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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?

Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.

YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, and, most recently, The Age of Sustainable Development.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/columni…


The UN at 70

Project Syndicate – Sunday, August 23, 2015

NEW YORK –The United Nations will mark its 70th anniversary when world leaders assemble next month at its headquarters in New York. Though there will be plenty of fanfare, it will inadequately reflect the UN’s value, not only as the most important political innovation of the twentieth century, but also as the best bargain on the planet. But if the UN is to continue to fulfill its unique and vital global role in the twenty-first century, it must be upgraded in three key ways.

Fortunately, there is plenty to motivate world leaders to do what it takes. Indeed, the UN has had two major recent triumphs, with two more on the way before the end of this year.

The first triumph is the nuclear agreement with Iran. Sometimes misinterpreted as an agreement between Iran and the United States, the accord is in fact between Iran and the UN, represented by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US), plus Germany. An Iranian diplomat, in explaining why his country will scrupulously honor the agreement, made the point vividly: “Do you really think that Iran would dare to cheat on the very five UN Security Council permanent members that can seal our country’s fate?”

The second big triumph is the successful conclusion, after 15 years, of the Millennium Development Goals, which have underpinned the largest, longest, and most effective global poverty-reduction effort ever undertaken. Two UN Secretaries-General have overseen the MDGs: Kofi Annan, who introduced them in 2000, and Ban Ki-moon, who, since succeeding Annan at the start of 2007, has led vigorously and effectively to achieve them.

The MDGs have engendered impressive progress in poverty reduction, public health, school enrollment, gender equality in education, and other areas. Since 1990 (the reference date for the targets), the global rate of extreme poverty has been reduced by well over half – more than fulfilling the agenda’s number one goal.

Inspired by the MDGs’ success, the UN’s member countries are set to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which will aim to end extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere, narrow inequalities, and ensure environmental sustainability by 2030 – next month. This, the UN’s third triumph of 2015, could help to bring about the fourth: a global agreement on climate control, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris in December.

The precise value of the peace, poverty reduction, and environmental cooperation made possible by the UN is incalculable. If we were to put it in monetary terms, however, we might estimate their value at trillions of dollars per year – at least a few percent of the world economy’s annual GDP of $100 trillion.

Yet spending on all UN bodies and activities – from the Secretariat and the Security Council to peacekeeping operations, emergency responses to epidemics, and humanitarian operations for natural disasters, famines, and refugees – totaled roughly $45 billion in 2013, roughly $6 per person on the planet. That is not just a bargain; it is a significant underinvestment. Given the rapidly growing need for global cooperation, the UN simply cannot get by on its current budget.

Given this, the first reform that I would suggest is an increase in funding, with high-income countries contributing at least $40 per capita annually, upper middle-income countries giving $8, lower-middle-income countries $2, and low-income countries $1. With these contributions – which amount to roughly 0.1% of the group’s average per capita income – the UN would have about $75 billion annually with which to strengthen the quality and reach of vital programs, beginning with those needed to achieve the SDGs. Once the world is on a robust path to achieve the SDGs, the need for, say, peacekeeping and emergency-relief operations should decline as conflicts diminish in number and scale, and natural disasters are better prevented or anticipated.


This brings us to the second major area of reform: ensuring that the UN is fit for the new age of sustainable development. Specifically, the UN needs to strengthen its expertise in areas such as ocean health, renewable energy systems, urban design, disease control, technological innovation, public-private partnerships, and peaceful cultural cooperation. Some UN programs should be merged or closed, while other new SDG-related UN programs should be created.

The third major reform imperative is the UN’s governance, starting with the Security Council, the composition of which no longer reflects global geopolitical realities. Indeed, the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) now accounts for three of the five permanent members (France, the United Kingdom, and the US). That leaves only one permanent position for the Eastern European Group (Russia), one for the Asia-Pacific Group (China), and none for Africa or Latin America.

The rotating seats on the Security Council do not adequately restore regional balance. Even with two of the ten rotating Security Council seats, the Asia-Pacific region is still massively under-represented. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for roughly 55% of the world’s population and 44% of its annual income but has just 20% (three out of 15) of the seats on the Security Council.

Asia’s inadequate representation poses a serious threat to the UN’s legitimacy, which will only increase as the world’s most dynamic and populous region assumes an increasingly important global role. One possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, one shared by Japan and South Korea (perhaps in a two-year, one-year rotation), one for the ASEAN countries (representing the group as a single constituency), and a fourth rotating among the other Asian countries.

As the UN enters its eighth decade, it continues to inspire humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains the world’s moral charter, and the SDGs promise to provide new guideposts for global development cooperation. Yet the UN’s ability to continue to fulfill its vast potential in a new and challenging century requires its member states to commit to support the organization with the resources, political backing, and reforms that this new era demands.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

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How to Select the Next UN Secretary-General.

By Dean Ngaire Woods and Nina Hallon, Project Syndicate, Oxford University

Ngaire Woods is Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government and Director of the Global Economic Governance Program at the University of Oxford.

Nina Hall, a post-doctoral fellow at the Hertie School of Government in Berlin, is the lead researcher on the WEF/BSG project.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

OXFORD – When the United Nations elects a new secretary-general next year, the world will face a crucial choice. With crises erupting in every region of the world, the need for strong, decisive leadership is self-evident. And yet the selection process for filling important international posts has often been characterized more by political horse-trading than a meritocratic search for the best candidate.

The tools to improve the process are available, and the time is right to ensure their adoption by the UN and other international organizations. A new report by the World Economic Forum and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government lays out a series of best practices – each one of which has already been implemented by at least one international agency – that can guarantee that leaders are drawn from the most qualified candidates, and that the organizations for which they work are vested with the best possible management practices.

For starters, it is important to professionalize the selection process. For too long, backroom deals among governments have taken precedence over searching for a candidate with the relevant skills and experience. When Pascal Lamy, one of the authors of the report, was chosen to become head of the World Trade Organization, there was not even a description of the job against which his qualifications could be measured.

Once a candidate has been chosen, it is important to set clear performance expectations that can be evaluated annually. Groups like the World Health Organization – which came under fierce criticism during the Ebola crisis – can learn from the 80% of American non-profit boards that have a formal process in place for a yearly evaluation of their CEO.

Ethical standards also need to be strengthened. In April, Spanish police questioned Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as part of a corruption probe. Not long before that, his successor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss Kahn, faced pimping charges in France.

Putting in place a code that sets out clear standards for identifying conflicts of interest and robust methods for dealing with complaints about a leader’s behavior is crucial. In recent years, allegations of improper behavior have led to resignations by the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN Refugee Agency.

A leader is only as good as the people who work for him, so organizations must make it a high priority to attract and retain good staff and rid themselves of those who lack professional integrity or competence. Many global agencies are introducing systematic surveys of their employees, but much remains to be improved. Crucially, international organizations must build up the capacity to resist governments’ efforts to protect their underperforming nationals. Performance evaluations should be made public, allowing outsiders to measure progress (or the lack thereof).

Organizations also need to focus more on delivering results and tracking outcomes. For decades, countries borrowing from the World Bank and regional development banks have begged for the loan process to be expedited; most cannot afford to wait more than two years to find out whether a loan has been approved. Halving the time it takes to approve a loan is the kind of operational goal that a good leader can set, and for which he or she can subsequently be held to account.

It is also important to ensure well-structured, systematic engagement with stakeholders and civil-society groups, which is necessary to ensure high-quality and innovative inputs. Adopting an ad hoc approach, as many organizations currently do, frequently yields poor results.

Finally, it is crucial that organizations learn from their mistakes. Fortunately, almost all global agencies have instituted processes for independent evaluation. Less happily, most are still grappling with how to implement lessons learned. Evaluation is important, but it needs to be followed up with strong governance reforms that require leaders to shift incentives and behavior.

Pressure for change is mounting. In November 2014, Avaaz, the United Nations Association, and other NGOs launched a campaign to reform the selection process by which the UN secretary-general is chosen, replacing an opaque process dominated by the permanent members of the Security Council with a transparent one, in which all countries have a say. Among their demands are a clear job description for the role, public scrutiny of candidates, and a shortlist with more than one candidate.

Progress is being made in some agencies. The UN High Commission for Refugees now describes its objectives in its Global Strategic Priorities and evaluates progress toward them annually. And all senior UN officials must file an annual financial-disclosure statement with the organization’s ethics office.

One notably successful agency in this regard is the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has introduced an organization-wide whistle-blowing policy, an anti-corruption and fraud framework, and an office to investigate disclosures. The AfDB will choose a new president in May, and it has not only defined the job clearly; it has also identified eight candidates and asked each to set out their strategy in advance of the election.

The world relies on international organizations to coordinate the global response to a host of critical threats, from pandemics to financial crises. An effective UN leader needs to be able to persuade member states to cooperate, manage the organization well, and deliver results. Without good leadership, any organization – even the UN – is destined to fail.

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

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Gareth Evans

Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia (1988-1996) and President of the International Crisis Group (2000-2009), is currently Chancellor of the Australian National University.

He co-chairs the New York-based Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and the Canberra-based Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

He is the author of The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All and co-author of Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play 2015.

MAR 26, 2013 – Project Syndicate
Valuing the United Nations.

MELBOURNE – There is nothing like exposure to smart and idealistic young people to make jaded and world-weary policymakers and commentators feel better about the future. I have just had that experience meeting delegates to the 22nd World Model United Nations Conference, which brought together in Australia more than 2,000 students from every continent and major culture to debate peace, development, and human rights, and the role of the UN in securing them.

What impressed me most is how passionately this generation of future leaders felt about the relevance and capacity of the UN system. They are right: the UN can deliver when it comes to national security, human security, and human dignity. But, as I told them, they have a big task of persuasion ahead of them.

No organization in the world embodies as many dreams, yet provides so many frustrations, as the United Nations. For most of its history, the Security Council has been the prisoner of great-power maneuvering; the General Assembly a theater of empty rhetoric; the Economic and Social Council a largely dysfunctional irrelevance; and the Secretariat, for all the dedication and brilliance of a host of individuals, alarmingly inefficient.

My own efforts to advance the cause of UN reform when I was Australia’s foreign minister were about as quixotic and unproductive as anything I have ever tried to do. Overhauling Secretariat structures and processes to reduce duplication, waste, and irrelevance? Forget it. Changing the composition of the Security Council to ensure that it began to reflect the world of the twenty-first century, not that of the 1950’s? No way.

But I have also had some exhilarating experiences of the UN at its best. The peace plan for Cambodia in the early 1990’s, for example, dragged the country back from hellish decades of horrifying genocide and ugly and protracted civil war. Likewise, the Chemical Weapons Convention, steered through the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, is still the most robust arms-control treaty related to weapons of mass destruction ever negotiated.

Perhaps one experience stands out above all. In 2005, on the UN’s 60th anniversary, the General Assembly, convening at head of state and government level, unanimously endorsed the concept of states’ responsibility to protect populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. With that vote, the international community began to eradicate the shameful indifference that accompanied the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, and too many similar catastrophes.

