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Posted on on October 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Monsanto Goes on Trial for Ecocide

By MercoPress
posted also by Readers Supported News
15 October 16

his symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations’ international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.

”The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto,“ the tribunal organizers state on their website. ”This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies.”

Monsanto, which is inching closer to a US$ 66bn takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twenty first century.

Monsanto’s historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling weed-killer RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply

The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.

Monsanto Corporate Engagement office has stated that “in growing our food, farmers face some tough challenges as the world’s population continues to grow. To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production.

”This mock trial is not a real dialogue but a stunt staged by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), Organic Consumers Association and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture innovation, where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organizers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined. Here is a link to our Open Letter regarding this mock trial.


+1 # guomashi 2016-10-15 14:01
Where is the link to the Open Letter regarding the mock trial?

.. not that I would read it or anyone would believe it.

May Monsanto rot in hell.
They are now going around to all the farms they can and testing the produce to see if any of it got cross-pollinate d with their patented life-forms.
Then they sue.


Posted on on September 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Asia Society’s Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski invited the working press of New York City – that is the people reporting about activities in New York – rather then only those accredited only to the UN enclave – to tell us about the ASIA GAME CHANGERS AWARDS – perennial recognition of remarkable pioneering leaders and institutions that mostly work in a bottoms-up mode and manage to achieve things that major institution were not able to achieve. Having said this – let me also note that usually a very well established person – someone that has achieved the status of Malala Yousafai or Jack Ma are also recognized – this as they are now targets to demonstrate what an ASIAN can achieve.

The well wetted former contestants that were proposed by peers or establishment, vetted by the Asia Society, presented to the UN, are then honored at an Awards Dinner at the UN – bringing honor to the UN that the UN never deserved. Do not fret – that is how the World Works – luckily there are good people available sometimes where you expect it the least.

This year’s Underwriters of the Asia Society project are Citibank, United Airlines and Pepsico and the Awards Dinner and Celebration will be held at the UN on October 27, 2016 – at the tail-end of this year’s UN General Assembly.

This year’s list of ASIA GAME CHANGERS is headed by the iconic figure of Architect I.M. Pei (US/China) who is celebrated for Lifetime Achievements.

The other awardees in alphabetic order are:

- Muzoon Almellehan of Syria – for bringing education and hope to young girls, amid the trauma of war. She just turned 18 and had started her activities among the refugees in Jordan where her family fled from the Syrian little town – Dura.
She lives now in Newcastle, England where she can continue her own education.

– Marita Cheng of Australia – For engineering a betterv world, and ensuring that more of the engineers are women.
She is an Entrepreneur. She is 30 years old and created an app that helps women. She might br presented as someone who has achieved the kind of status Ms. Almellehan was fighting for.

– Soo-man Lee of South Korea – For turning her Nation’s pop culture into a global phenomenon.
She is the founder and producer of S.M. brand entertainment and “K-pop.”

– Sanduk Ruit of Nepal – an Eye-Surgeon – who brought the gift of sight, and productive life, by making available cataract removal to those in need. He did this for 100,000 people in Nepal and started programs in other countries including North Korea. He institutes this with mobilized centers going to the people.

– Ahmad Sarmast (afghanistan/Australia) – For restoring music and empowering children – in a war-ravaged nation.

– Dureen Shahnaz of Bangladesh – For “social-impact” investing that has changed the game for millions.
Founder of the Impact Investment Exchange Asia. She teaches the reinvestment of the return from investment in order to lead to growth.

– Karim Wasfi of Iraq – for using music to heal, in the aftermath of terror.
He is a renown cellist, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra.

At the diner there will be a chance to listen also to a 13 year old kid from Bali who is already a good piano player and Game Changer in the making.



Posted on on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

It is known that the world produces enough food for everyone but why do 800 million in the world still go to bed hungry?

GODAN has the answer to end this suffering – opening data on agriculture and nutrition – which will also stimulate global GDP by $6 trillion

What does the climate mean for food security?

In December 2015, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement –the agreement that nations around the world would be committed to keeping the average global temperature increase at well below 2 ºC and at no more than 1.5 ºC from 2020 onwards. As of August 2016, 180 countries have signed the agreement – but average global temperatures have already reached 1.3 ºC. Coupled with the occurrence of the El-Nino, it is undeniable that the climate is having a huge impact on our planet, as more countries are affected by record breaking and unusual weather. But what impact is this weather having on our food supplies? And if there is more to come, what can we do about it?

To see the impact that climate has on food one only has to look at the spate of droughts that multiple parts of the world have been experiencing in the last decade. Ethiopia experienced its worst drought in decades earlier this year, causing crop failure and the loss of livestock. This was followed by heavy rains that further aggravated the agricultural disruption.

Ethiopia has made great strides since the famine of the 1980s. It has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and thanks to working with the information and expertise of international aid organisations was able to build a food security system which, despite the desperate situation of the drought, has allowed the country to stay out of famine. Given that 43% of the country’s economy[1] relies on agriculture and it forms the livelihood of much of the country’s rural population, food security for Ethiopia has meant more than food reserves.

The government, with the help of aid groups, have made a sustained effort to support farmers over the last decade, which has included launching open data for agriculture and socio-economic wellbeing in early 2015. This open data included detailed agricultural practices, information on health and data on food consumption and security. Ethiopia’s recent drought has been devastating –but the government’s attempt to mitigate its effects through years of investment in food security and making agricultural data available has allowed the country to escape the worst.

Meanwhile, a long drought over the past six years in California has caused water shortages, cost farmers billions of dollars with serious concerns over food security. Within California, residents have felt the impact of reducing water consumptions, and given that the state alone accounts ¼ of the USA’s fruit and vegetable produce[2], the implications of continued drought are concerning.

California has the benefit of being a state within the richest and most powerful country on Earth. The citizens of California have had access to public information giving them guidance on how best to cope throughout. The US Department of Agriculture has been monitoring the progress of the drought and its effect on everything from Californian farms to food prices, the results of which is open data that is publically available to all who need it. Although thousands of farmers[3] have lost their livelihood, and the drought continues, the data and information made available by the US government has been invaluable in keeping the farmers of California informed of the drought’s progress and in allowing them to maintain food security through substitution and diversification of their produce.

The impacts of both droughts are having a drastic effect on the availability of food. As the climate continues to become more extreme, the issue of food security will become more urgent. But as Ethiopia and California have shown, open data on agriculture, weather trends and more can help farmers and governments alike prepare and adapt to some of the worst conditions for agriculture imaginable. That’s why it is so important to make vital agricultural data available for all who could use it.

GODAN (Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition) aims to do just that. In New York City on September 15-16, the GODAN Summit 2016 is taking place, lobbying world leaders to open up their agricultural and nutrition data. Government ministers from Kenya and the UK will be in attendance, alongside open data activists, scientists and other leading figures, all of whom will be discussing the benefits of making relevant data available to everyone. There will also be a hackathon that will see the brightest and most disruptive young minds doing their bit to come up with innovative new open data solutions.

But GODAN needs your support. We have launched a petition in association with Global Citizen. Once complete, the petition will be presented to the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, calling on them to make agricultural and nutrition data open. Help secure food security for the world by signing the petition today:

Key Questions:

· Why are governments hiding this data that could end world hunger?

· How can data truly better agriculture and farming in 3rd world countries?

· There is enough food in the world so why are 800 million people hungry?

· Technology really is saving the world, but how?

· How will open data affect health issues globally?

· What does this mean for the agriculture industry?


Posted on on September 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The New York Times Top News September 24, 2016

Highway 80, the only road to Tybee Island, Ga., in June. High tides are forcing the road to close several times a year.
Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun
Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline are no longer theoretical.

President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed to the Paris climate agreement on Saturday.
Rare Harmony as China and U.S. Commit to Climate Deal
President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed to the Paris climate agreement at a time of increasingly discordant relations between their nations.


Posted on on August 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (


English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch


ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.

But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change.

Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.

As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”

One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches.

“We said, ‘This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change,’” said Kate Harrison, a resident and early member of the group.

No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.

The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales. He decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become, as he put it, “Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”

“But even if we don’t,” he recalls thinking at the time, “let’s try to have a little fun.”

Sometimes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases involve guilt-tripping or doomsday scenarios that make people feel as if the problem is too overwhelming to tackle.

In Ashton Hayes — about 25 miles southeast of Liverpool, with a 19th-century Anglican church and a community-owned shop that doubles as a post office — the villagers have lightened the mood.

