Archive for May, 2008

Americans Feeling Effects of Higher Oil, Gas Prices

Memorial Day, celebrated by Americans on the last Monday of May, marks the unofficial beginning of summer and, for many, the beginning of travel season.

As schools let out for summer, many American families take vacations and most drive to their destinations. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates 31.7 million Americans will travel 80 kilometers or more from home over the May 24-May 26 holiday weekend.

But that number is down from 2007: With gas prices at a record high, many Americans are rethinking their travel plans. AAA predicts fewer Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend compared to last year – the first decrease in travel since shortly after the September 11 attacks.

The high price of gas affects both road and air travel. With the cost of oil rising as high as $135 per barrel, airlines face significantly increased costs for jet fuel and have hiked fares while cutting service.

High gas and oil prices are affecting Americans’ pocketbooks in other ways as well.

AAA estimates that the cost of regular gas is $3.80 a gallon, 19 percent higher than in May 2007 and four times as high as five years ago. The cost of a gallon of diesel fuel, used to run most trucks, is $4.54 a gallon. As it becomes increasingly expensive to fill a truck’s tank, the cost of transporting goods, particularly food, to markets also jumps. This means that as Americans pay more for gas they also are paying more for groceries.

Voters are looking to candidates running for all levels of office for solutions to curb rising gas and food prices.

The presidential candidates, talking to voters concerned about both the future of the economy and the environment, have proposed a number of short- and long-term solutions to lessen the effect of high gas prices.

Both Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, in the race for the Democratic nomination, have said that Americans would get some relief if the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax is suspended during the summer travel season.

Opponents of such a suspension, including Senator Barack Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, say lifting the federal gas tax will save Americans very little money. Obama, who has accused McCain and Clinton of supporting the gas suspension for political purposes, says the plan would save each American only a few dollars at the cost of reducing the funds needed to repair roads.

Each of the presidential candidates has proposed different ways of reducing American’s reliance on foreign oil, which now is about 60 percent of oil used in the United States. These proposals include ways of encouraging companies to develop alternative fuels that would both reduce use of oil and help the environment. (See “Candidates on the Issues: Climate Change ( http://uspolitics.america.gov/uspolitics/elections/issues.html#climate ).”)

Politicians Debate Potential Solutions

With voters frustrated about gas prices, the Senate and House judiciary committees asked executives from the top American oil companies to provide their explanation for the high costs. The executives said the main cause is that global demand for oil is rising while supply remains limited.

Congress recently passed legislation to halt filling the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a law it says will increase supply. The reserve, the world’s largest supply of emergency oil, is reportedly 97 percent full.

President Bush, despite his criticism that the legislation will not have an effect on gas prices, signed the bill into law. Filling of the reserve will not resume until oil prices stay at or below $75 per barrel for at least 90 days.

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill calling on the Justice Department to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for limiting supplies and collaborating to set prices. The Senate has not yet voted on the measure. Bush has threatened to veto the legislation, saying it would spur retaliatory action against the United States. Two-thirds of the House and Senate must vote to override a president’s veto for a vetoed bill to become law.

Even though leaders from both parties helped pass this legislation, Republicans and Democrats disagree on other ways to solve the problem.

Some Democrats propose imposing a new tax on certain profits earned by the five biggest U.S. oil companies unless they use the profits to expand their refineries or develop alternative fuels. Some propose a federal law preventing price gouging, although such laws exist in many states. Opponents say it is unlikely these measures would have any serious effect on prices.

Some Republicans want to allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off the coasts of American shores where drilling currently is prohibited. Opponents say that drilling in these areas will cause environmental damages and would not provide any oil for at least 10 years.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Google Maps is Going To Be My New Real Estate Search Page

I’ve been wondering for a long time when Google would make a more sophisticated step into the real estate space. We might be seeing the first signs.
Much like Trulia, Zillow, Frontdoor and others, they’ve been quietly suctioning in real estate listings into Google Base over the last year or so (see Trulia Lands the Big One). They first rolled those out into the organic search results when they populated a link on geographic search terms — e.g. portland real estate — to a generic housing search page (see Another Hint at Google Real Estate?).

