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Policy Lessons from Mad Cow Disease:

 

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

 

SundayReview | Opinion

The Climate Swerve.

By ROBERT JAY LIFTON,  The New York Times,

AMERICANS appear to be undergoing a significant psychological shift in our relation to global warming. I call this shift a climate “swerve,” borrowing the term used recently by the Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe a major historical change in consciousness that is neither predictable nor orderly.

The first thing to say about this swerve is that we are far from clear about just what it is and how it might work. But we can make some beginning observations which suggest, in Bob Dylan’s words, that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.” Experience, economics and ethics are coalescing in new and important ways. Each can be examined as a continuation of my work comparing nuclear and climate threats.

The experiential part has to do with a drumbeat of climate-related disasters around the world, all actively reported by the news media: hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts and wildfires, extreme heat waves and equally extreme cold, rising sea levels and floods. Even when people have doubts about the causal relationship of global warming to these episodes, they cannot help being psychologically affected. Of great importance is the growing recognition that the danger encompasses the entire earth and its inhabitants. We are all vulnerable.

This sense of the climate threat is represented in public opinion polls and attitude studies. A recent Yale survey, for instance, concluded that “Americans’ certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years,” and “those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position.”

Falsification and denial, while still all too extensive, have come to require more defensive psychic energy and political chicanery.

But polls don’t fully capture the complex collective process occurring.

The most important experiential change has to do with global warming and time. Responding to the climate threat — in contrast to the nuclear threat, whose immediate and grotesque destructiveness was recorded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — has been inhibited by the difficulty of imagining catastrophic future events. But climate-related disasters and intense media images are hitting us now, and providing partial models for a devastating climate future.

At the same time, economic concerns about fossil fuels have raised the issue of value. There is a wonderfully evocative term, “stranded assets,” to characterize the oil, coal and gas reserves that are still in the ground. Trillions of dollars in assets could remain “stranded” there. If we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustaining the human habitat, between 60 percent and 80 percent of those assets must remain in the ground, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, an organization that analyzes carbon investment risk. In contrast, renewable energy sources, which only recently have achieved the status of big business, are taking on increasing value, in terms of returns for investors, long-term energy savings and relative harmlessness to surrounding communities.

Pragmatic institutions like insurance companies and the American military have been confronting the consequences of climate change for some time. But now, a number of leading financial authorities are raising questions about the viability of the holdings of giant carbon-based fuel corporations. In a world fueled by oil and coal, it is a truly stunning event when investors are warned that the market may end up devaluing those assets. We are beginning to see a bandwagon effect in which the overall viability of fossil-fuel economics is being questioned.

Can we continue to value, and thereby make use of, the very materials most deeply implicated in what could be the demise of the human habitat? It is a bit like the old Jack Benny joke, in which an armed robber offers a choice, “Your money or your life!” And Benny responds, “I’m thinking it over.” We are beginning to “think over” such choices on a larger scale.

This takes us to the swerve-related significance of ethics. Our reflections on stranded assets reveal our deepest contradictions. Oil and coal company executives focus on the maximum use of their product in order to serve the interests of shareholders, rather than the humane, universal ethics we require to protect the earth. We may well speak of those shareholder-dominated principles as “stranded ethics,” which are better left buried but at present are all too active above ground.

Such ethical contradictions are by no means entirely new in historical experience. Consider the scientists, engineers and strategists in the United States and the Soviet Union who understood their duty as creating, and possibly using, nuclear weapons that could destroy much of the earth. Their conscience could be bound up with a frequently amorphous ethic of “national security.” Over the course of my work I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.

The climate swerve is mostly a matter of deepening awareness. When exploring the nuclear threat I distinguished between fragmentary awareness, consisting of images that come and go but remain tangential, and formed awareness, which is more structured, part of a narrative that can be the basis for individual and collective action.

In the 1980s there was a profound worldwide shift from fragmentary awareness to formed awareness in response to the potential for a nuclear holocaust. Millions of people were affected by that “nuclear swerve.” And even if it is diminished today, the nuclear swerve could well have helped prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

With both the nuclear and climate threats, the swerve in awareness has had a crucial ethical component. People came to feel that it was deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to engage in nuclear war, and are coming to an awareness that it is deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to destroy our habitat and create a legacy of suffering for our children and grandchildren.

Social movements in general are energized by this kind of ethical passion, which enables people to experience the more active knowledge associated with formed awareness. That was the case in the movement against nuclear weapons. Emotions related to individual conscience were pooled into a shared narrative by enormous numbers of people.

In earlier movements there needed to be an overall theme, even a phrase, that could rally people of highly divergent political and intellectual backgrounds. The idea of a “nuclear freeze” mobilized millions of people with the simple and clear demand that the United States and the Soviet Union freeze the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.

Could the climate swerve come to include a “climate freeze,” defined by a transnational demand for cutting back on carbon emissions in steps that could be systematically outlined?

With or without such a rallying phrase, the climate swerve provides no guarantees of more reasonable collective behavior. But with human energies that are experiential, economic and ethical it could at least provide — and may already be providing — the psychological substrate for action on behalf of our vulnerable habitat and the human future.

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Robert Jay Lifton is a psychiatrist and the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” and a memoir, “Witness to an Extreme Century.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 24, 2014, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: The Climate Swerve.

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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.

—————————

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 August 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Islamic State Fighter: Hezbollah and the Jews Are Next.

The Algemeiner as per Globes which is the Israeli business journal – August 18, 2014

“From Syria, we’ll expand the caliphate, Allah willing, and Hizbullah and the Jews will meet their fate, and soon,” vowed an American-born 26-year-old Islamic State (IS) fighter in Aleppo, Syria to a disguised Israeli reporter, Israel’s Globes reported Monday.

Posing as “Abed al-Islam Afifi,” 26, from Paris, the reporter contacted Abu Turab via a cellphone app.

“Of course, it’s great to be here [in Syria],” Abu Turab said. “Jihad in our generation is a personal duty. While I can’t directly recommend it to you, Allah, praised be His name, told all Muslims to follow in his path.”

When the reporter asked for more information on how to join IS and the group’s goals, he was told, “First, go to Turkey, and there, I’ll give you a number of someone to call, and they’ll do the rest. It’s that simple,” he was told.

IS boasts that dozens of American youths, and hundreds from various countries in Europe have joined its ranks and have already entered Syria and Iraq to fight alongside various factions, in part, thanks to easy access to information on the internet.

The reporter said he found Abu-Turab on a European social network dedicated to offering questions and answers on joining the worldwide terrorist scourge. Abu-Turab is a star on this particular network, according to the report, with hundreds of answers posted to questions about the group’s aims and goals.

“What happens of Bashar [Assad's] dogs reach you?” one person asked.

“They haven’t got to me yet, but I pray to Allah that it doesn’t happen,” Abu Turab replied.

According to the report, Prof. Meir Litvak of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, said,”These young people are highly alienated from their environment.”

“They’re attracted to whatever is the most ‘anti’ to whatever is in front of them,” he said. “And radical Islamic fundamentalism represents it – [opposition] to the ‘totally rotten and corrupt America,’ in their view.”

The easiest explanation for the attraction of young people to jihad is an economic rationale, but Professor Litvak argues that “most of them are not poor; no economic crisis pushed them into despair. Not at all. These youngsters are middle class.”

“For example the British of Pakistani origin who perpetrated the attacks in London – it’s same thing. While there are the typical ‘marginal’ Americans or Europeans youth, the majority are young Muslims from families who feel alienated from bourgeois society.”

Dr. Muhammad Al Atawneh, a senior faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, suggested that these young people understand Islam and organizations like IS via non-religious sources.

“For these young people, this is a protest. They see radical Islam as an alternative to the failure of nation-states. They go to the edge of the edge, talking about the caliphate, but no one there knows what ‘caliphate’ really means,” he said.

“There is tremendous ignorance on the subject,” Al Atawneh said. “They’re very confused in matters of religion. The distortions and gaps are so abysmal, it is impossible to understand what texts people who chop off heads are following.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

From: David Goll, an economist with Vivid Economics – a strategic economics consultancy.

Vivid Economics is opening an office in New York in September 2014.

-          Review of international emissions trends and policy developments. Vivid Economics was asked by WWF Australia to perform a comparative analysis of Australia’s progress towards attaining its climate change targets against key international comparators. For the identified countries, we analysed historic emissions performance, projected trends and national targets to assess whether or not they are on track to meet their stated goals, and compared the results against projections for Australia.

-         Learning by doing: the CIF’s contribution to climate finance. Prepared for the Climate Investment Funds, this report takes stock of the distinctive role that the CIF has played in the climate finance landscape, and the lessons that can be learned for the future.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Council on Foreign Relations    
 

Ignoring Climate Change Could Sink U.S. Economy, Writes Rubin

 

“When it comes to the economy, much of the debate about climate change—and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling it—is framed as a trade-off between environmental protection and economic prosperity,” writes CFR Co-Chairman Robert E. Rubin in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “But from an economic perspective, that’s precisely the wrong way to look at it. The real question should be: What is the cost of inaction?”

Rubin argues that, in economic terms, taking action on climate change will prove far less expensive than inaction. The findings come from an earlier bipartisan report on the economic risks of climate change:

  • “By 2050, for example, between $48 billion and $68 billion worth of current property in Louisiana and Florida is likely to be at risk of flooding because it will be below sea level. And that’s just a baseline estimate; there are other scenarios that could be catastrophic.”
  • “Then, of course, there is the unpredictable damage from superstorms yet to come. Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy caused a combined $193 billion in economic losses; the congressional aid packages that followed both storms cost more than $122 billion.”
  • “And dramatically rising temperatures in much of the country will make it far too hot for people to work outside during parts of the day for several months each year—reducing employment and economic output, and causing as many as 65,200 additional heat-related deaths every year.”

According to Rubin, one of the fundamental problems with tackling climate change is that the methods used to gauge economic realities do not take climate change into consideration. Rubin calls for metrics that accurately reflect climate-change risks, and requiring companies to be transparent in reporting vulnerabilities tied to climate.

“If companies were required to highlight their exposure to climate-related risks, it would change investor behavior, which in turn would prod those companies to change their behavior.”

Read “How Ignoring Climate Change Can Sink the U.S. Economy.”

You can also view the CFR InfoGuide “The Emerging Arctic,” an interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic.

You can also read a blog post on the U.S. oil boom by CFR Senior Fellow and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies Michael Levi.

   
 

About CFR

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.

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

 

GLOSSARY

CCAC
COP
ECOWAS
GWP
HFCs
HLA
OECD
SLCPs
SAP
SNAP
UNEA
UNEP
UNFCCC
WHO
Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants
Conference of the Parties
Economic Community of West African States
Global warming potential
Hydrofluorocarbons
CCAC High-level Assembly
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Short-lived Climate Pollutants
Scientific Advisory Panel
Supporting National Planning for Action on SLCPs
United Nations Environment Assembly
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
World Health Organization

 


CCAC Bulletin
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)
PDF format
Adobe Reader PDF
Volume 172 Number 16 – Sunday, 20 July 2014
SUMMARY OF THE WORKING GROUP MEETING OF THE CLIMATE AND CLEAN AIR COALITION TO REDUCE SHORT-LIVED CLIMATE POLLUTANTS
16-17 JULY 2014
The Working Group meeting of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) convened in Paris, France, from 16-17 July 2014. The meeting was attended by more than 90 participants, representing state and non-state partners of the CCAC, its Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), the CCAC Secretariat and observers.

Over the two days of the meeting, the Working Group heard updates on partners’ activities and considered new initiatives. It approved requests by two new organizations to join the Coalition, bringing the total number of partners to 93. The Working Group also discussed preparations for the upcoming CCAC High-level Assembly (HLA) and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, both of which will be held in New York in September 2014. The SAP updated the Working Group on its work. The CCAC also discussed its vision for moving forward and strategies for engaging partners and increasing capacities.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CCAC

The CCAC is a voluntary international coalition of governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which focuses on addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). The CCAC was created in February 2012 by Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the US, together with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It is open to countries and non-state actors wishing to join the coalition, and currently consists of 93 partners with 40 country partners and 53 non-state partners.

SLCPs include black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These pollutants have a near-term warming influence on the climate, and, in many cases, are also harmful air pollutants that affect human health, agriculture and ecosystems. The objectives of the CCAC include raising awareness of impacts and transformative mitigation strategies of SLCPs. It also seeks to: enhance and develop new national and regional actions; promote best practices and showcase successful efforts; and improve scientific understanding of SLCP impacts and mitigation strategies.

INITIATIVES: The CCAC has approved 10 initiatives. Its seven sectoral initiatives include:

  • accelerating methane and black carbon reductions from oil and natural gas production;
  • addressing SLCPs from agriculture;
  • mitigating SLCPs and other pollutants from brick production;
  • mitigating SLCPs from municipal solid waste;
  • promoting HFC alternative technology and standards;
  • reducing black carbon emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines; and
  • reducing SLCPs from household cooking and domestic heating.

The CCAC also has three cross-cutting initiatives on: financing mitigation of SLCPs; regional assessments of SLCPs; and supporting national planning for action on SLCPs (SNAP).

GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE: The CCAC institutional structure includes the HLA, Working Group, Steering Committee, SAP and Secretariat.

The HLA consists of ministers of state partners and heads of non-state partners. It meets at least once a year to provide strategic guidance and leadership to the CCAC. The Working Group includes focal points from each CCAC partner. It convenes at least twice a year to oversee activities.

The CCAC also has a Steering Committee composed of the two Working Group Co-Chairs, four state partners, one representative of international organizations and one NGO representative. The Steering Group meets every month to provide oversight support and recommendations to the HLA and Working Group. Current members of the Steering Group are Nigeria, Sweden, Canada, Jordan, Mexico, the US, the World Bank and the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

The CCAC Secretariat is hosted by UNEP in its Division of Technology, Industry and Economics in Paris, France. The SAP consists of 14 scientists, including the UNEP Chief Scientist.