They hold public wine-and-cheese meetings in the biggest houses in town, “so everyone can have a look around,” and see how the wealthier people live, said Mr. Charnock, the executive director of RSK, an environmental consulting company. “We don’t ever finger-wag in Ashton Hayes.”

About 650 people — more than half of the village’s residents — showed up to the first meeting, Mr. Charnock said. Some in the village were less keen, but little by little, they began to participate.

Some have gone further. When they were looking to build their energy-efficient home and heard about Ashton Hayes’s carbon-neutral project, Ms. Dossett and her husband, Ian, thought it might be the perfect village for them.

They moved from nearby South Warrington and found two old farm cottages, which they converted into a two-story brick house, and installed huge triple-glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, a geothermal heat pump that heats the home and its water, and an underground cistern to hold rainwater for toilets and the garden.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we live in a mud hut,” Ms. Dossett said, sitting on a couch in her warm, well-lit living room.

The Dossetts also have a vegetable garden, grow grapes for wine, brew beer and keep two cows, which mow the lawn and may also eventually become food in a few years. They pay about 500 pounds (about $650) a year for electricity and heating.

The success of the carbon-neutral project seems to have inspired other community efforts in Ashton Hayes. The residents, for example, have built a new playing field with a solar-powered pavilion, which is the home of a community cafe three days a week. They have also put photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the primary school.

Other towns and cities around the world hope to copy Ashton Hayes. Their representatives have contacted the project’s leaders, asking for help in setting up similar initiatives, according to the diary the Ashton Hayes group keeps about the project, chronicling almost everything they have done over the past 10 years.

Eden Mills, a small community in Ontario, Canada, is one of them. Charles Simon traveled to Ashton Hayes in 2007 to learn how to translate their approach to his town, adopting the apolitical, voluntary, fun method.

“Some of the changes are so easy,” Mr. Simon said. “Just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.”

Eden Mills has cut emissions by about 14 percent, Mr. Simon said, and has plans to do more. Residents have been working with experts from the nearby University of Guelph, planting trees in the village forest to help absorb the carbon dioxide the town emits, Mr. Simon said.

Janet Gullvaag, a councilwoman in Notteroy, Norway, an island municipality of about 21,000 people, reached out to Ashton Hayes about nine years ago after her political party decided to include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its platform.

“I think that the idea that Ashton Hayes had — to make caring for the environment fun, without pointing fingers — was quite revolutionary,” Ms. Gullvaag said.

Though her community’s approach is decidedly more political, Ms. Gullvaag said that adopting Ashton Hayes’s mantra of fun had paid dividends: She has seen changes in her community, she said, as people buy more electric cars and bicycles, and convert their home heating from oil to more environmentally friendly sources.

“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you can create enthusiasm and spread knowledge, normally, people will react in a positive way,” she added.

Though deep cuts across the globe are still required to make broader progress, actions to reduce emissions, even by small towns, are a step in the right direction, say experts who study community action on climate change.

“The community-building element of all this has been as important as the environmental impact so far,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.

She added that Ashton Hayes was in a good position to take on these kinds of projects — it is a small village of well-off and well-educated people, so simply taking fewer flights each year can have a big effect.

Residents were able to cut emissions by about 20 percent in the first year alone, according to surveys used to calculate carbon footprints that were developed by Roy Alexander, a local professor, and his students.

Some have had even more significant reductions: Households that participated in surveys in both the first and 10th years shrank their energy use by about 40 percent.

Mr. Charnock said he thought the village could get the cuts in its 2006 carbon footprint to 80 percent in the next few years with the help of grant money to buy and install solar panels on the local school and other buildings.

The next thing they have to do, he said, is to get the county government to be as committed to cutting emissions as Ashton Hayes is.

“There’s so much apathy,” Mr. Charnock said. “We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.”

A version of this article appears in print on August 22, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: An English Village Leads a Climate Revolution.


Posted on on August 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1988 Letter to the Future More Relevant Today Than Ever Before
By Kick Kennedy, EcoWatch
31 July 16

n 1988, my then Hyannis Port neighbor the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote a prescient letter to the Earth’s planetary citizens of 2088 for Volkswagen’s TIME magazine ad campaign. His seven points of advice are perhaps more relevant today than at any time in human history. We should keep this advice in mind this election year and adopt Vonnegut’s recommendations while we still can.

Here’s his letter:

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.

Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.

On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.

And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?

Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:

Reduce and stabilize your population.

Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.

Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.

Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.

Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.

Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.

And so on. Or else.

Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.

Kurt Vonnegut


Posted on on May 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

This posting is intended to introduce to our readers the “Mother Pelican Journal” that is edited by Louis T. Gutieres. MOTHER PELICAN JOURNAL is distributed free via the Solidarity-Sustainability Group.
This Journal deals with “Interdisciplinary resources for futures research on solidarity, sustainability, non-violence, human development, gender equality in secular and religious …” They say: “Integral human development includes all dimensions in the life of each person, including the physical, intellectual, pyschological, ethical, and spiritual dimensions. In particular, the spiritual development of each and every human person is crucial for sustainable development.”

The monthly Mother Pelican, started May 2005, is a Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability and it released now an amazing (encyclopedic) May 2016 issue. You can communicate with Gutieres via:  the.pelican.web at

It srates: “The patriarchal culture of control and domination is the root of all social and ecological violence. It corrupted the original unity of man and woman (cf. Genesis 3:16) and is now disrupting the harmony between humanity and the human habitat. Just as we are now aware that slavery and racism are moral evils, we must become aware that gender discrimination is a moral evil that must be eradicated if solidarity and sustainability are to be attained.

The need to reform patriarchal structures applies to both secular and religious institutions. Overcoming patriarchy is a “sign of the times” to the extent that it fosters authentic gender solidarity and nonviolence for the good of humanity and the glory of God. Given the enormous influence of religious traditions, it is especially critical for religious institutions to extirpate any semblance of male hegemony in matters of doctrine and religious practices.”

THE PELICAN is an ancient symbol of unconditional service. To be a “person for others” requires full awareness of the personal self and also requires sacrifice of the one who serves. The following excerpt from The Physiologus (the author is unknown, circa 4th century CE) captures this ideal:

“The long beak of the white pelican is furnished with a sack which serves as a container for the small fish that it feeds its young. In the process of feeding them, the bird presses the sack against its neck in such a way that it seems to open its breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its breast plumage and the redness of the tip of its beak fostered the folkloristic notion that it actually drew blood from its own breast.”

The author of The Physiologus found the action of the pelican, interpreted in this manner, to be a symbol of merciful and sacrificial service and thus an apt symbol of Jesus the Christ (Cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). While professing no affiliation to any specific religious body, the Mother Pelican journal is committed to the promotion of basic Christian values, human rights, social justice, gender equality, and ecological sustainability.

“Ubi caritas et amor,
Deus ibi est.”

I do not delve now into the many articles and attachments of this issue. The material reaches into practically every aspect of what is – and also much of what, unjustifiably, is not front news today. As said, my intention here is to make sure our readers are aware of this resource – specially with Pope Franciscus having stepped into all theses areas that the church was so slow in recognizing earlier.

Nevertheless, I could not resist not posting here the followig item I picked up from MOTHER PELICAN quoting the CLUB OF ROME reaction to a Bernie Sanders comment.

Club of Rome
April 28 at 1:40am ·

During a live debate on CNN, US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders compared climate change to World War II. The Centre for Climate Safety asked Club of Rome member Ian Dunlop to comment on this.

“Responding to climate change goes beyond strengthening the green party. Sanders is absolutely right; a war footage is the sort of response we have to adopt. After WWII the whole economy was turned on its head in the space of one-two years. What we need now is a Government of National Unity.” – Ian Dunlop

Listen to the whole interview here:…


Club of Rome
Yesterday (April 27, 2016) at 7:24am ·

What’s the ultimate goal of a circular economy? According to Club of Rome member Walter Stahel, it’s to recycle atoms! For that, “we will need new technologies to de-polymerize, de-allow, de-laminate, de-vulcanize and de-coat materials” he explains in an article in Nature. We will also need to revisit our relationship to goods and materials and our policy focus.
Read more about how we may shift to a circular economy here:



Posted on on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

from Iulia Trombitcaia  Iulia.Trombitcaia at via

Dear colleagues,

UNECE has just published the third Environmental Performance Reviews of two countries: Georgia and Belarus.

Both reviews cover air, water, waste, biodiversity and the integration of environmental considerations into a wide number of sectors (energy, forestry, transport, tourism, health, etc.).

Both reviews reflect the successes and challenges for these countries in the achievement of MDGs, and we very much hope that the recommendations of the reviews will assist these countries in developing their national agendas for the achievement of SDGs.