Now they seem to have quietly pushed that feature up to Google Maps as well (see Google Maps Adds Real Estate Search) and added a search for ‘real estate’ on the main page of that site. To reveal it click on “show search options” and then choose ‘real estate’ from the drop down menu.

Unfortunately, listings (depending on the Metro area) are pretty sparse right and are mostly drawn from 3rd party sources like Postlets. One could imagine how this could quickly fill up should they turn on the firehouse of data they’ve been accumulating from their broker relationships.
Google Maps is a product I find myself using more and more in my real estate searches. Usually when I’ve found a home I’m interested in (whether it’s on Trulia, Zillow or Roost), the very first thing I do is click over to a new tab, Google the address and pull it up on Maps.
From there, I can get a clear view of the street layout (access to freeways etc.), the terrain (how close is it to a park). I love Street View which gives me a first person look at the neighborhood. I start Googling local business to see how far the closest pub, pizza joint, drycleaners, etc. is from the home. I can also pull up instant directions to see how long my commute might be.
Sure I could do some of this on the originating source’s site. But like with all my other Google searches, I love the speed and clean look and feel to Maps. Now if it just had all the listings, I could just cut out the intermediary step (T/Z/R) …
In more Maps news, Google LatLong is reporting that Youtube videos are now showcased on Maps if they are geocoded and/or associated with a local business. From their blog.
Local business owners can easily add YouTube videos along with other content such as business details, photos, and descriptions to their listings. To do so, simply upload your videos to YouTube and ensure that the ‘embed’ option is turned on. Then, associate your video to your business listing through the Local Business Center.
Created a video profile of yourself and your business? Wondering how you can promote it? Here’s a pretty clear step you can take. Make sure you’ve added yourself and your video to the Google Local Business Center.

Roofing ?

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How To Buy Stylish Pregnancy Wear & What to Wear During Pregnancy

Pregnancy clothes have come a long way from the unfashionable smocks and long dresses women had to wear in the past. Now clothing designers plan maternity clothes that show off a woman’s growing chest and belly. 

Check out current styles. Before your belly gets really large, current styles may allow you to wear fashionable items that aren’t even labeled as maternity clothes. Camisoles and other blouses that tie below the bust and billow to the waist (very fashionable right now) are great for a growing belly and chest. Pair them with a pair of maternity capris and you are good to go. 
As your bump becomes prominent and gets bigger and bigger it’s time to turn your thoughts to your wardrobe. Your pre-pregnancy favourites will fit for a while, then you’ll grow out of them, so you’ll need to stock up on some maternity clothing. Thankfully gone are the days when you’ll find yourself stuck wearing baggy, sack-like, unflattering dresses to hide your bump – maternity wear these days has gone fab and funky! If you’re unsure of what to wear, here are some ideas to get you started.

Tops
There’s a huge range of maternity clothes in the shops, so you’ve got plenty to choose from. It’s hard to predict how big you’ll get, but for the early stages of pregnancy you’ll probably be able to get away with your old favourites – unless they’re ultra skimpy or cropped, which isn’t the greatest pregnancy look. As your bump expands, it’s good to invest in some new clothes. If budget is an issue and you can’t warrant spending money on something you’ll only wear for a short time, check out online auction sites, as you can usually pick up some great bargains.

Simply designed wrap tops are ideal for pregnancy, as they skim your bump and can be adjusted as your size changes. Specially designed maternity wear tops have cleverly designed panels that expand with you, yet don’t compromise the design, and dark colours such as black are flattering if you don’t want to stand out in the crowd.

