As people voted for republican after republican on the basis of social issues, those republicans bided their time until they could control…
The Opinion Pages — Op-Ed Columnist
Salvation Gets Cheap.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which pools the efforts of scientists around the globe, has begun releasing draft chapters from its latest assessment, and, for the most part, the reading is as grim as you might expect. We are still on the road to catastrophe without major policy changes.
But there is one piece of the assessment that is surprisingly, if conditionally, upbeat: Its take on the economics of mitigation. Even as the report calls for drastic action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, it asserts that the economic impact of such drastic action would be surprisingly small. In fact, even under the most ambitious goals the assessment considers, the estimated reduction in economic growth would basically amount to a rounding error, around 0.06 percent per year.
What’s behind this economic optimism? To a large extent, it reflects a technological revolution many people don’t know about, the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular.
Before I get to that revolution, however, let’s talk for a minute about the overall relationship between economic growth and the environment.
Other things equal, more G.D.P. tends to mean more pollution. What transformed China into the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases? Explosive economic growth. But other things don’t have to be equal. There’s no necessary one-to-one relationship between growth and pollution.
People on both the left and the right often fail to understand this point. (I hate it when pundits try to make every issue into a case of “both sides are wrong,” but, in this case, it happens to be true.) On the left, you sometimes find environmentalists asserting that to save the planet we must give up on the idea of an ever-growing economy; on the right, you often find assertions that any attempt to limit pollution will have devastating impacts on growth. But there’s no reason we can’t become richer while reducing our impact on the environment.
Let me add that free-market advocates seem to experience a peculiar loss of faith whenever the subject of the environment comes up. They normally trumpet their belief that the magic of the market can surmount all obstacles — that the private sector’s flexibility and talent for innovation can easily cope with limiting factors like scarcity of land or minerals. But suggest the possibility of market-friendly environmental measures, like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, and they suddenly assert that the private sector would be unable to cope, that the costs would be immense. Funny how that works.
The sensible position on the economics of climate change has always been that it’s like the economics of everything else — that if we give corporations and individuals an incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they will respond. What form would that response take? Until a few years ago, the best guess was that it would proceed on many fronts, involving everything from better insulation and more fuel-efficient cars to increased use of nuclear power.
One front many people didn’t take too seriously, however, was renewable energy. Sure, cap-and-trade might make more room for wind and the sun, but how important could such sources really end up being? And I have to admit that I shared that skepticism. If truth be told, I thought of the idea that wind and sun could be major players as hippie-dippy wishful thinking.
But I was wrong.
The climate change panel, in its usual deadpan prose, notes that “many RE [renewable energy] technologies have demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions” since it released its last assessment, back in 2007. The Department of Energy is willing to display a bit more open enthusiasm;
Thanks to this technological leap forward, the climate panel can talk about “decarbonizing” electricity generation as a realistic goal — and since coal-fired power plants are a very large part of the climate problem, that’s a big part of the solution right there.
It’s even possible that decarbonizing will take place without special encouragement, but we can’t and shouldn’t count on that. The point, instead, is that drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are now within fairly easy reach.
So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be.
The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests.
What could go wrong? Oh, wait.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on April 18, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Salvation Gets Cheap.
The comments show how deep is the Republican brainwashing of the population. You have here pundits for whom loss of life is nothing when compared to what they think is the right of corporations to make a profit.
What is even worse, nobody asked whose oil and coal is it anyway? If Natural Resources are the property of the Whole Nation, then why should a company get depletion subsidies for their appropriating to themselves the natural National treasures? The whole system of paying royalties is inadequate – but the payment to them for the deletion of the resources is ridiculous. Getting a bonus for gains from misappropriated resources is much more like rewarding the CEOs for being great thieves! Just give it some more rational thinking and use the babble of the comments as your guideline. ST.info editor)
PRESS RELEASE: Brazil Kicks Off Carbon Neutral Goal for FIFA World Cup.
(16 April 2014) – The globe’s biggest sporting event – the FIFA World Cup –
The Government of Brazil has announced an initiative encouraging holders of
By some estimates, offsetting these sources of emissions – just during the days of the Soccer Championship games – would require above one million CERs or more, depending on what was covered in the calculation.
“Brazil’s call for carbon credits to offset emissions from the world’s
It has also been reported that FIFA is planning to offset the emissions of officials and fans by perhaps buying carbon offsets.
”I wish Brazil and FIFA every success in their endeavors and look forward
All donated credits must originate from Brazilian CDM projects. Nearly 150
Since being established as part of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first
These range from projects that reduce emissions by replacing inefficient
“When emission reductions come with other benefits, such as technology
The Executive Board Chair made the remarks at the close of the Board’s most
“Measuring and reducing emissions is the responsibility of all companies
The value of CERs has in recent years gone down as demand has fallen, due
News release from the Brazilian government:
About the CDM:
About the UNFCCC:
In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.
The billboard shows Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.
The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.
The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.
First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.
And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.
An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.
“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”
Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.
“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.
Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.
Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.
“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.
Outside Kansas City, a Known White Supremacist, Known Antisemite, killed three Christians on the grounds of two Jewish institutions on Passover Eve. Does this call for stricter limits to hate speech? The Anti-Defamation League warns that Passover and Hitler’s Birthday are dates prone for attacks on Jewish Communities in the American Mid-West.
Alleged Kansas Jewish center gunman charged with murder.
April 16, 2014 — Updated 0228 GMT (1028 HKT)
Kansas shooting suspect appears in court.
Overland Park, Kansas (CNN) — The man accused of killing three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Kansas made no secret of his racist views, writing letters to newspapers and inviting people to white-supremacist meetings at his home, say those who knew him.
So when news broke that Frazier Glenn Cross had been charged with one count of capital murder and one count of first-degree premeditated murder in connection with the killings, it didn’t come as a surprise to the mayor of Marionville, Missouri.
“It was kind of shocking at first. But then reading the article and thinking about it, I thought ‘yeah that sounds like something he would do,’” said Dan Clevenger, who has known Cross for 12 years, describing him as a client at his business where he services law mowers and other small engines.
Cross is accused of shooting to death a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center near Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday and then a woman at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.
Photos: Deadly shootings in Kansas
Hear suspect’s anti-Semitic rants
Murder charges for Jewish Center suspect
Suspect described as ‘anti-Semite’
The capital murder count is connected to the deaths of William Lewis Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood, said Steve Howe, district attorney for Johnson County. The premeditated murder count is linked to the death of Terri LaManno, he said.
Hate crime charges are possible, as police investigators say they have “unquestionably determined” that Cross’ actions were a hate crime, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said.
Cross appeared in court Tuesday in a wheelchair, wearing an anti-suicide smock. He said only that he couldn’t afford an attorney.
He is being held on $10 million bond, and he was ordered to return to court on April 24.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said that federal prosecutors are still collecting evidence and that federal charges could come later.
Legal experts say hate crime charges are possible, even though the victims were Christian.
The capital murder charge carries the possibility of a life sentence or the death penalty. No decision on whether to seek the death penalty for Cross has been made yet, Howe said.
Former KKK leader
Cross, 73, is the founder and former leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Both organizations operated as paramilitary groups in the 1980s, according to the SPLC.
In Cross’ anti-Semitic and white-supremacist activities, he has also used the name Frazier Glenn Miller, the SPLC said.
After he was apprehended at a nearby elementary school, Cross sat in the back of a patrol car and shouted “Heil Hitler!” video from CNN affiliate KMBC shows.
