21st Century's Priority One
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Energy Challenge
Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
DENVER — Cheers fit for a revival meeting swept a hotel ballroom as 1,800 entrepreneurs and experts watched a PowerPoint presentation of the most promising technologies for limiting global warming: solar power, wind, ethanol and other farmed fuels, energy-efficient buildings and fuel-sipping cars.
“Houston,” Charles F. Kutscher, chairman of the Solar 2006 conference, concluded in a twist on the line from Apollo 13, “we have a solution.”
Hold the applause. For all the enthusiasm about alternatives to coal and oil, the challenge of limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, which traps heat, will be immense in a world likely to add 2.5 billion people by midcentury, a host of other experts say. Moreover, most of those people will live in countries like China and India, which are just beginning to enjoy an electrified, air-conditioned mobile society.
The challenge is all the more daunting because research into energy technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but rather falling.
In the United States, annual federal spending for all energy research and development — not just the research aimed at climate-friendly technologies — is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979, according to several different studies.
Britain, for one, has sounded a loud alarm about the need for prompt action on the climate issue, including more research. [A report commissioned by the British government and scheduled to be released today calls for spending to be doubled worldwide on research into low-carbon technologies; without it, the report says, coastal flooding and a shortage of drinking water could turn 200 million people into refugees.]
President Bush has sought an increase to $4.2 billion for 2007, but that would still be a small fraction of what most climate and energy experts say would be needed.
Federal spending on medical research, by contrast, has nearly quadrupled, to $28 billion annually, since 1979. Military research has increased 260 percent, and at more than $75 billion a year is 20 times the amount spent on energy research.
Internationally, government energy research trends are little different from those in the United States. Japan is the only economic power that increased research spending in recent decades, with growth focused on efficiency and solar technology, according to the International Energy Agency.
In the private sector, studies show that energy companies have a long tradition of eschewing long-term technology quests because of the lack of short-term payoffs.
Still, more than four dozen scientists, economists, engineers and entrepreneurs interviewed by The New York Times said that unless the search for abundant non-polluting energy sources and systems became far more aggressive, the world would probably face dangerous warming and international strife as nations with growing energy demands compete for increasingly inadequate resources.
Most of these experts also say existing energy alternatives and improvements in energy efficiency are simply not enough.
“We cannot come close to stabilizing temperatures” unless humans, by the end of the century, stop adding more CO2 to the atmosphere than it can absorb, said W. David Montgomery of Charles River Associates, a consulting group, “and that will be an economic impossibility without a major R.& D. investment.”
A sustained push is needed not just to refine, test and deploy known low-carbon technologies, but also to find “energy technologies that don’t have a name yet,” said James A. Edmonds, a chief scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute of the University of Maryland and the Energy Department.
At the same time, many energy experts and economists agree on another daunting point: To make any resulting “alternative” energy options the new norm will require attaching a significant cost to the carbon emissions from coal, oil and gas.
“A price incentive stirs people to look at a thousand different things,’ ” said Henry D. Jacoby, a climate and energy expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For now, a carbon cap or tax is opposed by President Bush, most American lawmakers and many industries. And there are scant signs of consensus on a long-term successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty obligating participating industrial countries to cut warming emissions. (The United States has not ratified the pact.)
The next round of talks on Kyoto and an underlying voluntary treaty will take place next month in Nairobi, Kenya.
Environmental campaigners, focused on promptly establishing binding limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases, have tended to play down the need for big investments seeking energy breakthroughs. At the end of “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary film on climate change, he concluded: “We already know everything we need to know to effectively address this problem.”
While applauding Mr. Gore’s enthusiasm, many energy experts said this stance was counterproductive because there was no way, given global growth in energy demand, that existing technology could avert a doubling or more of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in this century.
Mr. Gore has since adjusted his stance, saying existing technology is sufficient to start on the path to a stable climate.
Other researchers say the chances of success are so low, unless something breaks the societal impasse, that any technology quest should also include work on increasing the resilience to climate extremes — through actions like developing more drought-tolerant crops — as well as last-ditch climate fixes, like testing ways to block some incoming sunlight to counter warming.
Without big reductions in emissions, the midrange projections of most scenarios envision a rise of 4 degrees or so in this century, four times the warming in the last 100 years. That could, among other effects, produce a disruptive mix of intensified flooding and withering droughts in the world’s prime agricultural regions.
Sir Nicholas Stern, the chief of Britain’s economic service and author of the new government report on climate options, has summarized the cumulative nature of the threat succinctly: “The sting is in the tail.”
The Carbon Dioxide Problem
Many factors intersect to make the prompt addressing of global warming very difficult, experts say.
A central hurdle is that carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere like unpaid credit card debt as long as emissions exceed the rate at which the gas is naturally removed from the atmosphere by the oceans and plants. But the technologies producing the emissions evolve slowly.
A typical new coal-fired power plant, one of the largest sources of emissions, is expected to operate for many decades. About one large coal-burning plant is being commissioned a week, mostly in China.
“We’ve got a $12 trillion capital investment in the world energy economy and a turnover time of 30 to 40 years,” said John P. Holdren, a physicist and climate expert at Harvard University and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “If you want it to look different in 30 or 40 years, you’d better start now.”
Many experts say this means the only way to affordably speed the transition to low-emissions energy is with advances in technologies at all stages of maturity.
¶ Substantially improving the efficiency and cost of solar panels;
¶ Conducting full-scale tests of systems for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and pumping it underground;
¶ Seeking efficient ways to generate fuels from crops;
¶ Finding new ways to store vast amounts of energy harvested intermittently from the wind and sun.
Carbon dioxide levels will stabilize only if each generation persists in developing and deploying alternatives to unfettered fossil-fuel emissions, said Robert H. Socolow, a physicist and co-director of a Princeton “carbon mitigation initiative” created with $20 million from BP and Ford Motor.
The most immediate gains could come simply by increasing energy efficiency. If efficiency gains in transportation, buildings, power transmission and other areas were doubled from the longstanding rate of 1 percent per year to 2 percent, Dr. Holdren wrote in the M.I.T. journal Innovations earlier this year, that could hold the amount of new nonpolluting energy required by 2100 to the amount derived from fossil fuels in 2000 —a huge challenge, but not impossible.
