links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
Obama Styling:

 

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

 

With  Interference from Breaking News from the battle fields in the Ukraine and the Muslim World – the US and Russia are at Cold War level; Israel has already 20 dead (two civilians) and dozens wounded – Fareed Zakaria on CNN/Global Public Square did his best this Sunday July 20, 2014, to try to make sense from the present global wars.
I will try to reorganize the material into a neat tableau that can be viewed as a whole.

Fareed’s own introduction was about what happened in recent years is a “democratization of violence” that created an asymmetry like in Al Qaeda’s 9/11 where each of their one dollar generated the need for  7 million dollars to be spent by the US in order to counter-react. Thus, before, it was armies of States that were needed to have a war – now everyone can cause it with a pauper’s means.

Then he continued by saying that this is NOT what happened in Ukraine. There Putin was trying to fake it, by using his resources large State resources to create from former Russian soldiers a “rebel force in the Ukraine.”  The Kremlin is operating the rebels in a situation where the military expenditures by Russia, which are 35 times larger then those of the Ukraine, take care of the expenditures of this war.

But where Vladimir Putin miscalculated – it is that he did not realize that when he takes the ginny of Nationalism out of his dark box, he will never be able to cause it to go back. Putin unleashed both – Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism and it might be that by now he is no boss over the outcome anymore.

Let us face it – G.W. Bush played a similar game in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US will not be  master in the Middle East anymore.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was asked on the program what should Obama do?

He thinks this is a historical defining moment that allows still to Putin to redeem himself. It is for him – rather then somebody else – to call for an International tribunal and allow open investigation by telling the pro-Russians in the Ukraine, whom he supported and provided them with arms, that they crossed the line.  Brzezinski says this is a situation for Europe like it was before WWII.

The issue is that the Europeans are not yet behind the US. London is a Las Vegas for the Russians, France supplies them military goods, it was a German Chancellor before Merkel who made Europe dependent on Rusian gas.
Without being clearly united behind the US, the West will get nowhere.

On the other hand – Russia, seeing the sanctions coming, sees the prospect of becoming a China satellite if sanctions go into effect. Not a great prospect for itself either.

So, the answer is Obama leadership to be backed by the Europeans and Putin making steps to smooth out the situation and redeem himself. This is the only way to save the old order.

Steven Cohen, Professor on Russia at Princeton: The US is in a complicated situation by having backed fully the Ukrainian government.

It is the US that pushed Putin to take his positions. The Ukraine is a divided country and the story is not just a recent development. Putin cannot just walk away from the separatists in the Ukraine – they will not listen to him. The reality in the Ukraine, as per Professor Cohen, is very complex and there are no good guys there – basically just a complex reality that was exploited from the outside.

Christa Freeland, a famous journalist, who is now a Canadian member of Parliament, and traveled many times to the Ukraine, completely disagrees with Cohen and says a US leadership is imperative.

Our feeling is that all this discussion goes on as if it were in a vacuum – the true reality is that in the Globalized World we are far beyond the post WWII configuration that was just Trans-Atlantic with a Eurasian Continental spur going to China and Japan.  What has happened since is the RISE OF THE REST OF THE WORLD – with China, india, Brazil, and even South Africa, telling the West that besides dealing with Russia the West must deal with them as well !!
 The BRICS meeting in Fortaleza (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) where this week they established a $50 Billion alternative to the World Bank and a $100 Billion alternative to the IMF, ought to be part of the negotiation in the US and at the EU Member States  when talking about a post-Ukraine-flare-up World. The timing may have been coincidental – but the build-up was not.

These days there is the celebration of 70 years (1–22 July 1944) of the establishing of the Bretton Woods agreements system that created the old institutions that can be changed only with the help of US Congress – something that just will not happen. Those are the World Bank and the IMF – but In the meantime China has become the World’s largest economy and they still have less voting power at the World Bank then the three BENELUX countries.
The BRICS do not accept anymore the domination of the US dollar over their economies. If nothing else they want a seat at the table, and detest the fact that three out of five are not even at the UN Security Council.

So, the New World Order will have to account for this Rise of the Rest having had the old order based just on the West.

   Further on today’s program, Paul Krugman a very wise man, a Nobel Prize holder in Economics, was brought in to show  a quick take on the economy. He made it clear that there is an improvement but it is by far not enough.

It is more half empty then half full because by now it should have been better. But he stressed that despite the interference, Obamacare works better and ahead of expectations. Even premiums rise slower then before.

Yes, there are some losers, but this is a narrow group of young and healthy, but people that were supposed to be helped are helped.

On energy – yes – renewable costs are lower then expected.

Obama’s grade? Over all B or B-, but on what he endured from the opposition A-. Yes, we can trust Obama to decide the correct moves – and on International and Foreign Policy the White House has freer hands then in Internal, National, policy. His presidency is the most consequential since Ronald Reagan – whatever we think of Reagan – but in Obama’s case, he will leave behind  a legacy of the country having been involved in less disasters, but leaving behind more achievements – be those in health-care, environment, finances, energy, migration, etc. then any President of the last 40 years. But where does this leave him in relation to the Rest of the World?

###

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

 In an effort to distance himself and his Administration from isolationism, while stepping back from pure militarism – just because we have a hammer we will not see every problem to be a nail – he suggests to lead by example, while cooperating with partners.  He will do so because this is in America’s interest and it is also the ethical thing to do under his belief in American exceptionalism.

President Barack Obama defended his foreign policy record and laid out his plan for how to deal with the future.  He told those attending the graduation ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy that “America must always lead on the world stage.”   The military “always will be the backbone of that leadership,”  Obama said, but U.S. military action “cannot be the only — or primary — component of our leadership in every instance.”

“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” Obama said. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”

——————-

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                               May 28, 2014

 

 

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

AT WEST POINT ACADEMY COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY

 

U.S. Military Academy-West Point

West Point, New York

 

10:22 A.M. EDT

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  And thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction.  To General Trainor, General Clarke, the faculty and staff at West Point — you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution and outstanding mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army.  I’d like to acknowledge the Army’s leadership — General McHugh — Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed, who is here, and a proud graduate of West Point himself. 

 

To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line.  Among you is the first all-female command team — Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff.  In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar.  And Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three-point line.  To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point:  As Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.  (Laughter.) 

 

I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families.  Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for a whole lot of parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you’ve made.  “Deep inside,” he wrote, “we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country.”  Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran.  And I would ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute — not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families.  (Applause.)

 

This is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, a few days after Memorial Day.  You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq.  We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan.  Our counterterrorism efforts were focused on al Qaeda’s core leadership — those who had carried out the 9/11 attacks.  And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

 

Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed.  We have removed our troops from Iraq.  We are winding down our war in Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more.  (Applause.)  And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength:  a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.

 

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world.  Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.  Think about it.  Our military has no peer.  The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.

Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative.  Each year, we grow more energy independent.  From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.  America continues to attract striving immigrants.  The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.  And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help.  (Applause.)  So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.  That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.

 

But the world is changing with accelerating speed.  This presents opportunity, but also new dangers.  We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm.  Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.  From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.  And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.

 

It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.  The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead — not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.

 

Now, this question isn’t new.  At least since George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief, there have been those who warned against foreign entanglements that do not touch directly on our security or economic wellbeing.  Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve.  And not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges here at home, that view is shared by many Americans.

 

A different view from interventionists from the left and right says that we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future.

 

And each side can point to history to support its claims. But I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment.  It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option.  We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders.  If nuclear materials are not secure, that poses a danger to American cities.  As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases.  Regional aggression that goes unchecked — whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world — will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military.  We can’t ignore what happens beyond our boundaries.

 

And beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake, an abiding self-interest, in making sure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped and where individuals are not slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political belief.  I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative, it also helps to keep us safe.

 

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.  Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences — without building international support and legitimacy for our action; without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.  Tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.  As General Eisenhower, someone with hard-earned knowledge on this subject, said at this ceremony in 1947:  “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”

 

Like Eisenhower, this generation of men and women in uniform know all too well the wages of war, and that includes those of you here at West Point.  Four of the servicemembers who stood in the audience when I announced the surge of our forces in Afghanistan gave their lives in that effort.  A lot more were wounded.  I believe America’s security demanded those deployments.  But I am haunted by those deaths.  I am haunted by those wounds.  And I would betray my duty to you and to the country we love if I ever sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed to be fixed, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.  

 

Here’s my bottom line:  America must always lead on the world stage.  If we don’t, no one else will.  The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership.  But U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.  And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader — and especially your Commander-in-Chief — to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.

 

So let me spend the rest of my time describing my vision for how the United States of America and our military should lead in the years to come, for you will be part of that leadership.  

 

First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency:  The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened, when our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger.  In these circumstances, we still need to ask tough questions about whether our actions are proportional and effective and just.  International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life.  (Applause.)  

 

On the other hand, when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States, when such issues are at stake — when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction but do not directly threaten us — then the threshold for military action must be higher.  In such circumstances, we should not go it alone.  Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.  We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law; and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.  In such circumstances, we have to work with others because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, less likely to lead to costly mistakes.

 

This leads to my second point:  For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy — drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan — to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

 

And the need for a new strategy reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al Qaeda leadership.  Instead, it comes from decentralized al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in countries where they operate.  And this lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but it heightens the danger of U.S. personnel overseas being attacked, as we saw in Benghazi.  It heightens the danger to less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi. 

 

So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat — one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.  And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan. 

 

Together with our allies, America struck huge blows against al Qaeda core and pushed back against an insurgency that threatened to overrun the country.  But sustaining this progress depends on the ability of Afghans to do the job.  And that’s why we trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police.  Earlier this spring, those forces, those Afghan forces, secured an election in which Afghans voted for the first democratic transfer of power in their history.  And at the end of this year, a new Afghan President will be in office and America’s combat mission will be over.  (Applause.)

 

Now, that was an enormous achievement made because of America’s armed forces.  But as we move to a train-and-advise mission in Afghanistan, our reduced presence allows us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa.  So, earlier this year, I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel.  Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines.  And these resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.

 

A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria.  As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers, no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon.  As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war, and I believe that is the right decision.  But that does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his own people.  And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we are also pushing back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos.  

 

So with the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq — as they contend with refugees and confront terrorists working across Syria’s borders.  I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.  And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World to push for a political resolution of this crisis, and to make sure that those countries and not just the United States are contributing their fair share to support the Syrian people.

 

Let me make one final point about our efforts against terrorism.  The partnerships I’ve described do not eliminate the need to take direct action when necessary to protect ourselves. When we have actionable intelligence, that’s what we do — through capture operations like the one that brought a terrorist involved in the plot to bomb our embassies in 1998 to face justice; or drone strikes like those we’ve carried out in Yemen and Somalia.  There are times when those actions are necessary, and we cannot hesitate to protect our people. 

 

But as I said last year, in taking direct action we must uphold standards that reflect our values.  That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is no certainty — there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.  For our actions should meet a simple test:  We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.

 

I also believe we must be more transparent about both the basis of our counterterrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.  We have to be able to explain them publicly, whether it is drone strikes or training partners.  I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts.  Our intelligence community has done outstanding work, and we have to continue to protect sources and methods.  But when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion, we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people, and we reduce accountability in our own government.

 

And this issue of transparency is directly relevant to a third aspect of American leadership, and that is our effort to strengthen and enforce international order. 

 

After World War II, America had the wisdom to shape institutions to keep the peace and support human progress — from NATO and the United Nations, to the World Bank and IMF.  These institutions are not perfect, but they have been a force multiplier.  They reduce the need for unilateral American action and increase restraint among other nations. 

 

Now, just as the world has changed, this architecture must change as well.  At the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy spoke about the need for a peace based upon, “a gradual evolution in human institutions.”  And evolving these international institutions to meet the demands of today must be a critical part of American leadership. 

 

Now, there are a lot of folks, a lot of skeptics, who often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action.  For them, working through international institutions like the U.N. or respecting international law is a sign of weakness.  I think they’re wrong.  Let me offer just two examples why.

 

In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe.   But this isn’t the Cold War.  Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.  Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies; the IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy; OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine.  And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks.

 

This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions.  Yesterday, I spoke to their next President.  We don’t know how the situation will play out and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future without us firing a shot. 

 

Similarly, despite frequent warnings from the United States and Israel and others, the Iranian nuclear program steadily advanced for years.  But at the beginning of my presidency, we built a coalition that imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy, while extending the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian government.  And now we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. 

 

The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement — one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force.  And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side.

 

The point is this is American leadership.  This is American strength.  In each case, we built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge.  Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent problems from spreading.  For example, NATO is the strongest alliance the world has ever known.  But we’re now working with NATO allies to meet new missions, both within Europe where our Eastern allies must be reassured, but also beyond Europe’s borders where our NATO allies must pull their weight to counterterrorism and respond to failed states and train a network of partners.

 

Likewise, the U.N. provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict.  Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peacekeepers have the training and equipment to actually keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we’ve seen in Congo and Sudan.  We are going to deepen our investment in countries that support these peacekeeping missions, because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way.  It’s a smart investment.  It’s the right way to lead.  (Applause.) 

 

Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict.  We have a serious problem with cyber-attacks, which is why we’re working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and our citizens.  In the Asia Pacific, we’re supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on maritime disputes in the South China Sea.  And we’re working to resolve these disputes through international law.  That spirit of cooperation needs to energize the global effort to combat climate change — a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we are called on to respond to refugee flows and natural disasters and conflicts over water and food, which is why next year I intend to make sure America is out front in putting together a global framework to preserve our planet. 