He obtained firearms from a “straw buyer,” a middleman with a clean record who could buy weapons legally and then sell or give them to Cross, allowing Cross to avoid federal background checks, a U.S. law enforcement official said. He had three guns when he was arrested Sunday, authorities said.
The shootings took place at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Overland Park a day before the start of Passover, a major Jewish holiday.
The police chief said the gunman shot at five people, none of whom he is believed to have known. There were no other injuries, authorities said.
Police were investigating statements Cross made after his arrest but declined to provide additional details, Douglass said.
The Anti-Defamation League said it warned last week of the increased possibility of violent attacks against community centers in the coming weeks, “which coincide both with the Passover holiday and Hitler’s birthday on April 20, a day around which in the United States has historically been marked by extremist acts of violence and terrorism.”
On Monday, the ADL reissued a security bulletin to synagogues and Jewish communal institutions across the country, urging them to review their security plans for the Passover holiday, which began at sundown Monday.
Mom ‘felt God immediately’ after shooting
Son: Shooter knocked family to its knees
Cop: Elderly shooting suspect in custody
‘That idiot … knocked a family to its knees’
The shooting began just after 1 p.m. Sunday in the Jewish community center’s parking lot.
Inside, the center was a hive of activity. A performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was about to begin, and auditions were under way for “KC Superstar,” an “American Idol”-style contest for the best high school singer in the Kansas City area.
Outside, the gunman opened fire. Police said he was armed with a shotgun and may have been carrying other weapons. Reat, 14, was there to audition for the singing competition. His grandfather, Corporon, was driving him. The bullets struck them in their car. Both died.
“That idiot absolutely knocked a family to its knees for no reason,” Reat’s uncle and William’s son, Will Corporon, said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Grandfather and grandson were Methodists, their pastor, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, told CNN on Monday.
Marionville’s mayor said Cross’ alleged actions “shows that he didn’t care.”
“He didn’t have much regard for life. He just wanted to make a show, and he didn’t care who paid for it,” he told CNN.
Clevenger wonders whether Cross, who he says told him he wasn’t going to live much longer, wanted to “go out, make the big show.”
A woman caring for her mother
The gunman then drove to the retirement home, where he shot the third victim in the parking lot. Authorities identified her as LaManno, who was visiting her mother as she usually did every Sunday at Village Shalom.
LaManno’s Catholic church, St. Peter’s Parish, posted a message on its website calling LaManno “a loving mother and wife, and a gentle and giving woman.”
The Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, where LaManno worked as an occupational therapist, described her as a “gracious, generous, skilled and deeply caring individual who made a great difference in the lives of so many children and their families.”
‘A raging anti-Semite’
Cross is a “raging anti-Semite” who has posted extensively in online forums that advocate exterminating Jews, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
He has called Jews “swarthy, hairy, bow-legged, beady-eyed, parasitic midgets.”
According to the SPLC, Cross founded and ran the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. He was forced to shut down after the SPLC sued him for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and intimidating African-Americans.
He then formed another group, the White Patriot Party.
In the late 1980s, Cross spent three years in prison on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees. The short sentence was a result of a plea bargain he struck with federal prosecutors. In exchange, he testified against 14 white supremacists in a sedition trial in Arkansas in 1988.
“He was reviled in white supremacist circles as a ‘race traitor,’ and, for a while, kept a low profile,” according to an SPLC profile of him. “Now he’s making a comeback with The Aryan Alternative, a racist tabloid he’s been printing since 2005.”
CNN’s George Howell, Matthew Stucker, Nick Valencia, Janet DiGiacomo, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Don Lemon contributed to this report.
The Opinion Pages — Op-Ed Contributors to the New York Times
Global Warming Scare Tactics.
OAKLAND, Calif. — IF you were looking for ways to increase public skepticism about global warming, you could hardly do better than the forthcoming nine-part series on climate change and natural disasters, starting this Sunday on Showtime. A trailer for “Years of Living Dangerously” is terrifying, replete with images of melting glaciers, raging wildfires and rampaging floods. “I don’t think scary is the right word,” intones one voice. “Dangerous, definitely.”
Showtime’s producers undoubtedly have the best of intentions. There are serious long-term risks associated with rising greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from ocean acidification to sea-level rise to decreasing agricultural output.
But there is every reason to believe that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to natural disasters will backfire. More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.
For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.
Other factors contributed. Some conservatives and fossil-fuel interests questioned the link between carbon emissions and global warming. And beginning in 2007, as the country was falling into recession, public support for environmental protection declined.
Still, environmental groups have known since 2000 that efforts to link climate change to natural disasters could backfire, after researchers at the Frameworks Institute studied public attitudes for its report “How to Talk About Global Warming.” Messages focused on extreme weather events, they found, made many Americans more likely to view climate change as an act of God — something to be weathered, not prevented.
Some people, the report noted, “are likely to buy a SUV to help them through the erratic weather to come” for example, rather than support fuel-efficiency standards.
Since then, evidence that a fear-based approach backfires has grown stronger. A frequently cited 2009 study in the journal Science Communication summed up the scholarly consensus. “Although shocking, catastrophic, and large-scale representations of the impacts of climate change may well act as an initial hook for people’s attention and concern,” the researchers wrote, “they clearly do not motivate a sense of personal engagement with the issue and indeed may act to trigger barriers to engagement such as denial.” In a controlled laboratory experiment published in Psychological Science in 2010, researchers were able to use “dire messages” about global warming to increase skepticism about the problem.
Many climate advocates ignore these findings, arguing that they have an obligation to convey the alarming facts.
But claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters. “Economic growth, including greater concentrations of people and wealth in periled areas and rising insurance penetration,” the climate panel noted, “is the most important driver of increasing losses.”
Claims that current disasters are connected to climate change do seem to motivate many liberals to support action. But they alienate conservatives in roughly equal measure.
What works, say environmental pollsters and researchers, is focusing on popular solutions. Climate advocates often do this, arguing that solar and wind can reduce emissions while strengthening the economy. But when renewable energy technologies are offered as solutions to the exclusion of other low-carbon alternatives, they polarize rather than unite.
One recent study, published by Yale Law School’s Cultural Cognition Project, found that conservatives become less skeptical about global warming if they first read articles suggesting nuclear energy or geoengineering as solutions. Another study, in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2012, concluded that “communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society” rather than “on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.”
Nonetheless, virtually every major national environmental organization continues to reject nuclear energy, even after four leading climate scientists wrote them an open letter last fall, imploring them to embrace the technology as a key climate solution. Together with catastrophic rhetoric, the rejection of technologies like nuclear and natural gas by environmental groups is most likely feeding the perception among many that climate change is being exaggerated. After all, if climate change is a planetary emergency, why take nuclear and natural gas off the table?
While the urgency that motivates exaggerated claims is understandable, turning down the rhetoric and embracing solutions like nuclear energy will better serve efforts to slow global warming.
The IPCC in Berlin accepts the results of its Working Group III that looked for ways to mitigate Global Warming – while from Washington we learn that the Republicans are still set to sabotaje any changes that favor the future of the planet.
IPCC Approves Third Contribution to its Fifth Assessment
13 April 2014: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of its third contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on mitigation of climate change. Human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) are continuing to rise to unprecedented levels, according to the report, which underscores the inadequacy of existing levels of effort to curb emissions.
