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Reason Alert: UN Climate Change Report

February 2, 2007

Global Warming: Not Worse Than We Thought, But Bad Enough
Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey examines the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Summary released today and writes, "Details like sea level rise will continue to be debated by researchers, but if the debate over whether or not humanity is contributing to global warming wasn't over before, it is now. The question of what to do about it will be front and center in policy debates for the next couple of decades. How strongly humanity may want to mitigate future climate change and at what cost depends on how likely the worst case projections turn out to be." Bailey says the "new estimate for sea level rise has proved to be one of the more controversial aspects of the IPCC Summary" and looks at how the IPCC's sea level estimates have changed since 1990.

Boston Panic
"Let's all empty our lungs and say it: Three cheers for Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens. The two artists took a $600 paycheck, split down the middle, to brave quasi-arctic weather and paste up brightly-lit guerilla advertising for Aqua Teen Hunger Force across the city of Boston. They exposed the sleeping bear tactics of Boston's terrorism response network, which consist of taking three weeks to notice something 'suspicious,' then locking the metropolis down in a panic without testing to deduce whether several dozen 'bombs' are actually 'harmless mini-billboards covered with light bulbs.' They masterfully punctured the scare-driven self-importance of TV news. First they gave the networks (including all three cable news channels) a black eye for breathlessly hyping a threat that didn't exist. Then, showing off balls so big and so brassy that they could knock the Moon off orbit, they called a press conference to speculate about the origins of 1970s hairstyles." - Reason's Dave Weigel says instead of prosecuting these guys, blame the politicians and the media for fear mongering: "After a terror scare, the scared -- in this case Boston Mayor Thomas 'Mumbles' Menino, some Bostonians, and the national media -- don't ask whether they overreacted. This is impossible; you can never overreact to terrorism. Those terrified mayoral statements to cameras are defensible, not uninformed. Those bright, red, clanging news alerts are informing the public, not exploiting viewers' basest fears." Weigel's full column is here.

Myths About Suburbia and Car Culture
In a column for the The Washington Post, excerpted from their new book The Road More Traveled, Reason's Ted Balaker and Sam Staley examine many of the myths about our love for cars and the evil suburbs, including:

We're Paving Over America
"How much of the United States is developed? Twenty-five percent? Fifty? Seventy-five? How about 5.4 percent? That's the Census Bureau's figure. And even much of that is not exactly crowded: The bureau says that an area is 'developed' when it has 30 or more people per square mile. But most people do live in developed areas, so it's easy to get the impression that humans have trampled nature."

Europe Relies on Mass Transit
"Some claim that Europeans have developed an enlightened alternative. Americans return from London and Paris and tell their friends that everyone gets around by transit. But tourists tend to confine themselves to the central cities. Europeans may enjoy top-notch transit and endure gasoline that costs $5 per gallon, but in fact they don't drive much less than we do. In the United States, automobiles account for about 88 percent of travel. In Europe, the figure is about 78 percent. And Europeans are gaining on us."

More Cars Equal More Pollution
"Since 1970, driving -- total vehicle miles traveled -- has increased 155 percent, and yet the EPA reports a dramatic decrease in every major pollutant it measures. Although driving is increasing by 1 to 3 percent each year, average vehicle emissions are dropping about 10 percent annually. Pollution will wane even more as motorists continue to replace older, dirtier cars with newer, cleaner models."

You can find the full column here.

"Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion." - Mary E. Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

"The Road More Traveled clearly outlines the transportation infrastructure problems facing our country and examines several innovative funding solutions. This book will change the way Americans view our highways and interstates and show them how we can build better roads at less expense for the next generation." - U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, South Carolina

In The Road More Traveled: Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think and What We Can Do About It, Staley and Balaker debunk several other myths and offer 10 solutions that nearly every city and state can take to reduce traffic significantly. For more on the book and traffic solutions, please click here.

The Politics of Pants
"In the 1950s, Levi Strauss & Co. decided to update the image of its denim clothes. Until then, the company had been depending for sales on the romantic appeal of the Gold Rush and the rugged image of the cowboy. Hell, it was still calling its signature pants, the ones with the copper rivets, 'waist overalls.' It didn’t want to abandon the evocative Gold Rush connection, but the postwar world was filling with consumption-minded creatures called 'teenagers,' and it seemed time to rethink the company’s pitch. So in 1956 Levi Strauss tried an experiment, releasing a line of black denim pants it called Elvis Presley Jeans. It was the perfect endorsement. On the branding level, it was a successful marriage of an old product and its developing new character. People had long worn denim for work, or to 'westernize' themselves; now a new set of customers was wearing it to identify themselves with the postwar scene of rebellious urban (and suburban) outliers. Upon the release of Elvis’ 1956 hit movie Jailhouse Rock, writes James Sullivan in Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon, 'black jeans became the rage of the season.' That transition would eventually make undreamed-of profits for Levi Strauss and its many competitors. The endorsement was wonderfully revealing from within too. Elvis actually disliked denim. To him, as to most people from real working-class backgrounds, it was just a reminder of working hard and being poor. The less denim Elvis wore, the happier he was. As for the company suits at Levi Strauss, they had no idea where their new customers would take them." - Reason's Charles Paul Freund details how consumers, not marketers, made jeans a symbol of youthful revolt.

New Priorities, Not New Federal Prosecutors
In his Fox News column, Reason's Radley Balko says it is "rare that a U.S. attorney is dismissed without cause, much less a half dozen or more of them at the same time." But the Justice Department recently fired seven, including the U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted corrupt former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Balko writes, "...in the past, the president's appointments for the position had to be confirmed by the United States Senate within 120 days. A president still at least had to abide by the pretense that federal prosecutors served the law, not the president. A wholesale dismissal of attorneys appointed by a prior administration would be met with skepticism in the Senate. But that's not the case anymore. In March 2006, President Bush signed the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act. Included in that bill was a provision allowing interim U.S. attorneys appointed by the president to serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation. This means that the prosecutors appointed by President Bush to replace those he just fired will be able to serve out the remainder of his term without being subjected to scrutiny from the Senate." We may be fighting a "war on terror" but Balko says Bush wants new U.S. attorneys who focus on prosecuting drug and pornography cases.

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