…are we sure it’s not still monday?
More than 1,000 “super-emitter” sites gushed the potent greenhouse gas methane into the global atmosphere in 2022, the Guardian can reveal, mostly from oil and gas facilities. The worst single leak spewed the pollution at a rate equivalent to 67m running cars.
Separate data also reveals 55 “methane bombs” around the world – fossil fuel extraction sites where gas leaks alone from future production would release levels of methane equivalent to 30 years of all US greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane emissions cause 25% of global heating today and there has been a “scary” surge since 2007, according to scientists. This acceleration may be the biggest threat to keeping below 1.5C of global heating and seriously risks triggering catastrophic climate tipping points, researchers say.
The two new datasets identify the sites most critical to preventing methane-driven disaster, as tackling leaks from fossil fuel sites is the fastest and cheapest way to slash methane emissions. Some leaks are deliberate, venting the unwanted gas released from underground while drilling for oil into the air, and some are accidental, from badly maintained or poorly regulated equipment.
Fast action would dramatically slow global heating as methane is short-lived in the atmosphere. An emissions cut of 45% by 2030, which the UN says is possible, would prevent 0.3C of temperature rise. Methane emissions therefore present both a grave threat to humanity, but also a golden opportunity to decisively act on the climate crisis.
The methane super-emitter sites were detected by analysis of satellite data, with the US, Russia and Turkmenistan responsible for the largest number from fossil fuel facilities. The biggest event was a leak of 427 tonnes an hour in August, near Turkmenistan’s Caspian coast and a major pipeline. That single leak was equivalent to the rate of emissions from 67m cars, or the hourly national emissions of France.
Future methane emissions from fossil fuel sites – the methane bombs – are also forecast to be huge, threatening the entire global “carbon budget” limit required to keep heating below 1.5C. More than half of these fields are already in production, including the three biggest methane bombs, which are all in North America.
“Methane’s short lifetime means reduction of its emissions is one of the few options we still have to stay below 1.5C,” said Dr Lena Höglund-Isaksson, at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. “If you exceed that level, even temporarily, you might trigger irreversible effects [from climate tipping points].” The climate is already on the brink of multiple tipping points that could drive runaway climate change, scientists warned recently.
“Methane is the worst thing in the struggle to hold back the [climate] domino pieces, because it’s pushing them over very quickly,” said Kjell Kühne at the Leave it in the Ground Initiative. “Having so many methane bombs out there is really worrisome.”https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/06/revealed-1000-super-emitting-methane-leaks-risk-triggering-climate-tipping-points
Emissions from the food system alone will drive the world past 1.5C of global heating, unless high-methane foods are tackled.
The analysis estimated that if today’s level of food emissions continued, they would result in at least 0.7C of global heating by the end of the century, on top of the 1C rise already seen. This means emissions from food alone, ignoring the huge impact of fossil fuels, would push the world past the 1.5C limit.
The study showed that 75% of this food-related heating was driven by foods that are high sources of methane, ie those coming from ruminant livestock such as cattle, and rice paddy fields. However, the scientists said the temperature rise could be cut by 55% by cutting meat consumption in rich countries to medically recommended levels, reducing emissions from livestock and their manure, and using renewable energy in the food system.
Previous studies have shown the huge impact of food production on the environment, particularly meat and dairy, but the new study provides estimates of the temperature rises their emissions could cause. These could be a significant underestimate, however, as the study assumed animal product consumption would remain level in the future but it was projected to rise by 70% by 2050.
“Methane has this really dominant role in driving the warming associated with the food systems,” said Catherine Ivanovich, at Columbia University in the US, who led the research. “Sustaining the pattern [of food production] we have today is not consistent with keeping the 1.5C temperature threshold. That places a lot of urgency on reducing the emissions, especially from the high-methane food groups.”
The contribution of global food production to the climate crisis is complex because it involves several important greenhouse gases, all of which have different abilities to trap heat and persist in the atmosphere for different amounts of time. Previous studies have converted the impact of methane and other gases into an equivalent amount of CO2 over 100 years, but this underplayed the high potency of methane over shorter timescales.
The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, treated each greenhouse gas separately for 94 key types of food, enabling their impact on climate over time to be better understood. Feeding this emissions data into a widely used climate model showed that the continuation of today’s food production would lead to a rise of 0.7C by 2100 if global population growth was low, and a 0.9C rise if population growth was high.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/06/meat-dairy-rice-high-methane-food-production-bust-climate-target-study
…give me a break…I know about the steak thing…I don’t like it…but I eat less steak than I used to…but…rice?