The 12th Session of the IPCC Working Group III (WGIII-12) and 29th Session of the IPCC took place from 7-12 April 2014, in Berlin, Germany. WGIII convened to approve the WGIII SPM line-by-line and to accept the underlying assessment of scientific literature.
The WGIII report outlines technological and behavioral changes that can limit the increase in global average temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius, the point at which science shows that climate impacts begin to overwhelm human coping efforts. The report further notes that only major institutional and technological change will result in a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.
After adopting the report, IPCC-39 then convened to discuss, inter alia, future work of the IPCC, admission of observer organizations, and conflict of interest.
The report, titled ‘Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,’ is the IPCC’s Working Group III report.
The Panel adopted its WGI contribution on the physical science basis of climate change in in September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Panel adopted the WGII contribution on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in March 2014,
A Synthesis Report of all three WG volumes is expected to be finalized by the IPCC at a meeting that will take place
The original of April 4th 2014:
QUOTATION OF THE DAY
“There is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN G. ROBERTS JR., in a Supreme Court decision striking down a cap on campaign contributions in the name of a majority of 5 out of 9.
QUOTATION OF THE DAY
“Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.”
JUSTICE STEPHEN G. BREYER, writing for the dissenting minority of 4.
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD of The New York Times.
Five justices voted to eliminate sensible contribution limits to federal campaigns, giving those few people with the most money the loudest voice in politics.
The new book, “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis, about how the stock market is rigged by super-fast computer trading; or perhaps you saw Lewis tell the story on 60 Minutes Sunday night.
But it’s not just the stock market that is rigged. The whole system is rigged.
With Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court has doubled down on Citizen’s United crushing the last aspect of campaign finance reform. It is now official, or perhaps more “official.” Plutocracy = The United States of America. The rich will rule at levels beyond our imagination even just a few years ago.
Justice Breyer writing for the four Justices who don’t represent the billionaire class said the decision undermines the political integrity of our governmental institutions:
Breyer couldn’t be clearer. And we can’t be clearer. This is depressing, infuriating, and it is time for us to revolt. Seriously. We can’t take this any more. We need to double down on our belief in democracy and fairness, not on the most elitist, disgusting Supreme Court in history – thanks to George Bush.
The Update of April 5th 2014:
The Opinion Pages Editorial
How to Squeeze the Political Parties
The Campaign Finance Ruling Helps Big Donors
Reince Priebus, the Republican Party chairman, was practically giddy on Wednesday imagining the riches he can squeeze from big private bank accounts as a result of the Supreme Court decision that knocked down yet another campaign finance limit. “We are grateful and we are excited,” he said, explaining that donors will now be able to “max out” in giving to more party committees, at far higher levels than previously allowed.
But actually, it is the big donors who will be squeezing the parties, not the other way around. They now have far more power to dictate terms to politicians, and will soon begin issuing demands to benefit their special interests.
Why? Donors will now have a wide array of choices in where to spend their political dollars, thanks to the Supreme Court. The 2010 Citizens United decision, combined with lower-court rulings, opened the door to giving unlimited amounts of money to “super PACs” and nonprofit political groups, money that was spent on electing and defeating specific candidates. The court’s McCutcheon decision on Wednesday allows donors to give as much as $3.6 million to joint fund-raising committees set up by the parties, which can be used to benefit individual candidates.
That makes the parties players in the big-money race for the first time, since an individual’s contributions to party committees had been limited to $74,600 per election cycle. But the parties will be competing with the super PACs for those six-figure checks, and the check writers know it. For that kind of money, donors expect something beyond a nice table at a fund-raiser and a photo with a party leader. And the parties, which are controlled by the top lawmakers, are in a position to provide it — tax benefits, special clauses in regulatory bills, spending that helps a particular industry.
Donors, of course, have differing needs and demands. Some, like the Koch brothers, seek broad ideological change, knowing that reducing the overall power of government will give their widely scattered industries more freedom and higher profits, unburdened by pesky environmental and financial regulations. Others, like Tom Steyer, a billionaire investor, are more narrowly focused on specific issues, like reducing man-made climate change.
Industries and their executives often have even more closely tailored demands of government, and are willing to pay to make those demands in person. A cable company wants approval of a merger. Wireless companies and broadcasters want pieces of the frequency spectrum. Banks and payday lenders want less regulation and oversight. Medical device makers want to get rid of a tax. All of them spend fortunes on lobbying, and now their executives can dangle the prospect of millions before the parties to get the access they need. (The companies themselves can’t write those checks, but they can give whatever they want to super PACs and nonprofits.)
A memo by Covington & Burling, a legal and lobbying firm, explains to its corporate clients how giving post-McCutcheon will work. “The difference here is that, unlike with super PACs, elected politicians are able to request the contributions directly from the high-net-worth donor,” the firm wrote. The decision will “allow power to collect around any member [of Congress] who can command a national or regional base of wealthy donors, such as a prominent Tea Party or environmental advocate.” In other words, lawmakers who are the most responsive to special interests and ideologies will reel in the biggest donations to their parties, thereby gaining more power.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., showing insincere naïveté, doesn’t consider that purchase of access to be corruption, which he apparently detects only in bribery. But the donors know that American politics is now for sale, and they are ready to buy.
Joining with the DNC to vilify the Kochs destroys any credibility that might be left from your front page false account on Benghazi. Without…
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., showing insincere naïveté, doesn’t consider that purchase of access to be corruption, which he apparently…
The Opinion Pages Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times
Party All the Time
Over the last several decades, the United States has adopted a series of campaign finance reform laws. If these laws were designed to reduce the power of money in politics, they have failed. Spending on political campaigns has exploded. Washington booms with masses of lobbyists and consultants.
But campaign finance laws weren’t merely designed to take money out of politics; they were designed to protect incumbents from political defeat. In this regard, the laws have been fantastically successful.
The laws rigged the system to make it harder for challengers to raise money. In 1972, at about the time the Federal Election Campaign Act was first passed, incumbents had a campaign spending advantage over challengers of about 3 to 2. These days, incumbents have a spending advantage of at least 4 to 1. In some election years, 98 percent of the incumbents are swept back into office.
One of the ways incumbents secured this advantage is by weakening the power of the parties. They imposed caps on how much donors can give to parties and how much parties can give directly to candidates. By 2008, direct party contributions to Senate candidates accounted for only 0.18 percent of total spending.
The members of Congress did this because an unregulated party can direct large amounts of money to knock off an incumbent of the opposing party. By restricting parties, incumbents defanged a potent foe.
These laws pushed us from a party-centric campaign system to a candidate-centric system. This change has made life less pleasant for lawmakers but it has made their jobs more secure, and they have been willing to accept this trade-off.
Life is less pleasant because with the parties weakened, lawmakers have to do many campaign tasks on their own. They have to do their own fund-raising and their own kissing up to special interests. They have to hire consultants to do the messaging tasks that parties used to do.
But incumbents accept this because the candidate-centric system makes life miserable for challengers. With direct contributions severely limited and parties defanged, challengers find it hard to quickly build the vast network of donors they need to raise serious cash. High-quality challengers choose not to run because they don’t want to spend their lives begging for dough.
The shift to a candidate-centric system was horrifically antidemocratic. It pushed money from transparent, tightly regulated parties to the shadowy world of PACs and 527s. It weakened party leaders, who have to think about building broad national coalitions, and gave power to special interests.
