Sunday, September 22, 2013

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

The Final Draft of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is due out at the end of this month. It is under active consideration this week. In anticipation of this event, I want to review the relevance of this group and its work.

Under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international scientific body for the assessment of climate change. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.

Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. IPCC aims to reflect a range of views and expertise. The Secretariat coordinates all the IPCC work and liaises with Governments. It is supported by WMO and UNEP and hosted at WMO headquarters in Geneva.

Established in 1988, the IPCC has produced four previous Assessment Reports (1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007). The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) will provide a clear view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. It will comprise three Working Group (WG) reports and a Synthesis Report (SYR). It is the first of these WG reports that is due out at the end of this week.

What will we learn?

We don't know yet, really. The report has not yet be published. Not surprisingly, however, there have been leaks, some of them controversial. It has been published, for example, that the report will show that "carbon dioxide could have a smaller impact on global temperatures than scientists predicted in 2007, opening the possibility greenhouse gas emissions do not have to be radically cut." At the same time it has also been reported that the effects of global warming are more severe than previously thought. Writing the report is an iterative process. How about if we wait and see what it says at the end of the week?

Nonetheless, no one is predicting that AR5 will substantially reverse previous Assessment Reports in the consensus that global warming is caused primarily by human emissions of greenhouse gasses. Pertinent questions will of course include the relative degrees of various forcings, revised rates of change, and likely consequences of climate change. Some of these findings may be somewhat speculative as well, but this report, the most up to date information available, is not expected to call into question the reality of man-made global warming and climate change. If it does, I will be among the first to post such a statement here.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Paradox of Peace

Today, as every day, I will pray for peace, but today I will also participate in the global prayer vigil for peace called for by Pope Francis six days ago. The invitation is to everyone, "including our non-Catholic Christian brothers, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."

"We will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God's great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace."

The vigil in St. Peter's Square from 7 pm to 11 pm today (September 7) will include a recital of the rosary, eucharistic adoration, Scripture readings, a papal blessing and remarks by Pope Francis. Hundreds of thousands of others of all faiths and in hundreds of locations around the world are expected to join the vigil in their own ways. My own participation will be to meditate at the Arkansas House of Prayer (AHOP) with a few friends at noon CDT (7 pm in Rome). All are welcome. In contrast to the event in St. Peter's Square, our practice at the AHOP is to observe silence, quiet the mind, and seek the face of the Divine within.

Which brings me to the paradox of peace. Peace begins within the human heart, within my heart. Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." This means that world peace begins with me. So why not meditate and pray in my own closet? I certainly could and many will do just that from wherever they are today. But when I sit in silence in the meditation room with two or twenty others, my own spirit becomes more aware of the Divine center within those around me, and together we unify our spirits with all those gathered around the world. We sense more deeply that we are not separate egos. We are one with everyone and we cry out with all those who suffer the ravages of violence wherever they are.

The AHOP event today is a prelude to another on September 21, the International Day of Peace, at 7:00 pm (Midnight GMT), when all who can are invited to join us at the AHOP for BeThePeace Little Rock. Hundreds of millions are expected to meditate simultaneously in one of the largest globally-synchronized meditation and prayer events in history. Peace begins with me; yet I cannot truly be at peace until the human family lives in peace.

And so I have been accused of being an idealist. Guilty, but I am not naïve. Conflict and violence will not end this month. Nonetheless, I find great hope in the combined efforts of over eighty organizations in more than four hundred cities around the world in asking twenty percent of the world's population to think and pray about peace on that day, as I do so in stillness. That is the paradox.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

We "Did the Math." Now what?

By all accounts, the screening of Do the Math at Market Street Cinema last month was a success: good crowd, lot's of enthusiasm. But what exactly did we accomplish? Here are my thoughts ten days out.

First, a few of us had previously seen the film online, but viewing it on the big screen with a large gathering is a whole different experience, very inspiring and worth the effort. Second, I believe it raised awareness in the community by a small but significant amount. Not a few people said they had no idea of the magnitude of the issue, and others already sympathetic to the cause said they learned a lot. Third, the screening led directly to several actions toward divestment and reinvestment being initiated. This takes time, of course, but the ball was started rolling. (For those interested in learning more about divestment and reinvestment GreenFaith is offering a Webinar on July 15 you can view at home, live or recorded.) Fourth, several people asked how they can get a copy of the film to show their friends. Not only the trailer, but the movie is on YouTube. Finally, it's gratifying to have brought together many related groups and causes. At the risk of leaving some out, I counted individuals with ties to:

So what do we do now? Soon I hope to write a separate essay on what our next steps might be, but the second film in the One in Seven Billion series is Occupy Love, a documentary that frames the crises of our time as the greatest love story on earth.


Saturday, June 1, 2013


Viruses cause disease in people and disasters in computers. With social media, however, "going viral" is usually considered a good thing. It means that the original message has spread like a virus far beyond the narrow circle of friends that viewed the initial posting. To this is what I aspire. The closest thing I've had so far was a map of the Pegasus Pipeline I posted the day after the Mayflower oil spill. To date, 5,939 people have viewed at that post. (I know this because I posted it on a page where I get statistics.) Beyond that I've not had more than a few hundred show an interest.

Pictures of cats, it seems, and pithy quotes, unbelievable videos, or a Status that says "If you don't share this you will surely die" seem to work best. From experience, I know that a Status or a Link or a Note that essentially says "this is difficult but important" doesn't go very far. I've been around here a while, but I am still learning.

What do I want?

What I am slowly getting around to here is that I really, REALLY want my next project to "go viral," especially among the citizens of Central Arkansas. However, as I said to a non-local friend, by definition documentary screenings are "local" events, but when the films to be shown are global in scope, the film series becomes a global happening of sorts. Sharing this project GLOBALLY, therefore, is perfectly acceptable. If nothing more, it is an example of what could be reproduced elsewhere. The "local/global event" I am talking about is the "One in Seven Billion" film series at the Market Street Cinema this summer. The theater will only hold 200 people, but I want EVERYONE in Central Arkansas to know about the event so EACH one can decide to attend or not.