If your top priority is comfort, you can’t beat baggy t-shirts and cosy jumpers. You may need to invest in bigger sizes, or perhaps borrow your other half’s offcasts. Likewise, long tunic tops, whether light and floaty or thicker and warm, are ideal if you prefer your bump covered.

Dresses and Skirts
With a protruding bump, dresses may seem a complete no-no, but don’t give up on the idea too quickly. Maternity dresses these days are no longer ugly, unflattering sacks – there are plenty of great designs, made to flatter your shape and help you look great during pregnancy.

As in the case of tops, you’ll find many wrap-style dresses, which are flattering on your stomach. Loose floaty dresses that flare out from under the bust are also great, but do make sure you pick a long style, as otherwise the front hemline may be prone to rising higher than the back.

Skirts with elasticated or drawstring waists offer the perfect way of coping with expanding waistline and you choose from maternity wear, or larger sizes in the usual high street shops.

Trousers
For the bottom half, leggings, jogging bottoms and elasticated maternity trousers are perfect for comfortable wear. The maternity versions usually have great built in panels that can be adjusted as you grow. You may hate the look of the huge waistline, but if you’re self-conscious about how you look, it can easily be hidden with a loose tunic top.

But don’t despair – if you’re a jeans lover at heart, you can still get some great jeans designed for pregnant women.

Footwear
It’s a good idea to think about your footwear too. As pregnancy progresses, and particularly in the third trimester, you’re likely to get achey, tired feet and ankles prone to swelling. Because of this you’ll need something comfortable to wear, that won’t be tight around your feet. High heels will be out for many people, but you may find flat ballet-style pumps very comfortable as an alternative.

If you’re suffering from swelling in your ankles, look for sandals or shoes with adjustable straps, so you can release the pressure and tightness around your ankle. Alternatively, for really comfy walking shoes you can get styles with Velcro straps, so you can easily loosen them to suit your needs.
Underwear
Don’t be remiss and forget to think of your underwear! You’ll need bigger sizes here too and should aim to get measured for a maternity bra by about seven months.
Look at celebrities. Many celebrities look wonderful and fashionable during their pregnancies. Check out what Gwyneth Paltrow and Katie Holmes wore when they were pregnant. People magazine often has great pictures of celebrities during pregnancy. In addition, online sites such as MSN (see link) will allow you to peek at pictures if you don’t want to spend the money on a magazine. 
Pick staple clothing items carefully. Splurge a little on quality staples. One or two pairs of quality maternity capris or fashionable jeans will help you feel stylish and sexy, and should last through your entire pregnancy. 
Buy one great dress. Get a maternity dress in a color that you love that is good quality and will last you throughout your whole pregnancy. It should casual enough to be dressed down with a sweater for a meeting at work, but able to be dressed up with jewelry for a date with your partner.
Go to the mall. There are many, many retailers offering maternity wear now. Old Navy now offers maternity clothes in their stores and online. Stores such as Pea in a Pod and Motherhood Maternity (see links) offer great and fashionable maternity options, and are also online. 
Don’t buy things that are a size too big (unless you’re expecting multiples or actually need a larger size). Maternity clothing is made to expand with you. And one of the keys to looking great in any clothing is making sure it fits you. 
Check out places online.  Many sites offer very fashionable clothing (see links).  However, in the beginning, only buy a few items from an online site.  That way you can make sure you’re getting quality clothing, and are buying the correct sizes.  If the prices seem a little overwhelming–such as United Kingdom maternity boutiques like Blossom–check out the pictures and see how the models have accessorized and how the clothing fits their bodies. 
Don’t buy maternity clothing with horizontal stripes or large patterns. It will only make you look larger. Stick with solid colors to look your best. 
Don’t buy dresses or skirts that hit above the knee.  As your belly grows, your hemline will lift. 
Wear fun accessories.  You can get a lot more wear out of your clothes (and your feelings about them) if you wear fun scarves, hats, and other accessories with your maternity clothing. 
Wear the styles you normally wear. If you don’t like capris, don’t buy a pair of maternity capris. Everyone may tell you they look great, but if you don’t feel confident and great in them, you won’t look your best. Buy things you love. 
Check out secondhand stores or outlets. If the prices for maternity clothing leave you gasping, you can find fashionable things in secondhand stores. Because women wear maternity consignment for such a short period of time, there are many stylish items in these stores.