Another area requiring immediate intensified work, Dr. Holdren and other experts say, is large-scale demonstration of systems for capturing carbon dioxide from coal burning before too many old-style plants are built.
All of the components for capturing carbon dioxide and disposing of it underground are already in use, particularly in oil fields, where pressurized carbon dioxide is used to drive the last dregs of oil from the ground.
In this area, said David Keith, an energy expert at the University of Calgary, “We just need to build the damn things on a billion-dollar scale.”
In the United States, the biggest effort along these lines is the 285-megawatt Futuregen power plant planned by the Energy Department, along with private and international partners, that was announced in 2003 by President Bush and is scheduled to be built in either Illinois or Texas by 2012. James L. Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the Bush administration was making this a high priority.
“We share the view that a significantly more aggressive agenda on carbon capture and storage and zero-pollution coal is necessary,” he said, adding that the administration has raised annual spending on storage options “from essentially zero to over $70 million.”
Europe is pursuing a suite of such plants, including one in China, but also well behind the necessary pace, several experts said.
Even within the Energy Department, some experts are voicing frustration over the pace of such programs. “What I don’t like about Futuregen,” said Dr. Kutscher, an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., “is the word ‘future’ in there.”
Beyond a Holding Action
No matter what happens in the next decade or so, many experts say, the second and probably hardest phase of stabilizing the level of carbon dioxide will fall to the generation of engineers and entrepreneurs now in diapers, and the one after that. And those innovators will not have much to build on without greatly increased investment now in basic research.
There is plenty of ferment. Current research ranges from work on algae strains that can turn sunlight into hydrogen fuel to the inkjet-style printing of photovoltaic cells — a technique that could greatly cut solar-energy costs if it worked on a large scale. One company is promoting high-flying kite-like windmills to harvest the boundless energy in the jet stream.
But all of the small-scale experimentation will never move into the energy marketplace without a much bigger push not only for research and development, but for the lesser-known steps known as demonstration and deployment.
In this arena, there is a vital role for government spending, many experts agree, particularly on “enabling technologies” — innovations that would never be pursued by private industry because they mainly amount to a public good, not a potential source of profit, said Christopher Green, an economist at McGill University.
Examples include refining ways to securely handle radioactive waste from nuclear reactors; testing repositories for carbon dioxide captured at power plants; and, perhaps more important, improving the electricity grid so that it can manage large flows from intermittent sources like windmills and solar panels.
“Without storage possibilities on a large scale,” Mr. Green said, “solar and wind will be relegated to niche status.”
While private investors and entrepreneurs are jumping into alternative energy projects, they cannot be counted on to solve such problems, economists say, because even the most aggressive venture capitalists want a big payback within five years.
Many scientists say the only real long-term prospect for significantly substituting for fossil fuels is a breakthrough in harvesting solar power. This has been understood since the days of Thomas Edison. In a conversation with Henry Ford and the tire tycoon Harvey Firestone in 1931, shortly before Edison died, he said: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
California, following models set in Japan and Germany, is trying to help solar energy with various incentives.
But such initiatives mainly pull existing technologies into the market, experts say, and do little to propel private research toward the next big advances. Even Vinod Khosla, a leading environment-oriented venture capitalist who invests heavily in ethanol and other alternative energy projects, said in an interview that he was not ready to back solar power because it did not appear able to show a profit without subsidies.
The Role of Leadership
At the federal level, the Bush administration was criticized by Republican and Democratic lawmakers at several recent hearings on climate change.
Mr. Connaughton, the lead White House official on the environment, said most critics are not aware of how much has been done.
“This administration has developed the most sophisticated and carefully considered strategic plan for advancing the technologies that are a necessary part of the climate solution,” he said. He added that the administration must weigh tradeoffs with other pressing demands like health care.
Since 2001, when Mr. Bush abandoned a campaign pledge to limit carbon dioxide from power plants, he has said that too little is known about specific dangers of global warming to justify hard targets or mandatory curbs for the gas.
He has also asserted that any solution will lie less in regulation than in innovation.
“My answer to the energy question also is an answer to how you deal with the greenhouse-gas issue, and that is new technologies will change how we live,” he said in May.
But critics, including some Republican lawmakers, now say that mounting evidence for risks — including findings that administration officials have tried to suppress of late — justifies prompt, more aggressive action to pay for or spur research and speed the movement of climate-friendly energy options into the marketplace.
Martin I. Hoffert, an emeritus professor of physics at New York University, said that what was needed was for a leader to articulate the energy challenge as President John F. Kennedy made his case for the mission to the moon. President Kennedy said they were imperative, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
In a report on competitiveness and research released last year, the National Academies, the country’s top science advisory body, urged the government to substantially expand spending on long-term basic research, particularly on energy.
The report, titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” recommended that the Energy Department create a research-financing body similar to the 48-year-old Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, to make grants and attack a variety of energy questions, including climate change.
Darpa, created after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, was set up outside the sway of Congress to provide advances in areas like weapons, surveillance and defensive systems. But it also produced technologies like the Internet and the global positioning system for navigation.
Mr. Connaughton said it would be premature to conclude that a new agency was needed for energy innovation.
But many experts, from oil-industry officials to ecologists, agree that the status quo for energy research will not suffice.
The benefits of an intensified energy quest would go far beyond cutting the risks of dangerous climate change, said Roger H. Bezdek, an economist at Management Information Systems, a consulting group.
The world economy, he said, is facing two simultaneous energy challenges beyond global warming: the end of relatively cheap and easy oil, and the explosive demand for fuel in developing countries.
Advanced research should be diversified like an investment portfolio, he said. “The big payoff comes from a small number of very large winners,” he said. “Unfortunately, we cannot pick the winners in advance.”
Ultimately, a big increase in government spending on basic energy research will happen only if scientists can persuade the public and politicians that it is an essential hedge against potential calamity.
That may be the biggest hurdle of all, given the unfamiliar nature of the slowly building problem — the antithesis of epochal events like Pearl Harbor, Sputnik and 9/11 that triggered sweeping enterprises.
“We’re good at rushing in with white hats,” said Bobi Garrett, associate director of planning and technology management at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “This is not a problem where you can do that.”
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Africa’s World of Forced Labor, in a 6-Year-Old’s Eyes
By SHARON LaFRANIERE
KETE KRACHI, Ghana — Just before 5 a.m., with the sky still dark over Lake Volta, Mark Kwadwo was rousted from his spot on the damp dirt floor. It was time for work.