One in Seven Billion

The title of the series, "One in Seven Billion," comes from the lonely realization that I am only one among a staggering number of people, a number I cannot even fathom. But every film in this series does an amazing job of showing how EACH ONE of us has a CENTRAL role in addressing the serious crises facing our planet. WE, each of us, really can make a difference. Love is the answer, Oneness is the way. So I have created a new graphic with this message because graphics tend to be shared more readily. And here is how I hope it will work. I will post the graphic on my Friend to Friend on Climate page. This is mostly because it will keep track of the metrics, but of course the series IS also related to climate, at least the first film. Then I will share this graphic on my personal timeline, upon which I hope it will become Shared widely. Time will tell. But I also hope you will Share this blog link and the One in Seven Billion page, and Invite their friends to the Facebook events: Do the Math, Occupy Love, A Place at the Table, and The Day After Peace.

What if I don't agree?

Well yes, I am keenly aware that MANY of my friends (Facebook and otherwise) do not see eye to eye with me on all the issues dealt with in this film series. In particular, there will be some who see the climate crisis differently. Some of you, for example, do not think humans play a significant role in the climate changes we have seen. Others may view the Occupy movement as less than constructive, even disruptive, and still others may look at the issues of hunger, poverty, and violence from other angles. To me, the most important thing that could happen is that we have a creative, productive, LOVING conversation about these crises. So, if you disagree, please come view the films and participate in the discussion. You will be heard, I promise. And please encourage your friends to come as well. You all know me, and you know I am fair.

What if I can't come?

ALREADY I have had a number of friends say they have other plans for some or all of these dates. That is okay. First, we are talking about trying to make available face to face conversations about the films at other times outside of the theater setting, although the details are yet to be worked out. Second, it is my hope that we can have some online conversations about the films. If you have to miss a particular screening, I MAY be able to provide you with a link to watch it online, and we would love to have you participate in the discussion later, in person or online.


Although I would love to have "standing-room-only" crowds at all four movies, the bottom line is not about the number of "customers". (Admission is free.) The bottom line is about engaging friends (and friends of friends) in conversation and in finding solutions though compassion and unity. So, yes I want to reach a lot of people, and what I am asking EACH ONE of you is to help make this 'project' go viral by (1) Sharing the new Film Series Graphic on your wall, (2) Sharing a link to this blog post on your wall or Sharing a link to the One in Seven Billion page on your wall, and (3) Inviting your friends to the Facebook events: Do the Math, Occupy Love, A Place at the Table, and The Day After Peace. For my part, I will do my best to keep you informed about the responses.

Virality is defined as: "the number of people who have created a story from your post as a percentage of the number of people who have seen it." It is not clear what "creating a story" means, but it obviously includes Sharing the post. In any case, I also consider Commenting to be helpful, especially if it leads to a conversation and particularly if this is a civil conversation among individuals with differing perspectives. So please feel free to Comment on any of the postings, or to create a new post on which others may comment. Finally, Liking a post (or comment) contributes to the community conversation by letting your friends know your sentiment and your engagement in the topic. Unfortunately, if you "dislike" a posting your only option is to return a Comment, but this will provide the opportunity for further dialogue.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1 in 7 Billion

Two weeks ago I had an idea. Nothing more, just a simple suggestion. Several of my friends, however, took the idea seriously enough to challenge me to take it as seriously and follow up. So, I took a timid step, then another and another. Fourteen days later a plan has taken shape. I am nervous, humbled, and thrilled all at the same time.

What I suggested was that we might show a world-class documentary somewhere in Little Rock, probably at my local church. The movie would be related to one of several social issues of current debate. I had mentioned three movies, but my thinking was to pick one and see what kind of response we could get first. Then several of us discussed a weekly series of up to, say, four weeks. I liked the idea of a series a lot, but upon further reflection and discussion, one showing a week seemed too intense. What about once a month? Perfect.

So, which documentaries should we select to bring to Central Arkansas. My personal favorite, Home, did not make the cut because it did not quite fit the 'theme' as described below. Here are the ones that did get picked.

  1. Do the Math is the shortest of the four (43 min), but it may be the most important, as it articulates what may be the only question that matters in the long run, how to address the climate crisis. This brings us to the 'theme', which is that we must tackle these crises together through non-violent direct action on a grass-roots level, here and around the globe.
  2. The second movie, Occupy Love, brings home this point again and again. It is only through compassion and solidarity that we will we overcome these most troublesome of issues in every arena.
  3. The third, A Place at the Table, looks at the heart-rending problem of hunger and poverty in our country. Here again the magnitude of the problem seems overwhelming, but the solution is not without precedent and it requires all of us. These first three films were released this year, quite current.
  4. The final movie, The Day After Peace, came out in 2009. It is the middle of three Peace One Day documentaries, but we chose it over the third at the recommendation of the producers. ("If you only see one, pick this one.")

After choosing these films, we next considered the venue. A church building is not exactly the most conducive setting for several reasons, perhaps the least of which have to do with projection, lighting, and sound. Fortunately the owner of Market Street Cinema came forward and graciously offered a more appropriate facility for the film series. It has not gone without notice that St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, the host of this series, began its ministry and had its first worship service at this theater. Just a bit of nostalgia.

No public film series would be complete without publicity. We will use conventional advertising where feasible, certainly, but these films are the kind that are intended to be shared virally through social media. Please help us spread the word by Liking, Sharing, Commenting, Inviting, Tweeting, Posting, Pinning, and Emailing, even if most of your network friends do not live in Arkansas. These movies deserve to be "talked about" around the world.

The Theme

From the outset we decided we would not focus on just one issue, such as climate or poverty or war. But there is a common denominator among these films, which is that our world now faces a number of serious crises, any one of which could be demoralizing by itself. But instead of inviting us to hang our heads in despair, we are inspired to come together in compassion and in unity to make a difference and change the world. The theme is that our hope is found neither in apathy nor in violence, but in working together through love.