…just how much less rice are we talking…because that stuff tends to show up in the dietary proportions I wouldn’t even try to make up with steak…& for a whole hell of a lot of people
“We already know that livestock production has a disproportionate contribution to climate change – even using traditional metrics, in 2021 we showed that 57% of emissions from the food system arise from animal agriculture,” said Prof Pete Smith, at the University of Aberdeen, UK. “This very neat study uses a simple climate model to show the disproportionate impact of methane emissions from agriculture on temperature increases, and throws light on the importance of reducing methane emissions from the food system.”https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/06/meat-dairy-rice-high-methane-food-production-bust-climate-target-study
…maybe that’s why they bring it up but then they don’t really talk about that part? …kinda like this thing about “clean hydrogen” doesn’t seem to be talking about that “it’s just sitting there being hydrogen” stuff from the thing I was on about the other day
In August, the White House passed a historic piece of legislation with $369 billion in spending to address climate change. One of the most significant tax credits in that historic law was a tax credit to make hydrogen in climate-conscious ways.
Hydrogen is currently used for many purposes, including making ammonia-based fertilizer, which the world depends on for growing crops, and for refining crude oil into useful petroleum products. But it’s also likened to a “Swiss Army Knife of decarbonization,” because it could be used as a power source in industries that are particularly hard to wean off fossil fuels, like airplanes and heavy shipping.
On one side of the debate, some energy providers say that making the rules too strict could kill the clean hydrogen industry before it ever gets off the ground.
“Our view is that if you put too onerous of regulations in place … the price to produce green hydrogen will be uneconomic and the industry won’t scale, effectively making it dead on arrival,” said a spokesperson for NextEra Energy, which produces clean energy from wind, solar and nuclear sources and owns a major utility in Florida.
On the other side, environmental policy groups argue the rules could end up being so lax that the new “clean” hydrogen industry could actually end up increasing, rather than decreasing, carbon emissions.
“Weak guidance could … force Treasury to spend more than $100 billion in subsidies for hydrogen projects that result in increased net emissions, in direct conflict with statutory requirements and tarnishing the reputation of the nascent ‘clean’ hydrogen industry,” according to an open letter sent from 18 organizations to federal agencies.
“With loose rules and weak life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions analyses for hydrogen production, the hydrogen tax credit could end up going to producers whose hydrogen is not actually lower-emissions than the alternatives, and could even end up having the indirect effect of increasing emissions from the electricity grid,” explained Emily Kent, who covers fuel sources for the Clean Air Task Force, a climate policy shop that signed on to the letter.
…I don’t know…but it sort of sounds as though we might maybe not be going about this shit the best we could
The U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS are hashing out how the tax credit will be executed, and their request for public comment drew input from energy giants like BP and Shell, industry associations like the Renewable Fuels Association and the American Gas Association, and scores of others.
The amount of the tax credit will depend on how much CO2 is emitted when a particular producer makes hydrogen. But the debate revolves around how to account for that CO2.
On the energy grid, electricity generated in any number of ways — by burning coal or natural gas, or capturing wind or solar energy — gets sloshed together. A renewable energy certificate, or REC, is a legal certificate that proves a particular energy producer created a certain amount of renewable energy.
The divide over the hydrogen tax credit comes down to which kind of RECs should be permitted.
BP America, for example, wants annual RECs to be allowed, according to its public comment to the IRS. The annual RECs are a more flexible way of implementing the tax law, which would help spur investment necessary to get the industry off the ground. That’s important for BP, which plans to spend between $27.5 billion and $32.5 billion on a combination of what the energy company deems its transition growth engines, including hydrogen production and renewables, between 2023 and 2030.
Reuter pointed to an analysis from the global consultancy company Wood Mackenzie showing that annual credits would allow the electrolyzers that produce hydrogen to run all the time, and that hourly matching would make the cost of hydrogen production more expensive.
“An hourly approach would be constrictive and ensure that a nascent industry is strangled before it gets started,” Reuter said.
On the other side of the debate, climate-focused organizations, including Electric Hydrogen and the Clean Air Task Force, argue that adopting more flexible guidance would undermine the climate goals of the Inflation Reduction Act.
The environmental groups say that using fossil fuels to power an electrolyzer to make hydrogen is actually much worse for the climate than today’s method of using natural gas in a steam methane reformer process.
…wait…but the methane thing is also a problem…&…there’s hydrogen you don’t have to make…&…it is, isn’t it…it’s monday again…I’ve heard of a month of sundays…how we try to address this stuff keeps me familiar with that concept…but I don’t think I’m gonna make it through a week of mondays
First and foremost, hourly accounting would allow hydrogen producers to claim renewable energy credits only if clean energy is being generated at the same hour when they are consuming it — when the wind is blowing, the sun is shining, or a nuclear power plant is generating energy on the relevant transmission system.
It takes between 12 and 18 months to stand up an hourly matching accounting system, but at least 24 months for large scale hydrogen production to be started, according to the open letter from the climate groups.
“Additionality” means that credits could not be counted for clean energy that would have been generated anyway.