The publications can be found here:

3rd Environmental Performance Review of Georgia: (in English)

3rd Environmental Performance Review of Belarus: (in English and Russian)

Iulia Trombitcaia, UNECE

Environmental Affairs Officer
Environmental Performance Review Programme
UN Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Telephone: 0041-22-917 3332
Telefax: 0041-22-917 06 21
E-mail:  iulia.trombitcaia at


Posted on on April 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

24 March 2016
Insurance for an uncertain climate

IIASA studies point out The application of insurance as a mechanism to help vulnerable people adapt to the impacts of climate change is gaining international support. Experts support the idea but warn of potential problems.

In December, negotiators at the Paris climate meeting adopted insurance as an instrument to aid climate adaptation.

Earlier in the year, the leaders of the G7 pledged to bring climate insurance to 400 million uninsured individuals in poor countries by 2020.

In a new article in the journal Nature Climate Change, experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Deltares and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis welcome these developments, but also lay out the difficulties that policymakers will face in turning the ideas into action. They warn that ill-designed and poorly implemented insurance instruments could fail to reach the goals of negotiators, or worse, prove detrimental to the very people they are intended to protect.

Swenja Surminski, Senior Research Fellow the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science led the article. She says, “Poor communities are much more impacted by extreme weather such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves. Rather than ad-hoc and unpredictable payments after these events, insurance approaches can be set up in advance of these impacts, and be more efficient and provide better support to these vulnerable people”

Bayer was one of the first to propose insurance as a mechanism to reimburse people for the impacts of climate change, and to examine the potential benefits and trade-offs of such policies. She says, “With the new momentum we have for these policies, we now have the opportunity to put the right insurance systems in place.”

While insurance could provide funding to help people in need, the researchers point out several ways that such mechanisms could fail:

Any new insurance scheme in developing countries needs to overcome difficult challenges, including lack of risk data, limited financial literacy, and weak financial infrastructure;
Insurance for the poor will only be viable if it is linked to adaptation and risk reduction efforts that reduce the underlying risk factors including climate-resilient infrastructure, adapted agricultural practices, and early warning systems; otherwise climate insurance will be short-lived and far from cost-effective;
Traditional insurance is an expensive mechanism with high transaction and capital costs, making premiums far higher than expected losses. This suggests that adaptation funds might be better spent on other types of safety net rather than on buying insurance cover from international insurance markets;
Insurance will need high levels of subsidies or other forms of support to render it affordable and to avoid shifting responsibility on to those who are the least responsible for climate change, the least able to shoulder the premiums, and in many cases the least able to reduce their losses.

In order to avoid these problems, the researchers argue, policymakers should consider climate insurance as part of a wider adaptation strategy rather than in isolation or as an alternative to adaptation.

Surminski points to her recent reviews of insurance schemes in developing countries and says, “When installing an insurance scheme, climate change and other factors contributing to the risks need to be taken into account. Insurance needs to be coupled to adaptation efforts to deal with these risk factors, otherwise climate insurance will be not be sustainable nor cost-effective.

Laurens M. Bouwer from Deltares, another coauthor, adds, “What is critical for any adaptation or insurance scheme is that we understand current and future risks from extreme weather sufficiently, in order to make the right decisions. Here, the experience and tools for risk assessment can help.”

Surminski, S., Bouwer, L.M. & Linnerooth-Bayer, J. (2016). How insurance can support climate resilience. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2979


Posted on on March 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,

Many peoples get spirit from celebrating the changes of season. The Jewish people celebrate the start of a new year with the coming of fall and the harvest. Many people in Asia celebrate a new year with a Spring Festival just before the coming of spring and the time for planting. People in the Persian tradition celebrate the new year called Norooz at the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz falls on March 20.

Ronda and I send you warm greetings for Norooz and for the whole year to come. May all of us learn from nature a way of renewing our lives, seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good.

Norooz is celebrated as the start of a new year by 350 million or more people worldwide. It is an ancient Zoroastrian celebration and was spread by the first Persian Empire established by Cyrus The Great over 2,500 years ago, around 550 BC. A later Persian empire even included parts of what is now the western Xinjiang province in China. That area was within the Sassanid Empire’s borders, around 450 A.D. Even today people there still celebrate Norooz.

Last year, after I sent out my Norooz greeting, a Korean friend answered that people in Asia consider every human being part of great Nature as is every tree or bird or even the wind. He said they try not to conquer Nature rather keep intact as a part of our body. I heard from a friend in Japan that it is also a Japanese tradition to celebrate the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. A friend in Norway told me that “Nowruz – is deeply indo-european, it is New (in Norwegian Ny), the word rooz or ruz has rich associations in the direction of (new/re) birth, flowering, (spring out), in slavic languages rodzenia, rust (birth, growth). We need some of that in the world now, the Arab Spring did not quite get as far as I had hoped.”

An Iranian friend wrote to me. “We spell it No Ruz (New Day) but the double “o” is OK too- When in Iran everything closes and people picnic everywhere for 13 days, even stopping by the side of a main highway and pitching a colorful tent. Iran is certainly a major player as the most stable country in the region and has always had the respect of its neighbors-well, most of them…”

A neighbor in Manhattan wrote, “I love nature [when it’s not violent] and do learn from it when i can. unfortunately, we city-folks are not immersed in it; the little i see is from my window: the birds, the sky, the amazing view of the snow-filled trees, and central park; we all must go there soon.”

A friend in China responded to my Norooz message, “How nice to learn about the Norooz and the Zoroastrian religion of so many people of the earth village. I like definitely as you said: the way of life seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good. But to our common misfortune, there are always the powers who see the world as a neighborhood to control and to fight with rather than to respect and live in peace.” A friend living in Thailand observed that “Nature is pure and simple, human politics is complicated and insane.” And wished me and Ronda Happy Norooz.

Also, one of my cousins wrote to me that he is “familiar with the fact that many civilizations celebrate the solar equinox, which was and still is the start of renewing (spring and planting), the new yearly start of fertility, both plant and animal alike.” He reminded me that Jewish people celebrate Passover at this time and Christians celebrate Easter. It shows me that we people everywhere are really more the same than different.

Last year Ronda and I attended the UN celebration of Norooz. It consisted of short speeches and videos from twelve nations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The theme of all the speeches was that Norooz reconnects humans and nature every year. That we all should learn from nature to renew our lives. That Norooz transcends ethnicity and religion and geography. The spirit of Norooz is good neighborliness. Translated into international diplomacy that means respect for cultural diversity and national sovereignty. I found such statements valuable even though I agree with my friend in China that there are dominant nations who see the world as a neighborhood to control not to respect.

Ronda and I hope you are and can stay well and that Spring will make everyone’s life a bit easier and more pleasant.

Happy Norooz, Happy Easter! Happy Passover!
Happy Spring!

Take care.
Hello from Ronda.


Posted on on March 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

The New York Times – Environment

Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global Results


READING, N.Y. — They came here to get arrested.

Nearly 60 protesters blocked the driveway of a storage plant for natural gas on March 7. Its owners want to expand the facility, which the opponents say would endanger nearby Seneca Lake. But their concerns were global, as well.

“There’s a climate emergency happening,” one of the protesters, Coby Schultz, said. “It’s a life-or-death struggle.”

The demonstration here was part of a wave of actions across the nation that combines traditional not-in-my-backyard protests against fossil-fuel projects with an overarching concern about climate change.

Activists have been energized by successes on several fronts, including the decision last week by President Obama to block offshore drilling along the Atlantic Seaboard; his decision in November to reject the Keystone XL pipeline; and the Paris climate agreement.

Bound together through social media, networks of far-flung activists are opposing virtually all new oil, gas and coal infrastructure projects — a process that has been called “Keystone-ization.”

As the climate evangelist Bill McKibben put it in a Twitter post after Paris negotiators agreed on a goal of limiting global temperature increases: “We’re damn well going to hold them to it. Every pipeline, every mine.”

Regulators almost always approve such projects, though often with modifications, said Donald F. Santa Jr., chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. Still, the protests are having some impact. The engineering consultants Black and Veatch recently published a report that said the most significant barrier to building new pipeline capacity was “delay from opposition groups.”

Activists regularly protest at the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, but there have also been sizable protests in places like St. Paul and across the Northeast.

In Portland, Ore., where protesters conducted a “kayaktivist” blockade in July to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs from leaving port, the City Council passed a resolution opposing the expansion of facilities for the storage and transportation of fossil fuels.

Greg Yost, a math teacher in North Carolina who works with the group NC PowerForward, said the activists emboldened one another.

“When we pick up the ball and run with it here in North Carolina, we’re well aware of what’s going on in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island,” he said. “The fight we’re doing here, it bears on what happens elsewhere — we’re all in this together, we feel like.”