The "One in Seven Billion" film series Home page is

DateMovieTrailerRSVPWeb site
June 23
6:20 PM
Do the Math Preview Facebook
July 21
6:20 PM
Occupy Love Preview Facebook
Aug 18
6:20 PM
A Place at the Table Preview Facebook
Sept 15
6:20 PM
The Day After Peace Preview Facebook

Monday, May 13, 2013

400 parts per million

In case you missed it last week, for the first time in human history, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming pollutant, hit 400 parts per million in the Earth's atmosphere. This is alarming. When I reflect on the future of our planet, it is easy to succumb to pessimism and believe I am powerless to make an ounce of difference. After all, I can only do so much and surely that is not enough. Who am I to imagine that out of seven billion people on our planet, my actions can change a thing, anything at all? What I am slowly coming to realize is that the words "only" and "not' must be crossed out. "I can only do so much, and surely that is not enough." If I do what I am called to do, who am I to say that this is not enough? It will be enough, and it will make all the difference in the world.

So at least for now this is my calling: to raise awareness of the issues among my friends (plus theirs and possibly even theirs). That is all, nothing more, nothing less. Awareness is a powerful tool. The English word awareness comes from the same ancient root as "steward", "guard", and "revere". We are expected to be stewards of the Earth, to guard and revere it. We do this by becoming aware of how our actions affect our island home. Over the past few months, I have been exploring ways of raising awareness about climate change and its causes through online activities. I'm still working on this, but lately I have found several new documentaries that I believe I am called to share with the people of Central Arkansas in one way or another. I will write about how at the end of this post, but first let me describe these compelling movies.


Although "Home, the movie" was new to me, it is actually not new, released June 5, 2009. It has been seen over 15 million times on YouTube and watched by more than 400 million people around the globe, a number I would like to see increased in Central Arkansas by several dozen or possibly several hundred. It was made by filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand who worked for free for 3 years to make the film, conceived as a gift to the public. It is the first environmental film made using only aerial photography, shot entirely from the air and filmed in 120 locations in over 50 countries. You can watch the Trailer here. "In a single lifetime the earth has been more radically changed than by all previous generations of humanity. Know that the solutions are there today. We all have the power to change. So what are we waiting for?" The rules for organizing a public screening of home are: (1) the screening will be free (no entrance fee), (2) the film will be screened in its full length, with sound and music, (3) the film will be shown in optimal screening conditions. I have downloaded this film as an mp4 file, but higher resolution may be available. It is 93 minutes in length.

Do the Math

This film is new, released just this month. The Do the Math documentary is a 42-minute film about the rising movement in the United States to change the terrifying maths of the climate crisis and challenge the fossil fuel industry. While it is set in the United States, the maths the film outlines apply globally. You can watch the Trailer here. "This is the biggest emergency the human family has faced since it came out of the cave. ... We have a moral catastrophe on our hands. ... What's at stake now is civilization itself. ... This is the only question that will matter in the long run." Registering a local Do the Math screening is easy. I have downloaded an mp4 file, but higher resolution may be available. It is 42 minutes in length, and it is a must watch.

Occupy Love

Occupy Love explores the growing realization that the dominant system of power is failing to provide us with health, happiness or meaning. The old paradigm that concentrates wealth, founded on the greed of the few, is causing economic and ecological collapse. The resulting crisis has become the catalyst for a profound awakening: millions of people are deciding that enough is enough – the time has come to create a new world, a world that works for all life. You can watch the Trailer here. "The lover knows that more for you is more for me. We live in a time of record-breaking crisis, but it's also a time of record-breaking vision. Being awake is love, that's what it is. There is no love quite like that, the willingness to put it all on the line, for your neighbors, for future generations, for the rest of creation. How could this crisis be framed as a great love story?" Occupy Love screenings are flowering around the world. I have purchased (and received / watched) the Blu Ray disc of this movie. It is 86 minutes in length.

How to Share

These documentaries were meant to be shared. They were meant to be spread "virally" and they were meant to be watched and discussed together. You can begin, of course, by "liking" and "sharing" this post or link, but more importantly you can brainstorm with me about how to share these powerful videos with the wider community. I believe all three videos deserve a "screening" by the widest audience in Central Arkansas possible. If I were to pick just one of these, it would be "Do the Math", simply because it is the most succinct and most direct. It is also short enough to present to an Adult Formation class on Sunday Morning at St. Margaret's, for example. But maybe we should organize a series on, say, Tuesday or Sunday evenings in Williams Hall at St. Margaret's. If we were to do this, I would suggest showing (1) Do the Math, (2) Home, (3) Occupy Love, and (4) Do the Math again over four weeks. But Williams Hall is not the most ideal setting for a movie, so what about renting a theater? We could explore options at Market Street Cinema or Chenal 9, for example. We should not (or cannot for Home) charge an admission fee, but there would be nothing wrong with accepting donations to defray the costs of theater rental or giving to the underlying organizations.

For those of you on Facebook, please comment there. Otherwise, you may email me or comment on this blog posting.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We can do better

The sky is not falling (not today), and of things I am concerned about, the Keystone XL Pipeline does not top the list. But a decision is said to be imminent, the consequences of which we will live with for a long time, so I am posting yet again.

The XL Pipeline decision is complicated. The benefits are said to be continued affordable energy, energy security for our country, and many new jobs. A new larger pipeline would provide safer petroleum transport than rail, truck, barge, or smaller aging pipelines (which it would hopefully replace). On the flip side, serious environmental concerns have been raised, including increased greenhouse gas emissions, spill hazards along the pipeline route, and destruction of the Canadian boreal forests to name a few. These pros and cons have pros and cons of their own, and the evidence for or against each position is controversial. The questions do not have yes-or-no answers and the decision is not black-and-white. Thoughtful people may reasonably disagree.

