Friday, December 19, 2003
1. CLIMATE CHANGE: AGU STATEMENT REFLECTS THE GROWING CONSENSUS.
It is now "scientifically inconceivable that human activity has
not altered climate systems," explained John Christy, Director of
the Earth Systems Science Center at the University of Alabama,
Huntsville. He spoke this week at an American Geophysical Union
press briefing in Washington to announce a new position statement
on Human Impact on Climate. An AGU statement three years ago was
far more tentative (WN 29 Jan 99). Even the Bush administration
now accepts the reality of anthropogenic warming (WN
7 Jun 02).
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: DEPLOYMENT IS STILL SCHEDULED FOR LATE 2004.
It was just one year ago that President Bush ordered deployment
of a limited system of interceptor missiles in California and
Alaska by the end of 2004 (WN 20 Dec 02). But in the meantime,
according to a story this week in Space News, the test schedule
has fallen behind by about six months. "Tough break," I said to
my friend General Persiflage at the Missile Defense Agency, "how
much will postponing the tests delay deployment?" He was clearly
amused: "Not one day; it's all part of the plan. The Commander-
in-Chief ordered us to deploy in 2004, and deploy we will. The
only thing that could get in our way is to blow a test. So why
ask for trouble?" He chuckled, "You scientists always think you
have to do experiments. This is a faith-based initiative."
3. NUCLEAR WEAPONS: THE OVERTURNING OF US NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY.
For more than half a century, the sole use for US nuclear weapons
had been to deter a nuclear attack. Two years ago, however, the
Bush Administration completed its Nuclear Posture Review (WN
Mar 02). It led to the repeal of a 1994 ban on research and
development of new, low-yield nuclear weapons (WN 28
National Nuclear Security Administration head, Linton Brooks, has
been dancing in the end zone. He sent a letter to lab directors
proding them to "take advantage of this opportunity to close any
gaps in understanding of the possible military applications of
4. ENVIRONMENT: MtBE CAUSES CANCER, AND A BIG STINK IN CONGRESS.
The Bush Administration had expected to enact legislation this
year setting a new energy policy. The bill struggled under the
weight of special-interest deals, but what finally sank it was a
provision immunizing makers of a gasoline additive, MtBE,, from
lawsuits (WN 28 Nov 03). MtBE has a way of getting into
groundwater, where even in trace amounts it smells and tastes
terrible so terrible no one can stand to drink it. That turns
out to be a very good thing, because MtBE also causes cancer in
laboratory animals and the International Agency for Research on
Cancer treats it as a carcinogen. Most of the makers seems to be
in the Houston district of House Majority Leader Tom Delay.