The movement extends well beyond the United States. In May, a wave of protests and acts of civil disobedience, under an umbrella campaign called Break Free 2016, is scheduled around the world to urge governments and fossil fuel companies to “keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.”

This approach — think globally, protest locally — is captured in the words of Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and a scholar in residence at Ithaca College who helped organize the demonstration at the storage plant near Seneca Lake: “This driveway is a battleground, and there are driveways like this all over the world.”

The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

Speaking to the crowd at Seneca Lake, Mr. McKibben, who had come from his home in Vermont, said, “Our job on behalf of the planet is to slow them down.”

He added, “If we can hold them off for two or three years, there’s no way any of this stuff can be built again.”

But the issues are not so clear cut. The protests aimed at natural gas pipelines, for example, may conflict with policies intended to fight climate change and pollution by reducing reliance on dirtier fossil fuels.

“The irony is this,” said Phil West, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, whose pipeline projects, including those in New York State, have come under attack. “The shift to additional natural gas use is a key contributor to helping the U.S. reduce energy-related emissions and improve air quality.”

Those who oppose natural gas pipelines say the science is on their side.

They note that methane, the chief component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas in the short term, with more than 80 times the effect of carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is issuing regulations to reduce leaks, but environmental opposition to fracking, and events like the huge methane plume released at a storage facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood near Los Angeles, have helped embolden the movement.

Once new natural gas pipelines and plants are in place, opponents argue, they will operate for decades, blocking the shift to solar and wind power.

“It’s not a bridge to renewable energy — it’s a competitor,” said Patrick Robbins, co-director of the Sane Energy Project, which protests pipeline development and is based in New York.

Such logic does not convince Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Saying no to gas doesn’t miraculously lead to the substitution of wind and solar — it may lead to the continued operation of coal-fired plants,” he said, noting that when the price of natural gas is not competitive, owners take the plants, which are relatively cheap to build, out of service.

“There is enormous uncertainty about how quickly you can build out renewable energy systems, about what the cost will be and what the consequences will be for the electricity network,” Mr. Levi said.

Even some who believe that natural gas has a continuing role to play say that not every gas project makes sense.

N. Jonathan Peress, an expert on electricity and natural gas markets at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while companies push to add capacity, the long-term need might not materialize.

“There is a disconnect between the perception of the need for massive amounts of new pipeline capacity and the reality,” he said.

Market forces, regulatory assumptions and business habits favor the building of new pipelines even though an evolving electrical grid and patterns of power use suggest that the demand for gas will, in many cases, decrease.

Even now, only 6 percent of gas-fired plants run at greater than 80 percent of their capacity, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, and nearly half of such plants run at an average load factor of just 17 percent.

“The electricity grid is evolving in a way that strongly suggests what’s necessary today won’t be necessary in another 20 years, let alone 10 or 15,” Mr. Peress said.

Back at Seneca Lake, the protesters cheered when Schuyler County sheriff’s vans showed up. The group had protested before, and so the arrests had the friendly familiarity of a contra dance. As one deputy, A.W. Yessman, placed zip-tie cuffs on Catherine Rossiter, he asked jovially, “Is this three, or four?”

She beamed. “You remember me!”

Brad Bacon, a spokesman for the owner of the plant at Seneca Lake, Crestwood Equity Partners, acknowledged that it had become more burdensome to get approval to build energy infrastructure in the Northeast even though regulatory experts have tended not to be persuaded by the protesters’ environmental arguments.

The protesters, in turn, disagree with the regulators, and forcefully.

As he was being handcuffed, Mr. McKibben called the morning “a good scene.” The actions against fossil fuels, he said, will continue. “There’s 15 places like this around the world today,” he said. “There will be 15 more tomorrow, and the day after that.”


Posted on on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

Laxenburg Austria, 16 March 2016 – The indirect impacts of biofuel production on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union vary widely depending on the type of biofuel, according to a study published last week.

{The Study Argues – this is our insert}
Biofuel policy in the European Union has been under scrutiny for several years, with intense debate around its efficiency in reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Indeed, biofuel production can take up agricultural land otherwise used for food and feed, and lead to land use conversion elsewhere that would offset some of the climate benefits of the policy, a problem known as indirect land use change. In a new study for the European Commission in partnership with the sustainable energy consultancies Ecofys and E4tech, IIASA researchers have now brought more precise insight to the topic, showing the different levels of impact that different biofuels have on land use change and the climate.

The study revisits the impacts of biofuels consumed in the European Union and is the most comprehensive comparison to date of land use effects across feedstocks. It provides the first analysis, in a consistent modeling framework, of both conventional (or first-generation) biofuels, produced from food crops such as vegetable oil, and advanced (or second-generation) biofuels, produced from residues or energy crops such as grasses, forestry residues and cereal straw.

IIASA researcher Hugo Valin led the modeling for the study. He says, “First generation biofuels have been criticized in the past due to their indirect land use change impact, which our study confirms. But by looking at a much broader range of biofuel options, we clearly show that not all biofuels are equal.”

On one end of the spectrum, the study shows that certain types of vegetable oils, such palm or soybean oil, can lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also shows that impacts of ethanol feedstocks are relatively lower than for biodiesel, in particular for high yielded crops such as sugar beet or maize. And on the other end of the spectrum, second generation crops, included for the first time in the analysis for the EU, showed a good performance overall with in several cases net negative emissions.
{This part is a very wise conclusion with which we can completely agree – our insert}

The study also included mitigation scenarios which showed that promoting agricultural expansion on European land compared to the rest of the world would help reducing the impacts in the short run. However, in the long run, the most efficient policy for limiting land-based greenhouse gas emissions would be a better control of agricultural land expansion globally, through policies to preserve forests and other natural ecosystems which can sequester large amounts of carbon including peatlands in Southeast Asia.

The study also included an in-depth analysis of uncertainties in the scenarios to better inform stakeholders. While in some cases uncertainties can be large, the study clearly indicates how impacts of different policy orientations compare.

Valin says, “It’s impossible to remove all uncertainties in such an analysis, but the real value of this study is that it helps decision makers to better anticipate the potential implications of the option they choose. Models help to develop a common understanding of what the problems at stake are and how to mitigate them. In the context of biofuel policies this is especially true, as modeling illustrates the trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, food consumption, land occupation, agricultural income, and other issues.”

More information
Ecofys: Report quantifies land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU


We, at SustainabiliTank, find some problems with above study based on our own experience.

Years ago – end of seventies-beginning of eighties – we published via US Congressional hearings about land use and industrial liquid biofuels production. Our argument was that agriculture in industrialized countries is managed by government policy. This was clearly true in the US, and I was approached by the newly formed Brussels based EU Agriculture Commissioner who was interested in that analysis of policy for the EU States as well.

The argument was that the various Departments of Agriculture support the price of food commodities by limiting their production or simply put – by paying farmers NOT TO PRODUCE or keep land out of production. My argument was to use that land – the so called SET-ASIDES – for the new industry of liquid biofuels and stop non-production-subsidies. I went so far as to calculate that for the US I could PRODUCE ETHANOL FROM CORN THAT WAS NOT GROWN AND PAY FOR IT WITH MONEY THAT WAS NOT SPENT. That testimony caused – because of request from Members of Congress – to my being hired as a consultant by the Office of the Comptroller General Of the United States – the US GAO – the General Accounting Office – in order to have them check out those arguments. Surely they found that there was a base for my arguments. They also found that the reduction of the quantities of agricultural commodity produced was much smaller then expected because, naturally, the farmer kept out of production the worst parts of their land. The funniest part was that agricultural corporations would switch the non-production claims from one commodity o another contingent on which ‘asides” provided higher subsidies that year – one year it could have been historic corn, but another year it could have been a claim of not growing wheat.

Whatever, at least for the EU and the US – the “set aside” policy is just public money dished out to the large farming industry for no good purpose and the concept of “hunger in China” just did not hold water. Environmentalists in this context did rather play up to the big oil and farming interests rather then my perception of reduction of dependence on petroleum. Surely, this is different when replacing natural forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil with oil- producing palm trees in the tropics. In those cases the damage to the environment is real. But not when we talk about the vast already deforested agricultural expances of Europe and America. Further, it is clear to us that in a globalized world – producing those commodities in smaller farms overseas, and subsistence farming, would save CO2 emissions that occur in the transport of those commodities originating in highly agriculture-industrialized economies – albeit this means lower take in the industrialized countries, lower need for food production by industrialized countries, and a parallel gain in employment by therural sector in non-industrialized countries we usually define as Developing Countries.