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Collection of Global Warming Facts and Articles: Global Warming Myths and Facts

Global warming, or climate change, is a subject that shows no sign of cooling down. Here’s the lowdown on why it’s happening, what’s causing it, and how it might change the planet.

Is It Happening?

Yes. Earth is already showing many signs of worldwide climate change.

• Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

• The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.

• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.

• Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.

• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.

• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.

• An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and strong tropical storms, is also attributed in part to climate change by some experts.

The report, based on the work of some 2,500 scientists in more than 130 countries, concluded that humans have caused all or most of the current planetary warming. Human-caused global warming is often called anthropogenic climate change.

• Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth’s surface. (See an interactive feature on how global warming works.)

• Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than plants and oceans can absorb it.

• These gases persist in the atmosphere for years, meaning that even if such emissions were eliminated today, it would not immediately stop global warming.

• Some experts point out that natural cycles in Earth’s orbit can alter the planet’s exposure to sunlight, which may explain the current trend. Earth has indeed experienced warming and cooling cycles roughly every hundred thousand years due to these orbital shifts, but such changes have occurred over the span of several centuries. Today’s changes have taken place over the past hundred years or less.

• Other recent research has suggested that the effects of variations in the sun’s output are “negligible” as a factor in warming, but other, more complicated solar mechanisms could possibly play a role.

What’s Going to Happen?

A follow-up report by the IPCC released in April 2007 warned that global warming could lead to large-scale food and water shortages and have catastrophic effects on wildlife.

• Sea level could rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 to 59 centimeters) by century’s end, the IPCC’s February 2007 report projects. Rises of just 4 inches (10 centimeters) could flood many South Seas islands and swamp large parts of Southeast Asia.

• Some hundred million people live within 3 feet (1 meter) of mean sea level, and much of the world’s population is concentrated in vulnerable coastal cities. In the U.S., Louisiana and Florida are especially at risk.

• Glaciers around the world could melt, causing sea levels to rise while creating water shortages in regions dependent on runoff for fresh water.

• Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters may become commonplace in many parts of the world. The growth of deserts may also cause food shortages in many places.

• More than a million species face extinction from disappearing habitat, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.

• The ocean’s circulation system, known as the ocean conveyor belt, could be permanently altered, causing a mini-ice age in Western Europe and other rapid changes.

• At some point in the future, warming could become uncontrollable by creating a so-called positive feedback effect. Rising temperatures could release additional greenhouse gases by unlocking methane in permafrost and undersea deposits, freeing carbon trapped in sea ice, and causing increased evaporation of water.

MYTH: The science of global warming is too uncertain to act on.

FACT: There is no debate among scientists about the basic facts of global warming.

The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it by burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil and natural gas) and cutting down forests. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which in 2005 the White House called “the gold standard of objective scientific assessment,” issued a joint statement with 10 other National Academies of Science saying “the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.” (Joint Statement of Science Academies: Global Response to Climate Change [PDF], 2005)

The only debate in the science community about global warming is about how much and how fast warming will continue as a result of heat-trapping emissions. Scientists have given a clear warning about global warming, and we have more than enough facts — about causes and fixes — to implement solutions right now.

MYTH: Even if global warming is a problem, addressing it will hurt American industry and workers.

FACT: A well designed trading program will harness American ingenuity to decrease heat-trapping pollution cost-effectively, jumpstarting a new carbon economy.