 

You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.  We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else.  We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it’s taking place.  We can’t try to resolve problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by our United States Senate, despite the fact that our top military leaders say the treaty advances our national security.  That’s not leadership; that’s retreat.  That’s not strength; that’s weakness.  It would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.

 

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.  (Applause.)  And that’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo — because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence — because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens.  (Applause.)  America does not simply stand for stability or the absence of conflict, no matter what the cost.  We stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere. 

 

Which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership:  Our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity.  America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism — it is a matter of national security.  Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to go to war.  Economies based on free and open markets perform better and become markets for our goods.  Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.

 

A new century has brought no end to tyranny.  In capitals around the globe — including, unfortunately, some of America’s partners — there has been a crackdown on civil society.  The cancer of corruption has enriched too many governments and their cronies, and enraged citizens from remote villages to iconic squares.  And watching these trends, or the violent upheavals in parts of the Arab World, it’s easy to be cynical.

 

But remember that because of America’s efforts, because of American diplomacy and foreign assistance as well as the sacrifices of our military, more people live under elected governments today than at any time in human history.  Technology is empowering civil society in ways that no iron fist can control.  New breakthroughs are lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  And even the upheaval of the Arab World reflects the rejection of an authoritarian order that was anything but stable, and now offers the long-term prospect of more responsive and effective governance. 

 

In countries like Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests — from peace treaties with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism.  So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently press for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.

 

And meanwhile, look at a country like Burma, which only a few years ago was an intractable dictatorship and hostile to the United States — 40 million people.  Thanks to the enormous courage of the people in that country, and because we took the diplomatic initiative, American leadership, we have seen political reforms opening a once closed society; a movement by Burmese leadership away from partnership with North Korea in favor of engagement with America and our allies.  We’re now supporting reform and badly needed national reconciliation through assistance and investment, through coaxing and, at times, public criticism.  And progress there could be reversed, but if Burma succeeds we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot.  American leadership.

 

In each of these cases, we should not expect change to happen overnight.  That’s why we form alliances not just with governments, but also with ordinary people.  For unlike other nations, America is not afraid of individual empowerment, we are strengthened by it.  We’re strengthened by civil society.  We’re strengthened by a free press.  We’re strengthened by striving entrepreneurs and small businesses.  We’re strengthened by educational exchange and opportunity for all people, and women and girls.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we represent.  (Applause.)  

 

I saw that through a trip to Africa last year, where American assistance has made possible the prospect of an AIDS-free generation, while helping Africans care themselves for their sick.  We’re helping farmers get their products to market, to feed populations once endangered by famine.  We aim to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa so people are connected to the promise of the global economy.  And all this creates new partners and shrinks the space for terrorism and conflict. 

 

Now, tragically, no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped those girls.  And that’s why we have to focus not just on rescuing those girls right away, but also on supporting Nigerian efforts to educate its youth.  This should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development.  They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security.  It is part of what makes us strong.

 

Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty.  We have to be prepared for the worst, prepared for every contingency.  But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be — a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in a direction of justice.  And we cannot do that without you.

 

Class of 2014, you have taken this time to prepare on the quiet banks of the Hudson.  You leave this place to carry forward a legacy that no other military in human history can claim.  You do so as part of a team that extends beyond your units or even our Armed Forces, for in the course of your service you will work as a team with diplomats and development experts.  You’ll get to know allies and train partners.  And you will embody what it means for America to lead the world.

 

Next week, I will go to Normandy to honor the men who stormed the beaches there.  And while it’s hard for many Americans to comprehend the courage and sense of duty that guided those who boarded small ships, it’s familiar to you.  At West Point, you define what it means to be a patriot.

 

Three years ago, Gavin White graduated from this academy. He then served in Afghanistan.  Like the soldiers who came before him, Gavin was in a foreign land, helping people he’d never met, putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of his community and his family, of the folks back home.  Gavin lost one of his legs in an attack.  I met him last year at Walter Reed.  He was wounded, but just as determined as the day that he arrived here at West Point — and he developed a simple goal.  Today, his sister Morgan will graduate.  And true to his promise, Gavin will be there to stand and exchange salutes with her.  (Applause.) 

 

We have been through a long season of war.  We have faced trials that were not foreseen, and we’ve seen divisions about how to move forward.  But there is something in Gavin’s character, there is something in the American character that will always triumph.  Leaving here, you carry with you the respect of your fellow citizens.  You will represent a nation with history and hope on our side.  Your charge, now, is not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just.   As your Commander-in-Chief, I know you will.

 

May God bless you.  May God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

 

                        END                11:08 A.M. EDT

###

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

 

Organ Mountains

President Obama has just signed a proclamation designating almost 500,000 acres of the Potrillo Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas, Robledos Mountains and the surrounding desert in southern New Mexico as the nation’s newest monument — Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is the crown jewel of the Southern Rockies and is one of the most deserving iconic places in America to receive this designation. The monument is filled with majestic mountains, big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, rare plant species, petroglyph-lined canyons, the Apollo Mission training sites and historical events in western history that include people like Billy the Kid and Geronimo.

Iconic monument designations don’t happen every day. It’s important the president knows that when he protects America’s special places we have his back.

In addition to protecting invaluable landscapes, wildlife and cultural areas — economic studies show this designation has the potential to add more than $7.4 million in additional annual economic activity — doubling the number of jobs supported by outdoor recreation and tourism industry in the region. This is a win-win for the environment and the economy.

This designation also represents years of hard work by local communities and lawmakers to protect this region and is the president’s first large, iconic, landscape-scale monument designation. More than 15,000 New Mexicans submitted public comments in support of a monument, adding their voices to those of business leaders, elected officials, recreation, conservation, Native American and Latino groups and leaders like U.S. Senators Udall and Heinrich and retired Senator Bingaman.

Monument designation is an important tool the president has to protect our wilderness heritage. And thanks to years of hard work by people like you this beautiful landscape will forever be protected and enjoyed by future generations.

Thanks to President Obama for designating Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as our nation’s newest monument.

 

 

###

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

 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

- See more at: 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

Last updated on 20 May 2014,  RTCC. org (Responding to Climate Change)

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai.

- See more at: www.rtcc.org/2014/05/20/ban-ki-mo…

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

- See more at: www.rtcc.org/2014/05/20/ban-ki-mo…

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

- See more at: 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

- See more at: 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

- See more at:  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Archives, China, Obama Styling, Real World's News, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Europe

 

In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves.

 

 

Photo

Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visiting a Lukoil oil platform in the Caspian Sea in 2010. Credit RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin, via Pool, via Reuters

 

When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.

Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.

Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.

“It’s a big deal,” said Carol R. Saivetz, a Eurasian expert in the Security Studies Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia. It makes Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.”

Gilles Lericolais, the director of European and international affairs at France’s state oceanographic group, called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “so obvious” as a play for offshore riches.

In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said there was “no connection” between the annexation and energy resources, adding that Russia did not even care about the oil and gas. “Compared to all the potential Russia has got, there was no interest there,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies have already explored the Black Sea, and some petroleum analysts say its potential may rival that of the North Sea. That rush, which began in the 1970s, lifted the economies of Britain, Norway and other European countries.

William B. F. Ryan, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said Russia’s Black Sea acquisition gave it what are potentially “the best” of that body’s deep oil reserves.

Redividing the Black Sea.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea also gives Russia control of a large swath of the Black Sea, including deep oil reserves.

THE “BEFORE” and “AFTER” ECONOMIC ZONE MARITIME MAPS:

The RED is the newly acquired expanse.

 

 

Oil analysts said that mounting economic sanctions could slow Russia’s exploitation of its Black and Azov Sea annexations by reducing access to Western financing and technology. But they noted that Russia had already taken over the Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company, instantly giving Russia exploratory gear on the Black Sea.

“Russia’s in a mood to behave aggressively,” said Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a research group in Washington that follows Eurasian affairs. “It’s already seized two drilling rigs.”

The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea.

Nations divide up the world’s potentially lucrative waters according to guidelines set forth by the 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement lets coastal nations claim what are known as exclusive economic zones that can extend up to 200 nautical miles (or 230 statute miles) from their shores. Inside these zones, countries can explore, exploit, conserve and manage deep natural resources, living and nonliving.

The countries with shores along the Black Sea have long seen its floor as a potential energy source, mainly because of modest oil successes in shallow waters.

Just over two years ago, the prospects for huge payoffs soared when a giant ship drilling through deep bedrock off Romania found a large gas field in waters more than half a mile deep.

Russia moved fast.

In April 2012, Mr. Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, presided over the signing of an accord with Eni, the Italian energy giant, to explore Russia’s economic zone in the northeastern Black Sea. Dr. Ryan of Columbia estimated that the size of the zone before the Crimean annexation was roughly 26,000 square miles, about the size of Lithuania.

“I want to assure you that the Russian government will do everything to support projects of this kind,” Mr. Putin said at the signing, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

A month later, oil exploration specialists at a European petroleum conference made a lengthy presentation, the title of which asked: “Is the Black Sea the Next North Sea?” The paper cited geological studies that judged the waters off Ukraine as having “tremendous exploration potential” but saw the Russian zone as less attractive.

In August 2012, Ukraine announced an accord with an Exxon-led group to extract oil and gas from the depths of Ukraine’s Black Sea waters. The Exxon team had outbid Lukoil, a Russian company. Ukraine’s state geology bureau said development of the field would cost up to $12 billion.

“The Black Sea Hots Up,” read a 2013 headline in GEO ExPro, an industry magazine published in Britain. “Elevated levels of activity have become apparent throughout the Black Sea region,” the article said, “particularly in deepwater.”

When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.

Dr. Ryan estimates that the newly claimed maritime zone around Crimea added about 36,000 square miles to Russia’s existing holdings. The addition is more than three times the size of the Crimean landmass, and about the size of Maine.

At the time, few observers noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in those terms. An exception was Romania, whose Black Sea zone had been adjacent to Ukraine’s before Russia stepped in.

“Romania and Russia will be neighbors,” Romania Libera, a newspaper in Bucharest, observed on March 24. The article’s headline said the new maritime border could become a “potential source of conflict.”

Many nations have challenged Russia’s seizing of Crimea and thus the legality of its Black and Azov Sea claims. But the Romanian newspaper quoted analysts as judging that the other countries bordering the Black Sea — Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania — would tacitly recognize the annexation “in order to avoid an open conflict.”

Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.

Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.

As for oil extraction in the newly claimed maritime zones, companies say their old deals with Ukraine are in limbo, and analysts say new contracts are unlikely to be signed anytime soon, given the continuing turmoil in the region and the United States’ efforts to ratchet up pressure on Russia.

 

“There are huge issues at stake,” noted Dr. Saivetz of M.I.T. “I can’t see them jumping into new deals right now.”

The United States is using its wherewithal to block Russian moves in the maritime zones. Last month, it imposed trade restrictions on Chernomorneftegaz, the breakaway Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company.

Eric L. Hirschhorn, the United States under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said sanctions against the Crimean business would send “a strong message” of condemnation for Russia’s “incursion into Ukraine and expropriation of Ukrainian assets.”

 

Alexandra Odynova contributed reporting from Moscow.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)



U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods.

Declaring that the issue of human-induced climate change had “moved firmly into the present,” a major study released by the White House  found that water shortages, torrential rains, heat waves and wildfires were worsening.

——————————————————-

 

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE:

Climate Change- And President Obama’s Action Plan.

President Obama has announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

The National Climate Assessment:

Watch Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science & Technology, discuss the Report. 

On May 6, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy.
The report, a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, confirms that climate change is not a distant threat — it’s affecting us now.
Explore the report
—————————–

Due to climate change,

the weather is getting more extreme.


Temperatures are rising across the U.S.

Temperatures from 2001 to 2012 were warmer than any previous decade in every region of the United States. Explore this interactive map from the National Climate Assessment to learn more.

Globally, the 10 warmest years on record all occurred since 1998.

Source: NOAA

For the contiguous 48 states, 7 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.

Source: NOAA


2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation

Source: NOAA, U.S. Climate Extremes Index

Record Heat Across the U.S.

State-by-state temperatures in 2012 – graphs provided.

Also in 2012:

Warmest Year on Record for the U.S.

Doesn’t include Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. territories.

Source: NOAA

Record High Temperatures Tied or Broken

One-third of the U.S. Population experienced 100 degree F temperature

Above Average

6th-10th Warmest Year on Record

2nd-5th Warmest Year on Record

Warmest Year on Record

Source: National Climate Data Center/NESDIS/NOAAV

Doesn’t include Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. territories.


Droughts, Wildfires, and Floods are all more frequent and intense

Precipitation was 2.57 inches below the 20th Century Average

Source: NOAA

15th driest year on record

Source: NOAA

Wildfires burned more than 9.3 million U.S. acres

Source: National Interagency coordination center


Extreme weather comes at a cost

Climate and weather disasters in 2012 alone cost the American economy more than $100 billion



$30 Billion

U.S. drought/heatwave

Estimated across the U.S.

$65 Billion

Superstorm Sandy

Estimated

$11.1 Billion

Combined severe weather

Estimated for incidents across the U.S.


