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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 30th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Climate Change Adaptation: It’s about Water! 
— Global Water Partnership’s contribution to the climate change dialogue

Water is central to the world’s development challenges. Whether it is food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, human health—water is the nexus. Climate change is the spoiler. No matter how successful mitigation efforts might be, people will experience the impacts of climate change through water.

The Global Water Partnership is participating in ‘Water Day’ at the climate change negotiations in Barcelona. GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki will be the lead speaker on water and transboundary issues on Tuesday, November 3. The venue is the Fira Congress Hotel, opposite the conference centre. The opening session starts at 9 am and lunch will be provided.

Recently, the GWP’s Technical Committee released its 14th Background Paper: “Water Management, Water Security and Climate Change Adaptation.” It argues that investments in water are investments in adaptation. The paper can be downloaded on www.gwpforum.org or ordered free at gwp@gwpforum.org.

Climate Change: How can we Adapt? – a one-pager about GWP’s key messages on this subject – is available here: www.gwpforum.org/gwp/library/GWP_Briefingnote_climatechange.pdf.

GWP has been accepted as an Inter-Governmental Organisation with Observer Status at  COP 15 in Copenhagen in December and has submitted an article to the delegate publication. But more information on that will follow later. 

More resources about climate change and water and more information on GWP’s involvement in the global dialogue on climate change is available on this page: www.gwpforum.org/servlet/PSP?iNodeID=205&itemId=442.

 

——————————————————–Steven DowneyHead of CommunicationsGlobal Water Partnership (GWP)Drottninggatan 33SE-111 51 Stockholm, SWEDENPhone:   +46 8 522 126 52Fax:      + 46 8 522 126 31E-mail: steven.downey@gwpforum.orgWebsite: www.gwpforum.org
A water secure world  the mission of the Global Water Partnership is to support the sustainable development and management of water resources at all levels.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:  jaiganesh09 at gmail.com
Subject: 2nd Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society
Date: September 9, 2008

2nd Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society.

Greetings from ADPC!

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) will offer the Second Regional Training Course on Climate Risk Management: Science, Institutions, and Society from 17 to 28 November 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. The course aims to build the capacity of professionals to manage risks associated with climate variability, change, and extremes. It builds upon ADPC’s two decades of experience in disaster management, facilitating regional cooperation and building capacities of disaster management institutions, disaster management practitioners, and communities, and a decade of experience in institutionalizing climate information applications for disaster mitigation. It incorporates case studies and sectoral examples from climate risk management programs and projects all over Asia.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to:

1) design early warning systems for climate-related risks;

2) design climate risk management, climate forecast applications, and climate change adaptation projects, and

3) develop tools to integrate climate risk management practices into development programs and policies.

The first CRM course offering was completed in May 2008 with 27 participants from 14 countries. For more details, please check out the course brochure at www.adpc.net/v2007/Downloads/2008…. Please contact me ( jaiganeshm at adpc.net) or my colleague Ms.Kareff Rafisura ( kareff at adpc.net) if you have any questions.

Jaiganesh Murugesan
Disaster Reduction Specialist
Climate Risk Management / Early Warning Systems
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC)
979/66-70, 24th Floor
SM Tower, Paholyothin Road , Samsen Nai, Phayathai,
Bangkok, 10400
Thailand
Tel : (66-2) 298 0682-92 (Ext-205 )
Fax : (66-2) 298 0012-13
URL: www.adpc.net

Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning Center
P.O. Box 4, Klong Luang,
Pathumthani, 12120
Thailand
Tel : 02-5165900-03
Fax : 02-5245350,60

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Climate Destruction Will Produce Millions of ‘Envirogees’
By Scott Thill, AlterNet. Posted May 27, 2008.

The rise of environmental disasters from climate change and destruction of ecosystems will create a surge of refugees across the planet. Chew on this word, jargon lovers. Envirogee.

It carries more 21st century buzz than its semi-official designation climate refugee, which is a displaced individual who has been forced to migrate because of environmental devastation. Maybe the buzzword will catch on faster and shed some much-needed light on what will become a serious problem, probably by the end of this or the next decade. That light is crucial, because so far envirogees haven’t been fully recognized by those who certify the civil liberties of Earth’s various populations, whether that is the United Nations or local and national governments whose people are increasingly on the move for a whole new set of devastating reasons.

In short, immigration is about to enter a new phase, which resembles an old one with a 21st century twist. For thousands of years, humanity has fled across Earth’s surface fearing instability and in search of sustainability. But that resource war has kicked into overdrive thanks to our current climate crisis — a manufactured war with its own clock. And the clock is ticking.

From earthquakes in China to cyclones in Myanmar to water rationing in Los Angeles, societies are shifting like their borders. And all the outcry over so-called illegal immigration neglects to answer one time-honored question: If the borders aren’t standing still, why should the people who live in their outlines do so? Especially when they’re under attack from catastrophic floods, fires, droughts and any number of other environmental dangers?

Right now, the 1951 Geneva Convention does not recognize the envirogee phenomenon, instead focusing on immigration as a result of political persecution. But then again, it was established over five decades ago when Earth’s climate was anything but a terrorist. But the Geneva Convention, like everything that must adapt or die, needs to mutate in time with the rest of the world and its hyperconsuming inhabitants in order to remain relevant in our still-new millennium.



Here are some startling envirogee numbers to crunch: According to the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Earth’s fracturing communities will have 150 million envirogees by 2050. According to Australian climatologist Dr. Graeme Pearman, coastal flooding resulting from a mere two-degree rise in temperature would kick 100 million people out of their danger-zone homes by 2100.

