The world’s leading body of climate scientists has concluded global warming is "very likely" caused by human activity and may be impossible to stop. In its strongest language to date, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is predicting melting glaciers, rising temperatures and higher sea levels.
IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri: "I only want to draw your attention to the fact that we are, and if you look at the language of the summary for policymakers you’ll be able to read this, we are in a sense doing things that perhaps have not happened in 650,000 years."
For the first time, the panel also said global warming has been the likely cause of increased hurricane and cyclone activity over the last 30 years. IPCC working group co-chair Susan Solomon warned of more unexpected changes if current trends continue.
Susan Solomon: "If we were to keep emitting greenhouse gases at or above the current rate, that would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global system, the global climate system, that would very likely be larger in the 21st century than they were in the 20th century."
Although the climate change report is the gloomiest on record, it’s already being criticized for not going far enough. The panel was said to have initially reached a consensus of 99 percent certainty on human activity’s link to global warming. But it reduced the assessment to 90 percent under reported pressure from China. Several scientists have also warned the IPCC’s warnings on sea levels could be outdated and too optimistic.
Opponents of global warming science had their own response. The American Enterprise Institute is now offering scientists and economists $10,000 to write articles undermining the U.N. climate change report.
The American Enterprise Institute’s offer came as one of its funders, the oil giant Exxon, announced another record year for its bottom line. On Thursday, Exxon posted an annual profit of $39.5 billion for 2006. That’s the most ever by a U.S. company, beating Exxon’s own record from 2005.
In Iraq, at least 60 people were killed in a double-suicide bombing in the town of Hilla Thursday. Another 150 were wounded.
Meanwhile, a new study shows the troop surge in Iraq could actually be double the size initially claimed. The Congressional Budget Office says the real troop increase could be as high as 48,000. The estimate is based on the Pentagon’s policy of sending additional support units alongside regular combat troops. At least 15,000 support troops would have to be sent alongside the 21,000 shipping off to Iraq. The same study also estimates the escalation could cost up $27 billion in its first year — nearly nine times the official estimate.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, General George Casey received unexpected criticism Thursday during his confirmation hearings to become chief of staff. Casey has led the Iraq War for the past three years. In a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John McCain told Casey he’s made overly optimistic predictions while implementing a failed strategy in Iraq.
Sen. John McCain: "And while I do not in any way question your honor, your patriotism or your service to our country, I do question some of the decisions and judgments you have made over the past two-and-a-half years as commander of multinational forces in Iraq. During that time, things have gotten markedly and progressively worse, and the situation in Iraq can now best be described as dire and deteriorating. I regret that our window of opportunity to reverse momentum may be closing."
In the Occupied Territories, at least 10 people have been killed in renewed fighting between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. More than 100 have been injured since the breakdown of a truce that lasted just three days.
Back in the United States, the Senate has approved a bill that would raise the minimum wage for the first time in a decade. The measure matches the $2.10 increase already approved by the House, but adds new tax breaks for business demanded by the White House. It could be a while before a final bill clears both chambers. House Democrats have said they oppose linking the minimum wage increase to tax cuts.
In other congressional news, Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers has announced plans to investigate President Bush’s use of signing statements — through which he claims a right to ignore or not enforce sections of bills that he signs into law. Conyers says the investigation will focus on around 150 of the signing statements Bush has signed into law. Since taking office, the president has issued over 800 signing statements — more than all other presidents combined.
The U.S. government has lost a major deportation case that dates back to the Reagan administration. A federal immigration judge has dismissed efforts to deport two Palestinian Americans for their actions 20 years ago when they allegedly raised money for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In 1987, the Reagan administration attempted to bar the two men, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, and six others on the grounds that they were connected to a communist group. The men became known as the L.A. 8. They were never deported because a federal appeals court declared the anti-communist law to be unconstitutional. In a scathing ruling made public this week, Judge Bruce Einhorn of Los Angeles said the government violated the defendants’ constitutional rights in a case he called "an embarrassment to the rule of law." Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Hamide said: "The government spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to deport us, and the only things they ever accused us of were constitutionally protected activity."
In another major legal defeat for the Bush administration, two men were acquitted Thursday of belonging to the Palestinian group Hamas and supporting terror attacks within the U.S. The defendants, Abdelhaleem Ashqar and Muhammad Salah, were charged in a case that has drawn attention over its reliance on Israeli intelligence. Prosecutors called Israeli intelligence agents to the stand and submitted statements Salah made under Israeli interrogation. Defense lawyers claimed those statements were coerced.
In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist has announced the state will abandon touch-screen voting machines in favor of paper ballots. The $30 million replacement would mark the nation’s biggest rejection of voting machines to date.
Senator Joseph Biden spent his first day as a Democratic presidential candidate Thursday apologizing for remarks about fellow senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Biden ignited controversy after calling Obama "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Biden appeared on the radio program of civil rights activist and former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton. Sharpton told Biden: "A lot of people took it from you that because (Obama) is Harvard-trained, that people don’t see someone as good and clean unless they are less connected to the struggle of the African-American community."
And lawmakers in South Dakota have introduced a new attempt to ban abortion. The Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act would permit abortion only to prevent the death of a woman. Victims of rape or incest would be allowed abortion under several restrictions. They would have to report the rape within 50 days, submit blood samples to law enforcement, obtain records for physicians, and provide the name and address of the alleged rapist. The new measure comes three months after South Dakota voters rejected an abortion ban on the midterm ballot.