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Uncertain futures


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Iraq - could it get worse for the US?

This highly critical assessment by an anonymous Washington insider of how things are going in Iraq suggests it could.

Two possibilities in particular could make the US position even more difficult:

1. Iranian intervention
"Perceived oppression of Iraq's 60-percent Shiite majority could lead to massive and sustained Iranian intervention. Given the Coalition's tenuous supply lines between Kuwait and Baghdad, potential Iranian intervention could be roughly analogous to Chinese intervention in Korea in November 1950 (which resulted in the longest sustained retreat in U.S. military history)."

2. Worse from Abu Ghraib
"One more incident could make a barely tenable situation disastrous. Abu Ghraib and other prisons contained sections with incarcerated females and juveniles. Any hypothetical abuses from that quarter that might come to light would be even more explosive than what has gone before. So would any possible participation in these activities by Israeli nationals. Additional incidents would stimulate insurgent recruitment among 25 million Iraqis as well as recruitment of international terrorists within a pool of one billion Muslims."

Monday, May 24, 2004

Nuclear 'now only way to stop global warming'

James Lovelock, one of the most respected and scientifically credible figures in the green movement, has urged a rethink on nuclear power.

Writing in the Independent, he says that nuclear power is now the only practical way to stop global warming.

"Global warming, like a fire, is accelerating and almost no time is left to act. We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear."

Lovelock is the original proponent of the Gaia hypothesis, first put forward in book form in 1979. This posits that the organisms of the Earth together form a self-regulating system that maintains conditions suitable for life. Although at first controversial and not taken seriously outside of green circles, over time the theory has gained scientific respectability and has proved highly productive in sparking scientific research.

Despite the near cessation of nuclear developments around the world, the nuclear lobby is still active - particularly in Britain where pro-nuclear figures have been active in attempts to block what some see as nuclear power's current main rival, wind power. Against this background it would be easy for nuclear power's opponents to portray the 84-year-old Lovelock as an unwitting dupe of the nuclear lobby.

But in fact Lovelock has been remarkably consistent over the years in his view that climate change is a much greater threat to our world than nuclear accident or even nuclear war.

For Lovelock it is all about putting the correct priorities on the various threats. Although an accident like Chernobyl might kill many people and other living things over a wide area, the global biosphere can cope with it and will recover back to something resembling its present state. By contrast, by changing the composition of the atmosphere humans are producing unpredictable and possibly very large global effects; although Lovelock is confident the biosphere can again adapt, there's no guarantee that the adaptation will provide a comfortable or even viable niche for humans.

Related links:

Independent: Greenland ice is melting
Extract from 'Gaia: a new look at life on Earth' (1979)
Guardian on who is behind UK opposition to wind farms
Slashdot discussion on Lovelock and nuclear power

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