Here’s more scary data. Desertification is claiming land from China to Morocco to Tunisia and beyond at an increasing rate. New Orleans and parts of Alaska are slowly sliding into the sea, while the former, as Hurricane Katrina ably illustrated, is becoming a reliable target for intensifying weather events, human corruption and half-assed infrastructure. Aquifers around the world are shrinking, while acidification is claiming cropland in Egypt and beyond. Hypoxia has claimed portions of the ocean itself with alarming speed, as stretches of the Atlantic and Pacific lose oxygen and, by extension, the marine life that not only feeds millions but establishes the continuity of the food chain.

No food chain, no food. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

But numbers are fallible, which is another way of saying the above figures are most likely best-case scenarios. In other words, the future is now. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the IPCC might have taken home a Nobel for their statistics and bleeding hearts, but their math was significantly off. Worse, the rate at which these things happen is rising exponentially.

“The rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentrations accelerated over recent decades along with fossil fuel emissions,” explained a report on methane and CO2 rises by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Organization for Atmospheric Administration. “Since 2000, annual increases of two ppm or more have been common, compared with 1.5 ppm per year in the 1980s and less than one ppm per year during the 1960s.” As for methane, in 2007 it exploded by 27 million tons after a decade with relatively no rise at all. Think about that next time you eat that Happy Meal.

So what’s an envirogee to do, other than opt out of wasted fantasies like Happy Meals, factory farming, bottled water and Hummers? What else? Move.

Which is what envirogees worldwide are already doing right now, by choice or by gunpoint, and will do more often than not as situations on the ground and in the air deteriorate.

The conflict raging in Darfur is a sobering example of the complexity of the situation. It has so far displaced 2-3 million people, and for all the talk of political or religious persecution, the fact remains that it is at its root an environmental crisis. An arid desert whose water is drying up by the day, Darfur is one of the first flashpoints of our new phase of climate conflict, a conflict that U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon explained in the Washington Post as one “that grew at least in part from desertification, ecological degradation and a scarcity of resources, foremost among them water.” But this too should have been foreseen: According to remote sensing, Darfur sits atop of an underground lake that once used to hold over 600 cubic miles of water and dried up thousands of years ago.

And like Darfur, we are numbly sitting atop our climatological past while it races to catch up with us. Parched by thirst and hungry for fossil fuels which, in turn, only exacerbate that thirst and the wars it engenders, envirogees are streaming out of these hot zones into less murderous ones, whose inhabitants are circling their wagons on the outsiders. Civil wars are breaking out. Outsiders, in turn, are becoming invaders. The irony is rich.

It gets richer, or poorer, depending on where you stand on peak oil. The planet’s shrinking petroleum reserves are now more valuable than ever, and the prices for its capture and capitalization show zero sign of returning to normal. That expense is also beginning to be measured in lives, as carbon concentration exponentially increases and weather events become more extreme.

And you all know what they say about extreme times calling for extreme measures.

We’ve been here before, which is to say on the brink of extinction. In one instance, drought shrunk our numbers to about 2,000 scattered in a diaspora across Africa, a fearsome thought for a 21st century superpower that may be entering its own permanent drought. But the wrinkle is different this time around the tightrope: We built this coming dystopia with our own hands.

And that’s going to reshape not just immigration policy, but the concept of immigration altogether. And that’s where the envirogee comes in. The envirogee, you see, is on the run from himself.

In other words, and no matter how much blowhards like CNN’s Lou Dobbs bitch and whine, the inconvenient truth of climate change, and its rampant resource wars for what’s left of the planet’s stores, remains a reality. Beneath genocide in Darfur lies a desert that used to be a lake. There probably isn’t a better metaphor for our current hyperhighway to hell in existence, if one could argue that it was a metaphor to begin with. But one can’t, because it is reality, pure and simple. And so are envirogees, regardless of the outdated assertions of the Geneva Convention or the staid refusals of the insurance industry to wake up and smell the hurricanes.

“If we keep going down this path,” French prime minister Nicholas Sarkozy argued to the superpowers gathered at the Major Economics Meeting in Paris last month, “climate change will encourage the immigration of people with nothing towards areas where the population do have something, and the Darfur crisis will be only one crisis among dozens of others,” he stressed.

That is, we won’t be worried about Mexicans coming to the U.S. for economic reasons, or Africans doing the same in France and England. We will be worried about hyperviolent cyclones, floods and droughts destroying what’s left of our jobs and the people who want them, as we all pack our crap and move northward, where temperate weather and more bountiful supplies of water, gas and food lie. We will be the ones enduring the hard stares and perhaps bullets fired from locals who are circling their wagons against victims of their own consumption and apathy.

Whether or not we can settle, literally, with that solution, time will tell. But according to the continually underperforming science of climate crisis, we won’t settle for long. Barring any meaningful sociopolitical or economic engagement, to say nothing of much-needed technological revolution, on the issue, we’ll have turned from territorial citizens into climate nomads, all in a cosmological eyeblink.

Scott Thill runs the online mag Morphizm.com. His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Scientist Shifts View on Global Warming

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP
Posted: 2008-05-18 15:55:50
Filed Under: Science News
WASHINGTON (May 18) – Global warming isn’t to blame for the recent jump in hurricanes in the Atlantic, concludes a study by a prominent federal scientist whose position has shifted on the subject.

Not only that, warmer temperatures will actually reduce the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and those making landfall, research meteorologist Tom Knutson reported in a study released Sunday.