“Deliverability” means that credits could only be counted for clean energy that’s actually being generated in a location that is connected via a transmission line that is not already congested, to where the hydrogen producer is using the electrolyzer to produce hydrogen.
Forcing hydrogen producers to match their energy consumption hourly and on a location specific basis is “a better approximation of reality,” said Deane.
“When it’s on the grid, an electron is electron, it doesn’t have a color, but it does have a history, and you’re trying to make the history match up so that you have some validity to your claim that it is clean, and therefore should be eligible for a tax benefit.”
“Our peer-reviewed research is pretty definitive on this front: hourly matching, additionality, and physical deliverability are all required to ensure grid connected electrolysis can meet the stringent requirements set by the IRA statute. Our research demonstrates that removing any one of those criteria results in significant emissions,” Jenkins said.
Without this trifecta of accounting standards, hydrogen producers could run their electrolyzers 24-7, drawing from fossil fuel sources at night or when there is no wind energy, then claim to offset it by getting credits from wind farms or solar farms that would’ve produced that energy anyway, explains Wilson Ricks, who works in Jenkins’ research lab.
A projected imbalance in supply and demand for RECs is also a factor. By the end of the decade, Ricks’ modeling shows that there will be more RECs being produced than the market wants, which means hydrogen producers could be using existing RECs without incentivizing any new clean energy creation.
Hi projections suggest that by 2030, there will be “a massive national gap between the total number of clean certificates generated and the total demand for these certificates,” said Ricks. “I’m even surprised how large it is. If this is any indicator, there will be plenty of headroom for hydrogen producers to buy up annual RECs without needing to bring any new zero-carbon generation online.”
So far, federal agencies aren’t taking a clear side. The Treasury and IRS will implement the tax benefit such that it “advances the goals of increasing energy security and combatting climate change,” a spokesperson for the Treasury told CNBC.
In the long run, Garabedian said, his stance is about protecting his company, the industry’s reputation and the tax credit.https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/fierce-debate-clean-hydrogen-100-billion-federal-subsidies-on-the-line
…it…doesn’t look so good…sorta like a monday
…even before you get to what might be fucking with the traffic between you & where you need to get
The group had already been convicted of criminal damage following an Extinction Rebellion (XR) action in April 2021 that involved breaking windows at the headquarters of Barclays Bank: a financial institution responsible for more than £4bn of fossil fuel financing during that year alone. “In case of climate emergency break glass”, read stickers they stuck to the shattered panes. Now they were being sentenced. After a long preamble, the judge eventually handed down suspended terms, sparing the defendants jail for the time being. But he used his closing remarks to condemn their protest as a “stunt” that wouldn’t help to solve the climate crisis. “You risk alienating those who you look to for support,” he warned.
Is he right? Outside the courtroom, that’s a question XR has been pondering for some time. Two months ago, we received an answer of sorts: the movement released a statement on New Year’s Eve, dramatically titled “We Quit”, in which it announced it would “temporarily shift away from public disruption as a primary tactic” and promised that its next major action would “leave the locks, glue and paint behind”. Instead, it called upon anyone concerned about climate change to gather peacefully outside parliament on 21 April as part of a mobilisation that will “prioritise attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks”. In response, Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain – the high-profile environmental action groups that have outflanked XR in recent years when it comes to disruptive public protests – both reasserted their commitment to direct civil resistance.
Debates over the pros and cons of different forms of activism are nothing new within the climate movement; see, for instance, fierce disagreements among supporters of Earth First! – arguably Britain’s first direct action environmental group – over the relative merits of sabotage nearly 30 years ago. What lends this one a particular urgency is the scale and pace of planetary destruction under the status quo (last year, the IPCC issued its “bleakest warning yet” regarding humanity’s future), as well as the specific conjunction of social, political and economic forces in the UK. After 13 years of Conservative rule, multiple and intersecting crises – from low pay and soaring inflation to unaffordable housing and a broken NHS – are engulfing the country, pushing more than a million people on to picket lines.
Rather than tackle the root causes of popular discontent, the government is seeking to criminalise those who give voice to it via new legal restrictions on the right to protest or take industrial action. Against a backdrop of both creeping authoritarianism above and collective fightbacks below, this feels like a moment of real possibility for climate campaigners, albeit one fraught with dangers.
A more salient faultline – and one that runs right through the middle of many climate groups, including XR – concerns what exactly is being named as the enemy here, and therefore what sort of changes are needed to vanquish it. It’s easy enough to recognise that the environment is being devastated by human activity, but who is responsible: is it a generalised failure on the part of an entire species – or the result of specific actors, and specific political and economic systems built to enrich and protect them? If so, can we really expect concessions granted from within those systems to durably and meaningfully change our relationship with the natural world?