What needs to be better understood publicly is just how many different roles the UN plays. The various departments, programs, organs, and agencies within the UN system address a broad spectrum of issues, from peace and security between and within states to human rights, health, education, poverty alleviation, disaster relief, refugee protection, trafficking of people and drugs, heritage protection, climate change and the environment, and much else. What is least appreciated of all is how cost-effectively these agencies – for all their limitations – perform overall, in both absolute and comparative terms.

The UN’s core functions – leaving aside peacekeeping missions but including its operations at its New York headquarters; at offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi; and at the five regional commissions around the world – now employ 44,000 people at a cost of around $2.5 billion a year. That might sound like a lot, but the Tokyo Fire Department spends about the same amount each year, and the Australian Department of Human Services spends $3 billion more (with less staff). And that’s just two departments in two of the UN’s 193 member states.

Even including related programs and organs (like the UN Development Program and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), as well as peacekeeping activities (which involve more than 110,000 international military, police, and civilian personnel), the UN system’s total cost is still only around $30 billion a year. That is less than half the annual budget for New York City, and well under a third of the roughly $105 billion that the US military has been spending each year, on average, in Afghanistan. Wall Street employees received more in annual bonuses ($33.2 billion) in 2007, the year before the global financial meltdown.


The whole family of the UN Secretariat and related entities, together with current peacekeepers, adds up to around 215,000 people worldwide – not a small number, but less than one-eighth of the roughly 1.8 million staff employed by McDonald’s and its franchisees worldwide!

The bottom line, as the youngsters gathered in Melbourne fully understood, is that the UN provides fabulous value for what the world spends on it, and that if it ever ceased to exist, we would have to reinvent it. The downsides are real, but we need to remember the immortal words of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second secretary-general: “The UN was created not to bring us to heaven, but to save us from hell.”

Read more at www.project-syndicate.org/comment…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

And yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. “It’s unbelievable,” Thomas told a local paper. “Whales are all over
the place.”

Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented “haul out” of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.

No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.

Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.

But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.

“You talk to fishermen, and they all say: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’?” says Peterson. “So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’?”

Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year’s, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven’t yet figured out precisely what’s behind them and why they happen when they do. It’s not a permanent change — the ocean’s temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.

“The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature,” says Peterson, “but the main problem we’ve had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can’t keep up with it, and neither can the animals.” Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: “At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over.”

Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean’s food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a “quite traumatic” impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means “the whole food chain is going to be different.”

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.

Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t. The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”

For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling “the blob” — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that’s thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.

Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what’s happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.

A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.

What’s increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world’s oceans, it’s not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world’s reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.

Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it’s also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it’s been blamed on accelerated beach erosion “almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.” A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”

Thanks to the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here’s what could happen next.

The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.

Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.

Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the “Great Dying,” when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered “Great Dying” took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.

With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans’ most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. “Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today,” Moffitt said.

As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.

For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she’s seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: “A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good indicator of change.”

Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: “This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then?.?.?.?everything could change, right?”

Alin’s frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins “heightened the whole issue,” she says. “I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she’s already planning her exit strategy: “If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don’t have an exit strategy.?.?.?.?So that’s who I’m here trying to help.”

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That’s because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children’s Trust, a legal advocacy organization that’s filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it’s also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that’s enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

International Business – The New York Times

I.M.F. Demands Greece Debt Relief as Condition for Bailout

By JACK EWING JULY 14, 2015

FRANKFURT — The International Monetary Fund threatened to withdraw support for Greece’s bailout on Tuesday unless European leaders agree to substantial debt relief, an immediate challenge to the region’s plan to rescue the country.

The aggressive stance sets up a standoff with Germany and other eurozone creditors, which have been reluctant to provide additional debt relief. The I.M.F role is considered crucial for any bailout, not only to provide funding but also to supervise Greece’s compliance with the terms.

A new rescue program for Greece “would have to meet our criteria,” a senior I.M.F. official told reporters on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “One of those criteria is debt sustainability.”

Debt relief has been a contentious issue in the negotiations over the Greek bailout.

Athens has pushed aggressively for creditors to write down the country’s debt, which now exceeds €300 billion. Without it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has argued the debt will remain a heavy weight on Greece’s troubled economy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


What is the economic potential of the manufacture of transport fuels from CO2?

from: Dimitriou, Ioanna –  dimitri1 at aston.ac.uk

July 12, 2015

to Energy

Dear all,

Our study, entitled “Carbon dioxide utilisation for production of transport fuels: process and economic analysis” has been recently published by the prestigious Energy and Environmental Science journal. The study aims to support policy makers and businesses in their decision-making by establishing whether the production of liquid transport fuels from CO2 using current technology is economically feasible and identifying the modifications required to improve the economic competitiveness of Carbon Dioxide Utilisation (CDU).

The article is open-access and available through the following link: pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlela…

Abstract:

Utilising CO2 as a feedstock for chemicals and fuels could help mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. For this reason, there is an increasing world-wide interest in carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). As part of a broader project to identify key technical advances required for sustainable CCU, this work considers different process designs, each at a high level of technology readiness and suitable for large-scale conversion of CO2 into liquid hydrocarbon fuels, using biogas from sewage sludge as a source of CO2. The main objective of the paper is to estimate fuel production yields and costs of different CCU process configurations in order to establish whether the production of hydrocarbon fuels from commercially proven technologies is economically viable. Four process concepts are examined, developed and modelled using the process simulation software Aspen Plus? to determine raw materials, energy and utility requirements. Three design cases are based on typical biogas applications: (1) biogas upgrading using a monoethanolamine (MEA) unit to remove CO2, (2) combustion of raw biogas in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant and (3) combustion of upgraded biogas in a CHP plant which represents a combination of the first two options. The fourth case examines a post-combustion CO2 capture and utilisation system where the CO2 removal unit is placed right after the CHP plant to remove the excess air with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of the plant. All four concepts include conversion of CO2 to CO via a reverse water-gas-shift reaction process and subsequent conversion to diesel and gasoline via Fischer–Tropsch synthesis. The studied CCU options are compared in terms of liquid fuel yields, energy requirements, energy efficiencies, capital investment and production costs. The overall plant energy efficiency and production costs range from 12–17% and £15.8–29.6 per litre of liquid fuels, respectively. A sensitivity analysis is also carried out to examine the effect of different economic and technical parameters on the production costs of liquid fuels. The results indicate that the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels using the existing CCU technology is not economically feasible mainly because of the low CO2 separation and conversion efficiencies as well as the high energy requirements. Therefore, future research in this area should aim at developing novel CCU technologies which should primarily focus on optimising the CO2 conversion rate and minimising the energy consumption of the plant.

Kind regards,

Ioanna Dimitriou

——————————————————————————

Dr ??anna Dimitriou

Research Associate at Sustainable Energy Systems Engineering

University of Sheffield

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Room C67a, Sir Robert Hadfield Building, Sheffield, S1 3JD

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 7594

Email:  i.dimitriou at sheffield.ac.uk

4CU:  4cu.org.uk/

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Environment
EU Dropped Pesticide Laws Due to U.S. Pressure over TTIP, Documents Reveal.

U.S. trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal.

By Arthur Neslen / The Guardian
May 25, 2015

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from U.S. trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive U.S. lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On the morning of July 2, 2013, a high-level delegation from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and U.S. to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The U.S. trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasized the need for an impact assessment” instead.

Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.


“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn ($165bn) per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism — a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.

A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.

“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.

These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.


The heavily redacted letter, sent a week before the EU’s plans were scrapped continued: “The US, Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade.”


The series of events was described as “incredible” by the the Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak,”
he told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.

Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.

The German chemicals giant BASF also complained that bans on pesticide substances “will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level”.

Around this time, the commission’s more industry-friendly agriculture department weighed into the internal EU debate after being “informed by representatives of the US chemical industry” about it.

A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.

“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”

A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.

“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”

An EU-TTIP position paper on chemicals published last May, cited endocrine disruptors as as one of the “new and emerging scientific issues” which the EU and the US could consider for “enhanced regulatory cooperations” in a future TTIP deal.

“However, given the fact that a possible future TTIP Agreement will most likely not enter into force before the adoption of definitive EU criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, it is clear that the EU’s ongoing impact assessment and adoption of definitive criteria will not be dealt with in the TTIP negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

———————————
Arthur Neslen is the Europe environment correspondent at the Guardian. He has previously worked for the BBC, the Economist, Al Jazeera, and EurActiv, where his journalism won environmental awards.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The transformation to fair and sustainable regional economies requires place-based, citizen-driven tools. The principles behind these tools are universal, but their effective application will be shaped by the landscape, the people, the history, and the culture of each particular region.

On September 14, 2015 Schumacher College for New Economists will welcome its first class of students to the Berkshires for the first two months of a nine month program. The program will be unprecedented, involving over twenty partner organizations at multiple locations across the US and UK. The list of partners is still growing, and currently includes:

The initiative grows from a common recognition: every local economy will need its own community economists – part visionary theorists, part activists – imagining what can be achieved and organizing to achieve it. Schumacher College was formed to train these new economists.

Program graduates may not have all the answers – but they will have the resources and connections to know where to look. They will know, and be known by, their community, and be committed to sharing and applying what they have learned.

They will find allies in the Maker Community who value the hand-crafted over the mono-culture products of an anonymous global economy, in the new agrarians cultivating small lots to produce for a regional food system, in community bankers who still make loan decisions based on face to face interviews, in environmentalists who understand the carbon cost of transporting goods over long distance, and in all those who love the “sidewalk dance” of a vibrant local economy.

They will engage a community process to explore the financing structures, the land tenure structures, the community supported industry structures, and the ownership structures needed to sustain and grow locally-owned businesses that pay a living wage.

They will need community engagement and support for their training. See below for more information on how to send a student from your community.

To get further details on Schumacher sustainability and the education for a new economy – please go to:
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Posted in Archives, European Union, Green is Possible, Massachusetts, United Kingdom

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Guardian Divests $1.2 Billion Fund From Fossil Fuels.

By Bill McKibben, EcoWatch

04 April 15
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations —
the Guardian Media Group — announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.

The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.

It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.


Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust — two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health — to do the same.

Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?

Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.

The Guardian Media Group is leading by example by divesting its entire £800 million (aka $1.2 billion) fund from fossil fuels and committing to invest in socially responsible alternatives instead. You can watch a video and find out more about The Guardian decision here.

When the roll of honor for action on climate change is someday called, I believe The Guardian’s name will be high on the list. They’ve taken a bold step in joining the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground, both through their journalism and their own investments.

As Alan Rusbridger, their editor-in-chief said: “What was a trickle is becoming a river and will, I suspect, become a flood.”

Let’s make sure The Guardian’s divestment commitment sends a strong signal to other foundations—as well as universities, cities, states, churches and any institution that holds money and is dedicated to the public good—to get on the right side of history too.