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Vincent Laforet, Pool / Getty Images

Are There Benefits
To Global Warming?
1 of 10

Ever since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, hurricanes have often been seen as a symbol of global warming’s wrath. However, a new study shows that warmer temperatures may actually reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes. Click through the photos to see other positive effects of global warming.

In the past, Knutson has raised concerns about the effects of climate change on storms. His new paper has the potential to heat up a simmering debate among meteorologists about current and future effects of global warming in the Atlantic.

Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, hurricanes have often been seen as a symbol of global warming’s wrath. Many climate change experts have tied the rise of hurricanes in recent years to global warming and hotter waters that fuel them.

Another group of experts, those who study hurricanes and who are more often skeptical about global warming, say there is no link. They attribute the recent increase to a natural multi-decade cycle.

What makes this study different is Knutson, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fluid dynamics lab in Princeton, N.J.

He has warned about the harmful effects of climate change and has even complained in the past about being censored by the Bush administration on past studies on the dangers of global warming.

He said his new study, based on a computer model, argues “against the notion that we’ve already seen a really dramatic increase in Atlantic hurricane activity resulting from greenhouse warming.”

20071211221409990014.gif
John McConnico, AP

Effects of
Global Warming
1 of 18

A record amount of Greenland’s ice sheet melted this summer — 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark. And for the first time on record, the Northwest Passage was open to navigation.

The study, published online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, predicts that by the end of the century the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic will fall by 18 percent.

The number of hurricanes making landfall in the United States and its neighbors – anywhere east of Puerto Rico – will drop by 30 percent because of wind factors.

The biggest storms – those with winds of more than 110 mph – would only decrease in frequency by 8 percent. Tropical storms, those with winds between 39 and 73 mph, would decrease by 27 percent.

It’s not all good news from Knutson’s study, however. His computer model also forecasts that hurricanes and tropical storms will be wetter and fiercer. Rainfall within 30 miles of a hurricane should jump by 37 percent and wind strength should increase by about 2 percent, Knutson’s study says.

And Knutson said this study significantly underestimates the increase in wind strength. Some other scientists criticized his computer model.

MIT hurricane meteorologist Kerry Emanuel, while praising Knutson as a scientist, called his conclusion “demonstrably wrong” based on a computer model that doesn’t look properly at storms.

20070912144809990027.gif
NASA

Historic Hurricanes
1 of 12

Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was the most intense hurricane ever. It measured 882 millibars, the lowest pressure on record. There were 27 named Atlantic storms that year, also a record.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist, said Knutson’s computer model is poor at assessing tropical weather and “fail to replicate storms with any kind of fidelity.”

Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said it is not just the number of hurricanes “that matter, it is also the intensity, duration and size, and this study falls short on these issues.”

Knutson acknowledges weaknesses in his computer model and said it primarily gives a coarse overview, not an accurate picture on individual storms and storm strength. He said the latest model doesn’t produce storms surpassing 112 mph.

But NOAA hurricane meteorologist Chris Landsea, who wasn’t part of this study, praised Knutson’s work as “very consistent with what’s being said all along.”

“I think global warming is a big concern, but when it comes to hurricanes the evidence for changes is pretty darn tiny,” Landsea said.

Hurricane season starts June 1 in the Atlantic and a Colorado State University forecast predicts about a 50 percent more active than normal storm season this year. NOAA puts out its own seasonal forecast on May 22.

In a normal year about 10 named storms form. Six become hurricanes and two become major hurricanes. On average, about five hurricanes hit the United States every three years.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
2008-05-18 14:33:13

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Are Myanmar’s Storm Victims Suffering Needlessly? Asks The Washington DC based World Watch Institute.

by Ben Block on May 9, 2008

But the posted article did not mention the effect of climate change that seemingly can make it predictable that similar large scale disasters will become more frequent. also, though pointing out the effects of uncontrolled – so called development – and the lack of interest by the Myanmar government in the wellbeing of its citizens, does not follow up with any reference to the US experience with the recent Hurricanes that hit Louisiana. Eerily, we find similarities here even though we would not go as far as equating the government systems of the US and Myanmar, but we will nevertheless fare to equate the lack of fore-sight when watching, and sometimes even sponsoring, unsound development and removal of natural barriers against furious storms from the sea. Also the post disaster reaction may allow for some comparison.

We mention the above because we hope the Irrawaddy lesson will not be only that Burma is run by a junta, but that the world must think of how to act now so that the scale of future disasters will be less biting then it was in these two recent examples.

myanmar_delta.jpg
Photo courtesy of NASA
Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta is shown before (top) and after (bottom) Cyclone Nargis inundated the coast, killing thousands. The storm further destroyed mangroves that may serve as protective buffers against waves.

As the floodwaters of Cyclone Nargis began to recede from Myanmar’s low-lying Irrawaddy Delta this week, at least one regional leader was quick to note that this devastating disaster could have been partially prevented through better coastal management.

Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), mentioned in an address in Singapore that expanding coastal populations and widespread mangrove degradation played key roles in worsening the cyclone’s impact. Much of the damage from the cyclone was caused by storm surge, powerful waves whipped up by the high winds.

“The mangrove forests, which used to serve as buffer between the rising tide, between big waves and storms and the residential area… all those lands have been destroyed,” Agence France-Presse reported him saying. “Human beings are now direct victims of such natural forces.”

Mangrove forests, salt-tolerant trees and shrubs found mainly in intertidal areas of the tropics, provide critical breeding grounds and habitat for many plants and animals, including several high-value fish species. Ever since the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated parts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand, mangroves have received greater attention for their potential role in protecting coastlines against storm surges. But their role as coastal guardians – including in places like the Irrawaddy Delta – is still disputed within the scientific community.