In the end, though, either the pipeline will be approved and be built or it won't. There is no middle ground. Even if the arguments were exactly fifty-fifty, the outcome is all-or-nothing. Do we just flip a coin, then, and see how it lands? What decision would I make if it were up to me?

I have already written one "thoughtful essay" about a few of the more objective arguments, and I may write more. Today, however, I want to try out a subjective approach. My heart says we should just say no and reject the XL Pipeline.

If we allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to be constructed across a wide swath of our country it would mean business-as-usual, more of the same old get-while-the-getting-is-good mentality. This has (admiringly) been called an "all-of-the-above" strategy, but "have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too" is more appropriate. If it can be exploited we should take advantage, never mind the consequences. We hide-our-heads-in-the-sand and pretend that there are no consequences.

Proponents of the pipeline say that providing clean energy alternatives would cost too much and inhibit growth. This is because the true costs of fossil fuels, especially the dirtiest of them, the tar sands, are hidden. In truth, feeding our addiction to comfort and convenience by accepting this pipeline would stifle innovation and postpone addressing the issues facing us.

If we say no, on the other hand, we as a nation would take seriously for the first time our responsibility to preserve the environment. It would mean facing up to the true costs of a fossil-fuel based economy. Yes, we would still need oil, coal, and gas for the foreseeable future, but paying the true price of these would lead to innovation and constructive change. If we dare to dream (as we did when we accepted the challenge to put a man on the moon) we would reap the same benefits of new technology, skilled jobs, and a revitalized economy.

So I say no. Your mileage may vary (no pun intended).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Unity Amidst Diversity

I am stirred by the notion of diversity, especially as it applies to planet Earth, our home. A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a link on my wall about Ecuador selling its Rainforests to China. It caught my attention for a couple of reasons. Ecuador is a small country and home to Touch the Jungle (TTJ), a cause I have been supporting with my birthday gifts for a while now. It turns out that TTJ is not directly involved, as Apuela is on the north-western slopes of the Andes, while Yasuni National Park is in the Amazon side of the country, east of the Andes. Nonetheless, Ecuador is a small country and the political and the economic issues are all part of the same struggle. Because of my interest in TTJ, I am concerned with Yasuni.

The second reason is that the Yasuni National Park has been said to be the most biodiverse region on Earth. Whether or not this is the case is immaterial. What is important is that biodiversity is both an essential feature of our planet and crucial to our own survival as a species.

What blows me away about this is that in the small local community of Mayflower, Arkansas we are faced with exactly the same issues of biodiversity in the wetlands surrounding Lake Conway and the competing values of affordable energy that led to a catastrophic oil spill. Half a world away, different life forms, different cultures, different politics and different economies, but the same issues.

In other words, as different as we are, we are all in this together. Sometimes we don't want to accept that fact, but it is true.

Once in a while, an art form comes along that helps us experience deeply what is otherwise difficult to grasp. Playing for Change is one of these. The whole idea is mind boggling. What this group does, essentially, is create a unified visual and auditory experience from diverse artists from around the world. Incredible, absolutely incredible! In my opinion the video is just as important as the sound track, probably more so. There are so many great singles, but my favorite is What a Wonderful World. We are wonderfully, ecstatically diverse, but we are indeed One. What a One-derful world!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Mayflower spill: 5 questions

For weeks I have been meaning to write a thoughtful essay about the Keystone XL Pipeline. But thoughtful essays require, well, thought, and thinking takes time, so I have been putting it off. The Mayflower oil spill last weekend changed all that for me. Imagine my surprise, my shock, to find that I have been living and hiking just a few miles from our very own tar sands pipeline. Who knew? No one, I think. Suddenly what I have been putting off seems much closer to home and more important. It is now time to write.

What surprised me was not the presence of the pipeline, but what it was carrying. Here I am, reading about tar sands for months, and I had no clue that barrel upon barrel of the stuff has been flowing almost under my feet the whole time. It turns out that the 20-inch Exxon Mobile Pegasus Pipeline was built in the late 1940's (a decade before Lake Maumelle) to carry oil derivatives from the Gulf Coast (Nederland, TX) to Illinois (Patoka, IL). In 2006 Exxon Mobile reversed the flow to transport Canadian tar sands oil from the Lakehead system in Chicago to Texas refineries. Then in 2009 new pumps were installed to increase the capacity from 50,000 barrels per day (Bpd) to 80,000 Bpd. I knew none of this, of course, and I'll bet not one in a thousand in our state knew it before this week.

So here's the thing. The Mayflower spill changes nothing and it changes everything. The Keystone XL issues are still exactly the same, the arguments on both sides are identical, but what the Pegasus accident has done is capture our attention and focus it on the important questions. The similarities and differences between the aging Pegasus and the proposed XL Pipelines are instructive and they are important.

Five questions for a conversation

1. What is acceptable risk? The oft suggested analogy is that automobile accidents happen every day, but that does not keep us from driving. We weigh the risks and decide that the benefits of driving are worth those risks. This analogy is imperfect, of course, because with driving the risks and benefits are individualized, but for at least seven decades, as a country we have considered the risks of oil pipelines and decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. The network of pipelines in the U.S. is extensive. There are approximately 55,000 miles of crude oil trunk lines (8 - 24 inches in diameter) that connect regional markets. Most of these carry light crude oil or its derivatives. Overseen by the Department of Transportation, this network has safely transported untold millions of barrels of oil from source to refinery and its products back to consumers. Yes, there have been accidents and spills, but it is widely recognized that pipelines are (or at least were) a safer means of transport than trucking, shipping, rail, or other means. It is also reported that pipeline safety has steadily improved over the past half century. Because of such pipelines I can affordably drive my (hybrid) car to work every day and on occasional cross-country trips.

