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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE NEW YORK TIMES – SCIENCE

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

By TATIANA SCHLOSSBERGAUG. 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

2016 Hannover Messe: US is Partner Country
United States is Partner Country at the 2016 Hannover Messe

Chancellor Merkel to Welcome President Obama in Hannover

Chancellor Merkel and President Obama will take part in the opening event of the trade fair on Sunday, April 24. Afterwards, the Chancellor will host a dinner in honor of President Obama with business representatives from both countries.

Obama to Visit Hannover Messe Panel Discussion

With less than a month to go before the Hannover Messe, the German Embassy in cooperation with Siemens USA and The US Department of Commerce hosted an event entitled, “On the Road to Hannover Messe.”

HANNOVER MESSE – US Named Partner Country for Hannover Messe 2016

The US will be the partner country of the Hannover Messe in 2016. “Hannover Messe is of exceptional importance to the development of our transatlantic trade relations,” Ambassador Wittig said on the news.

President Obama Will Open Hannover Messe with Chancellor Merkel

US President Barack Obama announced that he will make his fifth trip to Germany in April of this year. President Obama will join Chancellor Angela Merkel in opening the annual Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest industrial trade fairs.

Hannover Messe
Doing Business in Germany and the US
German Foreign Chamber of Commerce (c) ahk
Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)

RGIT is the liaison office of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of the German business community vis-à-vis both the U.S. administration and the international organizations based in D.C. They report regularly on economically significant developments as well as legislative activities in the U.S. and provide their partners in the United States with information on German business.

Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT) – German American Chambers of Commerce

With a network of six offices and 2,500 member companies throughout the United States and Germany, the German American Chambers of Commerce offer a broad spectrum of activities and services.

AHK SelectUSA

SelectUSA, a subsidiary of the US Commerce Department, is in charge of the US presence at the 2016 Hannover Messe. Information on taking part in the trade fair and on the US businesses attending can be found on their website.

SelectUSA

German Missions
in the United States

Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)

RGIT is the liaison office of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of the German business community vis-à-vis both the U.S. administration and the international organizations based in D.C. They report regularly on economically significant developments as well as legislative activities in the U.S. and provide their partners in the United States with information on German business.

Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)

Transatlantic Ties
Flags of the European Union and the United States -Tapping Potential with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

With TTIP, the EU and the U.S. will strive to negotiate the most comprehensive and largest bilateral trade and investment agreement ever.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)



If we don’t confront climate change, we won’t end poverty
Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

The Paris Agreement, coal and Ms. Meier

February 2016

As received from Marion Vieweg —  marion.vieweg at current-future.org via lists.iisd.ca

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Curious? Read the full story at: current-future.org/index.php/25-b…
Best regards,

Marion

And here it is:

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

One of the successes of Paris is the joint commitment to a complete change in our energy systems. The common goal to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” provides a strong political signal. It also calls for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This will only be possible with a swift transition towards a fully decarbonized energy system.

To achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, all sectors will need to contribute. Here are a number of reasons, why this discussion focuses on the electricity sector and specifically on coal-fired power generation:

Electricity is currently the largest emitting part of the energy sector in most countries;
Over 40% of global electricity is produced with coal, with a total increase of coal production from 3 Gt in the 1970s to over 8 Gt in 2014[1];
The long investment time frames in the sector call for swift action to avoid missing the GHG goals or generating stranded assets;
Coal mining and power generation often dominates the economic structure in the region, leading to specific challenges.

Up to now, the impressive growth in renewable electricity generation has mostly addressed additional demand from growing economies. Renewable technologies instead of fossil fuel power plants formed part of new capacity built. For most countries event this is already a challenge. In 2014, only 45% of new power production capacity added globally came from renewable sources. In 2012 the World Resources Institute estimated that 1,199 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,401,268 MW were being proposed globally. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the challenge. Even in Germany, home to the famous ‘Energiewende,’ new coal-fired power plants are in planning[2].

If we are taking the Paris Agreement seriously, then we need to not only satisfy additional demand with zero-carbon technologies, but need to start changing existing generation systems. To some extent, this can happen ‘naturally’ by closing down coal fired power plants at the end of their technical lifetime and replacing the capacity with renewable technologies. But in most countries, including Germany, this will not be enough, given the number of plants that went online in the last years and will go online in the next few years, and which have a technical lifetime well beyond the 2050s.

So why should Ms. Meier care?

Ms. Meier lives close to the Polish border in one of the three main lignite mining areas in Germany. Lignite has been mined in the area since the 1850s. The first power plant went online in 1894. Open pit mining has dramatically transformed the landscape and relocated a multitude of villages and towns. The region delivered the bulk of the energy fuelling the economy during the existence of the GDR. The sector has been the foundation of the economy for over a century and is deeply engrained in the regional identity. Today, only around 8,000 people actually work in the sector in the area, compared to more than 10 times as many in 1989. Still, salaries in the sector are significantly above average and make an important contribution to the local economy. Ms. Meier has a part-time job in a small engineering firm. Her husband works in one of the coal mining operations, as did his father and grandfather. They are afraid to lose their jobs if the mining and coal power generation ends, and wonder if their two children will have a future in the area or if they, like so many others have already done, will need to move away.

Economic studies show the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency technology to society. They are important and demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole. However, they rarely take a more detailed look at the regional and local level. This is where it starts to get difficult: The new jobs they create may or may not be in the same regions and may or may not require similar skills to those jobs that are lost. From an economic perspective at the national level this may not matter – from a societal, political and regional perspective it does. It also changes how we need to communicate, support and steer the transition.

Ms. Meier’s employer is member of a local initiative that promotes the continuation of lignite mining and power generation in the area. He is afraid that the closing of the lignite operations will damage overall economic activity, making his business unprofitable, causing his 15 employees to lose their jobs. The initiative runs a website, lobbies politicians and organizes public events. This is one of the many examples how fear creates resistance to change.

Many, who are directly affected, like Ms. Meier, fear for their jobs and well-being. Others fear for their profits while some just feel generally insecure of what this change will mean for their lives. In total, this often leads to a situation where decisions to close down old power plants or mines or not approving new ones will politically be impossible. We need to recognize that these fears are legitimate and that we need to address them seriously, appropriately and with respect – without compromising on the final goal: a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector.

If we don’t take the legitimate fears of people like Ms. Meier, her husband and the millions like them around the world seriously, Paris will fail to deliver.

Clear political signals for a phase-out of coal-fired power generations are only a first step. Politicians will find it difficult to send those signals, with strong local opposition rooted in fear. To overcome this and create a positive dynamic we need to consider five principles:

Build strong stakeholder coalitions at the regional level, involving everybody affected and all interest groups to define realistic phase-out scenarios: Yes, it is hard, but there is no way around talking WITH rather than AGAINST each other. A lot of time, energy and resources are currently used on all sides to generate biased information to inform public and politicians to promote individual vested interests. All sides need to work together and agree on basic facts that allow to start discussing SOLUTIONS rather than PROBLEMS.

Facilitate stakeholders to create an individual vision for a development that works in the given context: The solutions will, by necessity, be individual and different for each affected region. It is essential that all interest groups and stakeholders in a region define the vision as well as the steps required to get there. This allows tapping their detailed knowledge and experience, this way creating realistic pathways and ensuring ownership and commitment in implementation.

Tailor support instruments to the individual vision: The standard solution for policy-related structural change is to create a fund. This is a bit like creating a working group, when you are not sure what else to do, and then hope they come up with something useful. Money for required changes is certainly an important element to support regions. It will, however, not be effective, if not used in a targeted way and with a clear and realistic vision to guide activities. Additional support may be required, depending on the vision, including changes in the legal and regulatory framework or cooperation with other regions.

Learn from experiences: Structural change is not a new phenomenon. Especially the coal-mining sector has seen multiple changes over the last century due to economic shifts, through mines being mined out or becoming economically unviable. While these processes were often slow and thus easier to adjust to, some were rapid, like the changes in economic structure in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But also other sectors have seen major changes, resulting in whole regions needing to readjust. The textile industry in large parts of Europe is one example for similar large-scale structural change that affects whole regions. We need to look at experiences made with such processes within the sector, but also learn from other sectors and across borders. The fundamental challenge of re-orienting the economy in a region remains the same. We need to look more closely at what worked, what didn’t and – most importantly – why.

Develop new business models together with utilities and customers: Utilities and companies operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants are naturally opposed to phase-out plans, as it promises to cut profits and requires changes to well-established activities. We need to acknowledge that these companies provide work for a lot of people and electricity to important parts of our societies. Their expertise on the functioning of the electricity system is vital for ensuring stable systems. We need to make them part of the solution, with a clear vision on their future role in a new system. This requires to let go of cherished stereotypes on both sides and the will to overcome differences to create something new and better for the benefit of all.

Germany, as all other countries, is only at the starting point of this new road. Globally, we need to start changing existing systems, not only adding on some renewables. A recent proposal to bring all stakeholders together in a coal ‘round table’ for Germany is a good starting point. If this process can also manage to address the regional challenges posed through the required structural change in a bottom-up process that involves all stakeholders, it has the potential to become a role model for other countries and regions that are facing similar problems globally.

If we take all concerns seriously and invite stakeholders to help shape their future rather than only react and block, we might – just – make it in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change and make the Paris Agreement a lasting success.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Jane Mayer: How the Koch Brothers Have Changed America

By Lauren Kelley, Rolling Stone

18 February 2016

“The super-rich have become… possibly the most powerful private interest group in America,” says Mayer

ew Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer spent some five years researching the Koch brothers and the vast network of right-wing, ultra-wealthy donors of which they’re a part. In her new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Mayer lays out how this relatively small group of very rich Americans has managed to make views that once seemed radical part of mainstream American thought and life.

Mayer recently spoke to Rolling Stone about how America looks different today because of this network, how the Kochs are trying to influence the next generation, and how they tried to smear her reputation during the reporting process.

You write that the Koch brothers have “used their fortune to impose their minority views on the majority.” What have they accomplished in that respect?

One of their greatest accomplishments is in funding complete confusion on the subject of global warming in America. You can trace something like $25 million from the Koch family and their foundations, just over a three-year period, to organizations that deny the reality of global warming. And you can see that they’ve managed to change public opinion on the subject. Americans have gotten less certain on this issue, as the rest of the world has been going in the opposite direction. And you can see that our Congress has been captured by their interests and those of the fossil-fuel companies, so it will do nothing about global warming.

What are some other examples of how American society looks different today because of the Kochs’ influence?

This has been a 40-year project that Charles and David Koch have been funding with their vast fortunes to try to change the way Americans think. Another of their greatest accomplishments is in turning Americans against the idea of government being a force for good. It’s not they alone who have done this, but they’ve pushed very hard on it, and public-opinion polls show that Americans’ regard for government has just plummeted in recent years.

They’ve also succeeded in many ways in pushing through lawsuits that their donor group has funded. They’ve succeeded in gutting campaign finance laws, so many of the problems we now see in terms of unlimited spending were stirred in the first place by organizations that they’ve helped fund.

Speaking of unlimited funding, let’s talk about Citizens United. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said that they would use overturning Citizens United as a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees, and even Jeb Bush has criticized the decision. What’s so bad about it? What has it wrought?

What Citizens United has done is equate spending money with free speech without limits. What people originally thought it would do is flood the system with corporate money, but in fact something quite different has happened: It’s flooded our system with unlimited money from individual tycoons, who all have very strong opinions.

And by the way, it’s not just Citizens United, there’s a second case, SpeechNow, that was almost entirely cooked up by the Kochs and their allies, that lifted the limit on individual spending.

What’s happened is even more pernicious, in a way, than just unlimited spending. What’s happened is that “dark money” — that is, contributions from undisclosed donors — has exploded. Once individuals and companies and nonprofit corporations could spend as much as they wanted, a new form of spending exploded: spending by groups that claimed to be nonprofit, nonpolitical organizations. They’re called 501(c)(4)s, and they don’t disclose where their money is coming from. In 2006, only two percent of outside political spending came from these dark-money groups — which call themselves social-welfare groups. After 2010, it rose to 40 percent. Almost all of that money was spending on the right. So you’re getting a flood of undisclosed spending by right-wing billionaires and multimillionaires, basically. It’s creating distortions in American politics and American life.

Many studies have shown that the priorities of the super, super rich are really very different from those of the rest of the country. Ninety percent of Americans think Citizens United was a bad idea and that there’s too much money in American politics. But of course the big spenders see it differently, and they’re the ones who are dominating. Majorities of Americans now think that climate change is real, and that mankind is causing it, and something needs to be done about it. But, again, the big private interests have captured the government on that issue, and nothing’s getting done about it. Huge majorities of Americans in both parties want to see Social Security not weakened but strengthened. The very, very rich want to privatize it; they want to shred it. They don’t want to pay for it. They don’t need it.

On issue after issue, the super-rich have become, because of Citizens United and the other court cases associated with it, possibly the most powerful private interest group in America today.

The Koch brothers and many of these other billionaire donors are not young; they won’t live forever. What does that mean for the future of their project?

It’s a great question, and I think the answer is unknown. But what they’ve got are self-perpetuating foundations. Foundations are weird creatures in American politics — they’re perpetual forces of unaccountable money and influence. And they’ve got tremendous private foundations on the right that have been built up purposely to try to change American politics, starting in about 1970. The Kochs’ foundations are among them, but they’re not the only ones by any means. They’re funding think tanks, they’re funding university programs, they’re funding junkets for judges to try to teach them to be more suspicious of environmental regulations. Their network is functioning on so many different levels, I don’t know whether it will require specific people running it or not. I think we’ll probably know 10, 15 years from now.

One of the things that popped out at me when I was doing research for this book is that Charles Koch has always looked at the youth of the country as the most promising recruits for his movement. And you can see that he and his brother and their allies have been focusing an awful lot of their efforts on bringing kids into their network. Some of the people they work with describe the students like bottles of wine: They’re very valuable early on, but with age they became much more valuable, because they become more prominent and powerful in society as they move up in it. It’s a movement that counts on kids being drawn into it.

One thing I always wonder about these guys is: Why are they doing this? Do they genuinely believe they have a better version for America, or are their efforts purely self-serving?

I think it’s all of the above. I think that Charles Koch is a true believer in his own vision of what a perfect society would be. And he hasn’t really changed his view very much since the late Sixties, when the group he belonged to was described as Anarcho-Totalitarian by William F. Buckley. They were so far to the right that conservatives like Buckley viewed them as the fringe; they are so anti-government that they bordered on anarchy. I have papers and documents I describe in the book, in which Charles Koch talks about how he wants to fund and build a movement that will be radical, that will destroy the “statist paradigm,” as he calls it. He really believes it. Some of his ideas that seemed so crazy and fringe back in 1980, such as abolishing the IRS and the EPA, you’re hearing those same ideas now echoing among the Republican presidential candidates. So these ideas have really gained a lot of traction through the years, in part because of their funding. Do they really believe it? Yes, they truly believe it. And is it good for their bottom line? That too.

It sounds like your experience writing this book was a bit harrowing. The Kochs really went after you.

They play very rough. I’ve been a reporter for a long time, covering wars, the CIA, presidencies and a lot of very powerful organizations. But the Kochs are the only people I’ve ever covered who have hired a private investigator to try to dig up dirt and plant untrue stories about me in order to hurt my reputation. And it’s not just me; they’ve used private eyes to try to discredit people throughout their lives, including their own brothers. There are four Koch brothers, and the two we know of, Charles and David, have spent 20 years litigating against the two other ones, Fred and Bill. They hired private eyes to go through each other’s garbage.

But, you know, that’s what reporting is all about: trying to speak truth to power, and holding accountable those who’ve got tremendous power — especially people who don’t even run for office and want to change American politics.

TWO COMMENTS:

# Buddha 2016-02-18 13:45
“Mayer lays out how this relatively small group of very rich Americans has managed to make views that once seemed radical part of mainstream American thought and life.”

While at the same time, make views of Progressivism (universal healthcare, strong public education and subsidized universities to keep tuition low, investment in infrastructure, support of unions and decent wages, etc) seem today to be “extreme” and “impossible” and “pie in the sky”. The actions of the Kochs and their ilk have yielded us people like the Clintons who tell us that we should only aim to achieve that which the Republicans will agree to do together.

+19 # reiverpacific 2016-02-18 18:23
“And he hasn’t really changed his view very much since the late Sixties, when the group he belonged to was described as Anarcho-Totalitarian by William F. Buckley.”(Quote).
This shows just how far they’ve gone and succeeded: Buckley would actually be seen as a “Liberal” these days.


One thing the article didn’t touch on is that these bastards are two of the biggest polluters in the US -even the World- through their extractive companies, which is linked to their anti-climate-change stance.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Environment

2016 Elections, Climate Change, Climate Desk, Science, Top Stories
Attention GOP Presidential Candidates: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming -
Weather is not climate.

By Jeremy Schulman of Mother Jones
| Mon Jan. 26, 2015 1:24 PM EST

Update, 1/21/2016: With an epic blizzard expected to bury Washington, DC, this weekend, and an epic caucus night quickly approaching in Iowa, I decided to revisit this post. It remains true that winter storms and cold weather are in no way inconsistent with global warming. But I can no longer stand by my assertion that Donald Trump is “probably not going to run for president.” As Rick Perry would say: Oops.

Snow is falling across the Northeast, and millions of people are preparing for a massive blizzard. Due to the extreme winter conditions, my colleague at Climate Desk has issued the following advisory:

Tim McDonnell Verified account
?@timmcdonnell

PSA: Big snowstorm ? (IS NOT) proof global warming is a hoax.

It may seem obvious to you that the existence of extreme winter weather doesn’t negate the scientific fact that humans are warming the planet. But that’s probably because you aren’t a climate change denier who’s contemplating a run for the GOP presidential nomination.

Last year, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) weighed in on the issue. “It is really freezing in DC,” Cruz said during a speech on energy policy, according to Talking Points Memo. “I have to admit I was surprised. Al Gore told us this wouldn’t happen!” Cruz said the same thing a month earlier, according to Slate: “It’s cold!…Al Gore told me this wouldn’t happen.”

And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his Fox News show, negated global warming as well after a major blizzard back in December 20, 2009.

Which brings us to a couple of Republicans who are probably not going to run for president but who have nevertheless generated headlines recently by suggesting they might. Here’s Donald Trump, during a cold snap last year:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice
2 January 2014

And then there is a Facebook post of January 12, 2012, from former Gov. Sarah Palin, citing extremely cold winter temperatures in her home state of Alaska.

Palin Facebook

If you’re a regular Climate affectionado, you already know why all this is wrong. You understand the difference between individual weather events and long-term climate trends. You probably even know that according to the National Climate Assessment, winter precipitation is expected to increase in the northeastern United States as a result of climate change. But if you’re a Republican who wants to be president, please pay close attention to the following video:

to get his – lease look at –  www.motherjones.com/environment/2…

also, if you want updates on the effects of the blizzard - CNN.com –  BreakingNews at mail.cnn.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In a letter to all IISD readers of the Clean Energy List, Ms. Victoria Healey, the Project Leader at US NREL writes:

A representative from the Clean Energy Solutions Center (Solutions Center), Ms. Victoria Healey, will attend the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly and the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, from January 16-21, 2016. Under the joint IRENA and Solutions Center Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN), Ms. Healey will be available to meet individually with government representatives, government affiliated practitioners, and policymakers seeking clean energy policy, program, regulation, and finance technical assistance. The REPAN was established to help developing countries to design and adopt clean energy policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies, and to identify design, and implement finance instruments that mobilize private and public sector capital, and formulate clean energy investment strategies. This support is provided free of charge. To schedule an appointment, please contact Victoria Healey at  nrel.gov.


Consultations during the IRENA General Assembly will occur at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in a location to be determined. During the WFES the 1-on-1 consultations will take place at the IRENA networking area located in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

About the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network, the Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center, and the Clean Energy Solutions Center:

The Clean Energy Solutions Center and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) joined forces in 2013 to launch the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN)—a collaboration that leverages both organizations’ resources by coordinating a global network of experts and practitioners to help countries design and implement renewable energy policies and programs. To learn more visit cleanenergysolutions.org/expert/…

The Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center of NREL assists governments and practitioners with identifying appropriate finance mechanisms and designing and implementing policies to reduce risk and encourage private sector investment; helping to achieve the transition to clean energy at the speed and scale necessary to meet local development needs and address global challenges. The CEFSC is an expanded and dedicated resource that is part of the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative that helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support deployment of clean energy technologies.

signed:
Victoria Healey,
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Leader for the Clean Energy Solutions Center

To learn more about how these initiatives can assist in meeting countries’ clean energy objectives, please visit cleanenergysolutions.org and finance.cleanenergysolutions.org…, and follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CleanEnergySolu… and Twitter twitter.com/Clean_Energy_SC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We are familiar with fossil-fuels industries science arguments – but the new thing that surprised me was that “Truthout” internet site gives them a venue for publicity as in:
 www.truth-out.org/news/item/34152…

“Climate Change 2015: The Latest Science”
Saturday, 26 December 2015 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis

Oh well, but those questionable scientists quoted did push a little too far. They actually claim that Kyoto had it better then Paris – and that Kyoto was going to fulfill Rio. Does that mean that the Truthout Analyst gives away here that the Kyoto fake solution was also sponsored by the oil&coal folks that were active in Kyoto under the mantle of the International Chamber of Commerce?
I must confess here that the ICC at Kyoto turned me of completely when they threw me out when I showed up at one of their meetings. At Kyoto the ICC seemed in close relationship with the US delegation – and there is no secret what I thought of the US sponsored Protocol. Wonders seem to come back and explain themselves!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Convening from 19-23 October 2015, the Bonn Climate Change Conference was the last in a series of meetings under the UNFCCC in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21), scheduled to take place in November-December 2015, in Paris, France.

In their scenario note  ADP.2015.7.InformalNote), ADP Co-Chairs Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US) identified the objective of the session as intensifying the pace of text-based negotiations among Parties, with a view to preparing the draft Paris climate package for presentation at the opening of COP 21.

At the end of the week-long meeting, Parties issued two non-papers, one containing draft agreement text and draft decision text related to the agreement (workstream 1 of ADP’s mandate) and the other containing draft decision text related to pre-2020 ambition (workstream 2).

The full and best reporting of what went on in Bonn can be found at: mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#search…
Summary of the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 19-23 October 2015, Bonn, Germany.

Going over the Summary it becomes clear – if it was not before – that there will be no UN document ready for the Paris meeting and that UN bickering will continue – be assured that some Arab State will find space to bash Israel. All what the UN can do is to bring the problem to the public’s attention, and it is left to the public to push their governments to make a commitment, that is in those countries where a public opinion counts.

Paris COP 21 of the UNFCCC will not be a wash. This thanks to the fact that over 150 countries have already presented their commitments to act on Climate Change. Take for instance the US where by now commitments from companies that are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total number of US companies that have signed onto the pledge to 81. Together, these companies have operations in all 50 US states, employ over nine million people, represent more than US$3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over US$5 trillion.

And yes, in the EU, Japan, Brazil there are similarly industry commitments – pushed by the public. In China and India as well, the public pushes for government action on pollution of any kind and this includes a better understanding of Climate Change disasters.

In a more general way see the The International Energy Agency’s evaluation of the situation:

The IEA’s “Energy and Climate Change: World Energy Outlook” tells us that full implementation of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by mid-October would decouple power sector emissions from electricity demand but would still lead to an average global temperature increase of around 2.7°C, which falls short of the declared “major course correction necessary” to stay below an average global temperature rise of 2°C.

The Outlook Special Briefing for COP21′ analyzes INDCs submitted by more than 150 countries, accounting for close to 90% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and assesses in particular their energy sector-related impacts.

According to the briefing, given that energy production and use account for two-thirds of global GHG emissions, “actions in the energy sector can make or break efforts to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal” of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.

The briefing examines what the energy sector will look like globally in 2030 if all INDCs are fully implemented, and whether this will place the energy sector on a path consistent with the 2°C goal.

If implemented, the INDCs will lead to an improvement of global energy intensity at a rate almost three times faster than the rate since 2000. Emissions will either plateau or decline by 2030 in countries accounting for more than half of global economic activity at present. Of new electricity generation through 2030, 70% will be low-carbon.

The IEA estimates that the full implementation of the INDCs will require US$13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies through 2030.

And excerpted from a bright blogger for Huffington Post (UK):

Over the past three decades annual climate talks under the United Nations banner have become part of the Zeitgeist of a large movement. They draw government officials, think tanks, civil society, journalists and the occasional hipsters into negotiations over which ride trillions of dollars and our future well-being on Earth.

Expect a lot of drama at the next instalment, taking place in Paris in late November – early December.

Heads of state will make grandiose pronouncements.

Negotiators from 190 countries will huddle, whisper, argue over words for days and bargain in stuffy rooms in a style that would make bazaar traders proud.

Civil society will push for strong outcomes, prod for more climate finance, demonstrate occasionally (a welcome activity in Paris), express anger followed by frustration before going home let down again.

The press and the public will turn an inattentive, occasional eye to the 45,000 people gathered in Paris, then turn their attention away.

The private sector, two-thirds of global GDP and employment, will be largely absent (it is not formally represented in the negotiations) and mostly ignore the whole thing.

At the end, governments will cobble together a weak agreement to set emission reduction targets. Some will declare a major win, others will accurately note that we need to do much, much more. Then everyone will go home in time for the Christmas holidays and most of COP21, as the Paris UN gathering is known, will be forgotten.

Deeply buried in this cacophony are two emerging themes with the potential to significantly impact the private sector.

National Low Carbon Business Plans

A Paris climate agreement, no matter how wobbly, will involve more than 150 countries publishing mini business plans for their economy describing what each will do to help limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. In typical UN jargon, these low-carbon business plans are known as INDCs, short for “intended nationally determined contribution.”

The INDCs are the driving force of COP21 and will become the development pathway for all countries. Weak and general at first, they will become stronger and more detailed over time.

Two major consequences will follow.

First, multi-trillion dollar investment opportunities for the private sector will be clearly delineated, while others, far from where the country is heading, should be avoided.

For example, India’s business plan shows it wants to increase its clean energy generation capacity from 36 GW today to a whopping 320 GW by 2030. Similarly, China wants an extra 775 GW of renewables by 2030, on top of its existing 425 GW, the US wants to add an extra 179 GW and the EU another 380 GW.

Taken together, that’s double the world’s current renewable energy installed capacity (excluding hydropower) in investment potential, all of which comes with strong institutional support now that it is anchored in an INDC.

Second, the breadth of these INDCs means that within a few years, all finance will be climate finance; and all bonds will be green bonds.

We already know the commitments in Paris are nowhere near enough: The US, Europe, and China alone use up the world’s entire carbon budget by 2030. Therefore it’s reasonable to expect that they will get tougher, tighter and more precise with time because countries will be under increasing pressure to deliver, as climate change hits all of us harder and harder.

Post-2020 (the INDCs will most probably be reviewed in five year cycles), there is therefore likely to be a “wall of shame” hitting anyone who invests in non-INDC compatible, non-climate friendly technologies. In fact perhaps we will see “black bonds” emerge, highlighting investments that are increasingly unacceptable and at risk of being stranded because of their high emissions.

INDCs will make green investments even more mainstream than they are today and ensure that dirty investments are avoided on a long-term scale.

Loss and Damage

“Loss and damage,” another major theme in Paris, could have enormous financial consequences.

“Loss and damage” refers to the need to account for the impact of climate change, for example on a small island nation losing territory because of sea level rise. An element of climate negotiations for several years, its significance could be enormous for insurance companies, reinsurers, financial analysts and the markets.

Governments will continue to argue whether loss and damage is a euphemism for liability and compensation. Richer nations will end up ensuring that the answer is vague, and that therefore they can’t be held liable and won’t have to pay compensation.

However, the door is likely to be kept open for clever lawyers to use the “loss and damage” aspects of a climate change agreement to launch claims against companies: Victims of climate change will aggressively try to go after corporate polluters for compensation, particularly the likes of Exxon, Shell and BP who have known about climate change for decades but either buried the evidence or ignored it to accumulate profits at the expense of our collective health and well-being.

The results of these claims could be shocking for many. The Dutch proved earlier this year that climate liability lawsuits can stand up in courts.

The business and the financial world will be markedly absent from Paris, but should closely monitor the evolution of INDCs and of “loss and damage” in Paris. These could upend how they currently do business.

From the above, we conclude that COP 21 of the UNFCCC in Paris will have picked up from where COP 15 of Copenhagen left the Climate Change issue. Copenhagen was where the Kyoto stillborn Protocol was buried by Obama bringing for the first time the Chinese on board, now it will be the Obama-Xi alliance that will bring most true Nations on board. And let us not forget Pope Francis and the ethics of “we are the creation’s wardens.” This resonates very well with much of the public and helps the businesses that will move green.

We will not go to the opening of the Paris meeting, but will be there for the end – this so me can evaluate the outcome which promises to have practical value.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We liked the following because we like Obama’s intervention on Climate Change where he decided to go to China in order to engage them in tackling the issue – something that follows Nixon & Kissinger in their opening up of China.

———————————————————————————–

Los Angeles Op-Ed

Niall Ferguson: Think Kissinger was the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik? What about Obama?

October 26, 2015

PHOTO: Henry A. Kissinger–then President Nixon’s National Security Adviser–stands with Le Duc Tho, a member of Hanoi’s Politburo, outside a suburban Paris house in June, 1973.

Most Americans still think of Barack Obama as a foreign policy idealist. That is certainly how he presents himself: Just replay the tape of his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

Some argue, he said, “for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history … the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.”

The president said he would much rather “work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law.” He prefers “resolving disputes through international law, not the law of force.”

Yet that speech ended oddly. Having berated both Russia and Iran for their misdeeds, Obama invited them to work with him to resolve the Syrian civil war. “Realism,” he concluded, “dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.”


Wait — realism? Isn’t that the hard-nosed — not to say amoral — approach to foreign policy commonly associated with Henry Kissinger?

Having spent much of the last decade writing a life of Kissinger, I no longer think of the former secretary of State as the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik. (That’s a caricature.) But after reading countless critiques of his record, not least the late Christopher Hitchens’ influential “Trial of Henry Kissinger,” I also find myself asking another question: Where are the equivalent critiques of Obama?

Hitchens’ case against Kissinger, which is as grandiloquent as it is thinly documented, can be summed up as follows: He was implicated in the killing of civilians through the bombing of Cambodia and North Vietnam. He failed to prevent massacres in Bangladesh and East Timor. He fomented a military coup in Chile. Also on Hitchens’ charge sheet: the wiretapping of colleagues.

In history, no two cases are alike. The Cold War is over. The technology of the 2010s is a lot more sophisticated than the technology of the 1970s. Still, this president’s record makes one itch to read “The Trial of Barack Obama.”

Take the administration’s enthusiastic use of drones, a key feature of Obama’s shift from counterinsurgency to counter-terrorism. According to figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration have killed 3,570 to 5,763 people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, of whom 400 to 912 were civilians and at least 82 were children.

And those are just the strikes by unmanned aircraft. The Oct. 3 attack on an Afghan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders is a reminder that U.S. pilots also stand accused of killing civilians, not only in Afghanistan but also (since August 2014) in Iraq and Syria. One estimate puts the civilian victims of the U.S.-led air war against Islamic State at 450.

This is a lawyerly administration, so it insists on the legality of its actions, even when drones kill U.S. citizens. But not everyone is convinced. In the words of Amnesty International, “U.S. drone strike policy appears to allow extrajudicial executions in violation of the right to life, virtually anywhere in the world.”

Critics such as Hitchens also hold Kissinger accountable for lives lost as an indirect result of U.S. policy. So what about the number of lives lost as an indirect result of Obama’s policy in the Middle East, where he helped topple a dictator in Libya but failed to do so in Syria? Estimates vary, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll of the Syrian civil war at 330,000, of whom nearly 112,000 have been civilians.

And let’s not forget Egypt, where Abdel Fattah Sisi has restored a military dictatorship. In 2013, Sisi’s first year in power, Egyptian courts handed out 464 death sentences. This year former President Mohamed Morsi — democratically elected in June 2012 and overthrown 13 months later — was sentenced to hang, along with more than 90 other Muslim Brotherhood members. Yet Obama restored U.S. military aid to Egypt in March. Help me out here: In what way does Gen. Sisi differ from Gen. Pinochet?

As for wiretapping, there really is no contest. Kissinger is said to have bugged 13 government officials and four reporters. Edward Snowden’s revelations make it clear that Obama is in a different league. On his watch, the National Security Agency collected not only the metadata of phone calls by 120 million Verizon subscribers but also — thanks to the PRISM surveillance program — the content of email, voice, text and video chats of an unknown number of Americans. Between April 2011 and March 2012, according to an internal NSA audit leaked by Snowden, there were 2,776 breaches of the rules supposedly governing surveillance of citizens and foreigners in the U.S.

There is disenchantment with Obama’s foreign policy these days. In recent polls, nearly half of Americans (49.3%) disapprove of it, compared with fewer than 38% who approve. I suspect, however, that many disapprove for the wrong reasons. The president is widely seen, especially on the right, as weak. In my view, his strategy is flawed, but there is no doubting his ruthlessness when it comes to executing it.

As Hitchens surely would observe if he were still around, a great many liberals today apply a double standard when they judge the foreign policies of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama. If you think Kissinger didn’t deserve his Nobel, then neither did Obama.

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Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He is the author, most recently, of “Kissinger 1923-1968: The Idealist.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 5th, 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

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THE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 5, 2015


Ms. Christiana Figueres – the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC will end her contract at the end of this year after the conclusion of the Paris 2015 meeting – having guided the organization through all this preparatory years. It is being suggested that her candidacy be submitted for the 2016 selection process for next UN Secretary-General position. She would be the best informed person to lead the UN in the crucial 2017-2026 period when Climate Change and Sustainability become main UN topics under the incoming title from Paris – “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.

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UN climate chief: No such thing as ideal pace for pre-Paris talks

By EUOBSERVER
4. Sep, 13:47
 euobserver.com/tickers/130117

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres countered criticism that preliminary talks for a Paris climate treaty were moving too slowly. “There is no such thing as an objective [ideal] pace of negotiations that everyone can agree on”, she said at a press conference Friday after a round of talks in Bonn.

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

BBC – Science & Environment

Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use.

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.

“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!

“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”

The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.

Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.

“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.

—————————————————————————————

The Islamic Climate Declaration says that the world’s 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change.

It urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, “or preferably 1.5 degrees.”

The Declaration asks Muslims, in the words of the Koran, “not to strut arrogantly on the Earth”.

The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth
Fazlun Khalid, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science

Drafted at an international symposium in Istanbul, the Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses …to commit to 100% renewable energy”.

It also argues for increased financial support for communities vulnerable to climate change.

The main focus though is on “well-off nations and oil-producing states,” who are urged to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gases, no later than the middle of this century.

The Declaration calls on the rich countries, to recognise their “moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth’s non-renewable resources”.

“People need to be told and politicians need to stop misleading their people, in telling them they can go on increasing their standards of living for ever and ever and ever,” Fazlun Khalid, a long time Islamic environmentalist involved in drawing up the Declaration, told BBC News.

“Someone should be articulating this because it’s an impossibility, they can’t do it – And this applies not just to Muslim countries.”

The call has been supported by religious leaders including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, the president of Indonesia’s major body of religious scholars as well as environmental groups and government officials from Morocco and Turkey.

But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.

“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!

“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”

The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.

Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.

“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.

The authors of the Declaration say that it will be available in mosques and madrassas around the world.

They hope that it will influence political leaders in Muslim countries to become more fully involved in global attempts to deliver a new treaty on climate change, expected to be signed in Paris in December.

While around 50 countries have so far posted their plans for curbing climate change ahead of the meeting in Paris, very few Muslim countries have been among them.

I asked Fazlun Khalid if religious divisions between Muslims were a bigger issue at present than climate change.

“In spite of their differences we want Muslims to wake up and think and realise that this is a problem that affects every inch of this planet, in spite of their differences, under their feet something is happening, a deep plate shift in the Earth’s crust,” he said.

“In spite of our differences we have to take this on, as the major issue affecting the whole of the human world.”

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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

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


Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill barring fines for dead lawns during drought.

By Melanie Mason

July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.

Cities and counties will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of “lawn maintenance” ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.

Cheryl Brown has said she’s aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.

The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns “fade to gold.” Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners’ associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.

With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25%.

This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29% in May.

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Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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


Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?

Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015

With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.

“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.

Related:
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year


One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.

As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low

Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.

Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.

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Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.

Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.

IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:

“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.

Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.

Sea ice in decline

Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“

The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.

“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.

He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet

Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:


“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”

At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:

“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”


Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:

“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal

Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.

Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.

“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “

The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:

“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”

Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.

Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:

“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?

The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.

“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.

This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:

“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.

Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.

Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:

“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost

This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:

“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.

Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now

“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.

The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.

In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.

“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.

Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.

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This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

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

70 Years Since The Founding of the United Nations – Is there finally in 2015 TIME FOR GLOBAL ACTION FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET?

based on e-mail from: Lotta Tahtinen
Date: Wed, May 20, 2015
 sustainabledevelopment.un.org/po…

that includes:

In Focus

Food for thought paper on a possible Technology Facilitation Mechanism
Revised Proposal for themes for Interactive Dialogues during the Post-2015 United Nations Summit (revision 3)

Prepared for — Post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations | 18 – 22 May 2015

Draft Programme
Discussion Paper on Follow-up and Review of the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Preliminary Impressions on Follow-up and review by the co-facilitators
Preliminary Programme of Side Events (Post-2015, Follow-up and review)
More information

The CIVICUS organization headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, is helping continue the UN unending debates that seem now
intended to pass that 2015 deadline and just roll on theses debates so that no real action is showing up on the horizon.

Why in God’s name – or Nature’s name – these debate clubs do not finally say the obvious – WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN EFFORT FOR SUSTAINABILITY – that is Social, Economic and Environmental SUSTAINABILITY for Planet Earth and its People. As simple as that !!!

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


Climate change and security: here’s the analysis, when’s the action?

Dan Smith 22 April 2015

We have moved beyond the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. The new discussion must look to compound risks: where climate change, arbitrary governance and lawlessness interact.

Last week’s communiqué from the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lübeck included a statement on climate change and security. In welcoming a report, A New Climate for Peace, to which my organization International Alert contributed, the communiqué moves the issue forward and declares it to be worthy of high level political attention. Unfortunately, what is to be done is not so clear.
Climate change and insecurity

A New Climate for Peace, of which I am one of the co-authors, is a joint project of the Berlin-based think tank Adelphi, International Alert, the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. The full report comes out in May.

The core message is that climate change is having a multi-faceted impact on many states, societies and communities. It exerts a pressure they cannot tolerate for long. Compound risks emerge as the impact of climate change interacts with other political, social and economic problems. Climate change makes it hard to build resilience in the state or even in local communities, while the fragility of the state makes it hard to adapt to the impact of climate change. To address this problem, a new approach is needed integrating sectors that are currently separate, energised by clear political leadership to develop international cooperation, based on dialogue about a shared challenge and shared goals.


This is not a rehash of positions in the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. With this report, presented to the German Foreign Minister, and with the G7 Foreign Ministers’ welcome for it the next day, it is possible to say that the debate has decisively moved on.


The issue, if we want some jargon, is human security
and insecurity. A background of armed conflict or weak governance or political instability – or all in combination – in short, a situation of fragility is not conducive for building resilience against the negative impact of climate change. Likewise, the pressure of climate change makes the tasks of reconciliation, managing conflicts non-violently and building a peaceful state even harder than they are in the absence of that pressure.

The report – 150 pages long in final draft – pulls together the best recent research and adds the results of its own inquiries in vulnerable countries. It collates the evidence and focuses on seven compound risks:

Local resource competition can lead, as pressure on natural resources increases, to instability and even violent conflict in the absence of effective dispute resolution.

Livelihood insecurity is a likely result of climate change in some regions, which could push people to migrate or turn to illegal sources of income.

Extreme weather events and disasters will exacerbate all the challenges of fragility and can increase people’s vulnerability and grievances, especially in conflict-affected situations.

Volatility in the prices and availability of food, arising because climate variability disrupts food production, have well documented effects on the likelihood of protests, instability, and civil conflict.

Transboundary water sharing is a source of either cooperation or tension, but as competition sharpens due to increasing demand and declining availability and quality of water, the balance of probability tilts towards increased tension and conflict.

Sea-level rise and coastal degradation will threaten the viability of low-lying areas, with the potential for social disruption and displacement, while disagreements over maritime boundaries and ocean resources may increase.

The unintended effects of climate policies are a further source of risk that will increase if climate adaptation and mitigation policies are more br oadly implemented without due care and attention to consequences and negative spin-offs.


Responding to risk

The best and, long term, the sustainable way to diminish the threat posed by these climate-fragility risks is to slow down climate change by reducing carbon emissions. That’s the task for December’s climate summit in Paris – formally, the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. But changes to the climate are already underway, so there has to be a separate and additional response to climate-fragility risks, starting now and carried through for – in the best case – some decades at least.

Three key sectors require action – climate change adaptation, development and humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding. But single sector action won’t work against compound risk. Virtually by definition, integrated approaches are necessary. Further, the problem faced does not respect national boundaries and is in any case too big and too complex for a single government to handle, so the response needs also to be internationally cooperative and coordinated.

A response to the vicious cycle contained in each of the seven climate-fragility risks will not work if it relies on responding to each crisis as it arrives. What people in the hardest hit countries need is assistance in mounting and implementing a long-term and sustained preventive response. That’s how we move from managing crises to avoiding them.


The current menu of action

A New Climate for Peace looks at the current international policy architecture for addressing the compound risks. There is plenty of activity but:

Climate change adaptation plans rarely address fragility and conflict comprehensively.

Development and humanitarian aid does not routinely take account of the need for climate-proofing and still has problems absorbing conflict sensitivity.

Peacebuilding similarly tends to leave climate change aside as somebody else’s problem.


What needs to be done

Many things can and should be done. It is not hard to identify them. The report insists that it will only happen if there is strong and clear political leadership. With the G7 governments in mind, it identifies entry points for developing a coordinated, integrated approach:

Within G7 member governments, remember that integration begins at home and make climate-fragility risks a central foreign policy priority.
Improve coordination among G7 members by coming together for a new dialogue.
Set the global resilience agenda by bringing the new integrated approach to global and multilateral discussions and institutions.

Extend the dialogue by listening to and working with a wide range of actors, including in countries affected by fragility.

And to embody this new approach, as areas in which it could be implemented, the report identifies five action areas:
Strengthening global risk assessment by covering all aspects and making the results available and accessible;
Improving food security to minimise food price crises, thus minimising their conflict consequences;
Improving disaster risk reduction by absorbing conflict sensitivity into planning and training;
Checking and strengthening the institutions and agreements that can help settle transboundary water disputes;
Recalibrating development strategies and international development assistance so as to give greater priority to building local resilience.


But where to start?

There is, then, no real difficulty in identifying what action to take and how to do it. The likely objection to the list of action areas is only that it is incomplete. The challenge is, how to start?

Here is what the G7 communiqué says:

“We therefore welcome the external study, commissioned by the G7 Foreign Ministries in 2014 and now submitted to us under the title “An New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks” …

“We agree on the need to better understand, identify, monitor and address the compound risks associated with climate change and fragility…

“We have decided to set up and task a working group with evaluating the study’s recommendations up to the end of 2015 in order for it to report back to us regarding possible implementation in time for our meeting in 2016.”
Start here – we’ve been invited to

It is not exactly a clarion call for path breaking action. It lacks the necessary political juice. But it is an open invitation to keep pressing.

The first part of the case – that there is a major global problem – has now been made and is grounded in solid evidence. With this, virtually as a corollary, goes the second part of the case: business as usual is not an option, change is needed.

The third part of the case – there are many things that can usefully be done to alleviate and manage the compound climate-fragility risks – has also been made.

It is the fourth part of the case – now is the time – that has to be made and has to persuade. Let’s get to it.

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This piece was originally posted on Dan’s blog on 22 April 2015.

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


The Guardian Divests $1.2 Billion Fund From Fossil Fuels.

By Bill McKibben, EcoWatch

04 April 15
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

thank you for always stating the obvious.

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Beyt Tikkun Synagogue  shul at tikkun.org via mail.salsalabs.net - this comes from Oakland, California and shows the Jewish way of love for Planet Earth and all Creation. You do not have to be religious to see this – and we are not religious.

SEDER FOR THE EARTH & CLIMATE MARCH
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*When: Saturday, February 07 2015 @ 11:00 AM – - 12:00PM

Where:

No rain: Frank Ogawa Plaza nr. the Rotuda near the 15th & Broadway entry to the Plaza
In case of Rain: 685 14th Street (the Unitarian Church

Description:

We davven the morning service first at Rabbi Lerner’s home from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. then go to Frank Ogawa Plaza at Broadway and 15th street in Downtown Oakland to set up for a short (one hour) Tu B’shvat Seder.
If you can get there by 10:30 a.m. to help us set up, that would be sweet.

We will have a few tables and a few chairs in the alley way near the Rotunda on the other side of the plaza from City Hall, assuming it isn’t raining heavily. Please bring a chair to sit on it if you can, and something delicious to nosh, or just come–we’ll have fruit and grape juice for the seder if you tell us you are coming BEFORE Friday 10 a.m. Feb. 6th so we can buy enough!! But if you haven’t done so, come anyway, but get there by 11 a.m. (which requires that you also give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to park if you come by car–there are big parking structures down there around 11 th and 12th streets–but environmentally best to come via the BART).

Rain is predicted but we have no way of knowing whether that is going to be like the heavy rain expected for Friday, or a much lighter rain that won’t be a big deal.

If the rain in heavy, the 1st Unitarian Church of Oakland, at 685 14th street, has graciously agreed to let us hold the seder in their building in their Wendte Hall (NOT the main sanctuary, where something else is happening).

After the Seder we will march up to where the march is happening (a mere four blocks away), and meet up with our already-drenched allies for the march. Be sure to bring clothing and umbrellas just in case.

Please let us know that you plan to attend and please spread the word to your non-Jewish friends as well–The Seder for the Earth is free and a wonderful way to begin the environmental march that will begin at noon at the same place.

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TIKKUN IS PART OF THE NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES (NSP) – they like to talk of “rEVOLution” for how to EVOLVE into a a decent world. Their kind of true revolution comes about with a little “r” with large “EVOL” so there is no blood-shedding.
 spiritualprogressives.org/newsite…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism?
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 on Truthout – By Chris Williams and Marcela Olivera, Truthout | News Analysis

FOR THE FULL ARTICLE PLEASE GO TO:  truth-out.org/news/item/28778-can…

I will post here some excerpts of this very interesting and long article – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece
and wondering if rhetoric is true change and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe?


Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.

The number of conflicts over natural resource extraction and refining, road building and pipeline construction, and forest and water use have all steadily grown under Morales.

Ruthless extraction of Bolivia’s bountiful natural resources has concentrated the natural and social wealth of the country in a small group at the top of society, and exposed Bolivians to an extreme degree of imperial intrigue and attempted subjugation.

In stark contrast to monoculture farming, several hundred different varieties of potato are grown in the Bolivian Andes, as a resilient subsistence food by 200,000 small-scale farmers.

With the melting of the Andean mountains ice and climate change farmers no longer know how community can grow food because “it now rains at all different times, and it’s drier for longer. This place did not used to be as hot as it is now.”

Higher average temperatures will lead to an increase in evaporation, causing soils to dry out. In turn, drier soils will increase erosion and loss of topsoil, an effect that will be compounded by two other effects of a warmer climate.

But for all of Morales’ rhetorical championing of “buen vivir,” Gudynas believes that the MAS government instead operates more along the lines of a new form of Keynesian neoliberalism, or what he calls “neo-extractivismo.”

And despite a change in official rhetoric, and some welcome redistribution of wealth, Morales’ policies are practically the same as his predecessors’ with respect to natural resource extraction.

“We have lost an opportunity for something based on our self-organization and self-management.”

“The people do not decide; the government decides. Despite the constitution guaranteeing rights for indigenous people and Mother Earth, those policies are not implemented; they are just words.”

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As through so much of its history, the small Andean nation of Bolivia sits at the center of a whirlwind of political, social and climatological questions. Arguably, no other country thus far in the 21st century raises the question of an “exit strategy” from neoliberal capitalism more concretely, and with greater possibility and hope, than Bolivia. That hope is expressed specifically in the ruling party, MAS, or Movement Toward Socialism. The country’s leader, former coca farmer and union organizer Evo Morales – South America’s first indigenous leader since pre-colonial times – was overwhelmingly elected to his third term of office in 2014. Morales has broadly popularized the Quechua term pachamama, which denotes a full commitment to ecological sustainability, and public hopes remain high that he’ll guide the country toward realizing that principle.

Bolivia has seen impressive and consistent economic growth since Morales’ first election victory in 2006, including the establishment of government programs to alleviate poverty and attain the social equity goals promised in his campaign. However, this growth has primarily rested on an expanded and intensified exploitation of the country’s natural resources, principally from fossil fuel production, mining, and the growth of large-scale, mono-crop agriculture and manufacturing.

This economic growth has also created what the Bolivian non-governmental organization CEDLA (Centro de Estudios Para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario) calls the rise of a new bourgeoisie comprised of Santa Cruz agriculture producers, traders from the west of the country and small mining producers. The Bolivian government also believes that a new class is emerging, and will become Bolivia’s new dominant group. Carlos Arce, researcher from CEDLA, says in an article in the Bolivian press:

A new type of entrepreneur has emerged from the popular classes. These emerging strata are mostly traders and are also present in the cooperative sectors, especially in mining. This new type of entrepreneur saves more and has a more austere mentality, in the classical Weberian sense. Within the state, representatives of this strata interface with middle-class intellectuals and other sectors of society, seeking to build alliances with small urban and rural producers that respond to the prerogatives of the market.

The so-called “plural economy” institutionalized by the government recognizes the state, communitarian, private and cooperative forms of economic organization. It also puts the state in direct control of the plans for economic development. In other words, the Bolivian people are the owners of the natural resources, but it is the state that administers and industrializes these natural resources.

In Arce’s view, the government exalts this new “emerging bourgeoisie.” The government’s program of a plural economy “facilitates the alliance of these market-driven sectors with key sectors of international capital. This opens the door to transnational corporations and makes permanent their presence.”

In December 2014, the Financial Times reported on the rise of a new indigenous bourgeoisie in El Alto, less constrained by older cultural ties of thrift, and striving for greater wealth, more ostentatious luxury buildings and opulent traditional clothing.

On the other hand, while many journalists and analysts have focused on the accomplishments of the Morales’ government, few have looked at the state of the labor force, unions and labor conditions. Research by local organizations shows that finding secure employment has become very difficult. According to the Bolivian Labor Ministry’s own data just 30 percent of the labor force in Bolivia has a secure and formal job, with almost 70 percent working in the informal sector. These workers have no employment security, which makes people more dependent on welfare protections and programs that have become more elaborate and extensive in recent years.

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Bolivia’s geography is very diverse: The verdant and tropical Amazonian lowlands give way to the austere beauty of the highlands and snow-capped peaks of the Andes that ring the capital, La Paz. Bolivian elevations range from 130 to 6,000 meters above sea level dividing the country into three distinct geographical areas: the high plateau, the Andean valleys and the eastern lowlands.

Given all of these factors, Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.

Much of that resistance was formed in response to centuries of relentless extraction of the country’s minerals, semi-precious and precious metals, and guano. Following the privatization of Bolivia’s public airline, train system and electric utility, in 1999, the government sold the water and sanitation system of Cochabamba to a transnational consortium. Over the following five months, mass demonstrations and violent confrontations with the police and military forced the government to cancel the contract and keep the water supply in public hands. This popular struggle for public control of water became recognized worldwide as the Cochabamba Water War.

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Marcela Olivera

Marcela Olivera is a water commons organizer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After graduating from the Catholic University in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Marcela worked for four years in Cochabamba as the key international liaison for the Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life, the organization that fought and defeated water privatization in Bolivia. Since 2004, she has been developing and consolidating an inter-American citizens’ network on water justice named Red VIDA.
Chris Williams

Chris Williams is an environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chairman of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the department of chemistry and physical science. His writings have appeared in Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateandCapitalism.com, Counterpunch, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Truthout, Socialist Worker and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas. He recently was awarded a Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.

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