Of the 100,000 people who Myanmar officials say have perished or face imminent death if they do not receive humanitarian aid in the wake of the May 2 cyclone, many had lived in areas once covered with mangrove forests. Myanmar is home to some of the largest remaining forested areas in Southeast Asia. However, the government junta often encourages citizens to convert mangrove forests into shrimp aquaculture facilities or rice fields. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that Myanmar lost about 9 percent of its mangrove forests – 48,500 hectares – between 1980 and 2005.

Mangrove roots hold together the shifting silt and other debris that flows down a delta and shapes coastal landscapes. By deterring erosion, mangroves prevent the debris from washing inland and damaging agricultural land. “It’s pretty…clear, looking around the world, that it is generally accepted that mangroves help stop erosion and protect coastland,” said Mark Spalding, a senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy.

Mangrove branches and roots may also reduce the surging energy of a massive storm wave as it approaches inland. “There are lots of structures that add friction to the movement of water through this fringing mangrove forest,” said Ivan Valiela, a marine biologist with Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.

But to effectively study the role of mangroves in slowing wave action, researchers need to compare a severely damaged mangrove coast with a similar mangrove coast that was not heavily affected. This has proven to be a major limitation and has prevented scientific consensus, said Valiela, editor of the journal Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science.

Finn Danielsen, a senior ecologist with the Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology who researched the protective power of mangroves during the Asian tsunami, said computer simulations have accurately measured the effect of mangroves. “There is no doubt that mangroves could have absorbed some of the energy of Hurricane Nargis,” he said. “It is true that other factors also play a role, but this does not mean that the role of coastal tree vegetation is smaller.”

Tom Smith, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, considers himself one of the world’s few researchers who challenges whether mangroves affect a wave’s forces. Data on the subject is “scant and meager,” Smith said. He considers studies that have relied upon computer simulations, satellite imagery, and field studies to be flawed.

Smith concedes that many researchers are uncomfortable with his conclusions, due to concerns that this may slow the momentum of ongoing mangrove conservation efforts. But, he said, more emphasis should instead be placed on relocating people farther inland, which would protect them from dangerous oceanic storms and also help preserve mangrove forests.

According to the United Nations, nearly half of the world’s population lives within 150 kilometers of a coast, and more are projected to move there in coming years due to population growth and tourism. Myanmar is no exception to this trend. The recent cyclone flooded the city of Yangôn, home to more than 4 million people, as well as several other cities of between 100,000 and 500,000 people. “Poorly constructed homes in low-lying, incredibly exposed areas… It’s just set-up for this sort of disaster,” Smith said.

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute who covers everything environmental for Eye on Earth. He can be reached at bblock@worldwatch.org.

UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
9 May, 2008 =========================================================================

UN APPEALS FOR $187 MILLION TO AID MYANMAR CYCLONE VICTIMS.

The United Nations today appealed for $187 million to help provide humanitarian relief to some 1.5 million people severely affected by the recent cyclone in Myanmar for the next six months.

Launching the Flash Appeal in New York on behalf of 10 UN agencies and 9 non-governmental organizations, the UN’s top relief official emphasized that “the extent of the humanitarian catastrophe is enormous.”

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes noted that the number of those severely affected is between 1.2 and 1.9 million. But he added that “the numbers of people in need may well increase further as we come to understand better the situation on the ground.”

Cyclone Nargis, which struck the South-East Asian nation on 2 May, left a path of death and destruction across the Irrawaddy delta region and the country’s largest city, Yangon. The Government estimates that more than 22,000 people have died and over 41,000 remain missing.

Mr. Holmes noted that the number of deaths has been climbing daily and “could be anywhere between 63,000 and 100,000, or possibly even higher.”

Stressing the need to act quickly and for the Government to facilitate aid delivery, he said that “the sooner humanitarians are allowed in, and the less procedural and other obstacles we encounter, the more lives we can help save.”

He later told reporters that countries at the launch voiced strong hope that the cooperation which is necessary between the international community and the authorities in Myanmar will be “as forthcoming, as flexible, and as rapid as possible to make sure that not only material relief goods can get in but also humanitarian aid workers.”

Today’s Appeal covers 12 areas, with the largest portion of the funding sought for food, water and sanitation, logistics, health and shelter. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is seeking $56 million to provide daily food rations to 630,000 people in severely affected areas or temporary shelters.

Also, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has appealed for $10 million to assist poor farming and fishing communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis, which made landfall in the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) delta region last Friday and then moved on to Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.

FAO said the five worst-affected areas – Ayeyarwady, Yangon and Bago Divisions, and Mon and Kayin states – are considered Myanmar’s food bowl, producing much of the country’s staple food of rice and fish, and the overall food security situation in Myanmar is “seriously threatened.”

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which is appealing for $3 million, said today that tens of thousands of pregnant women made homeless by the cyclone urgently need lifesaving assistance. UNFPA is working with humanitarian partners to mobilize emergency reproductive health supplies, including safe delivery kits, for those affected.

The agency added that disasters like Cyclone Nargis put expectant mothers and their babies at special risk because of the sudden loss of medical support, compounded by trauma, malnutrition and disease. Another $8.2 million is being sought by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to meet the critical needs of children and women in the wake of the tragedy.

Mr. Holmes said he will be allocating $20 million immediately from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to projects from the Flash Appeal to help ensure that the most urgent needs can be addressed quickly. Some $77 million has been pledged so far by countries, toward the Appeal and in bilateral assistance.

