Thursday, October 15, 2009

New and Noteworthy (Adapting to Peak Oil, Global Warming, Afrigadget)

In today's edition:

* A paper from Jorg Friedrichs' of Oxford University on how different parts of the world might react to peak-oil energy scarcity, which focuses on how domestic political differences shape responses. (Particularly interesting is its assessment of North Korea and Cuba's quite different responses to the shortages of energy they each faced following the loss of Soviet assistance in the 1990s.)

* A BBC Science News article, "What Happened to Global Warming?" on how recent data (suggesting, perhaps, a cooler couples of decades to come) may complicate the debate over global warming.

The short version is that there may be alternating thirty year waves of oceanic (and more broadly climatic) heating and cooling, with the cooling of the '40s to the '70s followed by the heating of the '80s, '90s and early 2000s possibly in the process of giving way to cooler temperatures for the next thirty years.

However, that does not by itself eliminate a long-term trend toward higher temperatures, which can continue through this cycle (as greenhouse gas emissions continue accumulating)-and in fact, the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre says these cycles have been incorporated into its models, which suggest more takers for the "hottest year on record" title between now and 2015.

In short, the mere existence of the cycles doesn't get us off the hook-but ought to be acknowledged nonetheless not only because a robust short- or long-term prediction must take them into account, but because of the way they can be used to muddle the discussion.

* And finally, an intriguing blog named Afrigadget devoted to stories of ingenuity on the continent-especially worthwhile given that, despite hype to the contrary, relatively little attention is given to the R & D needs (and R & D work) of developing nations.

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