Shivering in the predawn chill, he helped paddle a canoe a mile out from shore. For five more hours, as his coworkers yanked up a fishing net, inch by inch, Mark bailed water to keep the canoe from swamping.
He last ate the day before. His broken wooden paddle was so heavy he could barely lift it. But he raptly followed each command from Kwadwo Takyi, the powerfully built 31-year-old in the back of the canoe who freely deals out beatings.
“I don’t like it here,” he whispered, out of Mr. Takyi’s earshot.
Mark Kwadwo is 6 years old. About 30 pounds, dressed in a pair of blue and red underpants and a Little Mermaid T-shirt, he looks more like an oversized toddler than a boat hand. He is too little to understand why he has wound up in this fishing village, a two-day trek from his home.
But the three older boys who work with him know why. Like Mark, they are indentured servants, leased by their parents to Mr. Takyi for as little as $20 a year.
Until their servitude ends in three or four years, they are as trapped as the fish in their nets, forced to work up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in a trade that even adult fishermen here call punishing and, at times, dangerous.
Mr. Takyi’s boys — conscripts in a miniature labor camp, deprived of schooling, basic necessities and freedom — are part of a vast traffic in children that supports West and Central African fisheries, quarries, cocoa and rice plantations and street markets. The girls are domestic servants, bread bakers, prostitutes. The boys are field workers, cart pushers, scavengers in abandoned gem and gold mines.
By no means is the child trafficking trade uniquely African. Children are forced to race camels in the Middle East, weave carpets in India and fill brothels all over the developing world.
The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, estimates that 1.2 million are sold into servitude every year in an illicit trade that generates as much as $10 billion annually.
Studies show they are most vulnerable in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Africa’s children, the world’s poorest, account for roughly one-sixth of the trade, according to the labor organization. Data is notoriously scarce, but it suggests victimization of African children on a huge scale.
A 2002 study supervised by the labor organization estimated that nearly 12,000 trafficked children toiled in the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast alone. The children, who had no relatives in the area, cleared fields with machetes, applied pesticides and sliced open cocoa pods for beans.
In an analysis in February, Unicef says child trafficking is growing in West and Central Africa, driven by huge profits and partly controlled by organized networks that transport children both within and between countries.
“We know it is a huge problem in Africa,” said Pamela Shifman, a child protection officer at the New York headquarters of Unicef. “A lot of it is visible. You see the kids being exploited. You watch it happen. Somebody brought the kids to the place where they are. Somebody exploited their vulnerability.”
Otherwise, she asked, “How did they get there?”
John R. Miller, the director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the term trafficking failed to convey the brutality of what was occurring.
“A child does not consent,” he said. “The loss of choice, the deception, the use of frauds, the keeping of someone at work with little or no pay, the threats if they leave — it is slavery.”
Some West African families see it more as a survival strategy. In a region where nearly two-thirds of the population lives on less than $1 a day, the compensation for the temporary loss of a child keeps the rest of the family from going hungry. Some parents argue that their children are better off learning a trade than starving at home.
Indeed, the notion that children should be in the care of their parents is not a given in much of African society.
Parents frequently hand off children to even distant relatives if it appears they will have a chance at education and more opportunity.
Only in the past six years or so has it become clear how traffickers take advantage of this custom to buy and sell children, sometimes with no more ceremony than a goat deal.
In 2001, 35 children, half of them under age 15, were discovered aboard a vessel in a Benin port. They said they were being shipped to Gabon to work.
In 2003, Nigerian police rescued 194 malnourished children from stone quarries north of Lagos. At least 13 other children had died and been buried near the pits, the police said.
Last year, Nigerian police stumbled upon 64 girls aged 14 and younger, packed inside a refrigerated truck built to haul frozen fish. They had traveled hundreds of miles from central Nigeria, the police said, and were destined for work as housemaids in Lagos.
In response to such reports, African nations have passed a raft of legislation against trafficking, adopting or strengthening a dozen laws last year alone.
There were nearly 200 prosecutions of traffickers on the continent last year, four times as many as in 2003, according to the State Department’s trafficking office.
Some countries are encouraging villages to form their own surveillance committees. In Burkina Faso, the government reported, such committees, together with the police, freed 644 children from traffickers in 2003. Still, government officials in the region say, only a tiny fraction of victims are detected.
Ghana, an Oregon-size nation of 21 million people, has yet to prosecute anyone under the new antitrafficking law it adopted last December. But the government has taken other steps — including eliminating school fees that forced youngsters out of classrooms, increasing birth registrations so that children have legal identities and extending small loans to about 1,200 mothers to give them alternatives to leasing out their children.
The International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency set up after World War II to help refugees, has also mounted a United States-financed program to rescue children from the fishing industry.
Since 2003, the organization says, 587 children have been freed from Ghana’s Lake Volta region, taken to shelters for counseling and medical treatment, then reunited with parents or relatives.
“We sign a social contract with the fishermen,” said Eric Peasah, the agency’s Ghana field representative. “If they have 10 children, we say, ‘Release four, and you can’t get more, or you will be prosecuted.’ Once they sign that, we come back and say we want to release more.”
To reduce child trafficking significantly, said Marilyn Amponsah Annan, who is in charge of children’s issues for the Ghanaian government, adults must be convinced that children have the right to be educated, to be protected, and to be spared adult burdens — in short, the right to a childhood.
“You see so many children with so many fishermen,” she said. “Those little hands, those little bodies. It is always very sad, because this is the world of adults.
“We have to educate these communities because they do not know any other way of existence. They believe this is what they need to do to survive.”
That is the fishermen’s favorite defense in Kete Krachi, a day’s drive through dense forests from Ghana’s capital, Accra. For the area’s roughly 9,000 residents, fishing is their lifeblood. Children keep it going.
Nearly every canoe here holds at least a few of them, some no older than 5 or 6, often supervised by a teenager. A dozen boys, interviewed in their canoes or as they sewed up ratty nets ashore, spoke of backbreaking toil, 100-hour workweeks and frequent beatings. They bore a pervasive fear of diving into the lake’s murky waters to free a tangled net, and never resurfacing.