$1 Billion

Western wildfires

Estimated

$2.3 Billion

Hurricane Isaac

Estimated

There are also public health threats associated with extreme weather

Children, the elderly, and the poor are most vulnerable to a range of climate-related health effects, including those related to heat stress, air pollution, extreme weather events, and diseases carried by food, water, and insects.


We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgement of science — and act before it’s too late.”
- President Obama


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

We’re still contributing to the problem

Carbon pollution is the biggest
driver of climate change


Global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are on the rise

The global annual average temperature has increased by more than 1.5 degrees F between 1880 and 2012. This interactive graph from the National Climate Assessment shows the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the same time period. Climate scientists say we need to avert an additional 2-degree temperature increase to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.


U.S. greenhouse gas pollution includes:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 82%

Enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement).

Fluorinated gases, 3%

Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O), 6%

Emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.

Methane (CH4), 9%

Emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil as well as from landfils.

Source: EPA

We’ve made progress thanks to:

Stronger Fuel Economy Standards

We set the highest fuel economy standards in American history that will double the efficiency of our cars and trucks by 2025.

INCREASING CLEAN ENERGY

Since President Obama took office, the U.S. increased solar generation by more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.

Decreased Carbon Pollution

In 2012, U.S. greenhouse gas pollution fell to the lowest level in nearly 20 years.

Renewable Energy and Efficiency Targets

35 states have renewable energy targets in place, and more than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.


But we have more work to do.


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

The President’s Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution in America

Reducing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants

Power plants are the largest major source of emissions in the U.S., together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas pollution.

PROGRESS:

In September 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

PROGRESS:

EPA has met with more than 300 stakeholder groups from across the country to gather information on standards for existing power plants.


Continuing the momentum for the future:

Accelerating Clean Energy Leadership

During the President’s first term, the United States more than doubled generation of electricity from wind and solar energy.

PROGRESS:

The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced permitting the 50th utility-scale renewable energy project on public lands. The projects could support more than 20,000 jobs and generate enough electricity to power 4.8 million homes.

PROGRESS:

Since President Obama took office, the U.S. increased solar generation by more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.


Continuing the momentum for the future:

Building a 21st Century Clean Energy Infrastructure

Heavy-duty vehicles (commercial trucks, vans, and buses) are currently the second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution within the transportation sector.


PROGRESS:

In January 2014, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the Federal government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process, with an initial focus on our nation’s energy infrastructure.

PROGRESS:

In February 2014, President Obama directed EPA and DOT to develop and issue the next phase of heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016.

PROGRESS:

In 2011, the Administration finalized fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. This will reduce green-house gas emissions by about 270 million metric tons and save 530 million barrels of oil.

PROGRESS:

The Administration has already established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history. These standards require an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.


Continuing the momentum for the future:

Cutting energy waste in homes, businesses, and factories

Energy efficiency is one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution.


PROGRESS:

Since June more than 50 multifamily housing partners – representing roughly 200,000 units and over 190 million square feet – have joined the President’s Better Buildings Challenge.

PROGRESS:

In President Obama’s first term, DOE and HUD completed efficiency upgrades in nearly two million homes, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.

PROGRESS:

In December 2013, the Department of Agriculture announced it will provide up to $250 million to help business and residential customers in rural areas cut their energy bills through energy efficiency and renewable energy use.

PROGRESS:

Since June, DOE has issued nine proposed and five final energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment. If finalized and combined with rules already issued, the energy savings will help cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.


Continuing the momentum for the future:

Reducing other greenhouse gas emissions

Emissions of Hydrofluorocardons (HFCs) — which are potent greehouse gases — are expected to double by 2020 and nearly triple by 2030 in the U.S.

PROGRESS:

Since 1990, methane emissions have decreased by 11% in part through partnerships with industry.

PROGRESS:

In March 2014, the Administration released a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems through voluntary actions and common-sense standards.


Continuing the momentum for the future:

Federal leadership

Since 2008, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas pollution by more than 17 percent — the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road.

PROGRESS:

In December 2011, President Obama signed a memorandum challenging federal agencies to enter into $2 billion worth of performance contracts for building energy efficiency within two-years.

PROGRESS:

On December 5, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the federal government to buy at least 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.


Continuing the momentum for the future:


Even as we take new steps to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country.


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

The President’s Plan Will

Prepare for the impacts of climate change

Moving forward, the Obama Administration will help states, cities, and towns build stronger communities and infrastructure, protect critical sectors of our economy as well as our natural resources, and use sound science to better understand and manage climate impacts.

Assess the Impacts of Climate Change

GOALS

Provide an assessment of climate change impacts on the United States that translates scientific insights into practical knowledge that can help decision-makers prepare for specific impacts.

PROGRESS:

On May 6, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy. The NCA serves as a critical resource for informing climate preparedness and response decisions across the Nation.


Support climate-resilient investments

GOALS

Remove policy barriers, modernize programs, and establish a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the federal government can take to support local and state efforts to prepare for climate change.

PROGRESS:

Federal agencies are working to ensure grants, technical assistance, and other programs support smarter, more resilient investments.

PROGRESS:

Established the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which is made up of 26 Governors, county executives, mayors and tribal leaders.


Rebuild and learn from Superstorm Sandy

GOALS

Pilot innovative strategies in the Superstorm Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts and update flood risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects.

PROGRESS:

From HUD grants and DOT funding for resilient transit systems to a DOI competition for support for coastal resilience projects, over $10B in Sandy recovery funds is being used to increase resilience.

PROGRESS:

On August 19 the Hurricane Sandy Task Force delivered a rebuilding strategy that is serving as a model for communities across the nation.


Launch an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals

GOALS

Establish a public-private partnership on increasing resilience of the health care industry.

PROGRESS:

HHS is on track to release a resource packet in fall 2014 providing best practices for increasing the resilience of healthcare facilities.


Maintain Agriculture Productivity

GOALS

Deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help them understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

PROGRESS:

USDA established seven new “regional climate hubs” to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate.


Provide tools for Climate Resilience

GOALS

Include existing and newly developed climate preparedness tools and information that state, local and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.

PROGRESS:

In March 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Data Initiative, bringing together extensive open government data and innovation competitions to develop data-driven resilience tools for communities.


Reduce Risk of Droughts and Wildfires

GOALS

Make it easier for communities to get the assistance they need to adapt to drier conditions.

PROGRESS:

Launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership and released the National Wildfire Cohesive Strategy.


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

Because climate change spans international borders, the President’s plan will also

Lead international efforts to address global climate change

America will continue to take on a leadership role in engaging the world’s major economies to advance key climate priorities and in galvanizing global action through international climate negotiations. The plan will:

WORK WITH OTHER COUNTRIES TO TAKE ACTION TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE

Lead public sector financing toward cleaner energy

PROGRESS:

The President put forth an initiative to end public financing for new coal-fired power plants overseas, except in rare circumstances. Following the lead of the U.S., other nations—including the U.K., the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries—have joined the initiative.


 

Bilat cooperation with major economies

PROGRESS:

President Obama has made climate change a key issue in some of our most important bilateral relations, including China and India. Together, we are making progress around issue areas such as vehicle emissions standards, energy efficiency, and clean energy initiatives.


 

Expand clean energy use and cut energy waste

PROGRESS:

Facilitating the transition to a global clean energy economy, the U.S. Department of Energy is leading the Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum that promotes policies and programs aimed at scaling up energy efficiency and clean energy.


 

COMBAT SHORT-LIVED CLIMATE POLLUTANTS

PROGRESS:

Building on the breakthrough June 2013 agreement on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by President Obama and China’s President Xi, G-20 leaders in September 2013 expressed support for using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs.

PROGRESS:

The U.S. continues to spearhead the Climate and Clean Air Coalition which has expanded to 88 partners, including 39 countries. The Coalition is implementing ten initiatives to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs, and black carbon.


 

Reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

PROGRESS:

In November 2013, the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. launched a public-private partnership to support forests in developing countries, with the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and promoting sustainable agriculture.


 

NEGOTIATE GLOBAL FREE TRADE IN ENVIRONMENTAL GOODS AND SERVICES

PROGRESS:

In January 2014, a U.S.-led coalition of countries—representing 86% of global trade in environmental goods—announced plans to launch talks aimed at eliminating tariffs on a wide range of environmental goods under the World Trade Organization.


 

ENHANCE MULTILATERAL ENGAGEMENT WITH MAJOR ECONOMIES

PROGRESS:

The United States continues to play an active role in shaping the design of a new global climate agreement due in 2015, including through our chairmanship of the major economies forum on energy and climate.


 

Mobilize climate finance

PROGRESS:

In April 2014, the U.S., U.K., and Germany announced the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, a public-private platform designed to spur private-sector investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure in developing countries.


 

Lead efforts to address climate change through international negotiations

The United State has made historic progress in the international climate negotiations during the past four years.

Moving Forward

The U.S. has committed to expand major new and existing international initiatives, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries.

We will lead global public sector financing toward cleaner energy by ending U.S. government financial support for new coal-fired power plants overseas, with limited exceptions.


###

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

 

 

Europe

 

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

 

 

Photo

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ————————————

———————————-

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

Major Gas Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Ukraine Crisis in Maps

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————–

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

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

———————————

comment from: orbit7er

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————–

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

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

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

———————————–

And Vienna is again the Center of Europe!

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

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

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

 

###

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

 

The Opinion Page – A New York TimesEditorial

 

Running Out of Time

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

——————-

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Photo

Credit Scott Menchin

 

 

WHAT can Washington, D.C., learn from a Buddhist monk?

Arthur C. Burns writes: In early 2013, I traveled with two colleagues to Dharamsala, India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. His Holiness has lived there since being driven from his Tibetan homeland by the Chinese government in 1959. From his outpost in the Himalayan foothills, he anchored the Tibetan government until 2011 and continues to serve as a spiritual shepherd for hundreds of millions of people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Very early one morning during the visit, I was invited to meditate with the monks. About an hour had passed when hunger pangs began, but I worked hard to ignore them. It seemed to me that such earthly concerns had no place in the superconscious atmosphere of the monastery.

Incorrect. Not a minute later, a basket of freshly baked bread made its way down the silent line, followed by a jar of peanut butter with a single knife. We ate breakfast in silence, and resumed our meditation. This, I soon learned, is the Dalai Lama in a nutshell: transcendence and pragmatism together. Higher consciousness and utter practicality rolled into one.

That same duality was on display in February when the Dalai Lama joined a two-day summit at my institution, the American Enterprise Institute. At first, his visit caused confusion. Some people couldn’t imagine why he would visit us; as Vanity Fair asked in a headline, “Why Was the Dalai Lama Hanging Out with the Right-Wing American Enterprise Institute?”

There was no dissonance, though, because the Dalai Lama’s teaching defies freighted ideological labels. During our discussions, he returned over and over to two practical yet transcendent points.

First, his secret to human flourishing is the development of every individual.
In his own words: “Where does a happy world start?
From government? No.
From United Nations? No.
From individual.”

But his second message made it abundantly clear that he did not advocate an every-man-for-himself economy.

He insisted that while free enterprise could be a blessing, it was not guaranteed to be so.

Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing.

As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness.

Only activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being, he declared, could be truly “constructive.”

Tibetan Buddhists actually count wealth among the four factors in a happy life, along with worldly satisfaction, spirituality and enlightenment.

Money per se is not evil. For the Dalai Lama, the key question is whether “we utilize our favorable circumstances, such as our good health or wealth, in positive ways, in helping others.”

There is much for Americans to absorb here.

Advocates of free enterprise must remember that the system’s moral core is neither profits nor efficiency. It is creating opportunity for individuals who need it the most.

Historically, free enterprise has done this to astonishing effect. In a remarkable paper, Maxim Pinkovskiy of M.I.T. and Xavier Sala-i-Martin of Columbia University calculate that the fraction of the world’s population living on a dollar a day — after adjusting for inflation — plummeted by 80 percent between 1970 and 2006. This is history’s greatest antipoverty achievement.

But while free enterprise keeps expanding globally, its success may be faltering in the United States. According to research from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, men in their 30s in 2004 were earning 12 percent less in real terms than their fathers’ generation at the same point in their lives. That was before the financial crisis, the Great Recession, and years of federal policies that have done a great deal for the wealthy and well-connected but little to lift up the bottom half.

The solution does not lie in the dubious “fair share” class-baiting of politicians. We need to combine an effective, reliable safety net for the poor with a hard look at modern barriers to upward mobility. That means attacking cronyism that protects the well-connected. It means lifting poor children out of ineffective schools that leave them unable to compete. It entails pruning back outmoded licensing laws that restrain low-income entrepreneurs. And it means creating real solutions — not just proposing market distortions — for people who cannot find jobs that pay enough to support their families.

In other words, Washington needs to be more like the Dalai Lama. Without abandoning principles, we need practical policies based on moral empathy. Tackling these issues may offend entrenched interests, but this is immaterial. It must be done. And temporary political discomfort pales in comparison with the suffering that vulnerable people bear every day.

At one point in our summit, I deviated from the suffering of the poor and queried the Dalai Lama about discomfort in his own life. “Your Holiness,” I asked, “what gives you suffering?” I expected something quotably profound, perhaps about the loss of his homeland. Instead, he thought for a moment, loosened his maroon robe slightly, and once again married the practical with the rhapsodic.

“Right now,” he said, “I am a little hot.”