TOP UN OFFICIAL IN ASIA-PACIFIC JOINS CALL FOR URGENT ACCESS TO MYANMAR

Echoing calls on the Myanmar authorities to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid in the wake of the deadly cyclone which has left some 1.5 million people in need, the top United Nations official in the region today urged the Government to act quickly to avert an even worse tragedy.

“The situation is getting critical and there is only a small window of opportunity if we are to avert the spread of diseases that could multiply the already tragic number of casualties,” said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The UN humanitarian chief has warned that the situation in Myanmar following last weekend’s cyclone has become “increasingly desperate.” The storm left a path of death and destruction across the Irrawaddy delta region and the country’s largest city, Yangon.

Both Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have voiced their disappointment at the limited progress made in gaining access to Myanmar, where some 1.5 million people are believed to be severely affected by the disaster.

Ms. Heyzer “urged again the Myanmar authorities to issue visas expeditiously, and if possible, exempt all visa requirements for all UN aid workers, so that aid can reach the people as quickly as possible.”

She also said she plans to personally go as soon as possible to Myanmar to show her solidarity with the people of the South-East Asian nation and to meet with the Government to discuss access and humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, UN agencies are continuing to mobilize efforts to assist those in need. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday airlifted enough high energy biscuits for 21,000 people, most of which has been delivered over the last 24 hours to the hardest-hit areas. Today, two WFP flights arrived with enough high-energy biscuits to feed 95,000 people.

The agency has decided to send in two relief flights as planned tomorrow, while discussions continue with the Government of Myanmar on the distribution of the food that was flown in today, and that has not been released to WFP, spokesperson Bettina Luescher told reporters in New York.

“We’re trying everything to resolve the situation at the airport but we are very encouraged that we were able to distribute food,” she stated.

In addition, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today it is hoping to start airlifting 57 tonnes of emergency shelter – for some 22,000 people – from its stockpile in Dubai.

The first load of 32 tonnes of aid cargo – mainly urgently needed shelter materials such as plastic sheeting, blankets and kitchen sets – is set to be transported on a WFP aircraft, with another 25 tonnes of supplies expected to be airlifted over the weekend on a joint charter flight.

The agency is also emptying its stockpile in north-western Thailand to deliver some 5,000 plastic sheets and some 200 tents to people in desperate need of shelter across the border.

“We are seeking all possible means to send urgent shelter materials and household supplies to victims of the recent cyclone in Myanmar,” UNHCR’s Jennifer Pagonis told reporters.

Now The Myanmar junta does not want to let free access to the International NGOs that come to help, as they seemingly prefer to keep the keys to their hell in their own firm hands. Posturing like the Wall Street Journal Editorial of today – calling for Myanmar’s expulsion from the UN will not help – but forcing the junta by sending in help under cover of a NATO force as suggested by some Europeans, may be a step in the right direction – even if China might say they do not like the idea of an intervention from outside. People in the inflicted area will die without this help.

And an AlterNet Editorial: The Disaster in Burma — How You Can Help
Posted May 10, 2008.

International aid groups are facing problems getting to disaster-stricken areas of Burma, but a group of monks is on the front lines right now.

Note: The following appeal was sent to members of MoveOn.org, offering an alternative way to help with the disaster in Burma.

In the wake of a massive cyclone, tens of thousands of Burmese are dead. A million are homeless.

But what’s happening in Burma is not just a natural disaster — it’s also a catastrophe of bad leadership.

Burma’s brutal and corrupt military junta failed to warn the people, failed to evacuate any areas, and suppressed freedom of communication so that Burmese people didn’t know the storm was coming when the rest of the world did. Now the government is failing to respond to the disaster and obstructing international aid organizations.

Humanitarian relief is urgently needed, but Burma’s government could easily delay, divert or misuse any aid. The International Burmese Monks Organization, including many leaders of the democracy protests last fall, launched a new effort to provide relief through Burma’s powerful grass roots network of monasteries — the most trusted institutions in the country and currently the only source of housing and support in many devastated communities. You can help the Burmese people with a donation and see a video appeal to Avaaz from a leader of the monks.

Giving to the monks is a smart, fast way to get aid directly to Burma’s people. Governments and international aid organizations are important, but face challenges — they may not be allowed into Burma, or they may be forced to provide aid according to the junta’s rules. And most will have to spend large amounts of money just setting up operations in the country. The monks are already on the front lines of the aid effort — housing, feeding, and supporting the victims of the cyclone since the day it struck. The International Burmese Monks Organization will send money directly to each monastery through their own networks, bypassing regime controls.

Last year, more than 800,000 of us around the world stood with the Burmese people as they rose up against the military dictatorship. The government lost no time then in dispatching its armies to ruthlessly crush the nonviolent democracy movement — but now, as tens of thousands die, the junta’s response is slow and threatens to divert precious aid into the corrupt regime’s pockets.

The monks are unlikely to receive aid from governments or large humanitarian organizations, but they have a stronger presence and trust among the Burmese people than both. If we all chip in a little bit, we can help them to make a big difference.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Statement by Foreign Minister Mrs Bakoyiannis to the High Level Event on climate change convened by the Secretary-General

Thursday, 04 October, 2007

Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon

Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the United Nations and the General Secretary for organizing this conference and to extend my heartfelt congratulations.

There has been a great deal of procrastination where climate change is concerned. For too long we have been consumed by unreasonable doubts and postponed an effective response to this unique global challenge. For too long climate change was approached as ‘an abstract phenomenon’ – understood by scientists, scorned by ill-advised skeptics, downplayed by vested interests and ignored by myopic political systems. Today time is running out.