This question matters because alongside a healthy diversity of tactics and movement entry points, what the climate struggle needs is a clear, coherent narrative that knits together the many different ways in which those with enormous wealth are dispossessing the rest of us – including their war on the ecosystems that form the basis of our shared survival – and calls out the extractive, undemocratic structures that enable that process.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/mar/06/british-eco-activists-disruption-extinction-rebellion
Researching this article, I’ve spoken to people hailing from very different parts of the environmental movement, and what struck me most was the degree of mutual respect on display, rather than rupture. Rupert Read, for example, had positive things to say about some of Just Stop Oil’s past interventions; Indigo Rumbelow, a co-founder of Just Stop Oil, encouraged anyone who criticises her group’s tactics but supports their cause to join the XR mobilisation on 21 April. “The debate is not between those who want to take ‘moderate’ or ‘radical’ action,” she told me. “It’s between those who are standing by doing nothing at all, and those who are doing something. That’s where the line is drawn.”
…seems counter-intuitive…but…well…again with that monday effect…or is just affect…I mean…it could just be me…maybe I got out of the wrong side of bed…maybe it’s not that invoking vast sums of money can still go to show that talk is cheap
Cabinet ministers have been warned by senior civil servants that they face court action because of their catastrophic failure to develop policies for tackling climate change, according to secret documents obtained by the Observer.
The leaked briefings from senior mandarins – marked “official sensitive” and dated 20 February this year – make clear the government as a whole is way behind in spelling out how it will reach its net zero targets and comply with legal duties to save the planet.
The restricted, highly sensitive documents are another severe embarrassment for Rishi Sunak, who originally planned to stay away from last November’s Cop27 climate summit in Egypt, but was shamed into attending after his predecessor but one, Boris Johnson, announced he was going.
The documents say that as a result of evident lack of policy there is an increasing “legal risk” facing the secretary of state for energy security and net zero, Grant Shapps – who is held responsible under law for failing to act.
At one point, officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) state that their own department’s failure to develop policies for cutting carbon emissions “increases the legal risk on the DESNZ (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) SoS (Shapps) if the reduced savings cannot be made across the economy, which DESNZ have indicated will not be possible.”
The papers, circulated by Defra officials to other senior Whitehall figures, will place particular pressure on environment secretary Thérèse Coffey, who was booed recently at a conference by farmers, who are already highly critical of the government’s agenda for agriculture post-Brexit.
The documents show Coffey’s department is by far the worst offender in failing to develop green policy, lagging a staggering 24% behind its official target, while the transport department has a gap “that is considerably over 5%”.
They say: “The CCC has been calling for Defra to publish a decarbonisation plan since 2018 … The CCC has also criticised the ‘glacial progress’ in reducing emissions from agriculture.”
The papers add: “It is likely that if we do not commit to a plan in response to the CCC’s recommendations, we will be singled out for further scrutiny by the CCC and other stakeholders.”
Green groups say Coffey is nervous of triggering a bigger anti-Tory rural revolt if she announces policies that will force farmers to adopt more green ways of farming, such as enforcing limits on the size of livestock herds, large-scale tree planting and reducing use of fossil-fuel-based fertilisers on farms.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, told the Observer on Saturday night: “The CCC does not comment on leaked documents, but in our last report we said that it is abundantly clear that Defra is off track to deliver key climate policies. It is our statutory duty to highlight these failings to parliament, to help them in their scrutiny over government plans.
“Defra is unique across key Whitehall departments in not having a net zero strategy, which must cover critical aspects of farming, land use, nature and our critical food system. That is a huge gap as we head into a critical period for the achievement of the UK’s statutory climate goals.”https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/04/revealed-cabinet-ministers-warned-of-legal-action-over-uks-failure-to-tackle-climate-crisis
…which…I suppose…makes a kinda-sorta sense…hot air is definitely part of our problem
“By the end of January we could tell it was only a matter of time. It wasn’t even a close run thing,” says Dr Will Hobbs, an Antarctic sea ice expert at the University of Tasmania with the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership.
“We are seeing less ice everywhere. It’s a circumpolar event.”
In the southern hemisphere summer of 2022, the amount of sea ice dropped to 1.92m sq km on 25 February – an all-time low based on satellite observations that started in 1979.
But by 12 February this year, the 2022 record had already been broken. The ice kept melting, reaching a new record low of 1.79m sq km on 25 February and beating the previous record by 136,000 sq km – an area double the size of Tasmania.
Hobbs and other scientists said the new record – the third time it’s been broken in six years – has started a scramble for answers among polar scientists.
The fate of Antarctica – especially the ice on land – is important because the continent holds enough ice to raise sea levels by many metres if it was to melt.
“We don’t want to lose sea ice where there are these vulnerable ice shelves and, behind them, the ice sheets,” Prof Matt England, an oceanographer and climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, says.