Then came the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which managed to make everything even worse. It moved us from a candidate-centric system to a donor-centric system. Donors were unleashed to create their own opaque yet torrential money flows outside both parties and candidates. This created an explosion in the number of groups with veto power over legislation and reform. It polarized politics further because donors tend to be more extreme than politicians or voters. The candidate-centric system empowered special interests; the donor-centric system makes them practically invincible.
The McCutcheon decision is a rare win for the parties. It enables party establishments to claw back some of the power that has flowed to donors and “super PACs.” It effectively raises the limits on what party establishments can solicit. It gives party leaders the chance to form joint fund-raising committees they can use to marshal large pools of cash and influence. McCutcheon is a small step back toward a party-centric system.
In their book “Better Parties, Better Government,” Peter J. Wallison and Joel M. Gora propose the best way to reform campaign finance: eliminate the restrictions on political parties to finance the campaigns of their candidates; loosen the limitations on giving to parties; keep the limits on giving to PACs.
Parties are not perfect, Lord knows. But they have broad national outlooks. They foster coalition thinking. They are relatively transparent. They are accountable to voters. They ally with special interests, but they transcend the influence of any one. Strengthened parties will make races more competitive and democracy more legitimate. Strong parties mobilize volunteers and activists and broaden political participation. Unlike super PACs, parties welcome large numbers of people into the political process.
Since the progressive era, campaign reformers have intuitively distrusted parties. These reformers seem driven by a naïve hope that they can avoid any visible concentration of power. But their approach to reform has manifestly failed. By restricting parties, they just concentrated power in ways that are much worse.
The Opinion Pages Op-Ed Contributor to The New York Times.
Is Canada Tarring Itself?
START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.
Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive.
Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes.
Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition.
Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.
Documents obtained by research institutions and environmental groups through freedom-of-information requests show a government bent on extracting as much tar sands oil as possible, as quickly as possible.
From 2008 to 2012, oil industry representatives registered 2,733 communications with government officials, a number dwarfing those of other industries. The oil industry used these communications to recommend changes in legislation to facilitate tar sands and pipeline development. In the vast majority of instances, the government followed through.
In the United States, the tar sands debate focuses on Keystone XL, the 1,200-mile pipeline that would link Alberta oil to the Gulf of Mexico. What is often overlooked is that Keystone XL is only one of 13 pipelines completed or proposed by the Harper government — they would extend for 10,000 miles, not just to the gulf, but to both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
After winning an outright parliamentary majority in 2011, Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party passed an omnibus bill that revoked or weakened 70 environmental laws, including protections for rivers and fisheries. As a result, one proposed pipeline, the Northern Gateway, which crosses a thousand rivers and streams between Alberta and the Pacific, no longer risked violating the law. The changes also eliminated federal environmental review requirements for thousands of proposed development projects.
President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL, expected later this spring, is important not just because it will determine the pipeline’s fate, but because it will give momentum to one side or the other in the larger tar sands battle. Consequently, the Canadian government’s 2013-14 budget allocates nearly $22 million for pro-tar-sands promotional work outside Canada. It has used that money to buy ads and fund lobbyists in Washington and Europe, the latter as part of a continuing campaign against the European Union’s bitumen-discouraging Fuel Quality Directive.
THE REDEEMING VALUE IN ALL OF THIS IS THAT CANADA HAS REDUCED THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MIDDLE EAST OIL STATES – BUT THEN WE MUST NOTE THAT SO FAR AS THE ENVIRONMENT IS CONCERNED CANADA IS NOW A MAJOR SINNER – NO LESS A SINNER THEN THE US FRACKING AFFECTIONADOS.
Beginning in 2006, Mr. Harper pledged to promulgate regulations to limit carbon emissions, but eight years later the regulations still have not been issued, and he recently hinted that they might not be introduced for another “couple of years.” Meanwhile, Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, in 2009 it signed the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord, which calls for Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent beneath its 2005 level by 2020. According to the government’s own projections, it won’t even come close to that level.
Climate change’s impact on Canada is already substantial. Across Canada’s western prairie provinces, an area larger than Alaska, mean temperatures have risen several degrees over the last 40 years, causing releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and drying wetlands. The higher temperatures have led to the spread of the mountain pine beetle, which has consumed millions of trees. The trees, in turn, have become fodder for increasingly extensive forest fires, which release still more greenhouse gases. Given that scientists now think the Northern Hemisphere’s boreal forests retain far more carbon than tropical rain forests like the Amazon, these developments are ominous. At least the Harper government has indirectly acknowledged climate change in one way: It has made a show of defending the Northwest Passage, an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that winds through Canadian territory.
Nevertheless, the Harper government has shown its disdain for scientists and environmental groups dealing with climate change and industrial pollution. The government has either drastically cut or entirely eliminated funding for many facilities conducting research in climate change and air and water pollution. It has placed tight restrictions on when its 23,000 scientists may speak publicly and has given power to some department managers to block publication of peer-reviewed research. It has closed or “consolidated” scientific libraries, sometimes thoughtlessly destroying invaluable collections in the process. And it has slashed funding for basic research, shifting allocations to applied research with potential payoffs for private companies.
With a deft Orwellian touch, Canada’s national health agency even accused a doctor in Alberta, John O’Connor, of professional misconduct — raising “undue alarm” and promoting “a sense of mistrust” in government officials — after he reported in 2006 that an unusually high number of rare, apparently tar-sands-related cancers were showing up among residents of Fort Chipewyan, 150 miles downstream from the tar sands. A government review released in 2009 cautiously supported Dr. O’Connor’s claims, but officials have shown no interest in the residents’ health since then.
Dr. O’Connor’s experience intimidated other doctors, according to Margaret Sears, a toxicologist hired by the quasi-independent Alberta Energy Regulator to study health impacts in another region near the tar sands operation. Dr. Sears reported that some doctors cited Dr. O’Connor’s case as a reason for declining to treat patients who suggested a link between their symptoms and tar sands emissions.
The pressure on environmentalists has been even more intense. Two years ago Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (who this month became finance minister) declared that some environmentalists “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest” and “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Canada’s National Energy Board, an ostensibly independent regulatory agency, coordinated with the nation’s intelligence service, police and oil companies to spy on environmentalists. And Canada’s tax-collecting agency recently introduced rigorous audits of at least seven prominent environmental groups, diverting the groups’ already strained resources from anti-tar-sands activities.
Few Canadians advocate immediately shutting down the tar sands — indeed, any public figure espousing that idea risks political oblivion. The government could defuse much tar sands opposition simply by advocating a more measured approach to its development, using the proceeds to head the country away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon, renewables-based future. That, in fact, was the policy recommended by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a nonpartisan, eminently moderate independent research group founded by another right-leaning prime minister, Brian Mulroney, in 1988. The Harper government showed what it thought of the policy when it disbanded the Round Table last year.
Jacques Leslie is the author, most recently, of “A Deluge of Consequences: A Riveting Adventure in the High Himalayas.”
A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 31, 2014, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Is Canada Tarring Itself?.
The US will act on Cutting Methane Emissions and this will help Bangladesh and others Suffering from the Rising of the Sea Levels: The US and the World are better off with the Obama Administration taking more actions that need no Congressional aproval.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday announced a strategy to start slashing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas released by landfills, cattle, and leaks from oil and natural gas production.
The methane strategy is the latest step in a series of White House actions aimed at addressing climate change without legislation from Congress. Individually, most of the steps will not be enough to drastically reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming. But the Obama administration hopes that collectively they will build political support for more substantive domestic actions while signaling to other countries that the United States is serious about tackling global warming.