———————————-

Comments:

+35 # Barbara K 2015-04-04 13:08
That is great news. Time to stop making the oil barons wealthier and support solar and wind energy for the sake of the planet, and us. Thank you “The Guardian”.

+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2015-04-04 18:00
Hydrogen? By product of combustion – water!

+22 # Corvette-Bob 2015-04-04 15:13
Fossil fuel is in a death spiral, the only question is whether or not it will take us with it.

-13 # brycenuc 2015-04-04 15:44
Divestment won’t phase the fossil fuel industry. They are well aware that global economy depends on it.

+12 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:50
Just because the fossil fuel is dominant now, does not mean that it cannot be replaced with a better source of energy. Wars have been fought to have the oil. It is time for the world to turn away from dependence on fossil fuels. We can dig and frack until it all runs out. The sun is there for everyone and will be always.

+3 # seeuingoa 2015-04-04 16:26
Barbara K:

thank you for always stating the obvious.

+8 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:41
Thank you Guardian! It takes a few to start the ball rolling. The Green Way is the right way to go to save our planet and to stop the oil barons from their pursuit of their rule over the earth from dependence on oil. There will be plenty of job growth from energy from the sun because of needing solar power panels and the expertise to develop solar power plants to get it to the people. Thomas Edison knew about the power of solar energy and wanted to see it developed in his time. Power from the sun and water will be here for us as long as the earth exists, not so for fossil fuels. Go Green!

+3 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:31
That’s great news, but pardon me from being a bit cynical and pointing out that with the fall in oil prices it’s a good time to be doing it out of self-interest, anyway.

+3 # Eliza D 2015-04-04 20:31
Mr. McKibben is a real hero of the grassroots environmental movement. He has few politicians with any power on his or our side.
Now is the time for us to support Green and Third parties and turn around this do-nothing, stuck-in-the-tw entieth century government of ours. If Costa Rica could run their electric grid on renewable energy since the new year, the US could make a good run at attaining 50% renewables in two years. The folks who are sick and having their farms torn up by fracking are about as happy about that “clean energy” as the families of the dozens killed in the NYC gas explosion this past week.

==================================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Peace and reunification in Korea: in our life time
.
Christine Ahn 6 March 2015, the 50.50 blog of UK based openDemocracy

International women peacemakers are planning a peace walk across the De-Militarized Zone to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country.

The year 2013 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The temporary ceasefire has never been replaced with a peace treaty, and the 2 mile-wide and 155 mile-long demilitarized zone (DMZ) continues to divide the Korean peninsula with recurring tensions that serve as a sobering reminder of the possibility of renewed war.

Traversing the seemingly impermeable border, five New Zealanders crossed the DMZ in August 2013. They rode their motorbikes from Mt. Paekdu on the northern border with China all the way down the peninsula to Mt. Halla on the southernmost island of Jeju. This inspired me to begin imagining a women’s peace walk across the DMZ by international women peacemakers – many from countries that fought in the Korean War – to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country. After talking to one of the organizers of the August 2013 crossing, I decided to sequentially follow their blueprint and reached out first to the North Korean government

A year ago, I went on this peacebuilding mission to Pyongyang to discuss an international women’s peace walk across the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. To my relief, Pyongyang responded very favourably towards our proposal, but with a stern caveat: only if the conditions were favourable.

Today, despite New Year calls for engagement by both Korean leaders, tensions remain very high. And this month, the United States and South Korea are conducting a two-month long period of military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which the North Korean Rodong Sinmun believes are “aimed to occupy the DPRK through pre-emptive strikes.”

The conditions are not favourable, but we are still planning the women’s peace walk across the DMZ this May. We have formed an organization called Women De-Militarize the Zone, and thirty women from more than a dozen countries have signed dup to walk for peace and the reunification of Korea. They range from Nobel peace laureates to artists, academics, humanitarian aid workers, and faith leaders.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea by the United States and the former Soviet Union. For nearly seven decades, Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have long awaited a peace treaty to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War that only ended with a ceasefire agreement. Instead, 70 million Koreans across the peninsula, from the northern border of China down to the southern-most Jeju Island, have endured political repression and an endless arms race.

In 1945, after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the United States landed in Korea, which had been under brutal Japanese colonization for 35 years. Without the consent of Koreans, who were awaiting its liberation and sovereignty after an entire generation under Japanese occupation, the two Cold War powers – Washington and Moscow – divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel. It was supposed to be a temporary division, but instead the creation of two separate states precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War.

Despite the massive loss of human life and destruction, the Korean War has come to be known as the “forgotten war.” More bombs were dropped on Korea from 1950 to 1953 than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II, and President Truman came seriously close to deploying an atomic bomb. One year into the Korean War, US Major General Emmett O’Donnell Jr. testified before the Senate, “I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name . . . There [are] no more targets in Korea.” According to University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings, during the Korean War, U.S. airstrikes led to the destruction of 18 of 22 major North Korean cities. Cumings cites Hungarian journalist Tibor Meray, who recalled, “I saw destruction and horrible things committed by American forces… Everything which moved in North Korea is a military target, peasants in the field often were machine gunned by pilots, who, this was my impression, amused themselves to shoot targets which moved.”

In 1953, after nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, North Korea, China and the United States, representing the United Nations Command, signed the armistice agreement with a promise within three months to sign a peace treaty. Over 60 years later, we are still waiting for a peace treaty to end war.

What has ensued instead for the past six decades is an endless arms race between North and South Korea. Whether we like it or not, the fact that the Korean War ended with a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace treaty gives both Korean governments justification to invest heavily in the country’s militarization. According to the Ploughshares Fund World Nuclear Stockpile Report, North Korea possesses less than 10 nuclear weapons of the 16,300 worldwide that are predominantly held by Russia and the United States. North Korea invests approximately $8.7 billion — significantly higher than the $570 million Pyongyang claims — or one-third of its GDP in the military, according to the South Korean government-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. In 2013, to great surprise, Pyongyang acknowledged how the un-ended war has forced it “to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people’s living standards.”

But it’s not just North Korea. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2014 Yearbook, South Korea was the world’s 10th highest military spender, with its expenditures reaching $34 billion for the year. World Bank data shows that in 2012, 13.6 percent of the central government’s expenditures in South Korea went towards defence spending. According to a North Korea expert at Seoul National University, Suh Bohyuk, in 2011, South Korea became the world’s number-two weapons importer. In September 2014, South Korea spent $7 billion for 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets. “The reason that we are building up our military is to counter North Korea’s attacks and provocations,” said a South Korean military official. According to political science professor Yang Seung-ham of Yonsei University, “The Park administration is rapidly purchasing many advanced weaponry for military security, which does not help in easing inter-Korea tensions.” Conservative hawks in Washington are also pushing South Korea’s militarization. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although Washington withdrew 11 types of nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, hawks in U.S. Congress are now advocating for the return of U.S. nukes.

North Korea’s heavy military spending isn’t just to defend against South Korea, but against the world’s most powerful military in the world: the United States, which has since it landed on Korean soil in 1945 maintained thousands of soldiers and bases throughout the southern half of the peninsula. Washington regularly conducts military exercises with Seoul, simulating the invasion of North Korea. In January, in order to promote dialogue on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang offered a moratorium on nuclear testing in exchange for the United States to postpone war game exercises with South Korea. The olive branch came a day after the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Years Day speech in which he offered to meet President Park if “the mood was right” and that the two Koreas should promote reconciliation on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule. North Korea’s gesture to lessen tensions was rebuffed by Washington, which recently passed another round of sanctions against North Korea for its alleged hacking of the corporation, Sony.

In 2012, Washington spent $682 billion on its military, or 39 percent of the world’s total spending. While the Pentagon uses China’s military spending, which has grown annually in the double digits, to justify Washington’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, the unresolved Korean War gives regional powers such as the United States, China, and Japan justification to further militarize, including expanding missile defence systems and building new military bases, as they continually lack funds for social welfare, such as education or childcare. Last year, at a March 25 Senate Defense Committee hearing on the 2015 budget, the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), General Curtis Scaparrotti, argued that while the 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea were “fully resourced,” he was concerned about the readiness of “follow-on” forces needed if fighting erupted. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, during heightened tensions with Pyongyang in 2013, Washington deployed a new THAAD portable defense system to Guam and that plans are underway for a massive expansion of the U.S. missile defense system in Alaska and along the west coast as a “precautionary” measure against a possible North Korean missile strike.

Since military intervention is not an option, the Obama administration has used sanctions to pressure North Korea to de-nuclearize. Instead, North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests, calling sanctions “an act of war”. That is because sanctions have had deleterious effects on the day-to-day lives of ordinary North Korean people. “In almost any case when there are sanctions against an entire people, the people suffer the most and the leaders suffer least,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on his last visit to North Korea.

International sanctions have made it extremely difficult for North Koreans to access basic necessities, such as food, seeds, medicine and technology. Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who has conducted business in North Korea for over a decade says that it is “the most heavily sanctioned nation in the world, and no other people have had to deal with the massive quarantines that Western and Asian powers have enclosed around its economy.”

A less obvious legacy of the Korean War is how governments use the state of war to justify repression in the name of preserving national security. Whether in Pyongyang, Seoul or Washington, the threat of war or terrorism is used to justify government repression and overreach, such as warrantless surveillance, imprisonment and torture in the name of preserving national security.

While repression in North Korea is widely known, less known is how the South Korean government uses the antiquated 1948-enacted National Security Law (NSL) to prosecute political dissidents, particularly those sympathetic towards or seeking to engage North Korea. In South Korea, the Constitutional Court recently abolished the Unified Progressive Party, a liberal opposition party, on charges of being pro-North. Amnesty International says that this case “has seriously damaged the human rights improvement of South Korean society which has struggled and fought for freedom of thoughts and conscience and freedom of expression.” And in January, the South Korean government used the NSL to deport and ban for five years Shin Eun-mi, a 54-year old Korean-American housewife who had written about her travels to North Korea, including describing North Koreans as warm-hearted and urging Korean reunification.

There is wide consensus that replacing the temporary armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty would go a long way towards de-escalating tensions that have long plagued Korea and the region. In a 2011 paper, the U.S. Army War College warns that the only way to avert a catastrophic confrontation is to “reach agreement on ending the armistice from the Korean War” and “giv[e] a formal security guarantee to North Korea tied to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. Ambassadors to Korea since the 1980s have argued for engagement and a formalized peace process. James Laney, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea in the Clinton administration prescribed, “to remove all unnecessary obstacles to progress, is the establishment of a peace treaty to replace the truce that has been in place since 1953. One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War…. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy.”

Perhaps most tragic about Korea’s division is the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone that separates millions of Korean families. In April 2014, South Korean President Park said in her Dresden speech on Korean reunification that in 2013, “some 3,800 people who have yearned a lifetime just to be able to hold their sons’ and daughters’ hands — just to know whether they’re alive – passed away with their unfulfilled dreams.”