—————————–
THE DALAI LAMA MARRIES THE PRACTICAL WITH THE RHAPSODIC!

________________

 

Arthur C. Brooks, a contributing opinion writer, is the president of the American Enterprise Institute.

 

###

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

 

IPCC Approves Third Contribution to its Fifth Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————————–

Some Comments

dave commenter

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

Sten Deadio

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

Capt. Penny

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

——————

 

###

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

 

 

Photo

High tide in Kiribati, an island nation seen as especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, like rising sea levels. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

 

 

WASHINGTON — A sweeping new study on the effects of climate change — which the report says is already disrupting the lives and livelihoods of the poorest people across the planet — creates a diplomatic challenge for President Obama, who hopes to make action on both climate change and economic inequality hallmarks of his legacy.

The report, published this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concludes that the world’s poorest people will suffer the most as temperatures rise, with many of them already contending with food and water shortages, higher rates of disease and premature death, and the violent conflicts that result from those problems.

 

 

Countries like Bangladesh and several in sub-Saharan Africa that are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change say the report strengthens their demand for “climate justice” — in other words, money, and plenty of it — from the world’s richest economies and corporations, which they blame for the problem.

  Video

Play Video
Video|1:11  — Credit Christopher Jue/European Pressphoto Agency

Panel on U.N. Climate Change Report

Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Christopher Field, the co-chairman of the group that wrote the report, discuss its warning.

 

Those countries and nongovernmental organizations point to a 2009 pledge by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to create a $100 billion annual climate fund for poor countries by 2020. The World Bank justified such an expenditure in a 2010 report concluding that it would take up to $100 billion a year to offset the ravages of climate change on poor countries.

Climate policy experts say that the United States, as the world’s largest economy, would be expected to provide $20 billion to $30 billion of that annual fund.

That puts Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been working aggressively behind the scenes to forge a United Nations climate change treaty in 2015, in a tough position.

But both men know there is no chance that a Congress focused on cutting domestic spending and jump-starting the economy will enact legislation agreeing to a huge increase in so-called climate aid. Since 2010, the Obama administration has spent about $2.5 billion a year to help foreign countries adapt to climate change and adopt low-carbon energy technology.

It will be a stretch even to continue that level of spending. Many Republicans, who control the House and have a chance to gain the Senate this fall, question whether climate change is real.

“If the White House actually wants something like this, it should begin by building support among congressional Democrats, but — at this point — I don’t see any real signs of support from House or Senate Democratic leaders at all,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.

Vulnerable nations, emboldened by the new United Nations report, are demanding more, not less, from the United States.

Ronald Jean Jumeau, the United Nations ambassador from the island nation of Seychelles, and a spokesman for the Alliance of Small Island States, compared the proposed fund with the amount of money Congress approved after Hurricane Sandy.

“We know that $100 billion is not going to be enough,” Mr. Jumeau said. “After Sandy, Congress voted for $60 billion in recovery for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — for one storm. It shows you how much $100 billion is going to cover.”

Photographs

Rising Seas

Some areas of the globe are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and inhabitants are being forced to make stark changes in their lives.

OPEN Photographs

 

“The science is getting better, and it tells us things are getting worse for us,” he added. “And the money is not coming. The window is starting to close on Mr. Obama’s ability to broker a treaty that could significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution in time to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change. This fall, at the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders will meet to put offers on the table for a climate change pact, a mix of commitments to cut fossil fuel pollution at home and provide money to poor countries to adapt. A few months later, at a two-week summit meeting in Lima, Peru, they will negotiate a draft of a final treaty that is set to be signed next year in Paris and take effect in 2020.

Diplomats say the new report has increased pressure on governments to reach a climate deal.

“By underscoring impacts and vulnerabilities, the report makes clear the urgency for strong action to reduce emissions and build greater resilience,” said Todd D. Stern, the State Department’s chief climate change negotiator.

In a speech in London last fall, Mr. Stern made clear that there was no chance that the United States would finance most of any climate adaptation fund with taxpayer dollars. “The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it,” he said. Mr. Stern and others say the bulk of that money will have to come from private investors and corporations.

Nongovernmental organizations say that relying chiefly on the private sector will not be enough, especially as food supplies grow short. “The scientists could not have been more clear, particularly in the area of food security,” said Timothy Gore, an analyst for Oxfam, the antipoverty group. “There is no government that’s going to be able to stick around very long if the price of bread keeps going up, if they can’t feed their people.”

“I challenge anyone in the U.S. government to explain how the private sector is going to invest in what’s needed on the ground, like funding farmers in the Sahel region facing crop loss from changing rainfall patterns,” Mr. Gore said, referring to the area of Africa just south of the Sahara.

Hanging over the coming negotiations will be the specter of the failed 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Vice President Al Gore promised in those talks that the United States would act on climate change, only to have the Senate refuse to ratify that treaty. At a 2009 climate summit meeting in Copenhagen, Mr. Obama promised that Congress would soon pass a sweeping climate change bill. Just months later, the bill died in the Senate.

Mr. Obama is now trying to bolster his credibility on the issue by flexing his executive authority and acting without Congress. His administration is moving ahead with aggressive new Environmental Protection Agency regulations to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. At talks around the world, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Stern have sought to persuade other nations that, this time, the United States will be able to keep its commitments, since they do not require action from Congress.

The United States’ inability to offer more substantial aid to countries that did little to cause global warming will probably remain a major sticking point with developing nations, including India and China.

Still, Connie Hedegaard, the European Union commissioner for climate action, said she hoped that could eventually be overcome: “I think the $100 billion mark can be reached. It was understood in Copenhagen that it had to be a mix of public and private money. I think vulnerable groups — families in Bangladesh or the Philippines — don’t care whether a dollar coming their way is public or private.”

A version of this news analysis appears in print on April 1, 2014, on page A3 of the New York edition with the headline: Climate Study Puts Diplomatic Pressure on Obama.

 

 

Related Coverage

 

 

###

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

 

 

Photo

A worker at a hydraulic fracturing operation in Rifle, Colo. Natural gas production releases methane, which contributes to greenhouse gas pollution. Credit Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

 

 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday announced a strategy to start slashing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas released by landfills, cattle, and leaks from oil and natural gas production.

The methane strategy is the latest step in a series of White House actions aimed at addressing climate change without legislation from Congress. Individually, most of the steps will not be enough to drastically reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming. But the Obama administration hopes that collectively they will build political support for more substantive domestic actions while signaling to other countries that the United States is serious about tackling global warming.

 

In a 2009 United Nations climate change accord, President Obama pledged that by 2020 the United States would lower its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels. “This methane strategy is one component, one set of actions to get there,” Dan Utech, the president’s special assistant for energy and climate change, said on Friday in a phone call with reporters.

Environmental advocates have long urged the Obama administration to target methane emissions. Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.

And methane emissions are projected to increase in the United States, as the nation enjoys a boom in oil and natural gas production, thanks to breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing technology. A study published in the journal Science last month found that methane is leaking from oil and natural gas drilling sites and pipelines at rates 50 percent higher than previously thought. As he works to tackle climate change, Mr. Obama has generally supported the natural gas production boom, since natural gas, when burned for electricity, produces just half the greenhouse gas pollution of coal-fired electricity.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have campaigned against the boom in natural gas production, warning that it could lead to dangerous levels of methane pollution, undercutting the climate benefits of gas. The oil and gas industry has resisted pushes to regulate methane leaks from production, saying it could slow that down.

A White House official said on Friday that this spring, the Environmental Protection Agency would assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector, and that by this fall the agency “will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources.” If the E.P.A. decides to develop additional regulations, it would complete them by the end of 2016 — just before Mr. Obama leaves office.

 

Among the steps the administration announced on Friday to address methane pollution:

-  The Interior Department will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands.

-  In April, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management will begin to gather public comment on the development of a program for the capture and sale of methane produced by coal mines on lands leased by the ederal government.

-  This summer, the E.P.A. will propose updated standards to reduce methane emissions from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.

-  In June, the Agriculture Department, the Energy Department and the E.P.A. will release a joint “biogas road map” aimed at accelerating adoption of methane digesters, machines that reduce methane emissions from cattle, in order to cut dairy-sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

Advocates of climate action generally praised the plan. “Cutting methane emissions will be especially critical to climate protection as the U.S. develops its huge shale gas reserves, gaining the full greenhouse gas benefit from the switch away from coal,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former White House climate change aide under President Bill Clinton, now with the German Marshall Fund.

Howard J. Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil and gas companies, said he hoped the steps would not lead to new regulations on his industry. “We think regulation is not necessary at this time,” he said. “People are using a lot more natural gas in the country, and that’s reducing greenhouse gas.”

Since cattle flatulence and manure are a significant source of methane, farmers have long been worried that a federal methane control strategy could place a burden on them. But Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that his group was pleased that, for now, the administration’s proposals to reduce methane from cattle were voluntary.

“All indications are that it’s voluntary,” he said, “but we do see increased potential for scrutiny for us down the line, which would cause concern.”

—————————

Related Coverage:

slideshow

Photographs: Rising Seas,

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

 

Asia Pacific

Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land:

Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change

Bangladesh, with its low elevation and severe tropical storms, is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though it has contributed little to the emissions that are driving it. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.

Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.

Play Video
Video|0:35

Home in the Delta — Like many of her neighbors, Nasrin Khatun, unrelated to Jahanara Khatun, navigates daily life in a disappearing landscape.

As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.

Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.

Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.

“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”

The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.

A woman stood where her house was before Cyclone Aila destroyed it in 2009. Scientists expect rising sea levels to submerge 17 percent of Bangladesh’s land and displace 18 million people in the next 40 years. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.

“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist. “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.”

River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In this delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal.

A Perilous Position

Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.

Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem.

The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.

Bangladeshis have already started to move away from the lowest-lying villages in the river deltas of the Bay of Bengal, scientists in Bangladesh say. People move for many reasons, and urbanization is increasing across South Asia, but rising tides are a big factor. Dr. Rahman’s research group has made a rough estimate from small surveys that as many as 1.5 million of the five million slum inhabitants in Dhaka, the capital, moved from villages near the Bay of Bengal.

The slums that greet them in Dhaka are also built on low-lying land, making them almost as vulnerable to being inundated as the land villagers left behind.

Ms. Khatun and her neighbors have lived through deadly cyclones — a synonym here for hurricane — and have seen the salty rivers chew through villages and poison fields. Rising seas are increasingly intruding into rivers, turning fresh water brackish. Even routine flooding then leaves behind salt deposits that can render land barren.

Making matters worse, much of what the Bangladeshi government is doing to stave off the coming deluge — raising levees, dredging canals, pumping water — deepens the threat of inundation in the long term, said John Pethick, a former professor of coastal science at Newcastle University in England who has spent much of his retirement studying Bangladesh’s predicament. Rich nations are not the only ones to blame, he said.

In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.

“The reaction among Bangladeshi government officials has been to tell me that I must be wrong,” he said. “That’s completely understandable, but it also means they have no hope of preparing themselves.”

Dr. Rahman said that he did not disagree with Mr. Pethick’s findings, but that no estimate was definitive. Other scientists have predicted more modest rises. For example, Robert E. Kopp, an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute at Rutgers University, said that data from nearby Kolkata, India, suggested that seas in the region could rise five to six feet by 2100.

“There is no doubt that preparations within Bangladesh have been utterly inadequate, but any such preparations are bound to fail because the problem is far too big for any single government,” said Tariq A. Karim, Bangladesh’s ambassador to India. “We need a regional and, better yet, a global solution. And if we don’t get one soon, the Bangladeshi people will soon become the world’s problem, because we will not be able to keep them.”

Mr. Karim estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis would flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rose as expected.

Continue reading the main story
Disappearing Land

Losing Everything

Already, signs of erosion are everywhere in the Ganges Delta — the world’s largest delta, which empties much of the water coming from the Himalayas. There are brick foundations torn in half, palm trees growing out of rivers and rangy cattle grazing on island pastures the size of putting greens. Fields are dusted white with salt.

Even without climate change, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable places in the world to bad weather: The V-shaped Bay of Bengal funnels cyclones straight into the country’s fan-shaped coastline.

Some scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather worldwide, including stronger and more frequent cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. And rising seas will make any storm more dangerous because flooding will become more likely.

Bangladesh has done much to protect its population by creating an early-warning system and building at least 2,500 concrete storm shelters. The result has been a vast reduction in storm-related deaths. While Cyclone Bhola in 1970 killed as many as 550,000 people, Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed 300. The deadliest part of the storm was the nearly 10-foot wall of water that roared through villages in the middle of the afternoon.

The poverty of people like Ms. Khatun makes them particularly vulnerable to storms. When Aila hit, Ms. Khatun was home with her husband, parents and four children. A nearby berm collapsed, and their mud and bamboo hut washed away in minutes. Unable to save her belongings, Ms. Khatun put her youngest child on her back and, with her husband, fought through surging waters to a high road. Her parents were swept away.

“After about a kilometer, I managed to grab a tree,” said Abddus Satter, Ms. Khatun’s father. “And I was able to help my wife grab on as well. We stayed on that tree for hours.”

The couple eventually shifted to the roof of a nearby hut. The family reunited on the road the next day after the children spent a harrowing night avoiding snakes that had sought higher ground, too. They drank rainwater until rescuers arrived a day or two later with bottled water, food and other supplies.

