Posted by: patriotdaily | March 9, 2009

R.I.P. JohnnyRook

NOTE: JR died March 2nd. This very moving tribute was written by Meteor Blades, a frontpager at Daily Kos, and is reposted with his permission.

His real name was Steven Kimball. But here at Daily Kos and on his own blog, Climaticide Chronicles, he was known as JohnnyRook. After a two-and-a-half-year fight against acute myeloid leukemia, he died Monday at his home in Port Townsend, Washington. He was 53. (The photo shows him in the Canadian Rockies last September, with Mount Robson in the background.)

It’s no easy matter to write about the passing of someone you’ve come to know and feel is a kindred spirit, even if only via the Internet. It’s all the more difficult when that person was himself so good with words.

Steven’s first career was as a college instructor of language and history. He subsequently became a federal court interpreter of Spanish and, sometimes, Russian. He was fascinated by the world and had an amazing ability to make complicated topics knowable, which made him the best kind of teacher. A hiker and sea kayaker, he loved the outdoors.

It was just a few months after he was first diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2006 that he became JohnnyRook online. All his Diaries were written during the time he was undergoing treatment after treatment, from chemotherapy to two stem-cell transplants, many of them requiring long hospital stays, a great strain on him and his wife, Becci, who became his 24/7 caregiver, dealing with all the physical and emotional difficulties such a job entails. Twice, in November 2007 and on February 5 this year, he told us “My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today.”

But mostly he told us about his fears and hopes – not for himself but for the earth and coming generations – about how he came to support Barack Obama because of global warming, and about the global warming deniers he detested. One of my favorites was EcoNoticiarios, his series highlighting articles from the Spanish-language press about environmental issues.  

His third Diary, in October 2007, took on the subject that became his signature, what he would come to call “climaticide.” Not just what it is, but what to do to stop it. In June 2008, he began his own blog, whose essays he regularly cross-posted here.

He was fiercely passionate about it, in great part because he felt too many people — especially politicians — weren’t listening. He often pondered aloud what it would take to make them pay attention. When Al Gore and the onetime Cassandra of global warming, James Hansen, separately noted that they thought maybe civil disobedience would be required to force a change in policy — particularly the use of coal for generating electricity — he found it persuasive.

It was in that third Diary – Who’s a Leader? National Day of Climate Action – that Steven showed just how passionate he was:

I think we need a movement, a real movement, one with passion and cojones. Last weekend I took my 17-year old son to see a movie about the trial of protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention called “Chicago 10”. I wanted him to see what a real protest march looks like, one where people are truly pissed and refuse to be ignored by their elected officials, even when they use police-state tactics against them. I think Al Gore understands this need for a real movement when he says: “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.” And it shouldn’t be just young people. Why aren’t we all doing this?

Last weekend, his son, now 19, was in Washington, D.C., as part of the Capitol Climate Action pressing for a shutdown of the coal-burning plant that provides Congress with heat and air-conditioning. It goes without saying that Steven was proud of him for that. When he still had some hope for recovery, Steven told a friend that “one of the things I’m most looking forward to about getting well, if only for a while, is the opportunity to chain myself to the gate of a coal-fired power plant or to some energy CEO’s desk.”

His final Diary here, showing once again what a selfless guy he was, came on February 8: Support President Obama by Joining Daily Kos Environmentalists. At his own blog, the final post appeared February 18: Alert: Wilkins Ice Shelf Collapses According to Spanish Scienitists. He said he would update when he received more information. He never got the chance.

A week before Steven died, A Siegel wrote an homage to him. The day before he died, Joe Romm, a former assistant secretary in the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, wrote his own homage at Climate Progress. Others have had their say, too.

But Steven’s own words said it best:

I understand that such news can depress. At times it depresses me but, more than anything else, it has filled my life with meaning. I have a mission. Before I die, I want to have some sense that this beautiful planet that has provided the context for my life, will have some chance of enduring. I want to die with hope, believing that my teenage son and his children and your children and their children will live in a world that is reasonably hospitable to human beings.

I don’t know how that can happen if people will not face the reality of what is taking place in the world. So, I continue to sound the alarm, even though I know that most of what I write is discounted as alarmist or simply ignored as too uncomfortable to deal with.

Hope becomes reality through action. Obviously Steven taught his son well. Both father and son are examples for the rest of us.

Steven’s family has asked that anyone who wishes to make a remembrance in his name can contribute to 350 org at this link. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate place. Goodbye, Steven. We miss you already.


This story is very tentative at this point, but I did want to point out to Climaticide Chronicles readers that Spanish researchers are reporting the breakup of 16,000 km2 of the Wilkins Ice Shelf. That would be most of the shelf.

Ina much anticipated event [in Spanish] a some 14,000 square kilometers–a surface area equal to the Basque Country (can’t we have a universal standard of comparison instead of each nation using some region that’s only meaningful to it’s citizens?), of the Wilkins Ice Sheet has disintegrated and broken up into smaller pieces, some of them glaciers 200 meters high.

The enormous icebergs into which the ice shelf has broken have begun, to flow out into the Antarctic Ocean, according to the researchers from Council for Advanced Research (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas– CSIC) whose oceanographic research vessel Hespérides finds itself in the area.

I will update as more information comes in.

Posted by: JohnnyRook | February 16, 2009

James Hansen: “The Sword of Damocles”

Dr. James Hansen of NASA’s GISS released the following statement via email a few hours ago reiterating his call to world leaders for an end to new coal-fired power plants. He points out that recent research indicates we may be near irreversible climate tipping points.

Only in the last few years have scientists really come together to underline the extreme danger and urgency of the climate crisis. Public inaction is founded, as Hansen sees it, on the current economic crisis, ignorance due lack of scientific training and the confusion it feels because of the well-organized, expensive, widespread, industry-financed disinformation campaign. this is understandable. One cannot be so forgiving of our leaders.

The principle leadership belongs to the United States, but Dr. Hansen reminds the British PM that his influence is not inconsiderable and that we all have a tremendous responsibility to future generations.

