Thursday, December 23, 2010

Carbon dioxide could pass 560 before the end of the century, double what it was before the Industrial Revolution

A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning
December 21, 2010

MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii — Two gray machines sit inside a pair of utilitarian buildings here, sniffing the fresh breezes that blow across thousands of miles of ocean.

They make no noise. But once an hour, they spit out a number, and for decades, it has been rising relentlessly.

The first machine of this type was installed on Mauna Loa in the 1950s at the behest of Charles David Keeling, a scientist from San Diego. His resulting discovery, of the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, transformed the scientific understanding of humanity’s relationship with the earth. A graph of his findings is inscribed on a wall in Washington as one of the great achievements of modern science.

Yet, five years after Dr. Keeling’s death, his discovery is a focus not of celebration but of conflict. It has become the touchstone of a worldwide political debate over global warming.

When Dr. Keeling, as a young researcher, became the first person in the world to develop an accurate technique for measuring carbon dioxide in the air, the amount he discovered was 310 parts per million. That means every million pints of air, for example, contained 310 pints of carbon dioxide.

By 2005, the year he died, the number had risen to 380 parts per million. Sometime in the next few years it is expected to pass 400. Without stronger action to limit emissions, the number could pass 560 before the end of the century, double what it was before the Industrial Revolution.

The greatest question in climate science is: What will that do to the temperature of the earth?...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Southerners believe the Old South was "a society far and above anything else on Earth."

Let's say you start a war that costs more American lives than either WW I or WW II. What do you get? Apparently, the undying admiration of your descendants. What exactly was great about Southern society? The fancy balls, obviously: the height of human achievement.

At Charleston's Secession Ball, divided opinions on the spirit of S.C.
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post
December 22, 2010

...John B. Hines, a wealthy Texas oilman and cattle rancher, helped, too. He sent a $5,000 sponsorship for the affair because he loves the Old South: "They created a society far and above anything else on Earth."...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gary Chapman, Internet Ethicist, Dies at 58

Gary Chapman, Internet Ethicist, Dies at 58
December 17, 2010

Gary Chapman, an educator, writer and widely recognized expert on the impact of high technology on society and public policy, died Tuesday while on a kayaking trip in Guatemala. He was 58.

The cause was a heart attack, his family said...

For seven years Mr. Chapman was the executive director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit group concerned with the impact of technology on society. Under his guidance, it grew into an influential organization with international reach.

In the 1980s, the group cast a particularly skeptical eye on the application of computers to decision-making in military systems and took a public stand against the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars.

Mr. Chapman was on the faculty of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He also founded and directed the school’s 21st Century Project, which studies the social implications of information technology and telecommunications.

Although not a computer scientist himself, and neither a champion nor a foe of technology per se, Mr. Chapman gave voice to many leaders in the field who struggled with the ethical implications of new technology.

“He helped many distinguished computer scientists articulate their concerns,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington and a longtime colleague of Mr. Chapman’s. “He promoted an important dialogue between leaders in computer science and the broader public. It’s part of a very important tradition, and he played a key role.”

Closer to home, Mr. Chapman also worked to bridge the so-called digital divide, the gulf between those with access to technology and those without. In 1995, his 21st Century Project helped bring computers and the Internet to low-income areas of Austin.

“He made many people stop and ask hard questions about technology,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “Not just ‘Is it cool?’ but ‘Does it make our lives better, or more just? And does it make our world more secure?’ ”

Gary Brent Chapman was born on Aug. 8, 1952, in Los Angeles. In the mid-1970s he was a medic with the Army Special Forces.

After his military service Mr. Chapman attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, graduating in 1979 with a degree in political science. He was a Ph.D. student at Stanford University’s political science program in 1984, when he left to take the job at Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

“When word went around in the community of peace activists that we had hired a former Green Beret, eyebrows were raised everywhere,” said Severo Ornstein, a computer scientist and a founder of the organization. But through Mr. Chapman’s careful and original thinking on a variety of issues, Mr. Ornstein said, “the raised eyebrows were quickly defused.”

With David Bellin, Mr. Chapman edited “Computers in Battle: Will They Work?” (Houghton Mifflin, 1987).

As a senior lecturer at the University of Texas, Mr. Chapman taught graduate courses in technology policy. “Over the years, Gary mentored dozens of students, who went on to work in key policy areas,” said Sherri Greenberg, a fellow faculty member.

Mr. Chapman’s survivors include his wife, Carol Flake Chapman; his father, Arthur S. Chapman, and stepmother, Pierrette Chapman, of Solvang, Calif.; and a half-brother, Duane Chapman, of Bakersfield, Calif.

Although Mr. Chapman was known to colleagues as soft-spoken, he could be passionate when arguing a point. Eric Roberts, a computer science professor at Stanford, recalled that at a C.P.S.R. board meeting on the Stanford campus in 1988, Mr. Chapman banged his fist on the table to make his case. “Just at that moment we had an earthquake...”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Abortion Common Ground: A Pro-Life Agenda

Abortion Common Ground: A Pro-Life Agenda
What pro-lifers can learn from the Princeton abortion conference.
By William Saletan
Nov. 16, 2010

1. Reduce the abortion rate through voluntary means. In the conference's opening session (videos of all but one session are available here), David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, warned fellow pro-lifers that overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn't address the underlying cultural dynamics that cause abortions. The next day, Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and theology at Notre Dame, voiced a similar concern: "... I'm very concerned with the study in 2007 that indicated that societies which criminalized abortion did not succeed in reducing the rate of abortion."

Rather than focus on passing laws, Gushee conveyed an alternative approach:...Help women avoid pregnancies they don't want, and you'll wipe out the vast majority of abortions without having to enact a single restriction.

I don't expect pro-lifers to stop fighting for restrictions. But I did notice some of them—notably, Helen Alvare, the former spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—using the term "pro-life" to describe the broad spectrum of Americans who are morally but often not legally opposed to abortion...

2. Subsidize maternity. Money can't buy everything. But it can make it easier to carry a pregnancy to term and raise the child...

3. Embrace contraception... Speaking of the evangelical Protestants to whom he ministers and belongs, Gushee said:

...I think it's fair to say that conservative religion is one contributing factor to the remarkably high rate of unintended pregnancies in our culture. … In my world, I sense currently a weakening of opposition to the provision of birth control and birth control information, including in the South... you could win the argument that even if one would wish that our young people were not having sex, we should tell them about birth control anyhow...

The morality of contraception is not the intrinsic problem in Protestant thought that it is in traditional Catholic moral thought...Even Christopher Kaczor, a Catholic philosopher at Loyola Marymount University, noted the vast moral difference between abortion, which in his view kills an innocent human being, and contraception, which doesn't. Honor that difference. Trade abortion for contraception.

4. Early abortions are better than late ones... From a pro-life standpoint, trading late abortions for early ones is hardly ideal. But it's better than nothing, and if you pursue it, nobody will stand in your way.

5. Choose your friends by your mission, not your mission by your friends. Camosy and Jennifer Miller, the pro-lifers who co-organized the conference, have been derided and accused of treachery by colleagues who regard any cooperation with pro-choicers as stupid or evil. Gushee has endured similar treatment. After the conference, Austin Ruse, the President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which opposes contraception as well as abortion, mocked Camosy and Miller for being young and poorly funded and for "validating" their pro-choice collaborators...