The ordeal took a severe toll on Ms. Khatun’s husband, whose health soon deteriorated. To pay for his treatment and the cost of rebuilding their hut, the family borrowed money from a loan shark. In return, Ms. Khatun and her three older children, then 10, 12 and 15, promised to work for seven months in a nearby brickmaking factory. She later sold her 11- and 13-year-old children to the owner of another brick factory, this one in Dhaka, for $450 to pay more debts. Her husband died four years after the storm.

In an interview, one of her sons, Mamun Sardar, now 14, said he worked from dawn to dusk carrying newly made bricks to the factory oven.

He said he missed his mother, “but she lives far away.”


Play Video
Video|0:35

A Day’s Work:  At a brickmaking factory in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, Mamun Sardar works long hours to pay his family’s debts.

Impossible Hopes

Discussions about the effects of climate change in the Ganges Delta often become community events. In the village of Choto Jaliakhali, where Ms. Khatun lives, dozens of people said they could see that the river was rising. Several said they had been impoverished by erosion, which has cost many villagers their land.

Muhammad Moktar Ali said he could not think about the next storm because all he had in the world was his hut and village. “We don’t know how to support ourselves if we lost this,” he said, gesturing to his gathered neighbors. “It is God who will help us survive.”

Surveys show that residents of the delta do not want to migrate, Dr. Rahman said. Moving to slums in already-crowded cities is their least preferred option.

But cities have become the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which is now the source of 80 percent of the country’s exports, 45 percent of its industrial employment and 15 percent of its gross domestic product.

Photographs

Rising Seas

Some areas of the globe are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and inhabitants are being forced to make stark changes in their lives.

OPEN Photographs

In the weeks after the storm, the women of Dakope found firewood by wading into the raging river and pushing their toes into the muddy bottom. They walked hours to buy drinking water. After rebuilding the village’s berm and their own hut, Shirin Aktar and her husband, Bablu Gazi, managed to get just enough of a harvest to survive from their land, which has become increasingly infertile from salt water. Some plots that once sustained three harvests can now support just one; others are entirely barren.

After two hungry years, the couple gave up on farming and moved to the Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, leaving their two children behind with Mr. Gazi’s mother.

Mr. Gazi found work immediately as a day laborer, mostly digging foundations. Ms. Aktar searched for a job as a seamstress, but headaches and other slum-induced health problems have so incapacitated her that the couple is desperate to return to Dakope.

“I don’t want to stay here for too long,” Mr. Gazi said. “If we can save some money, then we’ll go back. I’ll work on a piece of land and try to make it fertile again.”

But the chances of finding fertile land in his home village, where the salty rivers have eaten away acre upon acre, are almost zero.

Dozens of people gathered in the narrow mud alley outside Mr. Gazi’s room as he spoke. Some told similar stories of storms, loss and hope, and many nodded as Mr. Gazi spoke of his dreams of returning to his doomed village.

“All of us came here because of erosions and cyclones,” said Noakhali, a hollow-eyed 30-year-old with a single name who was wearing the traditional skirt of the delta. “Not one of us actually wants to live here.”

——————————————

Produced by Catherine Spangler, David Furst, Hannah Fairfield, Jacqueline Myint, Jeremy White and Shreeya Sinha.

A version of this article appears in print on March 29, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: As Seas Rise, Millions Cling to Borrowed Time and Dying Land.

 

###

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

 

What Would Plato Tweet?

Probably less about what he had for lunch. And more about justice and wisdom.

The Stone

[ The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. ]

It began when a writer friend asked me what my Klout score was. We were sitting at the sushi bar of a Japanese restaurant, the master chef assembling edible origami of torched fish and foam. My husband and I used to patronize this neighborhood place quite a lot, until a restaurant critic ruined it for us by his unrestrained rave, so that now you have to make reservations months in advance. But my friend had magically procured us two seats just like that, and when I asked him for the secret of his influence he responded by asking me about my Klout score.

I didn’t know what a Klout score was, but I was pretty sure I didn’t have one. And yes, under his raised-eyebrow questioning, it was revealed that since I didn’t use Facebook or Twitter or any of the other social media by which a website called Klout calculates your online influence, my score was probably low to nonexistent.

Perhaps studying the ancient Greeks might give me perspective on today’s social-media obsession.

On either side of us, diners were pointing their cellphones at their plates, taking pictures to be posted on their Facebook pages or Instagram accounts. I knew that’s what they were doing. People have taken to putting themselves out there in all kinds of ways, producing — in words, pictures, videos — the shared stories of their lives as they are transpiring. They disseminate their thoughts and deeds, large and small (sometimes very small), in what can seem like a perpetual plea for attention. I wasn’t that out of touch that I didn’t know about the large cultural changes that had overtaken our society while my attention was directed elsewhere.

The elsewhere was ancient Greece. For the past few years I’d been obsessed with trying to figure out what lay behind the spectacular achievements that had occurred there. In a mere couple of centuries, Greek speakers went from anomie and illiteracy, lacking even an alphabet, to Aeschylus and Aristotle. They invented not only the discipline of philosophy, but also science, mathematics, the study of history (as opposed to mere chronicles) and that special form of government they called democracy — literally rule of the people (though it goes without saying that “the people” didn’t include women and slaves). They also produced timeless art, architecture, poetry and drama. What lay behind the explosive ambition and achievement? I’d always planned eventually to catch up on the changes that were going on all around me — once I’d gotten the ancient Greeks out of my system.

Only now did it occur to me that I might be able to arrive at some contemporary perspective precisely because I hadn’t gotten the Greeks out of my system. Parallels between their extraordinary time and our extraordinary time were suddenly making themselves felt.

For starters, the Klout on which my friend prided himself struck me as markedly similar to what the Greeks had called kleos. The word comes from the old Homeric word for “I hear,” and it meant a kind of auditory renown. Vulgarly speaking, it was fame. But it also could mean the glorious deed that merited the fame, as well as the poem that sang of the deed and so produced the fame. The medium, the message, and the impact: all merged into one shining concept.

Kleos lay very near the core of the Greek value system. Their value system was at least partly motivated, as perhaps all value systems are partly motivated, by the human need to feel as if our lives matter. A little perspective, which the Greeks certainly had, reveals what brief and feeble things our lives are. As the old Jewish joke has it, the food here is terrible — and such small portions! What can we do to give our lives a moreness that will help withstand the eons of time that will soon cover us over, blotting out the fact that we ever existed at all? Really, why did we bother to show up for our existence in the first place? The Greek speakers were as obsessed with this question as we are.

Like us, the Greeks wanted to make their lives matter. And like a Twitter user, they did so by courting the attention of other mortals.

And like so many of us now, they approached this question secularly. Despite their culture’s being saturated with religious rituals, they didn’t turn to their notoriously unreliable immortals for assurance that they mattered. They didn’t really want immortal attention. Something terrible usually happened when they attracted a divine eye. That’s what all those rituals were trying to prevent. Rather, what they wanted was the attention of other mortals. All that we can do to enlarge our lives, they concluded, is to strive to make of them things worth the telling, the stuff of stories that will make an impact on other mortal minds, so that, being replicated there, our lives will take on moreness. The more outstanding you were, the more mental replication of you there would be, and the more replication, the more you mattered.

Not everybody back then was approaching this question of mattering in mortal terms. Contemporaneous with the Greeks, and right across the Mediterranean from them, was a still obscure tribe that called themselves the Ivrim, the Hebrews, apparently from their word for “over,” since they were over on the other side of the Jordan. And over there they worked out their notion of a covenantal relationship with one of their tribal gods whom they eventually elevated to the position of the one and only God, the Master of the Universe, providing the foundation for both the physical world without and the moral world within. From his position of remotest transcendence, this god nevertheless maintains a rapt interest in human concerns, harboring many intentions directed at us, his creations, who embody nothing less than his reasons for going to the trouble of creating the world ex nihilo. He takes us (almost) as seriously as we take us. Having your life replicated in his all-seeing, all-judging mind, terrifying as the thought might be, would certainly confer a significant quantity of moreness.

And then there was a third approach to the problem of mattering, which also emerged in ancient Greece. It, too, was secular, approaching the problem in strictly mortal terms. I’m speaking about Greek philosophy, which was Greek enough to buy into the kleos-like assumption that none of us are born into mattering but rather have to achieve it (“the unexamined life is not worth living”) and that the achievement does indeed demand outsize ambition and effort, requiring you to make of yourself something extraordinary. But Greek philosophy also represented a departure from its own culture. Mattering wasn’t acquired by gathering attention of any kind, mortal or immortal. Acquiring mattering was something people had to do for themselves, cultivating such virtuous qualities of character as justice and wisdom. They had to put their own souls in order. This demands hard work, since simply to understand the nature of justice and wisdom, which is the first order of business, taxes our limits, not to speak of then acting on our conclusions. And the effort may not win us any kleos. Socrates got himself a cupful of hemlock. He drank it calmly, unperturbed by his low ratings.

The divergent Greek and Hebrew approaches went into the mix that is Western culture, often clashing but sometimes also tempering one another. Over the centuries, philosophy, perhaps aided by religion, learned to abandon entirely the flawed Greek presumption that only extraordinary lives matter. This was progress of the philosophical variety, subtler than the dazzling triumphs of science, but nevertheless real. Philosophy has laboriously put forth arguments that have ever widened the sphere of mattering. It was natural for the Greeks to exclude their women and slaves, not to mention non-Greeks, whom they dubbed barbarians. Such exclusions are unthinkable to us now. Being inertial creatures, we required rigorous and oft-repeated arguments that spearheaded social movements that resulted, at long last, in the once quixotic declaration of human rights. We’ve come a long way from the kleos of Greeks, with its unexamined presumption that mattering is inequitably distributed among us, with the multireplicated among us mattering more.

Only sometimes it feels as if we haven’t. Our need to feel as if our lives matter is, as always, unabating. But the variations on the theistic approach no longer satisfy on the scale they once did, while cultivating justice and wisdom is as difficult as it has always been. Our new technologies have stepped in just when we most need them. Kleos — or Klout — is only a tweet away.

It’s stunning that our culture has, with the dwindling of theism, returned to the answer to the problem of mattering that Socrates and Plato judged woefully inadequate. Perhaps their opposition is even more valid today. How satisfying, in the end, is a culture of social-media obsession? The multireplication so readily available is as short-lived and insubstantial as the many instances of our lives they replicate. If the inadequacies of kleos were what initially precipitated the emergence of philosophy, then maybe it’s time for philosophy to take on Klout. It has the resources. It’s far more developed now than in the day when Socrates wandered the agora trying to prick holes in people’s kleos-inflated attitudes. It can start by demonstrating, just as clearly and forcefully as it knows how, that we all matter.

Mattering — none of us more than the other — is our birthright, and we should all be treated accordingly, granted the resources that allow for our flourishing. Appreciating this ethical truth might help calm the frenzy surrounding our own personal mattering, allowing us to direct more energy toward cultivating justice and wisdom. In fact, fully appreciating this ethical truth, in all its implications for both thought and deed, would itself constitute a significant step toward the cultivation of justice and wisdom.


Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is the author, most recently, of “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away.”

 

###

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

A DISCLOSURE:

THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ – IT HELPS ME UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AS WELL – SPECIALLY AS I LOST A GRANDMOTHER AND AN AUNT TO THE BUTCHER KNIVES (LITERALLY) OF THE UKRAINIAN BANDERA  NATIONALISTS IN MILLIE – (THE BUKOWINA OF OLD AND NOW IN THE CHERNIVTSI OBLAST OF THE UKRAINE TAKEN BY THE SOVIETS FROM ROMANIA) – THAT WERE INCITED BY A PRIEST THAT CAME FROM KUTTY (UKRAINIANS LIVING THEN UNDER POLAND BEFORE BEING ANNEXED BY THE SOVIETS), ACROSS THE CHEREMUSH RIVER in 1941. THOSE UKRAINIANS THAT SURVIVED THE WAR ENDED UP IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AS RESPECTED WAR REFUGEES LIKE THE SURVIVORS OF MY MOTHER’S FAMILY ENDED UP IN TORONTO. THE CANADIAN UKRAINIANS MARCHED WITH THE RED&BLACK FLAG THEN NEXT TO CANADA FLAG IN LVIV WHEN I WITNESSED THERE THE UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENCE – AND THEY WONDERED WHY I DO NOT MARCH WITH THEM ALSO. I SAW NOW THOSE SAME  RED/BLACK FLAGS ON THE MAIDAN VIA TV.

INTERESTING HOW AVNERY REMINDS US THAT I MIGHT BE A DESCENDENT OF THE UKRAINIAN KHAZARS – PERSONALLY I KNOW THAT FATHER AND ME LOOK LIKE THAT – BUT HE ALSO TELLS US THAT BINATIONALISM DOES NOT WORK, AND THAT NETANYAHU IS BUILDING THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE – AND THAT HURTS VERY MUCH. YES – ABSOLUTELY A MUST STUDY ARTICLE.

————————

Uri Avnery

March 8, 2014

 

                                                God Bless Putin

 

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is very good at making speeches, especially to Jews, neocons and such, who jump up and applaud wildly at everything he says, including that tomorrow the sun will rise in the west.

 

The question is: is he good at anything else?

 

 

HIS FATHER, an ultra-ultra-Rightist, once said about him that he is quite unfit to be prime minister, but that he could be a good foreign minister. What he meant was that Binyamin does not have the depth of understanding needed to guide the nation, but that he is good at selling any policy decided upon by a real leader. 