REPORT OF THE CCAC WORKING GROUP MEETING

OPENING: On Wednesday morning, 16 July, Co-Chair Annika Markovic (Sweden) opened the CCAC Working Group meeting. She highlighted upcoming milestones, including the HLA and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, both to take place in New York in September 2014. She also identified the need to agree on a new initiative focusing on the health sector and urban air pollution, and consider the way forward beyond the September meetings. She welcomed Kenya, India and the Philippines which had been invited to observe the meeting together with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Ligia Noronha, UNEP, expressed satisfaction that the CCAC was more than a “coalition of the willing” and has shown itself to be a “coalition of the working.” She stressed the timeliness of the Working Group meeting. Regarding the way forward, she identified HFCs, waste and kerosene as important issues that need to be addressed.

UPDATE ON PARTNERSHIP AND CCAC: New partners: On Wednesday morning, Co-Chair Bahijjahtu Abubakar (Nigeria) reported on new partners that had joined the CCAC since the previous Working Group meeting in April (WG/JUL2014/2). The Working Group approved the applications of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement to join the CCAC, bringing the total number of partners to 93.

Partners in Action: CCAC partners presented on new data, achievements and opportunities.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted the main findings of the report “The Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport,” released in May 2014. She explained that new data from WHO shows that the number of deaths related to outdoor air pollution is much higher than previously believed, estimated at 3.5 million in 2012.

The OECD underscored that the economic cost of deaths from outdoor pollution in OECD countries amounted to approximately US$1.6 trillion in 2010. She noted that while the number of deaths caused by air pollution has reduced by 3.5% in some OECD countries, 14 of the 34 OECD members have shown worse statistics in this regard.

The OECD underscored the contribution of road transport to outdoor air pollution, saying its role has been particularly critical in countries such as India and China. She outlined actions to reduce pollution identified in the report, including: removing incentives to purchase diesel cars; maintaining and strengthening regulatory regimes; implementing more ambitious climate mitigation actions; continuing research on the economic value of morbidity impacts of air pollution; and paying attention to the most vulnerable populations.

Presenting on national actions, Chile noted that over 4,000 premature deaths are estimated to be caused by air pollution with transport as the most critical sector. He said the Chilean Government intends to establish a 2015-2019 strategy, including on sustainable heating and transport programmes.

Regarding the CCAC, Chile reported on work launched to address heavy-duty emissions in ports, municipal solid waste, methane and brick production. He said future steps include encouraging behavioral change, reducing housing energy demand and developing cleaner heating technologies. On the transport sector, he noted the development of retrofit and freight programmes.

Mali drew attention to important opportunities to reduce SLCPs in Mali and reported on national initiatives addressing, inter alia: emissions from heavy-duty diesel; air pollution in Bamako and other major cities; wood stoves; and black carbon emissions from open burning in agriculture.

Business for Social Responsibility emphasized the importance of private sector engagement to make CCAC a “coalition of winning.” He underscored the need to communicate in a way that is more accessible for business, saying issues should be framed in a way that speaks to narrow business interests. He proposed preparing short reports that concentrate on essential issues and business interests.

Business for Social Responsibility further highlighted the importance of engaging private sector coalitions in the CCAC discussions. He highlighted the diversity of the business sector, emphasizing the need to identify the most effective ways of engaging with it, for example, by taking into consideration the market share of involved organizations.

Switzerland announced a contribution of CHF2 million to the CCAC over a three-year period until 2017. Mexico underscored initiatives on black carbon and brick production in a national strategy and drew attention to increasing cooperation within Latin America on SLCPs.

Bangladesh reported on new national legislation on brick production criteria and a regulation on HFCs. He also drew attention to cooperation between Bangladesh and the World Bank on clean air and sustainable development. Sweden highlighted work in the Arctic Council to reduce black carbon and methane emissions, and announced a new contribution of SEK3 million to the CCAC.

 ClimateWorks Foundation highlightedthe role of non-carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gases in achieving the 2°C climate temperature target. She noted that a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and a 80% reduction by 2075 will lead to an average of 3.4°C of warming. She underscored calculations showing that reducing methane emissions by 26% by 2030, black carbon by 20%, F-gases by 49% and nitrous oxide by 7% can achieve important progress towards the 2°C target in the near-term, if quick action is taken.

Côte d’Ivoire reported on the set-up of an inter-ministerial committee to work on SLCPs with increasing interaction between different ministries on environment, agriculture, health and communication, contributing to increased public awareness of SLCP impacts.  He also noted a national alliance for clean cook stoves. The Russian Federation highlighted the St. Petersburg Initiative launched at the Baltic Sea Forum in April 2013. He explained that the initiative focuses on air quality and sustainable maritime transportation.

The US underscored the CCAC as a vital venue for exchanging experience on SLCPs. He reported that the US has recently launched a national methane strategy. Morocco announced the creation of a national charter for sustainable development, and the task force meeting to be held in Rabat in September 2014. She highlighted this as an occasion for multiple stakeholders to meet, particularly on air pollution, and invited CCAC partners to attend.

OECD said the OECD environmental review, which takes place every five years, has been extended to some non-OECD countries such as Brazil, China and South Africa. She highlighted further research on the social costs of energy taxation and on promoting greater private sector engagement in low carbon transportation. She explained that CCAC partners could benefit from this review and methodology.

Ethiopia highlighted national action on cook stoves and solid waste. India highlighted the importance of black carbon emissions and reported that work has already been undertaken in most sectors to address: improved design of brick kilns; alternative uses for crop residues so that they are not burnt in the fields; and bio-gas generation as well as bio-methanation or composting of municipal solid waste.

India further called for greater opportunities to share experiences, in particular, to address black carbon and to consider low-cost particulate traps to reduce particulate emissions from diesel vehicles, fuel quality upgrade and fuel efficiency norms. He also stressed that, for a paradigm shift, a new breakthrough is necessary. Kenya reported work on many of the mentioned areas and expressed interest in sharing their experiences.

Nigeria announced new investments in solar energy from the Clean Technology Fund. He also highlighted a Presidential initiative to provide a million clean cook stoves by November 2014.

Outreach: On outreach and partners in action (WG/JUL2014/3), Co-Chair Markovic highlighted CCAC engagement in the context of:  the Abu Dhabi Ascent in preparation for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit; Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All); and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for enhanced Action (ADP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Co-Chair Abubakar noted a forthcoming ADP workshop on non-CO2 greenhouse gases in October and drew attention to increasing interaction between the CCAC and the UNFCCC, emphasizing that the two processes are complementary. She also reported on various other outreach activities.

The CCAC Secretariat emphasized the importance of visibility and reported on discussions in Abu Dhabi between Coalition partners and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She highlighted the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) as a great opportunity for CCAC partners to discuss air quality. She also noted media roundtables with journalists and a green room event on the CCAC held during the UNEA.

The CCAC Secretariat also emphasized the 20th session of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, as an important outreach opportunity.

Drawing attention to the agreed template for CCAC partners to share information about their activities, the CCAC Secretariat noted submissions from 15 partners and invited more of them to submit information on their activities using the template. Co-Chair Markovic stressed the importance of collecting and disseminating stories on action by CCAC partners. She encouraged partners to share information on their activities with the Coalition and others.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL’S CLIMATE SUMMIT MILESTONE FOR CCAC: This issue was considered on Wednesday morning and afternoon.

Cynthia Scharf, UN Secretary-General’s Office, updated participants on preparations for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit (WG/JUL2014/5). She commended the CCAC as an “exciting partnership,” stressing the role of the SLCP agenda in showing that results are feasible and giving people hope that progress towards the 2°C climate target is possible.

Scharf reported that all heads of state have been invited to the Summit, along with heads of business, the private sector, financial sector and NGOs. She highlighted the Summit’s two goals of mobilizing political will for the 2015 Paris climate agreement and catalyzing ambitious action on the ground given that the new climate agreement will only apply from 2020 onwards.

On the structure of the Summit, Scharf explained that the morning will consist of statements by heads of state in three parallel plenary sessions. In the afternoon, sessions focusing on multilateral and multi-stakeholder action announcements will take place on each of the 10 Action Areas identified in the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, including SLCPs. She explained that in parallel, thematic sessions will be held on science, co-benefits, economic case for action and voices from the frontlines.

Questions were raised concerning, inter alia: the role of ministers; criteria for allocating countries to the various sessions; time allocated for heads of state to speak; how to help heads of states to choose which session to attend; and links to the UNFCCC process. Scharf clarified that statements by heads of state will be limited to less than five minutes and countries will be allocated to the three parallel plenaries based on alphabetical order or UN protocol. She said countries that are not invited to chair sessions may choose freely the sessions they wish to attend in the afternoon.

Scharf stressed that the objective of the Summit is to engage heads of state, but that there will be opportunities for ministers to participate in private meetings. She noted that while there is no formal link between the UNFCCC and the Summit, the objective is to build political momentum around climate change. She specified that the UNFCCC parties will decide whether to use the Chair’s summary of the Summit as a contribution to the UNFCCC negotiations.

CCAC Initiatives for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit: Participants presented on potential initiatives for the CCAC to showcase at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit.

On HFC Phase Down, one of the lead partners underscored that while HFCs are not dangerous for the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases and their emissions are growing rapidly. He added that due to their high global warming potential (GWP), the increase in HFCs can cancel the impact of climate change mitigation efforts addressing CO2 emissions.

The lead partner noted that discussions on global HFC phase down currently focus on four deliverables: refrigerant management; reducing emissions in the cold-food chain; public procurement of climate friendly alternatives; and global phase down of production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

On the Green Freight Programme, one of the lead partners highlighted “significant” stakeholder engagement after the call to action at the HLA in Warsaw in 2013 and explained that work has started in the US, Canada, Mexico, Bangladesh and Vietnam. He noted that the objective is to promote, enhance and scale up green freight programmes. As a deliverable, he proposed engaging high-level industry and government sign up and implementation of the action plan.

On the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, one of the lead partners highlighted upstream methane emissions as one of the four key areas of climate change mitigation identified by the International Energy Agency. He outlined ongoing efforts to engage companies in this public-private partnership through Memoranda of Understanding, and called for governments and companies with connections to the relevant companies to support the launch.

On the Municipal Solid Waste Initiative, one of the lead partners emphasized landfills as the third largest anthropogenic source of methane emissions and an important source of black carbon. He identified the need to improve waste management through proven technologies and move cities up in the “waste hierarchy.”  Reporting that 26 cities currently participate in the initiative and the goal is to engage 50 cities by 2016, he said replication would be driven by collaboration between cities and linkages with national governments.

On Agriculture, one of the lead partners explained that the aim is to share and implement best practices for minimizing SLCPs from agriculture in a way that ensures climate change mitigation benefits and enhances food security. He identified livestock, paddy rice and open burning in agriculture as the three focus areas. He also invited participants to assist in the designation of a “champion case” to be highlighted at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit under the Agriculture Action Area.

The World Bank presented on the Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF), saying the initial focus of this pilot project is on methane and on maximizing the involvement of the private sector.

Speaking for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Co-Chair Abubakar informed the Working Group of a statement that ECOWAS intends to deliver at the Climate Summit, underscoring the impact of indoor air pollution on deaths in ECOWAS countries and emphasizing the goal of focusing on clean cooking and phasing out kerosene lighting. She also noted the intention of ECOWAS to commend the work of the CCAC and suggest the establishment of a regional CCAC Working Group.

Following discussion, Co-Chair Markovic noted the plan to present the initiatives on oil and gas, HFCs, green freight and municipal solid waste during the Action Area on SLCPs at the Climate Summit.

Outreach: Côte d’Ivoire presented on a communications plan for the Summit and HLA. He noted the intention to draw attention to SLCPs through opinion editorials before the Summit. He outlined plans, inter alia, for a CCAC press release in context of the HLA. He also noted plans for: a press briefing at the UN Climate Summit media room; photos and stories from the Assembly and Summit in social media; UNEP-DTIE photo exhibit outside the UN headquarters; and a launch of a health and air pollution campaign on 24 September 2014.

NEXT HIGH-LEVEL ASSEMBLY: Participants discussed the next HLA, focusing on the proposed agenda (WG/JUL2014/7). They addressed, inter alia, private sector engagement; key deliverables for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and for the CCAC more broadly; announcements on domestic commitments; and engagement of new partners and observers.

SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY PANEL: This issue was considered on Thursday morning, 17 July.

Update on SAP work: The Working Group considered an update on SAP work and plans. SAP member Johan Kuylenstierna, University of York and Stockholm Environment Institute, presented on the SAP’s role in finalizing the CCAC’s Time to Act report. He emphasized the need to communicate the importance of addressing SLCPs for near-term climate change and public health, as well as food and energy security.

Kuylenstierna explained, inter alia, that: the net total impact of black carbon remains almost the same compared to the previous year; shifts in rainfall patterns remain a significant challenge for livelihoods; and uncertainties concerning the influence of aerosols remain significant. He highlighted key messages from the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change regarding SLCPs, including the evaluation of metrics. He explained that the use of GWP risks being misleading in the case of SLCPs and that the AR5 does not endorse any particular time horizon or metric.

SAP members also re-emphasized that the CCAC’s focus on SLCPs does not substitute CO2 mitigation, but acts as a complementary effort to tackle climate change with public health, ecosystem and other air quality benefits, as set out in the Coalition Framework.

On health and SLCPs, Andy Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlighted the powerful links between black carbon and ozone depletion as a major cause of death. A.R. Ravishankara, University of Colorado, briefed the Coalition on latest HFC research, as released in the Ozone report of WMO/UNEP. Concerning freight, he noted that methane leakage is critical and indicated that rules for chemicals trade tend to become stricter.

During discussion, SAP members also noted a forthcoming SLCP research agenda briefing, which will serve as outreach towards other scientific experts and further the work of the CCAC, notably through the development of a roster of experts to bridge some knowledge gaps. Briefing notes on the economic case, kerosene lamps are also being prepared by SAP.