One 10-year-old said he was sometimes so exhausted that he fell asleep as he paddled. Asked when he rested, another boy paused from his net mending, seemingly confused. “This is what you see now,” he said.
They never see the pittance they earn. The fishermen say they pay parents or relatives each December, typically on trips to the families’ villages during the December holidays.
The children’s sole comfort seems to be the shared nature of their misery, a camaraderie of lost boys who have not seen their families in years, have no say in their fate and, in some cases, were lured by false promises of schooling or a quick homecoming.
On Nkomi, a grassy island in the lake, Kwasi Tweranim, in his mid to late teens, and Kwadwo Seaako, perhaps 12 or 13, seemed united by fear and resentment of their boss. Both bear inchlong scars on their scalps where, they said, he struck them with a wooden paddle.
“I went down to disentangle the net, and when I came up, my master said that I had left part of it down there,” Kwasi said. “Then I saw black, and woke up in another boat. Only the grace of God saved me.”
Kwadwo, stammering badly, said he had been punished when the net rolled in the water.
Not every fisherman is so pitiless. Christian Lissah employs eight children under 13, mostly distant relatives. He said he knew many children who were treated no better than workhorses, and some who had drowned.
“In general, this is not a good practice because people mishandle the children,” he said. Yet he said he could not imagine how he would fish profitably without child workers, and depends on friends and acquaintances to keep him supplied — for a commission.
“You must get people who are a very low background who need money,” he said. “Some of them are eager to release their children.”
Mark Kwadwo’s parents, Joe Obrenu and his wife, Ama, were an easy sell. Mr. Obrenu fished the seas off Aboadzi, a hilly, sun-drenched town on the Gulf of Guinea, and his wife dried the catch for sale. But the two often ran short of food, said Mark’s aunt, Adwoa Awotwe. Over the years, they sold five of their children into labor, she said, including Mark’s 9-year-old sister Hagar, who performs domestic chores for Mr. Takyi.
Mr. Obrenu drummed up other recruits from neighbors, sometimes to their lasting regret. “It was hunger, to get a little money; the whole today, I have not eaten,” said Efua Mansah, whose 7-year-old son, Kwabena, boarded a small blue bus with Mr. Takyi four years ago for the 250-mile trip to Kete Krachi.
She has seen him only twice since then. In all that time, Mr. Takyi has paid her $66, she said, a third of which she spent on buses and ferries to pick up the money.
In her one-room hut decorated with empty plastic bottles, she forced back tears. “I want to bring my son home,” she said.
Mark also cried when his turn to leave came this year, his aunt said, so his mother told him that Mr. Takyi would take him to his father. Instead, he was brought to Mr. Takyi’s compound of caked mud huts, to a dark six-foot-square cubicle with a single tiny window. He shares it with five other children, buzzing flies and a few buckets of fish bait.
In two days, a smile never creased Mark’s delicate features. He seldom offered more than a nod or a shake of the head, with a few telling exceptions: “I was beaten in the house. I can’t remember what I did, but he caned me,” he said of Mr. Takyi.
Mr. Takyi, who sleeps and works in the same gray T-shirt, is disarmingly frank about his household. He can afford to feed the children only twice a day, he said, and cannot clothe them adequately. He himself has been paddling the lake since age 8.
“I can understand how the children feel,” he said. “Because I didn’t go to school, this is work I must do. I also find it difficult.”
Yet he does not hesitate to break a branch from the nearest tree to wake the boys for the midnight shift.
“Almost all the boys are very troublesome,” he complained. “I want them to be humble children, but they don’t obey my orders.”
One recent morning, his young crew, wrapped in thin bedsheets for warmth, hiked in the darkness down to the shore.
They paddled out in two leaky but stable canoes, searching the water for a piece of foam that marked where their net was snagged on submerged tree stumps. Kwabena, 11, stripped off his cutoff shorts and dived in with an 18-year-old to free it, yanking it at one point with his teeth.
Mark has not mastered the rhythm of paddling. Mr. Takyi said the boy cries when the water is rough or he is cold. He cannot swim a stroke. If the canoe capsizes, Mr. Takyi said, he will save him.
“I can’t pay what is asked for older boys,” Mr. Takyi said, as Mark bailed out the canoe with the sawed-off bottom of a plastic cooking oil container. “That is why I go for this. When I get money, I go to get another one.”
In the other canoe, Kwame Akuban and Kofi Quarshie plucked fish from the net with the air of prisoners waiting for their terms to end.
Kofi, 10, said his mother had told him his earnings would feed their family. But he suspects another motive. “They didn’t like me,” he said softly.
Kwame, 12, said his parents had promised to retrieve him in a year’s time and send him to school.
“I have been here three years and I am not going home, and I am not happy,” he said quietly.
As if on cue, Mr. Takyi shouted: “Remove the fish faster, or I will cane you.”
Running away is a common fantasy among the boys. Kofi Nyankom, who came from Mark’s hometown three years ago, at age 9, was one of the few to actually try it.
Last December, he ran to town half-naked, his back a mass of bruises. He said Mr. Takyi had tied up him and whipped him.
George Achibra, a school district official, demanded that the police intervene, and Mr. Takyi was forced to let Kofi go.
But before many weeks passed, he had brought in a replacement — younger, more helpless, more submissive. It was Mark Kwadwo.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
AUSTIN, Tex., Oct. 28, 2006
(AP) David M. Walker sure talks like he's running for office.