 

(Reminding us of the characterization of Abba Eban by David Ben-Gurion: “He is very good at explaining, but you must tell him what to explain.”)

 

This week Netanyahu was summoned to Washington. He was supposed to approve John Kerry’s new “framework” agreement, which would serve as a basis for restarting the peace negotiations, which so far have come to naught.

 

On the eve of the event, President Barack Obama gave an interview to a Jewish journalist, blaming Netanyahu for the stalling of the “peace process” – as if there had ever been a peace process.

 

Netanyahu arrived with an empty bag – meaning a bag full of empty slogans. The Israeli leadership had striven mightily for peace, but could not progress at all because of the Palestinians. It is Mahmoud Abbas who is to blame, because he refuses to recognize Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

 

What…hmm…about the settlements, which have been expanding during the last year at a hectic pace? Why should the Palestinians negotiate endlessly, while at the same time the Israeli government takes more and more of the land which is the substance of the negotiations? (As the classic Palestinian argument goes: “We negotiate about dividing a pizza, and in the meantime Israel is eating the pizza.”)

 

Obama steeled himself to confront Netanyahu, AIPAC and their congressional stooges. He was about to twist the arms of Netanyahu until he cried “uncle” – the uncle being Kerry’s “framework”, which by now has been watered down to look almost like a Zionist manifesto. Kerry is frantic for an achievement, whatever its contents and discontents.

 

Netanyahu, looking for an instrument to rebuff the onslaught, was ready to cry as usual “Iran! Iran! Iran!” – when something unforeseen happened.

 

 

NAPOLEON FAMOUSLY exclaimed: ”Give me generals who are lucky!”  He would have loved General Bibi.

 

Because, on the way to confront a newly invigorated Obama, there was an explosion that shook the world:

 

Ukraine.

 

It was like the shots that rang out in Sarajevo a hundred years ago.

The international tranquility was suddenly shattered. The possibility of a major war was in the air.

 

Netanyahu’s visit disappeared from the news. Obama, occupied with a historic crisis, just wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible. Instead of the severe admonition of the Israeli leader, he got away with some hollow compliments. All the wonderful speeches Netanyahu had prepared were left unspeeched. Even his usual triumphant speech at AIPAC evoked no interest.

 

All because of the upheaval in Kiev.

 

 

BY NOW, innumerable articles have been written about the crisis. Historical associations abound.

 

Though Ukraine means “borderland”, it was often at the center of European events. One must pity Ukrainian schoolchildren. The changes in the history of their country were constant and extreme. At different times Ukraine was a European power and a poor downtrodden territory, extremely rich (“the breadbasket of Europe”) or abjectly poor, attacked by neighbors who captured their people to sell them as slaves or attacking their neighbors to enlarge their country.

 

The Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is even more complex. In a way, the Ukraine is the heartland of Russian culture, religion and orthography. Kiev was far more important than Moscow, before becoming the centerpiece of Muscovite imperialism.

 

In the Crimean War of the 1850s, Russia fought valiantly against a coalition of Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia, and eventually lost. The war broke out over Christian rights in Jerusalem, and included a long siege of Sevastopol. The world remembers the charge of the Light Brigade. A British woman called Florence Nightingale established the first organization to tend the wounded on the battlefield.  

 

In my lifetime, Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians by deliberate starvation. As a result, most Ukrainians welcomed the German Wehrmacht in 1941 as liberators. It could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but unfortunately Hitler was determined to eradicate the Ukrainian “Untermenschen”, in order to integrate the Ukraine into the German Lebensraum.

 

The Crimea suffered terribly. The Tatar people, who had ruled the peninsula in the past, were deported to Central Asia, then allowed to return decades later. Now they are a small minority, seemingly unsure of where their loyalties lie.

 

 

THE RELATIONSHIP between Ukraine and the Jews is no less complicated.

 

Some Jewish writers, like Arthur Koestler and Shlomo Sand, believe that the Khazar empire that ruled the Crimea and neighboring territory a thousand years ago, converted to Judaism, and that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from them. This would turn us all into Ukrainians. (Many early Zionist leaders indeed came from Ukraine.)

 

When Ukraine was a part of the extensive Polish empire, many Polish noblemen took hold of large estates there. They employed Jews as their managers. Thus the Ukrainian peasants came to look upon the Jews as the agents of their oppressors, and anti-Semitism became part of the national culture of Ukraine.

 

As we learned in school, at every turn of Ukrainian history, the Jews were slaughtered. The names of most Ukrainian folk-heroes, leaders and rebels who are revered in their homeland are, in Jewish consciousness, connected with awful pogroms.

 

Cossack Hetman (leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who liberated Ukraine from the Polish yoke, and who is considered by Ukrainians as the father of their nation, was one of the worst mass-murderers in Jewish history. Symon Petliura, who led the Ukrainian war against the Bolsheviks after World War I, was assassinated by a Jewish avenger.

 

Some elderly Jewish immigrants in Israel must find it hard to decide whom to hate more, the Ukrainians or the Russians (or the Poles, for that matter.)

 

 

PEOPLE AROUND the world find it also hard to choose sides.

 

The usual Cold-War zealots have it easy – they either hate the Americans or the Russians, out of habit.

 

As for me, the more I try to study the situation, the more unsure I become. This is not a black-or-white situation.

 

The first sympathy goes to the Maidan rebels. (Maidan is an Arab word meaning town square. Curious how it travelled to Kiev. Probably via Istanbul.)

 

They want to join the West, enjoy independence and democracy. What’s wrong with that?

 

Nothing, except that they have dubious bedfellows. Neo-Nazis in their copycat Nazi uniforms, giving the Hitler salute and mouthing anti-Semitic slogans, are not very attractive. The encouragement they receive from Western allies, including the odious neocons, is off-putting.

 

On the other side, Vladimir Putin is also not very prepossessing. It’s the old Russian imperialism all over again.

 

The slogan used by the Russians – the need to protect Russian-speaking people in a neighboring country – sounds eerily familiar. It is an exact copy of Adolf Hitler’s claim in 1938 to protect the Sudeten Germans from the Czech monsters.  

 

But Putin has some logic on his side. Sevastopol – the scene of heroic sieges both in the Crimean War and in World War II, is essential for his naval forces. The association with Ukraine is an important part of Russian world power aspirations.

 

A cold-blooded, calculating operator, of a kind now rare in the world, Putin uses the strong cards he has, but is very careful not to take too many risks. He is managing the crisis astutely, using Russia’s obvious advantages. Europe needs his oil and gas, he needs Europe’s capital and trade. Russia has a leading role in Syria and Iran. The US suddenly looks like a bystander.

 

I assume that in the end there will be a compromise. Russia will retain a footing in the coming Ukrainian leadership. Both sides will proclaim victory, as they should.

 

(By the way, for those here who believe in the “One-State Solution”: Another multicultural state seems to be breaking apart.)

 

 

WHERE WILL this leave Netanyahu?

 

He has gained some months or years without any movement toward peace, and in the meantime can continue with the occupation and build settlements at a frantic pace.

 

That is the traditional Zionist strategy. Time is everything. Every postponement provides opportunities to create more facts on the ground.

 

Netanyahu’s prayers have been answered. God bless Putin.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

 

“It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”

 

JOHN KERRY, secretary of state, on Russia’s actions in Crimea, a region in Ukraine.

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

 

“The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defense of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in.”

 

VLADIMIR V. PUTIN, president of Russia.

No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis.

 

 

WASHINGTON — For all his bluster and bravado, President Vladimir V. Putin’s assurance on Tuesday that Russia does not plan, at least for now, to seize eastern Ukraine suggested a possible path forward in the geopolitical crisis that has captivated the world. Global markets reacted with relief, and the White House with cautious optimism.

But the development presented a tricky conundrum for President Obama and his European allies. Even if Russia does leave eastern Ukraine alone and avoids escalating its military intervention, can it effectively freeze in place its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula? Would the United States and Europe be forced to tacitly accept that or could they find a way to roll it back — and, if so, at what price?

Ever since Russian forces took control of Crimea, Mr. Obama’s aides have privately conceded that reversing the occupation would be difficult, if not impossible, in the short run and focused on drawing a line to prevent Mr. Putin from going further.

 

 

If Crimea in coming weeks remains cordoned off, it will then require a concerted effort to force Russia to pull back troops, an effort that could divide the United States from European allies who may be more willing to live with the new status quo.

For the moment, the White House was focused on preventing the confrontation from escalating. While dismayed if not surprised by Mr. Putin’s bellicosity and justification of his actions, American officials took some solace that he said he saw no need at this point for intervention in Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine. They were also encouraged by his seeming acceptance of elections in May as a way to legitimize a new Ukrainian government and by his decision to cancel a military exercise near the border. And they detected no new influx of troops into Crimea.

While Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev on Tuesday to show support for its beleaguered pro-Western government, Mr. Obama consulted with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany by telephone about finding a face-saving way for Mr. Putin to withdraw in favor of international monitors.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Obama said some had interpreted Mr. Putin’s remarks earlier in the day to mean he “is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what’s happened.”

Others cautioned against reading too much into Mr. Putin’s statements. “It would be a mistake on our part to look at what he’s saying and think this crisis is almost over: ‘O.K., we’ve lost Crimea, but the rest of the country is with us,’ ” said Ivo Daalder, Mr. Obama’s first ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

He said Crimea would become a precedent: “Crimea is a big deal. It means a country can be invaded, and a big piece of it can be taken away with no price. But two, this isn’t just about Crimea. This is about who is ultimately in control of Ukraine.”

The situation remained tense, as Obama administration officials moved forward with plans for sanctions that could be imposed by the United States and, they hoped, in conjunction with European allies. The administration is developing plans for actions that would escalate over time if Russia continued to leave forces in place in Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine.

Mr. Obama has authority to take several steps without new legislation from Congress. For starters, under a law called the Magnitsky Act, the State Department has already drafted a list of Russians tied to human rights abuses. The administration could promptly bar them from traveling to the United States, freeze any assets here and cut off their access to American banks.

The president also has the power under existing Syria sanctions to go after Russian individuals and institutions involved in sending arms to help President Bashar al-Assad crush the rebellion there. The administration had held back on such actions while trying to work with Russia to resolve Syria’s civil war, but if applied they could cut off certain Russian banks from the international financial system.

Mr. Obama could also sign an executive order creating another set of sanctions specifically against Russian officials and organizations blamed for creating instability in Ukraine and violating its sovereignty. In theory, that could include everyone up to Mr. Putin, but officials indicated that they would instead work their way up the chain of command.

Leaders in Europe, a region dependent on Russian natural gas and with far deeper economic ties to Russia, have expressed reluctance to go along with the toughest sanctions.

But an American order declaring a Russian bank in violation would be sent to banks around the world, forcing them to cut ties with that Russian institution or risk being barred from doing business with the American financial sector.

“My view is that Russia can be forced out of Crimea with the combination of financial sanctions plus straightforward hard diplomacy,” said Anders Aslund, a longtime specialist on Russia and Ukraine at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Still, others are more dubious, noting that Mr. Obama may not be willing to go as far as necessary without the support of allies, particularly given that it would presumably jeopardize Russian cooperation on a range of issues, including Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Middle East peace.

The precedent may be Abkhazia and South Ossetia, pro-Moscow regions that broke away from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. After Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin defied the United States and the rest of the world by recognizing their independence and left troops in place to guarantee it. The United States and Europe ultimately resumed doing business as usual with Russia.

Mr. Obama’s aides said that Ukraine was different and that they had a hard time imagining going back to a normal relationship as long as Russian troops occupied Crimea. Their first priority is preventing Russia from annexing the peninsula outright, but even leaving it as an enclave under Moscow’s control would not be acceptable, they said.

White House officials said they saw three possibilities. The first would be a Russian escalation into eastern Ukraine, one they hope Mr. Putin was signaling he would not pursue. The second would be Russia deciding to stay put in Crimea, either through annexation or through de facto rule. The third would be Russia taking what American officials call an offramp, agreeing to let international monitors replace Russian troops in the streets to guard against any attacks on Russian speakers and accepting the Ukrainian government that emerges from the May elections.

Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he recognized that Russia had natural interests in its neighbor. But he said he would not accept what he called a violation of international law.

“I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”

Mr. Obama added that Ukrainians should have the right to determine their own fate. “Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he’s not abiding by that principle,” he said. “There is still the opportunity for Russia to do so, working with the international community to help stabilize the situation.”

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

The Opinion Pages|Editorial

 

A Rational Response to Ukraine’s Crisis.

 

 

The tensions over Ukraine eased somewhat after President Vladimir Putin of Russia halted military maneuvers on the Ukrainian border and declared at a news conference on Tuesday that there was no immediate need to send troops into eastern Ukraine. The conciliatory talk prompted Russian financial markets to rebound from their plunge on Monday. The markets reward peaceful behavior.

But the crisis is not over: Russia remains in control of Crimea, and Mr. Putin prepared the way for possible annexation of the peninsula to Russia when he said it was up to Crimean citizens, a majority of whom are Russian-speaking, to determine their future. The question remains what the United States and the European Union should or can do.

The Ukrainian crisis has provoked a broad range of reactions in the West, including angry demands for immediate sanctions against Russia and charges in the United States that President Obama is somehow “losing” in the confrontation to Mr. Putin and thus endangering Washington’s credibility and global leadership. Yet leadership and credibility in a crisis mean reacting coolly and rationally, not rattling sabers, or rushing into economic warfare that allies may or may not support, or painting “red lines” that the other side can cross with impunity.