But how would I feel if this spill was flowing through my back yard or the street in front of my own home? What if I lived a block or two away and now wake up every morning with headaches or nausea? The twenty-two families that have been evacuated from their homes are just the tip of the iceberg. Their lives and those of many others have been disrupted for weeks if not months. Maybe forever. Is this acceptable risk? And by all accounts it could have been much worse. What if the spill had made its way into Lake Conway (and it may yet)? What if the rupture had occurred nearer the Arkansas River (or one of forty other rivers and creeks along the route) or within the watershed of Lake Maumelle, Little Rock's water supply? Are these acceptable risks? I don't know the answer, but this question should give us pause. It is clearly worth a serious conversation.

So, what is special today? We have lived with these risks and benefits for decades. What makes us look at things differently now? I will get around to this shortly, but first we must ask ourselves about the benefits.

2. What is in it for us? We begin this line of reasoning by asking how the Mayflower residents benefited from this pipeline since 2006. How have the residents of Arkansas benefited? Have our gasoline prices been lowered or our heating costs reduced? I don't know, but I doubt it. I am pretty sure the victims did not benefit, at least not directly, and I am certain they had no idea they were living on top of a ticking time bomb. But I digress. What is in it for us?

Our economy is dependent upon on a ready supply of inexpensive energy. The XL Pipeline would bring some 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Texas refineries and open up 170 billion barrels of recoverable oil sands oil over the coming decades. Developing oil resources from our North American neighbor would seem to improve our national energy security. Oil from Canada is also claimed to be more "ethical" than "conflict oil" from Venezuela or OPEC. And despite the inherent risks, a pipeline may be the safest way to transport the tar sands oil to refineries than the alternatives of rail, shipping, or trucking.

The previous paragraph is oversimplified, extremely and deliberately so because to develop even one of its statements would take another whole essay. Please let me recommend, therefore, the website Oil Drum, a site which raises awareness of society’s dependency on energy and the magnitude of the problems we may face if energy becomes either too expensive or scarce. The only point I want to make here is that the role of energy in our economy, and the roles of oil in providing that energy, are complicated, and I for one don't pretend to understand them all. Energy is important, and how the tar sands should contribute is not clear.

Yes, there are benefits to society of having a ready source of inexpensive energy, and it may not be easy to weigh these. But one thing is quite clear. The primary beneficiaries are the fossil fuel energy companies, the refineries, and the energy distributors here and world-wide. The oil companies and refineries will profit, but our society may not. More than half of the products of Canadian tar sands are exported presently, and it is estimated that between 60 and 90% of the output from the future XL Pipeline is destined for export. I have no way (at present) to judge the validity of these claims, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the cost-benefit balance is shifting. The fact that Exxon Mobil reversed the direction of flow in the Pegasus Pipeline, in my opinion, changes the whole equation. Which brings us to the third question.

3. What is different about this situation? At the time of its rupture, the Pegasus Pipeline was carrying "Wabasca Heavy crude oil from Alberta." This is the same bituminous petroleum that would be transported by the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. Extracting crude from the tar sands requires first clear-cutting the forest above, then removing as much as 100 ft of underlying soil and peat. The thick, viscous bitumen beneath must then be separated from the sands in which it is soaked by an energy-intensive steam process. It must then be further processed into crude by diluting with a natural gas condensate or synthetic crude. The resulting "diluted bitumen" or "dilbit" is thick, viscous, and corrosive, and it often has to be heated to be transported in pipelines. Here are just a few of the unique problems associated with dilbit.

  • Transportation is more dangerous due to the higher viscosity and corrosive nature of dilbit.
  • Clean up of spills is difficult, especially around water, due to its greater density and viscosity.
  • Spills are more hazardous due to the diluents required for its transport via pipeline.
  • Bitumenous sand is considered the "dirtiest" oil on the planet (higher carbon content).
  • Tar sands oil is inefficient. The energy it provides costs more energy to produce than regular oil.

I don't claim to know how to properly weigh the risks versus the benefits. I am just saying that all bets are off when the pipeline is carrying dilbit. Frankly we don't know the risks yet, and from what I can tell, we don't even know how to clean up dilbit spills.

How does the proposed XL Pipeline compare to the stricken Pegasus Pipeline? The most obvious difference is that the Pegasus Pipeline is more than sixty years old. It stands to reason that newer pipe would be more reliable and hence safer. It is worrisome, then, that TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline leaked 12 times in its first 12 months, not exactly a confidence builder. The other huge difference is the size. The 36-in XL Pipeline would be nearly twice the diameter of the 20-in Pegasus Pipeline and would carry more than nine times the flow of Wabasca Heavy Crude (dilbit).

4. What impact would the XL Pipeline have on greenhouse gas emissions? Prior to the Mayflower spill, my greatest concern was not the environmental risks, but the negative impact it could have on global warming and climate change. This issue has been called a "no-brainer" by both sides of the issue, and both sides are wrong. It is "a brainer" because there are so many facets. For those who choose not to believe that climate change is due to human activity maybe it is just that simple. Nothing to worry about, end of discussion.

For the purpose of our conversation, however, let's tentatively agree that carbon emissions are a threat to the planet. It can nonetheless be argued that the Canadian tar sands account for less than 0.2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, so a ten-fold increase in their contribution would still amount to less than 2% of all emissions. Furthermore, the Alberta bitumen deposits are relatively small in comparison to the total base of coal and unconventional gas worldwide. As far as I know, these facts are not in dispute. Maybe the tar sands are not such a big deal after all.

The problem is that these facts represent only a partial truth. The rest of the truth is that tar sands oil is the dirtiest oil on the planet. This resource has the highest carbon content by unit of energy of any fossil fuel, except perhaps coal and even that is not clear. In fact, coal (petroleum coke) is a by-product of refining bitumen. (See below.) Furthermore, bitumen is "junk" energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules. Because almost all of the input energy in tar sands production comes from fossil fuels, the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production.

Two new reports came out recently that bear on this topic. (1) Pembina Institute released a The climate implications of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. "Given its size, scope and market potential, the Keystone XL pipeline, if approved, would result in significantly increased oilsands production and increased global greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of whether other transportation options go ahead." (2) Oil Change International released a reportPetroleum Coke: The coal hiding in the tar sands.

