2 November 2001
1. CLIMATE TREATY: THE UNITED STATES IS SITTING ON THE BENCH.
In Morocco this week, the nations of the world are gathered to work out the
details of the Kyoto Protocol, requiring cuts in emission of greenhouse gases.
However, President Bush made it clear that the nation that leads the world in
climate research, and which also happens to be the biggest producer of greenhouse
emissions, won't be part of any agreement that is reached. Americans are
preoccupied by other events, and those opposing the Protocol, including the
President, insist that it treats industrialized nations unfairly. Since the
treaty can only take effect if ratified by countries accounting for 55% of
the 1990 greenhouse emissions, any meaningful treaty is probably doomed.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: THE NMD STORY TAKES YET ANOTHER PLOT TWIST.
Last week's "deal" unraveled
(WN 26 Oct 01),
but the Washington Post and the
New York Times now say the U.S. and Russia are close to another deal. Under
this week's "deal" Russia would permit NMD tests, in return for which the
U.S. would agree to stockpile cuts and postpone a decision to abandon the
1972 ABM treaty. Perhaps Putin looked at the results of NMD tests thus far
(WN 13 Jul 01),
and decided such tests are unlikely to lead to a real defense
anyway. Or maybe all these "deals" are weather balloons, sent up to check on
the climate for the summit that will begin on 13 Nov. Stay tuned. WN will
continue to report these deals.
3. LOOSE NUKES: CONGRESS CHOOSES PORK OVER NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS.
Everyone in Washington is trying to guess what weapon terrorists will unleash
next. Nuclear is high on the chart. It needn't be a bomb: widely-scattered
radioactive material would effectively spread panic in a society that already
has an exaggerated fear of all things radioactive. But in approving a $25B
energy and water bill, $2B more than the President requested, Congress failed
to add money for programs to safeguard Russian nuclear stockpiles.
4. NASA SPACEGUARD: HOW FAR SHOULD WE GO IN DETECTING ASTEROIDS?
The NASA goal is to detect asteroids larger than 1 km diameter, which is the
lower limit for a global catastrophe. As the size of an asteroid goes down,
however, detection costs go up. We will examine the implications more closely
in the next issue.
5. ISS: MANAGEMENT AND COST EVALUATION TASK FORCE REPORT.
You will recall that the ISS is 4.8B over budget--down to a Mir-sized crew of
three--and has effectively scrapped its science programs. Major changes in how
the ISS is managed are called for in the Task Force report, which was released
just minutes ago. The report also calls for additional funds to be made available
from the Human Space Flight budget. Until now, cost overruns on the ISS have been
made up with funds taken from science programs.