Posted on on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

As our readers must have realized by now – we are posting a series of columns focusing on activities in Vienna, Austria, that are of value to the global network intent to support Sustainability for all.

After having decided that global agreements chased by the UN Headquarters in New York are just pipe dreams. All we can hope for is this network of individual country promises that in their sum-total can answer needs like a decrease in CO2 presence in the atmosphere while not forgetting goals of poverty reduction, energy, climate, security, or equity. We were grateful to President Obama when we realized that this was his thinking as well, and the Paris2015 Outcome – that some insist on calling the Paris Agreement – does in effect constitute the answer to our needs – but only if a “verification of progress” system is put in place.

We looked around and realized that most energy related UN affiliates are headquartered, or at least have a foot, here in Vienna. So I started this series of articles. The more I looked at this – the harder it became writing it – this because of the richness of material – literally daily I am involved in activities, or at least get material that all relate to these topics.

In this last posting I take the advantage of an exceptional boon – the fact that again Vienna was declared the most livable city in the World. This can clearly help. Would you not rather want to live in the best city in the World?


Besides the city of Vienna, among the first 31 out of the 230 cities with ranking by Mercer, we find a total of 8 cities from German speaking Europe; further 8 assorted cities from other Western Europe (Copenhagen, Geneva, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo); New Zealand/Australia account for 9 cities, Canada for 4 cities, Singapore that this year dropped to only 26th place, and highest ranked US city – San Francisco – at 28th place.

Paris is at 37th place, London at 39, New York and Tokyo are at 44-45.

Dubai is at 75th place, Abu Dhabi at 81, Taipei at 84.

First Developing Country city is Durban, South Africa, 86th place.

Buenos Aires, first Spanish speaking South American city is at 93rd place.

Tel Aviv is at 104th place, Brasilia at 106, Muscat, at 107, Tunis at 113.

Beijing, first city in China, is at 118th place. Istanbul at 122.

Mexico City is at 127th place, Riyadh at 164, Moscow at 167, Tehran at 203, Damascus at 224, and at bottom 230 Baghdad.

What are your conclusions from looking at the above?

Is it not so that you would rather like to live in Western Europe – in Vienna and surrounding countries? In Australia, New Zealand and Canada? Would you contemplate on reasons why some of the richest countries’ capital-cities are low on the list?


I will proceed now to review some of the most resent activities that occurred in the city of Vienna that were rooted with the city itself and not with organizations from afar planted here or organizations formed here in response to needs afar.

In our series we posted so far about: The IAEA Headquarters, The SE4All Headquarters The Outer-Space UN affiliates, The Laxenburg Palace based IIASA, and the Kommunalkredit Public Consulting Group that works with the Austrian Foreign Aid office connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Let us look now first at cultural life – and I will go after two amazing shows that just opened:

DER KONGRESS TANZT – “The Congress Dances” – an amazing Operetta that opened at the VOLKSOPER on the Guertel.

The Historical facts are that the Congress of Vienna (German: Wiener Kongress) was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815.

The Congress was intended to organize the post-Napoleon Europe and through that – the World. In many ways this was an attempt to create an overarching EU. All came except Napoleon who was left behind on his exile-island.

It was said that instead of being in session this Congress danced. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe. It served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.

Covering the lighter side of this Congress Erik Charell used some of the songs from a Con ference-time operetta and produced a film that was released in 1931. Recently, Richard Heymann extracted some of the music from the film, added some of his own, and with the help of conductor and arranger Christian Kolonowiits recreated the operetta that was released now in 2016. This because Vienna celebrated in 2015 the 200th anniversary of the Vienna Congress. This operetta, a parody of the Congress, approached gingerly by the Volksoper, is now the newest “must see” in Vienna.

The BURGTHEATER on the Ring, premiered this week Peter Handke’s – DIE UNSCHULDIGEN, ICH UND DIE UNBEKANTE AM RAND DER LANDSTRASSE (Those Without Guilt, I and the unknown on the edge of the country road) – a masterpiece of modern theater in the celebrated hall of classicism.

Handke (born in 1942 – the war years – his mother resettled in the village Griffin in 1948 after leaving the DDR) was a young Austrian writer (novelist, playwright and political activist) who believed that at the beginning there was the word. Handke’s first play was PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG (Talking Rough to the Public) that automatically made him a sensation in Germany – Austria was too small for him those days. Back those years we saw his work and works by the German Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – the old Brooklyn Opera House. Handke’s luck was that He was recognized by the German Director Claus Peyman who staged that first play and since then another 10 plays by Handke. Handke gained international attention after an appearance at a meeting of avant-garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Landstrasse, stage work by Karl-Ernst Hermann, has a vague autobiographical content and ia all played out on the county road that connects his village Griffin with a neighboring village and in itself becomes a stage for the locals and the World at large. It reminds one of Martin Luther who already then saw the importance of taking reality to the streets – this for him a direct connection between humans and God. For Handke, this is not God but human truth. The simple staging – a broad white ellipse winding to a distant corner – is the path where the action walks by and we peep in on it. This is modern poetic theater at its best – a good place to relax when trying to deal with the World’s woes.

The action is not specific but rather full of hints and you get out really what you want to see. The hints include totaliarism – quite clearly a reminder of the villages Nazi past, butb then there are aspects of budding love and perhapse unanswered love and bitterness – but also hope for a better world.

I started with Vienna’s high locally centered life – but then there are musical events, not just Staatsoper and the Philharmonic, but locally produced musical events where Austrians play foreign folks to perfection. We just enjoyed evenings sponsored by the Austro-American Society with Irish and Mexican music. The Irish evening was held in a typical Austrian pub, and the Mexican and American event was at the organization’s Club rooms where the manager, an Austrian, is loved by all – an ideal American host.

But, the purpose of our Vienna series is not just to say that Vienna is the most livable city in the World – but that I contend that work with global scope can be performed right here – so let us look also at local organizations that can be enrolled in support of global activities – and the first to be mentioned is “the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA).” You will find there a department that deals with all global topics you may be interested to work on. Also, the city hosts many NGOs and great Think Tanks to work as local NGOs – sometimes connected to one of the many active Universities.

One such institution is “the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).” I will mention the Presentation of last night by Professor Dr. Shalini Randeria, the IWM Rector, titled “Precarious livelihoods, disposable lives, and struggles for citizenship rights.” Dr. Randeria, from India, holds chairs at Budapest, Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna Universities. She has published widely on the anthropology of globalization, law, the state and social movements. Her presentation last night was the Keynote address at a IIASA and Forum Alpbach meeting at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the occasion of the IIASA meeting called to formulate a “World in 2050″ Programme.

The Academy of Sciences public event – “Human Capital, Geopolitical Complexities, and Our Sustainable Future” had two panels (I) The release of a book by Professor Wolfgang Lutz – “Who Survives? Education Decides the Future of Humanity.
and (II) “Human Capital, Geopolitical Conflict, and Sustainable Development Goals.”

Panel II – Chaired by Professor Pavel Kabat, Director General of IIASA – had:
– Ambassador Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Director-General Section VII-Development, Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign-Affairs.
– Professor Dirk Messner, Co-Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
– Professor Carlos Nobre, President Brazilian Federal Agency for Support an Evaluation of Graduate Education. Brazilian Member of the Board of IIASA.
– Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Leadership Council and Advisor to the UN Secretary-General; Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University.
– Dr. David Wilkinson, Director, Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety at the Joint Recearch Center, European Commission.

While the first panel dealt with education as an imperative if one wants to take advantage of the SDGs and in effect achieve the wished-for results, he second panel touched upon the topics that are the framework for the program-in-construction for the year 2050 and on tis we will deal separately.


Posted on on March 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Overview of Research at IIASA

IIASA uses advanced systems analysis to conduct policy-oriented research into the most pressing areas of global change – energy and climate change, food and water, poverty and equity – and their main drivers

Futuristic IIASA study for “The 2011-2020 Research Plan” distinguished three major global problem areas facing humanity today where concentration and intensification of research by IIASA scientists is most likely to yield the most productive results.

These three global problem areas were defined as:

Energy and Climate Change
Food and Water
Poverty and Equity

The work is supported by research into the drivers of the transformations taking place in our world – population, technology, and economic growth.

All IIASA research is policy-relevant and geared toward provision of robust solutions to the challenges of international, regional, and national policy and governance.

The methodology used at IIASA since the foundation of the Institute in 1972 are advanced systems analysis. Both methodology and data are constantly updated and refined in-house to respond to emerging research needs.

Now IIASA – since March 2015 IIASA is studying the WORLD till 2050. March 7, 2016 till March 9 2016, IIASA hosts the Second Annual Workshop of the World in 2050 (project TW12050). IIASA’S PARTNERS in this project are: the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC), and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
The first meeting of this project – March 10-12, 2015 was deemed a great success.

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that were approved by the UN General Assembly, September 2015, are the guidelines to and from this IIASA project.



Posted on on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The very important WEF NEXUS for SUSTAINABILITY that links the Paris 2015 Outcome and the SDGS.

Theme of a meeting sponsored this week by the Hungarian Mission to Austria and to the UN offices in Vienna.

Water-Energy-Food Nexus – Responding to Emerging Needs and Opportunities.

Date: February 22, 2016
Host & Location: Hungarian Embassy, Bankgasse 4-6, 1010, Vienna, Austria.

In September 2015, world leaders formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets which are aimed at
stimulating action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for a more equitable and
sustainable world. The strong linkages between the SDGs underlines the notion that progress on each
goal will be critical for progress on others, with increasing understanding for the implementation
of the SDGs through an integrated framework that demands close collaboration at all levels of governance.
As a result, the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) has emerged as a crucial policy and governance approach for
integrated planning and implementation of the SDGs.


10:00 –10:05 Welcome remarks: H.E. Ambassador Karoly Dan

10:05– 0:45 Setting the Scene
– Background and scope of the workshop, approach, expectations and potential outputs/outcomes –
Mr. Paul T.Yillia, SE4All
Presentation: The cross-cutting nature of the SDGs – emerging opportunities for operationalizing
the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) – Prof. András Szölösi-Nagy

10:45–12:45 Session I: Discussion Session on partner experiences
Session Chair: Mr. Olivier Dubois, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity (HIO) on the WEF NEXUS
– What are the realities, needs and challenges in the countries partners operate?
– How can the SE4All Nexus HIO respond to the needs and challenges?

14:00 –15:30 Session II: Discussion Session on identifying emerging opportunities
Session Chair: from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity on the WEF NEXUS
– What opportunities are emerging on the WEF NEXUS
– Presentation: SE4All initiative on Technical Assistance Programme to Strengthen Inter-sector Coordination
(TAPSIC) – Mr.Paul T. Yillia, SE4All
– Exploring the possibility to develop a concrete framework to anchor emerging opportunities within o the SE4All Nexus HIO

15:45-17:45 Session III: Synthesis of Sessions I & II – Developing key elements for action
Session Chair: Mr. Martin Hiller, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP)
– Mobilizing resources – exploring the possibility of a call for funding
– Mobilizing additional partnerships, including the private sector, civil society and the public sector
– Key message from the workshop (short communication)

17:45–18:00 Closing remarks – Ms. Rachel Kyte, SRSG & CEO, SE4All


Posted on on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The SDGs are retaken and enhanced 2001 Johannesburg agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals plus SUSTAINABILITY – that comes from the Rio1992 Conference. These were brought to universality at Paris2015.

The SDGs teach us that Sustainability is an issue for both – Developed and Developing countries – and the Sustainable Development topic, when focused only as a need of Developing Countries – was an easily explainable failure that wasted twenty years of our time. The key is – “No One is to be Left Behind” and this, to pay attention to what goes on right now before our eyes, includes even the migrants. The subject is not open to experts only anymore – it includes Civ il So ciety at large.

Thursday, February 25, 2016, while others went to separate meetings organized with the Ambassadors to Vienna of Romania, Hungary, or Moldova – I preferred the meeting of the SID that under the leadership of retired Austrian Ambassador Thomas Nowotny brought to a panel discussion Ambassador Sylvia Meier-Kajbic now with the Austrian Foreign Office where she is in charge of te division tat takes care of Austrian Foreign Aid, and Mag.Norbert Feldhofer of the office of the Austrian Chancellor Fischer, where he also covers Foreign Aid issues. Thomas Nowotny, in the 1960s was secretary to Chancellor Kreisky and since was involved in various aspects of human and economic sides of political science.

BMEIA and the Chancellor’s office have officially a 0.7% of the GDP to use for Foreign Aid. Now the idea is not to use this as a give-away but rather as a catalyst to help needy countries develop their own taxation system and channels of funding based on local sources and on the legions of their expatriate citizens who are capable to repatriate funds and invest in their own countries. The SDGs have thus a possible new effect on worldwide Foreign Aid programs. In Austria this amounts to a changed use of ADA funds. While campaigning for the continuation of foreign aid activities, it is therefore important for SID to refocus on how those funds are spent. Also, it is important to link the Paris 2015 Outcome to the SDGs – this because both areas of activity serve the same purpose – the creation of Sustainable Societies.
We did not her much of tis kind of thinking at above panel.


Posted on on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

ESPI is the European Space Institute headquartered in Vienna.

Since September 2007 they have a large Autumn Conference in September in Vienna, Austria. This year they will have the 10th such conference.

The creation of ESPI followed a decision made by the Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) in December 2002. The Institute is conceived as an Association under Austrian law and is based in Vienna, Austria. Its Certificate of Foundation was signed in November 2003 by representatives of its Founding Members the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). Its statutes were signed in September 2005 and updated two years later in 2007.

The Institute is funded and supported by its two Founding Members and its regular Members. The latter include various institutions drawn from European agencies, operators and private companies. The European Commission recently became a member. ESPI is governed by a General Assembly, which supervises the Institute, lays down its budgetary and administrative rules, and approves the annual work programme. The ESPI Advisory Council supports the Secretariat by providing medium-term orientations with respect to the research and network activities of the Institute.

Peter Hulsroj is the Director of ESPI since 2011 till. Before that he was with ESA (the European Space Agency – 2008-2011 – Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations. Before that – 2004-2008 – Legal Adviser, Preparatory Commission, The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, Vienna (Austria).

Dr. David Kendall is a retired employee of the Canadian Space Agency having held senior positions including as the Director General of Space Science and Space Science and Technology. He is also a faculty member of the International Space University based in Strasbourg, France.

Dr. Kendall has been appointed now as the next Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – Chair of UN COPUOS, 2016-17.

These two gentlemen were joined by Austrian Senior Foreign Service Official former Austrian Foreign Minister – Ambassador Peter Jankowitsch – who was involved in the Vienna based international Space programs and now is also Vice President of the UNA-Austria – they formed February 24th 2016 a panel on “Space Policy in an European and Global Context.”

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was initially created as a small expert unit within the United Nations Secretariat to service the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 1348 (XIII) of 13 December 1958. The unit was moved to work under the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs in 1962 and was transformed into the Outer Space Affairs Division of that Department in 1968.

In 1992, the Division was transformed into the Office for Outer Space Affairs within the Department for Political Affairs. In 1993, the Office was relocated to the United Nations Office at Vienna. At that time, the Office also assumed responsibility for substantive secretariat services to the Legal Subcommittee, which had previously been provided by the Office of Legal Affairs in New York. Questions relating to the militarization of outer space are dealt by the Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva.

What causes me to post this column was a statement by Peter Hulsroj, who acted as chair of the panel, who said in his introduction that now, after the Paris2016 meeting, we will see an opening of doors between Civil Society and Space. Also, Austria and ESA are members of the Think Tank ESPI that is based right here in Vienna.

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development. The Committee was tasked with reviewing international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programmes, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.

The Committee was instrumental in the creation of five treaties and five principles of outer space. International cooperation in space exploration and the use of space technology applications to meet global development goals are discussed in the Committee every year. Owing to rapid advances in space technology, the space agenda is constantly evolving. The Committee therefore provides a unique platform at the global level to monitor and discuss these developments.

The Committee has two subsidiary bodies: the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and the Legal Subcommittee, both established in 1961. The Committee reports to the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, which adopts an annual resolution on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. The outgoing chair was Austrian, the new chair is the Canadian – Dr. David Kendall.

One of the treaties is the moon treaty. Also agreed, like in the Law of the Sea treaty, are statements that cover the resources that are part of the Outer Space and that can not be appropriated by any particular State – these belong to all humanity. The fact that all those offices relating to Outer Space are now in Vienna is a legacy of the Cold War time when Vienna was regarded as a neutral city between East and West. Austria, Romania and Brazil were always part of the bureau of the Committee.

UNISPACE I, held from 14 to 27 August 1968, was the first in a series of three global UN conferences on outer space held in Vienna, which focused on raising awareness of the vast potential of space benefits for all humankind. The Conference reviewed the progress in space science, technology and applications and called for increased international cooperation, with particular regard to the benefit of developing nations. The Conference also recommended the creation of the post of Expert on Space Applications within UNOOSA, which in turn led to the creation, in 1971, of the “UNOOSA Programme on Space Applications.” Throughout the 1970s, the Programme implemented trainings and workshops, using space technology in such diverse areas as telecommunications, environmental monitoring and weather forecasting, remote sensing for disaster mitigation and management, agricultural and forestry development, cartography, geology and other resource development applications.