In fairness, Pembina and Oil Change International are not disinterested (objective) parties, and neither of these articles entirely nullifies the observations of Swart and Weaver above. In the big scheme of things coal reserves are (still) a much larger problem than the tar sands reserves. Granted. Nevertheless, both of these articles are well-research and convincingly written. Moreover, I find it highly disconcerting that Petcoke in the tar sands is turning American refineries into coal factories. This can only help the coal industry, not deter it. I am still open minded about the relative merits, but I am discovering more and more climate change reasons to be disturbed about the tar sands project. The Canadian government seems to confirm this opinion.

And my biggest concern about further opening the tar sands fields by building the XL Pipeline is simply that it is "business as usual". That decision would mean that the U.S. and Canada are not taking seriously the problems associated with climate change.

5. Why has the State Department endorsed the XL Pipeline? In looking at all sides, we must take into account that the State Department has determined that "Keystone XL will not have a significant impact on the environment." I took this seriously enough to read much of the Executive Summary for the SEIS myself, and this report puts the XL Pipeline project in positive light. There is good reason to insist, however, that it is not an objective report. Most or all of it was written by firms with close ties to the very companies that would benefit most from the pipeline. In fairness, I'll concede that it is not unusual for the government to outsource technical studies such as this one, and any company with the expertise to perform such a study is likely to have ties to industry.

Digging deeper, however, "ERM Group, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed, has historical ties to Big Tobacco and its clients include ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Koch Industries. Mother Jones also revealed that ERM – the firm the State Dept. allowed TransCanada to choose on its behalf - has a key personnel tie to TransCanada." This is disturbing, to say the least.

Conclusion. In the months I have been studying the Keystone XL Pipeline, I have formed a opinion about it: I'm opposed to it, in case that was not already apparent. But thoughtful people can reach differing opinions, and I hope I have made it clear that I understand there are valid points to be made on both sides. I even made some of these, on both sides, myself. In the end, though, we can't have it both ways. The President either approves the project or not, and it gets built or it doesn't. Being able to see both sides of the coin doesn't lead to a decision. Where I end up, then, is believing it is not in our best interests to allow the XL Pipeline to be built. I started out opposing it mostly because of what it would mean for global warming and climate change. The more I study the situation, though, the more other reasons I find to oppose it, not the least of which is safety after this week. I used to buy the acceptable risk argument, but I'm not sure that I do any more. The bottom line is that the Tar Sands are not oil. We should not pretend that they are.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why didn't I know this?

Today I learned something completely new about climate change, and not only new but potentially planet saving. How have I missed it? For my friends who have been telling me that greenhouse gas emissions are not the whole story, this confirms what they have been saying. And for those concerned that reducing emissions won't be enough, here is a ray of hope. Is it too good to be true? Maybe, but it deserves looking a little bit deeper.

It started with an announcement in my email from of a talk given last month at TED2013 and posted this week. The speaker is Allan Savory and his talk is "How to green the desert and reverse climate change". It received a standing ovation and is well worth watching, but if you don't have the required 22:30 right now, here is a brief excerpt.

18:50 What we are doing globally [through improper grassland management] is causing climate change as much as, I believe, fossil fuels and maybe more than fossil fuels, but worse than that it is causing hunger, poverty, violence, social breakdown, and war. And as I am talking to you, millions of men, women, and children are suffering and dying. And if this continues, we are unlikely to be able to stop the climate changing, even after we have eliminated the use of fossil fuels. I believe I have shown you how we can work with nature at very low cost to reverse all this. We are already doing so on about 15 million hectares on five continents.

And people who understand far more about carbon than I do calculate that for illustrative purposes, if we do what I am showing you here, we can take enough carbon out of the atmosphere and safely store it in the grassland soils for thousands of years, and if we just do that on about half the world's grasslands that I've shown you, we can take us back to pre-industrial levels while feeding people. I can think of almost nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for your children, and their children, and all of humanity.

To find out more, I went to the Savory Institute web site. "The Savory Institute promotes large-scale restoration of the world's grasslands through holistic management. We use properly managed livestock to heal the land and empower others to do the same. We also remove barriers on the path to large-scale success through activities such as conducting research, creating market incentives and raising public awareness."

This and a companion site Africa Centre for Holistic Management are fascinating, with a lot of useful information, but I was a little disappointed not to find more science. There is one recent article (pdf) that is helpful. It explains the theory behind holistic management and provides some documented results. It also explains the relatively lack of scientific papers this way.

There are substantial differences in the skills and training required for management and for research. Managers of land almost never achieve publication in peer reviewed journals concerning range management in particular, because such journals are controlled by, and the International Range Management Society is dominated by, research people lacking both skills and training in management. Such researchers have over many years refused to accept management results as anything but anecdotal, because they cannot replicate management of any financial, social and land management situation on small plots for statistical analysis. Management needs to be holistic and can never be reductionist.

This explanation sounds reasonable, but I still have reservations. Despite my misgivings, I find myself drawn to this work and intend to find out more. It is the most hopeful thing I have heard or read in a long time. See also this undated paper A Global Strategy for Addressing Global Climate Change.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

NCA Report Findings

  1. Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.
  2. Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities.
  3. Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase.
  4. Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond.
  5. Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health.
  6. Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat.
  7. Reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions, particularly the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the islands of the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawai`i.
  8. Adverse impacts to crops and livestock over the next 100 years are expected. Over the next 25 years or so, the agriculture sector is projected to be relatively resilient, even though there will be increasing disruptions from extreme heat, drought, and heavy downpours. U.S. food security and farm incomes will also depend on how agricultural systems adapt to climate changes in other regions of the world.
  9. Natural ecosystems are being directly affected by climate change, including changes in biodiversity and location of species. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to moderate the consequences of disturbances such as droughts, floods, and severe storms is being diminished.
  10. Life in the oceans is changing as ocean waters become warmer and more acidic.
  11. Planning for adaptation (to address and prepare for impacts) and mitigation (to reduce emissions) is increasing, but progress with implementation is limited.