“We are probably starting to see signs of significant warming and retreat of sea ice [in Antarctica]. To see it getting to these levels is definitely a concern because we have these potentially amplifying feedbacks.”
Data provided by scientists Dr Rob Massom, of the Australian Antarctic Division, and Dr Phil Reid, of the Bureau of Meteorology, shows two-thirds of the continent’s coastline was exposed to open water last month – well above the long-term average of about 50%.
“It’s not just the extent of the ice, but also the duration of the coverage,” Massom says. “If the sea ice is removed, you expose floating ice margins to waves that can flex them and increase the probability of those ice shelves calving. That then allows more grounded ice into the ocean.”
“Antarctica might seem remote but changes around there can affect the global climate and the melting ice sheets affect coastal communities around the world,” says [Dr Ariaan] Purich [a climate scientist at Monash University].
“Everyone should be concerned about what’s happening in Antarctica.”https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/04/everyone-should-be-concerned-antarctic-sea-ice-reaches-lowest-levels-ever-recorded
…or…I dunno…maybe europe?
In northern Italy, tourists can walk to the small island of San Biagio, normally reached only by boat, from the shore of Lake Garda, where the water level is 70cm (27in) lower than average. The Alps have had 63% less snow than usual.
In Germany, shallow waters on the Rhine are already disrupting barge traffic, forcing boats heading up into central Europe to load at half capacity, and in Catalonia, now short of water for three years, Barcelona has stopped watering its parks.
After its driest summer in 500 years, much of Europe is in the grip of a winter drought driven by climate breakdown that is prompting growing concern among governments over the water security for homes, farmers and factories across the continent.
A study published in January by Graz University of Technology in Austria, whose scientists used satellite data to analyse groundwater reserves, concluded that Europe has been in drought since 2018 and its water situation was now “very precarious”.
Torsten Mayer-Gürr, one of the researchers, said: “I would never have imagined that water would be a problem here in Europe, especially in Germany or Austria. We are actually getting problems with the water supply here. We have to think about this.”
The World Weather Attribution service said last year northern hemisphere drought was at least 20 times more likely because of human-caused climate change, warning that such extreme periods would become increasingly common with global heating.https://www.theguardian.com/weather/2023/mar/04/very-precarious-europe-faces-growing-water-crisis-as-winter-drought-worsens
A map of current droughts in Europe from the EU’s Copernicus programme shows alerts for low rainfall or soil moisture in areas of northern and southern Spain, northern Italy and southern Germany, with almost all of France affected.
…maybe it’s a matter of perspective
I was utterly transfixed last week by a moment captured on CCTV in a Florida gym. A woman – an Instagram fitness model called Nashali Alma – sees a man waiting outside the door and interrupts her workout to buzz him in. It is evening. The two are now alone, sealed inside the empty room.
After a few minutes the man approaches her and then, shockingly, starts to chase her around the machines. Then he catches her. You think: that’s it, she’s done for. But like one of those dramatic sequences in the very best David Attenborough films – a hatchling iguana evading a nest of snapping snakes, perhaps, or an impala struggling clear of a crocodile death-roll – it is not over. She fights and, eventually – unbelievably – she wins. The exhausted predator has been outdone by his wily prey.
Inspiring stuff, I thought, but many would disagree. In fact the video has sparked something of a row online.
After a Florida sheriff told reporters the story would be “an inspiration to other women”, many reacted in fury. There was nothing inspiring about a woman being attacked, they felt – in fact that message was deeply irresponsible. The real and only message was that women are not safe in gyms – not safe anywhere at all.
How should we talk about this video? Which message is the right one? The question captures an unease I have long felt in the way we talk about female safety.
We hear a great deal of the second message: that women are not safe walking home at night, not safe on public transport, not safe in gyms. It is drummed home at every opportunity (even a video of a woman successfully fending off an attack, it seems, is a chance to tell us just how unsafe we are). Yes, it is important to push for greater protections against violence. But is it possible that this narrative – that women are perpetually at great risk in public spaces – does harm as well as good?
A year after the murder of Sarah Everard, a YouGov poll of British women found 66% of women either “always”, “often” or “sometimes” felt unsafe walking alone at night. Some 25% felt similarly afraid walking alone in the daytime. Anecdotal evidence suggests much the same effect has been produced by the coverage of Nicola Bulley’s death. Women are scared to go out alone.
Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? Does it matter if daily risks to women are exaggerated, if it helps keep them safe? Well, here’s an argument that it does matter. In patriarchies, theorists might say, violence against women in public places is not only a social evil – it serves a political purpose. It is used to police. It tells women where they are supposed to go and where they are not. When women are attacked on the streets, or at universities, or in the workplace, they understand these places are not for them.
In the world’s strongest patriarchies there is not only vicious violence against women, but also a tradition of drumming up the threat. Women are told they are weak creatures in need of male protection at all times.