"This is about the future of our country, our kids and grandkids," the comptroller general of the United States warns a packed hall at Austin's historic Driskill Hotel. "We the people have to rise up to make sure things get changed." But Walker doesn't want, or need, your vote this November. He already has a job as head of the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that audits and evaluates the performance of the federal government. Basically, that makes Walker the nation's accountant-in-chief. And the accountant-in-chief's professional opinion is that the American public needs to tell Washington it's time to steer the nation off the path to financial ruin. From the hustings and the airwaves this campaign season, America's political class can be heard debating Capitol Hill sex scandals, the wisdom of the war in Iraq and which party is tougher on terror. Democrats and Republicans talk of cutting taxes to make life easier for the American people. What they don't talk about is a dirty little secret everyone in Washington knows, or at least should. The vast majority of economists and budget analysts agree: The ship of state is on a disastrous course, and will founder on the reefs of economic disaster if nothing is done to correct it. There's a good reason politicians don't like to talk about the nation's long-term fiscal prospects. The subject is short on political theatrics and long on complicated economics, scary graphs and very big numbers. It reveals serious problems and offers no easy solutions. Anybody who wanted to deal with it seriously would have to talk about raising taxes and cutting benefits, nasty nostrums that might doom any candidate who prescribed them. "There's no sexiness to it," laments Leita Hart-Fanta, an accountant who has just heard Walker's pitch. She suggests recruiting a trusted celebrity — maybe Oprah — to sell fiscal responsibility to the American people. Walker doesn't want to make balancing the federal government's books sexy — he just wants to make it politically palatable. He has committed to touring the nation through the 2008 elections, talking to anybody who will listen about the fiscal black hole Washington has dug itself, the "demographic tsunami" that will come when the baby boom generation begins retiring and the recklessness of borrowing money from foreign lenders to pay for the operation of the U.S. government. He's dubbed his campaign the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour." To show that the looming fiscal crisis is not a partisan issue, he brings along economists and budget analysts from across the political spectrum. In Austin, he's accompanied by Diane Lim Rogers, a liberal economist from the Brookings Institution, and Alison Acosta Fraser, director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today. And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion. People who remember Ross Perot's rants in the 1992 presidential election may think of the federal debt as a problem of the past. But it never really went away after Perot made it an issue, it only took a breather. The federal government actually produced a surplus for a few years during the 1990s, thanks to a booming economy and fiscal restraint imposed by laws that were passed early in the decade. And though the federal debt has grown in dollar terms since 2001, it hasn't grown dramatically relative to the size of the economy. But that's about to change, thanks to the country's three big entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicaid, and especially Medicare. Medicaid and Medicare have grown progressively more expensive as the cost of health care has dramatically outpaced inflation over the past 30 years, a trend that is expected to continue for at least another decade or two. And with the first baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security in 2008 and for Medicare in 2011, the expenses of those two programs are about to increase dramatically due to demographic pressures. People are also living longer, which makes any program that provides benefits to retirees more expensive. Medicare already costs four times as much as it did in 1970, measured as a percentage of the nation's gross domestic product. It currently comprises 13 percent of federal spending; by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office projects it will consume nearly a quarter of the budget. Economists Jagadeesh Gokhale of the American Enterprise Institute and Kent Smetters of the University of Pennsylvania estimate that by 2030 Medicare will be about $5 trillion in the hole, measured in 2004 dollars. By 2080, the fiscal imbalance will have risen to $25 trillion. And when you project the gap out to an infinite time horizon, it reaches $60 trillion. Medicare so dominates the nation's fiscal future that some economists believe health care reform, rather than budget measures, is the best way to attack the problem. "Obviously health care is a mess," says Dean Baker, a liberal economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank. "No one's been willing to touch it, but that's what I see as front and center." Social Security is a much less serious problem. The program currently pays for itself with a 12.4 percent payroll tax, and even produces a surplus that the government raids every year to pay other bills. But Social Security will begin to run deficits during the next century, and ultimately would need an infusion of $8 trillion if the government planned to keep its promises to every beneficiary. Why is America so fiscally unprepared for the next century? Like many of its citizens, the United States has spent the last few years racking up debt instead of saving for the future. Foreign lenders — primarily the central banks of China, Japan and other big U.S. trading partners — have been eager to lend the government money at low interest rates, making the current $8.5-trillion deficit about as painful as a big balance on a zero-percent credit card. In her part of the fiscal wake-up tour presentation, Rogers tries to explain why that's a bad thing. For one thing, even when rates are low a bigger deficit means a greater portion of each tax dollar goes to interest payments rather than useful programs. And because foreigners now hold so much of the federal government's debt, those interest payments increasingly go overseas rather than to U.S. investors. More serious is the possibility that foreign lenders might lose their enthusiasm for lending money to the United States. Because treasury bills are sold at auction, that would mean paying higher interest rates in the future. And it wouldn't just be the government's problem: All interest rates would rise, making mortgages, car payments and student loans costlier, too. A modest rise in interest rates wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, Rogers said. America's consumers have as much of a borrowing problem as their government does, so higher rates could moderate overconsumption and encourage consumer saving. But a big jump in interest rates could cause economic catastrophe. Some economists even predict the government would resort to printing money to pay off its debt, a risky strategy that could lead to runaway inflation. Macroeconomic meltdown is probably preventable, says Anjan Thakor, a professor of finance at Washington University in St. Louis. But to keep it at bay, he said, the government is essentially going to have to renegotiate some of the promises it has made to its citizens, probably by some combination of tax increases and benefit cuts. But there's no way to avoid what Rogers considers the worst result of racking up a big deficit — the outrage of making our children and grandchildren repay the debts of their elders. The Associated Press
Climate change 'hitting Africa'
BBC 10/28/06 Climate change is already affecting people across Africa and will wipe out efforts to tackle poverty there unless urgent action is taken, a report says.
Droughts are getting worse and climate uncertainty is growing, the research from a coalition of UK aid agencies and environmental groups says.
Climate change is an "unprecedented" threat to food security, it says.
It calls for a "climate-proof" model of development and massive emissions cuts to avoid "possibly cataclysmic change".
The report, Up In Smoke 2, updates previous research from the organisations - Oxfam, the New Economics Foundation and the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, an umbrella group of aid and green groups.
Global warming is set to make many of the problems which Africa already deals with, much, much worse Andrew Simms New Economics Foundation Simms interview
It says that although climates across Africa have always been erratic, scientific research and the experience of the contributing groups "indicates new and dangerous extremes".
Arid or semi-arid areas in northern, western, eastern and parts of southern Africa are becoming drier, while equatorial Africa and other parts of southern Africa are getting wetter, the report says.
The continent is, on average, 0.5C warmer than it was 100 years ago, but temperatures have risen much higher in some areas - such as a part of Kenya which has become 3.5C hotter in the past 20 years, the agencies report.
Andrew Simms, from the New Economics Foundation, said: "Global warming is set to make many of the problems which Africa already deals with, much, much worse," he said.
"In the last year alone, 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have faced food crisis.
"Global warming means that that many dry areas are going to get drier and wet areas are going to get wetter. They are going to be caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue seas of floods."
He added that the "great tragedy" was that Africa had played virtually no role in global warming, a problem he said was caused by economic activity of the rich, industrial countries.