Who can we trust?

The Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) Report has just been released for public review. I will not comment on the content of that report here. That will come later. This week I simply ask who it is that produced this report and can they be trusted?

In 1989 President Bush established the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which was authorized by Congress in 1990. This program has coordinated the efforts of 13 federal departments and agencies (see graphic) for over two decades.

In December 2010, the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC) was established under the Department of Commerce and supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is a federal advisory committee (Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972) under the auspices of the USGCRP. It continues the work of previous such committees.

The mission of the NCADAC is to "synthesize and summarize the science and information pertaining to current and future impacts of climate change upon the United States; and to provide advice and recommendations toward the development of an ongoing, sustainable national assessment of global change impacts and adaptation and mitigation strategies for the Nation" (Aug 2011). Their first task is to "integrate, evaluate, and interpret the findings of the USGCRP and discuss the scientific uncertainties with such findings". This committee reports to the USGCRP through the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Previous National Climate Assessment (NCA) reports from the USGRCP were made in 2000 and 2009. According to the National Research Council, these demonstrated that "An assessment can establish the importance of an issue, provide an authoritative resolution of policy-relevant scientific questions, demonstrate the benefits of policy options, identify new research directions, and provide technical solutions".

What about this report?

(1) This assessment report is the outcome of a process that is both scientific and political. The political aspects, however, are assuaged by the fact that the process has occurred over more than two decades under four different administrations from both major parties.

(2) The process has been overseen by thirteen agencies and departments. While it is true we don't know how closely each of these federal entities have followed the developments, all of them bear responsibility and some of them (NOAA for example) are intimately involved.

(3) This specific committee has deliberately sought to engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and the committee set up a number of ways for this to occur.

(4) The report is authored by over 240 individuals. I don't know them personally, but the diversity of the group is impressive and their credentials impeccable. The transparency of the entire process is reassuring.

(5) The report is now open to public comment. If you take issue with any conclusion, statement, word, or punctuation mark, you may go to the Review and Comment System and provide your input. Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences is specifically enjoined to participate in this review.

What is my opinion?

I am inclined to take this report seriously.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Murkey science?

In the conversation yesterday, we came across the following statement by climatologist Dr. John Christy: "I've often stated that climate science is a 'murky science'. We do not have laboratory methods of testing our hypotheses as many other sciences do."

My first response was "yes he is right." I am no climatologist, but I have tried to read enough of its foundational literature to understand that climate science is complicated. No, it is extremely complicated. It is often based on enormous data sets, complex statistical analysis, and tedious attention to detail. It is also based upon weaving together the principles of physics and thermodynamics, chemistry, biology, geology, and other disciplines. Weather is the state of the atmosphere for a given location at any given time; climate is the weather of a wider region over a longer period of time. Both are extremely complicated; I admit this.

Have I mentioned that climate science is complicated?

On further reflection, however, climate science is not a 'murky science' simply because it is complicated, nor because it does not have laboratory methods for testing its hypotheses. There are many such sciences. They are called observational, descriptive, or historical. Examples include astronomy, geology, paleontology, epidemiology, and many of the social sciences. The job isn't particularly easy, but scientists engage in this type of investigation all the time. How do they do it?

There are two main techniques in observational science: (1) multivariate statistical techniques, and (2) making predictions of previously unobserved phenomenon based on current knowledge as hypotheses for further testing. Both of these methods are used to good effect in climate science, but both have potential pit falls. In the case of statistical analysis, the proper sequence is far from intuitive. Whether one subtracts before averaging or averages before subtracting can make significant difference in one's viewpoint. The same goes for computing variability before or after averaging. In the case of making predictions, one runs the risk of setting up non-falsifiable hypotheses.

There are many similarities between this situation and the study of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. The causes of these diseases are multi-factorial, meaning that they are complicated. Furthermore, biomedical scientists can't very well do randomized controlled experiments on people and their life-styles. But through sophisticated statistical techniques, epidemiologists have been able to sort out the many variables to show that cigarette smoking is a significant causal factor in all three. Because of the statistical nature of the investigations, however, the results were questioned long after they were conclusive.

I have not always had strong opinions about the topic of climate change. I've not even been a very good advocate for the environment despite my concern for it. By the time I started paying attention to "global warming" a few years ago, it had become so controversial I was not sure what to think. I was sympathetic but also confused. For the past two years, however, I have put significant time and effort into increasing my knowledge and understanding. I am no climatologist and never will be, but where I am today is that the evidence I have seen so far has convinced me that anthropogenic global warming is real and that it will become a crisis for our planet if no changes are made.

Since I did not start out with this belief, I do not consider this a "bias". Nevertheless, because that is my position now, as I proceed to take an even closer look at climate science over the coming months, I will make a concerted effort to sort out non-falsifiable hypotheses and try to avoid unwarranted oversimplifications.

Climate science is complicated (perhaps even more complicated than rocket science), but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to understand it, and maybe it isn't quite as 'murky' as we are told.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Global Warming not our fault

Recently I've had the pleasure of engaging in an online conversation about climate change in which one of the participants agrees that the Earth is possibly warming but disagrees that human activity is the cause.

"Any climatologist who tries to say they know [that global warming is cause by humans] would be lying. We have only been measuring temperature accurately since the 19th century, and there is no way one could tell the difference between human cause or natural cycle with such a short data set."
This comment deserves a response, which I will get to shortly, but first I must summarize the other objections posted.
  1. A link was posted to the HadCRUT dataset along with a note critical of one of the methods explanations, the implication being, I suppose, that the entire data set might be invalid.
  2. A link was posted to a news article about the Earth's' magnetic field fading, with a note that the following is all I need to read: "Today it is about 10 percent weaker than it was when German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss started keeping tabs on it in 1845, scientists say."
  3. A link was posted to Is the earth spinning slower? with the corollary that the moon is moving away from the earth by 3.8 cm/yr.
  4. A link was posted to a copy of an article DMI polar data shows cooler Arctic temperature since 1958.