What follows are Dr. Hansen’s full remarks:

Over a year ago I wrote to Prime Minister Brown asking him to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in Britain. I have asked the same of Angela Merkel, Barak Obama, Kevin Rudd and other world leaders. The reason is this – coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet [emphasis–JR].

Our global climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear, and there is a potential for explosive changes with effects that would be irreversible – if we do not rapidly slow fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades.

Tipping points are fed by amplifying feedbacks. As Arctic sea ice melts, the darker
ocean absorbs more sunlight and speeds melting. As tundra melts, methane a strong greenhouse gas, is released, causing more warming. As species are pressured and exterminated by shifting climate zones, ecosystems can collapse, destroying more species.

The public, buffeted by day-to-day weather fluctuations and economic turmoil, has little
time or training to analyze decadal changes. How can they be expected to evaluate and filter outadvice emanating from special economic interests? How can they distinguish top-notch science and pseudoscience – the words sound the same? Leaders have no excuse – they are elected to lead and to protect the public and its best
interests. Leaders have at their disposal the best scientific organizations in the world, such as the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and the United States National Academy of Sciences.

Only in the past few years did the science crystallize, revealing the urgency – our planet really is in peril. If we do not change course soon, we will hand our children a situation that is out of their control, as amplifying feedbacks drive the dynamics of the global system.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has already risen to a dangerous level. The preindustrial carbon dioxide amount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, by burning coal, oil and gas have increased carbon dioxide to 385 ppm, and it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year.

Earth, with its four kilometer deep ocean, responds only slowly to changes of carbon
dioxide. So more climate change will occur, even if we make maximum effort to slow carbon dioxide growth. Arctic sea ice will disappear in the summer season within the next few decades. Mountain glaciers, providing fresh water for rivers that supply hundreds of millions of people, will disappear – practically all of the glaciers could be gone within 50 years, if carbon dioxide continues to increase at current rates. Coral reefs, harboring a quarter of ocean species, are threatened, if carbon dioxide continues to rise.

The greatest threats, hanging like the sword of Damocles over our children and
grandchildren, are those that are irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine. If coastal ice shelves buttressing the West Antarctic ice sheet continue to disintegrate, the ice sheet could disgorge into the ocean, raising sea level by several meters in a century. Such rates of sea level change have occurred many times in Earth’s history in response to global warming rates no higher than that of the past thirty years. Almost half of the world’s great cities, and many historical sites, are located on coast lines.

The most threatening change, from my perspective, is extermination of species. Several
times in Earth’s long history rapid global warming of several degrees occurred, apparently spurred by amplifying feedbacks. In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders. We will leave a world haunted by the memories of what was.

Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. Carbon dioxide
would increase to 500 ppm or more. We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with sea level 75 meters higher. Coastal disasters would occur continually. The only uncertainty is the time it would take for complete ice sheet disintegration.

The tragedy of the situation, if we do not wake up in time, is that the changes that must be made to stabilize the atmosphere and climate make sense for other reasons. The changes would produce a healthier atmosphere, improved agricultural productivity, clean water, and an ocean providing fish that are safe to eat.

Actions required to solve the problem are dictated by physical facts, especially fossil fuel reservoir sizes. About half of readily extracted oil has been burned already. Oil is used in vehicles, where it is impractical to capture the carbon dioxide. Oil and gas will drive carbon dioxide to at least 400 ppm. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide, coal, it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm and still lower through improved agricultural and forestry practices that increase carbon storage in trees and soil.

Coal is not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel.
Coal is polluting the world’s oceans and streams with mercury, arsenic and other dangerouschemicals. The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretense that they are working on “clean coal” or that they will build power plants that are “capture ready” in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants.
The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are
factories of death. When I testified against the proposed Kingsnorth power plant, I estimated that in its lifetime it would be responsible for extermination of about 400 species – its proportionate contribution to the number that would be committed to extinction if carbon dioxide rose another 100 ppm.
[emphasis–JR] Of course, we cannot say which specific species should be blamed on Kingsnorth, but who are we to say that any species are worthless?

The German and Australian governments pretend to be green. When I show German
officials that fossil fuel reservoir sizes imply that the coal source must be cut off, they say they will tighten the “carbon cap”. But a cap only slows the use of a fuel, it does not leave it in the ground. When I point out that their new coal plants require that they convince Russia to leave its oil in the ground, they are silent. The Australian government was elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but then, with the help of industry, they set emission targets so high as to guarantee untold disasters for the young and the unborn. These governments are not green. They are black – coal black.

On a per capita basis, the three countries most responsible for fossil fuel carbon dioxidein the air today are the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany, in that order.Politicians in Britain have asked me: why am I speaking to them — the United States must lead? But coal interests have great power in the United States – the essential moratorium and phase-out of coal likely requires a growing public demand and a political will yet to be demonstrated.

The Prime Minister should not underestimate his potential to initiate a transformative change of direction. And he must not pretend to be ignorant of the consequences of continuing coal emission, or take refuge in a “carbon cap” or some “target” for future emission reductions. Young people are beginning to understand the situation. They want to know: will you join theirside? Remember that history, and your children, will judge you.

Posted by: JohnnyRook | February 7, 2009

Australia Burning Up and Drowning at the Same Time

As projected by climate-models, extreme weather events continue to intensify all around the world. Particularly hard hit this week is Australia. Drought and fires continue in Southeastern Australia where record temperatures are being set, while in the North in Queensland, torrential flooding has left communities cut off from the outside world.

Fires are burning on the outskirts of the nation’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. These, coastal(!) cities, in addition to suffering through ongoing droughts, are now recording record temperatures of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. The small town of Avalon 50 km to the SE of Melbourne had a record temperature of 118 degrees today. [personnel communication to author–JR]

Political Map of Australia

Bush fires are what everyone fears. Tens of thousand of firefighters from Australia are on standby to combat the large number of potentially deadly bush fires that could break out. As the European Space Agency explains:

The country’s predominantly flat, dry and warm landscape makes it prone to fires year round, but the risks increase during its hottest months – November through March. In addition, Australia’s native vegetation burns quickly and easily. Eucalyptus trees, for example, contain oil that makes them especially dangerous in a bushfire.