A bully welcomes a slugfest, and Mr. Putin revels in claiming American conspiracies; at his news conference on Tuesday, he even described the battering to Russia’s markets on Monday as a result of American policies. But that battering and the decline of the value of the ruble were no doubt major factors behind Mr. Putin’s conciliatory tone on Tuesday.

The Russian economy is not in great shape, and Russian businessmen understand full well that the $60 billion wiped off the value of their firms on Monday was because of a needless crisis.

Mr. Putin and his countrymen must be reminded, again and again, that seizing Crimea under a blatantly concocted pretext, or taking other measures against the new authorities in Ukraine, will carry a price.

Short of war, there is little the United States can do on its own to punish Russia. It is not among Russia’s major trading partners. Europe, which does far more business with Russia, has more leverage, but also a dependence on Russian gas, and, so far, European leaders have shown little enthusiasm for economic sanctions.

The measures that have been suggested — exclusion from the Group of 8, selective sanctions and travel bans — would not alone cause much pain. But the consequences of isolation take a toll over time. With every new demonstration of Mr. Putin’s authoritarian and expansionary tendencies, whether it was the invasion of Georgia in 2008 or the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot members in 2012, the West has become more wary of doing business with Russia. In a conversation with Mr. Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she was unsure whether Mr. Putin was in touch with reality. That, from the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy and one of Russia’s biggest trading partners, cannot be heartening for Mr. Putin, and certainly not for Russian businessmen.

These are exactly the buttons Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are pushing — threatening further isolation if Mr. Putin does not back down, and cooperation if he does, while rallying allies and pledging substantial assistance to the new authorities in Ukraine.

 

Closing the door to any further dealings with Mr. Putin, as hard-core cold-warriors want Mr. Obama to do, would not serve any purpose. Russia has already announced that it is ending discounts on the sale of Russian gas to Ukraine, and it could make life even more difficult for its bankrupt neighbor. But at his news conference, Mr. Putin said he felt a sympathy for the longing of the Kiev crowds to throw out a corrupt regime, and he insisted that Russian and Ukrainian soldiers “will be on the same side of the barricades.”

If he meant all that, then he must agree that the optimal conclusion to the crisis would be the election of a balanced Parliament and a universally accepted president in Ukraine, which would also reassure Russians that their ties to Ukraine, including Crimea, won’t be severed.

The United States and its European allies must prepare contingency plans for any escalation of Russian aggression or for the unilateral annexation of Crimea. The Europeans will have to overcome their reluctance on sanctions and form a common front with the United States. But, at the same time, they should reassure Mr. Putin that the West appreciates Russia’s historic ties to Ukraine and has no interest in turning Kiev against Moscow. So far, Mr. Obama is on the right track.

 

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

The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times

 

Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us

 

 

Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.

Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.

So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.

So spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn’t All-Star Wrestling. The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland. I support economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for its violation of international norms and making clear that harsher sanctions, even military aid for Kiev, would ensue should Putin try to bite off more of Ukraine. But we need to remember that that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.

What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

 

For a long time, Putin has exploited the humiliation and anti-Western attitudes NATO expansion triggered to gain popularity, but this seems to have become so fundamental to his domestic politics that it has locked him into a zero-sum relationship with the West that makes it hard to see how we collaborate with him in more serious trouble spots, like Syria or Iran. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is engaged in monstrous, genocidal behavior that also threatens the stability of the Middle East. But Putin stands by him. At least half the people of Ukraine long to be part of Europe, but he treated that understandable desire as a NATO plot and quickly resorted to force.

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps.

But you know the story, the tough guys in Washington who want to take on Putin would rather ask 1 percent of Americans — the military and their families — to make the ultimate sacrifice than have all of us make a small sacrifice in the form of tiny energy price increases. Those tough guys who thump their chests in Congress but run for the hills if you ask them to vote for a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax that would actually boost our leverage, they’ll never rise to this challenge. We’ll do anything to expose Putin’s weakness; anything that isn’t hard. And you wonder why Putin holds us in contempt?

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Leadership 3,422 views

Meet The First Carbon-Neutral Hotel Group In The World, And Why Your Business Should Take Notice.

In an interview with Kirsten Brøchner of the Arthur Hotel Group in Copenhagen, Denmark, we discussed their journey to become the first carbon-neutral hotel group in the world, and how their 5-point climate action plan is not only good for the planet, but good for business.

 

Rahim Kanani: Tell me a little bit about the founding of Brøchner Hotels and the resulting Arthur Hotels group. Also, where did the desire to put sustainability at the core of the organization come from?

 

Kirsten Brøchner: Brøchner Hotels has been a family owned and family run business from day one in 1982. First by my parents, with my assistance, and later with the help of my brother. Until June 2013, Brøchner Hotels consisted of four hotels, but due to a generational change and different visions in management, my brother and I separated the company into two independent companies, and I thereby formed the Arthur Hotel group consisting of Hotel Kong Arthur and Ibsens Hotel.

 

Being climate-friendly was and is my mission, and this is why we continue our efforts for a greener planet with Arthur Hotels. I have been asked the question about why I have this desire to put sustainability at the core of the organization many times, and I have come to the conclusion that the reason must be found in the story of my upbringing. My family consists mainly of entrepreneurs and healthcare personnel—hospital professors, doctors and nurses—so I have always been inspired by both the desire to see new projects blossom and the desire to care for others. Quite a good combination when running a hotel group, when thinking about it. My philosophy has always been that if you value ethics highly in your business, the money will follow automatically.

 

When the climate debate began to rise, this immediately caught my attention. I found it important to take action, and this is why I decided that despite the hotel group being a very small player in the market, I believed we could make a difference and hopefully encourage others to make a difference as well. I am aware that we in my company cannot make a big change alone, but hopefully we could set an example, which we have done.

 

Hotel Group

 

Kanani: What did it take to become the first carbon-neutral hotel group in the world, and what challenges did you have to overcome to achieve such a feat?

 

Brøchner: I felt that we as a corporation had a co-responsibility for climate change and that we therefore had to take action. We investigated and discussed what to do, and I discovered that with the Kyoto Protocol, all parties committed were allotted the right to emit a certain amount of carbon. If emissions were not utilized, because an energy producer had converted their energy production into a more climate-friendly solution, these emissions could be sold via the European Union Emissions Trading System. I figured that if we bought some of these surplus energy offsets and destroyed them, and took them off the market, these emissions would not be utilized. Further, by buying these offsets we would also financially support these energy producers that had invested in alternative production methods. Finally, if buying and destroying offsets corresponding to the amount of carbon that our hotels emit, we would be able to neutralize our total energy consumption.

 

We then took the investigation one step further and researched what other businesses and hotels had done, and we discovered that we, by doing this, would become the first carbon neutral hotel group, which was confirmed by the international hotel organization IH&RA. However, it was nearly impossible to find out how to buy these offsets, as they were only available for energy companies. I talked to a lot of people, ministries, government boards and others, spending a lot of time to investigate this. Suddenly, I came in contact with the small, Danish, independent, climate-friendly energy company Modstrøm, who offered to sell energy offsets via them. Ever since, we have bought energy offsets equalling our annual carbon emission at the hotels based on electricity, heat and linen consumption. This was how we were able to call ourselves the first carbon neutral hotel in the world.

 

Besides buying offsets, we have changed our whole mindset in the company, investigating all details on how we can be climate-friendly in every corner of the company. And we have done this by creating a 5 step climate plan that we have followed since 2008. As the offsets market have lost value, we are thinking about what we can do next. But due to the recent creation of Arthur Hotels, we must be realistic and I must admit that this will take time if we want to present a new thought-through initiative and thereby make an even bigger impact. Nevertheless, our 5-step climate plan is still ruling.

 

The challenges with the offset system were not the only challenges we faced. I had a lot of ideas that were not realized, unfortunately. For instance, I wanted to set up a climate school for companies with training courses for employees, teaching them how to choose the green option at work and at home. One example is when boiling water for tea—only boiling the water needed, so energy is not wasted on boiling extra. Or eating more light than dark meat, as the production of beef is more harmful to the environment than the production of poultry. Unfortunately, none of the many government agencies I asked for help were interested in supporting the idea.

 

Through the years, I have met the Minister of Climate several times and have discussed my ideas. I have asked for more public information on how to choose green in the supermarket. How are we supposed to know, from a green perspective, what is best to buy: tomatoes grown in Danish greenhouses, or organic tomatoes transported from Spain? In my opinion, the government should create a system with which the average consumer will be able to understand how to shop with a carbon-minimizing mindset in the supermarket. I have also suggested the Minister carry out a governmental plan to help both citizens and companies finance the building of houses or renovation projects carried through by using alternative energy sources—giving people access to “cheap money”. Unfortunately, these are challenges I have yet to overcome.

 

Kanani: What are some of the details to your 5-step climate plan?

 

Brøchner: As of 2008, our plan is as follows:

 

1. CO2 neutralization now and in the future.
2. Create energy savings.
3. Involve guests.
4. Establish a CO2 neutral hotel network.
5. Collaborate with climate networks/alliances including climate friendly suppliers.

 

We have made many small adjustments such as changing to more energy-friendly sources when it comes to light bulbs, heating centrals, guest amenities, groceries and other items and always choose as green as possible when introducing new products. We bought electric cars for our guests to rent, and we have charging stations at Hotel Kong Arthur for guests arriving by electric car.

Electric Cars

 

The biggest change must be the reduction of our linen consumption by 22 per cent. Reducing our linen consumption means, from a green perspective, that less laundry detergent, which is harmful to the environment, is used, energy consumption from the washing machines is reduced, the transport of linen to and from the hotel is reduced, which reduces carbon emission from the transport and so on. And all of this is due to a simple idea put forth by one of our maids: instead of leaving all towels visible in the bathrooms, we leave some of the towels in the cupboard with a cute hand-written post-it message on the bathroom mirror inviting the guest to help us protect the environment by only using the towels needed – and if needed, more towels are available in the cupboard.

 

Of other ways we are enacting out a climate-friendly agenda is by collaborating with suppliers supporting the green initiative. A green chain collaboration so to speak. We buy primarily organic food products and bread, and actually our organic bread supplier, the bakery “Det Rene Brød”, even bought electric cars to deliver the bread to us after having seen our own. We have reduced transportation by, for instance, having milk delivered every other day instead of every day. And all of these great initiatives are based on ideas from employees in the company. Whenever someone gets a new climate-friendly idea, we discuss it and see if we can implement it.

 

Kanani: The city of Copenhagen intends to become carbon neutral by 2025—the first goal of its kind in the world. Were you inspired by the city’s ambition, or was the city inspired by yours?

 

Brøchner: This is a difficult question. When the Municipality of Copenhagen launched their Climate+ campaign, which has now resulted in the goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city, we were appointed Climate+ Frontrunner, and I gave a speech at the opening ceremony. But I will say that the city’s ambition and our ambition were two parallel stories or processes. And I am very happy that the city and we share the same ambition, because it is only by working together towards the same goal that we can make a difference.

 

Kanani: Is pursuing a sustainable and climate-friendly agenda good for business?

 

Brøchner: Definitely. And in several ways. First, in relation to the market, being sustainable has always been good for us as a small player, as we have achieved great attention. Not only do we receive great media coverage, but it has also meant that we have expanded our client portfolio. Before becoming carbon neutral, it was difficult for us to attract the attention of big companies. However, a few years ago, the Danish government passed a law demanding that all medium-sized and large corporations in their annual accounts report their CSR accounting. These companies are welcome to report that they do not do anything at all, but who wants to write that? So when this law was passed, this definitely put pressure on, for instance, these companies’ green chain collaborations which meant that suddenly international companies like Novo Nordisk wanted us as their hotel partner.

 

Second, there is no doubt that being sustainable has an economical advantage for all types of businesses. Saving energy for instance also means saving money.

 

Third, thinking and acting green also has an impact on the company internally. When making an effort for good causes such as protecting our planet, companies will automatically attract the passionate fireballs who want to be part of that company, contributing to the good cause. In this way, sustainability is sustainable; it becomes a positive impact causal loop.

 

Fourth, being sustainable has had a great impact on me personally. These efforts have expanded my network. Suddenly, I was having dinner with Nobel Pease Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. I have met so many inspiring and creative people throughout this process, and continue to do so—people who have helped me develop my business in many creative ways. I believe that inviting innovation inside is always good for business.

 

 

###

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

 

The Obama Administration’s EPA finally takes an honest look at the Gasoline used in the US and at cleaner air by toughening auto-mobile emission rules.

E.P.A. Set to Reveal Tough New Sulfur Emissions Rule.

 

By CORAL DAVENPORT, The New York Times,

 

Photo

Steam streamed from refineries last week in Texas City, Tex. New Environmental Protection Agency rules would strip out sulfur from gasoline blends. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil a major new regulation on Monday that forces oil refiners to strip out sulfur, a smog-forming pollutant linked to respiratory disease, from American gasoline blends, according to people familiar with the agency’s plans.

When burned in gasoline, sulfur blocks pollution-control equipment in vehicle engines, which increases tailpipe emissions linked to lung disease, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, aggravated heart disease and premature births and deaths. Proponents of the rule say it will be President Obama’s most significant public health achievement in his second term, but opponents, chiefly oil refiners, say it is unnecessarily costly and an unfair burden on them.

