The US Space Force Is Not a Joke | Defense One


Last month, not long before boarding a plane to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas, President Trump signed legislation that created the newest military branch in the United States in more than 70 years: the Space Force.

Between the holiday season and more pressing military news, the creation of the Space Force did not initially make a big impression. But the president seems pleased with his newest armed service. “Everybody’s excited about that,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Ohio last week. The crowd responded with boisterous chants of “U-S-A.” Vice President Mike Pence celebrated “America’s heritage as the world’s greatest spacefaring nation” yesterday, as he swore in General Jay Raymond as chief of space operations.

The new organization even has its first controversy: Over the weekend, military officials brought a Bible to the Washington National Cathedral to be blessed for swearing-in ceremonies of Space Force officers, raising objections about the coziness of church and state.

But what will the Space Force actually do?

Source: The US Space Force Is Not a Joke – Defense One

Renewables, land use, and local opposition in the United States


Wind and solar generation require at least 10 times as much land per unit of power produced than coal- or natural gas-fired power plants, including land disturbed to produce and transport the fossil fuels.

Additionally, wind and solar generation are located where the resource availability is best instead of where is most convenient for people and infrastructure, since their “fuel” can’t be transported like fossil fuels. Siting of wind facilities is especially challenging.

Modern wind turbines are huge; most new turbines being installed in the United States today are the height of a 35-story building. Wind resources are best in open plains and on ridgetops, locations where the turbines can be seen for long distances.

Source: Renewables, land use, and local opposition in the United States

Why Experts Are Worried About a New Virus in China | Council on Foreign Relations


The new virus belongs to the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which afflicted China and thirty-six other countries in 2002–03, killing more than 770 people worldwide. The impact was severe enough to hurt the economies of China and countries in Southeast Asia.

Like SARS coronavirus, this virus is expected to have high mutation rates, which means it can rapidly develop resistance to new drugs and vaccines.

It was reported that the new virus bears 80 percent similarity to SARS.

Yet the virus does not appear to be as dangerous as SARS. The latter is highly contagious and life-threatening.

Source: Why Experts Are Worried About a New Virus in China | Council on Foreign Relations

The voice of sadness is censored as sick. What if it’s sane? | Aeon Essays


The reason for my depression was a breakup. But what led to depression was not so much the reaction to our split, but the realization that the one you believed loved you, who was closest to you and promised to be with you forever, had turned out to be someone else, a stranger indifferent to your pain.

I discovered that this loving person was an illusion. The past became meaningless, and the future ceased to exist. The world itself wasn’t credible any more.

In that state of depression, I found the attitude of others changed dramatically. Depression is not particularly tolerated in society, and I realized that those around me were of two persuasions.

One group of people wanted to fix me, telling me to pull myself together or recommending professional help. The other group tended to shun me like a leper.

In hindsight, I understand this reaction: after all, I had become cynical, agnostic and pessimistic, and I hadn’t bothered to be polite.

Source: The voice of sadness is censored as sick. What if it’s sane? | Aeon Essays

The Green Deal and a disordered world | Guido Montani

The European Green Deal is a ray of hope but it faces two huge challenges: it must go global and the finances must be found.

From the point of view of international politics, the COP 25 climate summit in December was a predictable failure. No progress was made towards the targets set by the 2015 Paris agreement, secured  thanks to a consensus between the US and China—the Madrid talks were basically scuppered by America’s withdrawal. The ‘global governance’ needed to bring the other United Nations members on board was lacking.

Yet from a cosmopolitan standpoint on world politics, COP 25 was not a total disaster. The European Green Deal is the first step in the right direction. Jeffrey Sachs has described it as ‘the first comprehensive plan to achieve sustainable development in any major world region’ and ‘a powerful beacon of hope in a world of confusion and instability’.

The future of humankind is a global public good. The despoliation of the biosphere is a ticking time-bomb which, sooner or later, is going to explode.

Source: The Green Deal and a disordered world – Guido Montani

Wind-power slump blows Germany off course on climate targets | Jess Smee

Germany has forged a reputation with its Energiewende flip over to renewables. But as construction of wind turbines stagnates, can it hit its ambitious climate targets?

As politicians struggled—and ultimately failed—to make a decisive push to rein in global CO2 emissions at the United Nations climate summit in Madrid in December, one piece of better year-end news for the climate made the rounds in Germany: wind energy became the nation’s most important power source in 2019, outstripping environmentally harmful lignite for the first time.

Yet the German Wind Energy Association president, Hermann Albers, was quick to dampen any cheers, stressing that the industry was mired in a ‘serious crisis’.

Source: Wind-power slump blows Germany off course on climate targets – Jess Smee

Why Fossil Fuel Companies Are Reckoning With Climate Change | Time


As concerns grow over the existential challenges posed by climate change, Shell must grapple with its own existential crisis: How should a company that generates most of its profits by serving the world’s enormous appetite for oil navigate a long-term future in which shifting political and economic tides threaten to make fossil fuels obsolete?

The pressure to abandon oil and gas is already in force.

In recent years, protesters have swarmed Shell’s headquarters; advocates representing 17,000 Dutch citizens have sued the company; and powerful investors successfully coerced executives to say they will reduce emissions. In 2015, countries around the world promised to aggressively tackle greenhouse-gas emissions, in order to meet the target laid out by the Paris Agreement: goals that require buying and burning significantly less oil and gas.

Source: Why Fossil Fuel Companies Are Reckoning With Climate Change | Time

It May Not Feel Like Anything To Be an Alien | Nautilus


What we are only beginning to realize is that these two forms of superhuman intelligence—alien and artificial—may not be so distinct.

The technological developments we are witnessing today may have all happened before, elsewhere in the universe. The transition from biological to synthetic intelligence may be a general pattern, instantiated over and over, throughout the cosmos. The universe’s greatest intelligences may be postbiological, having grown out of civilizations that were once biological. (This is a view I share with Paul Davies, Steven Dick, Martin Rees, and Seth Shostak, among others.)

To judge from the human experience—the only example we have—the transition from biological to postbiological may take only a few hundred years.

Source: It May Not Feel Like Anything To Be an Alien – Issue 80: Aliens – Nautilus

Most Americans say climate change affects their community | Pew Research Center


Roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults (62%) say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This finding is consistent with a 2018 Center survey, in which 59% of Americans said global climate change was affecting their local community at least some.

As is the case on many climate change questions, perceptions of climate change effects in one’s local community are closely tied with political party affiliation. About eight-in-ten Democrats (82%, including those who lean to the Democratic Party) say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, while about half as many Republicans say this (38%, including leaners).

Source: Most Americans say climate change affects their community | Pew Research Center

U.S. Public Views on Climate and Energy | Pew Research Center


Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, from protecting water or air quality to reducing the effects of climate change.

And most believe the United States should focus on developing alternative sources of energy over expansion of fossil fuel sources, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Source: U.S. Public Views on Climate and Energy | Pew Research Center