Mr Simms said unless climate change was tackled all the "best efforts" to help Africa could come to nothing.
One of the biggest threats is growing climate unpredictability, which makes subsistence farming difficult, the report says.
The average number of food emergencies in Africa per year almost tripled since the mid 1980s, it points out.
But it says that better planning to reduce the risk from disasters, together with developing agricultural practices that can withstand changing climates, have been shown to work and could help mitigate the impact if used be more widely.
Up in Smoke 2 also laments the failure of industrialised governments to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
Between $10bn (£5.2bn) and $40bn is needed annually, the report says, but industrialised countries have given only $43m - a tenth of the amount they have pledged - while rich country fossil fuel subsidies total $73bn a year.
The agencies say that greenhouse emissions cuts of 60% - 90% will ultimately be needed - way beyond the targets set in the Kyoto agreement.
"Climate change is overwhelming the situation in Africa... unless we take genuine steps now to reduce our emissions, people in the developed world will be condemning millions to hunger, starvation and death," said Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth.
The report comes two weeks before a key summit on climate change in Nairobi, where delegates will look at the progress made on the Kyoto agreement that requires industrial nations to cut their emissions by an average of 5.2% from 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.
Delegates will also consider what system should be adopted when the current period ends.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6092564.stmPublished: 2006/10/28 23:44:57 GMT
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Current global consumption levels could result in a large-scale ecosystem collapse by the middle of the century, environmental group WWF has warned.
The group's biannual Living Planet Report said the natural world was being degraded "at a rate unprecedented in human history".
Terrestrial species had declined by 31% between 1970-2003, the findings showed.
It warned that if demand continued at the current rate, two planets would be needed to meet global demand by 2050.
The biodiversity loss was a result of resources being consumed faster than the planet could replace them, the authors said.
They added that if the world's population shared the UK's lifestyle, three planets would be needed to support their needs.
The nations that were shown to have the largest "ecological footprints" were the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Finland.
Paul King, WWF director of campaigns, said the world was running up a "serious ecological debt".
"It is time to make some vital choices to enable people to enjoy a one planet lifestyle," he said.
"The cities, power plants and homes we build today will either lock society into damaging over-consumption beyond our lifetimes, or begin to propel this and future generations towards sustainable one planet living."
The report, compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network, is based on data from two indicators:
Living Planet Index - assesses the health of the planet's ecosystems
Ecological Footprint - measures human demand on the natural world
The Living Planet Index tracked the population of 1,313 vertebrate species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals from around the world.
It found that these species had declined by about 30% since 1970, suggesting that natural ecosystems were being degraded at an unprecedented rate.
The Ecological Footprint measured the amount of biologically productive land and water to meet the demand for food, timber, shelter, and absorb the pollution from human activity.
The report concluded that the global footprint exceeded the earth's biocapacity by 25% in 2003, which meant that the Earth could no longer keep up with the demands being placed upon it.
The findings echo a study published earlier this month that said the world went into "ecological debt" on 9 October this year.
The study by UK-based think-tank New Economics Foundation (Nef) was based on the Ecological Footprint data compiled by the Global Footprint Network, which also provided the figures for this latest report from the WWF.
One of the report's editors, Jonathan Loh from the Zoological Society of London, said: "[It] is a stark indication of the rapid and ongoing loss of biodiversity worldwide.
"Populations of species in terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems have declined by more than 30% since 1970," he added.
"In the tropics the declines are even more dramatic, as natural resources are being intensively exploited for human use."
The report outlined five scenarios based on the data from the two indicators, ranging from "business as usual" to "transition to a sustainable society".
Under the "business as usual" scenario, the authors projected that to meet the demand for resources in 2050 would be twice as much as what the Earth could provide.
HAVE YOUR SAY
As long as materialism is the new relegion I can see no way people will reduce their consumption Salik Rafiq, Blackburn
They warned: "At this level of ecological deficit, exhaustion of ecological assets and large-scale ecosystem collapse become increasingly likely."
To deliver a shift towards a "sustainable society" scenario would require "significant action now" on issues such as energy generation, transport and housing.
The latest Living Planet Report is the sixth in a series of publications which began in 1998.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/6077798.stmPublished: 2006/10/24 06:58:04 GMT
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Don't know about freedom, but money sure flows
Oct. 19, 2006
(CBS) More than half a billion dollars earmarked to fight the insurgency in Iraq was stolen by people the U.S. had entrusted to run the country's Ministry of Defense before the 2005 elections, according to Iraqi investigators. Iraq's former minister of finance says coalition members like the U.S. and Britain are doing little to help recover the money or catch suspects, most of whom fled the country. The 60 Minutes investigation also turned up audio recordings of a suspect who seems to be discussing the transfer of $45 million to the account of a top political adviser to the interim defense minister. Correspondent Steve Kroft reports on this mother of all heists this Sunday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. "We have not been given any serious, official support from either the United States or the U.K. or any of the surrounding Arab countries,”" says Ali Allawi, who was confronted with the missing funds when he took over as Iraq’s finance minister last year. He thinks he knows why Iraqi investigators have gotten little help. "The only explanation I can come up with is that too many people in positions of power and authority in the new Iraq have been, in one way or another, found with their hands inside the cookie jar," says Allawi, who left his post when a new Iraqi government was formed earlier this year. "And if they are brought to trial, it will cast a very disparaging light on those people who had supported them and brought them to this position of power and authority," he tells Kroft. One of the people praised in former U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer's memoirs is a major suspect in the case. Ziad Cattan was in charge of military procurement at a time when the ministry of defense went on a $1.2 billion buying spree. Allawi estimates that $750 to $800 million of that money was stolen. Judge Radhi al-Radhi, head of Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, which investigates official corruption, tells Kroft that a lot of the money that wasn't stolen was spent on outdated, useless equipment. "It isn't true," says Cattan, whom 60 Minutes found in Paris and who was recently convicted in absentia in Iraq for squandering public funds. He showed Kroft documents and pictures of equipment that he says is now in Iraq. An official from Jane's, one of the world’s foremost experts in military hardware, says the documents Cattan provided were too vague to prove anything. Audio recordings obtained by 60 Minutes reveal Cattan talking to an associate in Amman, Jordan, in 2004 about the distribution of Iraqi funds. According to two independent translations, he is discussing payoffs to Iraqi officials. One possible payoff the recordings allude to is the transfer of $45 million to the account of a top political adviser to the defense minister, a man who is also identified on the recordings as a representative of the president and the prime minister of the interim government. Cattan acknowledged his own voice was on the recordings. Three translators say he specifically mentions "45 million dollars," but he disputes the translation. "I don't say dollars," he tells Kroft. "I don't remember what the matter was." Cattan maintains that U.S. and coalition advisors at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense approved everything he did and says the recordings have been doctored. Audio experts consulted by 60 Minutes could not find any evidence of that. Judge Radhi also has a copy of the recordings and says a former employee of the ministry of defense confessed after hearing them. 60 Minutes has learned that Cattan is building himself a villa in Poland. Another suspect, Naer Jumaili, principal in a middle-man company that handled much of the $1.2 billion in Iraqi military contracts, is said to be buying real estate in Amman, Jordan, and building himself a large villa, even though he is wanted by Interpol. Judge Rahdi believes the fugitive suspects are bribing their way to freedom and says countries like Jordan and Poland have been "no help at all" in apprehending the suspects or recovering the money. The case is one of 2,000 Iraqi government corruption cases the judge’s commission is handling that, all told, involve $7.5 billion. No one in the U.S. government would speak on camera about the case. But U.S. officials say this was Iraqi money spent by a sovereign Iraqi government and therefore is the Iraqis' business.Produced by Andy Court and Keith Sharman
Sunday, October 01, 2006
What happened to the Money??? And how much was donated???