In a 2009 United Nations climate change accord, President Obama pledged that by 2020 the United States would lower its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels. “This methane strategy is one component, one set of actions to get there,” Dan Utech, the president’s special assistant for energy and climate change, said on Friday in a phone call with reporters.
Environmental advocates have long urged the Obama administration to target methane emissions. Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.
And methane emissions are projected to increase in the United States, as the nation enjoys a boom in oil and natural gas production, thanks to breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing technology. A study published in the journal Science last month found that methane is leaking from oil and natural gas drilling sites and pipelines at rates 50 percent higher than previously thought. As he works to tackle climate change, Mr. Obama has generally supported the natural gas production boom, since natural gas, when burned for electricity, produces just half the greenhouse gas pollution of coal-fired electricity.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have campaigned against the boom in natural gas production, warning that it could lead to dangerous levels of methane pollution, undercutting the climate benefits of gas. The oil and gas industry has resisted pushes to regulate methane leaks from production, saying it could slow that down.
A White House official said on Friday that this spring, the Environmental Protection Agency would assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector, and that by this fall the agency “will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources.” If the E.P.A. decides to develop additional regulations, it would complete them by the end of 2016 — just before Mr. Obama leaves office.
Among the steps the administration announced on Friday to address methane pollution:
- The Interior Department will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands.
- In April, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management will begin to gather public comment on the development of a program for the capture and sale of methane produced by coal mines on lands leased by the ederal government.
- This summer, the E.P.A. will propose updated standards to reduce methane emissions from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.
- In June, the Agriculture Department, the Energy Department and the E.P.A. will release a joint “biogas road map” aimed at accelerating adoption of methane digesters, machines that reduce methane emissions from cattle, in order to cut dairy-sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
Advocates of climate action generally praised the plan. “Cutting methane emissions will be especially critical to climate protection as the U.S. develops its huge shale gas reserves, gaining the full greenhouse gas benefit from the switch away from coal,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former White House climate change aide under President Bill Clinton, now with the German Marshall Fund.
Howard J. Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil and gas companies, said he hoped the steps would not lead to new regulations on his industry. “We think regulation is not necessary at this time,” he said. “People are using a lot more natural gas in the country, and that’s reducing greenhouse gas.”
Since cattle flatulence and manure are a significant source of methane, farmers have long been worried that a federal methane control strategy could place a burden on them. But Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that his group was pleased that, for now, the administration’s proposals to reduce methane from cattle were voluntary.
“All indications are that it’s voluntary,” he said, “but we do see increased potential for scrutiny for us down the line, which would cause concern.”
Photographs: Rising Seas,
Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land:
Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change
DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.
Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.
As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.
Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.
Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.
“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”
The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.
At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.
“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist. “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.”
River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In this delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal.
A Perilous Position
Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.
Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem.
The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.
Bangladeshis have already started to move away from the lowest-lying villages in the river deltas of the Bay of Bengal, scientists in Bangladesh say. People move for many reasons, and urbanization is increasing across South Asia, but rising tides are a big factor. Dr. Rahman’s research group has made a rough estimate from small surveys that as many as 1.5 million of the five million slum inhabitants in Dhaka, the capital, moved from villages near the Bay of Bengal.
The slums that greet them in Dhaka are also built on low-lying land, making them almost as vulnerable to being inundated as the land villagers left behind.
Ms. Khatun and her neighbors have lived through deadly cyclones — a synonym here for hurricane — and have seen the salty rivers chew through villages and poison fields. Rising seas are increasingly intruding into rivers, turning fresh water brackish. Even routine flooding then leaves behind salt deposits that can render land barren.
Making matters worse, much of what the Bangladeshi government is doing to stave off the coming deluge — raising levees, dredging canals, pumping water — deepens the threat of inundation in the long term, said John Pethick, a former professor of coastal science at Newcastle University in England who has spent much of his retirement studying Bangladesh’s predicament. Rich nations are not the only ones to blame, he said.
In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.
“The reaction among Bangladeshi government officials has been to tell me that I must be wrong,” he said. “That’s completely understandable, but it also means they have no hope of preparing themselves.”
Dr. Rahman said that he did not disagree with Mr. Pethick’s findings, but that no estimate was definitive. Other scientists have predicted more modest rises. For example, Robert E. Kopp, an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute at Rutgers University, said that data from nearby Kolkata, India, suggested that seas in the region could rise five to six feet by 2100.
“There is no doubt that preparations within Bangladesh have been utterly inadequate, but any such preparations are bound to fail because the problem is far too big for any single government,” said Tariq A. Karim, Bangladesh’s ambassador to India. “We need a regional and, better yet, a global solution. And if we don’t get one soon, the Bangladeshi people will soon become the world’s problem, because we will not be able to keep them.”
Mr. Karim estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis would flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rose as expected.
Already, signs of erosion are everywhere in the Ganges Delta — the world’s largest delta, which empties much of the water coming from the Himalayas. There are brick foundations torn in half, palm trees growing out of rivers and rangy cattle grazing on island pastures the size of putting greens. Fields are dusted white with salt.
Even without climate change, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable places in the world to bad weather: The V-shaped Bay of Bengal funnels cyclones straight into the country’s fan-shaped coastline.
Some scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather worldwide, including stronger and more frequent cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. And rising seas will make any storm more dangerous because flooding will become more likely.
Bangladesh has done much to protect its population by creating an early-warning system and building at least 2,500 concrete storm shelters. The result has been a vast reduction in storm-related deaths. While Cyclone Bhola in 1970 killed as many as 550,000 people, Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed 300. The deadliest part of the storm was the nearly 10-foot wall of water that roared through villages in the middle of the afternoon.
The poverty of people like Ms. Khatun makes them particularly vulnerable to storms. When Aila hit, Ms. Khatun was home with her husband, parents and four children. A nearby berm collapsed, and their mud and bamboo hut washed away in minutes. Unable to save her belongings, Ms. Khatun put her youngest child on her back and, with her husband, fought through surging waters to a high road. Her parents were swept away.
“After about a kilometer, I managed to grab a tree,” said Abddus Satter, Ms. Khatun’s father. “And I was able to help my wife grab on as well. We stayed on that tree for hours.”
The couple eventually shifted to the roof of a nearby hut. The family reunited on the road the next day after the children spent a harrowing night avoiding snakes that had sought higher ground, too. They drank rainwater until rescuers arrived a day or two later with bottled water, food and other supplies.
The ordeal took a severe toll on Ms. Khatun’s husband, whose health soon deteriorated. To pay for his treatment and the cost of rebuilding their hut, the family borrowed money from a loan shark. In return, Ms. Khatun and her three older children, then 10, 12 and 15, promised to work for seven months in a nearby brickmaking factory. She later sold her 11- and 13-year-old children to the owner of another brick factory, this one in Dhaka, for $450 to pay more debts. Her husband died four years after the storm.
In an interview, one of her sons, Mamun Sardar, now 14, said he worked from dawn to dusk carrying newly made bricks to the factory oven.
He said he missed his mother, “but she lives far away.”
Discussions about the effects of climate change in the Ganges Delta often become community events. In the village of Choto Jaliakhali, where Ms. Khatun lives, dozens of people said they could see that the river was rising. Several said they had been impoverished by erosion, which has cost many villagers their land.
Muhammad Moktar Ali said he could not think about the next storm because all he had in the world was his hut and village. “We don’t know how to support ourselves if we lost this,” he said, gesturing to his gathered neighbors. “It is God who will help us survive.”