If current predictions are accurate, the deterioration of our environment due to climate change is one of the greatest social and economic realities facing our planet.   And most of its consequences within the next few decades will occur no matter what we decide to do today to mitigate the problem of emissions. There are two time lags involved here. One is the time lag between policy decisions and policy implementation. The second time lag is inherent to the phenomenon itself, as the scientists predict that oceans have stored most of the heating that occurred in the last 40 years and are going to gradually release it, in the next few decades.

So our responsibility is not only to find the political will for an effective global policy to stabilise emissions, but also to face the challenges our past actions are already producing. And we must realise that, climate change can no longer be seen as an environmental issue – in isolation. It is not solely a matter of environmental consciousness. It is not even, merely, an environmental imperative. It is an all-encompassing threat. And it must be approached as such.

It is a question of ethics and human rights. A question of human security and a possible cause of major future conflicts. A question of sustainable Economic development. It is also and a threat to world health. In consequence, it must be tackled more broadly to include socio-political dynamics which are unavoidably necessary if we are to have a holistic approach.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I come here today, on the back of a very real human, environmental, and economic tragedy witnessed by my country only a month ago.

Greece, like other southern European countries went through trying times this summer. As predicted in the IPCC fourth assessment report & the Stern review, raging wildfires menaced the region and in Greece claimed the life of over 65 people. They burnt over the houses and livelihoods of thousands of people. Destroyed wildlife and acres upon acres of forest. Greeks, and the entire world, looked upon the unfolding fires with disbelief – numb. For we all know now that an environmental disaster in one place – be it in the Americas, Asia, Oceania, Africa, or Europe – impacts every corner of the globe.

Our government reacted to the best of our abilities, in order to confront the tragedy and minimise its ramifications. Foreign help was also generously offered by our friends and partners. And we are deeply grateful to them.

The environment is, for us, an utmost priority, and I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the Greek government will do everything it can to restore the damage.

The unexpected extent of the mobilization of fire fighting resources by our European partners and our friends in the international community bears, however, a positive message for the future. We are about to face more and more climate change induced disasters in the years to come, on a scale that no country –even the most powerful- can adequately prepare for. It is important to, now, that the political will and the resources exist for pulling together assets from many countries, to face this challenge. And it is crucial that we discuss how this international effort can be achieved more efficiently, using in a complimentary, and coherent way, all the tools the international system can offer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having had a recent, painful experience of the catastrophic potential of climate change, Greece believes that the world leaders assembled here today must send a strong message to negotiators at Bali, on the utmost urgency of achieving a global agreement on mitigation. By unilaterally adopting new restrictions on emissions, the European Union is paving the way for a brave response by the whole of developed world in these negotiations. This can pave the way for further fair and necessary contributions by the emerging economies.

Mitigation itself, though, is not enough; and adaptation is not only a local or national necessity. It also encompasses a crucial responsibility of the international community, towards the least developed countries and the small island states that have the least contribution to the problem, and will bear the immediate and heaviest burden. People there live in vulnerable regions, in fragile economic, social and environmental conditions and lack the adaptive capacity to deal with the perils brought by climate change.

This is why Greece currently holding the Chairmanship of the Human Security Network this year, decided to focus on the impacts of climate change on human security, in vulnerable regions and for vulnerable groups of people, especially women, children and persons fleeing their homes due to climate change.

This is why we believe that development assistance from the developed world should be revisited and re-panned, so as to take into consideration the impacts of climate change in the least developed countries.

This is why we join our voice with those declaring that climate change threats make the millennium development goals all the more difficult to attain and their achievement needs an urgent mobilization of all our efforts.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Geneva – Addressing the Impact on Human Security of Environment and Migration Issues – Ensuring human security in a world challenged by the three pressing issues of the day – climate change, environmental degradation and migration – will be the focus of an international conference in Geneva on 19 February.

Jointly organized by Greece under its chairmanship of the Human Security Network and IOM, the conference will examine both the impact of environmental degradation and climate change on human security and migration as well as the impact of migration on the environment and how interaction on these two phenomena can lead to potential conflict.

While there has been increasing international focus on climate change, environmental degradation and migration as separate subjects, the impact of both on human security and the potential for conflict, has not received the same level of attention from policy makers and researchers.

Although data on the number of existing environmental migrants – those “persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad” – and projections on future numbers are unclear with the latter varying enormously from an estimated 25 million to one billion by 2050, people across the world are having to leave their homes or countries because of rising sea levels, scarcity of water, inability to farm sustainably as well as vulnerability to an increasing number of weather phenomena that destroy lives and livelihoods.

Human displacement caused by natural disasters both sudden and slow on-set, in addition to political conflicts, also play a critical role in environmental degradation and tensions over decreasing resources especially water and land.

The conference, which will have keynote presentations by Theodoros Skylakakis, Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation at the Greek Foreign Ministry, IOM Director General Brunson McKinley, the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud and Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights will not only identify key issues surrounding climate, environmental degradation, migration and human security, but will also explore ways of mitigating the impact of migration on the environment as well as using migration strategies to help limit environmental damage and potential human crises.

Panellists include E.Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the UN in New York with Grenada chairing the Alliance of Small Island States, as well as prominent representatives of the academic and NGO community.

“Early planning and action on this complex and multi-dimensional issue can go a long way in lessening the impact of climate change, environmental degradation and migration on human security. We have an opportunity here of taking a step forward in addressing this issue,” says Brunson McKinley.

“Greece, presiding now the Human Security Network felt that people’s migration due to worsening climate and environment constitutes a challenge for human security. Geneva, where many of those who understand this serious and complex issue work and live, seems the right place to tackle this issue,” says Greece’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Franciscos Verros.