To end the state of war and help reunite families, international women peacemakers have come together to form Women De-Militarize the Zone, an organization dedicated to promoting the peaceful reunification of Korea through women’s leadership. From Northern Ireland to Liberia, we have seen how women’s participation in peace negotiations makes peace attainable, and that peace itself is inextricably linked with the advancement of women. We will work towards seeing the passage of a peace treaty to defuse dangerous tensions in Northeast Asia and de-militarizing our world. We must act now to give hope to Koreans that peace and reunification is tenable in their lifetimes and to the thousands of Korean elders that they will be able to embrace their loved ones across the DMZ before they pass away.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We all know about the Indian Summer – that is when in the Northern Hemisphere, after the start of autumn – there is a relapse to dry hot days of summer. But we just thought that a parallel phenomenon has taken roots in the last few years in the relapse of cold weather – when we should already have according to previous experience a warmer spring weather.

We just thought up this term of “Indian Winter” and wonder if others also made the same observation based on facts in their hands?

We use the reference to “Indian” as in the already established case though we find really now clear justification for that use of the word Indian. The internet thinks it is from the American Indian mistaken term. Shakespeare in Henry IV referred to the phenomenon as “All Hallowed Summer” for what later became Indian Summer.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

“World Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation”, Manchester, UK, 2-4 September 2015: deadline for abstracts extended.

Preparations for the “World Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation” (WSCCA), to be held Manchester, UK, on
2-4 September 2015, are in full swing. Over 200 abstracts from across the world have been received, and further abstracts are
now being accepted until the 30th January 2015.

Organised by Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) and the Research and Transfer Centre “Applications of Life Sciences” of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany), WSCCA entails cooperation with world´s leading climate organisations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), World Health Organisation (WHO) the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the International Council of Local Environment Initiatives (ICLE), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Developmentof (ICIMOD), the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP), the United Nations University initiative “Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development” (RCE), and other agencies. The Symposium will be a truly interdisciplinary event, covering some of the key areas in the field of climate change adaptation.

A set of presentations, divided into six main themes will be organised, distributed over parallel sessions dealing with some of the key issues of strategic value in the field of climate change adaptation. These are:

Session 1: Technological approaches to Climate Change Adaptation
Session 2: Implementing Climate Change Adaptation in Communities, Cities, Countries and via Outreach Programmes
Session 3: Funding mechanisms and financing of Climate Change Adaptation
Session 4: Climate Change Adaptation, Resilience and Hazards (including floods)
Session 5: Information, Communication, Education and Training on Climate Change
Session 6: Climate Change and Health

The organisers also welcome suggestions of special sessions, and so far special sessions on “Climate Change in the Artic” and “Climate Change Governance” and others, have been received.

To secure the highest possible quality, all papers are subject to peer-review. Accepted papers will be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management
 www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/pr…

(fully indexed) or at the book “Innovative Approaches to Implement Climate Change Adaptation”.

This will be a further volume of the award-winning book series “Climate Change Management”
published by Springer, which since its creation in 2008 has become the world´s leading book series
on climate change management.

The Symposium will be of special interest to researchers, government agencies, NGOs and companies engaged in the field of climate change adaptation, as well as development and aid agencies funding climate change adaptation process in developing countries. The deadline for abstracts is 30th January 2015. Full papers are due by 30th March 2015.

Further details can be seen at: www.haw-hamburg.de/en/wscca-2015….

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Syrian Rebels Increasingly Joining ISIS
– Fahd Al-Zayabi
Moderate Syrian opposition fighters are increasingly joining the Islamic State for financial reasons, Syrian National Coalition representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Adib Al-Shishakli has warned. International funding cuts to moderate Syrian fighters’ wages are prompting rebels to throw in their lot with the jihadist group, which is capable of paying far higher salaries. Syrian moderate fighters earn $140 per month, while some media outlets report that ISIS pays as much as $150 per day. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)  www.aawsat.net/2014/12/article553…


Hoping to create a new society, the Islamic State recruits entire families.

 www.washingtonpost.com/world/nati…

By Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam for the Washington Post – December 24, 2014

LONDON — Last month in Syria, Siddhartha Dhar stood in front of a banged-up yellow pickup truck, holding an assault rifle in his right hand and cradling his newborn son with his left.

Dhar’s first four children had been born in London, his native city, but his new baby, wrapped in a fuzzy brown onesie, was born in territory controlled by the Islamic State.

Someone snapped a photo of Dhar, 31, and he proudly tweeted it out as proof that he; his wife, Aisha; and their children had fled Britain and were now living in what the militants consider an Islamic caliphate that will one day reign over the world.

The arrival of the Dhar family in Syria last month represents a key strategic goal of the Islamic State: to build not just an army but a society. The group has vowed to create a nation ruled by Islamic sharia law, and its leaders and online recruiters have encouraged doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and accountants to join them in building the institutions of a new holy land.

Entire families — fathers, mothers and children — have answered that call in numbers that have surprised and alarmed analysts who study the extremist group.
View Graphic
Map: Flow of foreign fighters to Syria

“These families believe they are doing the right thing for their children,” said Melanie Smith, a research associate at the King’s College International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London. “They think they are taking them to a kind of utopia.”

Syrian Peace Talks May Take Place in Moscow Next Month. (the Washington Post)
Peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition could be held in Moscow after Jan. 20, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday. Russia, which has staunchly backed Syrian President Assad, recently offered to host peace talks between the government and the mainstream opposition without preconditions. (AP-Washington Post)
 www.washingtonpost.com/world/euro…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Invest now or face ‘irreversible’ effects of climate change, U.N. panel warns.

By Steve Almasy, CNN
November 2, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

U.N. Secretary-General says time is running out for world leaders to lead
Report is “another canary in the coal mine,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says
U.N. calls for the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions by 2100
IPCC says it is more certain than ever that humans are causing temperature rises

(CNN) — The cost of fighting climate change will only climb if industrialized nations don’t take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations’ panel on the matter warned Sunday in its wrap-up report.

In its “synthesis report,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that the hundreds of authors involved in the study were even more certain than before that the planet is warming and humans are the cause.

“If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that action must come soon.

“Leaders must act. Time is not on our side,” he said.

The report said there are solutions to keeping the rise in temperatures from crossing a 2-degree Celsius increase, the goal of many governments.

“It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Youba Sokona, the co-chairman of IPCC Working Group III. “But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change.”

Previously the group has said that about half of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial age has been produced since 1990. On the current path, global average temperatures could go up anywhere from 3.7 to 4.8 degrees C (6.7 to 8.6 F) over pre-industrial levels by 2100.

According to the IPCC, to stay below a 2-degree C increase, greenhouse gas emissions need to fall as much as 70% around the world by 2050 and to zero by 2100.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report is “another canary in the coal mine” and added that “ambitious, decisive and immediate action” is needed.

“We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands,” R. K. Pachauri, chairman of the group, said in the report.
Weather Channel’s climate change feud

John Coleman, a weather forecaster and a founder of the Weather Channel, said climate change is “not happening.”

“There is no significant man-made global warming now. There hasn’t been any in the past, and there’s no reason to expect any in the future,” Coleman told CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Coleman said governments pay scientists to study the issue and researchers reach expected conclusions in order to continue to receive funding. Therefore the large percentage of climate scientists who agree there is climate change is a “manipulated figure,” he said.

“They don’t have any choice,” added Coleman, who said he is a skeptic, not a denier. “If you’re going to get the money, you have got to support their position.”

But David Kenny, CEO of the Weather Channel, said Coleman’s opinion is at odds with the channel’s stance, which he said has been “unwavering” since 2007. The Weather Channel’s statement says that the Earth is indeed warming and cites “strong evidence that the majority of the warming over the past century is a result of human activities.”

Weather Channel distances itself from a founder: “The science is really clear, and I don’t like our brand being associated with something that’s not scientifically based,” Kenny told “Reliable Sources,” adding that Coleman hasn’t been associated with the channel in decades.

The chief scientist at the United Kingdom’s Met Office said the IPCC report gives governments the science to help make policy decisions.

Julia Slingo added that supercomputing will also advance the science.

“By doing this we can provide a solid evidence base to ensure UK investment decisions, and our future prosperity, remain resilient to future climate risk,” she said in a written statement.

The report didn’t estimate a price for global changes.

“The Synthesis Report finds that mitigation cost estimates vary, but that global economic growth would not be strongly affected,” it said.

Ban said it is a myth that fixing climate change will be expensive. Inaction will have large financial and societal costs, he said.

He pointed to renewable energy and increased efficiency as two ways to address the issue.

The IPCC said the report is based on 30,000 scientific papers studied by about 830 authors and 2,000 reviewers.

The reports from the IPCC are aimed at guiding world leaders as the United Nations attempts to work out a new treaty to limit emissions.

Paris will host the next major international climate summit, scheduled to start November 30, 2015.

Previous rounds of talks have been strained by disputes between the biggest emitters — China, the United States and European countries — and poorer countries whose populations could see the worst impacts first.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Environment – The Guardian / By Fiona Harvey

Lord Stern Report: Transform Global Economy to Fight Climate Change: One of the most influential voices on global warming releases a plan to fight climate change while growing the global economy.

September 16, 2014 |

The world can still act in time to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and enjoy the fruits of continued economic growth as long as the global economy can be transformed within the next 15 years, a group of the world’s leading economists and political leaders will argue on Tuesday.

Tackling climate change can be a boon to prosperity, rather than a brake, according to the study involving a roll-call of the globe’s biggest institutions, including the UN, the OECD group of rich countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and co-authored by Lord Stern, one of the world’s most influential voices on climate economics.

The report comes ahead of a UN-convened summit of world leaders on global warming next week at which David Cameron has pledged to lead calls for strong action.

“Reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development – if done well it can actually generate better growth than the old high-carbon model,” said Stern.

It is his most significant intervention in climate politics since the landmark 2006 Stern review of the economics of climate change, which made the case that tackling climate change as a matter of urgency will be cheaper than attempting to deal with the effects of the problem decades in the future. That report marked a revolution in thinking on global warming, and was a major factor in the agreements forged in Copenhagen in 2009 by which developed and major developing countries for the first time set out joint measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The economic transformation proposed in the new report will improve the lives of billions, the authors argue, from people suffering from air pollution in crowded cities to farmers struggling with poor soils in developing countries, the authors found. But achieving this change will require strong political action to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, while promoting alternatives such as renewable energy, sustainable cities, teaching modern farming techniques and better-designed transport.

The world is expected to add billions of people to the global population in the next two decades, and trillions of dollars in economic growth – but if the massive expected growth of developing world cities is poorly managed, and global investment is poured into existing high-carbon infrastructure, then a unique opportunity to change the pattern of prosperity will have been lost, and billions of people will be left the poorer as a result, the report warns.

Stern gave the example of cities, which if designed on public transport can have more efficient economies – because people aren’t spending hours commuting and polluting, with its attendant effects on health – as well as better quality of life and lower carbon emissions.

The energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, told the Guardian that the UK has already seen benefits from focusing on clean development, and was committed to helping developing countries do the same. He said: “It has required UK business and international investors to recognize the costs of failure and the benefits of change and it has been sustained by a strong, vocal and committed network of NGOs, pressure groups and activists who have been instrumental in sustaining political will and public acceptance.”