Claims that fighting global warming will cripple the economy and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs are unfounded. In fact, companies that are already reducing their heat-trapping emissions have discovered that cutting pollution can save money. The cost of a comprehensive national greenhouse gas reduction program will depend on the precise emissions targets, the timing for the reductions and the means of implementation. An independent MIT study found that a modest cap-and-trade system would cost less than $20 per household annually and have no negative impact on employment.

Experience has shown that properly designed emissions trading programs can reduce compliance costs significantly compared with other regulatory approaches. For example, the U.S. acid rain program reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 30 percent from 1990 levels and cost industry a fraction of what the government originally estimated, according to EPA. Furthermore, a mandatory cap on emissions could spur technological innovation that could create jobs and wealth. Letting global warming continue until we are forced to address it on an emergency basis could disrupt and severely damage our economy. It is far wiser and more cost-effective to act now.

MYTH: Water vapor is the most important, abundant greenhouse gas. So if we’re going to control a greenhouse gas, why don’t we control it instead of carbon dioxide (CO2)?

FACT: Although water vapor traps more heat than CO2, because of the relationships among CO2, water vapor and climate, to fight global warming nations must focus on controlling CO2.

Atmospheric levels of CO2 are determined by how much coal, natural gas and oil we burn and how many trees we cut down, as well as by natural processes like plant growth. Atmospheric levels of water vapor, on the other hand, cannot be directly controlled by people; rather, they are determined by temperatures. The warmer the atmosphere, the more water vapor it can hold.  As a result, water vapor is part of an amplifying effect. Greenhouse gases like CO2 warm the air, which in turn adds to the stock of water vapor, which in turn traps more heat and accelerates warming. Scientists know this because of satellite measurements documenting a rise in water vapor concentrations as the globe has warmed.

The best way to lower temperature and thus reduce water vapor levels is to reduce CO2 emissions.

MYTH: Global warming and extra CO2 will actually be beneficial — they reduce cold-related deaths and stimulate crop growth.

FACT: Any beneficial effects will be far outweighed by damage and disruption.

Even a warming in just the middle range of scientific projections would have devastating impacts on many sectors of the economy. Rising seas would inundate coastal communities, contaminate water supplies with salt and increase the risk of flooding by storm surge, affecting tens of millions of people globally. Moreover, extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts and floods, are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity, causing loss of lives and property and throwing agriculture into turmoil.

Even though higher levels of CO2 can act as a plant fertilizer under some conditions, scientists now think that the “CO2 fertilization” effect on crops has been overstated; in natural ecosystems, the fertilization effect can diminish after a few years as plants acclimate. Furthermore, increased CO2 may benefit undesirable, weedy species more than desirable species.

Higher levels of CO2 have already caused ocean acidification, and scientists are warning of potentially devastating effects on marine life and fisheries. Moreover, higher levels of regional ozone (smog), a result of warmer temperatures, could worsen respiratory illnesses. Less developed countries and natural ecosystems may not have the capacity to adapt.

The notion that there will be regional “winners” and “losers” in global warming is based on a world-view from the 1950’s. We live in a global community.  Never mind the moral implications — when an environmental catastrophe creates millions of refugees half-way around the world, Americans are affected.

MYTH: Global warming is just part of a natural cycle. The Arctic has warmed up in the past.

FACT: The global warming we are experiencing is not natural. People are causing it.

People are causing global warming by burning fossil fuels (like oil, coal and natural gas) and cutting down forests. Scientists have shown that these activities are pumping far more CO2 into the atmosphere than was ever released in hundreds of thousands of years. This buildup of CO2 is the biggest cause of global warming. Since 1895, scientists have known that CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat and warm the earth. As the warming has intensified over the past three decades, scientific scrutiny has increased along with it. Scientists have considered and ruled out other, natural explanations such as sunlight, volcanic eruptions and cosmic rays. (IPCC 2001)

Though natural amounts of CO2 have varied from 180 to 300 parts per million (ppm), today’s CO2 levels are around 380 ppm. That’s 25% more than the highest natural levels over the past 650,000 years. Increased CO2 levels have contributed to periods of higher average temperatures throughout that long record. (Boden, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center)

As for previous Arctic warming, it is true that there were stretches of warm periods over the Arctic earlier in the 20th century. The limited records available for that time period indicate that the warmth did not affect as many areas or persist from year to year as much as the current warmth. But that episode, however warm it was, is not relevant to the issue at hand. Why? For one, a brief regional trend does not discount a longer global phenomenon.