Pain, Fury Still Rage a Year After Katrina
ABC News Poll Finds Loss, Frustration and Anger Linger in Katrina's Path
Analysis By JON COHEN, DALIA SUSSMAN and GARY LANGER
Aug. 27, 2006 — - A year after it hammered the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina's devastation persists in the ongoing loss, frustration and anger of those hardest hit by the storm, with widespread views of waste and mismanagement in the recovery effort, significant personal stress and broad fears of what another hurricane could do.
Across the 91 counties in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama designated as Katrina disaster areas, 57 percent of residents say most of the approximately $44 billion the federal government has spent on hurricane recovery in the last year has been wasted -- and that rises to 66 percent in New Orleans, an ABC News poll finds.
Other assessments of the government's relief efforts are as bad or worse. More than eight in 10 in New Orleans, and six in 10 across the Gulf Coast, are frustrated with the process; nearly two-thirds in New Orleans, and nearly half across the region, are angry about it. Seventy percent in New Orleans lack confidence in the government's ability to handle another major disaster. And most blacks in the region and across the country think race has affected recovery efforts.
Rating the Federal Government
Rate the government's recovery efforts negatively
Recovery money mostly wasted
All told, 84 percent in New Orleans, and nearly six in 10 in the Gulf Coast more broadly, give negative ratings to the way the government has dealt with Katrina recovery. And many residents (six in 10 in New Orleans, and four in 10 across the disaster counties) say the experience has weakened their overall trust in government to help people in need.
Where government has struggled, though, neighbors and strangers have pulled together. Both in New Orleans and across the region, about two-thirds say the hurricane and its aftermath strengthened their trust in their fellow man -- if not in their government -- to lend a hand.
Still, personal losses -- material and psychological alike -- are lasting. Nearly three-quarters of New Orleans residents say they have not yet personally recovered from Katrina, six in 10 report long-term damage to their emotional well-being and about as many say the possibility of another hurricane is creating stress and anxiety in their lives.
Such reactions are less widely held, but still prevalent, among the 5.5 million residents of all 91 disaster counties (areas designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance aid from the federal government). Four in 10 report long-term emotional damage, as many are stressed about the possibility of another storm and one in three say they have not yet personally recovered from Katrina.
Long-Term Negative Impact of Katrina
Four in 10 in New Orleans also report long-term damage to their personal health as a result of the hurricane; about two in 10 across the region say the same, a major public health impact. Six in 10 in New Orleans and nearly half across the regional report long-term damage to their personal finances; one factor is that six in 10 suffered property losses for which they were not fully insured.
More than one in 10 regionally, and more than one in three in New Orleans, had a close friend or family member killed as a result of the storm. (The official death toll in Louisiana is 1,464.)
Katrina's physical devastation comes clear in other numbers: Eighty percent in the region, and nearly 90 percent in New Orleans, say their area was damaged by the storm. A year later, moreover, just half of residents across the disaster counties whose area was damaged say it's fully recovered, and in New Orleans a scant 17 percent say so.
Among current New Orleans residents -- the city was severely depopulated -- 85 percent say their primary residence was damaged by the hurricane and two-thirds suffered other property damage. More than half say the damage to their area was severe; more than half also report a severe impact on their personal lives. Across the region, people who report severe damage in their area are more apt to report slow progress toward recovery and negative personal impacts.
At the same time, there is hopefulness: Among people whose area has not yet fully recovered, majorities think it'll get there eventually. Similarly, among those who have not yet fully recovered personally, two-thirds think that eventually they will.
If damaged, area fully recovered
If not recovered, eventually will
Nonetheless, a quarter of New Orleans residents don't think their area will ever fully recover. And two in 10 doubt they'll personally ever recover completely.
The poll, including random-sample interviews in the Katrina disaster counties, New Orleans and nationally, supports ABC News' division-wide special programming, "Katrina: Where Things Stand," airing over the next week. Katrina made landfall Aug. 29, 2005, with sustained winds of 125-mph and a storm surge that breached the levees of New Orleans.
Weak ratings of government recovery efforts in the affected areas is reflected in national views as well. Among all Americans, 60 percent think most of the money spent on hurricane recovery has been wasted, two-thirds rate the government's efforts negatively and half lack confidence in the government's ability to respond effectively to another major disaster.
Criticism is not limited to the federal government. Nationally, more than six in 10 rate the local and state governments negatively. And in the Gulf region overall and New Orleans alike, ratings of the state and local governments' response are about as bad as they are for the federal government.
Still, while governments in general get poor marks, storm victims who had personal dealings with a variety of agencies and aid organizations give those groups, including the much-derided FEMA, more positive ratings.