Scientific American’s report also highlighed the gravity of the situation.

“It’s just going to be probably … the worst day ever in the history of the state in terms of temperatures and winds,” Victoria state premier John Brumby told reporters on Friday.

“The state is just tinder dry, so people need to exercise real commonsense tomorrow, if you don’t need to go out don’t go out, it’s a seriously bad day,” he said.

Authorities fear the heatwave, which last week caused major blackouts and left thousands of residents without air conditioning, could again be fatal to the elderly.

There were 22 “sudden deaths” in Adelaide last Friday at the height of the heatwave and several in Melbourne.

“This is about protecting our nation’s frail and aged,” said Minister for Aging Justine Elliot, in warning nursing homes to prepare for the heatwave. Nursing homes in southeast Australia care for some 170,000 residents.

South Australia’s main morgue was now almost full with 71 bodies, a temporary morgue has been hired, and elective surgery delayed as hospitals try to cope with more than 600 heat-related cases, said local media.

Rail authorities in Sydney have ordered a slowdown of the network to try and avoid accidents if rail lines buckle, as they did in last week’s heatwave in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Climate Map of Australia

While the southeast burns, Queensland to the north is suffering torrential rains leading to widespread flooding as rivers overflow their banks. <a href=”“>Australian Broadcasting Network news has declared:

Emergency crews in Queensland are monitoring flooding in rivers across the state’s north, as heavy rain is forecast to continue overnight between Innisfail and Bowen.

The Bruce Highway is cut between Ayr and Townsville and the towns of Tully and Ingham are isolated.

Police have asked people to limit non-essential travel if possible in the region, saying road conditions and closures will change as creeks and water courses rise and fall quickly.

Weather bureau forecaster Brian Rolstone says hundreds of millimetres of rain could fall tonight.

Things are so bad that even climatologists are starting to do the unthinkable, mention “extreme weather” and “climate change” in the same sentence in public. We know that scientifically speaking (one gets sick of repeating this) that it is not possible to establish a link between any particular weather event and Climaticide, but anyone with half a brain knows that there is a statistical relationship between the intensity of extreme weather events and global warming. So, my view is that we ought to mention this statistical relationship as often as we can along with the fact, as Dr. Stone points out, that what is happening in Australia (and in China, and in the United States, etc.) fits perfectly with what the climate models predict.

Dr Roger Stone, from the University of Southern Queensland, says some models suggest the monsoonal rain could be heading south.

“Some of the models that look more closely at week-to-week patterns, especially from the United States are suggesting that some of this rain could drift further south, as far south as southern Queensland – not all of it of course – but some of the rain could drift further south on occasions,” he said.

He says the extremes being encountered in Australia this week fit climate change models, but it is too early to prove a direct link to changing weather patterns.

Dr Stone says the pattern of contrasts is not unusual for this time of year, but the intensity is. [emphasis–JR]

“It certainly fits the climate change models but I have to add the proviso that it’s very difficult – even with extreme conditions like this – to always attribute it to climate change, but it does fit the climate change models,” [emphasis–JR] he said.

NOTE: Unenergy posted a powerful, informative diary on this topic yesterday at Daily Kos that I would heartily encourage everyone to read:

wooden power poles self-igniting

Crossposted at Daily Kos

Posted by: JohnnyRook | February 5, 2009

My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today–Updated

A couple of days ago at Daily Kos, a thoughtful, commeter, WarrenS asked a question in a comment on one of my diaries.


How do you hold out hope when the news is this awful? Can you? I dread the time when I have to explain to my daughter just how badly the grownups screwed this up.

I didn’t answer the question at that time because I didn’t have the strength. Now, I’ve decided to try and answer it by reposting an updated version of a diary that I wrote in November of 2007.

My diaries, as those of you who are regular readers know, often contain depressing information about how temperatures and sea levels are rising, how sea ice and glaciers are melting and shrinking, how deserts are growing and heat waves becoming longer and hotter meaning that agriculture is becoming less and less possible in many places, how extreme weather is becoming more common and more intense, how oceans are becoming acidified, how species are going extinct, ecosystems are being rendered uninhabitable for the creatures that live in them, and how famine and diseases are spreading.

When I write about solutions I often focus on how people and governments are mostly oblivious to what is happening and to how little time we have left to act boldly and forcefully to effect the radical change that the scientists tell us is necessary. I agree absolutely with what what Steven Chu, the new Secretary of Energy told the LA Times in an interview a couple of days ago.

I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen.

I understand that such news can depress. At times it depresses me but, more than anything else, it has filled my life with meaning. I have a mission. Before I die, I want to have some sense that this beautiful planet that has provided the context for my life, will have some chance of enduring. I want to die with hope, believing that my teenage son and his children and your children and their children will live in a world that is reasonably hospitable to human beings.

I don’t know how that can happen if people will not face the reality of what is taking place in the world. So, I continue to sound the alarm, even though I know that most of what I write is discounted as alarmist or simply ignored as too uncomfortable to deal with.

What follows is a post that I published on Daily Kos on November 12, 2007. It was an early attempt to explain my motivation in writing about Climaticide. At the end of the original post you’ll find a NOTE with an Update

My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today [published November 12, 2007

A day or two ago he wasn’t so sure.

Just about a year ago I was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL), a very aggressive but relatively uncommon form of cancer (it affects only a few thousand people a year). This last year has been hard: months of chemotherapy followed by a very harsh, experimental form of radiation treatment and finally an autologous [using one’s own cells that are harvested and then reintroduced] stem-cell transplant [PDF]. I’ve survived so far because I’ve had many great doctors and nurses and the support of my wife (herself a nurse practitioner), the wisest, smartest and kindest human being I have ever known. Even so, the average life expectancy for someone with my disease is only six years although that is up from three years a decade ago.

I’m in the hospital now because I have an acute intestinal infection. [See NOTE at end] One of the consequences of my stem-cell transplant is that, for at least a year, things that won’t even make you sick can kill me. A year from my transplant date I will get all my childhood immunizations again as all my acquired immunity was wiped out when my immune system was “reborn”.