We know that the planet has been warming over the past several decades and Arctic ice has been melting persistently. And unlike the earlier periods of Arctic warmth, there is no expectation that the current upward trend in Arctic temperatures will reverse; the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases will prevent that from happening.

MYTH: We can adapt to climate change — civilization has survived droughts and temperature shifts before.

FACT: Although humans as a whole have survived the vagaries of drought, stretches of warmth and cold and more, entire societies have collapsed from dramatic climatic shifts.

The current warming of our climate will bring major hardships and economic dislocations — untold human suffering, especially for our children and grandchildren. We are already seeing significant costs from today’s global warming which is caused by greenhouse gas pollution. Climate has changed in the past and human societies have survived, but today six billion people depend on interconnected ecosystems and complex technological infrastructure.

What’s more, unless we limit the amount of heat-trapping gases we are putting into the atmosphere, we will face a warming trend unseen since human civilization began 10,000 years ago. (IPCC 2001)

The consequences of continued warming at current rates are likely to be dire. Many densely populated areas, such as low-lying coastal regions, are highly vulnerable to climate shifts. A middle-of-the-range projection is that the homes of 13 to 88 million people around the world would be flooded by the sea each year in the 2080s. Poorer countries and small island nations will have the hardest time adapting. (McLean et al. 2001)

In what appears to be the first forced move resulting from climate change, 100 residents of Tegua island in the Pacific Ocean were evacuated by the government because rising sea levels were flooding their island. Some 2,000 other islanders plan a similar move to escape rising waters. In the United States, the village of Shishmaref in Alaska, which has been inhabited for 400 years, is collapsing from melting permafrost. Relocation plans are in the works.

Scarcity of water and food could lead to major conflicts with broad ripple effects throughout the globe. Even if people find a way to adapt, the wildlife and plants on which we depend may be unable to adapt to rapid climate change. While the world itself will not end, the world as we know it may disappear.

MYTH: Recent cold winters and cool summers don’t feel like global warming to me.

FACT: While different pockets of the country have experienced some cold winters here and there, the overall trend is warmer winters.

Measurements show that over the last century the Earth’s climate has warmed overall, in all seasons, and in most regions. Climate skeptics mislead the public when they claim that the winter of 2003–2004 was the coldest ever in the northeastern United States. That winter was only the 33rd coldest in the region since records began in 1896. Furthermore, a single year of cold weather in one region of the globe is not an indication of a trend in the global climate, which refers to a long-term average over the entire planet.

MYTH: Global warming can’t be happening because some glaciers and ice sheets are growing, not shrinking.

FACT: In most parts of the world, the retreat of glaciers has been dramatic. The best available scientific data indicate that Greenland’s massive ice sheet is shrinking.

Between 1961 and 1997, the world’s glaciers lost 890 cubic miles of ice. The consensus among scientists is that rising air temperatures are the most important factor behind the retreat of glaciers on a global scale over long time periods. Some glaciers in western Norway, Iceland and New Zealand have been expanding during the past few decades. That expansion is a result of regional increases in storm frequency and snowfall rather than colder temperatures — not at all incompatible with a global warming trend.