Issues raised during discussion included: the choice of metrics; communications strategies for the UNFCCC COP in Lima; linkages between SLCPs and health; the relationship between fracking and SLCPs; improvement of the CCAC website; and recruitment of a new scientific expert to the CCAC Secretariat.

SAP members responded by, inter alia, clarifying differences between GWP and global temperature potential and the impact of different time horizons. They recognized that the Kyoto Protocol uses GWP and that changing the metrics would be difficult. They noted the rapidly changing conditions of fracking procedures and investments, while pointing out the need to address linkages between health and SLCPs through an economic perspective.

SAP membership and roster of experts: On the SAP membership rotation plan (WG/JUL2014/9), SAP members recalled that the panel currently has only 14 instead of 15 members as indicated in its terms of reference. They recommended that an expert with a background in agriculture should fill this vacancy. They also suggested the expansion of the SAP number of experts through the creation of an extended list of experts available for consultation as a roster of experts (WG/JUL2014/10).

It was also noted that six SAP members are reaching the end of their two-year term. The Working Group agreed to renew the term of the other six SAP members, if they wish to remain in the SAP. The issue of SAP membership will be considered further at the next Working Group meeting in September.

The Working Group concluded the discussion by emphasizing the overarching goal of the CCAC to focus on the benefits of significantly curbing SLCPs for fighting climate change and that this should remain the guiding principle of the Coalition’s work. One participant stated that “magnitude matters more than the metrics,” with which SAP members agreed.

VISION FOR MOVING FORWARD: On Thursday morning, the Working Group discussed the CCAC vision for moving forward (WG/JUL2014/6).

INITIATIVES: On Thursday morning, the Working Group considered proposed new initiatives. Co-Chair Markovic explained that lead partners oversee the development and implementation of initiatives. Countries that are not coalition members can join initiatives as actors but do not become coalition members. She noted that 10 initiatives have been approved thus far and that all new initiatives are first reviewed and then approved by the Working Group. She also explained that activities under initiatives can be funded through funding requests.

WHO presented on an initiative focusing on realizing health benefits from SLCPs in cities (WG/JUL2014/11 and WG/JUL2014/12). He highlighted that: more than seven million people die annually from air pollution; its role in causing heart disease and strokes is not well known; and the local healthcare sector could play a more active role in providing advice on best ways to address SLCPs. Justifying the focus on the local-level, he underscored the importance of cities as sources of air pollution, especially in developing countries.

WHO also noted that many relevant policies, such as those on waste management and transport, involve local-level decision-making. He explained that the initiative aims to support policy choices and behaviors that realize SLCP reductions and maximize health benefits in cities, and equip urban health and development sectors with knowledge, tools, strengthened capacity, collaborative frameworks and awareness-raising. WHO noted that the initiative will develop tools for assessment, monitoring and evaluation, and disseminate results to city networks.

Norway emphasized that this “transformative” initiative will bring local-level benefits to developing counties in addition to addressing climate change. She noted the emphasis on capacity building at many levels, highlighting that the initiative will also empower poor and affected people, helping them to avoid exposure to air pollution.

During discussion, many participants commended the initiative and some expressed interest in joining it. The Working Group approved the proposal as a concept and agreed that a revised proposal will be presented at its September meeting along with a funding proposal.

The World Bank, with the ClimateWorks Foundation, presented the main findings of the report on climate-smart development, which examines the multiple benefits of policies related to transportation and energy efficiency in industry and buildings in different country-contexts. Focusing on Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the US and the European Union, the report shows, through a quantitative analysis, that emission reductions and economic development can be complementary.

UNEP underscored opportunities to engage with the Global Environment Facility to develop projects on SLCPs, highlighting projects on smart agriculture, urban sustainable policies, air conditioning and refrigeration.

In the afternoon, participants considered a new initiative model, governance and process for CCAC (WG/JUL2014/13). Canada and the US reported on the work of the task force dedicated to this issue, noting that the proposal aims to enhance the CCAC’s efficiency by simplifying procedures for funding and revision of proposals. The Working Group approved the proposal with agreement to address minor issues at a later stage.

STRATEGIC DISCUSSION ON ENGAGING PARTNERS AND INCREASING CAPACITIES: This issue was taken up on Thursday afternoon.  The Working Group considered how the CCAC can engage the private sector more systematically, including proposed specific goals for private sector engagement (WG/JUL2014/14). It agreed to the private sector engagement plan as proposed by the CCAC Secretariat.

The Working Group also considered the proposed tasks of the Capacity Strengthening Advisory Group and participation in the group (WG/JUL2014/15). During discussion, participants stressed, inter alia, the need for strong donor presence in the group, as well as participation by developing countries and international organizations with experience in capacity development. The full composition of the Working Group will be considered at the Working Group meeting in September.

The Working Group considered an update on SNAP institutional strengthening activities to support CCAC developing country partners to further coordinate and scale up activities to reduce SLCPs and increase their participation in CCAC activities and decision-making. During discussion, it was noted that 14 developing countries have expressed interest in participating in this initiative. Participants also highlighted the need to take into consideration lessons from similar activities under the Montreal Protocol and other agreements.

HOUSEKEEPING: On Thursday afternoon, the Working Group considered various housekeeping issues, including: update on the CCAC Secretariat staffing (WG/JUL2014/16); overview of the CCAC Trust Fund (WG/JUL2014/16); invitation for pledges to the Trust Fund; review and approval of the compiled document with all Coalition decisions on partnership (WG/JUL2014/17); CCAC meeting dates in 2015 (WG/JUL2014/18), including possible additional HLAs in 2014 and in 2015; preparations for the mid-term evaluation; update on CCAC Annual Progress Report; and launch plans for a new website (WG/JUL2014/19).

The Working Group also considered a draft revision to the coalition framework (WG/JUL2014/8), identifying the need to insert some further revisions, including on extending the CCAC mandate beyond 2017 and defining a new deadline. It also discussed composition of the CCAC Steering Committee, with the objective that the new Steering Committee will start working after the HLA in September.

CLOSE OF THE MEETING: Co-Chair Markovic thanked her Co-Chair, participants, the CCAC Secretariat and interpreters for their work during the meeting. She said she looks forward to having the CCAC featured prominently in the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September and closed the meeting at 6:00pm.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper By Robert Bryce, 371 pages, PublicAffairs Credit Patricia Wall/The New York Times

 

 

Every so often we need someone to put in a kind word for the devil, if only to remind us of unpleasant facts. On energy policy, we need someone willing to declare flat out that “if oil didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. No other substance comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, and flexibility.”

{This obviously does not mean that the use of the fossil fuels is a panacea – it means only that the author thinks the energy density in petroleum made it an ideal fuel when in use – but the side effects are another matter. nevertheless I decided to post this in order to supply to our readers the variety of views on the subject. Above does not remember that originally Henry Ford intended his motor-vehicle to use ethanol from grain- which would have made more sense from an environmentalist point of view as that CO2 would have been a recycled CO2 – a Pincas Jawetz Comment.}

We need someone who says: Don’t kid yourself, coal will be around for a long, long time, as a cheap source of electricity across the globe. Someone who scoffs that anyone who believes in wind power and biofuels as a solution to the soaring demand for energy also believes in the Easter Bunny. And someone willing to argue that the most sensible long-term answer to the world’s unquenchable thirst for electricity is a revival of nuclear power, a reality that he says thinking environmentalists are coming to accept.

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research group, fills that role with zest. The author of four books on oil and energy, Mr. Bryce has written a new book well worth reading, though it will not sit well with those who applauded when Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize. The title of his breezy book — “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper” — captures the headlong rush of Western culture’s endless drive for ever better technology. It is an extraordinary impulse that has created a world in which more people live longer and more comfortably than ever before.

The book amounts to Mr. Bryce’s emphatic, against-the-grain views on energy policy coupled to a once-over-lightly history of Western technology. His eccentric take on history bounces from the Panama Canal to Edison’s light bulb to the first computers, weirdly wrapping in excerpts on the AK-47 Kalashnikov automatic rifle, Olympic 100 meter times, and the Tour de France. He introduces puzzling techno-terms like “attoseconds,” which are billionths of a billionth of a second. (That, astonishingly, is the scale of time used in laser snapshots of the inner workings of an atom.) His historical vignettes do illustrate the benefits of Smaller Faster, etc., but they are like making an entire meal of amuse-bouches.

Mr. Bryce’s policy prescriptions will be more welcome in Houston than in the White House. He contends that the pantheon of environmentalists like Mr. Gore, Bill McKibben, Amory Lovins and Greenpeace — he calls them “the catastrophists” — are wildly optimistic, if not daft, in their extravagant hopes for wind power, solar cells and biofuels. He insists that his differences with them are not ideological but purely physics and economics: that their alternative possibilities are inherently too weak as fuels to scale them up to meet the world’s unceasing demand for more electricity.

From studies of wind farms he calculates that the average power density for wind energy is about one watt per square meter. A wind farm large enough to power just one data center for Facebook would require nearly 11 square miles of land, he says. On a far larger scale, the United States has about 300 billion watts of coal-fired generation capacity. So to replace it by wind power would sop up 300,000 square kilometers of land, about the area of Italy. Here he is tilting at windmills — no one has ever proposed shuttering the nation’s coal mines and relying on wind — but the comparison serves his contention that in the big picture, wind power will always be a minor player.

Biofuels have a power density even smaller, only a third of wind’s, and thus they hog even more land, he writes. Mr. Bryce considers it a scandal and a gross misuse of government subsidies that 40 percent of the nation’s corn harvest already goes into producing corn-based ethanol, pushing food prices much higher as collateral damage.

He pounces on Mr. Lovins’s prediction that by 2050, the United States will draw 23 percent of its power from biofuels. That is “ludicrous beyond language,” he says. If an acre of switchgrass yields about 17 barrels of oil equivalent a year, then achieving that 23 percent would take up 342,000 square miles of cropland, the equivalent of Texas, New York and Ohio combined, he calculates.

Mr. Bryce knows his way around an oil field, and he writes authoritatively about the constantly improving technology of extracting oil and gas. Thanks to those improvements, estimates of oil and gas reserves have shot up, defying repeated predictions that they were on the verge of topping out. Comparable innovations in wind energy or biofuels just aren’t possible, he maintains.

Disappointing for a man so sure of other data, Mr. Bryce waffles on the critical point of global warming. He declares himself a resolute “climate agnostic,” despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is a reality. Environmentalists might well see this as a convenient way to skirt the issue of the fossil fuel industry’s responsibility for endangering the planet.

He says he is neither an “alarmist” (a revealing choice of words) nor a “denier,” but tries to patch together an “incontrovertible” climate outlook that both “tribes” can accept: Carbon dioxide emissions are rising, dramatically so, and that will continue; the world will need vastly more energy in the decades ahead to raise the living standards of those in poverty; and if ever we needed smaller, faster, lighter, denser, cheaper, the time is now.

Mr. Bryce’s solution is “N2N,” a reliance on natural gas on the way to a more nuclear world. He is not the first to note that natural gas is relatively clean and available in extraordinary abundance. It generates electricity; it is the coming thing in propelling vehicles. Its use is already cutting CO2 emissions in the United States.

Mr. Bryce makes a case that nuclear power is clean and green and far superior to any other fuel in power density. His enthusiastic embrace of nuclear will astonish most readers, however, with his contention that the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan should be seen as a boon to the revival of nuclear power, rather than an obstacle.

At Fukushima, three reactors melted down with a substantial release of radiation, forcing as many as 300,000 people from their homes, and leaving still unresolved problems of cleaning up massive amounts of radioactive water. And yet, Mr. Bryce writes, even though the plant was wrecked by one of the most powerful earthquakes ever to rock the planet, the World Health Organization has concluded that radiation exposure due to Fukushima was low. No lives were lost to radiation — at least none so far.

Mr. Bryce is decidedly bullish on America, not least because of what’s happening in the oil patch. America enjoys the cheapest power in the industrial world, at 12 cents a kilowatt hour versus 26 cents in Europe and 24 cents in Japan. It leads the world in natural gas production, nuclear production and refined oil output. Thanks to the oil shale, it could soon eclipse Saudi Arabia and Russia in crude oil.

“The best way to protect the environment is to get richer,” he asserts. “Wealthy countries can afford to protect the environment. Poor ones generally can’t.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 8, 2014, on page BU4 of the New York edition with the headline: Wind? Biofuels? Get Real, a Contrarian Says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

AMAZING – I just spent two days at the yearly meetings of the Austrian Economic Association that this year dealt with: ECONOMICS OF INEQUALITY and had as key-note speaker Sir Tony Atkinson f Oxford U., and now I find in my incoming e-mail an article from Bill Moyers talking to Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia U. who is President of the International Economic Association and cooperates with Sir Atkinson, something that nails the same topic down in excellent journalistic terms. Yes – clearly – we are doing everything wrong when it comes to build an economy – Why?

The Vienna meeting was held on the new campus of the Business University – WirtschafysUniversitaet Wien – in a building funded by the Austrian oil Company OEMV that is just in the news for the ill-advised South Stream Pipeline that is being planned to bypass The Ukraine when bringing to the EU Russian Gas – and was just shut down by the EU Commissioner for Energy who clearly does not want responsibility for this politically most miserable attempt by an oil company and a EU Member State to make money from fossil fuels and undermine a European Effort to go instead for Renewable Energy.

Professor Joe Stiglitz unmasks here this self-righteousness of the rich that think the World is their oyster and they have a Constitutional right to rob and legally cheat. The implications are immense and reach into globalization and efforts to enlarge the scope of international piracy using multinational trade agreements to undo healthy laws in countries that somehow managed to pass such laws.

 

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers.

 

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

 

31 May 2014
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

 

  new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

 

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Our democracy is now probably better described as one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Avoiding taxes has become a hallmark of America’s business icons; Apple, Google, GE, and many more of the Fortune 500. The nation’s largest corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash while revenue from corporate income taxes have plummeted from just below 40 percent in 1943 to just below 10 percent in 2012. Government and big business have colluded to create what’s tantamount to an “unlimited IRA” for corporations.

