Leaking Air

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NASA researchers close in on why Mars lost its atmosphere.

Climate Change: “Partner … Ally”

Obama had a message for the country’s governors on Tuesday:

Never Trust Air You Can’t See

The city motto of Los Angeles seems to be China’s national ethos as well, as the smog problem in Asia gets worse:

The brownish haze, sometimes in a layer more than a mile thick and clearly visible from airplanes, stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to the Yellow Sea. In the spring, it sweeps past North and South Korea and Japan. Sometimes the cloud drifts as far east as California.

The report identified 13 cities as brown-cloud hot spots, among them Bangkok, Cairo, New Delhi, Tehran and Seoul, South Korea.

To be fair, it’s obviously not just the Chinese who are contributing to such a large-scale problem. But it illustrates that Bush was onto something when he administered the coup de grace to Kyoto on the grounds that it excluded China and India. Meaningful environmental treaties have to take in the big developing economies too.

Sonar, Subs & Whales

Galrahn dives into the Supreme Court’s USN sonar decision. I haven’t read the opinion yet but respect G’s technical expertise. Start your research here. I will say I consider the opinion a good thing. You don’t want to go into ASW not knowing how to use active.

So Far, So Good

At least in New Orleans proper, Gustav seems to have let people off light. Keep checking with the Times-Picayune for details. There’s also some decent group-blogging of the storm going on at GustavBloggers.com.

One of my commenters felt I was a little quick overnight to pronounce this particular relief effort a failure. He reads too much into what I was saying. But I was concerned when I read Galrahn’s initial report on the Bataan’s departure for the Gulf Coast because there’s no hurricane response without command and control, and it looked possible the state capital, Baton Rouge, would take a hit. Now, in some places, the state government can be relied on to compensate. But New Orleans’ troubles three years ago were partly the result of failures by the Louisiana state government. The folks who run it have had time to recover, learn and prepare, but having failed once, the feds’ planning has to assume the state might fail again. That means being ready to take over the command and control function. To the extent the Bataan was a key tool for that, and looked likely to arrive late, that’s a problem.

Gustav: Botched Already?

Galrahn thinks the Navy might be late to the party:

The USS Bataan (LHD 5) deployment is coming a day late, and it is particularly noteworthy the Navy will have difficulty deploying more ships from the east coast if necessary. Hurricane Hanna will soon be influencing the lines of communication at sea off the east coast of Florida, meaning after Monday any other ships will be forced to take the long route through heavy seas around Hanna to help in the Gulf Coast.

The Grid’s the Thing

The New York Times identifies a key barrier to exploiting renewable energy: the fractured state of America’s transmission grid. Eventually, Congress may have to invoke its power to regulate interstate commerce to sort things out:

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

Gustav Line

Via Galrahn, the Department of Defense at least is ready for Hurricane Gustav:

The command has activated four defense coordinating elements at the regional FEMA headquarters. The command provides unique DoD capabilities for disaster response. Rowe said three active-duty military installations have been designated as FEMA logistics points: Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; and the Naval Air Station at Meridian, Miss. 

The 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Fort Drum, N.Y., is the quick-reaction force for the homeland. “They are provided with situational awareness and provided with prepare-to-deploy orders if needed,” Rowe said. 

In addition, Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., has given direction to three amphibious ships — the USS Bataan, the USS Nassau and the USS Ponce — to be prepared to sortie if needed. The command also has at its disposal additional communications, engineering, and aviation units.

Unfortunately, it looks like they’ll be needed:

Sustain This

The Economist, talking about a controversy surrounding the development of tar sands in Canada, asks the right question about today’s most overused buzzword and comes up with the right answer:

Sustainability is a hopelessly subjective concept. The most widely accepted definition— “development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” — is little help, as need is also subjective, and the future unpredictable.

But that does not make sustainability meaningless, it just makes it a political battleground.

The standard definition is a non-sequitur because both the needs and abilities of future generations are unknowable.

Midasize It!

Someone needs a catalytic converter …