So, you may be wondering, is this a diary about health care? No, this is a diary about global warming.

Before I came down with MCL I’d never been in a hospital except to visit ill family members and friends. I spent hours in the gym working out, went on long hikes in the mountains and desert, bicycled and kayaked and ate a mostly organic, vegetarian diet. To say that I was surprised to discover that I had cancer would be the grossest of understatements.

My initial response to learning that my life was likely to be shorter than I had expected was, not surprisingly, rather selfish. I thought about the time that I would lose with my family and friends, of the traveling that I would not get to do, of the books that I would not get to read.

But something else happened too: the world became more poignant to me. I’d always thought of myself as a caring, empathetic, compassionate person, but now I found suffering, cruelty, and abuse to be intolerable regardless of the form it took. Debeaked hens crammed into tiny cages and stacked in factory-farm warehouses, infants shaken to death by their parents because they wouldn’t stop crying, genocide in Darfur, my countrymen in Appalachia and on the Gulf Coast treated as if they lived in a Third World Country, Iraqis bombed by us and by Al Qaeda… It was all too much. I was feeling the world’s pain.

And I realized, pardon my presumption here, that I didn’t want to die with the world in such terrible shape, which, finally, brings me to global warming. Of all the insanities that bedevil human beings on this planet none is greater than global warming. Only all out nuclear war poses as grave a danger to the planet and human civilization. Ironically, the former, if we fail to check it, may lead to the latter–a two-for-one sale at the Armageddon store, if you like.

I’m not confident that we are going to survive this. I’m positive that we won’t survive unscathed because the harm has already begun and we still haven’t done anything to reduce CO2 emissions. And here’s the question that keeps haunting me: If we won’t stop genocide in Darfur or provide universal health coverage in the United States, two horrible but much simpler cruelties, why should any one think that we will deal adequately with global warming? We are already way behind and likely to fall farther behind because we have waited so long to begin and because the necessary sense of urgency is still not there. Witness the hearings in DC on S 2191, Joe Lieberman and John Warner’s trillion dollar giveaway to the nation’s biggest polluters. This is not a measure to stop global warming, it is simply “green” pork barrel politics. Business as usual in drag.

The changes required of us are enormous. A little biofuel and a few CFLs aren’t going to do it. We can no longer live as we have and we have only been able to live as we have because we have borrowed so much from the future. We are way over the limit on our Gaia Visa card and the penalties and fees are going to be enormous. We can’t declare bankruptcy either, because in this case bankruptcy equals death.

I love the earth. I have delighted in it for 53 years and I hope to live here for a while longer. My doctor has told me that I’m not going to die today and I’m glad. But if I have to die anytime soon it will be a lot easier if I can go knowing that we have truly accepted reality and are making the radical changes in how we live that are required. If we take the necessary measures to stop global warming and to live sustainably the world that our children and grandchildren will live in will be unrecognizably different from our own. And if we don’t take those necessary measures the world that our children and grandchildren will live in will also be unrecognizably different from our own.

NOTE: [Actually, as it turned out, things were much worse than that–after weeks in the hospital, my doctors finally discovered that I had acute myeloid leukemia (AML) an extremely aggressive form of leukemia that people often get as a result of the chemotherapy and radiation that they received as treatment for an earlier form of cancer, in my case, lymphoma. The doctors hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong with me because treatment related AML, if it shows up up at all, normally appears about 5 years after transplant; in my case it only took 5 months. Since the AML diagnosis, I have had a second transplant, this time an allogeneic one (using a donor’s cell’s) PDF), which failed, and experimental chemotherapy treatment that also failed. I am currently on palliative care (care which is designed to keep the leukemia at bay for as long as possible, but which offers no possibility of remission.) Obviously, this is not the outcome we had hoped for, and there are times when I am frightened, but most of all I feel even more urgently the need to write and get the word out about Climaticide. You see, I am running out of time, but so are all of you. It will be such a shame if you do not act, because you still have a chance. Please do not let it slip away, for all your sakes and for mine–JR.]

Crossposted at Daily Kos

Posted by: patriotdaily | February 5, 2009

Avoiding Water Wars and Feces Waters

Our government is setting us up for a life of water wars between communities and between people and wildlife. We need to stop thinking that solutions to water shortages in a climate change world can be solved by resolutions used in the past in a pre-climate change world. Resolutions beneficial for isolated droughts, isolated dust storms, isolated flooding or isolated extreme storms will not prepare us for multiple extreme events of greater intensity, frequency and widening geographic scope. Instead, we need to discuss how to prep for living in a climate change world where our finite water supplies will become so stretched that water wars will be commonplace unless we take action now to develop a national water supply policy designed to minimize or avert climate change impacts on our water resources.

Climate change is here now. Western States are heating up at almost twice the rate of the rest of world. A recent federal government report found climate change is now affecting our water resources. Nationwide there has been higher precipitation and streamflow except for the West and Southwest, which suffer increased drought, reduced mountain snowfields and earlier spring snowmelt runoffs. In parts of our nation, water resources are presently over-allocated and scarce. At least 36 states will face water shortages in the next 5 years as supplies decrease due to drought, rising temperatures, population and inefficient management.

Other impacts on water resources include an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme storms. Sea levels will continue to rise (parts of California coastline already lost) and “exacerbate storm surge flooding and shoreline erosion.” Rainfall patterns are “already shifting” due to GHG, and continuing climate change will cause extreme rains to be stronger and more frequent than previously forecasted. A recent study concluded that “[f]or every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) rise in global temperature, heavy rain showers became more common, with most intense category jumping 60 percent.” Such extreme rains could make “floods fiercer” as the earth can not absorb the water.

Communities are also prepping for the now inevitable increased water scarcity caused by climate change by passing laws to try to keep water supplies in their area. For example, Bush will sign into law the proposed Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact which protects the Great Lakes area by banning water transfers to any area outside of the basin. The objective is to prevent water being sold to the Southwest or Asia as many may soon “covet their vast quantities of water for an increasingly thirsty world.” Water law is generally based on doctrines designed to keep water in the watershed so that the basin is replenished. However, water hunters will not adhere to laws. Rather than battening down the hatches, we need to develop a national water policy that creates more water supplies so that all have affordable water.