The Human Security Network is a group of 13 countries from various regions of the world which maintains dialogue at Foreign Ministers level on questions pertaining to human security and as an informal, flexible mechanism, identifies concrete areas for collective action.

The conference, which is being held at the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Geneva, is open to the media.

For background papers and the agenda, please go to www.iom.int and www.greeceun.org.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 Despite the hoopla, the UN is not exactly the place were leadership on climate change will evolve. We saw this at the New York UN Headquarters where the UN Department of Public Information was leading away, the journalists it is supposed to inform, from any such notions as described in this article. Many journalists from large circulation papers, paid for writing just human rights, injustice to women, inflammatory articles, but without any mandate to look for reasons that contributed to the situations they describe, were part of this UN cover-up. It was all a disgrace of a true information service. The few investigative journalists that were asking the right questions were being held at a short leash with the   danger of being expelled hanging over their head. Even UNFCCC’s most important leader, Yvo de Boer, did not have the courage to speak up against this undertow at the UN. We concluded then justifiably that such a UN will not help. It is only single governments, like the UK, now under a second forthcoming leadership, perhaps now also Australia under its new leadership, that present the world with some hope. it will be only if these few fighting governments will prevail over other governments – the US, China, India … that change may be on its way.  www.SustainabiliTank.info comments)

Bali Conference: Diplomats warned that climate change is security issue, not a green dilemma.
By Daniel Howden, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Independent, December 6, 2007.

Foreign policy-makers are waking up to the impact of climate change on conflict zones worldwide, and will add their voice to those calling on governments at the UN conference in Bali to act urgently.

An internal presentation to senior diplomats at the Foreign Office listed every recent, serious breakdown of civil order around the world and mapped it against those countries hardest hit by climate change. The fit was almost perfect. One of the diplomats present said there was an “audible intake of breath” from the audience when the slide was shown.

As the scientific debate has been unequivocally settled by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year, it has become increasingly apparent that its effects will have major implications for foreign policy.

“Climate change presents an enormous challenge to the international community, and unless we respond effectively we won’t be able to deal with the implications,” said John Ashton, the UK’s special representative for climate change. “We need to see how we can use the assets at our disposal to something about it.”

Those assets include the know-how to build international coalitions, and the kind of influence over governmental decision-making that environment ministers can only dream of. Analysts point out that while environment experts know how to make emissions trading work, it’s a “political fact” that you get a quicker response to a security crisis.

Delegations from some 190 countries began talks on the Indonesian island of Bali yesterday, aimed at agreeing a “road map” for a successor to the Kyoto protocol. There are concerns that, despite scientific and business consensus on the urgent need for deep cuts to carbon emissions, Bali will be simply more talks about talks.

From rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean to the increasing spread of desert in Africa’s Sahel region and water shortages in the Middle East, global warming will cause new wars across the world and is being described by diplomats as a “threat multiplier” – adding new stress to areas of traditional geopolitical instability.

Mr Ashton was brought into the Foreign Office by the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett last year as a “climate-change ambassador” to try to instil a sense of urgency on the issue in the diplomatic service. Britain also used its presidency of the UN Security Council to lead its first debate on climate change and conflict. “What makes wars start?” asked Mrs Beckett. “Fights over water. Changing patterns of rainfall. Fights over food production, land use. There are few greater potential threats… to peace and security itself.”

Those sentiments were echoed in June by the head of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, who launched a report revealing the environmental roots of the conflict in Darfur.

Mr Steiner said global warming would produce new wars. “People are being pushed into other people’s terrain by the changing climate and it is leading to conflict,” he said.

“Societies are not prepared for the scale and the speed with which they will have to decide what they will do with people.”



How ‘climate proofing’ could prevent conflict:

Were global carbon emissions to be cut by half today, any mitigating effects on climate change would take at least two decades to appear. In the short term we are locked into global warming, so efforts to “climate proof” the nations set to be hit hardest by it is one of the biggest tasks facing the UN, and the most effective means of reducing the likelihood of climate-driven wars.

Schemes to mute the impact of climate change, such as wider use of drought-resistant crops, irrigation or better forecasting of storm surges, could help protect hundreds of millions of people.

In parts of Sudan, for instance, a study showed that a shift to small-scale irrigated vegetable gardens and efforts to stabilise sand dunes had raised food output.

For Uruguay and Argentina, the report urged “a review of coastal and city defences, and of early-warning systems and flood-response strategies” along the river Plate. In Gambia, a projected decline in rainfall this century is likely to cut yields of millet. Cases of dengue fever in the Caribbean could triple, and better education about the risks could help. “Adaptation is not an option – it’s essential,” said Neil Leary of the International Start Secretariat in Washington, who led the studies.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 25th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Are the Wildfires in California Related to Global Warming?
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! – Posted October 23, 2007.

Environmental journalist Bill McKibben explains the connection between raging wildfires and our warming planet.

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue on this issue of global warming, what does global warming have to do with the fires raging in Southern California?

More than a half a million people in San Diego County have been ordered to evacuate. Over 900 homes have been destroyed. At least one person has died. Another thirty-seven people have been reported injured, including seventeen firefighters. The fires extend from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara, the most devastating fires in San Diego County. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency.

Bill McKibben is a leading environmentalist and one of the leading forces behind Step It Up. In 1989, he wrote the book The End of Nature, one of the first books to describe global warming as an emerging environmental crisis. His latest book is called Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. Bill McKibben, joining us from Boston, welcome to Democracy Now!

