in no mood to read about how screwed up they are. It’s a bummer. If you’re the National Academy of Sciences or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the Pope or Al Gore, you can try to fight this with yet another multivolume report or encyclical. If not, you’d better get a gimmick.”

Writing in, of all places, The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert examines the pretensions of EnviroChic as represented by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man in“Green Like Me”.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Neanderthal Fall

Homo sapiens neanderthalensis skull

Scientific American offers an interesting short (six minute) video on the demise of the Neanderthals.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Peakaboo Oil

Earlier this week, the New York Times carried an interesting opinion editorial from Michael Lynch, energy consultant and former director for Asian energy and security at the Center for International Studies at MIT. “‘Peak Oil’ Is a Waste of Energy” debunks the notion that global oil production is peaking or has peaked, with all its implications of impending socioeconomic catastrophe.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Senate Vacancies and Appointments

Capitol, Washington DC

USA Today offers an editorial on the question of the Massachusetts senatorial succession, arguing Let Voters Replace Kennedy; alternatively, the Boston Globe urges that the Massachusetts legislature quickly change the law and reinstitute gubernatorial appointment of an interim senator. It’s a subject that has been thrust into the news with increasing frequency in the past few years (think about the Illinois and New York situations most recently), as emphasized in yesterday’s item New Focus On Senate Succession Practices in RealClearPolitics.

Virtually every state has a different method for filling such vacancies (Kansas has largely unrestricted gubernatorial appointment powers). If you want to explore the nitty gritty details of the question (aside from picking up a free copy of the Constitution on our Citizenship & Constitution Day this next month), take a look at the Congressional Research Service report from March of this year, Filling U.S. Senate Vacancies: Perspectives and Contemporary Developments. You might also wish to see another Congressional Research Service document, from 2003, House and Senate Vacancies: How Are They Filled?

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Cash for Clunkers Update

A little over a week ago, in Cash Clunker, we discussed UC Davis Professor Christopher R. Knittel’s assessment of “The Implied Cost of Carbon Dioxide Under the Cash for Clunkers Program.” As we indicated then, “the analysis suggests that costs per ton of carbon removal exceed $200 – and may even approach $500” – ten to 25 times as much as the current price of carbon offset credits in Europe.

On Tuesday night the program expired, having received $2.877 billion in rebate applications. Yesterday, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued this press release on the Cash for Clunkers wrap-up, emphasizing the economic benefits of the program, and studiously avoiding the questions raised in Professor Knittel’s analysis.

Kansans have applied for $31,496,500 in vouchers under the program. For a complete statistical report on the details of Cash for Clunkers see Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) final statistics.

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Job Seeker Beware

In a recent issue, the New York Times discussed the question of “Job Search Firms: Big Pitches and Fees, Few Jobs”, observing the propensity of many to exploit “the vulnerability of job seekers as they cast about for help in the most difficult job market in decades and encounter a bewildering and largely unregulated array of individuals and businesses offering assistance.”

As the Times reported, “while some customers have benefited from their work, others have accused the companies of using misleading sales tactics.

“‘Career management’ or ‘career marketing’ companies like ITS, which charge large up-front fees, are easy to stumble upon on employment Web sites. Often, as in Mr. Fischman’s case, they contact job seekers after they post their résumés. They usually focus on professionals and managers, massaging their egos by boasting that they accept only the most marketable candidates. Some companies place advertisements that appear to be job postings but instead are lures for sales pitches.

“The offices of several state attorneys general said they had fielded complaints about career counseling companies during this recession.

“‘Many employment services provide valuable help, but others misrepresent themselves and their services in an attempt to take your money,’ said the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who succeeded several years ago in having one career counseling company, Bernard Haldane Associates, banned from doing business in the state. ‘To find legitimate agencies for your needs, it’s critical to do your homework first.’”

Many of the services these companies claim to perform for the dedicated job seeker can be done independently, using the free resources of the local public library.

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Data Mining for Fool’s Gold

Fool's Gold (Iron Pyrite - Humboldt State University)

Fool's Gold (Iron Pyrite - Humboldt State University)

Committed narcissists and egosurfers will already be intimately familiar with the results of Googling their own names. But in “Find Out How the Web Sees You”, today’s New Scientist offers a quick look at Personas, a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the technique of data mining.

As the authors of Personas explain, “in a world where fortunes are sought through data-mining vast information repositories, the computer is our indispensable but far from infallible assistant. Personas demonstrates the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent error, such as mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name [in my case, a former judge in Florida, a law enforcement officer in California, an activist in Christian ministries, a “fantastic” horn player, and numerous others] . It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world, where digital histories are as important if not more important than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are opaque and socially ignorant.”

As the principal behind Personas suggests, “[Data mining] is always presented so authoritatively, when in reality what’s happening behind the scenes is controlled voodoo.”

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Home Values & ‘Walkability’

Walking the Walk

When amenities such as libraries, parks, schools, restaurants and stores are within walking distance (generally between one-quarter of a mile and one mile), the value of a home is $4,000 to $34,000 greater, according to a new study of 15 major real estate markets by CEOs for Cities. Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Home Values in US Cities is an interesting 30-page exploration of the linkage between home values and walkability. Of the 15 markets studied, 13 showed a significant relationship between walkability and premium home pricing. For a quick press release on the essence of the study, see this summary from CEOs for Cities.

As CEOs for Cities President Carol Coletta avers, “if urban leaders are intentional about developing and redeveloping their cities to make them more walkable, it will not only enhance the local tax base but will also contribute to individual wealth by increasing the value of what is, for most people, their biggest asset.”

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Internet Arcana

Here’s an interesting post for technological antiquarians, from Yglesias, a note on the very first congressional website: Senator Ted Kennedy’s. The comments are quite interesting.

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Unconventional Wisdom

Challenging the conventional wisdom isn’t always easy or safe. But as the old saw goes, ‘it ain’t what you don’t know – it’s what you know that just ain’t so’ that hurts you most. Here are three recent little variants on that theme:

The human appendix needs an asterisk. Long believed to be an ‘evolutionary relic,’ useless to all practical intents and purposes, instead the appendix appears to “serve a critical function”.

On another front, a researcher at Michigan State University believes the evidence indicates that current health standards denigrating nitrates and nitrites in food are, in part, in error and that nitrates and nitrates in plants may well provide health benefits.

And finally, it appears that homes are a radically underestimated source of water pollution – contributing as much as 50 percent more water pollution in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and other contaminants, than previously believed.

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Samoa Changes Down the Road


On at least ten occasions since the end of the Second World War, nations have decided to change the side of the road on which they drive. In every case, the change was from left to right, beginning with South Korea in 1946, and concluding with Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana in the early Seventies. But this time is different. The tiny island nation of Samoa has decided to change their traffic from the right side of the road (where about 70% of the world drives) to the left., effective on the 7th of September. Why? Patrick Barta explains the less-than-compelling logic.

Samoa Locator

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment