links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
Reporting from Washington DC:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 2nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


In the run-up to Paris2015 Kevin Rudd of the New York based Asia Society argues that “U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris,” Lord Nicholas Stern said that there will be a complete change in what the planet will look like in 100 years from now, and Christiana Figueres said that what countries have prepared for Paris is insufficient, but she hopes that in those 100 coming years they will be more forthcoming.

On August 28, 2015 – on CNN International’s Amanpour – Kevin Rudd, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) President, discussed the effects of climate change – with Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and international climate policy, with Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Noting that projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions would cause average temperatures to rise by three-and-a-half to four degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, Lord Stern said “that is very dangerous territory” that the planet hasn’t seen “for around three million years,” since the end of the last Ice Age.

“These kinds of temperature increases are just enormous and would rewrite where we could live, where the rivers are, where the seashores are, what the weather is like,” said Lord Stern.

The poorest areas of the world would be “hit strongest and earliest,” he added. “Probably most of Southern Europe would look like the Sahara Desert.”


Figueres said that countries’ national climate change plans, which governments have been announcing ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December, will fall short of “where we should be, according to science, to be on the two degree [temperature increase] pathway.”

The resulting gap “will not be filled in Paris,” Figueres said. “It will not be filled in January.”

She noted that the Paris climate agreement “is being constructed, actually, as a progressive effort over a certain period of timeframes, during which countries need, and will be able to, because of increased technology and further capital flows … increase their contribution to the solution.”

Video: Kevin Rudd discusses climate change with Lord Nicholas Stern and Christiana Figueres on CNN International’s Amanpour.

Related Links
Kevin Rudd on CNBC: Don’t Confuse the Chinese Stock Market with Overall Economy
Kevin Rudd in the New York Times: U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris

###

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

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Alaska Dispatch News
Published on Alaska Dispatch News  www.adn.com)

August 24, 2015

The White House on Sunday revealed some details of President Barack Obama’s upcoming three-day trip to Alaska [1].

The president will travel to “the Seward area, where he will have the opportunity to view the effects of climate change firsthand,” on Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to White House spokesperson Hallie Ruvin.

On the following day, the president will visit Dillingham and Kotzebue, “where he will engage directly with Alaskans on issues important to their communities and to the local economy,” Ruvin said.

Obama will leave the state on Sept. 2, Ruvin said, adding that additional details will be available later this week.

Speculation over Obama’s plans has grown as the date draws near. The president will touch down in Anchorage on Aug. 31 and deliver a speech at a State Department-sponsored Arctic conference that will draw nearly a dozen foreign ministers and hundreds of attendees.

Obama has said he plans to address climate change during his visit. But details are sparse — and rumors rampant — about whether he will address other issues, if security concerns will enable a visit to some of the most rural parts of Alaska, and just what kind of impacts the unusual visit will have on downtown Anchorage.

Source URL: www.adn.com/article/20150824/whit…

Links:
[1] www.adn.com/list-article/20150820…

————————————————–

The three member Alaska Congressional delegation – two Senators and one Member of the House of Representatives – complained that they were not consulted by the White House. We assume that the President had good reasons for making his own decisions.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Report: Retired Saudi General Makes it His ‘Personal’ Goal to Achieve Saudi-Israeli Peace.

From the Algemeiner and WSJ – August 23, 2015

Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces, has made it his personal goal to strike peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

A former top adviser to the Saudi government, Eshki raised eyebrows in June when he appeared alongside Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General and longtime confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Dore Gold at a conference held by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, espousing desires to build a Saudi-Israel peace, especially to counter the regionally destabilizing expansion of Iran.


“The main project between me and Dore Gold is to bring peace between Arab countries and Israel,” said Eshki.

The former general noted that while the initiative is “personal,” Riyadh “knows about the project” and “isn’t against it, because we need peace.”

Eshki said Israeli and Saudi plans for their shared principal enemy Iran do not completely align, especially regarding an Israeli strike against Iran. He added, however, that Israel would be interested in dealing first with the threat posed by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah, before committing its military to countering the much larger and imposing threat of Iran.

Saudi Arabia is also fighting an Iranian-backed group in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, who have taken over the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and Eshki said it was the common threat of Iranian attempts to destabilize the region and “revive the Persian Empire” that has brought him and Gold together.

Israeli and Saudi officials have reportedly held several meetings in light of the P5+1 arrangement with Iran to peel back international sanctions in exchange for some restrictions on and monitoring of its nuclear program, which Jerusalem and Riyadh view as a boon to Iranian efforts to spread its influence in the Middle East.

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

###

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

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs

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

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


The UN at 70

Project Syndicate – Sunday, August 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

———————————————————


How to Select the Next UN Secretary-General.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————————————————


Gareth Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Climate – from The Center of American Progress – ClimateProgress

7 Big Oil Companies Submit Climate Commitments To The U.N.

by Natasha Geiling Aug 21, 2015 2:16pm


Earlier this week, seven oil and gas companies proposed methane emissions cuts as part of their contribution to a global climate deal ahead of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris later this year.


The companies — including the United States’ Southwestern Energy and Norway’s Statoil — have committed to cutting methane in oil production “by systematically surveying for nine key emission sources” and then reporting those findings to the public, the United Nations’ Climate Action website said. Specific reduction numbers were not listed in the database, though concrete reduction targets could be released at a later date.

Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Oil and gas production produces methane either via leaking infrastructure, or through a process known as flaring, where excess methane is intentionally released and then burned. Reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production could go a long way to helping the globe stay under a 2°C warming scenario — the International Energy Agency has estimated that curbing methane from upstream oil and gas production could account for 15 percent of the global emissions reductions needed to stay under 2°C.

“It’s heartening to see these companies understand the climate situation and understand the contribution that methane makes,” Han Chen, international climate advocate with the {industry-closely related – our comment} Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told ThinkProgress. “I think that a lot of these corporations are facing inquiries from investors, looking at the divestment campaign, and seeing that they are going to have to eventually change their strategy.”

But when a company’s entire business is the extraction of fossil fuels for profit, their climate commitments need to be looked at critically, Greenpeace’s Travis Nichols told ThinkProgress.

“In general, it’s really good to consider the source of these things. You think, ‘Okay, this is an oil company, its entire M.O. is to extract fossil fuel,’” Nichols said. “If they’re making certain kinds of pledges, then we probably need to push them harder.”

In early June, six oil companies wrote a letter to the UN’s climate chief, pledging their support for international climate commitments and emphasizing their willingness to work with international bodies to place a price on carbon.

That’s a good start, Chen said, but environmentalists still want to see oil and gas companies go further. Recent scientific analysis suggests that to keep global temperatures under 2°C, 49 percent of the world’s remaining natural gas reserves and 33 percent of its remaining oil can’t be burned as fuel, meaning that oil and gas companies will need to look beyond their current infrastructure if they want to help prevent dangerous levels of climate change.

“We’re pretty happy that these corporations are even acknowledging that this is a serious problem that we’re facing, but what we need them to commit to over the long term needs to be significantly more than this,” Chen said. “We don’t think that thinking about a carbon price and just reducing methane leakage is going to be enough. In the long term, we’re talking about moving toward low carbon solutions.”

The commitments to methane reductions come just days after the Obama administration proposed methane regulations for new and modified oil and gas wells across the country. In January, the administration announced a goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector between 40 and 45 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels.

————————————————————————
 thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/08…

Climate

The Dry Weather That’s Hitting The Tar Sands Industry Is ‘A Preview Of The Future,’ Scientist Says.

by Samantha Page Aug 21, 2015 1:57pm

Dozens of tar sands developers in Alberta’s tar sands have been suspended from taking water — needed for their operations — out of local rivers, after a low flow advisory was issued.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) suspended 73 licenses to temporarily divert water (TDLs) from the Athabasca, Peace, and Wabasca rivers on July 24, after unusually dry weather caused water to fall to at or below healthy maintenance levels. Now, scientists are saying this could become a regular issue for Alberta’s tar sands industry.

Tar sands mining is a type of surface mining in which the top layer of organic matter — trees and plants — is scrapped off, and heavy crude oil is filtered from the sand and clay below. Three barrels of water are needed for every barrel of oil extracted from the tar sands, according to Friends of the Earth.

“More than 90 percent of this water, 400 million gallons per day, ends up as toxic waste dumped in massive pools that contain carcinogenic substances like cyanide,” the group says. Processing the oil from tar sands is incredibly carbon-intensive, and because of tar sands, the energy sector has become Canada’s biggest source of greenhouse gases.

As global warming worsens, some regions, including Alberta, can expect more and more dry summers, scientists say.

“This is absolutely a preview of the future,” Simon Dowell, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia, told ThinkProgress.
This is a reminder that even the fossil fuel industry has to be worried about the impacts of climate change

Earlier snow melt and drier conditions due to climate change are “exactly what all the models predict,” he said. In fact, the AER suspensions came the same week a paper Dowell co-authored was accepted for publication. In the paper, Dowell and lead author Doris Leong found that, by mid-century, there could be two-month interruptions in tar sands development due to lack of water.

Four counties in Alberta have declared a state of “agricultural disaster” due to drought this summer, the CBC reports. And with the record-breaking El Niño event, it’s expected that western Canada will continue its dry spell at least through this winter, Dowell said.

Some studies have predicted that climate change could increase the likelihood of severe El Niños, a phenomenon that, like climate change, can exacerbate extreme weather events in some parts of the world.

This spring, a group of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian scientists banded together against the continued development of the Alberta tar sands, saying it is “incompatible” with limiting climate change.

“It is somewhat ironic,” Dowell said. “This is a reminder that even the fossil fuel industry has to be worried about the impacts of climate change.”

For now, the water use restrictions will not end operations for all the affected companies, as many have stored water or alternative sources.

“The AER encourages industry to develop their own contingency plans to minimize the impacts that low-flow has on their energy operations. For example, operators may have previously stored water from the source to a reservoir on their site, and when water restrictions are in place, they can divert water from a reservoir,” Jordan Fitzgerald, an AER spokesman, told ThinkProgress by email.

The current restrictions are in effect only in the Upper Athabasca Basin, in northern Alberta, but operators elsewhere in the province are also being urged to conserve.

“The AER is also encouraging oil and gas operators to voluntarily reduce their water consumption in areas with no mandatory restrictions but with streamflows lower than normal,” Fitzgerald said.

Unfortunately for the tar sands industry, low flows might actually be the new normal.

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

US Proposals to Cut Methane and Other Pollutants.

As an extension of his Climate Action Plan President Obama through the EPA has announced a series of proposals that will reduce methane and other harmful emissions. While there are there are already some voluntary programs to reduce methane emissions, the EPA has proposed new regulations that will significantly reduce methane in the oil and gas sector as well as in landfills.

In June of this year the EPA announced that it was preparing plans to limit methane. On August 18, 2015, the EPA publishes more details of the new rules. The standards are intended for the oil and gas sector. They are designed to reduce methane, VOCs and other toxic air pollutants. Under the proposed regulations the oil and gas industry would have to cut methane emission by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

The new standards would reduce methane emissions by between 340,000 and 400,000 short tons. This is equivalent to reducing 7.7 to 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. According to EPA estimates the net climate benefits will be worth between $120 and $150 million. In addition to methane the new rule will eliminate as much as 180,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

To achieve these goals the new EPA rules require the oil and gas industry to find and repair leaks, capture gas leaking from fracking wells, as well as limit emissions from pumps and other equipment. Several studies have shown that due to leakages, natural gas has a higher emissions profile than coal.

The new standards also address airborne toxins, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Under the plan as much as 2,500 tons of these toxic emissions will be eliminated.

On August 14, 2015 the EPA issued two other proposals that are intended to reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills which are the third largest source of anthropogenic methane. As part of the proposals landfills would have to reduce methane emissions by almost one third.

Landfills generate around 18 percent of methane emissions which is the equivalent to 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

The proposed rules are expected to reduce methane emissions by an estimated 487,000 tons a year which is equivalent to reducing 12.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The EPA estimates the climate benefits of the combined proposals at nearly $750 million in 2025 or nearly $14 for every dollar spent to comply. Combined costs of the proposed rules are estimated at $55 million in 2025.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Mayors of cities like London, Vienna, Istanbul, are usually the second most important elected official in their countries. Why is this not the case with New York City? What is different here? I feel like having a proposed answer:

In New York City special interests are stronger then in above named cities. The reason for my writing this posting is my anger at what I see in New York City as an exaggerated importance allowed to the Yellow Cabs Owners’ Associations that seem to have a historical hold on the way the city develops public transportation. This is not just the problem of the present Mayor – Mr. Bill De Blasio, but we also saw this during the reign of his predecessor Mr. Michael Bloomberg – the Republican tycoon. Then we were not astonished by this fact.

But Mr. De Blasio is the Democrat elected for his presumably progressive ideas. Indeed – he runs all over the globe talking about the environment and climate change – just like Mr. Bloomberg did. He helped recently lead the world’s Mayors to the Vatican in order to line up behind Pope Francis to help save the Paris 2015 UNFCCC meeting. But what does he do here at home?

I am targeting my attention to the Public transportation in NYC – specifically the bus service of the MTA that cuts into the business of the yellow cabs – and their owners had the upper hand. So, New York City was probably the only large city in the world without a decent public link to its airports.

Mayor Bloomberg already started to undo the Manhattan Transit buses under the guise of improving it. The case in point is the line M15 and the introduction of the SELECT transportation to replace the EXPRESS bus stops. With three Select runs for each regular run, and the elimination of some connections to the crosstown lines – like at East 72nd street – the riders started switching to yellow cabs right back six-seven years ago. This was a boon to the yellow cabs that started suffering from the competition from the Green cabs that came into existence when sectors of the public were pointing fingers at the “Yellows” refusing to go to outer boroughs under the guise (clearly against the law) that it was dangerous.

Under De Blasio things got worse. So often you see buses skipping a scheduled departure and taking off instead with a “NOT IN SERVICE” sign going from end-to-end without passengers and leaving those in need of that transportation to turn to cabs.

So, this mayor increased the spewing of fumes and greenhouse gasses by having useless bus trips and unneeded single passenger cab runs – something only the cab owners could love.

I write this today after having observed at Third Avenue and East 45th Street how the M101 Express passed by without stopping and out of the two lines M102 and M103 both scheduled to stop there at 4:29 PM (? in itself questionable) only the M103 stopped, while the other bus passed empty – NOT IN SERVICE.

Further – the public likes the recent introduction of the new UBER service but the mayor entered in a fight to disallow this service. I never understood his position beyond – again – it would hurt existing yellow cab owners. Is he indeed wedded to them?

The recent pols show the Mayor may have a hard time getting reelected. We hope some truly progressive Democrat steps forward to challenge him.

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

THE UPDATE of August 20, 2015 to our original article of August 8, 2015:


Mr. De Blasio seems to have found a new outlet for his energies – the nearly naked women-beggars of Times Square. But the “Job 1″ of his, according to the Wednesday August 19, 2015 editorial of amNewYork, is “MAKE THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME.” That is the subject we hammered on in our original paper as well.

Thinking of the mayhem that lies ahead of us in New York during the second half of this September month – this because New York is in effect the Capital of the World and most Heads of State will be flocking here – De Blasio simply does not feel like up to this situation. Sorry we must keep hammering on this.

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Last night – August 18, 2015 – in New York City – we went to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center to listen to a performance of perfection – Joshua Bell playing Bach – the Chaconne dating from 1720 and the Violin concerto in E major dating to “before 1730.”

I thought this became a subject for our website because of an article by Lars Gustafsson that was part of the printed program brochure that was handed out to us. The title “THE STILLNESS OF THE WORLD BEFORE BACH” – the fact that we might think that it might seem there was no great music before Bach – BUT THERE MUST HAVE BEN SOMETHING THERE BEFORE 1720.

Then I thought = wait the steam engine was developed over a period of about a hundred years by three British inventors. The first crude steam powered machine was built by Thomas Savery, of England, in 1698. Savery built his machine to help pump water out of coal mines – only in 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion.

So we can say that the development of the steam engine, that brought about the industrial revolution, went on in parallel with the development of music that started with Bach and if we may say continued with Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart.

Could we say that some form of life did exist before we started to use coal en-masse and invented concepts of economic growth and development? What was the life we replaced? What was the cultural expressions we lost when accepting the progress in music?
The Gustafsson article stimulates our thoughts.

Gustafsson – since the late 1950s has produced poetry, novels, short stories, critical essays, and editorials. He gained international recognition as a Swedish writer with literary awards such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages, and Harold Bloom includes Gustafsson in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994). John Updike offered high praise for Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper in his collection of criticism, Hugging The Shore.

Gustafsson said once “I listen. I listen and I look. Creativity knows no rules. You can get an idea for a novel from a little something someone says, or just a face you see. A rabbi once told me that when God spoke to Moses in that bush, it wasn’t in a thundering voice; it was in a very weak voice. You have to listen carefully for that voice. You have to be very sharp.”

In May 2009, Lars Gustafsson declared that he would vote for the Pirate Party in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament

Lars Gustafsson: The Stillness of the World Before Bach

There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor partita,
but what kind of a world?

A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-Tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.

Isolated churches
where the soprano line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s stillness before Bach.

published in New Directions Paperback NDP656, “The Stillness of the World Before Bach: New Selected Poems” by Lars Gustafsson.

Yes – there was a harmonious world even without the sound of Bach – that is what I took from the above poem.
Surely, I did not transform this into a feeling that this was a better world – simply I picked up that it was still a livable world that could exist with simpler pleasures.

Nevertheless we are thankful to Bach for having shown us the way to perhaps a higher level of civilized pleasures. How does this translate to the Steam-engine thought that we understand today as a step backwards – because of the dependence on fossil fuels?

But this would be a wrong conclusion – it would be more correct to see that we can get all those benefits from higher technologies like we get from Bach’s music, if we only opt to use Renewable Energy and even higher tech methods that allow us similar results without that pesky dependence on oil and coal. Gustafsson was right in in opting for the Pirates in his search for true enlightenment in a corrupt world.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Why Republicans Vote for Bernie?
Monday, 17 August 2015 00:00 By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program
| Op-Ed

Ann Coulter knows who she wants to be the Democratic nominee for president, and who that person is, well, it may surprise you.

She wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, and thinks that if Bernie gets the nod, he’ll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him.

You won’t hear me say this often, but Ann Coulter is right.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

If Bernie Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, and it looks more and more every day like he will be, his Republican opponent is going to have a very hard time beating him.

And that’s because of all the Democratic candidates running, Bernie Sanders has the best chance of capturing Republican votes.

I’ve seen how Bernie does this, up close and personal.

Despite its reputation as a place filled with liberal hippies, Vermont, like most of rural northern New England, is home to a lot of conservatives.

Anyone running for statewide office there needs to win these conservatives’ votes, and Bernie is great at doing that.

Back in 2000 when Louise and I were living in Vermont, it wasn’t all that uncommon to see his signs on the same lawn as signs that said “W for President.”

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

And as NPR’s “Morning Edition” found out last year, some of Bernie’s biggest fans are in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the poorest and most conservative part of the state.

It’s people from the Northeast Kingdom who’ve overwhelmingly elected Bernie to almost 20 years in Congress and two straight terms as senator, and it’s people like them in the rest of the country who will probably send Bernie to the White House if he gets the Democratic nomination for president.

So why is that?

Why is Bernie Sanders, a socialist, so popular with people who should hate “socialism?”

The answer is pretty simple.

While Americans disagree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, they’re actually pretty unified on the bread and butter economic issues that Bernie has made the core of his campaign.

In fact, a recent poll by the Progressive Change Institute, shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Bernie on key issues like education, health care and the economy.

Like Bernie, 75 percent of Americans poll support fair trade that “protects workers, the environment and jobs.”

Seventy-one percent support giving all students access to a debt-free college education.

Seventy-one percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding our broken roads and bridges, and putting people back to work.

Seventy percent support expanding Social Security.

Fifty-nine percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.

Fifty-eight percent support breaking up the big banks.

Fifty-five percent support a financial transaction or Robin Hood tax.

Fifty-one percent support single payer health care, and so and so on.

Pretty impressive, right?

And here’s the thing – supporting Social Security, free college, breaking up the big banks, aren’t “progressive” policies, they’re just common sense, and 60 years ago they would have put Bernie Sanders smack dab in the mainstream of my father’s Republican Party.

This is why Ann Coulter is so scared of Bernie becoming the Democratic nominee.

She knows that he speaks to the populist, small “d” democratic values that everyday Americans care about, regardless of their political affiliation.

That’s the really radical part of Bernie’s 2016 campaign, and what’s what maybe, just maybe, might make him the 45th President of the United States.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.


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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

>More than any other Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump has won his party’s trust on top issues and now stands as the clear leader in the race for the Republican nomination. A new CNN/ORC poll finds Trump with the support of 24% of Republican registered voters. His nearest competitor, Jeb Bush, stands 11 points behind at 13%. Just behind Bush, Ben Carson has 9%, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker 8%, Rand Paul 6%, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich all land at 5%, with Mike Huckabee rounding out the top 10 at 4%.

Trump is the biggest gainer in the poll, up 6 points since July according to the first nationwide CNN/ORC poll since the top candidates debated in Cleveland on August 6. Carson gained 5 points and Fiorina 4 points. Trump has also boosted his favorability numbers among Republicans: 58% have a favorable view of Trump now; that figure stood at 50% in the July survey.

Our evaluation of the above is as follows:

The old coalition of the Republican party includes – The anti-Castro Latins (Rubio at 8%, the anti-foreigners (Walker at 8%),
the Libertarians (Paul at 6%), the Tea-Party (Cruz at 4%), and the pro-oil and other major industrial lobbies (Bush at 13%), and your friendly conservative neighbor Huckabee at 4% – all these totaling 48%.

BUT THE NEWS ARE THAT a total of 42% are looking for a new face and show that they reject the old establishment.

The new Presidential contenders – who do not have a party base – are: Trump at 24%, Carson at 9%, Fiorina at 4% and Governor Kasich at 4%.

WILL THE OLD COALITION REESTABLISH ITSELF AND LOSE, OR WILL THE PARTY ACCEPT A NEW FACE AND GIVE IT A CHANCE TO WIN?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over.

From: May Boeve - 350.org

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friends,

2015 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, and this December hundreds of world governments will meet in Paris to try to strike a global climate agreement. It will be the biggest gathering of its kind since 2009, and it’s potentially a big deal for our global movement.

In Paris our governments are supposed to agree on a shared target for climate action, based on the national plans governments have been putting together all year — but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Everything being discussed will allow too many communities that have polluted the least to be devastated by floods, rising sea levels and other disasters.


This has the makings of a global failure of ambition — at a moment when renewable energy is becoming a revolutionary economic force that could power a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Join us in telling world leaders to keep fossil fuels underground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Our movement has grown tremendously — and it shows every time a new leader stands up to declare we must keep fossil fuels under ground, or a university, church or pension fund divests from fossil fuels. The problem is the power of the fossil fuel industry.

The Paris negotiations could potentially send a signal that world governments are serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. If they fail, it will embolden the fossil fuel industry and expose more communities to toxic extraction and climate disasters.

The solutions are obvious: we need to stop digging up and burning fossil fuels, start building renewable energy everywhere we can, and make sure communities on the front lines of climate change have the resources they need to respond to the crisis.

This could be a turning point — if we push for it. Join our global call for action to world governments, telling them to commit to keeping at least 80% of fossil fuels underground, and financing a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over. No matter what happens in the negotiating halls, we must build power to hold them accountable to the principles of justice and science.

After many months of consultation with our global network, here is the plan for what I call “The Road Through Paris”: the plan to grow our movement and hold world leaders accountable to the action we need.

First, in September we will launch a global framework to grow the movement before and after the Paris talks. On September 10th, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others will be joined by global movement leaders in New York City to lay out our vision for the road ahead. Then on September 26th communities across the globe will hold workshops to plan for the coming months of action. After that, I think we’ll see several months of escalating activity as communities drive the message home that we can’t wait for action.

The talks in Paris start on November 30th, and run for 2 weeks. But before the talks start, the world will stand together in a weekend of global action, paired with an enormous march in the streets of Paris. During the talks, 350′s team on the ground will do their best to help keep you in the loop on the most important developments. And when the talks wrap up, we’re planning a big action in Paris on December 12th to make sure the people — not the politicians — have the last word.

But most importantly, we won’t stop there. I want you to mark your calendars for the month of April in 2016. That’s when we will mobilize in a global wave of action unlike any we’ve seen before. Not one big march in one city, not a scattering of local actions — but rather a wave of historic national and continent-wide mobilizations targeting the fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground, and backing the energy solutions that will take their place.

In the 6 years 350.org has been around, this is the most ambitious plan we’ve ever proposed. But ambition is what is called for, along with courage, faith in each other and the readiness to respond when disaster strikes, plans change, or politicians fail to lead.

We are nearer than ever to the changes we’ve been fighting to see. I hope to stand with you in the coming months to see them through.

May Boeve
Executive Director

###

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

Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II

The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)

To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:
 www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me…


Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.


“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.

But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.

The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.

Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.

Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.

First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.

And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.

That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

———————————————————-

Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

ALSO:

California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Climate Plans in the Lead-up to Paris: Where Do We Stand?
by Taryn Fransen, Mengpin Ge, Kelly Levin, Eliza Northrop and Heather McGray – August 04, 2015 of the Washington DC “World Resources Institute (WRI).

Halfway through the year in which the world is slated to adopt a new international climate agreement, countries responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions have now released their post-2020 climate action plans. The rest of the world’s nations are expected to submit their own plans, or “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) between now and December, with many expected before October 1st.

So the big questions are: How do these INDCs stack up, and what impact will they have in reining in climate change?

We’ve been tracking INDCs as they come in, attempting to understand what they mean for the Paris negotiations, and evaluating whether they are transparent enough to allow us to gauge global progress on climate action. Here’s a comprehensive look at progress so far on mitigation, equity and transparency. A separate blog post takes stock of progress on adaptation.

For the full article and the imgraphics – please go to:
 www.wri.org/blog/2015/08/climate-…

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Phasing out fossil fuel would show true EU leadership

Front page photo – “Coal plant: Countries like Poland fear additional regulations.”

By Charlotte Flechet
Quebec, 1 August 10, 2015

For about 20 years, the EU has been a constructive leader in climate negotiations: benefitting from a growing economy, and support from public opinion. However, in the last few years, the EU’s leadership has been declining due to a series of internal and external factors.

On the one hand, the Union’s eastern enlargement has increased internal divisions among member states. Countries like Poland, which heavily rely on coal for their energy supply, fear additional regulations, and traditional leaders, such as Germany, are taking a step back in the context of an ongoing economic crisis.

On the other hand, China and the US have become more proactive in negotiations and are also in the lead for wind energy production and investments in renewable energy.

The EU has largely lost its ability to lead by example. The 2030 framework for climate and energy policies agreed last October, was criticised by NGOs for its lack of ambition.

Although the 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 was generally welcomed, the non-binding targets for energy efficiency and the shy 7 percent increase in share of renewables over 10 years was considered too weak.

Simultaneously, concerns about the influence of fossil fuel and other industrial lobbies on EU decision-making processes raise questions about the EU’s willingness to lead.

Among the latest victims are the Fuel Quality Directive whose ambitions were reduced in the context of the ‘CETA/TTIP’ negotiations with North American countries, and the 2030 European renewable energy targets that were weakened following intensive lobbying by oil and gas giant, Shell.

Calendar records show that some European Commissioners have dedicated a considerable amount of their time to business lobbyists.

Around 83 percent of the meetings of climate commissioner Miguel Canete, and 70 Canete of Maros Sefcovic’s, commission vice-president for the Energy Union, were with businesses, mostly representing heavy industry and fossil fuels.

Knowing that, according to International Monetary Fund estimates, the EU is collectively allowing $330 billion in subsidies to fossil fuels annually, one could question the EU’s ability to lead a climate transition.

If it wants to come out of the climate crisis with a prosperous, socially, and ecologically sound society, the EU must speed up the pace of its transition and review its priorities.
Immoral

Defending fossil fuels is immoral and goes against the human rights so dear to Europeans’ hearts. The EU cannot be a genuine leader in climate negotiations while at the same time supporting destructive practices that will affect billions of lives.

This is why the EU needs a new climate narrative.

Europe could win big by reinvesting in its ability to lead by example. Given the austere economic context, it is unlikely that it will be able to lead by using carrots and sticks as it used to do in the past.

Instead, a less costly option would be to reaffirm its role as a normative power. Endorsing fossil fuel divestment and taking measures in that direction could help it achieve this objective.

The demands of the fossil fuel divestment movement are rooted in scientific evidence.

A recent article published in Nature, claims that 80 percent of coal, 50 percent of gas and one third of all oil reserves must remain in the ground if we are to stay within the 2°C maximum temperature rise.

Given the current rate of emissions, this “carbon budget” will be exhausted within 25 years.

Phasing out of fossil fuels is a necessity. By publicly endorsing fossil fuel divestment and reorienting its incentives and subsidies the EU could gain the trust of other nations, particularly the most vulnerable ones. This could ultimately contribute to the enhancement of the Union’s bargaining power in climate negotiations.


This is not just idealism.

In 2013, Connie Hedegaard, then EU climate commissioner, pleaded for the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to lead the way in eliminating public finance support for fossil fuels.

Numerous world leaders and organisations including the UN’s Ban Ki Moon, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu, and French president Francois Hollande have publicly supported divestment.
Economic rationale

There is also a strong economic rationale for this.

Fossil fuel companies are currently overrated as their value on financial markets does not appropriately account for the risks of their assets being stranded.

Future climate regulations are likely to impact on the financial value of these companies, which will in turn affect all those who have invested money in them.

A study by the European Green Party found that European pension funds, insurance companies and banks have invested more than €1 trillion in fossil fuels.

In a low carbon breakthrough scenario, these institutions are likely to lose between €350 billion and €400 billion.

A much higher figure is expected if action is further delayed. In June, Shell’s former chairman said that moving money away from fossil fuel companies is a rational response to slow progress on climate change.

Besides, low-carbon energy products are amongst the most dynamic growth sectors. Reorienting subsidies to support transition towards low carbon technologies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy is a reasonable option.

Leading by example has worked in the past.


ETS – Emissions Trading System:

The 2005 Emissions Trading System is probably one of the best examples of successful spill over. It has also been argued that the EU’s leading role in climate action was crucial in creating momentum for other countries to act elsewhere.

In the current context of austerity, with an almost unconditional focus on growth and competitiveness, the EU is missing a major opportunity.

The EU should phase out fossil energy. It is of course only part of a solution that requires much broader changes.

This might sound too idealistic, but aren’t youngsters allowed to dream?

Charlotte Flechet is an environment policies worker and an activist for the Global Call for Climate Action campaign

###

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


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

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 9th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Democrats are also looking forward to Thursday’s debate among the Republican presidential candidates — and making demands.

The Democratic governor of California – Edmund G. Brown – released a two-page letter Wednesday in advance of last Thursday’s planned GOP debate in Cleveland. He says California is hotter and drier than it’s ever been, making wildfires more severe and extending the fire season.

The Governor was asking the GOP candidates what they plan to do about climate change.

“Longer fire seasons, extreme weather and severe droughts aren’t on the horizon, they’re all here — and here to stay,” Brown said in his letter. “This is the new normal. The climate is changing. Given the challenge and the stakes, my question for you is simple: What are you going to do about it? What is your plan to deal with the threat of climate change?”

In general, the Republicans have criticized President Obama’s climate change plans as government overreach that will cut jobs in the energy sector and increase utility bills for middle class Americans.

But the Fox team under the leadership of Ms. Megin Kelly did not ask the candidates a single question in that direction.
So what is the candidates stand on these issues? Would they rather give up California then take a stand? Or the silence at that debate was imposed by the Republican National Committee.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Vua RSN (Readers Supported News) we know that:

Reader Supported News | 08 August 15 AM

Defense Contractors Spend Millions to Overturn Limits on Military Spending

By Alexander Cohen, Center for Public Integrity

08 August 15

The Pentagon’s top contractors sent an army of more than 400 lobbyists to Capitol Hill this spring to press their case for increasing the nation’s spending on military hardware, in a massive effort costing tens of millions of dollars of their own funds from April to June alone, according to an analysis of public lobbying data by the Center for Public Integrity.

The contractors are upset in part because most military spending has been capped for the past few years under budget controls meant to rein in government debt. So far, the caps have forced a decline in main defense budgets from about $528.2 billion in fiscal 2011 to $496.1 billion in fiscal 2015, instead of a previously projected increase to roughly $598 billion. Mounting frustration with the caps was evident in the administration’s submission this year of a military budget that exceeded the limits by about $38 billion, followed by moves by both branches of Congress to add even more billions.


The caps remain the law of the land, however, and they won’t go away until Congress votes to lift them. The issue has so far been tangled up in a dispute between the parties over whether to also increase spending on social welfare programs. But several lobbyists said in interviews that they were optimistic that this could finally be the year that lawmakers agree to let defense contractors return to their historic pattern of ever-higher revenue from the federal treasury.

This could explain in part why total lobbying expenditures by the 53 top defense contractors that reported paying for such work in the second quarter of 2015 were more than 25 percent higher than the amount they spent in the same quarter of 2014 — $58.5 million instead of $45.7 million. But not all of the lobbying was related solely to military spending.

Boeing, a $100 billion corporation that makes military aircraft and other lethal hardware, as well as civilian aerospace goods, reported to the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate that it spent almost $13.2 million on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year. Its filing said some of this expenditure was related to expanding its “Commercial Aircraft Sales/Services” and supporting the Export-Import Bank, among other issues. The aerospace contractor’s commercial aircraft division receives billions in financing from the bank, and so it has a large stake in this year’s continuing congressional skirmish over renewing the bank’s charter.

Gayla Keller, a Boeing communications director, declined to comment specifically on their lobbying activities in an emailed response to questions.

Parsing the lobbying reports to sort out just the defense-related expenditures for these contractors is not easy, because the lobbying reporting requirements have some ambiguity baked into them. Lobbying expenses are only reported on an overall basis for an organization, and aren’t tied to specific issues or associated with the agencies that lobbyists target. And for some of the top defense contractors, the Pentagon is only one of many customers, albeit an outsized one.

Still, 40 of the 53 top contractors that lobbied during the last quarter reported that one target of their efforts was the National Defense Authorization Act, the main legislation authorizing defense spending each year. Some of these firms — including Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon — said that their efforts were aimed at budget controls.

General Electric — which makes washing machines and light bulbs and has a major healthcare division — lobbied on the Export-Import Bank, Medicare, passenger and freight train safety and natural gas production, according to its latest disclosure. It also lobbied on several defense weapons programs, including the B-1 Bomber, the CH-53K Super Stallion helicopter, the F-18 Fighter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

General Electric responded to the Center’s requests for comment with an emailed statement that its “[e]mployees educate officials on our Company’s operations, emerging technologies and markets, as well as on our views on public policy issues.”

Boeing and General Electric had the largest increases in lobbying spending compared with the same period in 2014, among the 15 defense contractors that spent $1 million or more to lobby in the quarter. General Electric almost tripled its lobbying spending compared with the earlier period, from $2.8 million to almost $8.5 million. Boeing more than doubled its spending for the quarter, from almost $4.2 million in the second quarter of 2014 to $9.3 million in the most recent quarter of this year.

Industry experts the Center spoke with said that while there were probably multiple reasons for the heightened lobbying, lifting the budget caps has been the industry’s central ambition. “People are concerned about the sequester,” said retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association, the country’s main defense industry association. “For the industry as a whole, that may be the top issue,” said a veteran defense lobbyist, who asked not to be named.

Of the total 655 lobbyists employed by the contractors, 423 of them specifically lobbied on defense, in some cases along with other issues, according to the lobbying reports.

General Dynamics paid for 74 lobbyists, more than any other contractor, for example, and 70 of these lobbied on defense, part of its $2.7 million lobbying tab. Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, spent $3.5 million and enlisted 64 lobbyists to press government officials, including 56 who lobbied on defense as well as other issues.

“The defense budget is capped at a level that neither the industry nor the Pentagon wants,” said Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center and a senior White House budget official for national security during the Clinton administration. “The industry has been active on that, company by company, and by the industry as a whole,” Adams said. Companies “either want to raise the caps or get rid of them all together.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Atlanta (CNN) — August 8, 2015 — Donald Trump’s latest controversial comment was so alarming that he’s been disinvited from a conservative gathering Saturday in Atlanta.

At issue: Trump’s comments on “CNN Tonight” about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who moderated a GOP presidential candidate debate Thursday night. During the debate, she pressed Trump about misogynistic, sexist comments he made in the past.

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday night. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”

That remark crossed the line, said RedState.com editor Erick Erickson. He disinvited Trump from the RedState Gathering, a conservative event featuring presidential hopefuls this weekend in Atlanta.

I have tried to give a great deal of latitude to Donald Trump in his run for the presidency,” Erickson wrote.

“He is not a professional politician and is known for being a blunt talker. He connects with so much of the anger in the Republican base and is not afraid to be outspoken on a lot of issues. But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross. Decency is one of those lines.”

Erickson said while he likes Trump personally, “I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong.”

But the Trump campaign fired back, saying “this is just another example of weakness through being politically correct.”

“For all of the people who were looking forward to Mr. Trump coming, we will miss you,” his campaign said. “Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader. We’ll now be doing another campaign stop at another location.”


The RedState Gathering will go on without Trump. This year, the annual event features fellow GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.

As for newly vacant spot at the RedState Gathering, Erickson has invited Kelly to replace Trump.

———————-

Having invited Carly Fiorina, the inclusion of Fox’s Megyn Kelly increases at the RedStates.com gathering number of women in their “Ten” to two. They also bring up Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry. Left out besides Trump and Carson are also Paul and – most significantly – Kasich.

Was Dr. Carson left out because of his statement: “his patients’ brains, not their skin color, are what ‘makes them who they are?’”

———————

The New York Times front article today – August 8, 2015 – has it:

After Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted at the Republican presidential debate that rape and incest victims should carry pregnancies to term, aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton could barely contain their delight at his unyielding stance, rushing to tell reporters at her headquarters that those remarks would hurt Mr. Rubio with female voters.

When Donald J. Trump chose on Friday to stand by his slights against women during the debate, saying the Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly “behaved very badly” as a moderator —
and then promoting a Twitter message calling her a “bimbo” — feminists were not the only ones outraged: the chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party accused Mr. Trump of chauvinism.

And in response to multiple male candidates saying they would shut down the federal government over financing for Planned Parenthood, the Democratic National Committee emailed talking points to allies within an hour saying that among the losers at the debate were “American women, who were attacked at every turn.”

———————

###

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

The Republican Party of the USA is the guardian of Corporate America in effect it is owned by the corporations and we heard this from last night’s stage at the Cleveland Ohio Arena – the future home of the Republican National Convention that will be called to nominate the party’s candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections. We heard this from Donald Trump who said in the open that he gives money to any candidate just for the asking – he gave also to some of the others on that stage. He even gave to the foundation of the Clintons – that is how he owns them. Hillary came to his wedding – she had to – she got his money.

All the Senators on the stage are corporate owned he established. That explains many things. He thinks he would be the best President to save the country from this oppression from banks and Wall Street because he is one of those that know the system from the inside and he knew how to work with them to his advantage which he demonstrated in his corporations that went through four bankruptcies without himself ever have gone bankrupt.

The real problem with the US is this tremendous debt – in major part owed to China. He feels he is qualified to handle this issue more then any of those Corporate owned other competitors – he even is not promising to back any of them if they if they are nominated – he is savvy. Ever heard such a rebellion and ever figured that he is on solid ground in this rebellion?
n
Now about FOX NEWS – their owner and management are sworn Republicans and them running last night’s show turned it into a family affair rather then an event open to the Nation. Into this milieu intruded Donald Trump and rather then seeing in him the revolutionary they saw the sensation aspect but fought him in order to please the right-wing party base. They sat up a moderator team centered around a good looking monumental blonde and asked only questions on social issues that please that “base.”

THERE WERE NO REAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ECONOMY, ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, THE COMING GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DISASTERS OR ANY OTHER REAL QUESTION ABOUT MATTERS OF GLOBAL CONCERNS. Instead we heard a question about if the candidate is getting his orders from God and innumerable attacks on Obamacare and the agreement with Iran.

My wife wrote me from Vienna that it is good Fox News cannot be seen live on local TV – so the locals do not see the US in all its political backwardness.

But, what is worse, seemingly no effort was made to open up the show to the non-initiated even here in the US. For example, in Manhattan NY it is known that Channel 5 is Fox News – but they did not show there – they moved it instead to one of their side channels 43 or 44. This while on Channel five they announced that they will give a summary of the first debate at 6 PM – and they did not do even that. I attest to it that mind-numbbing programs went on at least till 8:30 PM. Even I lost because of this the first debate before I found their whereabouts.

But, despite this Republican Leadership clear positioning as roadblock to American Progress, this show was NOT a total loss.
Starting already in the 5 PM “HAPPY HOUR or DRIVING time slot for what was presented as the second tier panel, there was an unprogrammed breakout by Carly Fiorina who was listed originally as 14th. She showed she could content-wise measure up to Mr. Trump, but could also be a leader something that he did not develop. Right there – like in the physical tests for military officer school – she got from among the contestants some that were ready to accept her leadership – this from no less then former Governor of Texas – Mr. Perry – whose starting ranking was 11th. So clearly the rankings will change and we expect Ms. Fiorina to be part of the upper tier at next meeting that will be handled by true outsiders from CNN.

The only other true discovery on those two panels was Dr. Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr. (born September 18, 1951) he is an American author, political pundit, and retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon. On May 4, 2015, Carson announced he was running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential election at a rally in Detroit, his hometown.

Carson was the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

After delivering a widely publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, he became a popular conservative figure in political media for his views on social and political issues.

He was the one true intellectual on the panels and on the main panel the only non-lily-white person. In effect he is black and the right-wing counterpart to President Obama. He speaks slowly and each word is a thought out pearl. He was fifth on the ingoing list.

At some point he showed impatience and noted to the moderators that they do not direct questions to him. When he got a chance he said that color of skin is not the man and as a neurosurgeon he worked with the real man. Finally, his parting sentences noted that he is the only one on the panel who knows to separate Siamese twins and to remove half brain – but seemingly in Washington he was beaten to it.

I believe that whoever becomes next President – Democrat or Republican – ought to bring in Dr. Carson as a Consultant.

Our own evaluation of the results:

THERE WERE WINNERS: FIORINA, TRUMP, KASICH, CARSON, RUBIO, CHRISTIE
AND CLEAR LOSERS – BUSH, WALKER, PAUL, AND HOLD OUTS – HACKABEE, CRUZ.

THE QUESTION IS WHO WILL DROP OUT TO MAKE PLACE FOR FIORINA. IT SHOULD NOT BE KASICH OR CHRISTIE – SO IT MUST BE PAUL.

CNN SAID EARLIER THAT THEY WERE AIMING AT TWO GROUPS OF EIGHT. A PROBLEM AS BESIDES PAUL TWO MORE HAVE TO BE TAKEN OUT ??

We believe that THE ONE TO WIN IN CLEVELAND NEXT TIME – the real decision making event – WILL NOT BE TRUMP, BUSH, OR WALKER -
THE FIELD IS NOW WIDE OPEN FOR THE REMAINING EIGHT FROM THE ABOVE ELEVEN.

For further evaluation – please read what we mainly got from CNN – the true MEDIA winner from evaluating last nights panels.

CNN ARTICLE FRIDAY, August 7, 2015 – that is built on the FOX NEWS HELD REPUBLICAN DEBATE that THE FOX was not able to review by themselves.

SO, WHO WON THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE?
By Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst
 www.cnn.com/2015/08/07/opinions/o…

(CNN)CNN Opinion asked a range of contributors to give their take on the first Republican Party debate of the 2016 presidential campaign, and to pick their biggest winners and losers from the night. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely their own.


David Gergen: Trump, a gift to the GOP

Donald Trump may ultimately wind up damaging Republican chances next November but yesterday he gave the GOP presidential candidates a huge gift: his presence generated the biggest, most attentive opening day audience in American politics. Each of the 17 candidates had a chance to audition before a massive number of voters, not to mention donors and journalists. (The debate had a record 24 million viewers, according to Nielsen.)

As a group, the candidates generally rose to the occasion. Yes, there was still too much ideological rigidity, too many canned answers and too little attention to ways that technology and globalization are reshaping the United States. But with nine sitting or former governors and five sitting or former Senators among the candidates, the GOP could showcase plenty of talent.

For my money, there were two candidates who helped themselves the most. One was Governor John Kasich of Ohio: while sticking to conservative principles, he gave voice to common sense Midwestern values as well as a moral commitment to Americans living in the shadows. In effect, he tapped into some of the same anger that Trump has understood but turned it in a warm, positive direction.

The other big winner was Carly Fiorina whose performance in the afternoon debate was universally acclaimed in the press and social media. The GOP ought to hope that she moves up the polls so that women can see at least one representative on center stage — and in her case, one who is articulate, sophisticated and strong.

As for Trump himself, the old rules would say he hurt himself last night, especially with opening answers that came across as narcissistic and boorish. But with so much free floating anger and frustration in today’s politics, the old rules aren’t as powerful as they once were. Who knows? He could deliver yet another big audience when CNN hosts a second round of debates in September.

David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been a White House adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at The Harvard Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter: @david_gergen. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

—————————————

Dan Pfeiffer: The debate was Trumped

This was the Donald’s debate. He dominated the discussion, he was the focus of the moderators, social media traffic spiked every time he opened his mouth. Other than Rand Paul (who is apparently still running for President), all of his fellow candidates went out of their way to avoid stoking his ire. Two years after the RNC’s post-election autopsy declared that the only path to victory is a more inclusive tone, Trump has pushed the party further to the right on immigration than it has ever been before. Smart professionals in the Republican Party cringed at every mention of illegals, deportations and walls being built.

Trump may have hurt himself or helped himself, no one really knows because he defies all the traditional rules of politics (he probably hurt himself a lot). But his effect on the field is clear. This is Donald Trump’s party and all the other candidates just seem glad to be invited.

Winner: Marco Rubio. On a night of very uneven performances, Rubio showed flashes of why Democrats fear him most. He has had a tough few months, losing a lot of altitude and momentum, and basically disappearing from the discussion, but he gave Republicans a reason to remember his name tonight.

Loser: Jeb Bush. After several bad weeks, Jeb Bush could really have used a good night. He didn’t have it. Bush, like Huntsman in ’12 and Dukakis in ’88, seems to shrink under the klieg lights. He was nervous, halting, and just painfully uninspiring. Politics in our polarized age is about motivation and Bush gave no indication that he could motivate anyone to get out of bed and vote on a rainy day in November.

No one outshines Donald Trump at GOP debate

Dan Pfeiffer is a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and served in the White House in a variety of roles, including communications director.

—————————————-

Tara Setmayer: It’s all about relatability

Clear, concise, and a command of the issues. No, I’m not talking about the Donald or Jeb Bush (who terribly underperformed by the way). I’m referring to Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Although he was the youngest contender on the debate stage, he certainly came across as the adult in the room. On a night filled with plenty of zingers and testy exchanges, Rubio was able to rise above the bickering and overly produced bravado. He was prepared, comfortable and most importantly, relatable.

The spats on stage between Trump and Bush, Chris Christie and Rand Paul may have made for an entertaining spectacle, but none of that is worth a grain of political salt if voters cannot relate to you. The relatability factor sunk Romney in 2012 and is one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities heading into 2016. In contrast, Senator Rubio’s own authentic life story as the son of Cuban immigrant parents, one a bartender, the other a maid, rising up from nothing to become a senator and stand on stage as the possible next President of the United States, represents the very essence of the American dream for anyone who believes in the limitless opportunities this country provides.

In one of Rubio’s strongest and most memorable lines of the night, he said: “Who is Hillary Clinton to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck … who is Hillary Clinton to lecture me about repaying students loans?” Exactly.

If Rubio ends up the nominee, imagine the contrast on the debate stage a year from now between Clinton and Rubio. One represents the future, the other a relic of yesteryear. That’s a matchup the Clinton camp surely hopes to avoid and justifiably so.

Bush on the other hand had a disappointing performance. He came across as unsure, defensive and aloof. If Jeb comes across like that again in the upcoming CNN debate in September, watch for supporters on the fence between Bush and Rubio begin to move toward the junior senator from Florida.

Thursday’s winner: Marco Rubio

The loser: Jeb Bush

Breakout performance: Carly Fiorina

Tara Setmayer is former communication’s director for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and a CNN political commentator.

———————————–

Opinion: Donald Trump was terrible

Mel Robbins: Trump won.

The first GOP debate is over and Trump is still winning. He dominated the polls leading into the debate. He dominated the pre-debate commentary. He was the only candidate the press greeted when he arrived in Ohio. And most importantly, the rest of the field wasn’t that memorable. Yes Trump’s shtick works best when he’s on the campaign trail, not the debate stage but Trump didn’t do too much damage. At least not enough to knock him from his lead. Plus, Fox pounded him with “gotcha’ questions – like – “when did you become a Republican” yet Trump stood firm. He won the night because even despite ridiculous assertions like ” building a big beautiful door” in the wall he’d build fencing off Mexico, he managed to hold his lead among nine other GOP candidates.

Keep in mind, timing is essential in a campaign. And, at this stage in the race, the public is not yet focused on the election. We’re focused on paying bills, the end of summer, the start of school, basically – everything but the election. So Trump grabbed our attention early and even though Rubio, Christie and Kasich had a good night, Trump still was more memorable; which means at this stage in the race he won; for now.

Loser: Women

Fox pushed an anti-choice agenda over and over and over – and the candidates took the baton and ran with it. From Scott Walker and the imaginary fetus he kept cradling as he talked about his anti-choice views, to Jeb Bush bragging about creating a pro-life culture in Florida despite his state’s record on rising births to unwed mothers to Huckabee pushing for a personhood amendment. Women, women’s health and a woman’s ability to make decisions about her body without men and the government interfering – were under attack.

When men control women’s bodies and our health decisions, every woman loses. And women lost tonight as these 10 men lectured America about what they’d do to limit our control over our bodies if they were president. When Carly Fiorina was asked about Jeb Bush’s quote (which he’s repudiated) that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” she said it was a “foolish” thing to say. Actually, it’s not foolish, it’s downright scary.

Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards.

—————————————-


Donald Trump slams Megyn Kelly

William Howell: Debaters run from race issue

For two hours, the top 10 Republican candidates held forth on the Fourth Amendment rights of unborn children, the imperatives of regulatory reform, the various manifestations of weakness shown by the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of the past six years, the need for a stronger military and simpler tax code, and the merits of a wall (or is it a fence?) along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Hardly a mention was made of race. Ben Carson brought it up only to dismiss its significance. No one confronted the violence, poverty, and incarceration rates that plague black and Hispanic communities. With the exception of Rand Paul’s last-minute shout out to Ferguson and Detroit, the candidates turned away from the bubbling cauldron of anger and alienation—expressed intermittently in resistance and deviance—that has captured national headlines for the last year.

At the 92nd minute, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly asked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about the Black Lives Matter movement. He responded with some abbreviated thoughts on the importance of police training. And there, the issue dropped flat, and the station cut to commercial.

Repeatedly, the panel of moderators needled candidates for their perceived weaknesses in an expected showdown with Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Newsflash: For a party that has failed to win a majority of the popular vote in 5 of the past 6 presidential elections, in a country where whites’ share of the electorate is shrinking, Republicans had better find a way to talk about race.

Winner: Marco Rubio. Cool, level-headed and sharp.

Loser: Donald Trump. Unable to command the stage, held in check by debate protocols and vacuous, this one blustered to audience boos

William Howell is the Sydney Stein professor in American politics at the University of Chicago.

—————————————————————-


Donna Brazile: Not a real debate, but an audition

With Donald Trump occupying center stage at the first presidential primary debate, the other nine contenders had to look for ways to interject their own ideas or to try to avoid taking a direct hit from the front runner. The task wasn’t easy.

From calling for a big wall to solve our broken immigration system to repealing Obamacare without an alternative, some of the candidates took up a lot of unnecessary room on that debate stage, especially when you consider how much they overlap, at least policy-wise. While they offered muted versions of conservative policies, Donald Trump, though, was the one who was saying those things right out loud.

It’s a bunch of guys saying the exact same thing, and trying to impress people with how well they say it. This wasn’t a debate, it was an audition to remain viable until the next debate or forum.

Biggest losers: Rand Paul and Chris Christie for their bitter clash over NSA surveillance and terrorism. They offered testosterone with a bit of Tabasco.

Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation for the Democratic National Committee. A nationally syndicated columnist, she is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of “Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America.”

———————————————-

Buck Sexton: Paul showed up ready to fight

There was no clear standout in the big 10 GOP debate Thursday night, but several candidates turned in strong performances. Marco Rubio showed the polish and policy knowledge you would expect. Same for Ted Cruz, whose biggest obstacle may be over-eloquence, if there is such a thing. Chris Christie hit his stride on entitlements, and showed some glimmers of the swagger that made him a household name.

The biggest surprise of the night came from Rand Paul, who showed up ready to fight. The usually laid-back libertarian came out fiery, getting into squabbles with Donald Trump and Christie (winning the latter exchange). If nothing else, Senator Paul reminded America that he’s still in this thing in a meaningful way.

The rest of the candidates weren’t strong enough to move the needle in their favor. Scott Walker was just OK. Ben Carson came off as he is — an entirely likable, accomplished professional, but he still didn’t get much airtime. John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush were not memorable — and Bush in particular affirmed his politics as usual persona.

Trump is in his own category here. If you didn’t like Trump as a candidate before Thursday night, he did nothing to change your mind. Refusing to pledge his support for the GOP set the tone — and then he admitted on national television that he is an avowed crony capitalist. Of course, none of this will faze Trump’s most ardent supporters, but tonight solidified that he has no chance of winning over the rest of the GOP.

So, the winners tonight? Rubio, Cruz, Paul and Christie

The losers: Bush, Trump, Huckabee and Carson

Buck Sexton is a political commentator for CNN and host of “The Buck Sexton Show” on the Blaze. He was previously a CIA counterterrorism analyst.

———————————


Dean Obeidallah: Race now wide open

On Thursday, we were treated to not one, but two episodes of the summer’s newest reality show. Some will blame Donald Trump for transforming the race into a reality show. And those people would be right. But Fox News also did a great deal to add the reality show feel. First off, they only picked the top 10 contestants, I mean candidates, for the big show. Nothing says you are in the loser debate like staring out at 20,000 empty seat, as the seven other candidates were left to do. And before the debate Fox News’ Chris Wallace even promised someone would hand Trump a “fat juicy ball” of a question with which to attack Jeb Bush to see if the former Florida governor could take it. Fox News should just have gone full reality with celebrity judges and a gong.

So, who were the big winners and losers from the two debates? In terms of not meeting or fulfilling expectations, it would have been Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. Trump especially so in that he didn’t offer details on policies, he lashed out, and seemed uncomfortable with the audience turning against him. The winner, at least in terms of might see their poll numbers improve, are likely to be Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Carly Fiorina.

But the bottom line is that the race now seems more wide open than ever.

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. He’s also the co-director of the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him @TheDeansreport.

———————-

Maria Cardona: Bluster, bravado, no specifics

First things first: She may not have been part of the 10-man “main event” GOP debate, but make no mistake: It was Carly Fiorina, hands down, who shone most Thursday, during the earlier, so-called “happy hour” debate. The second-tier debate, held at 5 p.m. Thursday, proved to be more substantive and let lesser-known candidates like Ms. Fiorina stand out.

The prime time debate, on the other hand, brought us more of the same from every candidate: bluster, bravado, and no specifics from Donald Trump; Chris Christie and Rand Paul yelling at each other over the Patriot Ac;, attacks on Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood all around (is Planned Parenthood running for president?), and criticisms of everything President Obama has done on foreign policy with scant suggestion from any of them about how they would do anything differently.

Donald Trump did not look like a serious candidate, compared with others on stage. But he has struck a chord with Republicans, so likely did no harm to his front runner status and in fact may have satisfied GOP voters for continuing to be a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment. John Kasich may have done himself some good too, taking advantage of his home court advantage and underscoring his accomplishments in Ohio. Scott Walker? Flat, as was Jeb Bush. But Marco Rubio showed flashes of passion, especially on the issue of abortion.

Tonight’s debate likely did not do much to change the standing of these candidates among Republican voters. However, the group underscored to women, minorities, young people, and middle class families why GOP policies would take the country back to a time when women were told what to do with their bodies, where walls, language and different cultures cut people off from the promise of America, and where your future was more determined by how rich you were and not how hard you were determined to work.

Winners: Carly Fiorina, John Kasich — and Hillary Clinton for all of the fodder the candidates gave her for the general election campaign.

Loser: Jeb Bush

Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

————————————

Julian Zelizer: This is no way to pick a candidate

Welcome to the world of reality political television. While it is a good thing that an unusually large number of people seemed excited to gather Around their television sets and computer screens to watch Thursday night’s Republican debate, and the earlier “happy hour” debate, the importance of these contests is not a good sign for American democracy.

For sure, we were able to see whether candidates had the capacity to throw a good punch and deliver a catchy a quip. In the early debate, Carly Fiorina delivered some good lines about Donald Trump (“I didn’t get a call from Bill Clinton”) as well as Jeb Bush (“it is foolish to say that women’s health isn’t a priority”). And later, the top 10 candidates rose to the occasion as well, with lines that are sure to make the rounds on YouTube. Donald Trump delivered one about Rosie O’Donnell and political correctness that generated some excitement, while Jeb Bush demonstrated his wonkish qualities, though he certainly didn’t do enough to excite worried supporters. Rand Paul and Chris Christie had a heated interaction about government surveillance that showed both still have things to say.

Simply by taking up so much time, Donald Trump comes out of this debate continuing to be the center of attention, and all of the other candidates trying to take on Bush will feel frustrated in that they will probably have to continue to deal with Trump for more time to come.

But does all this tell us much about how any of these candidates would do as president? Ultimately, this is what voters need to know. At best, though, we get to judge how they will perform in the already stilted atmosphere of general election debates. That’s about it.

The debates have already skewed the decision process by creating two tiers of candidates based on national polls. And the format of the debate itself offered no time for substantive answers. The incentives in the debates are all for body language and making punchy statements. To be sure, there were some useful moments as the candidates talked about immigration, surveillance and other big issues of the day. But the benefits are limited.

Unfortunately, these debates have become the way we measure the people who are running — opinions are formed, buzz is generated, predictions are made, all on the basis of a stilted event that resembles prime time talent shows like “American Idol.” In fact, we are only a step away from having people call into a national number to vote off the candidate they like least. It’s no wonder than Donald Trump, the former star of The Apprentice, looked so comfortable on the stage and drew much of the attention.

Who was the biggest loser? American democracy. This is no way to pick who will run for president. Democracy deserves a more serious conversation.

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society” and co-editor of a new book, “Medicare and Medicaid at 50: America’s Entitlement Programs in the Age of Affordable Care.”

————————————————–


Tom Rogan: Fiorina Thursday’s star

Carly Fiorina won the first debate. Easily. Implicitly criticizing Donald Trump and explicitly criticizing Hillary Clinton, Fiorina pressed GOP voters to give her their consideration. Fiorina will see a significant poll bounce in response — she even received applause when one of her comments was replayed during the primetime debate! Fiorina’s closest competitor in that debate was Rick Perry.

In terms of the major candidates in the second debate, Marco Rubio will win favor for his statements on abortion and American exceptionalism. Jeb Bush was strongest when defending education reforms in pursuit of social mobility, but largely played it safe. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed spark by challenging Rand Paul on national security and Mike Huckabee on entitlements. Ted Cruz was quiet, but recovered with a powerful concluding statement. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was confident — thriving off his supporters in the hall. Donald Trump, meanwhile, doubled down on his populist disdain, but struggled when pushed. And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also struggled to find his voice.

The winner? I’d say Scott Walker, with Rubio and Kasich close behind. Walker received a tough question on Wisconsin’s economy but responded confidently. He was also impressive on foreign policy — an area where he’s previously been considered weak.

Thursday’s winner: Carly Fiorina and Scott Walker

The night’s loser? Rand Paul

Carly Fiorina shines in first GOP debate

Tom Rogan writes for National Review and is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group. He tweets @TomRtweets. His homepage is www.tomroganthinks.com.

—————————————–


Raul A. Reyes: Too much left unsaid

Watching the GOP debate tonight was something of a surreal experience because it offered a window into the mindset of the Republican base. This was a debate in which Donald Trump asserted that “no one was talking about immigration.” This was a debate in which 10 men, all of whom purport to be against big government, confidently discussed how they would regulate women’s bodies. This was a debate in which Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio denounced Obamacare — even though they both signed their families up for coverage.

But what was notable about this debate was what went unsaid. There was no discussion of the Voting Rights Act on its 50th anniversary. There was no discussion of U.S.-Cuba policy, Nor of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Most glaringly, for all the talk about illegal immigration, there was no discussion about what to do with the 11 million undocumented people who are already here.

One of the most potent social movements today, “Black Lives Matter,” merited exactly one question — to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The entire discussion lasted less than a minute. Ironically, a movie trailer for the upcoming “Straight Outta Compton” film addressed police brutality in communities of color more than tonight’s debate did.

The Fox hosts certainly showed no hesitation to challenge Trump. Yet, despite his thin-as-paper responses, their continued focus on him may have served to elevate his stature. Trump was his usual blustery self and did not serve up any huge drama — which might have the effect of extending the life of his candidacy.

Ultimately, the big winner of the night was John Kasich. He introduced himself to the nation as rational, reasonable and able to hold his ground in a competitive field.

The big loser was Scott Walker. As someone in the top tier of candidates, he did not seize the moment to advance his candidacy. Indeed, his statements seemed canned and he rarely exceeded his allotted time.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him @RaulAReyes.

————————————–

Karlyn Bowman: Debate not a plus for GOP

There was much talent on the stage tonight, but we didn’t get to hear much of it. Perhaps it was impossible with 10 candidates on the stage, perhaps it was the circus like atmosphere of the first hour, perhaps it was Donald Trump the showman, perhaps it was the Fox hosts’ desire to play gotcha journalism. Regardless, this debate was not a plus for the GOP and the party needs to rethink these cattle calls. Trump and Jeb Bush may be the front runners in the polls, but Marco Rubio and Scott Walker did well.

Most of the candidates had at least one good line or an engaging back and forth with another candidate. Ben Carson had a terrific closing statement. I doubt this debate changed much. Trump is still a wild card, but I doubt the other candidates’ standing in the polls will change much.

Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where she studies public opinion.

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


(CNN)Every time we land in a presidential election year, there is always a big prize the candidates try to lure: women.

also by Gloria Borger

It’s always fun to be courted as part of the gender gap. That’s when the pols start to talk about family, health care, education and security. We hear about so-called women’s issues nonstop. We see candidates’ wives tell us their husbands are really human, loving and fab dads. Translation: If we love them, you can too.

Why all the fuss? Because at some point in the last few decades, campaigns figured out that women vote in higher numbers — and not necessarily like the men in their lives. Sometimes, yes. But not always, not by any means. In fact, the influence can often go the other way. What’s more, women are no monolith: Mitt Romney won with married women in 2012 by 7 points, for instance. Yet Barack Obama won with women overall by 11 points. In order to win this time, a GOP candidate has to do better.

Enter Donald Trump. He just loves women. At least that’s what he tells us. And women, of course, just love him. Not quite sure what the evidence is there, except for Trump’s involvement with Miss Universe or his declaration in one of his books that “I love women.”

Well, not so much with debate moderator Megyn Kelly, it seems, after she asked Trump about his assorted rants against women he clearly doesn’t love as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” His answer was an effort to cleverly deflect with some rhetoric about how neither he nor the country has time to be “politically correct.” Even if that’s true, how does the ever-so-busy Trump have the time to constantly tweet his insults? Seems like he has a lot of time to be politically incorrect.

In a final coup de grace, Trump went after Kelly, allowing as to how he had been “nice to” her (for which she should be grateful, I presume?), but then theorized that maybe he ought not to be. Whoa. An untweeted threat? The real, live audience booed. He tried to back off from the bluster, but there it was.

Oh, and by the way, no candidate stepped up debate night to agree that Trump’s insults about women were offensive. Maybe it was the rules that kept them silent? Or maybe it was that Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the GOP field, had been offstage, relegated to the first (I-didn’t-have-enough-support-to-make-it into-the-big-boy) debate?

By Friday morning, Trump’s official account retweeted a tweet that referred to Kelly — an accomplished anchor, lawyer and mother — as a “bimbo.” Awfully presidential, wouldn’t you say?

So here’s where we are: Clearly, Republicans know they need more women to vote for them if they are going to win the presidency. Second obvious point: With Hillary Clinton running for president, the gender gap could turn into a gender wave. And not just because Clinton is a woman — women don’t automatically vote for women (see: Hillary Clinton, circa 2008 campaign) — but because Republicans, at least so far, have made a mess of it.

It’s not that it’s a premeditated “war on women” as the Democratic Party apparatus likes to dub it; it’s more of a head-scratching, did-you-just-say-that process of flubs that slowly seeps into the ether. Jeb Bush stepped in it when he said, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Or that, while most Republicans oppose same-sex marriage, 58% of women support it. And in the last campaign, for instance, Republicans found themselves debating the issue of birth control, on the defensive after Senate candidate Todd Aiken spoke of “legitimate rape” and cringed in pain when Romney bragged he had “binders full of women” to choose from for potential statehouse jobs.

After 2012, Republicans even decided to hold seminars for GOP candidates about how to talk to women. Guess they left Trump off the list.

Generally, authenticity in politics is a great thing. We don’t see enough of it, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that when you see it, you automatically have to like it. And in Trump’s case, count women as skeptical. A recent CBS News poll of registered voters shows that 62% of women have an unfavorable view of Trump. Among Republican women, he does somewhat better, but he’s still underwater: 42% have an unfavorable view of him; 38% like him.

In Trump’s book “The Art of the Comeback,” he waxes on about les girls: “There’s nothing I love more than women, but they are really a lot different than portrayed. They are far worse than men, far more aggressive, and boy, can they be smart. Let’s give credit where credit is due, and let’s salute women for their tremendous power, which most men are afraid to admit they have.”

If Trump says it, then it must be true.

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


Carly Fiorina shines in first GOP debate

By Mark Preston, CNN

Updated 12:50 AM ET, Fri August 7, 2015
| Video Source: CNN

(CNN)Carly Fiorina was one of the biggest winners Thursday night without even stepping on the prime-time stage.

The California businesswoman didn’t meet the eligibility criteria to participate in the marque event, but her strong performance at the 5 p.m. debate for second-tier candidates lingered throughout the evening.

She did make an appearance at the later forum — she was featured in back-to-back video clips about Iran that helped set up a question in the debate.

The first of them showed a moment from the earlier event in which one of her opponents, Rick Perry, turned to her while seeking to explain his position on the nuclear deal.

“I will tell you one thing,” Perry said, “I would a whole lot rather (have) had Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry. Maybe we would’ve gotten a deal where we didn’t give everything away.”

READ: Donald Trump roils GOP presidential debate

The compliment from the former Texas governor came about 50 minutes into the first Republican debate of the 2016 election — an acknowledgment from at least one of Fiorina’s rivals that she is a sharp, skilled negotiator.

When the final question was asked and answered in this first debate, it was clear that Fiorina stood out. Social media users and many commentators emphatically declared her the winner.

At this moment in the campaign, seven GOP candidates are fighting for relevancy, respect and their political futures. The “Republican Seven,” of which Fiorina is one, failed to make the cut for the main debate — the event that will feature Donald Trump at center stage.

For the seven lower-tier Republicans, there was no prime-time television exposure, no opportunities to compare and contrast themselves with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and no audience in the arena to watch them make the case as to why they should be the next commander-in-chief.

One of these seven Republicans needed a homerun to differentiate themselves from the other six and show why they deserve to be in the top 10 at the next debate at the Reagan Library in California.

The former Hewlett Packard CEO, who is sitting at between 1% to 2% in the national polls, did just that by demonstrating a sharp knowledge of the issues as she stood shoulder to shoulder on a stage of former and current U.S. senators and governors.
Carly Fiorina the superstar of first GOP debate?

Fiorina has an interesting story to tell and she let the viewers know that she did not begin her business career in a large corner office.

“I started as a secretary and became ultimately the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world, almost $90 billion in over 150 countries,” she said. “I know personally how extraordinary and unique this nation is.”

Does it sound familiar? A certain brash New Yorker has been dominating the political headlines of late by talking up his business acumen and how it has prepared him to be president. When asked by the moderator to explain why Trump is getting all of the attention, Fiorina was able to deliver a jab at the real estate mogul over his ties to the Clintons.

After acknowledging that Trump has hit a vein of anger in the American electorate, she pivoted and made a play for Republican primary voters. “I would just ask, what are the principles by which he will govern?” she said.

It is a question many Republicans, especially establishment Republicans, are wondering.

And for all of her talk, Fiorina is a political insider. Yet she does not carry the inside-the-Beltway stigma. On Thursday night, she deftly discussed her business accomplishments and governing philosophy while emphasizing her worldly connections and steely approach to pressing issues.

“On Day One in the Oval Office, I would make two phone calls,” she said. “The first one would be to my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, to reassure him we will stand with the State of Israel.

READ: CNN fact checks the 2016 Republican debates

“The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran. He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime, anywhere, for real inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system.”

Fiorina ended the night by playing again to Republican primary voters looking for a candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.

“We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring,” she said.

Clearly, Fiorina did not stumble, but it remains to be seen if her performance has caused enough GOP primary voters to reconsider her current standing in the race.

Even if they do, any budding Fiorina boomlet would have to overcome some stark realities. She needs to increase her name recognition, but she doesn’t appear to have the cash to do so. Her campaign has raised very little hard money — only $1.4 million — and her super PAC has had minimal success catching high-dollar donors.

And by flirting with invisibility in the polls, Fiorina hasn’t incurred the wrath of opposition research or had her resume thoroughly vetted. But that could soon change.

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

and from the left – from the Campaign for America’s Future - www.OURFUTURE.org

AUGUST 7, 2015
RICHARD ESKOW

The GOP Debate is What Oligarchy Looks Like.
Recently five Republican presidential candidates paraded themselves before a group of mega-donors convened by the Koch brothers. Thursday’s debate was an extension of the Kochs’ beauty pageant.

=============————————=================

And From Senator Bernie Sanders:


He appeals to the Democrats to have a discussion on all those thigs that the Republicans left out.

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Saturday Aug. 1′st 2015

EUOBSERVER Analysis

Google has own idea of what ‘right to be forgotten’ means

By Peter Teffer The EUObserver, Brussels.

Since a landmark ruling on the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google has received requests to remove over a million website links from its search results in Europe.

Of those 1,057,561 uniform resource locators (URLs), it deleted 370,112, or 41.3 percent, Google says.

The court had ruled in May 2014 that if an internet search into an EU citizen’s name yielded results which were “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”, that citizen may request the search engine to have those removed from the list of results.

For example, Google complied with a request from a Belgian whose conviction of a crime was quashed on appeal to remove an article about them. It also removed an article about a rape victim in Germany.

However, it did so only for the European versions of its search engine. That means the articles can still be found by those using google.com. This has come to the attention of the French data protection authority.

It sent Google a formal notice in June, saying “delisting must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine”.

On Thursday, the US company asked the French data watchdog to withdraw the notice. It interprets the court ruling as obliging Google only to apply the ‘right to be forgotten’ on its European versions of Google Search.

“While the ‘right to be forgotten’ may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally”, Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer wrote in a blog post.

However, in its ruling the EU court did not differentiate between the worldwide and national versions of the search engine.

Google, in its blogpost, also noted that the French order “is disproportionate and unnecessary, given that the overwhelming majority of French internet users—currently around 97%—access a European version of Google’s search engine like google.fr, rather than Google.com or any other version of Google”.

But this statement is misleading at best. Many people don’t use a national variant of Google instead of the global one, but in addition to it.

Google.fr is indeed the most visited web domain in France, according to internet traffic pollster Alexa. But Google.com is ranked third, between Facebook.com and Youtube.com.

According estimates, Facebook has about 26 million users, and Youtube around 22 million, in France.

While calculation methods may vary, this means that Google.com is used by, roughly, between 22 and 26 million French internet users – or along the lines of between 40 and 47 percent.

The picture is similar all over Europe, where the national version of Google is the most popular website, and the international version ranks as high as number two in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, number three in Poland.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Free speech

Fleischer also argued that if the French data protection authority CNIL had its way, this would affect internet users in the rest of the world.

“If the CNIL’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place,” he wrote.

Google warned of a risk of “serious chilling effects on the web”, noting examples of content that is illegal in one country but which is legal in others.

“Thailand criminalises some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalises some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be “gay propaganda.””, he wrote.

But Fleischer is overstating the effect a national – or in the EU case regional – court order has on the wider development of the Internet.

In 2002, there were similar fears after a ruling in an Australian libel case against American company Dow Jones over the publication of an online article from its business magazine Barron’s. The highest Australian court decided that because the article was available in Australia, the subject could sue for defamation there.

Following the decision, the New York Times wrote in an editorial the case “could strike a devastating blow to free speech online”.

But the conclusion of authors Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu in their 2006 book “Who controls the Internet?, Illusions of a Borderless World”, that the predicted devastation has been held off, is still valid today.

Moreover, they criticised the US-centrism that is present among Internet freedom activists as much as in the rhetoric of American companies like Google.

Goldsmith and Wu wrote that “the First Amendment does not reflect universal values … and they are certainly not written into the Internet’s architecture”.

However, some of the most used websites worldwide are American, and they inherently carry some of those American values, which slightly differ from European values, where privacy is generally regarded as much more important.

Google said it disagreed with the French data protection authority “as a matter of principle”.
Principle or also profit?

But it could well be that part of the company’s motivation comes from the costs that would be involved with extending the right to be forgotten to its other domain names.

Technically, it is not impossible for Google to do it. But it may reduce the public company’s profit margin.

As Goldberg and Wu noted, “national Internet laws are no more burdensome than the scores of conflicting national laws that multinational firms typically face”. In return, companies gain access to an enormous market.

Having to adhere to different laws when providing services around the world, is part of the deal for running a global company. Even online.

###