At next week’s climate summit, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, will convene heads of state and government from around the world to discuss climate change for the first time since the 2009 Copenhagen conference, which produced the first commitments from major developing countries such as China and India to curb emissions, and marked the first time the US agreed to binding emissions targets, but was widely derided for the scenes of chaos that accompanied it.

Convening world leaders again is a risky strategy, but is seen by the UN as essential to lay the ground for a crunch meeting in Paris next year, at which world governments will attempt to forge a new agreement that will cut global greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, when current pledges run out. The EU has vowed to cut emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, but is the only major developed country bloc to have laid out clear plans.

Today’s report, the New Climate Economy, from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, says that although technological “fixes” to climate change – such as renewable energy, low-carbon fuels, better urban design and better use of agricultural land – are growing fast, they are currently nowhere near enough to produce the transformation needed. As new power stations, cities and transport networks are built today, they are still being engineered on a high-carbon basis – coal-fired power plants, roads rather than public transport, slums without facilities rather than planned developments – and once these are built they lock in high carbon emissions for decades to come. Breaking that cycle requires a coordinated effort, from rich and poor countries, that prioritizes sustainability and penalizes high-carbon growth, for instance through a price on carbon.

Such efforts will come at a price, but this is far outweighed by the benefits in economic growth and improvements in health, the report suggests. For instance, reducing the world’s dependence on coal and other dirty fuels will cut air pollution and remove a key source of strain on healthcare systems.


The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, launched a year ago by the UK along with six other countries, has involved the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the International Energy Agency and the UN, as well as several research institutes, and former world premiers. It has been chaired by the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, and advised by leading economists including Lord Stern and Nobel prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Michael Spence.

Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and an adviser to the report, said: “Economic growth and emissions reductions can be achieved together, the report clearly confirms …

Pricing CO2 is key. The heaven above us today is a waste dump for gases that harm our climate system. Wealthy states are disposing of them, free of charge, at the expense of all of us. If emitting CO2 came at a reasonable price, this would stabilize investors’ expectations so they can push forward the innovation of climate friendly technologies.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism:

ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate.

By ED HUSAIN,  

ALONG with a billion Muslims across the globe, I turn to Mecca in Saudi Arabia every day to say my prayers. But when I visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the resting place of the Prophet Muhammad, I am forced to leave overwhelmed with anguish at the power of extremism running amok in Islam’s birthplace. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter this part of the kingdom, so there is no international scrutiny of the ideas and practices that affect the 13 million Muslims who visit each year.

Last week, Saudi Arabia donated $100 million to the United Nations to fund a counterterrorism agency. This was a welcome contribution, but last year, Saudi Arabia rejected a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. This half-in, half-out posture of the Saudi kingdom is a reflection of its inner paralysis in dealing with Sunni Islamist radicalism: It wants to stop violence, but will not address the Salafism that helps justify it.

Let’s be clear: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.

Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.

Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up  {something this website doubts indeed – a PJ comment}, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

We are rightly outraged at the beheading of James Foley by Islamist militants, and by ISIS’ other atrocities, but we overlook the public executions by beheading permitted by Saudi Arabia. By licensing such barbarity, the kingdom normalizes and indirectly encourages such punishments elsewhere. When the country that does so is the birthplace of Islam, that message resonates.

I lived in Saudi Arabia’s most liberal city, Jidda, in 2005. That year, in an effort to open closed Saudi Salafi minds, King Abdullah supported dialogue with people of other religions. In my mosque, the cleric used his Friday Prayer sermon to prohibit such dialogue on grounds that it put Islam on a par with “false religions.” It was a slippery slope to freedom, democracy and gender equality, he argued — corrupt practices of the infidel West.

{ Above is an oxymoron – Wahhabism is the religious base that kept Salafism alive and is the base on which was mounted the Saudi throne. The Saudi monarchy and Wahhabism are one and the same so the Saudi treasury it is also the modern age father of Salafism. And what fills the Saudi treasury? Those are the foreign currencies spent at any gas-pump – be it by buying Saudi oil products or any oil products. As oil is fungible, any oil sold globally increases the value of Saudi oil sales.The bottom line is thus that anyone of us, by his thirst for oil, feeds ISIL.}

This tension between the king and Salafi clerics is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s inability to reform. The king is a modernizer, but he and his advisers do not wish to disturb the 270-year-old tribal pact between the House of Saud and the founder of Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam close to Salafism). That 1744 desert treaty must now be nullified. 

{WHAT IS HE TALING ABOUT HERE – WHAT TENSION? IT REALLY IS A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP.
(PJ comment)}

The influence that clerics wield is unrivaled. Even Saudis’ Twitter heroes are religious figures: An extremist cleric like Muhammad al-Arifi, who was banned last year from the European Union for advocating wife-beating and hatred of Jews, commands a following of 9. 4 million. The kingdom is also patrolled by a religious police force that enforces the veil for women, prohibits young lovers from meeting and ensures that shops do not display “indecent” magazine covers. In the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the religious police beat women with sticks if they stray into male-only areas, or if their dress is considered immodest by Salafi standards. This is not an Islam that the Prophet Muhammad would recognize.

Salafi intolerance has led to the destruction of Islamic heritage in Mecca and Medina. If ISIS is detonating shrines, it learned to do so from the precedent set in 1925 by the House of Saud with the Wahhabi-inspired demolition of 1,400-year-old tombs in the Jannat Al Baqi cemetery in Medina. In the last two years, violent Salafis have carried out similar sectarian vandalism, blowing up shrines from Libya to Pakistan, from Mali to Iraq. Fighters from Hezbollah have even entered Syria to protect holy sites.

Textbooks in Saudi Arabia’s schools and universities teach this brand of Islam. The University of Medina recruits students from around the world, trains them in the bigotry of Salafism and sends them to Muslim communities in places like the Balkans, Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt, where these Saudi-trained hard-liners work to eradicate the local, harmonious forms of Islam.

What is religious extremism but this aim to apply Shariah as state law? This is exactly what ISIS (Islamic State) is attempting do with its caliphate. Unless we challenge this un-Islamic, impractical and flawed concept of trying to govern by a rigid interpretation of Shariah, no amount of work by a United Nations agency can unravel Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia created the monster that is Salafi terrorism. It cannot now outsource the slaying of this beast to the United Nations. It must address the theological and ideological roots of extremism at home, starting in Mecca and Medina. Reforming the home of Islam would be a giant step toward winning against extremism in this global battle of ideas.

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Ed Husain is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior adviser to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 23, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Presided upon by Mr. Richard N. Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, a panel of six of the Council’s experts in front of two rooms full in audience – one in New York the other in Washington DC, a whole gamut of Middle East problems was put on display and dissected.

The six experts were – Elliott Abrams who started out as staff member of Senators Henry M. Jackson and Daniel P. Moynihan and then moved on to the White House under Presidents Reagan and G.W. Bush;  Steven A. Cook who started out at the Brookings Institution, developed an expertise on Egypt, Algeria and Turkey, and is running a blog “From the Potomac to the Euphrates;    Robert M. Danin who started out as a journalist reporting from Jerusalem then worked at the State Department on Middle East Affairs and with Tony Blair as his Jerusalem based representative of the Quartet;   and Ray Takeyh, a widely published professorial expert on Iran – in Washington D C and Isobel Coleman who at CFR covers Civil Society, Markets and Democracy, comes from the business world, has written extensively on policy, was track leader at the Clinton Global Initiative, was named by Newsweek as one of 150 Women Who Shake the World and her blog is Democracy in Development; and Richard N. Haass who served in the White House at ambassadorial level but argued in a book that Foreign Policy starts at Home – the last two were with us in New York.

This discussion takes place at the beginning of the third week since this latest flare-up of Israel’s war against the Hamas of Gaza. A very fast consensus was reached among the four members of the Washington DC panel that to cool the situation without giving Hamas some credit is really difficult. Israel wants really to destroy the infrastructure of tunnels into Israel. Hamas points out that they managed to-date to beat Israel at that as just a day earlier they demonstrated they are capable to infiltrate Israel through such tunnels. Richard Haass evoked Henry Kissinger who said that what is needed to create a lasting equilibrium is (a) a degree of balance, and (b) a degree of legitimacy that comes from mutual recognition between the forces. The latter point does not exist here. Israel is united and out to eliminate Hamas – but if the fighting continues it is expected that the demand for change in the status quo will get louder in Israel – or just a return to a system that allows only breaks in the fighting will be unacceptable.

Asked about how to bring the Palestinian Authority back into Gaza – the prediction expressed was that Hamas demonstrating that only resistance keeps you in authority will allow Hamas to emerge as winner.  Today’s news that Israel bombed a UN managed school filled with displaced Palestinians, and probably also arms bearing Palestinians, will nevertheless put some more outside pressure on Israel.

Further, the news I get today from Vienna is that Saturday there will be large pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Europe on the occasion of the yearly celebration of the Al-Quds Day. This is a PR success for the Hamas – the show of harm done to the Palestinians that are being used as shield to those missiles, and then their misery exploited in order to achieve PR gains based in part also on the unleashing of an existing undertow of Antisemitism-comes-naturally to some layers of Christian Europe. These are aspects that were not looked at by the panel but which play now very seriously a role within Israel. My bet is that Israel will demand that the PA is reintroduced to Gaza at least at its borders – with a minimum role of making sure there are no tunnels. If this becomes part of the US and Egypt brokered solution, the other part will have to be a transparent start to the dissolution of some West Bank settlements. The military defeat of the Hamas can then be viewed as a success of the political leadership of the Hamas in ways acceptable to Israel.
Again – these ideas were not expressed at the Town-Hall meeting.

Steven Cook said that the present ruler of Egypt – President Abdel Fattah Saed Hussein Khalil al-Sisi, former Chief of the Army and Minister of Defense – is much more decisive then Mubarak was, and can be counted on to be more decisive in matters of Hamas. Now we have a situation that Egypt and the Saudis hate in full view the Muslim Brotherhood and their off-shoot – the Hamas,  while the Amir of Qatar is backing them.  So, now we have beside the Sunni – Shia Divide also a Sunni – Sunni Divide which is going and deepening and creates a further Divide between the Brotherhood & Hamas on the one hand and more extremist ISIS & Al Qaeda on the other hand. These latter without an official sponsor from any State.  Here again real life went beyond what was said at the CFR panel.

I made it my business to tell the organizer about the day’s news at the UN, the finding by investigative journalist Matthew R. Lee that the UN Secretary General’s charter flight to the Middle East was bankrolled by the Amir of Qatar, a sponsor of Hamas, does in effect put a notch in the UNSG effort in posing as an honest broker on Gaza. I thought this ought to be brought up at the Town Hall meeting and said I can volunteer to raise this as a question – but I could not – this because I was there as Press, and only Members of the CFR are allowed to ask questions. Members come from Think-Tanks but mainly from business. The reality is that the business sectors represented at the CFR are mainly those that belong to old establishments – Members of the International Chamber of Commerce, but no businesses that could profit from an economy less reliant on fossil fuels. The whole concept of energy seems here to still mean those conventional fuels – and it shows. It came up here as well when a question about Energy Independence was answered that though an Energy Revolution did happen lately in the US, we will never be Independent of “Energy” because the World Economy runs on “Energy.”

Many other points came up – and I will now highlight some of them:

  -  Iran was mentioned in the context that July 20th Vienna meeting was the rage at that time – but then came the Ukraine and Gaza wars. Now Iran was delayed to November 25th and is barely noticed. It was noted that it is only a 4 months delay while it was technically possible to delay it for 6 months. The Iranians believe that they already agreed to the red lines. Can these Red lines be adjusted?

  -  The Kurds will make now moves to go their own ways. The Turks now play more favorably to the Kurds – but the Kurds continue to be split and fight among themselves.

  -   Winner Takes All has been disproved for the Middle East. Maliki in Iraq learned it does not work, so did Morsi in Egypt who saw his Brotherhod and himself ousted merciless.  I found this an extremely valuable observation for all combatants of the region.

  -   New forms of COLD WAR. there is one between the Saudis and the Gulf States (Intra Sunni – Sunni) – and there is one between the Saudis and the Iranians. Like in the US-Soviet case this is not a fight between States. mainly it goes on now on Syrian Territory between parts of Syria a country that will be dismembered like Iraq was.  In the past governments were oppressive and economically weak, but had power internally – now this did collapse.

  -  Now we reached a favorite question about the UN. Are there any useful capacities remaining for the UN? Elliot Abrams said that if appointed to the UN he would try to get another job. UNRWA has become more and more controversial – specifically when there is a cease-fire.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Call for UN Reforms After Ban Flies on Qatar-Funded, UK Registered Plane

By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press at the UN – Follow up on exclusive

 

UNITED NATIONS, July 21, more hereWhy shouldn’t the UN be able to live up the most basic standards of transparency and good government?

   Inner City Press, and now the Free UN Coalition for Access, have been asking this question. From the UN’s July 21 transcript, video here from Minute 12:55

Inner City Press: As I asked you before, and I know that you had said you would answer at some point, how did the Secretary-General fly from New York to Qatar?  Was it on a Qatari plane, and what safeguards are in place? Would he take a flight from any nation?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Okay, Matthew, it was the Qatari Government [that] very generously chartered a plane for the Secretary-General to enable him to go about his visit.  This is not the kind of visit that we could do if we were not flying on a private plane.  It is not a Qatari plane; it was chartered.  It is a British-registered plane, as some of you will be able to see on the photos.  But, it is a private aircraft funded by the Qatari Government.

   Should the UN Secretary General in a mediation attempt accept free travel from a country with a particular interest in the conflict to be mediated?

   What review should take place? What disclosures should be made, and when? From later in the UN’s July 21 transcript, video here from Minute 31:

 

Inner City Press: you are saying that the use of private planes, generically if necessary, is signed off by the ethics office, but my question is, private planes provided by anyone? Would the Secretary-General, would he accept such service from any Member State, or would he accept it from corporations? The question becomes, given that particular countries have different views of the conflict, what review is made before accepting a particular country’s contribution?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, we do have, like I said, an ethics office and a legal office that can look into these things and see whether something is appropriate or not.

Inner City Press: Was this particular flight checked or you’re saying there’s a generic ruling in advance that any private plane is okay?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: No, I don’t think there’s a generic ruling about this, but certainly, if you need to justify this for essential needs, and something like this, a trip that the Secretary-General was able to embark on and made the decision on just at the end of last week and then had to travel, starting Saturday evening, something like that would have been extremely hard or basically impossible to do in a different sort of way.

Inner City Press: I’m asking because in the budget Committee, often many, particularly developing world countries, they say that things should be funded out of the UN’s general budget rather than taking voluntary contributions from States that then have influence. So, my question is, isn’t there a travel budget? We’ve asked in this room many times to know what the budget is, so I’d still like to know that. But, if there is a budget, why wasn’t the general UN budget used for this rather than taking a specific gift from a specific country? That’s the question.

Deputy Spokesman Haq: The worry is, of course, if you run out of money early, does that mean you can’t travel, even if there’s a crisis? In this case, there was a crisis that necessitated sudden travel.

  Inner City Press broke the story on July 19 — credit has been given, for example, by Newsweek, here — and has been asking Ban’s spokespeople for disclosure and what safeguards are in place.

   Lead spokesman Dujarric replied but did not answer on July 19. When he called in to the UN noon briefing from Cairo on July 21, Inner City Press asked him again on whose plane Ban is traveling.

  This time, Dujarric answered that Ban is flying on a Qatar government funded, UK registered plane.  But he did not answer if there are any safeguards against influence or conflicts of interest. Would Ban accept free flights from any UN member state? From anyone at all?

  Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, who said  the UN Ethics Office said taking private planes is okay when necessary.

  But private planes from ANYONE? Any member state? A corporation? There have been no real answers, yet. But there need to be.

 Diplomats told Inner City Press that Ban would fly — on a Qatari plane — to Qatar, Ramallah (but not for now Gaza), Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.

  The diplomats who complained to Inner City Press questioned not only Ban taking free flights from a particular country, but also how the use (and landing) of a Qatari plane will play in, for example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

 Inner City Press asked Ban’s top two spokespeople, and the spokesperson listed as on weekend duty, the following:

“Please state whether the Secretary General is accepting free transportation from any member state or outside party for his current trip to the region concerning the Gaza crisis, and if so please explain the reason and any safeguards in place against influence or conflict of interest.

“Such disclosure should be common practice; if necessary, note that former Spokesperson Nesirky did answer such Press questions, for example concerning the Secretary General flying on a UAE plane (see sample below). On deadline, thank you in advance.

From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Subject: Your questions
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com
Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM

- The UAE Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.

     Later on July 19, the following was received, which we publish in full 25 minutes after receipt:

 

 

From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Date: Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 5:30 PM
Subject: Re: Press question if SG is accepting free travel from any member state or outside party, as was disclosed in 2012, on deadline, thanks
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress [dot] com
Cc: FUNCA [at] funca.info

Dear Matthew, Thanks for your question and thanks for the draft answer. The logistical details of the SG’s trip, including the travel arrangements are still being worked out. Once we are in a position to confirm them, i will revert.

best

Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
Spokesman for the Secretary-General

  But obviously the “logistical details” of getting to Qatar were worked out – Ban had already been to Qatar, then Kuwait before Cairo.

  One asked, what can you solve if you can’t even say how you got there?

  Inner City Press thanked Dujarric and his colleagues for the interim response and asked, “both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Poroshenko’s office say they have spoken with the Secretary General and give read-outs. Will a UN read-out be put out? If so, when? If not, why not?”

  On July 21, Inner City Press asked Haq, who confirmed the calls took place but nothing about the contents. What is happened with the UN?
The Free UN Coalition for Access is pressing for reforms.
We’ll have more on this.

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program – as reported by Irith Jawetz who participated at the UN in Vienna Compound July 15th Meeting .

 

The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and Search for Common Ground  invited us to attend a panel discussion titled “A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was held on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 13:00 at the Vienna Center for Disarmament & Non Proliferation (VCDNP).

 
As P5+1 and Iran are meeting in Vienna at Foreign Ministers level to resolve the outstanding issues preventing a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before the 20 July deadline, a group of renown experts on the technical and political aspects of the negotiations have met at VCDNP to discuss and identify possible compromises.

 

Panelists: 
 
Dr. Frank von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security 
 
Mr. Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Coalition to reduce Nuclear Dangers, and the Director of Security Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility.
 
Ambassador (ret.) William G. Miller, Senior Advisor for the US-Iran Program, Search for Common GroupHe is a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Middle East Institute. He is the co-Chairman of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America and a Director of The Andrei Sakharov Foundation. He has also been a senior consultant for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

This was a very timely event, as the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 group of Nations – the U.S., U.K., France. Germany, China, and Russia – spent the weekend in Vienna  discussing follow ups to the interim agreement reached between them and Iran in advance of this July 20th deadline.


At the start of the Panel discussion, it was announced that at that very moment Secretary of State John Kerry is giving his Press Conference before flying back to Washington to report to President Obama about the negotiations. He is willing to come back next weekend for the July 20-th continuation of the discussions.

———–

Ambassador Miller was the first speaker, and he gave a rather optimistic view of the situation. His presentation had more of a political nature.  In his presentation he said that the basic principles of the negotiations is to assure that Iran has no nuclear weapons . Iran has the capability, brain, expertise and knowhow but has no strategic moral or ethical reason to develop nuclear weapons to be used as weapons of mass destruction.
It is a fact, though, that the Iranians insist on use of peaceful nuclear energy – to what extent it is peaceful and how can the rest of the world be sure that it will be peaceful, this is why the negotiations have to succeed. Ambassador Miller is hopeful that, after 35 years of the current regime in Iran, those negotiations will result in a positive answer.
Ambassador Miller commended all the participating teams, the Press and Academia. First he mentioned the top quality Iranian team at the negotiations, many of the participants he knows personally. They were able, motivated, and anxious to find a solution. The US team, led by Secretary Kerry did a  remarkably good job, as did the rest of the teams. He commended the Press who were persistent – fully covered the negotiations and were very professional – and academia who helped with background information.
—————

Mr. Daryl G.Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association talked about a solution for the Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Puzzle. In his presentation he stressed that “Solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach” – he said.
Progress has already been achieved on several key issues – stregthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at existing and undeclared sites.  …   Iran has agreed to modify its Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output, and a general framework has been developed to waive, and eventually lift, sanctions against Iran.   …  Nevertheless, the two sides have more work to do to bridge differences on the most difficult issue: limiting Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity.As part of a comprehensive deal, Iran and the P5+1 have to agree on several steps to constrain Iran: limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5% – keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero – and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to research-only facility.

He shares Ambassador Miller’s hope and positive outlook that the negotiations will succeed. Anything less than success will be a catastrophe.

—————-
The last speaker was Dr. Frank von Hippel who is a Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.Dr. von Hippel gave a very technical presentation about the Possible elements of a compromise on Iran’s Nuclear Program.

Potential sources of fissile material from Iran’s nuclear energy program are:

1. Plutonium presence in reactor fuel (current issue is Arak reactor)

2. Iran’s centrifuge enrichment complex.

There are two stages in rationalizing the Current situartion:

Stage I

Iran currently has installed 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges  – the compromise would be:

1) to retire IR-1  and replace it with already installed IR-2ms to support research-reactor LEU needs.

2) Continued transparency for Iran’s centrifuge production – possibly as a template for enhanced transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.

3) Continued minimization of stocks of low enriched UF6.

Stage 1 will provide time to cool down an inflamed situation and would provide Iran and the West an opportunity for a cooler assessment of the costs and benefits of diferent possible paths.