As water supplies decrease, there is less water to apportion amongst the various users of a supply, including wildlife. Courts are willing to turn off the pumps to people in order to force compliance with the law or to maintain sufficient instream flows to protect endangered or threatened species. In 2001, the federal government shut off water to Oregon farmers because a drought-induced shortage mandated higher levels of instream flows for endangered fish in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, thus reducing water available for people. The farmers fought a mini-war for their livelihoods:

Farmers and their families, furious and fearing for their livelihoods, formed a symbolic 10,000-person bucket brigade. Then they took saws and blowtorches to dam gates, clashing with U.S. marshals as water streamed into the canals that fed their withering fields, before the government stopped the flow again.

Aside from the ecological impact, such decisions also affect our food supply and individual livelihoods. Cheney stepped in to tinker with the science so that instream uses were canned in favor of diverting water to the farmers. The collateral consequences of this tinkering were 77,000 dead salmon, the federal government declared a “commercial fishery failure”, Congress provided disaster aid of $60 million to the fishermen and $15 million to farmers to not farm in order to reduce water usage.

Our government knows that “chronic water shortages, dramatic population growth, and aging water facilities” are not only “increasing the potential for conflict over water resources around the nation,” but that “water wars have spread to the Midwest, East, and South.” Interior Secretary Kempthorne admitted that climate change and drought are creating conflicts now “within states, among states, between states and the Federal government and among environmentalists and state and Federal agencies.”

One federal report finds that “increased water use efficiency” can “help mitigate” climate change impacts on water resources. Mitigate? Clearly, efficient water use and management practices can help, but are not the answer to our water crisis.

One California county is now serving up “drinking” water created from sewage that is treated by a number of processes and chemicals.

The county was forced to turn sewage into “drinking” water because there were no other available water supplies due to saltwater intrusion caused by overpumping the groundwater basin in the hunt for water. Saltwater intrusion will increase with climate change, degrading more water supplies. Additional considerations leading to drinking sewage water include the drought, rising cost of importing water, and the difficulty of finding water. As the hunt for water continues and climate change impacts decrease available supplies, more communities (Los Angeles, San Diego, DeKalb County, GA, Miami-Dade County) are now considering turning our sewage into water. Is this the best we can do?

Mobile National Aqueduct Capture, Storage & Water Creation Proposal

This proposal only addresses new water supplies from captured, developed and conserved waters and does not address allocation of existing water supplies. We need a national water policy that is developed with certain principles in mind. One, past remedies that worked in a pre-climate change world may not work in a climate-change world. Two, water is a public trust resource for each person and the right to affordable drinking water is a human right. Three, dividing the allocation of water supplies by region or economics will encourage conflicts and wars rather than unifying all toward our common goal of providing a necessity of life. Four, climate change should not be the excuse for killing wildlife by depriving them of water needed to survive. Five, climate change should not be the excuse for exempting compliance with environmental laws. And, six, the interrelationship of climate change impacts needs to be considered and reconciled rather than focusing on resolutions for one impact as a mutually exclusive event to the detriment of a coordinated policy. For example, allowing oil companies to destroy wetlands to provide energy ignores the beneficial functions of wetlands as buffers to storm surges.

My proposal is to construct a mobile national aqueduct with hubs in the Northeast, South, Texas, Midwest and California. The hubs would have a reservoir system to store and treat water. There would be a mobile capture system to collect floodwaters and stormwaters for conveyance to the reservoirs. When there is a strong storm event, such as extreme rainfall or hurricane, the system would capture the excess waters in towns and farms and convey by pipeline to the reservoirs. The mobility of the aqueduct and local capture systems would enable relocation around the country as weather patterns change or storm events are forecasted so that the system was in place before the storm.

The reservoirs would be filled with natural rainfall waters, captured storm waters, developed waters and conserved waters so that our existing water supply would be increased by new water sources. Conserved water is water that was developed as a new water supply that was not previously part of the water allocation system. For example, if a farmer is irrigating by an earthern ditch, much water is lost to seepage. However, if the farmer lines the ditch with concrete, then the seepage water is conserved and may be used to water crops, thus decreasing the amount of water that the farmer needs from the general allocation system, and freeing up some of that water to be allocated to another beneficial user.

Developed waters, such as the use of desalination plants, could be added to the national reservoir system. Technology has also provided us with mobile water creation facilities which capture water vapors and dew to develop additional water supplies. These water creation devices are being used in Iraq to supply water to our troops and in Israel. The mobility of the facilities enables placement throughout the US in areas conducive to the most efficient creation of water, and then this developed water can be stored in the hub reservoir system during times of low water production from natural events.

Water creation devices will not only provide potable water, but also may prevent some of the severe rainfalls or decrease the intensity. As our temperatures increase, the air becomes warmer, and warmer air holds more moisture. This moister air will mean more heavy rainfalls. If we create water from air, we may reduce the moisture content of the air, and perhaps reduce the predicted more severe rainfalls.

We also need legislative changes to stop harming our existing water supplies. To cite just a few examples, we have a finite natural water supply, yet Bush has changed the law to legalize the dumping of waste into streams, wetlands and waterways as waste dump sites as long as man-made streams are “created” to “replace” natural stream systems killed by the waste.

We also need legislation to provide defenses against climate change events. For example, we need to protect our wetlands that serve many functions, including a natural buffer from storm surges from hurricanes and tropical storms.

Waters stored at the national reservoir system would then be available for transfer by the national aqueduct to areas in need. If Texas or the Midwest was experiencing drought, then those states could buy water. Guidelines may be established so that water transfers must comply with reasonable water laws, such as the Constitutional requirement in California to avoid waste of water and that all water be used for beneficial purposes. Guidelines may also require that areas requesting transfers impose conservation requirements on water users.