In Greenland, a NASA satellite that can measure the ice mass over the whole continent has found that although there is variation from month to month, over the longer term, the ice is disappearing. In fact, there are worrisome signs that melting is accelerating: glaciers are moving into the ocean twice as fast as a decade ago, and, over time, more and more glaciers have started to accelerate. What is most alarming is the prediction, based on model calculations and historical evidence, that an approximately 5.4 degree Fahrenheit increase in local Greenland temperatures will lead to irreversible meltdown and a sea-level rise of over 20 feet. Since the Arctic is warming 2-3 times faster than the global average, this tipping point is not far away.

The only study that has shown increasing ice mass in Greenland only looked at the interior of the ice sheet, not at the edges where melting occurs. This is actually in line with climate model predictions that global warming would lead to a short-term accumulation of ice in the cold interior due to heavier snowfall. (Similarly, scientists have predicted that Antarctica overall will gain ice in the near future due to heavier snowfall.) The scientists who published the study were careful to point out that their results should not be used to conclude that Greenland’s ice mass as a whole is growing. In addition, their data suggested that the accumulation of snow in the middle of the continent is likely to decrease over time as global warming continues.

MYTH: Accurate weather predictions a few days in advance are hard to come by. Why on earth should we have confidence in climate projections decades from now?

FACT: Climate prediction is fundamentally different from weather prediction, just as climate is different from weather.

It is often more difficult to make an accurate weather forecast than a climate prediction. The accuracy of weather forecasting is critically dependent upon being able to exactly and comprehensively characterize the present state of the global atmosphere. Climate prediction relies on other, longer ranging factors. For instance, we might not know if it will be below freezing on a specific December day in New England, but we know from our understanding of the region’s climate that the temperatures during the month will generally be low. Similarly, climate tells us that Seattle and London tend to be rainy, Florida and southern California are usually warm, and the Southwest is often dry and hot.

Today’s climate models can now reproduce the observed global average climates over the past century and beyond. Such findings have reinforced scientist’s confidence in the capacity of models to produce reliable projections of future climate. Current climate assessments typically consider the results from a range of models and scenarios for future heat-trapping emissions in order to identify the most likely range for future climatic change.

MYTH: As the ozone hole shrinks, global warming will no longer be a problem.

FACT: Global warming and the ozone hole are two different problems.

The ozone hole is a thinning of the stratosphere’s ozone layer, which is roughly 9 to 31 miles above the earth’s surface. The depletion of the ozone is due to man-made chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). A thinner ozone layer lets more harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation to reach the earth’s surface.

Global warming, on the other hand, is the increase in the earth’s average temperature due to the buildup of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities.

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McCain Appeals to Democrats on Global Warming

CNS News brings a story that’ll definitely get the Republican base fired up for John McCain…wait, that story didn’t happen. Here’s one that did, though.

CNS News reports McCain is living in Al Gore’s global warming fantasy land:

Republican John McCain, reaching out to both independents and green-minded social conservatives, argues that global warming is undeniable and the country must take steps to bring it under control while adhering to free-market principles.

Gee, Senator McCain, that’ll get the conservative and other pro-business interests in the Republican Party stirred up…in the wrong direction.

And while Bush wasn’t exact Mr. Conservative, apparently even George W. Bush was too conservative for McCain:

He also took a swipe at President Bush, who balked at the beginning of its term at signing the Kyoto global warming protocols. McCain said he would return to the negotiating table.

“I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto. The United States will lead and will lead with a different approach — an approach that speaks to the interests and obligations of every nation,” he said.

One of the ironies of Kyoto is that we’re doing better to keep things clean than the European countries who did sign it.

Kyoto, giving a pass to the worst polluting countries in the world, is nothing but a cheap attempt to hamstring the Western nations. And all for Al Gore’s pseudo-science-based fantasy that our SUVs and power plants are heating up the planet.

This is going to be a, ah, unique election in 2008, to be sure.

John McCain has campaign circumstances that many would envy, yet he seems determined to make the least of them.

His competitor Barack Obama is a relatively inexperienced candidate with a lot of unsavory baggage. The Democrat Party has been through an intense war just to decide their nominee, and many diehard Hillary-supporting Democrats are considering not voting or going over to the other side with Obama’s victory.