In stage II, negotiations might agree on a solution currently beyond reach and also lay a base for a new global regime for enrichment.

Stage II

 

National or Multi-National enrichment? A global Issue.

National – Every  state has the right to enrich fuel for power reactor fuel. However today only Brazil, China, Iran, Japan and Russia have completely independent national civilian enrichment programs.

Multinational – Urenco (Germany, Netherland, UK) . Today Urenco owns the only operating U.S,. civilian enrichment plant.

Building in Flexibility for Iran:

1. Iran should have access to nuclear reactor and fuel vendors worldwide – to ensure that it is getting a good price and reliable delivery.

2. Iran could build up stockpile of fabricated fuel for Bushehr. That would take care of Iran’s fuel security concerns and make it easier for Iran to postpone a large domestic enrichment capacity or depend on a multinational enrichment plant – perhape equiped with Iranian centrifuges in another country in the Middle East.

Dr. von Hippel COPLIMENTED his theory with  charts.

The consensus at the end of the discussion was that the negotiations seem to go well, and all panelists, as well as some members of the audience expressed their hope that they will indeed succeed. Ambassador Miller even went as far as to state that Iran at the moment is the most stable nation in the region, and we have to take advantage of it, make sure the negotiation succeed,  and bring Iran back to the International community.

In the news today it was reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Washington to brief President Obama on the negotiations – rather then on a prior advertised new effort in the Israel-Palestine arena. He was hopeful, but also said there are still some points which need to be clarified.

==========================
Further last comment by SustainabiliTank editor – we add – taken from a Thom Friedman article about a different issue:
We accept that in the future the World true powers of today – The US, China, India, Russia, Japan and the EU – and we like to add Brazil as well – will have to meet their minds and harmonize what ought to be a global leadership for a safe future planet. Just ad hoc chaperoning specific issues will be proven to be not enough.

The way to find a solution to the issue of a nuclear Iran shows that in the globalized world of today there must be an international guiding force. But on this much more has to be written for the sake of Sustainability.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 10th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The title of the Second Correction of Second Correction – of June 1, 2014 -  to this article was:  “The Party of European Socialists …” for the backing of President for the New European Commission – as we find out serially that this will not be Brussels reality. Now it is crystal clear that the UK, with one foot in the US and one foot in the EU, will just not allow the creation of a strong EU that can become World Power at equal level with the US and China. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron takes cue from the anti-EU UKIP party that won the elections for the European Parliament in the UK, and organizes the resistance to those that represent the two major parties in the European Parliament by insisting that the new Commission has to be dominated by the Member States rather then by their people/citizens. This is nothing less then a hold on to the power that the Parliament was voted to wrestle out from them.

With this reality in lead we lose all hope that the EU can become anything more then the window dressing to a bunch of 28 rather small States united in form but not in fact. This will not lead to the stability that more enlightened Europeans were envisioning.

Our hope now is that the Scots do indeed vote for independence and become their own EU members reducing England to its correct position as an ally of the US and a candidate to join the the United States of America instead. That is what they want and that is what they deserve. The European continent will then be allowed to unite in its own interest and perhaps Russia would then be able to consider its own interest in realigning with it in a Eurasian Economic Union from Lisbon to Vladivostok that can hold the line versus China on its Eastern borders.

THE NEWS OF THE DAY ARE:

Merkel and Cameron in battle over European Commission.

(L-R) Dutch PM Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron and Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt an informal meeting on 9 June 2014 in in Harpsund, Sweden. Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt (far right) is hosting the wide-ranging talks at his summer residence in Harpsund

The leaders of Sweden, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are meeting at a mini-EU summit near Stockholm to try to reach a consensus on European reform.

The controversial question of who is to head the European Commission is likely to be discussed, but not officially.

UK PM David Cameron is expected to try to get leaders on-side to block Jean-Claude Juncker taking the job.

It sets him against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who publicly supports the ex-Luxembourg leader’s appointment.

Few details from the summit have emerged. However, job creation, institutional changes in the EU and structural reforms to boost EU competitiveness were said to be high on the agenda.

The UK, Sweden and the Netherlands are leading a campaign to block Mr Juncker’s candidacy, which has the support of the largest centre-right political grouping in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP).

David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Fredrik Reinfeldt and Mark Rutte talk in a boat near the summer residence of the Swedish Prime Minister The four leaders took to the river for a spot of relaxation before the talks began in earnest

Ahead of the two-day talks that began on Monday, Mr Cameron said he had the support of “all major UK parties” in opposing the appointment.

He also spoke to the prime ministers of Italy and Hungary, Matteo Renzi and Viktor Orban, by phone to discuss the matter, Reuters reports.

The BBC’s Ben Wright, in Harpsund, said the scene was set for a lengthy power struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament over the appointment with the UK worried about the prospect of a “stitch-up”.

A news conference on the outcome of the talks is scheduled for 08:00 GMT on Tuesday.

Role of commissionMr Cameron is strongly opposed to Mr Juncker’s belief in a closer political union between EU member states and has described Brussels as “too big” and “too bossy”.

His hand was strengthened on Monday when the UK opposition Labour party said its MEPs in the European Parliament, which must approve the choice by EU leaders, would vote against Mr Juncker.

On arrival in Sweden, Mr Cameron said it should be EU leaders and not the European Parliament who decide who will head the commission.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also dismissed the idea of a stronger role for the European Parliament.

“We in principle dislike the idea of presenting front-runners from the different parties because we think that twists the balance between the institutions and the way that the Lisbon treaty is set up,” he said.

More discussions were needed on the role of the EU commission before looking at names, he added.

line
Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker The German chancellor has given Jean-Claude Juncker her backing 

Juncker: For and againstAngela Merkel: German chancellor, after some hesitation, backed European People’s Party candidate. Some in Germany believe she may be willing to discuss alternatives

David Cameron: Opposed to former Luxembourg PM’s candidacy – said to see him as a “face from the 1980s” who cannot solve the problems of next five years

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Seen as opposed to Mr Juncker and reports in European media suggest Swedish prime minister himself could be compromise candidate

Mark Rutte: Opposed to Mr Juncker, and Dutch PM due to meet Irish prime minister after Swedish summit to discuss alternative candidates

line

Dutch PM Mark Rutte told reporters that it was premature to put forward names for who should replace Jose Manuel Barroso as head of the commission.

“My belief is that we should first focus on content, discuss what the new commission should do… then discuss who fits that profile,” he said.

Mrs Merkel said the four leaders would not make a final decision on who they would back, adding that her position was well known.

EU leaders have traditionally named the commission head on their own, but new rules mean they now have to “take into account” the results of the European Parliament elections.

The EPP grouping, of which Mr Juncker is a member, won the largest number of seats in May’s polls, and he has argued that that gives him a mandate.

The decision will be made by the European Council – the official body comprising the 28 leaders – by qualified majority vote. That means no single country can veto the choice.

The decision is expected at an EU summit on 26-27 June although an agreement by then is by no means guaranteed.

More on This Story

Related Stories

From other news sites

 

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The first Correction title was: “Correction to “The Party of European Socialists that backs Martin Schultz for the European Commission presidency seems to have an advantage in the building of a ruling coalition for the EU” – but we found out that this will not be Brussels reality.”  But after 3 days even that title was overtaken by real Brussels life as directed from the 28 Member States’ Capitals – and even some non-member States as well —- Perhaps.

Turns out that while the great gains of the parties of the Right introduced to the EU strong elements that came to undo the EU – these parties will have a hard time creating a new faction in the EU Parliament. In effect there might be two such factions – one based on a UK-Hungary alliance and the other on an Austria-France alliance. Nevertheless, the Black and Red factions are afraid of this invasion of their previously calm and inactive EU. Rather then gearing up for strong leadership – seemingly they are opting for a united front like it is the Austrian Government norm. It loooks that the Austrian Chancellor Mr. Faymann (a Red) initiated this effort by saying he backs Mr. Jean-Claude Junker (a black)  for the position of the New President of the New European Commission, because he got the largest number of votes.

Perhaps this was done in agreement with other heads of State or Government, we will never know, but what we know is that Mr. Junker then turned around and suggested Mr. Martin Schulz, the candidate of the reds, the holder of the second largest number of votes and mandates, should be his only Vice President. In this case the Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt could replace Mr. Van Rompuy as permanent head of the European Council which according to protocol is the highest EU position {sort of a Senate to the Parliament’s similarity to a House of Representatives}.

Denmark is outside the EURO group and could thus be a bow to the non-Euro States. Similarly the Poland’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Radoslaw Sikorski is being mentioned as a professional, for replacing Lady Catherine Ashton at the EU Foreign Policy desk. Let us see if this short list will be the final one in what has become negotiations run from the Capitals rather then the one we thought will be handled directly by the heads of fracctions based in Brussels.

The Alliance of Socialists and Democrats won only 193 seats in the Parliament and is second largest faction to the 211  member European People’s Party, but when analyzing the rest of the colors’ pallet they seem to have an advantage when judging the potential for coalition building in the 752 member Parliament. A majority means having 376 votes. 

The news of these elections is the emergence of Euro-skeptic parties and Right extremists that are outside the reach of the two rather centrist contenders for heading the new Parliament who will eventually head also the Commission – being something akin to a first EU President. Extreme right and EU skeptists just do not fit in – and that was the target of those that stood up to their home governments anyway.

The two largest blocs that are positioned between the EPP and the S&D – the ALDE liberals and the Greens, amount together to 132 mandates, and they are much closer to Martin Schulz of the S&D who wants to introduce change with a more socially oriented set of policies, then to Jean-Claude Juncker of the EPP who would mean more of the same and a continuation of the policies that allowed the EU to fall into an economic crisis that was set up in the US.

If indeed the two parties mentioned join Martin Schulz, and yesterday I learned from Mr. Gerhard Schick of the German Greens that this is in the cards, then Schulz presents himself as the head of a 325 bloc, which makes it easier for him then for Junker, to reach out to the magic 376 number, or at least be indeed the leader of the largest bloc if it has to be a minority rule.  

Juncker stakes claim to EU commission’s top job  - might thus be premature.

We wonder if all new Members of the European Parliament already packed their suitcases and are off to Brussels to do there the negotiations that eventually will lead to the real results.

EU wakes up to Eurosceptic hangover.
- 26 May 2014
The EU’s mainstream political parties will move quickly to re-establish themselves as the voice of the European parliament, following EU elections that saw a significant increase in support for Eurosceptic, extreme right and anti-establishment parties.
ONE MORE COMMENT – WITH FRANCE BEING REPRESENTED IN THE EU by DELEGATES VOTED IN by 25% of ITS POPULATION THAT IS ANTI-EU, and THE UK HAVING ALSO A LARGE REPRESENTATION OF ANTI-EU MANDATARIES, Mr. SCHULZ COULD FINALLY MOVE AWAY FROM THE NONSENSE SECOND SEAT  IN STRASBOURG THAT WAS AN EXPENSIVE GIVEAWAY TO FRANCE. REALLY – HE WILL OWE THEM NOTHING.
—————————————————————————————————————————-

PES say Eurosceptic election swing sounds ‘warning bell.’