Surveys show that residents of the delta do not want to migrate, Dr. Rahman said. Moving to slums in already-crowded cities is their least preferred option.
But cities have become the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which is now the source of 80 percent of the country’s exports, 45 percent of its industrial employment and 15 percent of its gross domestic product.
In the weeks after the storm, the women of Dakope found firewood by wading into the raging river and pushing their toes into the muddy bottom. They walked hours to buy drinking water. After rebuilding the village’s berm and their own hut, Shirin Aktar and her husband, Bablu Gazi, managed to get just enough of a harvest to survive from their land, which has become increasingly infertile from salt water. Some plots that once sustained three harvests can now support just one; others are entirely barren.
After two hungry years, the couple gave up on farming and moved to the Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, leaving their two children behind with Mr. Gazi’s mother.
Mr. Gazi found work immediately as a day laborer, mostly digging foundations. Ms. Aktar searched for a job as a seamstress, but headaches and other slum-induced health problems have so incapacitated her that the couple is desperate to return to Dakope.
“I don’t want to stay here for too long,” Mr. Gazi said. “If we can save some money, then we’ll go back. I’ll work on a piece of land and try to make it fertile again.”
But the chances of finding fertile land in his home village, where the salty rivers have eaten away acre upon acre, are almost zero.
Dozens of people gathered in the narrow mud alley outside Mr. Gazi’s room as he spoke. Some told similar stories of storms, loss and hope, and many nodded as Mr. Gazi spoke of his dreams of returning to his doomed village.
“All of us came here because of erosions and cyclones,” said Noakhali, a hollow-eyed 30-year-old with a single name who was wearing the traditional skirt of the delta. “Not one of us actually wants to live here.”
Produced by Catherine Spangler, David Furst, Hannah Fairfield, Jacqueline Myint, Jeremy White and Shreeya Sinha.
A version of this article appears in print on March 29, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: As Seas Rise, Millions Cling to Borrowed Time and Dying Land.
A Stanford Social Innovation Review points out that the post-2015 UN Agenda will have to be based on innovative thinking that. makes space for the private World – not just on the International Union of Government Sponsored Bureaucrats. Will those bureaucrats participate by agrreing to stay aside?
A Stanford Social Innovation Review on Beyond Aid.
This as leaders across sectors convene at the UN in NewYork to discuss the new post-2015 global agenda – the opportunity to collaborate on a new breed of large-scale development projects known as innovative financing has never been brighter.
Imagine you have the opportunity to define how the world develops for the next 15 years. All government projects, nonprofit work, and foundation funding would cater to your agenda. If you are one of the representatives of the 193 United Nations member states currently discussing the new global agenda, your job entails exactly that.
By 2015, when the current development agenda expires, the international community must determine a new set of goals, and how to achieve and fund them. Based on early recommendations from the UN Secretary General’s office, this next-generation agenda will probably be more ambitious in scope and cost than the present Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the current MDGs focus on a narrowly defined set of eight goals, the new global agenda will likely aim to both end poverty and increase sustainable development across many dimensions.
Unlocking More Money Through Innovative Financing
Development projects known as “innovative financing” reflect a new way of filling this funding gap. The term, coined in 2002 at a UN conference, refers to projects that raise money for development in new ways and spend money more effectively.
Given a variety of creative names, in truth innovative financing programs take just three different forms: pay only for results, make funding of the development agenda a safer investment, and find new funders.
Variations of innovative financing programs include known mechanisms such as social impact bonds or pay-for-success programs, which are used more and more frequently—research by Dalberg suggests at least a half dozen new initiatives have launched annually, on average, since 2002. To date, these programs have been initiated independently and for an array of causes on an ad-hoc basis.
Development leaders now have the opportunity to apply innovative finance tools on a major scale and in a systematic way; they also have new information on where and how to apply them. The most promising element of innovative financing is its ability to unlock pools of funds from the private sector, which typically finds development projects too risky and the results too uncertain to warrant investment. Funders of these development programs do not need to be impact investors looking for social returns; instead, programs can generate high returns or reduce risk for traditional investors. Innovative financing can also tap into additional public funds by providing opportunities for global coordination and public-private partnerships.
Pay only for results:
Spending money more effectively by paying for results rather than promises has two benefits: It reduces the total size of the fund needed to achieve the next-generation agenda and also ensures a greater impact from every dollar spent. For example, when the development community learned that Western pharmaceuticals were holding back from developing a cheap pneumonia vaccine for Africa because of a legitimate fear that there would be no money to buy these vaccines after they invested in building capacity, they designed an innovative financing program. The resulting program, known as the Pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment, guaranteed a minimum market size to any pharmaceutical company that could develop an appropriate vaccine. This enabled Pfizer and others to scale facilities that have since vaccinated more than 10 million children; it also enabled them to sell vaccines at less than 10 percent of their usual cost. Another results-based innovative financing mechanism, the Haiti Mobile Money prize, rewarded mobile operators in Haiti with $6 million to build out mobile banking. If applied to initiatives in the next development agenda, such cost-effective programs would reduce the total dollars needed.
Make funding development safe:
Innovative financing mechanisms include a whole suite of creative funding vehicles that shift risk away from funders, making development projects a safer investment. This includes social impact bonds and insurance for funders, who can then invest in projects that would otherwise be too risky—for example, global health clinics, rural energy, and agriculture equipment. The recently launched HUGinsure provides up to $400 million in insurance backed by Lloyd’s, making it safe for private sector banks to fund unproven social impact projects. A potential new malaria bond will draw on public-private funders who will pay program implementers only if malaria eradication is successful. Such social impact bonds allow third-party backers like governments to take on risk instead of the private sector funder. Without these mechanisms, private funders tend to invest in sectors such as natural resource extraction, which offer immediate returns. But with them, private funders can benefit from sectors with more diffuse value, such as health and infrastructure.
Find new funders
Innovative mechanisms for raising new funds broaden the funding toolkit beyond simple grants and equity. Such mechanisms include ongoing programs such as social taxes and voluntary solidarity contributions, which raise small amounts of funds over time. A solidarity tax on airline tickets in France, for example, charges travelers a few dollars each time they leave French soil, and has raised nearly $2 billion since 2006 for the global health initiative UNITAID. This can also include large programs such as carbon emissions trading, which has raised more than $30 billion since 2002.
The Private Sector Potential:
Compared to international aid—which represents less than 1 percent of available funding for development—harnessing private sector funding presents a significant new opportunity for backing the new development agenda. Private sector spending within and flowing to low- and middle-income countries represents a rapidly growing pool –more than $20 trillion (see chart). Tapping into even a small portion of that through innovative financing would draw immense new resources. And more effectively allocating this funding means fewer dollars will be needed.
Though this funding would bridge only a small portion of the $1 trillion required for the next-generation development agenda, without it, many areas with benefits beyond financial returns will remain underfunded—private sector investors will continue to fund only clearly profitable projects such as mining. With increased coordination and fresh lessons from past experiments, development leaders can effectively wield innovative financing for greater impact.
Angela Rastegar Campbell (@angelarastegar) is a Project Leader at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, where she has worked with the Gates Foundation, the UN Foundation, and GAVI on projects related to the new development agenda and innovative financing. Angela holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University.
As we said years ago, Senator McConnell acts in ways he endangers as Leader of the Republicans in the Senate the Government of the US and this is because he is made of Coal. His actions favor all Special Interests in Washington that destroy National Policy making.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, is up for re-election, and he is under pressure to show fealty to his state’s powerful coal interests.