There are several benefits from my proposal:

1. Creating Additional Water Supplies with Captured, Conserved and Developed Waters. Given that our existing water supplies are dwindling, we need to create new water supplies rather than fight over the little water available in our streams, rivers and lakes.

2. Avoidance of water wars. Communities are already prepping for hoarding water to a specific geographic area, but not all communities have that option. Moreover, it is not likely that the hoarded water supplies will be sufficient given climate change and population increases. We need to remember that the right to drinking water is a human right of a natural resource which is essential for life. Water wars in the past have often been motivated by allocation of supplies when there has been a shortage. The nature of the shortage around the corner will dwarf the past. Finally, we need to remember that in some jurisdictions, like California, a water right is a usufructuary interest or a right to the use of the water, not a right to the corpus or molecules of the water. The corpus of the water is owned by the state on behalf of all the people as a public trust resource existing for the benefit of all.

3. Saving lives and property. Each year, storm events kill and injure people, kill animals, and damage or destroy homes and businesses. A water recapture system may minimize or possibly eliminate some of these devastating impacts from storm events.

4. Economic benefits. The national aqueduct would be expensive but could be paid from the returns of reducing or knocking out current expenditures to address the economic damages from storm events. Each year, the federal government spends millions or more to pay for the reconstruction, recovery and damages from storm events. Why not use this money to create a system to prevent the need for recovery?

In addition, there are collateral economic consequences from extreme climate events. When we have a drought in Texas, the Midwest or California, this affects the agricultural industry, which means less food produced and price increases. If we have a national aqueduct, then when Texas has a drought, Texas could buy water transfers from one of the national water hubs thus preventing harmful human and economic impacts from the shortage.

This is a preliminary proposal, but we need to start thinking about doing the best we can to live in a climate change world, rather than just waiting and watching as things become worse.

The Senate voted yesterday 71-26 to give tax breaks to Americans who buy new cars. They don’t have to be PHEVs, EVs or even cars that just get better than average gas mileage. No, nearly any new car will do. The amendment to the already bloated, Senate version of the economic stimulus bill was proposed by Senator Barbara Mikulski D-Md. According to the amendment anyone purchasing a passenger car, minivan or light truck between November 12, 2008 (that’s right it’s a retroactive tax cut!) and December 31, 2009 would be entitled to an income tax rebate on their sales or excise tax as well as on the interest on their loan. Individual buyers earning up to $125,000 and couples making up to $250,000 would be able to take the sales tax on the first $49,500 of a car’s price off of their federal income taxes.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus D-Mt, who opposed the measure, estimated that it would add $11 billion to the Senate version of the stimulus bill raising it’s total price tax to almost 900 billion.

Can anyone conceive of a more stupid piece of legislation? Just as has happened with the finance and banking sectors, the American taxpayer has poured billions of dollars into the American automobile industry, while getting next to nothing in return. This legislation does nothing to change that. It does nothing to stop the idiotic way that the Detroit automotive manufacturers have operated. Rather it encourages them to continue business as usual, and Americans to buy the same old inefficient, polluting cars that threatens us with climate disaster. As those of us on the climate-left have been arguing and as Obama himself has said on many an occasion, this stimulus bill, is supposed to be a green stimulus bill. It is supposed to stimulate the economy while also beginning the fundamental process of converting it to one that is sustainable and green. The stimulus bill and the climate bill to come are supposed to work in tandem to save both our economic system and our climatological one.

Yet so far, there are few signs that that is what is going to happen. Like the Wall Street bailout, the Stimulus Bill is threatening to become just another way to take money from the pockets of the American taxpayer (actually the American taxpayer’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren) and transfer it to the corporate incompetents who created the messes, both financial and climatological, in which we find ourselves.

As Paul Krugman wrote a couple of days ago:

When I read recent remarks on financial policy by top Obama administration officials, I feel as if I’ve entered a time warp — as if it’s still 2005, Alan Greenspan is still the maestro, and bankers are still heroes of capitalism.

“We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” says Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary — as he prepares to put taxpayers on the hook for that system’s immense losses.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post report based on administration sources says that Geithner and Lawrence Summers, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, “think governments make poor bank managers” — as opposed, presumably, to the private-sector geniuses who managed to lose more than a trillion dollars in the space of a few years.

And this prejudice in favor of private control, even when the government is putting up all the money, seems to be warping the administration’s response to the financial crisis.

You might think, then, that if banks currently can’t or won’t raise enough capital from private investors, the government should do what a private investor would: Provide capital in return for partial ownership.

But bank stocks are worth so little these days — Citigroup and Bank of America have a combined market value of only $52 billion — that the ownership wouldn’t be partial: Pumping in enough taxpayer money to make the banks sound would, in effect, turn them into publicly owned enterprises.

My response to this prospect is: So? If taxpayers are footing the bill for rescuing the banks, why shouldn’t they get ownership, at least until private buyers can be found? But the Obama administration appears to be tying itself in knots to avoid this outcome.

There’s more at stake here than fairness, although that matters, too. Saving the economy is going to be very expensive: That $800 billion stimulus plan is probably just a down payment, and rescuing the financial system, even if it’s done right, is going to cost hundreds of billions more. We can’t afford to squander money giving huge windfalls to banks and their executives, merely to preserve the illusion of private ownership.

As regards the automobile industry, Micheal Moore has argued, correctly, that the best thing the government could do is to nationalize it.

These auto execs don’t deserve a dime. Fire all of them, and take over the industry for the good of the workers, the country and the planet.

…I care about what happens with the Big Three because they are more responsible than almost anyone for the destruction of our fragile atmosphere and the daily melting of our polar ice caps [actually, it’s coal, Michael, but we can talk about that later. You’re right, though, that that the Big Three CEOs are major villains in the Climaticide story].

Congress must save the industrial infrastructure that these companies control and the jobs they create. And it must save the world from the internal-combustion engine. This great, vast manufacturing network can redeem itself by building mass transit and electric/hybrid cars and the kind of transportation we need for the 21st century. [trains, why, in hell, isn’t Detroit building high-speed, electric trains?–JR] [emphasis–JR]

The point that both Krugman and Moore are making is that we are shelling out huge sums on these bailout and stimulus plans, sums that, if they are wasted (is there any doubt that to a great extent they already have been?), will have done nothing to fundamentally change the economic system that has brought us to the verge of financial collapse and civilization-killing Climaticide.