That is why they must stay in their houses, cultivate good relations with the family patriarch, wear veils and even consent to mutilation practices. It is, after all, for their own safety. (Studies in India suggest it is cultural fear of crime, rather than the actual statistics, that are most strongly linked to women’s decisions not to take up offers at prestigious universities or join certain workplaces.)
Nation states have for time immemorial used fear – foreign invaders, terrorist threat, even pandemics – as a shortcut to curtailing the freedom of their citizens. It is perhaps unsurprising if the world’s oldest power system uses much the same methods. A minister in the Indian government recently proposed any woman leaving the house register herself at the local police station so she can be tracked. For her protection, of course.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/mar/05/lone-woman-fights-attacker-inspring-proof-inherent-danger-maybe-both
Tories take their pleasures where they can find them in Westminster these days. Which is why the government benches were surprisingly full for an urgent question on Keir Starmer offering Sue Gray a job as chief of staff. It’s not often Conservative MPs get to occupy the moral bump in the road, so at least 50 or so took to the Commons to vent confected hypocritical outrage. The more sensible stayed away. They pick their fights more carefully.
Ever since the news broke last Thursday that Labour had offered Gray a job, the Tories have been spitting tacks. Many, like the increasingly spectral Jacob Rees-Mogg, were convinced this was a stitch up. That Starmer and Gray had plotted through lockdown to remove Boris Johnson.
Stop to think this one through a minute. For this to be true, Starmer and Gray would have had to have arranged the parties and somehow made Boris attend them. And get people to photograph them. They had also managed to encourage people to throw up in bins, have sex in cupboards and play Abba loudly in the No 10 flat. Quite the act of coercive control.
All that was then needed was for someone to blow the whistle and for Gray to manoeuvre herself into a position where she would be given the job of investigating the parties. Then she would have to write a report that even the Tories felt went soft on Johnson, as it ignored half the parties he attended, and then rely on 60 ministers subsequently resigning on another matter to force Boris out of No 10. It was all totally mad. A conspiracy theory for the ages. Which is why it appealed to so many Conservative MPs. And Johnson.
The paymaster general, Jeremy Quin, found himself tasked with answering for the government. Though really most of the questions would have been better answered by Labour’s Angela Rayner. After all, it’s only Labour who really knows what’s going on. But in the absence of any clarity, Quin merely observed that the opposition had screwed up on two points. The job hadn’t been cleared by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments and Gray hadn’t asked her boss if it was OK to work for Labour.
This was the moral molehill on which the debate would be had. One that all Tories would have happily argued against if it had been their party into whose embrace Gray had fallen. Quin shook his head sadly, affecting a look of deep seriousness. He was disappointed, he said. He felt personally let down. Buckland quickly followed up. He, too, was even more disappointed. A dark day for democracy. If only Gray had done the honourable thing and signed up for the Tories.
Rayner came out fighting. The Tories were riddled with 13 years of sleaze and corruption so it was no wonder Gray had chosen to work with Labour. She wanted a job with an organisation that had scruples. All of which is probably true. Though it didn’t quite explain the appointment process. Other Labour MPs chipped in to say that the Tories had always found Gray to be impartial in the past, and for them to moan now was just political point scoring.
After that, we were then treated to 30 minutes of the shite de la shite of the Tory party.
First out of the blocks, the Moggster. This proved Gray had connived with the socialists over her report into Partygate. A few of the saner Tories held their head in their hands. The last thing they wanted was for Tories to start bringing up Partygate. Rehearsing the facts that the government broke all its own rules while the rest of the country suffered isn’t quite the vote-winner Jakey thinks it is. Every time Partygate gets mentioned, Labour’s lead extends a little more.https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/mar/06/tory-mps-trying-to-score-points-over-sue-gray-hiring-only-net-own-goals
…just can’t trust the buggers
Since his landslide re-election victory, the emboldened Republican governor has proposed or endorsed policy after policy that has enthralled his supporters and alarmed his detractors: Allow Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training. Ban diversity and equity programs at public universities. Expand school vouchers. Allow a death sentence without a unanimous jury. Make it easier to sue the news media. Further restrict abortion.
Most — and perhaps all — of Mr. DeSantis’s wishes will likely soon be granted by the Republican-held State Legislature, giving him a broader platform from which to launch a widely expected 2024 presidential campaign. Ahead of the annual session, scheduled to begin on Tuesday and last 60 days, Republican lawmakers have given every indication that they will be guided by whatever the governor wants.
Mr. DeSantis has not been shy about using his power; last year he redrew congressional districts to give Republicans an even bigger advantage in the state. And his approach of picking high-profile fights has turned Florida into a frenzied culture-war battleground, where even political insiders struggle to keep up with the dizzying array of sweeping policy developments.
