James West

James West

Senior Digital Editor

James West is senior digital editor for Mother Jones, and before that, the senior producer for its reporting project Climate Desk. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008). James has a masters of journalism from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

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We're Obliterating Global Temperature Records, and There's No End in Sight

| Tue Sep. 15, 2015 6:16 PM EDT
2015 is on track to be the hottest year on record.

One after another, each of 2015's summer months have been among the hottest ever recorded on Earth. And a trio of new studies out this week, from three different countries, confirms that temperature records just keep tumbling—falling victim to an unusually massive El Niño climate event gathering strength in the Pacific, as well as unrelenting man-made climate change, which is cooking the entire system.

On Monday, Japan's Meteorological Agency said that this August was the hottest August worldwide since 1891, when its records begin. August was 0.81 degrees above the 1981-2010 average, smashing 2014's record.

Data from Japan's Meteorological Agency shows 2015's August was the hottest August in more than 120 years. JMA

Also on Monday, NASA confirmed that scientists have never recorded a hotter summer than this year's. When taken together, temperatures for June, July, and August were 1.4 degrees hotter than the long-term average, passing the previous hottest summer, 1998. Unlike Japan's study, NASA says this August was very narrowly the second hottest August on record (behind 2014).

And finally, major research from the United Kingdom's Met Office released this week concluded that 2015's overall temperatures are running at or near record levels (at about 0.684 degrees above the 1981-2010 average)—which suggests the next two years could be the hottest on record around the world.

"We know natural patterns contribute to global temperatures in any given year, but the very warm temperatures so far this year indicate the continued impact of (manmade) greenhouse gases," said Stephen Belcher from the Met Office, in a news release. "With the potential that next year could be similarly warm, it's clear that our climate continues to change."

The Met Office says this year's El Niño— the global climate event that occurs every five to seven years, bringing drought to places like Australia while heaping rain on the western United States—is likely contributing to record temperatures. (Sadly, it's unlikely to help quench California enough to break the drought.)

The El Niño itself could break records. "Recent oceanic and atmospheric indicators are at levels not seen since the 1997–98 El Niño," Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday, adding that the big climate event is unlikely to subside before early 2016.

El Niño is also probably contributing to the unusually active hurricane season in the Pacific. The Met Office says tropical cyclone activity across the northern hemisphere this year is about 200 percent above normal. Six hurricanes have crossed the central Pacific, more than in any other year on record.

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Here's the Most Offensive GOP Response to Obama's New Syrian Refugee Plan

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 5:08 PM EDT
Rep. Peter King (L), and Syrian children at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers in southern Hungary, on Thursday.

As my colleague Tim McDonnell reported earlier today, the Obama administration has announced that the United States will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees starting October 1, in what the White House described as a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to the ongoing migrant crisis.

Cue the terrorism-conflating saber-rattling of one Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who issued the following statement this afternoon:

There's evidently much wrong with King's statement, not least of all the fact that the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed Boston spent time growing up in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, and were part of a family originally from war-torn Chechnya. Not Syria.

It also takes a long time for a Syrian refugee to apply for a coveted spot in the United States—precisely due to the fact that the United States is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent terrorists from slipping in, according to the Washington Post:

The United States has so far lagged far behind several European countries in this regard, largely due to the time-consuming screening procedure to block Islamist militants and criminals from entering the United States under the guise of being legitimate refugees.

As a result, it takes 18 to 24 months for the average Syrian asylum seeker to be investigated and granted refugee status. The process takes so long that the UNHCR takes biometric images of some applicants' irises to ensure that when refugee status is eventually granted, it goes to the same person who applied.

King hasn't been the only politician warning of an increased terror threat if the United States allows more Syrians into the country. But fellow Republican Marco Rubio struck a less incendiary tone this week. "We would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States," he said, according to CNN, but added that, "We'd always be concerned that within the overwhelming number of the people seeking refugee [status], someone with a terrorist background could also sneak in."

According to an investigation by Mother Jones in 2011, Rep. King might possess one of the most hawkish voices in Washington, but his record on terror has raised some eyebrows. King was one of the nation's most outspoken supporters of the Irish Republican Army and a prolific fundraiser for the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NorAid), allegedly the IRA's American fundraising arm. (King's office didn't respond to a request for comment on that article.) You can read Tim Murphy's fascinating report here.

King had previously told the Daily News, "Obviously, we have to take refugees... But we have to be extremely diligent, very careful."

You Have to Watch Stephen Colbert's Bernie Sanders Joke

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 11:47 AM EDT

Stephen Colbert blanketed radio airwaves yesterday promising that his second performance on The Late Show on CBS would rank among his best two Late Show performances.

With first-night jitters now behind him—along with a hair-raising tale about how Tuesday's debut barely made it to air—Wednesday's broadcast offered samples of what anyone who loves Colbert knows he does best: surreal sketches (ScarJo on a blanket staring at the stars talking about her feet!), improvisation-fueled interviews (Elon Musk, are you a supervillain?), and on-the-money political satire, like this segment on the idiotic range of merchandise you can now buy from presidential candidates. Stay for the "Feel the Bern" mug, and Jeb Bush's radically overpriced "Guaca Bowle."

Tue Jul. 7, 2015 6:07 PM EDT
Mon Jan. 12, 2015 3:46 PM EST