When we finally do decide to become serious about changing that economic system and stopping global warming (things that cannot be done in isolation) we may not have the resources to do what is necessary because we will have already frittered that money away on precipitous, poorly monitored schemes for saving incompetent and morally bankrupt CEOs, tax cuts that do nothing to promote modern, green infrastructure and and asinine measures such as that proposed by Senator Mikulski, which prop-up our current, failed system and pander to the ignorant voters who have yet to understand that what is at stake here is not just their jobs, but where they will be able to live, how likely they will be to die of heat stroke, exotic diseases and famine, and whether they will go to war over ever scarcer basic necessities such as food and water.

Crossposted at Daily Kos

Posted by: JohnnyRook | February 4, 2009

Climate Denial Crock of the Week 2/03/09

Here is the latest video in greenman3610’s (Peter Sinclair’s) great series Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

You can see all of Sinclair’s video’s here.

Posted by: JohnnyRook | February 3, 2009

January Arctic Sea-Ice Summary: Freezing up in Fits and Starts

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported just a few hours ago that although Arctic sea ice extent grew, as is to be expected in winter, during January 2009, sea-ice extent was, nonetheless, the 6th lowest for a January in the satellite record. Additionally, it was 760,000 km2 below the 1979-2000 average. The record for lowest sea-ice extent in a January was set in January 2006.

Monthly January ice extent for 1979 to 2009 shows 2009 as the sixth lowest January on record.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

One of the more interesting occurrences this January was the pause in sea-ice growth between January 15-26 . A similar event occurred between December 12-19, 2008. Both times, the cause of the pause was an unusual pattern of atmospheric circulation.

The graph above shows daily sea ice extent.The solid blue line indicates 2008–2009; the dashed green line shows 2006–2007 (the record-low summer minimum occurred in 2007); and the solid gray line indicates average extent from 1979 to 2000. Sea Ice Index data.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

The pause in total sea-ice extent change from January 15 to 26 reflects expanding and declining ice extent in different areas of the Arctic. For example, ice extent increased southwest of Greenland but decreased in areas east of Greenland and in parts of the Barents Sea.

January 15 to 26 saw very strong low pressure centered just south of Iceland—a very strong Icelandic Low. In accord with Buys Ballot’s Law, strong warm winds from the south and southeast encouraged ice decline in areas east of Greenland and in parts of the Barents sea area. The winds helped compact the ice cover and reduce ice growth. Regional winds from the north explain the increases in ice extent southwest of Greenland.

This map compares ice extent on January 15 to ice extent on January 26, 2009. Areas in red indicate where ice was present on January 15 but had disappeared by January 26; areas in green indicate where ice was not present on January 15 but had appeared by January 26. Note in particular the regional balance between reduced ice extent in parts of the Arctic and increased extent in others. Sea Ice Index data.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

This strong Icelandic Low was present at the same time that atmospheric pressures were especially high over the subtropical North Atlantic. This large-scale pattern of atmospheric pressure and the regional pattern of changes in ice extent on the Atlantic side of the Arctic are classic signals of the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The negative phase would have a weaker Icelandic Low, and roughly the inverse pattern of sea ice extent anomalies (the red and green in the figure above would be approximately reversed). The NAO has climate impacts not just in the Arctic, but in North America and Europe as well.

Related Post:

Remarkable Change in Arctic Atmospheric Circulation: Have We Passed a Tipping Point?

Posted by: JohnnyRook | February 3, 2009

James Hansen Comments on Massey Energy’s “Idiocy”

The West Virginia Gazette reported today that 14 people were cited today for protesting corporate criminal and active Climaticide, [in the sense used here a climaticide is an individual or organization involved in killing the Holocene climate under which our civilization has flourished and prospered], Massey Energy’s plans to blow the top of off Coal River Mountain. Five of the people cited had chained themselves to a piece of heavy equipment. The other 8 were cited for attempting to deliver a letter of protest to Massey Energy President Don Blankenship at a guard shack and then refusing to leave the premises.

At the mining site, the activists hung one banner that said, “Windmills, Not Toxic Spills” and attached windmill blades to an excavator at the Massey operation near Pettus.

“The governor and county legislators have failed to act, so we’re acting for them,” said one of the activists, Rory McIlmoil, who has led the Coal River Wind Project campaign.

With today’s action, environmentalists appear to be renewing civil disobedience tactics against Massey and mountaintop removal in Southern West Virginia.

Previous rallies four years ago led to arrests outside Massey’s Goals Coal Co. operations adjacent to an elementary school at Sundial, Raleigh County, and at Massey’s headquarters in Richmond, Va. And in March 2007, 13 people were arrested after they occupied the reception area outside Manchin’s office at the state Capitol to draw attention to Massey’s plan to build a new coal silo near that school.

Citizen groups said Tuesday’s action was also aimed at protesting Massey’s plans to begin blasting at the Coal River Mountain operation, which is near the company’s huge Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment.

“Massey could flood the towns of Pettus, Whitesville and Sylvester with toxic coal sludge,” said Judy Bonds of Rock Creek. “Blasting at a multi-billion-gallon sludge lake over underground mines could cause the sludge to burst through and kill thousands of people.”

James Hansen, the world renowned climatologist from NASA’s GISS who has become one of the coal industry’s most outspoken critics had strong words about the Coal River Mountain (PDF) proposal in a statement released today.

Here is the full text, including graphs, of Dr. Hansen’s statement:

Tell President Obama About Coal River Mountain

Coal River Mountain and the Heathrow Airport runway remind me how important it is to keep our eye on the ball.

Coal River Mountain is the site of an absurdity. I learned about Coal River Mountain from students at Virginia Tech last fall. They were concerned about Coal River Mountain, but at that time most of them were working to support Barack Obama. They assumed Barack Obama would not allow such outrages to continue.