To that end, he introduced a resolution earlier this year to block a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. As written, the proposal would effectively stop construction of most new coal-fired plants.
Like all proposed regulations, the E.P.A.’s is subject to public comment and revision before it becomes final. And under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, Congress can only vote to overturn final regulations, not proposed rules. But none of that has stopped Mr. McConnell from putting forward a resolution under the review law to block the E.P.A. proposal. If the measure passes — a long shot because it would be subject to a legal challenge and a presidential veto — it could be used to derail federal rule-making not only on greenhouse gas emissions but a range of issues, including food, drug and auto safety.
And even if it fails, Mr. McConnell’s ploy escalates already dangerous levels of antiregulatory fervor, while creating a template for playing politics with the regulatory process.
If Democrats were to reject the emissions resolution on the solid grounds that the law does not allow for review of proposed regulations, Mr. McConnell would invariably depict the vote as anti-coal.
That, in turn, could invite other senators to play the same mischievous game, in hopes that a rejection of their antiregulatory resolution would be similarly misconstrued.
A no vote on a resolution to derail a workplace safety proposal, for instance, could be portrayed as a slap at small businesses.
A vote against a resolution to derail a food safety proposal could be depicted as anti-farmer.
Mr. McConnell has been relentless in using tactics to distort and nullify the processes that make government run.
For the sake of proper rule-making as well as public health and safety, Democrats cannot indulge him on this latest attempt.
Take Action: Urge U.S. & EU to Oppose Imminent U.N. Appointment of Richard Falk’s Wife.
As Richard Falk ends his despicable 6-year UN term this Friday, his wife, co-author and closest collaborator Dr. Hilal Elver (above) is about to be named to her own 6-year UN term, as expert on the right to food.
This Cuban-created position was for years held by Jean Ziegler – founder and recipient of the “Moammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize” — which he abused to attack America, Israel and the West.
Given her shameful record of extremist politics, there is no doubt that Falk’s wife intends to do the same. And that essentially Falk will retain his U.N. influence after all.
The only way to stop Elver’s appointment to this 6-year global post is if the U.S. and EU make clear they will vote NO if her name is moved forward.
Stop this from happening on Friday.
Urge world leaders to oppose the
The Arctic is warming up, and the US needs a Special State Department appointee to interact with the governments that claim a right to exploit its resources. Dr. Charles Ebinger’s team at the Brookings Institution has put together a report on Oil and Gas present in the Arctic and exploitation could spell disaster for the planet’s climate stability. He is asking for establishment of policy on the subject.
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
The president could end the bulk collection himself, immediately, without undermining his proposal to Congress.
The Opinion Pages – A New York Times Editorial
Mr. Obama’s Limits on Phone Records.
If President Obama really wants to end the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, he doesn’t need to ask the permission of Congress, as he said on Tuesday he would do. He can just end it himself, immediately.
That’s what Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urged him to do. “The president could end bulk collection once and for all on Friday by not seeking reauthorization of this program,” Mr. Leahy said.
Ending bulk collection now wouldn’t undermine Mr. Obama’s proposal to Congress. In fact, if his promise is matched by the final details (which are not yet available), it could be an important and positive break from the widespread invasion of privacy secretly practiced by the National Security Agency for years.
Getting a law to create strong judicial oversight of data collection would be a check on the ambitions of future presidents. But once the question is tossed into the maelstrom of Congress, where one party routinely opposes anything the president wants, the limits could be delayed, or diluted, or just killed. And while lawmakers wring their hands, the invasion of privacy will continue.
As Charlie Savage reported in The Times on Tuesday, the president is planning to ask Congress to end the N.S.A.’s systematic collection of telephone records begun under President George W. Bush, an action already endorsed by his independent board of advisers. The records will be left in the hands of the phone companies, where they belong, until the N.S.A. gets permission from a judge to review an individual record because of a possible tie to terrorism. (The companies would only have to store the data 18 months, compared with the agency’s five years.)
The requirement for judicial review is one of the most important parts of the president’s plan. Just as police departments have to get a court order for a wiretap, the intelligence agencies need to present their justification to an outside arbiter for a request of telephone data, which can be as revealing as the content of a conversation. The provision distinguishes the White House plan from a much weaker bill introduced by the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, which would allow the N.S.A. to subpoena individual records without judicial approval.
But there are still important unknown details. What standard of suspicion does the government need to meet to persuade a judge? Administration officials said it would be the “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of terror ties now used by the N.S.A. when examining phone records, but that remains an unacceptably weak level of proof. Judicial review should require a clearer, stronger standard, though it is doubtful Congress will approve one.
It’s not clear, as Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote, whether the proposal covers all the methods the intelligence agencies use to collect personal and financial records, and whether the N.S.A. will delete the records it has. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which will consider the requests for records, should be required to disclose how often it says yes.
The immediate question, though, is why the president feels he needs to wait for Congress before stopping mass collection. As Mr. Obama said on Tuesday, because of Edward Snowden’s revelations, “we have to win back the trust not just of governments but, more important, of ordinary citizens.”
Continuing the current surveillance program while lawmakers argue is not the way to begin winning back the country’s trust.
The U.S. government will never “win back the trust” of the American people because it represents the interests of multinational…
“The immediate question, though, is why the president feels he needs to wait for Congress before stopping mass collection.”I believe your…
That NYT states the FISA Court “should be required to disclose how often it says yes,” is in flat contradiction to the sugary analysis…
Obama Just Opened the Door for Snowden’s Immunity.
By Michael Maiello, Esquire
25 March 2014
oday, Charlie Savage at The New York Times reports that the Obama administration will propose the end of the NSA’s bulk data collection program, replacing it with a more targeted, more thoroughly court supervised alternative. It is an imperfect solution for those who suspect that the FISA court is too eager to grant such requests but Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the paper that this was “a sensible outcome.”
As we are a good way through Obama’s second term as president, I think it’s more than fair to say that we would not be here, at the cusp of sensibility, without the actions of Edward J. Snowden, the former NSA contractor who now lives in Russia under the protection of Vladimir Putin. Snowden took and released an uncounted number of sensitive documents from his employers and is responsible for disclosing the breadth and scope of the NSA’s global telecommunications surveillance program. Had the details of this program remained rumor and whisper as they were for the bulk of Obama’s tenure, it’s a fair bet that nothing would be changing now.
This is the very essence of whistleblowing. Snowden brought information to the public so that the public could reasonably demand changes from its leaders. Obama was seemingly happy to ignore the surveillance issue until forced, much as he was seemingly happy to hold an ambiguous view on same sex marriage until public opinion made vagaries impossible.
The knock on Snowden’s whistleblowing is that he revealed details of the government’s legal activities. The Times makes clear that this is a problematic claim, at best:
So far as legality goes you have the Bush administration grabbing power by using the broadest possible interpretation of one part of a massive post-crisis law and then persuading a secret court that acts with little public oversight to bless it. Then Obama just went along with the momentum. The legality here is hardly as thoroughly debated as say, the separation of church and state or Obamacare.
Late last year there was some talk that Snowden could be granted amnesty in exchange for returning whatever other documents were in his possession and cooperating to help the government’s security agencies not fall prey to other employees and contractors. This was shot down by the White House. Spokesman Jay Carney insisted: “Mr. Snowden has been accused of leaking classified information and he faces felony charges here in the United States. He should be returned to the United States as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process in our system.”