Positive Ratings of Agencies (among those who dealt with them)
Charities (not Red Cross)
More than eight in 10 New Orleans residents personally dealt with FEMA, and slightly more than half of them say that it did an excellent or good job assisting them; FEMA got a 60 percent positive rating from Gulf Coast residents who dealt with the agency. But other agencies -- the National Guard, local emergency responders, the Red Cross and other charities -- all are rated much higher.
There's a substantial racial component underlying the views of New Orleans residents, one that is not as stark in the rest of the affected counties. One reason is that blacks in New Orleans were more directly affected: More than two-thirds of New Orleans blacks say their area was severely damaged, compared with just over four in 10 whites there. A startling 96 percent of blacks say their homes were damaged, compared with 78 percent of whites. And 46 percent of blacks say a close friend or family member was killed as a result of the hurricane, compared with 29 percent of whites in the city. In the rest of the region, the differences between the races on these measures is narrower.
Katrina's Effect in New Orleans
Area where live severely damaged
Primary residence damaged
Close friend/relative killed
By extension, blacks in New Orleans are 29 points more likely than whites there to say the hurricane has had a long-term negative impact on their health, 15 points more likely to say they haven't personally recovered and 11 points more likely to say it's hurt their emotional well-being. But they're no more likely to be angry or frustrated with the government's response.
Blacks in the city also are 14 points more likely than whites to say Katrina caused long-term damage to their personal finances. In addition to having lower incomes on average, blacks in the city who sustained property damage are more than twice as likely as whites to say their losses weren't at all insured.
Most blacks, furthermore, see a racial element in the government's response to the hurricane. In New Orleans, three in four blacks think race and poverty has affected the pace of the federal recovery program and six in 10 say recovery problems are an indication of racial inequality in this country.
Blacks in the Gulf Coast and nationally feel similarly; whites, in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and nationally, tend to differ. In New Orleans, 29 percent of whites think recovery problems are an indication of racial inequality; it's 16 percent among whites in the Gulf Coast region and 30 percent of whites nationally.
Perceived Racism in Recovery Effort
Race/poverty affecting recovery
Problems indicate racial inequality
However, while blacks are more likely to see racism in the recovery efforts, they're no more critical than whites are in their personal dealings with FEMA. Forty-nine percent of blacks in New Orleans who dealt with FEMA say the agency did an excellent or good job assisting them; 51 percent of whites say the same. Similarly, blacks are about as likely as whites to rate the Red Cross' assistance positively.
In New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, ratings of the federal recovery effort are similar among blacks and whites. However, blacks nationally rate the post-Katrina recovery effort more negatively than whites do. Eight in 10 rate the federal government's response negatively, compared with two-thirds of whites. And more than six in 10 blacks are not confident the government can respond effectively to another disaster, compared with fewer than half of whites. Most of the difference though stems from the fact that blacks are twice as likely as whites to be Democrats.
Overall, partisan differences are stronger on the national level than in the affected areas. More than eight in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 independents rate the federal government's hurricane recovery efforts negatively; fewer than four in 10 Republicans agree. And while three in four Republicans are confident the government can respond to another disaster, just a third of Democrats think so.
In the Gulf Coast, however, majorities of Democrats and Republicans alike rate the federal government's efforts negatively and the gap between the parties in confidence in the government to handle future disasters is far narrower.
Income is a factor as well, but as not much as might be expected. Lower-income residents across the region are more likely to say Katrina has had a long-term negative impact on their finances; four in 10 people in households earning less than $50,000 say their losses were not insured and only 27 percent were fully insured.
Lower-income New Orleans residents are also more apt to say the situation has affected their personal health. But lower-income residents aren't significantly more likely to say their area was severely damaged by Katrina or that their own property was damaged.
Residents of the hurricane-affected counties in Alabama and Mississippi give their state and local governments far higher marks for hurricane response than do Louisiana residents. They're also more likely than those in Louisiana to say federal recovery money has been well spent, and to be confident in the government's ability to respond to another disaster.
Ratings of State/Local Governments' Recovery Efforts
Alabama and Mississippi
At the state level, Mississippians are the most likely to say their area was damaged by the hurricane -- more than nine in 10 do (nearly four in 10 "severe"), compared with seven in 10 in Louisiana (about one in four "severe"), and to say their own property was damaged. But likely given what happened in New Orleans, Louisianans are the most worried about another hurricane hitting their area -- more than six in 10 are worried, compared with fewer than half in Mississippi.
Louisiana residents are also the most apt to say the response to the hurricane makes them feel angry and frustrated. In contrast, most of those in the affected parts of Alabama and Mississippi say they're hopeful about the government response; fewer than four in 10 Louisianans express the same.
Women in the Katrina-affected counties are more likely than men to say the hurricane adversely affected their long-term emotional well-being, 45 to 34 percent. Women in the Gulf are also more apt to be worried about another hurricane hitting their area (58 percent, vs. 47 percent of men) and to say that possibility has caused extra stress and anxiety in their life (46 percent, vs. 35 percent of men).
In New Orleans, women are likelier than men to be angry about the government's response to the hurricane. They're also much more apt than men to say they haven't yet personally recovered from the hurricane -- 82 percent, compared with 64 percent of men. Yet three in four women say the hurricane strengthened their trust in their fellow man, compared with six in 10 men.
Finally, this poll finds a slight shift nationally in views of whether the severity of recent hurricanes is linked to global climate change. Last year, Americans thought this was not the case, by a 54-39 percent margin. Today the public is more divided; 49 percent think recent severe hurricanes are just the kind of weather that happens from time to time, while 45 percent (up six points) think their severity is the result of climate change.
The percentages saying the severe weather likely results from global warming is up among both Democrats and independents; it's not significantly changed among Republicans.
Percentage Saying Severe Hurricanes Result from Global Warming
This survey was conducted by telephone among random samples of 1,109 adults nationally, including an oversample of blacks for a total of 176, Aug. 10-20, 2006; 501 adults in the Gulf Coast, Aug. 16-20; and 300 adults in New Orleans, Aug. 14-20. The New Orleans sample was supplemented by random cell-phone as well as land-line interviews. Error margins are three percentage points for the national sample, 4.5 points for the Gulf Coast sample and six points in New Orleans. Sampling, field work and tabulation for the Gulf Coast and New Orleans samples by TNS of Horsham, Pa., and for the national sample by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa. Further details of the survey methodology are available from the ABC News polling unit upon request.