That’s not my term, although I wish I had thought of it, because it explains so much about what’s gone wrong in a country where some 20 million workers who would like a full-time job still can’t get one. Yet the upper one percent of the population takes home a staggering 22.5 percent of America’s income while their effective federal income tax rate has dropped.

No, the phrase was coined by Joseph Stiglitz, a man eminently worth quoting, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the world’s most influential economists.

Currently he’s president of the International Economic Association. Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton, and the author of best-selling books that have shaped worldwide debates on globalization, income inequality, and the role of government in the financial marketplace. Now he’s written one of his shortest but most important works: this white paper, published by the Roosevelt Institute where Joseph Stiglitz is a senior fellow. It’s a mere 27 pages, but in clear and cogent prose, backed up by facts and figures, it lays out a plan that not only would reform our taxes but create jobs and strengthen the economy. I’ve asked him here to tell us about it. Welcome.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Nice to be here.

 

BILL MOYERS: You argue that elimination of corporate welfare, or at least its reduction, should be at the center of tax reform. Why?

 JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, let me put it in a broader context. Our country needs, faces a lot of challenges. We, as you mentioned, 20 million Americans would like a full-time job and can’t get one. We have growing inequality. We have environmental problems that threaten the future of our planet. I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values. But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient. Look at the tax rate paid by that one percent. It’s much lower than the tax rate paid by somebody whose income is lower who works hard for a living, as a percentage of their income.

You know, Warren Buffet put it very -  why should he pay a lower tax rate on his reported income than his secretary? And the interesting thing that he didn’t emphasize was most of his income is in the form of unrealized capital gains.

 

BILL MOYERS: Unrealized capital gains are not taxed as long as the owner keeps them, right, doesn’t get rid of them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. And what’s even worse, if you’re a corporation and you even realize the capital gains but you’re abroad, you don’t bring the money back home, there’s still no taxes.

As long as they don’t bring the money back here, it accumulates, it grows and grows and grows, and they get wealthier. But it’s even worse than that. Because it means that they have an incentive to keep their money abroad.

And what does that mean? They have an incentive to create jobs abroad. And with our trade agreements, they can take the goods that are produced abroad with this tax-free money, bring it back in the United States, basically making it unfair competition with the goods produced by Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. There are several startling statements in your report. This is one of them: “our current tax system encourages multinationals to invest abroad.” And create jobs abroad, as you just said. And yet, these are people who defend their practices by saying, we are the job creators, we’re the job producers. And yet, you say they have an incentive to send jobs abroad.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: The whole discussion of who are the job creators, I think, has been misplaced. You know, what really creates jobs is demand–

 

BILL MOYERS: I spend my money to buy things.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. Americans of all income groups are entrepreneurial. You got people across our income distribution who, when there’s a demand, respond to that demand. But if there’s no demand, there won’t be jobs. Now, the problem is that the people in the one percent have so much money that they can’t spend it all. The people at the bottom are spending all of their income and hardly getting by. In fact, a very large fraction of those in the bottom 80 percent are spending more than their income. And it’s part of the instability of our economy. So, the point is this inequality contribute, to which our tax system contributes actually weakens our demand.

And that’s one of the main messages of my report, which is if we had a more progressive tax system, we could get a more efficient economy. Because there would be more jobs being created.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, these 20 million people I referred to, and you referred to in your report, who are looking for full-time work but can’t find it, if they had that work, they’d be spending their money. They’re not going to send it to the Cayman Islands, right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. And they’re going to be paying taxes. Because they don’t have the opportunities for tax avoidance that the people who have the Cayman Islands and can use these unlimited IRAs and other ways of tax avoidance. You know, they don’t keep the money in the Cayman Islands because the sunshine makes the money grow better. They put their money there because the lack of sunshine, the way of tax avoidance–

 

BILL MOYERS: Dark money, money in the shadows, money now going into our political process, as you know so well, to reinforce this tax code.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. Reinforce the tax code, which has led America to be the country with the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries.

 

BILL MOYERS: Give us a working definition for the laity of corporate welfare.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, this was an idea that I began talking about when I was serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers–

 BILL MOYERS: Twenty years ago.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –twenty years ago. And everybody was talking about how much money you were giving to the poor people. It wasn’t, if you actually looked at the amount of money, it wasn’t that much. But we said, well, you’re also giving away a lot of money to rich corporations, directly and indirectly. Most of the indirect way is through the tax system. So, for instance, if you give special tax provisions for oil companies, so they don’t pay the full share of taxes that they ought to be paying, that’s a welfare benefit.

Lots of other provisions in our, hidden in our tax code basically help one industry or another, that can’t be justified in any economic terms. And, so, that’s where we coined the term “corporate welfare.” It’s caught on. And because it says it’s a subsidy, but not a subsidy, help going to a poor person, which is where welfare ought to be going, but going to the richest Americans, going to our rich corporations.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, we have a tax code that encourages people to– encourages companies to send their profits abroad, to send jobs abroad, and to reward owners of their company whose money may not come back to the United States?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: It doesn’t make any sense, you might say. And the fact it doesn’t, you know, one of the reasons I wrote the paper was, you know, there’s a lot discussion going on about we have a budget of deficit. And we have to slash this, and slash that, and cut back education, and cut back research, things that will make our economy stronger, cut back infrastructure.

 And I think that’s counterproductive. It’s weakening our economy. But the point I make in this paper is it would be easy for us to raise the requisite revenue. This is not a problem. This is not as if it’s going to oppress our economy. We could actually raise the money and make our economy stronger. For instance, we’re talking about the taxation of capital. If we just tax capital in the same way we tax ordinary Americans, people who work for a job, who pay taxes we pay on wages.

If we eliminate the special provisions of capital gains, if we eliminated the special provisions for dividends we could get, over the next ten years, over, you know, approximately $2 trillion. And those are numbers according to the CBO. And so, we’re talking about lots of money.

 

BILL MOYERS: The figures make sense to me. But the politics doesn’t. Because these are the people, once again, who dominate our system with their contributions to the politicians who then have no interest in changing a system that rewards their donors.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We have this vicious cycle where economic inequality gets translated into political inequality. It gets translated into rules of the game that lead to more economic inequality, and which allow that economic inequality to get translated into evermore political inequality. So, my view, you know, the only way we’re going to break into this viscous cycle is if people come to understand that there is an alternative system out here.

That there is an alternative way of raising taxes, that we are not really faced with a budget crisis. It’s a manmade crisis. You know, when we had the government shutdown, we realized that that was a political crisis. That wasn’t an economic crisis. And the same thing about our budget crisis, you know. It’s not that we couldn’t raise the revenues in a way which actually could make our economy stronger. We can.

If we just had a fair tax system, to tax capital at the same rate that we tax ordinary individuals, if we just made those people in that upper 1 percent pay their fair share of the taxes they got 22.5 percent of the income, well, let’s make sure that they pay a commensurate part of our income tax, if we had taxes that would be designed to improve our environment.

 

BILL MOYERS: You mean by taxing pollution?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Taxing pollution.

BILL MOYERS: Carbon emissions.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: A general principle that we’ve known for a long time, a lot better to tax bad things than good things. Rather than tax people who work, let’s shift some of that burden into things that are bad, like pollution.

BILL MOYERS: You make it sound so easy. And I’m still hung up on your saying, you know, it would be easy to do these things. And yet, if they were easy, why haven’t we done them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, that’s the politics. The fact is that we have a political process that I won’t say is broken, but is certainly not functioning the way we think a democracy is supposed to function, you know. In democracy, supposed to be one person, one vote. And there’s a well-developed theory about what does that imply for the outcome of a political process?

We talk about it, called the median voter. It should reflect the middle, you know. Some people want more spending. Some people want less spending. Some people, you know, so the nature of democracy is compromise. And it’s supposed to be compromise sort of in the middle. But that’s not we have today in the United States. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

BILL MOYERS: Let me cite some examples of the biggest tax dodgers. These come from the organization, Americans for Tax Fairness. Citigroup had $42.6 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. Exxon Mobil had $43 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. General Electric made $88 billion from 2002 to 2012 and paid just 2.4 percent in taxes for a tax subsidy of $29 billion, I could go on. Pfizer, Honeywell, Verizon, FedEx, Apple. What goes through your mind when you hear these figures?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, so, many things go through my mind. But, you know, one of the things is how unfair this is, and how angry Americans ought to be about this. I also think of the ethics of the question. If I were a CEO, take of a company like Apple, use the ingenuity of America, based on the internet. Internet was created, in large measure, by government–

 BILL MOYERS: Right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –by government spending. They’re willing to take but not to give back. So, there’s really a whole set of problems that concern it, ethics, equity, fairness, resource allocations. What they don’t seem to understand is our society can’t function if these large corporations don’t make their fair share of contributions.

 

BILL MOYERS: Aren’t they likely to say, though, in response, well we do this because the law permits it. This is what the system incentivizes.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well the law does permit it. They use their lobbyists to make sure that the law gives them the scope to avoid taxes. So, this argument, oh, we’re only doing what the law allows, is disingenuous. The fact is they created, their lobbyists, their lobbying helped create this law that allows them to escape taxes, pushing the burden of taxation on ordinary Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, that’s the big impact on people, right. They– somebody has to make up the difference between–

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Somebody has to make up the difference. I mean, we can’t survive as a society without roads, infrastructure, education, police, firemen. Somebody’s going to have to pay these costs.

 

BILL MOYERS: Summarizing what you say in here about your proposal, raise the corporate tax rate, but provide generous tax credits for corporations that invest in the U.S. and create jobs here. Eliminate the loopholes that distort the economy, increase taxes on corporations, the profits of which are associated with externalities such as pollution, reduce the bias toward leverage by making dividend payments tax deductible, but imposing a withholding tax. I mean, these seem so common-sensical that a journalist can understand them. But they don’t get into the debate.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Yeah, well, I hope this paper will help move that along. You notice when you were listing them that these are very much based on incentives. As I said–

 

BILL MOYERS: Your plan is based on incentives?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: On incentives that we’ve created a tax system that has an incentive to move jobs abroad. And what I want to do is create a tax system that has incentives to create jobs. And if you tell a corporation, look it, if you don’t create jobs, you’re taking out of our system, you’re not putting anything back, you’re going to pay a high tax.

But if you put back into our system by investing, then you can get your tax rate down. That seems to me, common sense, particularly in a time like today, when 20 million Americans need a job. When we have so much inequality and this unemployment is contributing to that inequality.

You know, in this, the first three years of the so-called recovery, between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of all the gains went to the upper 1 percent. So, the American workers are not participating. And the reason they’re not participating is there’s just not enough job creation here at home. And, so, this is a way of trying to incentivize all these corporations who are sitting on all this money abroad to start using some of their huge resources, some of all those benefits that we’ve given them, for the benefit of the American people.

 

BILL MOYERS: You move in circles where you come into contact with the CEOs of these companies, many of whom are deficit hawks, you know. They keep, they’re on committees. They keep testifying in Washington. They call for deficit reduction. What do they say when you make this argument to them face to face, as you’re making it to me?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Most of them are not economists. And most of them are concerned with their corporation’s own bottom line and with their own salary. So, we’ve created a corporate system in the United States where the CEOs’ pay is related to the shareholder value. The shareholder value is related to how little taxes they pay. Because if they get the taxes down, profits look high and people will pay more for their shares.

So, when they’re making an argument for, let’s lower the corporate income tax, let’s lower taxes that I have to pay, let’s expand corporate loopholes, they don’t use those words. But what they’re really saying is, pay me more, because if I succeed in getting Congress to do that, my pay goes up, not because I’ve worked harder.

I haven’t invented something new. I haven’t made my customers happier. I made my company more valuable by succeeding in getting provisions that allow my company to avoid taxes. And then, my shareholder value goes up, and my salary goes up.

 

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Joseph Stiglitz will continue next week. {and we promise here to post the follow-up as well – The SustainabiliTank.info editor}

 

As if to prove a point, the U.S. House of Representatives, functioning these days as a legislative bordello for corporate America, is moving to extend and make permanent six separate tax cuts for big business. The whole package would come at a cost of $310 billion, virtually wiping out all the deficit reduction from last year. One of those tax credits, for research and development, already has been approved, at a cost over the next ten years of $156 billion. That’s 15 times as much as it would cost to extend unemployment benefits.

 

Did House Republicans offer to renew help for people out of work? Nope. They’re deficit hawks, and they said there’s no money to pay for it. Of course they could just ask their corporate friends to give the tax breaks back. But that would be asking too much, especially on the eve of the fall Congressional elections when secret or dark money from you-know-who will flow into you-know-whose campaigns like….well, like champagne on the company jet.

 

Yet another reminder that you need not impose fraud on people by stealth if you can succeed by law.

 

Next week, more on politics, taxes, and inequality with Joseph Stiglitz.

 

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We already have a tax system that has contributed to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries. That doesn’t have to be. We can have a tax system that can help create a fairer society— only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share.

 

BILL MOYERS: At our website, BillMoyers.com, we’ll link you to Joe Stiglitz’s white paper for the Roosevelt Institute. You’ll also find a list there of ten corporate tax dodgers whose names and brands we bet you’ll recognize.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Buying Insurance Against Climate Change.

 

 

Photo

The Alliance of Small Island States has been arguing for an international approach to dealing with losses from climate change. Here, Tarawa in Kiribati, an alliance member battling rising sea levels.       Credit Kadir Van Lohuizen/NOOR

 

 

He writes here:

 

The third National Climate Assessment report — released on May 6 by the White House, and representing the work of more than 240 scientists — warns us about our hazardous future and offers many good ideas for dealing with it. But a most important point may be lost in the crowd.

After discussing how to mitigate the coming dangers, the report says, “Commercially available mechanisms such as insurance can also play a role in providing protection against losses due to climate change.” That sentence should have been in big, bold letters and underlined.