He has also requested $31 million and 27 new positions for the state’s Office of Election Crimes and Security, which he created last year to investigate election fraud. Mr. DeSantis announced 20 arrests by the office in August, but shortly thereafter, judges dropped charges against several of the defendants.
To give Mr. DeSantis a leg up in court, lawmakers gave statewide prosecutors — who, unlike local ones, work for the state attorney general, a Republican ally of Mr. DeSantis — the explicit authority to bring forward voting-related crimes.
Democrats have characterized Mr. DeSantis’s priorities as solutions in search of problems, intended to impress the national Republican base — while issues they describe as more genuinely pressing, such the increasingly unaffordable cost of living in Florida, get short shrift.
…no shit, sherlock
“It’s all electoral politics, and it’s all about the Republicans leading the state and who they are and who they have become,” said State Senator Shevrin D. Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat who is the first openly gay man to serve in the chamber and its first L.G.B.T.Q. Black member.
But the opposition to Mr. DeSantis has not been very effective. With little Democratic organization, spending or turnout, the governor won by a resounding 19 percentage points in November, ushering in Republican supermajorities in the State House of Representatives and State Senate that were in part built off Mr. DeSantis’s endorsements, fund-raising and campaigning.
“We have an opportunity to tackle more issues in a short period of time than even we were able to do in any of our four years so far,” Mr. DeSantis said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Not all legislation has been filed yet, and more contentious proposals may come, as they often do, later in the session, giving legislative leaders more time to iron out thorny details — and leaving less time to debate them.
Mr. DeSantis, who signed a law last year banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — down from 24 weeks, though not as strict as what many conservatives states have passed — has said he would sign further “pro-life” legislation.
But he has not specified which additional abortion restrictions he would support, reflecting the political tightrope he has to walk on the issue, given that abortion restrictions are not that popular in Florida — even if they appeal widely to his base. Anti-abortion groups are pressing him and lawmakers to pass either a full abortion ban or prohibit the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Mr. DeSantis has also laid out immigration proposals that would repeal the in-state tuition discount for Florida residents attending state college and universities who were brought into the country illegally as children.
In a sign of how far to the right Mr. DeSantis has pulled his party, that policy would undo a law signed in 2014 by then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and championed at the time by other Republicans who remain in top state government positions, including Mr. DeSantis’s lieutenant governor, Jeanette M. Núñez.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/05/us/ron-desantis-florida-legislature.html
…if this is par for the course…there’s a distinct possibility we’re using the wrong equipment
Users said that when they clicked on a link posted to Twitter, they were shown a black window with text that read, “Your current API plan does not include access to this endpoint.” The same message appeared when a reporter tried to use TweetDeck, a third-party platform that connects to Twitter accounts.
The phrase “Twitter API” began trending as the issue began affecting users.
NBC News observed a steep drop in user visits to news articles from Twitter starting just before 11:45 a.m. ET. The ability to embed tweets into NBC News articles also appeared to be disrupted.
“Confirmed: Twitter is currently experiencing international slowdowns and outages affecting many users, also impacting image and video content; incident not related to country-level internet disruptions or filtering #TwitterDown,” NetBlocks tweeted.
Twitter Support tweeted that some features were “may not be working as expected right now.”https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/twitter-experiences-outages-links-images-third-party-app
“A small API change had massive ramifications,” Twitter CEO Elon Musk wrote in a tweet on Monday, referring to the tool used by third-party developers who run programs that draw on Twitter data and post to its site. “The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.”
It was the second time Monday he’d turned to that explanation, both times calling the site “brittle.”
…see…brittle things break under the smallest of strains…don’t go thinking he’s so heavy-handed & lacking in an understanding of the consequences of his kneejerk reactions that he makes lennie from of mice & men look like a delicate touch
Since taking over Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has laid off more than two-thirds of the company’s staff, embarking on aggressive cost-cutting and shedding workers in part by compelling them to a commit to an “extremely hardcore” workplace or leave the company. The massive layoffs led to widespread concerns about Twitter’s ability to retain core functions, as critical engineering teams were reduced to one or zero staffers.
…but…sure, jan.gif…that’s got nothing to do with how the stack is brittle
“Every mistake in code and operations is now deadly,” a former engineer told The Washington Post in November, explaining that those left over were “going to be overwhelmed, overworked and, because of that, more likely to make mistakes.” The former engineer spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
Before Musk’s takeover, the company had a risk evaluation team that vetted product changes for anticipated problems. Twitter’s risk evaluation process was geared at flagging potential problems before they arose. But the team was laid off after Musk’s takeover, The Washington Post reported, leading to product rollouts that were riddled with bugs.
Since taking over Twitter, Musk has followed through with a plan to cut 75 percent of the company’s staff, aggressively cut costs and pursued new revenue streams, such as charging $8 a month for the company’s signature blue verification icons. But his tenure has also been marked by embarrassing mishaps, such as the botched rollout of the check mark feature, which resulted in a swarm of impersonators and prompted Twitter to temporarily pause the subscription service on multiple occasions.