Yet McCain seems intent on alienating his base. Many of us find it hard enough just to hold our nose and vote for the guy, much less contribute money and time and energy to the campaign.

I’d really like to be able to say a good word about my party’s nominee, but McCain is making that a tough row to hoe. In fact, he’s making it hard to even keep my mouth shut.

Apparently McCain is more interested in appealing to Democrats than he is to his own party’s base. Maybe he thinks he can get enough Democrats to cross the aisle and vote for him so that it won’t matter if he alienates conservatives.

The kicker is, when Democrats are presented with a choice between a pandering imitation Democrat and a true-blue Democrat, they’ll choose the true-blue almost every time.

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Oil tank tips, causes 400-gallon spill

Emergency crews contained a 400-gallon oil spill this morning at a Rogers Road residence, according to fire officials.

Fire Chief Kim Kercewich said the oil at the home of Ken Washer of 256 Rogers Road.

Kercevich said an outdoor, 275-gallon oil tank fell over and broke the line to a second 275-gallon oil tank, emptying both of them. The tanks were filled about two weeks ago and, he said, the oil company estimated about 400 gallons poured out of them.

The fire department was contacted at 8 a.m. about the spill but Kercevich said he believes the accident happened sometime last night. Initially, he said, it was reported “the product was all gone.”

When fire crews arrived at Washer’s home, Kersewich said they found about four-inches of standing oil. Firefighters set up booms to contain the oil and soak up as much as possible.

The Washer home is near a brook but Kercewich said the water does not appear to be contaminated.

Kercevich said a DES representative was at the scene and a cleanup crew was contacted.

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Oil prices retreat from last week’s record high

Oil prices retreated Monday from last week’s record close near $126 a barrel as the dollar strengthened against the euro and yen.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery dropped $1.32 to $124.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midafternoon in Europe.

On Friday, the contract broke above $126 for the first time and settled at a record close of $125.96 a barrel. Investors often buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the greenback falls, but that effect can reverse when the dollar gains against other currencies, as it has in Tokyo currency markets on Monday.

The euro was trading at $1.5455, down from $1.5480 last Friday in New York. The dollar also strengthened against the yen, rising to 103.68 yen.

“That would seem to be the major reason why the oil price has lost a little of ground in U.S. dollar terms,” said David Moore, commodity strategist with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.

The advance at the end of last week came after Colombia said it recovered documents from a slain guerrilla that indicate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered assistance to Colombian rebels. Some U.S. lawmakers have cited the documents to argue that the White House should add Venezuela to a list of state terror sponsors that includes North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba.

Such a move would most likely spur Venezuela to cut off oil exports to the U.S., but analysts believe such a provocative diplomatic step is unlikely.

“That would be self-defeating,” said Michael Shifter of the Washington think tank Inter-American Dialogue. “It might give Chavez a boost when he is in serious political trouble at home — and it would risk a further jump in oil prices in the U.S. in an election year.”

Moore said earlier in Sydney that China’s trade data for April could provide another boost for oil.

“China’s imports of oil and oil products were very high in March, and if that was strong again that would signal that that part of the market remains fundamentally strong and supportive of the oil price,” he said.

However, according to preliminary data from China’s General Administration of Customs, the country’s crude oil imports for April totaled 14.24 million metric tons (104 million barrels), lower than the 17.3 million metric tons (126.3 million barrels) imported in March.

Many analysts believe the dollar’s protracted decline over the past year has much to do with the doubling in oil prices since May of last year. Another school of thought thinks growing demand in rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and India, is the primary factor driving oil higher.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures fell 2.8 cents to $3.6365 a gallon while gasoline prices fell 3.15 cents to $3.2000 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 6.6 cents to $11.644 per 1,000 cubic feet.

June Brent crude dropped 98 cents to $124.42 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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