BUT WE VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE WITH ABOVE – AND THAT IS WHY WE POST THIS MATERIAL.
{PJ – editor of SustainabiliTank}   
TO PUT IT IN SIMPLE TERMS – THE DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR WANTS THE PUBLIC AT LARGE – THROUGH THE TAXATION  SYSTEM AS WE KNOW IT – TO INSURE THE BUSINESS PEOPLE SO THEY CAN CONTINUE WITH IMPUNITY WHAT THE KNOW BEST – THAT IS TO MAKE PROFITS FOR THEMSELVES AND PASS ALL COSTS TO THE OTHERS !!!  WE RATHER THINK TO ACHIEVE INSURANCE BY APPLYING CARBON TAXES IN ORDER TO REACH PREVENTIVE MEASURES AND A MUCH LESS RISKY REALITY.  BUT LET US HIM SPEAK FOR HIMSELF. WE WILL HAVE COMMENTS IN GREEN!

That’s because of the substantial risk that efforts to stop global warming will fail. The implications are staggering, and we must encourage private innovation and government support to insure against the devastating financial losses that will result.

The problem is an age-old one: Each country has a strong individual incentive to take a free ride on the rest of the world — to find self-serving or nationalistic justifications for adding carbon dioxide and other pollutants to the global air supply. Such behavior, which in some ways might benefit the individual country while hurting everyone else, is known in economics as an externality problem, and the world has never solved one of this magnitude. We must face facts: There is a real risk of new kinds of climate-related disaster.E BLAMED 

BUT THE PROFESSOR TALKS OF NATIONS – NATIONAL INTERESTS – IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD WHERE THE NATIONS WERE ACTUALLY REPLACED BY CORPORATIONS.    SO ALREADY FROM START HE JUST GOES IN AN UNACCEPTABLE DIRECTION. IT IS THE CORPORATE INTERESTS THAT SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE – NOT THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS!

In his latest book, “The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty and Economics for a Warming World” (Yale University Press), my Yale colleague William D. Nordhaus describes the uncertainty of global warming’s specific effects around the world. We are taking major gambles with our environment, he says. Expect surprises.

In March, a United Nations report identified with “high confidence” a number of risks that will be visited on different people unequally. It spoke of the “risk of death, injury, ill health or disrupted livelihoods” in low-lying coastal zones and on small islands — and that is just the start. Food systems may break down. There may not be enough water for drinking and irrigation. Ecosystems may be shattered.

In short, we need to worry about the potential for greater-than-expected disasters, especially those that concentrate their fury on specific places or circumstances, many of which we cannot now predict.

That’s why global warming needs to be addressed by the private institutions of risk management, such as insurance and securitization. They have deep experience in smoothing out disasters’ effects by sharing them among large numbers of people. The people or entities that are hit hardest are helped by those less badly damaged.

A CONCLUSION THAT HAS NO RELATION TO THE CAUSE OF FUTURE DISASTERS – PLEASE DO NOT TRY BAMBOOZLE ON US DEAR PROFESSORS!!!

But these institutions need ways to deal with such grand-scale issues. Governments should recognize that by giving these businesses a profit incentive to prepare for these unevenly distributed disasters. After all, fire insurance does no good unless you buy it before the house burns down. And you have to diversify your portfolio before the stock market crashes.

Fortunately, we aren’t too late to take action to insure against some climate risks. And yet this has not been a major element in most of the climate debate.

We already have weather derivatives that can help, like the 50 contracts in 13 countries offered by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. A ski resort can already buy protection against inadequate snowfall and a city can buy protection against too much snowfall next winter by, in effect, taking the opposite side of the same futures contract (through the exchange), thereby pooling their opposite risks.

WHAT A CLEVER IDEA OF MAKING OTHERS PAY FOR THE SINS OF COAL AND OIL BURNERS?  IT IS REALLY ELEGANT!  WHY NOT FIRST GET THE SINNERS PAY – THEN FOR SMALL CORRECTONS THIS PROPOSED DELICACY COULD BE THE CROWN OF THE DEAL – NOT THE REPLACEMENT OF THE DEAL!

There are also catastrophe bonds, like the three-year, $1.5 billion Everglades Re Ltd. issue sponsored this month by the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. It would provide relief to the insurer of Floridians hit by a bad hurricane; in such an event, the bond holders would bear losses.

But there is a problem with instruments like these: They tend to focus on relatively short-term risks, and don’t hedge against the increasing cost of disasters over distant future years. Yet if the problems of global warming become more serious, they will very likely be long-lasting, raising some complex, tough-to-quantify issues. Some kinds of crises, like hurricanes, may remain intermittent, but their tendency toward severity may build in a slow, hard-to-predict process and in complex geographical patterns.

 

Psychologically, it’s hard for most of us to take the initiative on long-term, ill-defined risks. Three scholars — Howard C. Kunreuther and Mark V. Pauly of the University of Pennsylvania and Stacey McMorrow of the Urban Institute — show this in their book, “Insurance and Behavioral Economics: Improving Decisions in the Most Misunderstood Industry” (Cambridge University Press). But they argue that if we’re aware of them, these psychological impediments can be reduced, and they urge the innovation of long-term risk management contracts that address the problem of climate change.

Some progress is being made: The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility is one recent example of institutional sharing of climate risks. Then there is the Alliance of Small Island States, formed in 1990 as a response to climate change. The group represents 5 percent of the world’s population, and its island members are scattered around the globe. But if sea levels rise substantially, all of them will be affected. These countries generally aren’t big enough to have a heartland that can help coastal dwellers in a climate catastrophe. The alliance has been arguing for an international approach to dealing with such loss and damage.

These are only beginnings. We have a crucial need to bring innovation to our risk-management institutions. We need to make them flexible, to clarify their long-term international legal status, to develop mechanisms and indexes that can be the basis of long-term risk management contracts and to educate the public about them. Most important, we need concrete action now to build a mechanism that will provide real help for the victims of climate-change disasters.

———————

 

ROBERT J. SHILLER is Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale.

A version of this article appears in print on May 25, 2014, on page BU6 of the New York edition with the headline: Buying Insurance Against Climate Change

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Some  Comments:

 

Andy

I too, think this article misses the point. What is going to happen is that insurance companies will simply STOP insuring industries and…

 

Tom Stoltz

Change can be bad, but change can be good. Dr. Shiller (like most) focus on the down side of a warmer climate, “The people … that are hit…

 

June

 

The costs should be put on the corporate masters & their politician toadies who have been denying climate change for decades. Once…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Europe

 

Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

 

 

Photo

A natural gas worker in Chaslovtsy, the largest transit point in Ukraine for Gazprom exports to the European Union. Credit Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

 

CHASLOVTSY, Ukraine — As Ukraine tries to contain a pro-Russian insurgency convulsing its eastern region, a perhaps more significant struggle for the country hinges on what happens beneath the ground here in a placid woodland in the far west, on the border with Slovakia.

This is where about $20 billion worth of Russian natural gas flows each year through huge underground pipelines to enter Europe after a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Siberia. It is also, the pro-European government in Kiev believes, where Ukraine has a chance to finally break free from the grip of Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy behemoth.

In an effort to do this, Ukraine has for more than a year been pushing hard to start so-called reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe via Slovakia to Ukraine, thus blunting repeated Russian threats to turn off the gas tap.

An agreement signed last week between Slovak and Ukrainian pipeline operators opened the way for modest reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe, where prices are much lower than those demanded by Gazprom for its direct sales to Ukraine.

But the deal, brokered by the European Union and nudged along by the White House, fell so far short of what Ukraine had been lobbying for that it left a nagging question: Why has it been so difficult to prod tiny Slovakia, a European Union member, to get a technically simple and, for Ukraine and for the credibility of the 28-nation bloc, vitally important venture off the ground?

Some cite legal and technical obstacles, others politics and fear of crossing the Kremlin, but all agree that a major obstacle has been the power and reach of Gazprom, which serves as a potent tool for advancing Russia’s economic and geopolitical interests, and is ultimately beholden to President Vladimir V. Putin.

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Gazprom not only dominates the gas business across the former Soviet Union, but also enjoys considerable clout inside the European Union, which gets roughly a third of its gas imports from Russia and is itself vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Major Gas Lines

Uzhgorod and Chaslovtsy are the most West-Side dots in above map of The UKRAINE.

All the same, a fog of mystery surrounds the reluctance of Slovakia to open up its gas transit corridor — through which Russia pumps a large portion of its gas to Europe — for large reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Built during the Soviet era to link Siberian gas fields with European markets, Slovak pipelines, according to Ukrainian officials and experts, could move up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Europe to Ukraine a year — more than all the gas Ukraine is expected to import from Russia this year.

Instead, the majority state-owned Slovak company that runs the system, Eustream, has offered only a small, long-disused subsidiary pipeline that still needs engineering work before it can carry gas to Ukraine. Once the work is finished in October, Eustream will provide just a tenth of the gas Ukraine has been looking for from Europe. The company says that small amount can be increased sharply later.

Here in Chaslovtsy, in southwestern Ukraine, where technicians from Ukraine’s pipeline company, Ukrtransgaz, and Gazprom monitor the flow of Russian gas into Slovakia, the Ukrainian head of the facility, Vitaly Lukita, said he wondered if gas would ever flow the other way.

“We are all ready here, but I don’t know why the Slovaks are taking so long,” Mr. Lukita said. “Everyone has been talking about this for a very long time, but nothing has happened.”

Andriy Kobolev, the board chairman of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company, said he was particularly mystified by the recalcitrance of Eustream because in 2011 the company had put forward the idea of using spare capacity in its trunk pipelines for reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine.

He said the Slovaks had rejected this option in recent negotiations, citing secret contracts with Gazprom. He added that he did not know what the problem was exactly, because he had not been allowed to see the contracts.

Eustream executives declined repeated requests for interviews. Vahram Chuguryan, the company’s spokesman, declined to comment on the apparent change of heart or on whether it was related to an ownership shuffle in early 2013, when a group of wealthy Czech and Slovak businesspeople purchased a 49 percent stake in Eustream. At the time, Czech news media speculated that they were acting as a stalking horse for Gazprom.

Daniel Castvaj, a spokesman for Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding, the company that made the purchase, denied Ukrainian assertions that Eustream has sought to limit reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine, describing these as “not only untrue but nonsensical” since the pipeline operator, which makes its money off transit fees, has a strong commercial interest in boosting flows regardless of direction.

He said he was unaware of any 2011 offer by Eustream to use the trunk transit system to deliver gas to Ukraine, but added that such an option has always been technically and legally impossible “without the consent of Gazprom,” which has not been given.

European Union officials, frustrated by months of haggling and worried about possible legal problems raised by Gazprom’s contracts with Slovakia, hailed last week’s modest deal as offering at least an end to the logjam. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, described it as a “breakthrough” but also called it a “first step,” signaling hope that Slovakia may, over time, allow more substantial reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom to heat homes and power factories — it buys more than half its supplies from Russia — has not only left the country vulnerable to sudden price changes, which fluctuate depending on whether Moscow wants to punish or favor the authorities in Kiev, but has also helped fuel the rampant corruption that has addled successive Ukrainian governments.

When Gazprom raised the price of gas to Ukraine by 80 percent last month and threatened to cut off supplies if Kiev did not pay up, Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, blasted Moscow for “aggression against Ukraine.”

“Apart from the Russian Army and guns, they decided to use one of the most efficient tools, which are political and economic pressure,” he said.

   Ukraine Crisis in Maps

By pushing to buy the bulk of its gas from Europe instead of from Gazprom and murky middlemen endorsed by Gazprom, Ukraine hopes to protect what it sees as a dangerously exposed flank from Russian attack.

The best-known of those middlemen, the Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash, was detained in Austria in April and has been fighting extradition to the United States.

“Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told Ukrainian legislators during a visit to Kiev last month. “It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.”

 

Nearly all the gas Washington and Brussels would like to get moving into Ukraine from Europe originally came from Russia, which pumps gas westward across Ukraine, into Slovakia and then on to customers in Germany and elsewhere. Once the gas is sold, however, Gazprom ceases to be its owner and loses its power to set the terms of its sale.

 

Russia is currently demanding $485 per thousand cubic meters for the gas Ukraine buys directly — instead of the price of $268 it offered the Ukrainian government under President Viktor F. Yanukovych before his ouster — while “Russian” gas sold via Europe, which should be more expensive because of additional transit fees, costs at least $100 per unit less.

Russia denies using gas as a political weapon and says all Ukraine needs to do to secure a stable supply at a reasonable price is pay its bills on time and clear its debts, which Gazprom said total $3.5 billion.

Ukraine has already started taking reverse-flow deliveries from Poland and Hungary. But the quantities, around 2 billion cubic meters last year, have been too small to make much of a difference. Only Slovakia has the pipeline capacity to change the balance of forces.

“We have been struggling for a long time to convince them to find a solution,” said Mr. Kobolev, the Ukrainian gas chief. “We have now identified the problem, which was obvious from the beginning — restrictions placed by Gazprom.”

Ukraine’s energy minister, Yuri Prodan, dismissed Gazprom’s legal and technical arguments as a red herring. “I think the problem is political. We don’t see any real objective obstacles to what we have been proposing,” he said.

Opposition politicians in Slovakia, noting that 51 percent of Eustream belongs to the Slovak state, attribute the pipeline company’s stand to the country’s prime minister, Robert Fico, a center-left leader who has sometimes seemed more in sync with Moscow’s views than those of the European Union.

“Fico thinks that it is necessary to be very nice and polite to Mr. Putin,” Mikulas Dzurinda, a former prime minister of Slovakia, said in a telephone interview. “This is the heritage of old communists in a new era: The big guys are still in Moscow,” he said.

At a news conference in April, Mr. Fico insisted that Slovakia was “really ready” to help assist reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine. But he added, “We naturally protect our own interests” and will not risk punishment by Gazprom for moves that violate Slovakia’s own deals with the Russian energy giant.

Slovakia depends on Gazprom for around 60 percent of its gas supplies and worries that upsetting the Russian company would lead to higher prices for itself or even cuts in supplies.