But all crimes have a context. It might be convenient for the criminal to claim they were acting in the public’s interest and it might be rare but Obama’s proposal is clearly an admission that Snowden broke the law to identify government activities that should, at the very least, be radically changed.
Obama has a lot of options here. The smart choice is to offer Snowden immunity in exchange for his future cooperation. If the intelligence services are going to continue to outsource classified functions, then Snowden has a lot to offer in terms of protecting legal and necessary secrets. Another is a blanket pardon. Less good but still acceptable is an agreement to commute whatever sentences Snowden receives, should he agree to stand trial.
When the government operates in secret, there is little hope for change. The public can have no opinion about what it doesn’t know. Obama’s proposal is an admission that Snowden was right. It doesn’t make sense to insist that the citizen who prodded his recalcitrant government into action should be punished.
WHAT: Rally to Divest New York from Fossil Fuels
New York could be the first state to divest from destructive fossil fuels — but only if we can convince Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to do the right thing.
This Thursday, maech 27, 2014, we’ll gather in front of the Comptroller’s NYC offices to deliver our petition and make a lot of noise. Will you help us send the Comptroller a message he can’t ignore?
Our state’s Common Retirement Fund is the third largest pension plan in the country, with $160 billion in investments. It’s heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry, and we think that makes no sense at all.
Climate change is real, it’s here, and it’s endangering the biodiversity and natural resources we depend on, as well as the physical infrastructure that makes our state run. Why is a state that’s still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy invested in the very companies driving this crisis?
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has the power to divest New York from fossil fuels, and divestment has the power to rein in the fossil fuel industry — an industry that’s both driving the climate crisis and polluting our democracy. I think that’s an easy call, but evidently the Comptroller needs a little more convincing.
Lyna & the 350.org team
Rally co-sponsors include: Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, GreenFaith, Responsible Endowments Coalition, United for Action, Green Party of New York, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, Green Map System, Cuny Divest, Hunter Sustainability Project, NYU Divest, Barnard Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, and Fossil Free Fordham
Without including Iceland, the New York based Council on Foreign Relations writes only about five Arctic Coastal States and outsider China. Their release of a guidebook points at the Arctic as a future locus with Global conflict potential.
The northern reaches of the planet are melting at a pace few nations can afford to ignore, yielding potentially lucrative returns in energy, minerals, and shipping, explains this CFR InfoGuide.
MODI’IN, ISRAEL – An Israeli company was recently chosen to be part of a nine-member team of technology vendors to protect the Statue of Liberty.
BriefCam is part of a “dream team” of top technology companies that will enhance public safety and operation efficiency at the famous monument.
BriefCam was selected for its award-winning Video Synopsis technology, which summarizes hours of events into a “brief” that takes just minutes to watch. The Israeli company, headquartered in Modi’in, Israel, has projects in several cities in North America, China, and Taiwan, a company representative told Tazpit News Agency. “We are being used by law enforcement and investigative agencies in the U.S., China, and of course, Israel.”
The current surveillance deployment marks the first time an all-digital surveillance system has been installed at the Statue of Liberty monument, which previously used an old analog system that had been unable to reach certain areas of Liberty Island.
Following the heavy damage caused by deadly Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Statue of Liberty underwent eight months of renovation and repairs. The monument reopened to the public on Independence Day, July 4, 2013.
“The lack of electricity, flooding, and damage caused by Sandy could not stop the amazing team from making sure that Lady Liberty could welcome visitors – as she always has,” said Jordan Heilweil, president of Total Recall Corporation.
“We assembled a Dream Team of cutting-edge security technology providers to give her the best protection possible while helping the Park Police, Department of the Interior and National Park Service deliver a memorable experience for the millions of families who visit the Statue each year,” added Heilweil.
Dror Irani, CEO and President of BriefCam, further added that “for over a hundred years, as people arrived at Ellis Island from every part the world, they would see the Statue of Liberty and feel they had reached a safe haven in the USA. Today, we’re extremely proud to be part of the team bringing 21st century safety and security technology to this long-standing symbol of hope and freedom.”
The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship to the United States from the people of France and was dedicated in October 1886. The robed female figure, holding a torch and tablet, represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. Approximately four million people visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island each year, according to the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy.
Is the US being readied to be another country safe for Oligarchs? Ask Economics Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman – he has a clear view of today’s Republicans. In Vienna I heard Mr. Friederich (Fritz) Hinterberger, President of the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) who has also views on the Capital and Labor mix.
The Opinion Pages Op-Ed Columnist of the New York Times.
Wealth Over Work.
It seems safe to say that “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year — and maybe of the decade. Mr. Piketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent.
To be sure, Mr. Piketty concedes that we aren’t there yet. So far, the rise of America’s 1 percent has mainly been driven by executive salaries and bonuses rather than income from investments, let alone inherited wealth. But six of the 10 wealthiest Americans are already heirs rather than self-made entrepreneurs, and the children of today’s economic elite start from a position of immense privilege. As Mr. Piketty notes, “the risk of a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism.”
Indeed. And if you want to feel even less optimistic, consider what many U.S. politicians are up to. America’s nascent oligarchy may not yet be fully formed — but one of our two main political parties already seems committed to defending the oligarchy’s interests.
Despite the frantic efforts of some Republicans to pretend otherwise, most people realize that today’s G.O.P. favors the interests of the rich over those of ordinary families. I suspect, however, that fewer people realize the extent to which the party favors returns on wealth over wages and salaries. And the dominance of income from capital, which can be inherited, over wages — the dominance of wealth over work — is what patrimonial capitalism is all about.
To see what I’m talking about, start with actual policies and policy proposals. It’s generally understood that George W. Bush did all he could to cut taxes on the very affluent, that the middle-class cuts he included were essentially political loss leaders. It’s less well understood that the biggest breaks went not to people paid high salaries but to coupon-clippers and heirs to large estates. True, the top tax bracket on earned income fell from 39.6 to 35 percent. But the top rate on dividends fell from 39.6 percent (because they were taxed as ordinary income) to 15 percent — and the estate tax was completely eliminated.
Some of these cuts were reversed under President Obama, but the point is that the great tax-cut push of the Bush years was mainly about reducing taxes on unearned income. And when Republicans retook one house of Congress, they promptly came up with a plan — Representative Paul Ryan’s “road map” — calling for the elimination of taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains and estates. Under this plan, someone living solely off inherited wealth would have owed no federal taxes at all.
This tilt of policy toward the interests of wealth has been mirrored by a tilt in rhetoric; Republicans often seem so intent on exalting “job creators” that they forget to mention American workers.
In 2012 Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, famously commemorated Labor Day with a Twitter post honoring business owners. More recently, Mr. Cantor reportedly reminded colleagues at a G.O.P. retreat that most Americans work for other people, which is at least one reason attempts to make a big issue out of Mr. Obama’s supposed denigration of businesspeople fell flat. (Another reason was that Mr. Obama did no such thing.)
In fact, not only don’t most Americans own businesses, but business income, and income from capital in general, is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. In 1979 the top 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income; by 2007 the same group was getting 43 percent of business income, and 75 percent of capital gains. Yet this small elite gets all of the G.O.P.’s love, and most of its policy attention.
Why is this happening? Well, bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence — and not just through campaign contributions. Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.
As I’ve already suggested, the results can sometimes seem comical. The important point to remember, however, is that the people inside the bubble have a lot of power, which they wield on behalf of their patrons. And the drift toward oligarchy continues.