The report of UNISPACE I Conference, which was attended by 78 Member States, 9 specialized UN agencies and 4 other international organizations, is part of the Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, document A/7285

UNISPACE II (or UNISPACE 82) was held from 9 to 21 August 1982, attended by 94 Member States and 45 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. UNISPACE II addressed the concerns of how to mantain the outer space for peaceful purposes and prevent an arms race in outer space as essential conditions for peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The Conference focused on strengthening the United Nations’ commitment to promoting international cooperation to enable developing countries to benefit from the peaceful uses of space technology. UNISPACE II led to strengthening of the UNOOSA Programme on Space Applications, which increased opportunities for developing countries to participate in educational and training activities in space science and technology and to develop their indigenous capabilities in the use of space technology applications. UNISPACE II also led to the establishment of regional centers for space science and technology education, which are affiliated to the UN and focus on building human and institutional capacities for exploiting the immense potential of space technology for socio-economic development. UNISPACE II Report, Vienna, 9-21 August 1982 (A/CONF.101/10 and Corr.1and 2)

Rapid progress in space exploration and technology led to UNISPACE III conference, held from 19 to 30 July 1999. Attended by 97 Member States, 9 UN specialized agenices and 15 international intergovernmental organizations, UNISPACE III created a blueprint for the peaceful uses of outer space in the 21st century.

UNISPACE III outlined a wide variety of actions to:
Protect the global environment and manage natural resources;
Increase the use of space applications for human security, development and welfare;
Protect the space environment;
Increase developing countries’ access to space science and its benefits.
Ambassador Peter Jankowitsch was the host country chair of UNISPACE III

UNISPACE III concluded with the Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development (Vienna Declaration), which contained 33 recommendations as elements of a strategy to address new challenges in outer space activities.
UNISPACE III Report,Vienna 19-30 July 1999 (A/CONF.184/6)

Five years after the last major international conference on outer space, UNISPACE III, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) reviewed the implementation of the 33 recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/59/174). See the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations in UNISPACE III+5 report, A/59/174

These days, much of the work of the COPUOS deals with information about space debris and the trajectories of satellites and human activities in Space. The key words are the three “C”s – “Congested,” “Contested,” and “Competitive.” The uses of space are not just military, but many activities involve areas like education and medicine with China and India having become large participants. 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, and a year later – 2018 – there will be the 50th anniversary of UNISPACE I and there will be a new UNISPACE to focus on the 2018 – 2030 years and bring te Space activities in line with the two UN tracks established in 2015 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the so called PARIS AGREEMENT – the Outcome of Paris2015 – that made 2030 a target year. A conference will be held in Dubai – November 2017 = in order to plan for this future enhancement of reliance on Space technologies. Now it is not governments alone who are actors in Space. Some 15.000 companies, one third of them American, are involved in Space already. Optical fibers are being replaced by reliance on Space.

This brings me back – both to the potential of Vienna as a main hub for post-Paris Sustainability Actions, and the involvement of Civil Society and Private enterprise, and private funding, for Space Activities – this as corollary to the introduction by Mr. Hulsroj.

At Q&A time I remarked that Civil Society was already part of the review of legalities and possible uses of Outer Space.
In effect I had personal involvement in this.

In the run-up to UNISPACE II, an NGO leader from Bombai (now Mumbai), Dr. Rashmi Mayur, approached Dr. Noel Brown, then Head of the New York office of UNEP, and myself, then representing at the UN the New York Branch of the Society for International Development (SID) – thst it would be important to have an NGO led session with environment applications.
Those were the days we fought for the introduction of biomass and biofuels as a benign source of energy for development.
We set our eyes at the technologies of Remote Sensing for Biomass Inventory taking. That was basically a subjec dominated by the US, so we decided to try to have also a session on the Soviet experiments with growing vegetation, algae and bacteria, in a laboratory as part of the Space Vehicles.

Given the go, I approached NASA after talking to the US delegate and was told – not interested. But then after I got the Soviet OK and their promise that they will make available the academichian who was in charge of the experiments in the Space Lab, I returned to NASA – and this time got finally also their OK.

The Session was called BIOMASS AND OUTER SPACE, the morning half was dedicated to the Soviet work in Outer Space, and the after-noon to work with Remote Sensing from Space combined with high flying planes and mapping and quantifying vegetation cover. In effect, allow me to say that this is exactly the kind of work that will be done now following Paris2015 and the SDGs – this for tracking food production, water and energy topics – and back then this was already then – a Civil Society pushed topic.

To summarize, we hope therefore that the Vienna based Outer Space offices will help in developing here in Vienna the monitoring tools for those individual country promises, that in their totality were defined as the Paris Agreement. Indeed, with each passing day we discover new Vienna based institutions that can be brought into a cooperative mode.


Posted on on February 25th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

From IAEA Headquarters, The UN enclave in Vienna, Austria, February 23, 2016, a dramatized look at what are the true reasons behind disasters in energy technologies – nuclear energy plants, oil drilling platforms, and methane production.

The IAEA Conference of 22-26 February 2016 was titled: “International Conference on Human and Organizational Aspects of Assuring Nuclear Safety – Exploring 30 Years of Safety Culture.”

I was visiting the VIC (Vienna International Center) – the UN enclave – for a completely different reason – and havig had some free time I snooped around what was going on in the M Conference building thsat was occupied by a large IAEE meeting and I saw on a desk in the hallway upon three cards announcing SAFETY WORKSHOPS. One titled FUKUSHIMA which was clearly very appropriate to the subject matter of the conference and thus did not arise my interest – but it was very different with te other two cards. one was titled NIMROD and the other DEEPWATER.

NIMROD is about an in flight refueling accident that happened September 2, 2006 in the sky over Afghanistan, and DEEPWATER is about the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig operated by Transocean that on April 20, 2010, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Mississippi River Delta, United States, referred to as the BP Oil Spill.

Now this conference started to talk to me. In one of the papers I picked up I read: “WHAT IS SAFETY CULTURE?” and the explanation that followed – “In some circumstances when a severe event happens, analysis has indicated that the safety margins had been eroding stedily for years. This can result from people gradually accepting declining conditions in safe work practices, and ignoring the risks brought on by this decline that may have unnoticeably drifted towards prioritizing other concerns over safety. Risks might have been played down because ‘nothing has happened’ which can eventually lead to a severe event occurring.”

Seeing my interest, a gentleman at the desk started to talk to me. It turned out he was Tim Bannerman, the Director of the London based “akt – Learning & Development Specialists” company that dramatizes/ enacts events. “akt” has delivered conferences, training and workshops throughout the world. See

On SAFETY they say: “We operate in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, construction, nuclear, road, rail, airports, distilleries, facilities management, shipping and local government. We use a range of behaviour-based and research-based techniques, with a focus on understanding the psychology of at risk behaviours. All our plays and workshops focus on behaviour and consider the impact of human factors on safety.”

To me it became immediately clear that in its self-defence the nuclear energy industry will try to show that great risks are also part of the fossil fuel industries – so here we have also a demonstration of extreme events that are not connected to nuclear reactors. I said to Mr. Bannerman that I am no friend of either the oil industry nor the nuclear power industry, and he asked me – why do you not come to our presentation late in the day – and I am glad I did.

The event I attended was about the DEEPWATER case. The dramatization made it clear that Transocean, the company responsible in the operation of the BP operation in te Gulf of Mexico was involved just four months earlier in a near miss on a rig operated by them in the North Sea, and seemingly nothing was learned by them from that case leading to what the US authorities described later as a reckless disregard for safety.

The IAEA event can best be described as a safety workshop and in the room were many psychologists and behavioral scientists. The dramatization was there to show the human elements this in time decreasing safety vigilance and there was no way not to see that this is a company culture driven evolution. Eventually – if an accident can happen – it eventually will happen. The fact it did not happen yet just increases its chances to happen eventually because of a company driven evolving lack of vigilance. Sure – this does not include fail-safe evoluations like the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is a totally different issue that weighs on the oil industry. Sure, the IAEA that employs an engineering trained psychologist, Dr. Helen Rycraft, is making aware reactor operators of this danger in laxness of safety vigilance.
That is clearly one of the main responsibilities of this international organization, and pointing out that this industry is not the only devil in energy is quite appropriate. When I was asked as part of the Q&A segment of this workshop what I learned from the dramatization – I did not hesitate saying that te way out is to leave both industries – oil and nuclear – and look instead for safer technologies – the likes of soar a nd wind. Also, I mentioned my observation of what happens in the check-out lines at the Vienna Hoffer discounter super-markets. There the company pushes the checkout girls to work fast by actually monitoring the number of openings of the cash-registers – and surely – the check-out people make mistakes.
I have to read the slip as I find many times wrong charges. Clearly – also in the Fukushima and Deepwater cases – when analyzed the true blame is with the management that is not present on location.