Alexander Medvedev, the head of Gazprom’s export arm, said he had no problem in principle with reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine but said such arrangements “require the agreement of all parties involved,” including Gazprom.

“Normally, you can’t arrange a physical reverse flow without a new pipeline,” he added, indicating Gazprom’s opposition to the use of existing Slovak pipelines.

Watching over workers in Chaslovtsy as they laid new underground pipes, Ivan Shayuk, a Ukrainian engineer for Ukrtransgaz, shook his head when asked why the scheme was taking so long.

“What is the problem? The problem is simple — Putin,” he said.

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Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague, and Alison Smale from Berlin.

A version of this article appears in print on May 5, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

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comment from: orbit7er

Here is another piece of the farce being pushed by the plutocratic elite in denial of the realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change. To ship…

And you know – the comment is right – it is those that refuse to let Europe move away from the use of gas that keep watch the umbilical cord to Russia is not broken. This umbilical cord to an unpredictable Russia is the undoing of the EU, and EU member-States that stand up for to hang on this umbilical cord are the un-doers of Europe.
Strange, as it might seem, Austria may be one of these European States that like Slovakia take real interest in conserving the is. Our eyes opened up Sunday May 2nd thanks to two articles in the Austrian news-papers:

(a)  “A Pipeline that Splits Europe” by Veronika Eschbacher, in the venerable and historic Wiener Zeitung, and

(b)  “How Russia wants to Renew its Might via Gas” by Guenther Strobl in the respected Business pages of Der Standard

Both articles give the facts about the Austrian National Oil Company OEMV, that is in the process of planing with the Russian Gazprom to build a new pipeline – “The Southern Stream” – that will shoot directly under the Black Sea, from Russia’s Caucasus near Socchi, to Bulgaria’s port at Varna. Then from there go directly through Serbia and Hungar to Austria – the town of Baumgarten on the border with Slovakia. The achievement here is that this line does not touvh the Ukraine, Moldova, Poland or Rumania which are inclined to be most reluctant to stay under the Russian boot.

So where in this is the Austria of the very active young Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who is laboring at finding an amicable solution in the conflict between The Ukraine and Russia?

Will an Austrian Government that listens to its own Oil Company be so influenced by it that it works against the better interests in Europe – that try to distance themselves from too close relationship with Russia and understand that Energy Independence in Europe means independence of imports of gas – specially if this gas originates in Russia – pipeline A or Pipeline B – there is no inherent difference in this?

The media has yet to explain this, and the politicians running in Austria for the European Parliament have yet to mention it.   Absolutely – not a single politician in Austria has yet had the courage to say that OEMV is not the source of Foreign policy or the guru of futurology and sustainability for Austria, the EU …  for Europe.

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May 5, 2014, at the Wirtschaftsmuseum (the Economy Museum) at Vogelsanggassee 36, 1050 Vienna, Austria, a panel chaired by Dr. Patrick Horvath, included the Editor of the Wiener Zeitung, Mr. Reinhard Goeweil and titled “EU-Elections 2014 – The Role of the Media” gave me the opportunity to raise the importance of the OEMV in Austrian Government policy and the fact that the media just does not point it out. Dr. Horvath, PhD in Social Studies of Communication, is Head of the Union of Scientists dealing with Economic Policy (WIWIPOL) and the panel included as well Mr. Wolfgang Greif (a last minute addition) – Head of the Europe Section at the Employees and the Employers involved in Company Boards and wrote the book on the subject fighting for the right of the Employees to get information about their Companies; Professor Fritz Hausjell of the Vienna University Faculty of Journalism; and Mr. Wolfgang Mitterlehner – Head of Communication at the Viennese Workers’ Union Central Office.

Professor Hausjell pointed out that the Wienner Zeitung is the best provider of information among the Austrian Media and this is something I argue as well, so it made it easier for me to formulate my question by starting with my own congratulation with the paper’s editor right there on the panel. In effect, founded in 1703 under the name “Vienna Diarium” the WZ is worldwide the oldest newspaper still in print(!) (it appears now 5 times a week with Friday and Sunday excluded and carries the official announcements of use in legal Austria); Mr. Goeweil is editor since 2009 and by background a writer on economics.

As excited as I was by the paper’s expose last weekend of the “Southern Stream” pipeline plans intended to keep the Russian gas flowing to Europe under conditions that exclude the Ukraine, Moldova, and Rumania, while using Russian friendly Serbia, and safeguarding the position of Slavic Slovakia – a multibillion project that might become active by 2017, but can kill all development of Renewable Energy in Europe right now, I realized that further involvement in the subject, even by a paper like WZ, will not come as long as even the good people of that paper take for granted the oil lobby arguments that there is not possible to replace the gas because there is not enough sun, wind, hydro-power etc. If nothing else, the Fossil and Nuclear lobbies have numbed the inquisitiveness of even the good media in the EU States, like they did in the US. Why not bring Jigar Shah over here and have him talk of CLIMATE WEALTH?  Why are not more active businesses that stand to flourish ? Are we the only ones to still say YES WE CAN?

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And Vienna is again the Center of Europe!

May 5-6, 2014 the Council of Europe is meeting in Vienna. 30 Foreign Ministers, including those of Russia and the Ukraine, are meeting here under the chairmanship of Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, the second most popular politician of Norway and a person that has held all possible political positions in Norway and many in all of Europe who is trying to manage the States of all of Europe with the help of the resourceful Austrian Sebastian Kurz.

Norway is not part of the EU and is an outside gas supplier to the EU. Interesting that Mr. Kurz started his meetings on Sunday with meeting first the current Norwegian Foreign Minister – was this a line-up on gas policy? Is that what the New York Times had in mind when publishing their article? Is it all about lining up interests with Russia and Norway so gas continues to flow in those pipelines and The Ukraine pushed aside, isolated and neutralized?

We shall see and so far as Europe is concerned, we will keep a close eye on these developments because in them we see
a make or break not just for the Ukraine but even more important – for the European Energy Policy that some, like the Prime Ministers of Poland and Slovakia, think of as just a gas policy.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

PERIL

The New York Times,   April 29th, 2014

www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000002847044/nuclear-power8217s-promise-and-peril.html?emc=edit_th_20140429&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=47157637

More than three decades after the accident at Three Mile Island cast a shadow on the atomic dream, is America again ready to give nuclear energy a chance?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Page – A New York TimesEditorial

 

Running Out of Time

 

 

 

Next year, in December, delegates from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to take another shot at completing a new global treaty on climate change. This will be the 21st Conference of the Parties under United Nations auspices since the first summit meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

For the most part, these meetings have been exercises in futility, producing  {under strong prodding from US Vice President Al Gore and with clear opposition from environmental groups - ST.info comment} just one treaty — in Kyoto in 1997 — that asked little of the big developing countries and was never ratified by the United States Senate.
But if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report is to be taken seriously, as it should be, the Paris meeting may well be the world’s last, best chance to get a grip on a problem that, absent urgent action over the next decade, could spin out of control.

The I.P.C.C., composed of thousands of the world’s leading climate scientists, has issued three reports in the last seven months, each the product of up to six years of research. The first simply confirmed what has been known since Rio: global warming is caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels by humans and, to a lesser extent, by deforestation. The second, released in Japan three weeks ago, said that profound effects were already being felt around the world, including mounting damage to coral reefs, shrinking glaciers and more persistent droughts, and warned of worse to come — rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields.

The third report, released last week, may be the most ominous of the three.

Despite investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources in the United States, in Europe and in developing countries like China, annual emissions of greenhouse gases have risen almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. This places in serious jeopardy the emissions target agreed upon in Rio to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial level. Beyond that increase, the world could face truly alarming consequences.

Avoiding that fate will require a reduction of between 40 percent and 70 percent in greenhouse gases by midcentury, which means embarking on a revolution in the way we produce and consume energy.

That’s daunting enough, but here’s the key finding: The world has only about 15 years left in which to begin to bend the emissions curve downward. Otherwise, the costs of last-minute fixes will be overwhelming. “We cannot afford to lose another decade,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

 

The report does not tell governments what to do — presumably, that’s for them to decide in Paris — but it lists approaches, mostly familiar, some technologically advanced. The most obvious, and probably the most difficult to negotiate, is to put a global price on carbon, either through a system of tradable permits like that adopted by Europe (and rejected by the United States Senate) or through a carbon tax of some sort, thus driving investments to cleaner fuels.

A more plausible pathway is to get each country to adopt binding emission reduction targets and then allow them to choose how to get there — ramping up nuclear energy, phasing out coal-fired plants in favor of cleaner natural gas (though natural gas itself would have to someday give way to low-carbon alternatives), and vastly increasing renewable sources like wind and solar, which still supply only a small fraction of the world’s energy (less than 5 percent for wind and solar combined in the United States). All this will require a huge shift in investment, both private and public, from fossil fuels.

Governments have an enormous amount of work to do in devising emission reduction strategies by next year. As always, American leadership will be required, meaning leadership from the top. Confronted with a hostile Congress, President Obama has commendably moved on his own to reduce emissions through regulations, first with cars and now with coal-fired power plants. And he has done so without a great deal of public support. However compelling the science, global warming has not generated the kind of public anxiety and bottom-up demand for change that helped win the big fights for cleaner air and water in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This makes his job harder but no less urgent.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Fact:  The New York City Transportation was a give away to General Motors that designed the Highway system through their underground partisan Mr. Robert Moses – who did not even have a driver’s license.

 

 

Architecture Critic’s Notebook – A Suggestion For A People Friendly Infrastructure:

Brooklyn to Queens, but Not by Subway!

Imagining a Streetcar Line Along the Waterfront.


By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN – - The New York Times – -  April 20, 2014.

 

The vision of a streetcar route between Red Hook and Astoria would provide much-needed transit to areas where millennials and thousands of less affluent New Yorkers live.

Desire lines, says architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, are marked by economic development and evolving travel patterns. He plots today’s desire line along the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Queens.

There’s a wonderful term for the dirt trails that people leave behind in parks: desire lines.

Cities also have desire lines, marked by economic development and evolving patterns of travel. In New York, Manhattan was once the destination for nearly all such paths, expressed by subway tracks that linked Midtown with what Manhattanites liked to call the outer boroughs.

But there is a new desire line, which avoids Manhattan altogether.

It hugs the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Queens, stretching from Sunset Park past the piers of Red Hook, to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, through Greenpoint and across Newtown Creek, which separates the two boroughs, running all the way up to the Triborough Bridge in Astoria.

The desire line is now poorly served by public transit, even as millennials are colonizing Astoria, working in Red Hook, then going out in Williamsburg and Bushwick — or working at the Navy Yard, visiting friends in Long Island City and sleeping in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

They have helped drive housing developments approved or built along the Brooklyn waterfront, like the one by Two Trees at the former Domino Sugar Refinery. But this corridor isn’t only for millennials. It’s also home to thousands of less affluent New Yorkers struggling to get to jobs and join the work force.

So here’s an idea: bring back the streetcar.

Some of this route is served — barely — by subway lines like the G, the city’s sorriest little railroad.
In Astoria, stations for the N and Q are nearly a full mile or more from the East River, meaning a vast swath of that neighborhood is virtually disconnected from the subway system. It’s an area ripe for growth — for new housing, start-ups and other small businesses and industries — all the more so with the coming of the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, just across the river and linked to Queens via the F. One can imagine another Silicon Alley spanning Cornell, Astoria, Williamsburg and Sunset Park.

Right now, it’s easier by subway to get from Long Island City to Midtown, or from Downtown Brooklyn to Wall Street, than it is to get from housing projects in Fort Greene or Long Island City to jobs in Williamsburg, or from much of Red Hook to — well, almost anywhere.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

    Tax Breaks That Are Killing the Planet

 The comments show how deep is the Republican brainwashing of the population. You have here pundits for whom loss of life is nothing when compared to what they think is the right of corporations to make a profit.

What is even worse, nobody asked whose oil and coal is it anyway?  If Natural Resources are the property of the Whole Nation, then why should a company get depletion subsidies for their appropriating to themselves the natural National treasures? The whole system of paying royalties is inadequate – but the payment to them for the deletion of the resources is ridiculous. Getting a bonus for gains from misappropriated resources is much more like rewarding the CEOs for being great thieves! Just give it some more rational thinking and use the babble of the comments as your guideline.   ST.info editor)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

IPCC Approves Third Contribution to its Fifth Assessment

ipcc-39            13 April 2014: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of its third contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on mitigation of climate change. Human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) are continuing to rise to unprecedented levels, according to the report, which underscores the inadequacy of existing levels of effort to curb emissions.

The 12th Session of the IPCC Working Group III (WGIII-12) and 29th Session of the IPCC took place from 7-12 April 2014, in Berlin, Germany. WGIII convened to approve the WGIII SPM line-by-line and to accept the underlying assessment of scientific literature. 

The WGIII report outlines technological and behavioral changes that can limit the increase in global average temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius, the point at which science shows that climate impacts begin to overwhelm human coping efforts. The report further notes that only major institutional and technological change will result in a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.

After adopting the report, IPCC-39 then convened to discuss, inter alia, future work of the IPCC, admission of observer organizations, and conflict of interest.

The report, titled ‘Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,’ is the IPCC’s Working Group III report.

The Panel adopted its WGI contribution on the physical science basis of climate change in in September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Panel adopted the WGII contribution on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in March 2014,
in Yokohama, Japan.

A Synthesis Report of all three WG volumes is expected to be finalized by the IPCC at a meeting that will take place
in October 2014, in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

[UNFCCC Press Release] [IPCC Press Release] [IISD RS Coverage] [UNEP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [WMO Press Release]

==========================
Photo

President Obama yesterday morning. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The United States needs to enact a major climate change law, such as a tax on carbon pollution, by the end of this decade to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, according to the authors of a report released this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But aggressive efforts to tackle climate change have repeatedly collided with political reality in Washington, where some Republicans question the underlying science of global warming and lawmakers’ ties to the fossil fuel industry have made them resistant to change. The rise of the Tea Party in recent years has also made a tax increase unlikely.