Musk pursued Twitter pledging to restore “free speech” to the platform, firing the company’s previous slate of managers whom he had blamed for a content moderation approach rooted in protecting against the harms of hate speech and misinformation. Musk also pledged transparency on the old regime’s decisions — such as the effort to limit the spread of a New York Post story on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop — but has cracked down on leaks of company information under his own leadership.https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/03/06/elon-musk-twitter-outages/
…& besides…he’s probably been concentrating on eliminating those bots he’s had his panties all bunched up about…right?
Over the past 11 months, someone created thousands of fake, automated Twitter accounts — perhaps hundreds of thousands of them — to offer a stream of praise for Donald Trump.
Besides posting adoring words about the former president, the fake accounts ridiculed Trump’s critics from both parties and attacked Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador who is challenging her onetime boss for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
When it came to Ron DeSantis, the bots aggressively suggested that the Florida governor couldn’t beat Trump, but would be a great running mate.
As Republican voters size up their candidates for 2024, whoever created the bot network is seeking to put a thumb on the scale, using online manipulation techniques pioneered by the Kremlin to sway the digital platform conversation about candidates while exploiting Twitter’s algorithms to maximize their reach.
The sprawling bot network was uncovered by researchers at Cyabra, an Israeli tech firm that shared its findings with The Associated Press. While the identity of those behind the network of fake accounts is unknown, Cyabra’s analysts determined that it was likely created within the U.S.
One way of gauging the impact of bots is to measure the percentage of posts about any given topic generated by accounts that appear to be fake. The percentage for typical online debates is often in the low single digits. Twitter itself has said that less than 5% of its active daily users are fake or spam accounts.
When Cyabra researchers examined negative posts about specific Trump critics, however, they found far higher levels of inauthenticity. Nearly three-fourths of the negative posts about Haley, for example, were traced back to fake accounts.
The network also helped popularize a call for DeSantis to join Trump as his vice presidential running mate — an outcome that would serve Trump well and allow him to avoid a potentially bitter matchup if DeSantis enters the race.
The same network of accounts shared overwhelmingly positive content about Trump and contributed to an overall false picture of his support online, researchers found.
“Our understanding of what is mainstream Republican sentiment for 2024 is being manipulated by the prevalence of bots online,” the Cyabra researchers concluded.https://apnews.com/article/trump-desantis-twitter-haley-presidential-election
…damn it…back in the day bill hicks had a line about something called the “pedestrian right of way law”…iirc it was more or less “because only in LA does common courtesy have to be legislated”…&…well…I got to admit…I did not anticipate the ability to think for oneself winding up in that category
Nita Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University who studies the ethical, legal and social ramifications of emerging technologies, is sounding the alarm.
Technology that can read our minds sounds terrifying. But it is also way ahead of where things are. Aren’t you jumping the gun?https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/mar/04/prof-nita-farahany-we-need-a-new-human-right-to-cognitive-liberty
I don’t think so and, furthermore, we dismiss it at our peril. While the technology can’t literally read our complex thoughts, there are at least some parts of our brain activity that can be decoded. There have been big improvements in the electrodes and in training algorithms to find associations using large datasets and AI. More can be done than people think. There are a lot of real-world applications and major tech companies like Meta are investing in it.
There are profound risks from both the commodification of the data but also what it means to have your brain activity monitored by others and what that does to freedom of thought. The technology is at an inflection point: use is ascending steeply but it is not yet mainstream. We have a moment, before the terms of service are set by others, where we can have a voice in how it is used and deployed in society.
What should we set in place to protect ourselves?
To start we need a new human right to “cognitive liberty”, which would come with an update to other existing human rights to privacy, freedom of thought and self-determination. All told it would protect our freedom of thought and rumination, mental privacy, and self-determination over our brains and mental experiences. It would change the default rules so we have rights around the commodification of our brain data. It would give people control over their own mental experiences and protect them against misuse of their brain activity by corporate and government actors, weighed against societal interests.
One touted use is criminal justice. The US firm Brainwave Science sells so-called “brain fingerprinting” technology it says will “transform your interrogations”. The company claims to have numerous international government security agencies as customers. We have a societal interest in catching criminals…
The US criminal justice system, as far as we are aware, does not use these techniques and, if it did, criminal defendants would need to submit to it voluntarily. But whether other parts of the US government are using it is unclear. The use is troubling, and I don’t think it is justified. There is scepticism about the scientific validity and we have also almost always relied on the need for investigators to gather and develop a case against an individual without going to the criminal themselves because of the abuse that can happen.
…bastard mondays…oh, well…I guess I’ll…uhhh…see you next tuesday?