The E.P.A. estimates that the new rule will drastically reduce soot and smog in the United States, and thus rates of diseases associated with those pollutants, while slightly raising the price of both gasoline and cars. The rule will require oil refiners to install expensive new equipment to clean sulfur out of gasoline and force automakers to install new, cleaner-burning engine technology.

Photo

Lila Holmes putting diesel fuel in her truck in Texas City, Tex. New rules are expected to raise the price of gasoline. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

 

E.P.A. officials estimate that the new regulation will raise the cost of gasoline by about two-thirds of one cent per gallon and add about $75 to the sticker price of cars. But oil refiners say that it will cost their industry $10 billion and raise gasoline costs by up to 9 cents per gallon.

The E.P.A.’s studies conclude that by 2030, the cleaner-burning gasoline will yield between $6.7 billion and $19 billion annually in economic benefits by saving lives and preventing missed work and school days due to illness. The agency estimates that, annually, the new rule will prevent between 770 and 2,000 premature deaths; 2,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits; 19,000 asthma attacks, 30,000 cases of symptoms of respiratory symptoms in children, and 1.4 million lost school and work days.

“There is no other regulatory strategy that is as important from a health standpoint, in the foreseeable future,” said S. William Becker, director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. Until now, the sulfur content standards in American gasoline lagged far behind those used in the European Union, Japan and South Korea. The new rule will close that pollution gap by cutting American gasoline sulfur content by more than 60 percent, from 30 parts per million of sulfur down to 10 parts per million, starting in 2017.

The cleaner gasoline standard has been years in the making. Mr. Obama asked the E.P.A. to create the rule in a 2010 presidential memorandum, and public health and environmental advocates lobbied the agency vigorously to complete it. It is the most recent in a cascade of aggressive air pollution regulations that have emerged as a hallmark of the Obama administration.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, the forthcoming gasoline rule was a hotly contested political target. Republicans criticized it as an example of what they called the Obama administration’s regulatory overreach.

But since the presidential election, some Republicans have said they welcome the rule. Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah, a conservative Republican, said that because of mountain weather patterns, tailpipe smog is often trapped around Salt Lake City, giving his state many days with “gunky air that rivals L.A.”

Mr. Herbert said the new rule would help clean up his state’s air. “We’ve got to find a way to eliminate that with cleaner fuels and cleaner autos,” he said in an interview. “Dirty air is not a partisan issue. The fact that we have technology that’s available — cleaner burning fuels, cleaner burning autos — we ought to embrace that.”

Photo

Experts from the Environmental Protection Agency have linked the sulfur found in gasoline to smog and respiratory disease. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

 

The new rule will have a significant impact on the health of low-income Americans who live near major highways, said Dr. Al Rizzo, a pulmonologist at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., and a former chairman of the American Lung Association’s board of directors. “The population that lives close to highways, that has the greatest exposure to these pollutants, air quality makes a big difference for them,” Dr. Rizzo said.

But oil refiners say that the new rule will hurt their industry.

Charles T. Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which lobbies for the oil refining industry, said that the rule comes on top of a series of other burdensome regulations. A decade ago, American gasoline contained 300 parts per million of sulfur, but earlier rules required refiners to cut the sulfur content by 90 percent, down to the current 30 parts per million.

Mr. Drevna said it was easier to comply with the earlier regulations because removing the first 90 percent of sulfur molecules from gasoline can be done without difficulty. Wringing the last 10 percent of those molecules is harder.

“They’re tough little buggers that don’t want to come out,” Mr. Drevna said. “It’s like getting the last little bit of red wine stain out of a white blouse.”

Asked about the E.P.A.’s estimate that the rule would raise prices at the pump by less than a penny a gallon, Mr. Drevna laughed out loud. “I don’t know what model E.P.A. uses,” he said. “The math doesn’t add up.” His industry’s estimate that the rule could raise gasoline prices by up to 9 cents a gallon comes from a study by the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil companies.

Not all industries oppose the regulation. Although the auto industry estimates that the rule will cost automakers about $15 billion over 10 years, Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose members include General Motors, Ford and Toyota, said her group had worked closely with the Obama administration to develop the regulation, and does not oppose it.

That is in part, she said, because complying with the new clean-gasoline regulation will help automakers more easily meet another set of Obama administration regulations, tightening vehicle fuel economy standards.

“We understand that this is the trend, to get cars cleaner and cleaner,” Ms. Bergquist said. “Our engineers are prepared to work for it.”

###

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

FROM COHA – The Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Photo Source: AP. Photo Source: AP.

NOW IT IS THE TIME FOR A WASHINGTON—CARACAS DIALOG, NOT SANCTIONS.

By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs; Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.

At a time when Washington ought to seize upon overtures from Caracas for the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations and direct talks, the champions of the antiquated embargo against Cuba in the Senate are calling for sanctions against Venezuela. Such an approach to diplomacy with Venezuela would be detrimental to the development of a more constructive and mutually respectful US policy towards the region. Now is the time for a Washington—Caracas dialog, not sanctions.

 

Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have introduced a proposed resolution in the Senate that would call on the Obama administration to study sanctions against Venezuela. The sanctions would be aimed at punishing “the violent repression suffered by pacific protesters” by targeting individual Venezuelan government officials. Of course, any state actors responsible for the repression of pacific demonstrations ought to be held accountable not only in Venezuela, but anywhere in the world. Indeed, the Venezuelan government is already taking steps to address this. The problem with the resolution is that it reflects a very myopic view of political violence in that nation. It also reflects an unproductive approach to diplomacy towards Venezuela as well as the region.

 

Not all demonstrations have been pacific. A significant amount of the violent demonstrations are ostensively anti- government.  The “exit” strategy being sought after by the ultra-right in Venezuela has generated violent anti-government demonstrations that have called for regime change through extra constitutional means. In other words, through a coup or by creating the escalating violence on the ground that might provoke a coup or an international intervention.

 

No doubt opposition demonstrators are not a homogeneous group and many prescribe to non-violent means of protesting. Yet it is indisputable that elements of anti-government protests, using the slogans of “exit,” have deployed incendiary bombs, rocks, guns, barricades, wire, and other instruments of violence against government and public property as well as people, resulting in injuries and death. But those who have resorted to violence are most often portrayed in the press as responding to repression, as if the government has no legitimate recourse in response to violent attacks on persons and property. To be sure, violence is generally condemned by the State Department, but accountability is selectively applied predominantly to government actors.

 

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has been calling for a change of course in US policy towards Venezuela and the rest of the region based on mutual respect and dialog, not imperial intervention and subordination.

It was Caracas that instigated the tit for tat after the expulsion of consular officials, and COHA called the expulsion of US consular officials into question at the time. But now President Maduro has proposed a new ambassador to the US and direct talks with the Obama administration. The State Department has also, on occasion, expressed an openness to rapprochement, so now is the time to seize the moment, not wait to see which way the political winds will blow in Venezuela.

 

There is obviously a great ideological divide between nations that prescribe to some version of neoliberalism and those engaging in various experiments in 21st century socialism. Yet such differences need not translate into either hard or soft wars. At the January CELAC meeting in Cuba, the member states, despite their political differences, figured out a way to declare all of Latin America a region of peace and mutual respect. Meanwhile, there is a national peace conference underway in Caracas, called by the government, that commenced two days ago and includes an increasingly broad spectrum of opinion in the opposition, and seeks to overcome the boycott of the MUD.  This will take a pull back against war and for political competition through the ballot box.

 

Surely, in this context, there is room for Washington-Caracas diplomacy. Rather than impose sanctions on Venezuela, Washington ought to accept the proposed Venezuelan ambassador and enter into a dialog with Caracas based on mutual respect and the common goal of regional peace and human development.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.

 

###

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

 

Atlantic Chapter NYC Group Banner 3

*Full house for February’s Sustainability Event. A standing-room only crowd enthusiastically engaged in a presentation by Ron Gonen,  NYC Deputy Commissioner for Recycling.

Gonen stressed that it is possible for NYC to divert all but 18% of waste from landfills. He explained both the economic and environmental benefits of intensive recycling, and the planning for future residential and commercial composting.  To get composting in your building or neighborhood, ask your city councilmember to contact the Sanitation Dept (hrogers@dsny.nyc.gov). Other presenters included: Brooklyn College Professor Brett Branco, who stressed sustainable use of phosphorous, a finite resource for agriculture; Elizabeth Balkan, a senior policy advisor to Mayor de Blasio, who talked about how the new city law requiring commercial food waste recycling will be rolled out; and Vandra Thorburn, who established Vokashi, a unique composting service using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter and returning it to the earth.  There was much enthusiastic discussion.

 

Maryland rally
Chesapeake Climate Action Network

 

*On the Bus to Baltimore. On February 20th, about 30 activists, including a number of Sierra Club members, got on a bus at 7:00 in NYC, picking up another 10-15 at two New Jersey stops, to join a rally against an LNG export facility in Cove Point,  Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.  Dominion Resources which built an import facility there, wants to break its agreement to set aside wetlands and build an export facility on those wetlands. The demonstration was spirited and the speakers, including Sierra Club’s Josh Tulkin, were inspiring. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (see picture) made a strong case to the environmental justice aspect of this issue, see picture right. For more pictures, see here.

 

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment NYC
Divestment Forum Panelists

 

*Fossil Fuel Stock Divestment is a movement that is quickly gathering steam on campuses across the country.  While still principally on campuses, it is moving into city and state governments. Six speakers at a February 26th “Divestment Open House” at the Ethical Culture Society  discussed the divestment movement from a variety of perspectives. Sierra Club’s Lisa DiCaprio (far left in photo), spoke about how successful divestment efforts might shift the way investors view the value of fossil fuel investments, making them less attractive. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience.

 

 


Check out recent posts on our Blog:
A Letter from Minisink, talks about a community’s resistance to the intrusion of a gas compressor station and proposals for a gas power station in their community;  NYC Parks Under Siege, reports about efforts to block the granting  of permission for restaurants to locate in parks; and Promises and Pitfalls in the 2014 NYS Energy Plan raises questions about the State’s newly released energy plan.   And don’t forget to check our calendar for events of interest to environmentalists in and around New York City.

 


If you are interested in volunteering to work on the NYC Group’s online and digital communications, please email Gary Nickerson at    gary@gwntec.com.

###

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

 

Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.

 

by Op-Ed Columnist of The New York Times

With Russia growling over the downfall of its ally running Ukraine and still protecting its murderous ally running Syria, there is much talk that we’re returning to the Cold War — and that the Obama team is not up to defending our interests or friends. I beg to differ. I don’t think the Cold War is back; today’s geopolitics are actually so much more interesting than that. And I also don’t think President Obama’s caution is entirely misplaced.

The Cold War was a unique event that pitted two global ideologies, two global superpowers, each with globe-spanning nuclear arsenals and broad alliances behind them. Indeed, the world was divided into a chessboard of red and black, and who controlled each square mattered to each side’s sense of security, well-being and power. It was also a zero-sum game, in which every gain for the Soviet Union and its allies was a loss for the West and NATO, and vice versa.

That game is over. We won. What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins.

The first category would be countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, whose leaders are focused on building their authority, dignity and influence through powerful states. And because the first two have oil and the last has nukes that it can trade for food, their leaders can defy the global system and survive, if not thrive — all while playing an old, traditional game of power politics to dominate their respective regions.

The second category, countries focused on building their dignity and influence through prosperous people, includes all the countries in Nafta, the European Union, and the Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America and Asean in Asia. These countries understand that the biggest trend in the world today is not a new Cold War but the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution. They are focused on putting in place the right schools, infrastructure, bandwidth, trade regimes, investment openings and economic management so more of their people can thrive in a world in which every middle-class job will require more skill and the ability to constantly innovate will determine their standard of living. (The true source of sustainable power.)

But there is also now a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions like: Who are we? What are our boundaries? Who owns which olive tree? These countries include Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and other hot spots. While those nations focused on state power do play in some of these countries — Russia and Iran both play in Syria — the states that are more focused on building prosperity are trying to avoid getting too involved in the world of disorder. Though ready to help mitigate humanitarian tragedies there, they know that when you “win” one of these countries in today’s geopolitical game, all you win is a bill.

Ukraine actually straddles all three of these trends. The revolution there happened because the government was induced by Russia, which wants to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence, into pulling out of a trade agreement with the European Union — an agreement favored by the many Ukrainians focused on building a prosperous people. This split has also triggered talk of separatism by the more Russian-speaking and Russian-oriented eastern part of Ukraine.

 

So what do we do? The world is learning that the bar for U.S. intervention abroad is being set much higher. This is due to a confluence of the end of the Soviet Union’s existential threat, the experience of investing too many lives and $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan to little lasting impact, America’s rising energy independence, our intelligence successes in preventing another 9/11 and the realization that to fix what ails the most troubled countries in the world of disorder is often beyond our skill set, resources or patience.

In the Cold War, policy-making was straightforward. We had “containment.” It told us what to do and at almost any price. Today, Obama’s critics say he must do “something” about Syria. I get it. Chaos there can come around to bite us. If there is a policy that would fix Syria, or even just stop the killing there, in a way that was self-sustaining, at a cost we could tolerate and not detract from all the things we need to do at home to secure our own future, I’m for it.

But we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.

 

 

###