This week’s report makes clear, however, that the window is rapidly narrowing to forge new policies that will protect the globe from a future of serious food and water shortages, a drastic sea level rise, increased poverty and disease and other profound risks.

“What would be required is a nationwide carbon pricing policy,” said Robert Stavins, director of Harvard’s environmental economics program and a lead author of the report. “And that would not be possible without action from Congress.”

Photo

President Obama has used his authority under the Clean Air Act to issue new E.P.A. regulations to slash pollution from cars and coal-fired power plants. Credit Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Democrats have twice pushed serious bills to force greenhouse gas polluters like coal-fired power plants and oil refiners to pay to pollute. Both of those bills — one by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and one by President Obama in 2010 — ultimately failed, contributing to heavy Democratic losses in midterm elections.

Lawmakers who back such efforts, which represent a threat to the bottom lines of the fossil fuel industry, particularly coal, the nation’s top source of carbon pollution, have been criticized by campaigns from Republicans, Tea Party-affiliated “super PACs” like Americans for Prosperity, and the coal and oil industries.

Many members of the Republican Party question the established science that carbon pollution contributes to climate change — and hundreds have also signed on to a pledge promising never to raise taxes.

But there has not been a huge public outcry to endorse new climate change policy. Polls consistently show that while a majority of Americans accept that climate change is real, addressing it ranks at the bottom of voters’ priorities.

In the absence of action from Congress, Mr. Obama has taken controversial measures to counter climate change;
he has already used his executive authority under the Clean Air Act to create Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will slash greenhouse gas pollution from cars and coal-fired power plants.

During this year’s midterm election campaigns, Republicans have used carbon-control policies as a political weapon, calling Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. rules a “war on coal.” The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who is running for re-election in the coal-heavy state of Kentucky, has vowed to use every legislative tactic available to block, repeal or delay those rules if Republicans win control of the Senate this fall.

Within that context, many in the Republican establishment think that talking about climate change — and, particularly, any policy endorsing a tax on fossil fuels — would be political suicide for a Republican seeking to win the party’s nomination in 2016.

The United Nations report says that if the world’s major economies do not enact steep, fast climate policies well before 2030, in order to cut total global emissions 40 to 70 percent by 2050, the prospects of avoiding a global atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the point past which scientists say the planet will be locked into a dangerous future, will be far more difficult and expensive.

Ten countries are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution. While the report makes clear that all major economies must act, the actions of China and the United States, the top two carbon polluters, will be most crucial.

The authors of the report say Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations represent a significant first step to cutting United States carbon pollution — but not enough to avert the worst effects of a warming world.

The next president will have to both carry out Mr. Obama’s climate change rules and quickly push through even more stringent pollution-cutting policies, according to the report’s authors.

“We need to increase the slope and the pace of the change,” said David Victor, one of the report’s authors and an expert on climate and energy policy at the University of California, San Diego. “Accelerating what we’re doing in the U.S. will be very important for the next administration.”

Despite the history of roadblocks to enacting climate change policy, some experts say they do see some potential for a legislative path to cut United States carbon pollution.

One window could open if Congress takes up a comprehensive effort to overhaul the nation’s corporate tax code, which could happen after the 2016 presidential election.

Lawmakers from both parties have pushed tax reform — and in that context, there could be room for a grand bargain incorporating new carbon tax, which Democrats want, paired with a cut in corporate or income taxes, which Republicans want. Prominent conservative economists, like Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who advised Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Gregory Mankiw, who advised Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid, have endorsed that proposal.

Experts also note that a shift at the national level could come as more states enact climate change policies. Currently California and several Northeastern states, including New York, have enacted state-level programs to force carbon polluters to pay to pollute.

Historically, California’s environmental laws have served as a vanguard and model for national environmental policy. The push for state-level policies could rise, say experts, if there is a significant increase in extreme weather like droughts and flooding, which contribute to higher adaptation costs for state and local governments.

“The question is whether state and local entities want to see action — and if that can then be translated to local action,” said Thomas Peterson, founder of the Center for Climate Strategies, a nonprofit group that works on climate policy with state governments.

This week’s report said the impact of climate change was already being experienced, and it followed on earlier scientific reports that have noted that climate change was exacerbating drought in Texas, rapidly rising sea levels along the Atlantic coast and higher storm surges caused by hurricanes in states like Florida and Louisiana. Among the likely Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination are Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Of courses, some of those contenders, like Mr. Cruz, Mr. Jindal and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, also hail from states where fossil fuel development is a key part of the economy — and have thus led the way in fighting carbon control policies.

A version of this article appears in print on April 15, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Political Divide Slows U.S. Action on Climate Laws.

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Some Comments

dave commenter

One poster mentioned that since the first Earth Day when the alarms began sounding, not much has changed.
In the 1960′s Vance Packard wrote…

Sten Deadio

Does anyone else find it ironic that Conservatives deny a 97% scientific certainty in Climate Change AND accept with ZERO
PERCENT certainty…

Capt. Penny

As 300+ other comments ahead of mine have noted, politics trumps physics and reality.So what are WE going to do about that?
Take 3 simple…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Reject and Protect!Stop the KX
NATIONAL MOBILIZATION AND MARCH IN WASHINGTON DC
Saturday, April 26th 2014
Hello
We have buses? Will you join us?
March with 350NYC and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance on Saturday, April 26th
Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline and protect our planet.  Please join 350NYC on the bus and at the march.

On Saturday, April 26th, people from all across the country will gather in DC and march once more to the White House, sending a final, unmistakable message to President Obama – reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and protect our land, our water, and our climate.  This march is being led by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance – a coalition of farmers, ranchers, and Native Americans who’ve come together to oppose this pipeline that threatens the land that they work and love.

 “We’ll gather at 11 AM on Saturday the 26th at the Alliance encampment on the Mall to hear from farmers, ranchers, tribal leaders and others who will be directly impacted by KXL and the tar sands.  Then we’ll march to the White House to present a ceremonial painted tipi to President Obama. This tipi will represent our hope that he will reject KXL, and our promise that we will protect our land, water and climate if he chooses to let the pipeline move forward. Once the tipi is delivered, we’ll return to the encampment in song and make our pledge to continue resistance to the pipeline should it be approved.” 

Are you ready to get on the bus with us?

What: Reject and Protect Gathering
Who: The Cowboy Indian Alliance, allied groups, and you!
Where: The National Mall, between 9th Street and 12th Street NW, in front of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington, D.C. [Map]
When: Saturday, April 26 (note the new date). Gather at 10:30 a.m., speakers will begin at 11 a.m., and the procession will begin at 12:30 p.m.
NYC Bus Departure: The first bus will leave from 34th and 8th Ave.  As more buses are added, other departure points may also be added.Please sign up NOW at our event web siteso we have time to assess the demand and add buses as needed.
Bus Schedule– subject to change

  • Bus departure from NYC: 6:00 a.m.  Arrive in Washington: 10:00/10:30 a.m.
  • Departure from Washington DC: 3:30 p.m.  Arrive back in NYC: 8:00/8:30 p.m.

To sign up for a seat on the bus please go to our event web site: Questions?  Contact 350NYC@gmail.com

  • Standard tickets, round trip:   $30
  • Scholarship tickets: $15  (For special code to access scholarship ticket please e-mail 350NYC@gmail.com)
  • Donation ticket:  If you cannot come to the march please consider making a donation to support scholarships for those who want to attend but cannot afford to.

Note: commercial bus companies (Greyhound, Bolt etc.) may have cheaper fares so please check them out also.
 

March with us on April 26th

Reject the KXL pipeline and protect our planet.
Demand environmental justice and investment in a sustainable, green energy future

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages  Op-Ed Contributor to The New York Times.

 

Is Canada Tarring Itself?

 

 

Photo

Credit Kristian Hammerstad

 

START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.

Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive.

Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes.

Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition.

Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.

Documents obtained by research institutions and environmental groups through freedom-of-information requests show a government bent on extracting as much tar sands oil as possible, as quickly as possible.

From 2008 to 2012, oil industry representatives registered 2,733 communications with government officials, a number dwarfing those of other industries. The oil industry used these communications to recommend changes in legislation to facilitate tar sands and pipeline development. In the vast majority of instances, the government followed through.

In the United States, the tar sands debate focuses on Keystone XL, the 1,200-mile pipeline that would link Alberta oil to the Gulf of Mexico. What is often overlooked is that Keystone XL is only one of 13 pipelines completed or proposed by the Harper government — they would extend for 10,000 miles, not just to the gulf, but to both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

After winning an outright parliamentary majority in 2011, Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party passed an omnibus bill that revoked or weakened 70 environmental laws, including protections for rivers and fisheries. As a result, one proposed pipeline, the Northern Gateway, which crosses a thousand rivers and streams between Alberta and the Pacific, no longer risked violating the law. The changes also eliminated federal environmental review requirements for thousands of proposed development projects.

President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL, expected later this spring, is important not just because it will determine the pipeline’s fate, but because it will give momentum to one side or the other in the larger tar sands battle. Consequently, the Canadian government’s 2013-14 budget allocates nearly $22 million for pro-tar-sands promotional work outside Canada. It has used that money to buy ads and fund lobbyists in Washington and Europe, the latter as part of a continuing campaign against the European Union’s bitumen-discouraging Fuel Quality Directive.                                                                                                                             

THE REDEEMING VALUE IN ALL OF THIS IS THAT CANADA HAS REDUCED THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MIDDLE EAST OIL STATES – BUT THEN WE MUST NOTE THAT SO FAR AS THE ENVIRONMENT IS CONCERNED CANADA IS NOW A MAJOR SINNER – NO LESS A SINNER THEN THE US FRACKING AFFECTIONADOS.
THE TAR AND THE FRACKED METHANE HAVE HIGHER IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE THEN PETROLEUM OIL.

Beginning in 2006, Mr. Harper pledged to promulgate regulations to limit carbon emissions, but eight years later the regulations still have not been issued, and he recently hinted that they might not be introduced for another “couple of years.” Meanwhile, Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, in 2009 it signed the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord, which calls for Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent beneath its 2005 level by 2020. According to the government’s own projections, it won’t even come close to that level.

Climate change’s impact on Canada is already substantial. Across Canada’s western prairie provinces, an area larger than Alaska, mean temperatures have risen several degrees over the last 40 years, causing releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and drying wetlands. The higher temperatures have led to the spread of the mountain pine beetle, which has consumed millions of trees. The trees, in turn, have become fodder for increasingly extensive forest fires, which release still more greenhouse gases. Given that scientists now think the Northern Hemisphere’s boreal forests retain far more carbon than tropical rain forests like the Amazon, these developments are ominous. At least the Harper government has indirectly acknowledged climate change in one way: It has made a show of defending the Northwest Passage, an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that winds through Canadian territory.

Nevertheless, the Harper government has shown its disdain for scientists and environmental groups dealing with climate change and industrial pollution. The government has either drastically cut or entirely eliminated funding for many facilities conducting research in climate change and air and water pollution. It has placed tight restrictions on when its 23,000 scientists may speak publicly and has given power to some department managers to block publication of peer-reviewed research. It has closed or “consolidated” scientific libraries, sometimes thoughtlessly destroying invaluable collections in the process. And it has slashed funding for basic research, shifting allocations to applied research with potential payoffs for private companies.

With a deft Orwellian touch, Canada’s national health agency even accused a doctor in Alberta, John O’Connor, of professional misconduct — raising “undue alarm” and promoting “a sense of mistrust” in government officials — after he reported in 2006 that an unusually high number of rare, apparently tar-sands-related cancers were showing up among residents of Fort Chipewyan, 150 miles downstream from the tar sands. A government review released in 2009 cautiously supported Dr. O’Connor’s claims, but officials have shown no interest in the residents’ health since then.

 

Dr. O’Connor’s experience intimidated other doctors, according to Margaret Sears, a toxicologist hired by the quasi-independent Alberta Energy Regulator to study health impacts in another region near the tar sands operation. Dr. Sears reported that some doctors cited Dr. O’Connor’s case as a reason for declining to treat patients who suggested a link between their symptoms and tar sands emissions.

The pressure on environmentalists has been even more intense. Two years ago Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (who this month became finance minister) declared that some environmentalists “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest” and “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Canada’s National Energy Board, an ostensibly independent regulatory agency, coordinated with the nation’s intelligence service, police and oil companies to spy on environmentalists. And Canada’s tax-collecting agency recently introduced rigorous audits of at least seven prominent environmental groups, diverting the groups’ already strained resources from anti-tar-sands activities.

Few Canadians advocate immediately shutting down the tar sands — indeed, any public figure espousing that idea risks political oblivion. The government could defuse much tar sands opposition simply by advocating a more measured approach to its development, using the proceeds to head the country away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon, renewables-based future. That, in fact, was the policy recommended by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a nonpartisan, eminently moderate independent research group founded by another right-leaning prime minister, Brian Mulroney, in 1988. The Harper government showed what it thought of the policy when it disbanded the Round Table last year.

 

Jacques Leslie is the author, most recently, of “A Deluge of Consequences: A Riveting Adventure in the High Himalayas.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 31, 2014, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Is Canada Tarring Itself?.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:

AFJN

It is all because of interests of big business why Africa is held down – and this with the help of corrupt African Governments’ leaders.  If this continues – there is indeed no future for Africa. Foreign aid by old industrialized
Nations is wasted effort.


 

US aid to DR Congo: No more free rides for corrupt government officials!
Did you know your tax dollars are subsidizing corrupt bureaucrats in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? Instead of subsidizing millions of dollars in theft, fraud and unpaid taxes, the US should…
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Herakles Farms must Stop Unjust Lawsuits Against a Cameroonian Activist
Herakles Farms, a US based agribusiness has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Nasako Besingi, a Cameroonian activist for defamation for peacefully protesting against the company’s grabbing of his ancestral land in South-West Cameroon. For the defamation case, the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment and $4,000 in fines, money he does not have.
Today, ask Mr. Patrick Jones to withdraw this lawsuit.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

United Nations Press Release
 
Small Island Developing States Call for Global Partnerships to Take  Urgent Action on Climate Change.
(New York, 24 February) – Small Island Developing States called for global support for partnerships to take actions that would assist them in building resilience against climate change impacts and achieve sustainable development.
 