Written by Martin Banks on 26 May 2014 in News – The Parliament Magazine.

Party of European Socialists president Sergei Stanishev has conceded that the rise of far right and Eurosceptic parties in the elections sounds a “warning bell” for the political elite.

 

Martin Schulz and Sergei Stanishev at a Party of European Socialists event in the European parliament

Speaking at a news conference in parliament on Monday, the former Bulgarian prime minister said the big gains for such parties was “not so much about European politics but more about national policies and a protest vote”.

He went on, “The fact that parties like Front National and UKIP, which won more votes in the UK than another other party, can gain such support do so well is very serious and cause for concern. It should sound a warning bell to other parties and send a message that European people want change.”

“The EPP is the party which has run Europe for the last 10 years during the economic crisis and they were the big losers even though they remain the biggest group in parliament” Sergei Stanishev

Stanishev said the “big losers” in the election were the EPP, which he said had lost 60 seats and seen its share of the vote fall by some 20 per cent compared with the 2009 elections.

“The EPP is the party which has run Europe for the last 10 years during the economic crisis and they were the big losers even though they remain the biggest group in parliament.”

He said the Socialist vote share had remained stable compared with five years ago but voiced veiled disappointment that it had not done better. Even so, he said he was confident the party remained well placed to achieve its objectives in the next legislature, including further regulation of financial markets.

He also praised his colleague, German MEP Martin Schulz, a candidate for the commission presidency and parliament’s president, for an “outstanding” electoral campaign, saying he had “reached” 150 million citizens via social media. “His profile is now even bigger than it was before the election.”

Stanishev. who has led the Bulgarian Socialist party since 2001, also insisted that member states must “take account” of the outcome of the vote in deciding the next commission head, adding that, on this, he believes PES are in a “stronger position” than the EPP.

Addressing the same conference, PES general secretary Achim Post said, “It is now up to the political group leaders to form a ‘stable’ majority and the Socialists will play a decisive role in this.”

—————————————————————————————————————————-

BUT WAKING UP ON WEDNESDAY MORNING WE FOUND THAT THE POLITICAL REALITY IS SUCH THAT THE SOCIALISTS OF VARIOUS COUNTRIES WILL NOT WANT TO UPSET THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR Ms. ANGELA MERKEL WHO PREFERS TO BACK THE BLACK  PARTY CANDIDATE WHO HAPPENS TO BE FROM LUXEMBOURG, OVER THE SOCIALIST CANDIDATE WHO HAPPENS TO BE FROM THE GERMAN OPPOSITION.

Above is good for a Europe if it wants to be seen as a post-Nationalism Union that gives preference to ideas over National identity.  But then, Mr. Junker does not get yet free sailing as members of his own European Party – from the UK, Hungary, and Sweden seem to prefer alternatives from inside the EPP  – names from Finland and Italy being mentioned.

The political juggling seems even more interesting when the other positions to be filled are taken into account.

As possible  compensation for Mr. Schulz getting himself out of contention – he might then get to be the German Commissioner – although one would have expected someone closer to the German Chancellor. Austria seems to follow the German example with the Red Party Chancellor from the Red Party declaring his backing for the candidate of the Black Party as he got more votes. This opens the question whom will he support for Commissioner from Austria?

With a Catholic holiday on Thursday there is no chance now that the Parliament will have a prospective winner before the end of this week,  another week of politics is still in the cards, and in effect it might take all of the month of June.

Also, if Mr. Junker does not get full backing from his own party and does not reach a majority – then according to Parliament norm the ball is passed to the second largest faction and that is Mr. Schulz – so it might be that the wheel might still turn in his direction. Seemingly Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has the ropes in his hands – but in mind he has the success  the anti-EU UKIP party had at these elections. Similarly France is looking at the success the Le Pen Front National had on Sunday. Does this mean that these two EU members are now favoring a weakened EU because this seemed to be the wish of their countrymen?

The French Christian Democrat Joseph Daul is leading the Black Faction negotiators and Austrian Commissioner Hannes Swoboda is leading the Red Party negotiators with outgoing Head of the Parliament, the Belgian Hermann Van-Rompuy the address of their efforts. Who will get his job? Could it be that this position will go to the Commissioer from Poland – Ms. Danuta Hebner?

 

 

 

About the author:   Martin Banks is a veteran freelance, Brussels-based journalist specialising in European politics.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Scots Are Divided Over Independence, and Its Economic Costs.

 

The case for tearing apart the United Kingdom was made on a recent evening at a community center in Beith,  a small town near Glasgow. More than 200 people were packed into folding chairs and standing along walls lined with posters promoting an independent Scotland, like the one with the word “Aye” emblazoned on a Scottish flag. A disco ball hung overhead.

The official campaign period kicked off Friday for the referendum that will determine whether Scotland will remain in Britain. If successful, the vote, which will be in September, would fundamentally reshape America’s closest ally, redrawing the borders of a union that has existed for more than 300 years.

Although the pro-Britain unionists lead, momentum has swung back and forth. The spread narrowed to just three percentage points in an April poll by ICM Research for the Scotsman newspaper, but it widened to 12 points in mid-May, with 20 percent still undecided.

The movement goes beyond the nationalistic pride that has fed previous calls for a split. For Scottish nationalists, much of the discontent comes down to clashing politics. They believe that the British government is far too conservative and has pushed austerity on a Scottish government that never wanted it.

“We again take a different view about the macroeconomic choices available for the country,” John Swinney, Scotland’s finance minister, said in challenging the British approach.

The financial implications weigh heavily on the debate. Top British government officials have ruled out sharing the pound with an independent Scotland, though their resolve has been questioned. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the European Union. That raised the question of whether Scotland would be left to create its own potentially volatile new currency.

We at SustainabiliTank.info, specially now, with the EU elections in, and the fact that UKIP or the Independence Party of all of Britain won the election in the UK, and Prime Minister David Cameron is being cowed, himself,  into becoming a pain in the side of the EU – then a breakaway Scotland that chooses to be a founding member of a stronger European Union, is a welcome event indeed – and a way to reach out to a  more sustainable EU.  It is clear that the UK of today is closer to the US then to the EU and thus counterproductive to efforts to strengthen the European Union.

Wealthy Scots are choosing sides. The biggest donor to the pro-British pro-union advocacy group Better Together is Donald Houston, a Scottish hotel and whisky magnate who has said “ripping up” the union “is a ridiculous idea.”

The biggest individual donors by far to the pro-independence advocacy group Yes Scotland are Colin and Christine Weir, who won the $271 million EuroMillions lottery jackpot in 2011. Established Scottish business figures, including George Mathewson, former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, have also spoken in support of independence.

Executives of large multinational corporations tend to see a breakup as a needless risk. More are speaking out, like the BP chief Bob Dudley, who said “Great Britain is great and it ought to stay together,” or General Electric’s top executive in Europe, who said “there would be some consequences that are unpleasant.” And two of Scotland’s largest employers, Royal Bank of Scotland and the insurer Standard Life, have mentioned a “yes” vote as a risk in regulatory filings. But are not such groups rather Wall Street oriented? The Scots-for-Independence could then realize that they live on a different continent indeed might find closer kinship to Denmark or Sweden, for instance, then the US.

The Weir Group, a large Scottish engineering company, released a study that found that independence would “create a number of costs and uncertainties, but fewer and more uncertain benefits.” The study cited increased borrowing costs and the likelihood of higher taxes and spending cuts. There would also be fees to convert a potential Scottish currency across a new border; the report projected $840 million in annual transaction costs.

The ruling Scottish National Party, however, sees a vibrant future for an independent Scotland, buoyed by North Sea oil wealth, free of nuclear weapons, and able to erect a firmer welfare state. This latter point being of importance to the Scots at large when looking back at Conservative London!   Several nationalists pointed to their own government’s analysis projecting that Scotland, on its own, would have the 14th-highest output per person among advanced economies. Their findings, however, were recently undercut by a University of Glasgow analysis that said “foreign ownership in key economic areas” was a drag on national income statistics.

Scotland already runs many of its own affairs after a 1997 referendum on so-called devolution of powers from London gave it authority over its health and education services, justice system and housing policy. The Scots also have some taxation powers.

Nationalists envision a fully independent Scotland as a petro-power. But oil revenue has fallen sharply, by 38 percent from 2010 to 2013. Last year, Scotland paid less into Westminster’s coffers than it took out. Total revenue, including its geographic share of North Sea oil, was about $89 billion, against spending of roughly $109 billion. Another recent analysis by the University of Glasgow’s Center for Public Policy for Regions projects that Scotland will be “significantly worse off than the U.K.” for several years to come, with a higher deficit of almost $1,700 a person in the fiscal year ending in 2016.

Then there is the debt. The cost of servicing Scotland’s proportional share of Britain’s debt “would be worth twice as much as North Sea oil,” said John McLaren, a professor at the University of Glasgow.

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John Sweeney, the Scottish finance secretary, addresses an independence meeting in Edinburgh. A vote will be held in September.     Credit Robert Ormerod for The New York Times

 

Scotland is threatening to walk away from any share of its debt should it be kept out of a currency union. While there is precedent for that — Russia assumed all Soviet debt — it could lead to an acrimonious split and retaliation by Britain.

Creating a border with Scotland’s largest trading partner — the rest of Britain — could also be costly. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Stirling project that such a change could reduce Scottish output more than 5 percent.

Above might be quite true but it has a second side as well – the losses that England would have to carry in case of a belligerant divorce.

Over time, the conduct of business across the border would become more difficult,” said Iain McMillan, head of the Scottish office of the Confederation of British Industry, a leading British trade group. “People can move from Scotland to England to Wales to Northern Ireland without any restrictions whatsoever, and we believe that is the very best business and economic environment for Scotland.”

BUT THEN THE GENTLEMAN FORGETS THAT THERE IS AN EU THAT MAKES ABOVE POSSIBLE ANYWAY – IF HE WANTS ALSO TO SEE THE UK LEAVE THE EU, HIS THREATS AGAINST THE SCOTS – THAT MIGHT STAY WITH THE EU – HAVE TO BE ANALYZED MORE IN DEPTH, AND QUESTIONS ABOUT UK-US RELATIONS PULLED INTO THIS EQUATION IN FULL LIGHT FOR US TO ANALYZE THEM AS WELL.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, spoke from a lectern covered with a tartan drape.

“As a country, we’ve spent an awful long number of years being told we’re too wee, too poor and probably a bit too stupid to be independent,” she said. “If we were too small and too poor and too stupid, if we were the economic basket case, if we were the subsidy junkies that some of our opponents try to imply that we are, then don’t you think Westminster might have offloaded us by now?”

After the applause died down, she asked, “What’s the downside?”

Plenty, in the minds of many business leaders and economists, who are concerned that an independent Scotland will not have the financial strength to prosper alone. The economy would lean heavily on revenue from North Sea oil, which has been falling, and its per capita government spending outpaces the rest of Britain.

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