Posted on on February 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless. Dawn Stover wonders: What if we could see carbon pollution in the air and water?

Seeing (pollution) is believing:

Janice Sinclaire
Communications Director

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
T. 773.382.8061
C. 707.481.9372
F. 773.980.6932E.
 jsinclaire at


23 February 2016,


by Dawn Stover — stover.jpeg

of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. IT IS THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT!
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin.

The snow has melted along the roads in my rural community, revealing a surprising number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash in the roadside ditches. This is a sparsely populated area, yet I drive past mile after mile of terrestrial flotsam and jetsam. Most of it, I suspect, is jetsam—the stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard.

It probably won’t be long before some disgusted (or enterprising) neighbors start tackling this mess. Most of the cans and bottles can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit or put into bags for free curbside recycling. The worst thing about this roadside pollution is also the best thing about it: We can see it. That makes it easy to clean up.

Imagine if carbon pollution was as recognizable as a Bud Light can. What if, every time you started up your car or boarded an airplane or sliced into a Porterhouse steak, a sour-smelling beer can was ejected from your vehicle or pocket? Pretty soon there would be cans lining every highway and tarmac, and coal-fired power plants would literally be buried under them. But even this foul onslaught of aluminum might be less damaging than the 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (plus other greenhouse gases) that humans are dumping into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans every year, raising the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless, which makes it easier to ignore. If we were dumping 40 billion metric tons of aluminum into the air and sea annually—the equivalent of 2,800 trillion beverage cans—surely we would do something about that.

Air quality alert. One of the reasons China is getting serious about clean energy is that the air pollution in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities has become intolerable at times. The visibility gets so poor that flights are sometimes canceled because of smog, and residents are frequently forced to don masks when venturing outdoors—where the air quality can be worse than an airport smoking lounge. The pollution sometimes reaches all the way to California.

“The air in Los Angeles used to be like Beijing,” a California-based colleague recently reminded me. Los Angeles still has some of the most contaminated air in the United States, but the situation has improved significantly since 1970—when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress passed the first of several major amendments to the Clean Air Act, empowering the federal government to regulate air pollutants.

The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan—announced in 2015 but challenged in court by 27 states and currently on hold pending a judicial review—would do for carbon pollution what the Clean Air Act did for smog in an earlier era. This time around, though, many elected officials can’t see what the problem is. Literally.

Making the invisible visible. Instead of implementing a carbon tax or federal limits on power-plant emissions, maybe we just need to add a smelly dye to all fossil fuels—something like the red colorant that is added to fire retardants so that pilots can see where they have sprayed, or the rotten-egg-like chemical that is injected into natural gas so that homeowners can detect gas leaks before they become life-threatening. Instead of subjecting airlines to proposed new emissions limits, we’d simply see a hideous red contrail every time an airplane flew overhead. Standing on the beach, we’d see a red tide—the carbon dioxide absorbed by the North Atlantic alone has doubled in the past decade. And the smell of the recent enormous methane leak from a ruptured pipeline in southern California would pale in comparison to the collective stench emitted by fracking operations and thousands of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. On the plus side, we’d be able to see trees and other plants sucking up carbon, which might make us think twice about turning forests into pallets.

This is only a thought experiment, of course. We shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to realize that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are bad for our health. Most of us know better than to breathe from our car’s tailpipe or leave the garage door shut with the engine running. That’s how you kill yourself, after all. And yet we think nothing of dumping copious amounts of exhaust into the air that everyone breathes. It’s out of sight and out of mind.

Turning a blind eye. Although greenhouse gas emissions aren’t visible, their climate impacts are. It’s not hard to see melting glaciers, wilted crops, and storm surges—or to find photographs, charts, and other images showing how quickly our planet is changing. And yet, as President Barack Obama remarked during a press conference on February 16, “There’s not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious.” That’s a problem, said Obama, because other countries “count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense.”

How can Marco Rubio not see the impacts of rising sea level in Florida? How did Donald Trump miss the meaning of Hurricane Sandy, a bellwether for the type of extreme events that scientists say will become more common and more severe as global warming continues? Where was Ted Cruz when Texas was enduring devastating heat, drought, and wildfires—or the deadly floods that followed? All of the GOP candidates, including self-professed climate change “believer” John Kasich, are turning a blind eye to the decades of scientific research that place the blame squarely on human activities, and it’s possible that even a putrid red haze would not move them.

There will always be some people who are willfully ignorant and inconsiderate and lazy, who toss their trash out the window and leave it for others to pick up. The rest of us can stand around shaking our heads, or we can pull on our gloves and do something about this dreadful mess. Unfortunately, the past two centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions is like a heap of discarded cans and bottles that are already hopelessly bent, broken, and ground into the mud. This carbon buildup will have consequences for Earth’s climate and sea level for tens of thousands of years to come.

That’s no excuse to put off spring cleaning, though. Climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, but rapid and aggressive action would keep the worst impacts of global warming to a minimum. It’s more important than ever to make drastic reductions in carbon dumping, and get serious about reforestation and other cleanup measures. These are the Bud Light cans we can still get our hands on.


Posted on on February 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

from: Umang Jalan  umang at via

In the last few years, countries like India that import a majority of their oil, have made considerable gains in reducing their fiscal and trade deficits. In India, the low prices have afforded the government an opportunity to decrease subsidies and increase excise duties on major crude oil distillates i.e. diesel and petrol. These increases in excise duties have been classified by the government as a progressive carbon tax. The revenue from the increased excise duty was estimated at around Rs. 70, 000 crores (US$ 10 Billion) for FY2015-16 in last year’s budget. However, oil prices have since gone down further and various increases in excise duty have been announced, which will increase this revenue. It would be interesting to note whether this year’s budget has provisions for spending this revenue in a climate-aware manner.

According to the government, there is a de-facto “carbon tax” on petrol and diesel at US$ 140 (per tonne of CO2) and US$ 64 respectively. This is much higher than the internationally agreed price of carbon—US$ 25-35. The increase in excise duty however has not led to any measurable reduction in demand from FY2014-15 levels, as they have been coupled with a corresponding reduction in global oil prices—keeping the net price of petrol and diesel low. This begs the question—will such a tax survive an eventual increase in oil prices?

The revenue from the carbon tax has also not been spent in a climate-aware manner. For example, a portion of the excise duty has been allocated as road cess. This could perhaps be used to modify urban mobility in a more sustainable manner, by improving public transport. This is part of a larger pattern of government expenditure, that does not take into account the systemic changes that would be needed to move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.

Tax on Carbon to Carbon Tax

According to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, India has the 17th highest climate risk index in the world between 1994 and 2013. In recent times, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of climate-related events in India. Although all of these cannot be directly attributed to climate change, the trend of increasing climate impacts is something the government should take notice of and act upon. The following are a few ways in which government expenditure can be made climate-aware:

As mentioned above, investment in transport-related infrastructure can take into account its long-term health and demographic impacts. A focus of transport spending in road infrastructure although important should be complemented with expenditures on improving the quality and scale of the country’s urban public transport systems.

In light of the high climate risk reported in the above study and the recent increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events seen in India, expenditure on risk reduction activities like early warning systems should be increased. Such funding could be focused towards areas that are particularly prone to such events. Such expenditure would include more efficient use and dissemination of meteorological data through awareness initiatives and better communication infrastructure.

There can be changes to the trade policy to include favourable trade terms for low carbon goods and technologies. The methods and infrastructure available for evaluating goods and technologies that would be eligible for such terms could be established and streamlined. Perhaps, there could be better co-ordination between organisations like the Indian Patent Office (IPO), which also seeks to expedite patent queries for green technologies (as part of the new national Intellectual Property Rights policy) in identifying eligible technologies.

Similar expenditures have been listed in India’s recently submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which estimates that India will need US$ 206 billion (at FY2014-15 prices) between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. Perhaps, India can use the “good fortune” of extended periods of low global oil prices to compensate for some of these expenses.

The article was published on…


Umang Jalan

Umang Jalan
Research Associate
Climate Change Programme
Centre for Science and Environment
41, Tughlaqabad Institutional Area
New Delhi-India