Now the first thing to say is that these objections cannot, or at least should not, be dismissed with a mere wave of the hand. Not only were they offered in complete sincerity, which I appreciate, but most of them carry some weight with at least a certain segment of the population and most of them also carry a grain of truth that could be important. The next thing for me to say is that I didn't (and don't) find any of them persuasive, although I did take them seriously enough to research and write this post.

Objections (3) and (4) were offered together, the hypothesis being: (a) The moon effects oceans tides; (b) The tides influence ocean currents; (c) If there is less pull (and less angular momentum) due to the greater distance, then the currents that carry the heat away from the equator to the cooler regions will be diminished; (d) This means that more heat stays in the atmosphere instead of being sinked (sic) away to cooler waters in the ocean; (e) Thus we should see a cooling trend in the arctic, as demonstrated in the DMI data as interpreted by Lansner.

Objection (3). The distance of the moon from the earth varies over the course of its orbit from 356,700 km at perigee and 406,300 km at apogee. This is a difference of more than 12% each month (29.5 days). The grain of truth here is that when the moon is at apogee it does have less gravitational pull, which can contribute to lower variation in the high/low tide level. When the moon is at perigee there is more gravitational pull, which contributes to greater variation in the high and low tide. The problem with my interlocutor's argument is that 3.8 cm/yr over the course of even 150 years (let alone 30) is less than 0.03%. Even if we agree that averages are more important than ranges, a change in distance of << 0.1% over more than a century does not account for much. Incidentally, there are factors other than the moon's distance which affect the tides, most of which tend to dampen the moon's affect.

Objection (4). Without (3) there would be little or no explanation for (4) were it to be valid, but it needs to be considered on its own merits. So what are we to make of the fact that DMI reported an apparently cooler Arctic temperature from 1958 to present? First it should be noted that DMI itself never interprets its own data in the way that (4) does. In fact, DMI is concerned that not enough attention is being paid to the dire consequences of permafrost melting in the Arctic, but that is another matter.

What Lansner did in (4) was to take the thawing season out of context. Let me make this a simple as I can. In the winter the average temperature gets very low in the arctic (<-10 F, <-25 C) and there is much variability. In the thawing season, it never gets much above freezing (32 F, 0 C) because if it does, the ice melts cooling the air above it. In fact, let me just speculate. What if the "cooling" trend observed by the DMI is due to higher ocean temperatures or in any case a higher rate of ice melting? Pure speculation on my part, but my argument does not depend on it. The important SCIENCE is that annual average Arctic air temperatures have increased over the past few decades at a rate around twice the global average, and this is well documented. That is the crux in a nutshell, and anyone interested in the details can find them at Skeptical Science.

In a follow-up comment my interlocutor dismissed the Skeptical Science article by misinterpreting the explanations of the different datasets as a criticism of the DMI methods. True, the article discusses at length the strengths and weakness of several different methodologies, but the point was not to say that one is more valid than another. The Skeptical Science criticism of (4) is not that the DMI data should be considered invalid, but that DMI, GISS, and others all point in the same direction. The annual average Arctic temperature has risen sharply in recent decades. They all agree on this trend. Lansner (4) disagrees because he looks at only two months out of the year.

(I mean no disrespect, but can anyone tell me who Frank Lansner and Nicolai Skjoldby are, or their credentials? Apparently the latter has an M.S. in Forestry from the Royal Danish University of Agriculture, but other than that I can find nothing online about either one.)

Objection (2). The article per se is not about climate change. My interlocutor has used it, however, to offer the hypothesis that "a 10% reduction in the earths magnetosphere means a 10% increase in solar radiation to the earths surface." Uh, no. Not true. A magnetic field has no effect whatsoever on electromagnetic radiation in any part of the spectrum. What the magnetic field does, however, is protect the Earth from the solar wind (charged particles). This is important, of course, but it is unrelated to the amount of radiant energy received from the sun. — Entirely unrelated, it was suggested that somehow the fact that we only have temperature measurements back 150 years and that we have only been measuring the Earth's magnetic field for 150 years is somehow significant. First, that coincidence is not significant. Second, in both cases (temperature and magnetic fields) we have proxy measurements going back much further. The further back, of course, the less precise or reliable, but the information is still useful.

Objection (1). I am not sure (1) was actually offered as an objection, but this reminds me to begin working on a discussion of surface air temperature measurements.

Going back to the original comment, there are two aspects that each deserve a much more thorough response than I can provide this morning. The first is about the nature of science in general and climate science in particular. Scientists do not "try to say they know" anything with certainty. What they do is present the evidence and their interpretation of that evidence. The evidence is for anthropogenic global warming is strong, and most climate scientists interpret it that way. The second is that my interlocutor states emphatically that the temperature measurement record is too short to allow any climate scientist to come to a valid conclusion about the source of global warming. My only response at the moment is that (a) even 150 years of temperature data provide powerful evidence, and (b) there are many other kinds of evidence that corroborate that conclusion. (Sigh, never enough time.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Birthday Donations

For the past 72 weeks I have made a donation to a worthy cause in the name of each Facebook friend having a birthday that week. My goals have been: (1) to honor each friend on his or her birthday, (2) to raise awareness of needs around the world, (3) and to financially support causes that help meet these needs. In doing this I have made a concerted effort to steer clear of issues or organizations that might be considered controversial.

This coming year (2013), I want to continue the practice of recognizing my friends' birthdays, but I feel called to focus on the issue of Global Warming and Climate Change. For some this may be controversial, and I don't particularly wish to stir up trouble, but this is a matter that is too crucial to shy away from. For those who may be uncomfortable having a gift made in your name to an organization active in the politics of climate change (such as, you may choose one of the other two (Oxfam America and Touch the Jungle).

The first provides direct action against climate change, the second helps mitigate some of the devastation caused by global warming, and the third helps on a local level in Ecuador. Something for everyone. :-) After I came up with this idea, it occurred to me that I will look forward to hearing where each of you prefers your gift to go.

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