Representatives from small islands told  the first preparatory committee for the third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States that just concluded that global action on climate change is essential not only for their sustainable development but also for their survival.
 
“A reality that can no longer be ignored in this process is climate change. The crisis has made realizing our sustainable development more difficult,” said Ambassador of Nauru Marlene Moses, who currently chairs the Alliance of Small Island States.
 
“Extreme weather and ecological degradation erode the economies we depend on for food and survival. In other words, we cannot develop sustainably if we fail to act on climate change and we cannot act on climate change without effective sustainable development. These issues are inextricably linked.”
 
The series of meetings at UN headquarters discussed the main objectives of the Conference, whose theme this year is “sustainable development of small island States through genuine and durable partnerships.”
 
Representatives from small island developing states also emphasized that the Conference, which will be held in Apia, Samoa, in September 2014 {during the UN year of special attention to the SIDS}, should result in a concrete and focused document that could not only benefit small islands, but also inform other processes such as the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015 as well as the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.
 
For their part, China, the European Union, and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to support small island developing states at a regional and national level, as well as develop new partnerships that could evolve into more comprehensive cooperation on global challenges.
 
“The recognition of the extreme vulnerabilities of small island developing states should propel us urgently towards clarity of collective vision and concrete actions,” said the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States Gyan Chandra Acharya. “In doing so, we will be rendering a great service to the global community as whole.
 
“The situation in islands should be an eye-opener for all of us given the severity and multiplicity of the challenges this should lead us to urgent action.”
 
 Conference Secretary-General, Wu Hongbo, encouraged small island developing States to take advantage of this “historic year” for them. In addition to the Conference, 2014 has also been declared the International year of Small Island Developing States with the objective of highlighting these countries’ economic, social and cultural contributions.
 
“The Conference will be a major milestone for small island developing states,” Mr. Wu said. “It will make an important contribution to the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. It will also result in tangible outcomes through strengthened and collaborative partnerships between small island developing states and the international community.”
 
For more information on the Conference and the preparatory committee see: sids2014.org
For information on the International Year and ways to get involved visit: www.un.org/islands2014
 
Media contacts: Florencia Soto Nino, sotonino@un.org, 917-367-4833; Melanie Prudhomme, prudhommem@un.org, 917-367-3541, UN Department of Public Information

What is missing from this UN PRESS RELEASE IS THE REALIZATION THAT THE PLIGHT OF THE SIDS IS NOT A MATTER FOR THE SIDS ALONE, BUT IN EFFECT THEY ARE THE PROVERBIAL CANARY IN THE ROOM THAT ITS CONDITION TELLS US ABOUT OUR OWN PLIGHT.

CLIMATE CHANGE DOES NOT ENDANGER JUST THE ISLANDS BUT ALSO THE MOUNTAINS AND HIGHLANDS – THE SHORES AND PLAINS – AND THE SIDS’ PROBLEMS WERE NOT CAUSED BY THEM,  BUT BY US – THOSE UNSCRUPULOUS EMITTERS OF FOSSIL CARBON FROM CHINA,  THE US,  THE EU, and other big-shots called now to participate in “PARTNERSHIPS” without any mention of the need for changes in production and consumption ways of the gluttonous Industrialized – old and new – States.Yes, we were there and attest that speakers did address these issues, but the PRESS RELEASE does not mention those criticisms. Giving money as aid has not washed clean the emitters in the past, and will not do so in the future – only a combined program that reduces emissions by those others – that is the mitigation work on climate change – linked with direct work with the Inhabitants of the SIDS – to help in their Adaptation to the misery that was created already,  can do.

The best we can say about the just concluded preparatory meeting for the Conference that will eventually be held in Apia, Samoa, is that it was a celebration of what those Island States contribute to the World Population at large – so it really is not only their loss from what goes on by our direct loss – beyond the Canary role – that should concern us.

That is why we find those meetings very important and we will continue to watch for signs that the UN talking about SIDS does not come instead of REAL ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE BY ALL.

ON THE OTHER HAND – with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York 16-29 September 2014, this means the UN schedule for the second half of September is already taken – the Arctic Circle meeting is scheduled for September 5-7, 2014,  so the Apia , Samoa meeting was set for 1-4 September or as we found in a Samoa posting - ” title=”http://www.sids2014.org” target=”_blank”>, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Samoa

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

“Their Mothers, their Fathers” – or maybe even ours -  a movie that tries to promote thinking about the triteness of the reality of an evolution of crime as a worm that eats into what looks like civilized normalcy.

These days in New York we host the Carnegie Hall Festival “Vienna City of Dreams” which is a celebration of culture of the last 100 years which is in effect the time-span since the break out of WWI on June 28, 1914, and as a matter of fact includes also WWII.

To above Festival The Calgary, Alberta, CHUMIR FOUNDATION for Ethics in Leadership contributed a three events Symposium – “Vienna’s History and Legacy of the Past 150 Years” – and this morning coincidentally I received the Uri Avnery mailing about the German Film “THEIR MOTHERS, THEIR FATHERS” that is being shown in Israel. We find it all connects – and we start looking into this by bringing here the Uri Avnery article.

Also, these days the Peace Islands Institute, which is connected to a Turkish Cultural Center, had its own events in New York of which one – linked – without mentioning it – to the previous mentioned events – it was a panel on Intergovernmental Relations among Balkan Nations & The EU with the participation of the Ambassadors to the UN from Bulgaria, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, chaired by the President of the Federation of Balkan American Associations, that followed a similar earlier event that included Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia but never looked at Slovenia or Austria. Then the same Peace Islands Institute followed on its studies of the three Abrahamic religions with a first inroad into Muslim – Buddhist understanding after quite successful previous activities into ethics of Muslim -Jewish mutual acceptance. These days such are events happening in  New York.

 

Uri Avnery

March 1, 2014

 

                                    Their Mothers, Their Fathers

 

IT IS the summer of 1941. Five youngsters – three young men and two young women – meet in a bar and spend a happy evening, flirting with each other, getting drunk, dancing forbidden foreign dances. They have grown up together in the same neighborhood of Berlin.

It is a happy time. The war started by Adolf Hitler a year and a half before has progressed incredibly well. In this short time Germany has conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. The Wehrmacht is invincible. The Führer is a genius, “the greatest military strategist of all times”.

So starts the film that is running now in our cinemas – a unique historical document. It goes on for five breathless hours, and continues to occupy the thoughts and emotions of its viewers for days and weeks.

 

Basically it is a film made by Germans for Germans. The German title says it all: “Our Mothers, Our Fathers”. The purpose is to answer the questions troubling many of the young Germans of today: Who were our parents and grandparents? What did they do during the terrible war? What did they feel? What was their part in the horrible crimes committed by the Nazis?

 

These questions are not asked in the film explicitly. But every German viewer is compelled to ask them. There are no clear answers. The film does not probe the depths. Rather, it shows a broad panorama of the German people in wartime, the various sections of society, the different types, from the war criminals, through the passive onlookers, to the victims.

 

The Holocaust is not the center of events, but it is there all the time, not as a separate event but woven into the fabric of reality.

 

THE FILM starts in 1941, and therefore cannot answer the question which, to my mind, is the most important one: How could a civilized nation, perhaps the most cultured in the world, elect a government whose program was blatantly criminal?

True, Hitler was never elected by an absolute majority in free elections. But he came very close to it. And he easily found political partners who were ready to help him form a government.

 

 Some said at the time that it was a uniquely German phenomenon, the expression of the particular German mentality, formed during centuries of history. That theory has been discredited by now. But if so, can it happen in any other country? Can it happen in our own country? Can it happen today? What are the circumstances that make it possible?

The film does not answer these question. It leaves the answers to the viewer.

The young heroes of the film do not ask. They were ten years old when the Nazis came to power, and for them the “Thousand-Year Reich” (as the Nazis called it) was the only reality they knew. It was the natural state of things. That’s where the plot starts.

 

 

 TWO OF the youngsters were soldiers. One had already seen war and was wearing a medal for valor. His brother had just been called up. The third young man was a Jew. Like the two girls, they are full of youthful exuberance. Everything was looking fine.

The war? Well, it can’t last much longer, can it? The Führer himself has promised that by Christmas the Final Victory will be won. The five young people promise each other to meet again at Christmas. No one has the slightest premonition of the terrible experiences in store for each of them. 

 

 While viewing the scene, I could not help thinking about my former class. A few weeks after the Nazis’ assumption of power, I became a pupil in the first class of high school in Hanover. My schoolmates were the same age as the heroes of the film. They would have been called up in 1941, and because it was an elitist school, all of them would probably have become officers.

Half way through the first year in high schooI, my family took me to Palestine. I never met any of my schoolmates again, except one (Rudolf Augstein, the founder of the magazine Der Spiegel, whom I met years after the war and who became my friend again.) What happened to all the others? How many survived the war? How many were maimed? How many had become war criminals?

In the summer of 1941 they were probably as happy as the youngsters in the film, hoping to be home by Christmas.

 

 THE TWO brothers were sent to the Russian front, an unimaginable hell. The film succeeds in showing the realities of war, easily recognizable by anyone who has been a soldier in combat. Only that this combat was a hundredfold worse, and the film shows it brilliantly.

The older brother, a lieutenant, tries to shield the younger one. The bloodbath that goes on for four more years, day after day, hour after hour, changes their character. They become brutalized. Death is all around them, they see horrible war crimes, they are commanded to shoot prisoners, they see Jewish children butchered. In the beginning they still dare to protest feebly, then they keep their doubts to themselves, then they take part in the crimes as a matter of course. 

One of the young women volunteers for a frontline military hospital, witnesses the awful agonies of the wounded, denounces a Jewish fellow nurse and immediately feels remorse, and in the end is raped by Soviet soldiers near Berlin, as were almost all German women in the areas conquered by the revenge-thirsty Soviet army. 

 

 Israeli viewers might be more interested in the fate of the Jewish boy, who took part in the happy feast at the beginning. His father is a proud German, who cannot imagine Germans doing the bad things threatened by Hitler. He does not dream of leaving his beloved fatherland. But he warns his son about having sexual relations with his Aryan girlfriend. “It’s against the law!”

When the son tries to flee abroad, “aided” by a treacherous Gestapo officer, he is caught, sent to the death camps, succeeds in escaping on the way, joins the Polish partisans (who hate the Jews more than the Nazis) and in the end survives.

 

 Perhaps the most tragic figure is the second girl, a frivolous, carefree singer who sleeps with a senior SS officer to further her career, is sent with her troupe to entertain the troops at the front, sees what is really happening, speaks out about the war, is sent to prison and executed in the last hours of the war.

 

 BUT THE fate of the heroes is only the skeleton of the film. More important are the little moments, the daily life, the portrayal of the various characters of German society.

 

 For example, when a friend visits the apartment where the Jewish family had been living, the blond Aryan woman who was allotted the place complains about the state of the apartment from which the Jews had been fetched and sent to their death: “They didn’t even clean up before they left! That’s how the Jews are, dirty people!”

Everyone lives in constant fear of being denounced. It is a pervading terror, which nobody can escape. Even at the front, with death staring therm in the face, a hint of doubt about the Final Victory uttered by a soldier is immediately silenced by his comrades. “Are you crazy?”     

Even worse is the deadening atmosphere of universal agreement. From the highest officer to the lowliest maid, everybody is repeating endlessly the propaganda slogans of the regime. Not out of fear, but because they believe every word of the all-pervading propaganda machine. They hear nothing else.

It is immensely important to understand this. In the totalitarian state, fascist or communist or whatever, only the very few free spirits can withstand the endlessly repeated slogans of the government. Everything else sounds unreal, abnormal, crazy. When the Soviet army was already fighting its way through Poland and nearing Berlin, people were unwavering in their belief in the Final Victory. After all, the Führer says so, and the Führer is never wrong. The very idea is preposterous. 

It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror.

 
THIS IS the answer to the question we cannot abstain from asking again and again: How was the Holocaust possible? It was planned by a few, but it was implemented by hundreds of thousands of Germans, from the engine driver of the train to the officials who shuffled the papers. How could they do it?

They could, because it was the natural thing to do. After all, the Jews were out to destroy Germany. The communist hordes were threatening the life of every true Aryan. Germany needed more living space. The Führer has said so.

 

 That’s why the film is so important, not only for the Germans, but for every people, including our own.

 

People who carelessly play with ultra-nationalist, fascist, racist, or other anti-democratic ideas don’t realize that they are playing with fire. They cannot even imagine what it means to live in a country that tramples on human rights, that despises democracy, that oppresses another people,  that demonizes minorities. The film shows what it is like: hell.

 

THE FILM does not hide that the Jews were the main victims of the Nazi Reich, and nothing comes near their sufferings. But the second victim was the German people, victims of themselves.

Many people insist that after this trauma, Jews cannot behave like a normal people, and that therefore Israel cannot be judged by the standards of normal states. They are traumatized.

This is true for the German people, too. The very need to produce this unusual film proves that the Nazi specter is still haunting the Germans, that they are still traumatized by their past.

When Angela Merkel came this week to see Binyamin Netanyahu, the whole world laughed at the photo of our Prime Minister’s finger inadvertently painting a moustache on the Kanzlerin’s face.

But the relationship between our two traumatized peoples is far from a joke.

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THE 90 year young URI AVNERY NEVER ENDED HIGH-SCHOOL BUT HE IS NON-DISPUTABLE ISRAEL’S GREATEST JOURNALIST AND MOST FAMOUS EX-MEMBER OF THE KNESSET (PARLIAMENT). WHO COULD SAY WHAT GERMANY LOST – IF NOT FOR HITLER – HE WOULD HAVE HIMSELF BEEN NOW A SECULAR COMPLETELY ASSIMILATED GERMAN?

 

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