The issue at Coal River Mountain is whether the top of the mountain will be blown up, so that coal can be dredged out of it, or whether the mountain will be allowed to stand. It has been shown that more energy can be obtained from a proposed wind farm, if Coal River Mountain continues to stand. More jobs would be created. More tax revenue would flow, locally and to the state, and the revenue flow would continue indefinitely. Clean water and the environment would be preserved. But if planned mountaintop removal proceeds, the mountain loses its potential to be a useful wind source. [See Coal River Wind’s study here.]

There are two major requirements for solving the global warming problem: (1) rapid phase-out of coal emissions, and (2) a substantial, rising price on carbon emissions.

Election night euphoria is subsiding. Now we are in a tricky situation. The President faces enormous tasks, so he must be given time. But directions, once set, are hard to change. Clarity about what is needed is important. Young people (who deserve a large share of credit for helping Obama get the nomination and win the election) had better ask what is happening.

The answer, or so it seems: not much. If that impression is right, there had better be a hue and cry soon, or the opportunity for fundamental change may be missed.

Action 1. The important thing needed quickly is a moratorium on new coal. Coal River Mountain is just one example of the idiocy that is proceeding. I am swamped by requests to write letters. Can you believe that Nevada, with all its sunshine, wind and geothermal energy, is going ahead with plans for new coal-fired power plants? So is South Dakota, South Carolina, etc. I could harp about the greenwashed (or worse) politicians, but what is the point of that? Now, given the election that has occurred, it should be possible to solve the problem. Solution is possible, but will it happen? The national government has all the power that it needs to, in effect, declare a moratorium on any new coal plants that do not capture and store the CO2.

Action 2. The other essential action is imposition of a rising carbon price. Is Barack Obama going to explain the need for a substantial and rising carbon tax on coal, oil and gas in his first Fireside Chat? Or will the matter be brushed aside, with a pretense that the world can be moved in a fundamentally different direction by tweaking Kyoto-style approaches? In order to move to the world beyond fossil fuels, there must be a strong economic incentive to do so, and the business community must realize that we mean business. The tax does not have to start out large, though it should be substantial. It has to be a tax that covers all fossil fuels. It should not be a cap-and-trade that allows some carbon to escape, and makes Wall Street millionaires on the backs of the public.

Reasons for concern:

1. The big action so far is the indication that the government will demand fuel efficient cars. That is an important action. It will not prevent the world’s major oil pools from being used, but efficiency helps buy time, so we can move toward carbon-free vehicle propulsion. Absent improved efficiency, there would be pressure to squeeze oil out of coal, tar shale, etc. – disasters that must be nipped in the bud. However, note that the vehicle efficiency action will only truly succeed if Action 2 (carbon tax) occurs. Demand for highly fuel efficient vehicles will be limited (not large enough to drive a thriving economy) unless fuel price makes them essential. People will need money in hand to buy them – one of the reasons for 100% dividend (another: the public will not accept a large enough tax if Washington and lobbyists are going to decide where the money goes).

2. Jesse Ausubel makes a case that government policies don’t matter much – the energy-fossil fuel situation determines things. Let’s look at data for fossil fuel emissions and the economy:

[For a larger image click here–short PDF file]

Data sources: (left) Marland, G., T.A. Boden, and R.J. Andres. 2008. Global, Regional, and National Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. ( (right) U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Economic Accounts (

The numbers on these graphs are misleading. Emissions and economic growth in the first year of a President’s term probably should be credited to (blamed on) the prior President. In that case the numbers become:

Annual Growth Rates for: CO2 emissions Real GDP

1981–1989 (Reagan) 1.2% 3.5%
1989–1993 (Bush, G.H.W.) 1.3% 1.9%
1993–2001 (Clinton) 1.1% 3.5%
2001–2007 (Bush, G.W.) 0.7% (first 6 years) 2.6% (first 6 years)

The CO2 emissions support Ausubel’s thesis, but the period covered was all business-as-usual. There is such a thing as free will. With coal phase-out and a rising price on carbon emissions, the curve can be changed fundamentally, and move downward fast. But it will not happen as a consequence of “goals” and weak cap-and-trade measures — and a temporary downturn of emissions due to economic slowdown should not be misinterpreted as fundamental change.


We are only weeks into the Obama administration. But people are getting restive. I have been asked to speak at or support several different actions, in different parts of the country, by young people and not so young. I don’t know what to say. I feel that more time must be given. But these people are right – the directions that are taken now are important.

Someone needs to tell President Obama: Coal River Mountain is a symbol of the promise and the hope and the possibilities for a brighter future. As he begins to address the nation’s energy, climate and economic challenges, he needs to remember these people, among his core original supporters. They are counting on him to change direction – a real change.

Post Script: Apology to UK Environmentalists

[For background information on this part of Dr. Hansen’s statement see my post:

James Hansen says “Keep your eye on the ball”]

I have relearned a basic lesson re interviews – which will have to be fewer and more guarded. I recall giving only one interview to UK media this year, but perhaps it was two. One resulting story was that I said the climate problem must be solved in four years – of course, what I meant to say was that we needed to start moving in a fundamentally different direction during President Obama’s first term. CO2 in the air will continue to increase in those four years – we are not going to take the vehicles off the roads or shut down commerce.

I must have said something dumber in response to a question about air travel. Special apologies to people working in opposition to expansion of Heathrow Airport – I had no intention of damaging their case. All I intended to say was that aviation fuel is not a killer for the climate problem – at worst case we can use carbon-neutral biofuels (not current biofuels – there are ways to do biofuels right, for the fuel volume needed for global air traffic – ground transport will need a different energy source). When asked about the proposed added runway at Heathrow, I apparently said, in effect, that coal is the (climate) problem, not an added runway – in any case, what was reported angered a huge number of people, as indicated by my full e-mail inbox. I should have deferred questions on Heathrow to local experts – I am sure there are many good environmental reasons to oppose airport expansion. I am very sorry that I was not more guarded. You can be sure that in the future I will be more careful to avoid making comments that can be used against good causes.

Crossposted at Daily Kos

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