BILL McKIBBEN: Amy, it’s good to be with you, as always.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. The fires in Southern California and global warming, is there a connection?

BILL McKIBBEN: I’m afraid that there is. This is the kind of disaster that we see more and more of as we begin to change the basic physics and chemistry of the planet we live on. One of the people leading the really brave rescue effort out there yesterday said, one of the San Diego authorities said, this is the driest it’s been in at least ninety years. It’s dry because they’ve had terrific heat and not much rain. And those are just the conditions for that part of the world that all the modeling suggests come about when you begin to raise the temperature.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Tom Swetnam of the University of Arizona, one of the ecologists there. He has written about the connection to global warming. He published a study in the journal Science, saying global warming has increased temperatures in the West about one degree, and that’s caused four times more fires.

BILL McKIBBEN: This is the problem. Things don’t work in a linear smooth relationship, you know? You raise the temperature a little bit, and you begin to get very large cascading effects. So, for instance, across much of the West in Alaska, warmer temperatures have brought with them infestations of new kinds of insects. Those insects have killed off hundreds of thousands of square miles of forest. That forest catches fire once those trees die.

All that burning forest sends yet more carbon into the atmosphere. On and on and on. We see the same kind of dynamics playing out now with this drought in the Southeast, with the ongoing drought in the Southwest. And, of course, the US has been hit less hard by these changes than much of the rest of the world so far.

What’s important to remember and the reason that we spend all our time organizing now, trying to change all this, is that so far human beings have raised the temperature of the planet about one degree Fahrenheit. The computer modeling makes it very clear that before the century is out, unless we take very strong action, indeed, we’re going to raise the temperature of the planet another five degrees Fahrenheit. So, take whatever you see now, multiply it by five, and then toss in all those cascading effects that come, as we exceed one threshold after another.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, we hardly see, with the massive coverage of what’s going on in California, which is very significant, these fires raging in Southern California, the words “global warming” mentioned.

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, it’s like Katrina. I mean, the sheer horror of it in the moment is so enormous that it’s hard to focus on causes. That’s why we’ve got to be building that movement all the time, doing the kind of stuff that Ted Glick is doing in Washington, doing the kind of stuff that at stepitup2007.org we’re doing all across the country, as we get ready for our next round of big nationwide protests on November 3rd.

It’s only, you know, when we’re able to take a step back — I mean, you know, the people in California today can’t be concentrating on global warming; they’ve got to be concentrating on getting people out of harm’s way and fast. My aunt was evacuated yesterday afternoon, and I’m worried sick about her. But the rest of us can’t be in there —

AMY GOODMAN: Where does she live?

BILL McKIBBEN: She lives near San Diego. The rest of us can’t be in there fighting fires, you know? We’re thousands of miles away. What we can be doing is trying to put out, or at least damp down, the big fire that’s causing all these other effects, and that’s global warming. And that can only be done with federal action soon. That’s what we’re pushing for on November 3rd.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to New Orleans for a minute. You mentioned Hurricane Katrina. They are experiencing a massive rainstorm, at least eight inches yesterday. The forecast: it will continue. Mayor Ray Nagin closed City Hall. They closed the schools. They told people not to drive in the streets. The waves, they were afraid, would inundate the buildings that have just been cleaned up from Hurricane Katrina. That connection?

BILL McKIBBEN: Warm air holds more water vapor than cold air does, right? That means that in arid areas, you get more evaporation and hence more drought. And we’re seeing that around the world. Once that water is up there in the atmosphere, it’s got to come down someplace. In wet areas or in big storms, we see way more precipitation. The number of storms that drop more than two inches of rain in a twenty-four-hour period has grown by something like 25 percent, the real gulley washers.

We’re — to call it “global warming” is correct, but almost a misnomer. What we’re really doing is adding immense amounts of energy to a system, and that energy is expressing itself in all kinds of ways: more evaporation, more precipitation, higher wind speeds, rapid melt of ice across the Arctic and across every glacial system that we know about, on and on and on.

It is — you know, we used to think that we were still a decade or two away from the real emergency. That’s what we would have said twenty years ago, when I wrote The End of Nature. Now, we understand, the modeling makes clear, that the planet was more finely balanced than we’ve understood. What we’ve done so far has been enough to throw every physical system on earth out of kilter.

What we’re fighting for now is not to prevent global warming. There is going to be some global warming; there already is. What we’re fighting for now is to keep that miserable and difficult century of global warming from turning into an absolute catastrophe that rewrites the geology and biology of this planet for eons to come.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, in the Southeast, several states are in the midst of a major drought. As of last week, seventy-one of North Carolina’s hundred counties were in exceptional drought, the federal government’s highest classification. Georgia has declared a state of emergency, appealed for federal aid. The drought has also affected large swaths of Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina?

BILL McKIBBEN: When you increase the temperature, what you’re really doing — I mean, if I say the temperature has gone up one degree, it doesn’t sound like much, but that masks enormous increases in the extremes, much longer and stronger heat waves. You know, we keep having one record warm year after another across this globe. And that doesn’t happen without consequences. The earth is a physical system, and those inputs start to change the outputs pretty darn dramatically.

AMY GOODMAN: The action that you’re planning as one of the lead forces behind Step It Up on November 3rd, can you talk about what your demands are? You say the federal government has to take action.

BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely. We’re talking about three things at stepitup2007.org. One of them is the same call for an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 that we called for last spring, when we organized 1,400 demonstrations in all fifty states. Those demonstrations were very successful in getting that demand deep into the agenda. It went from being a kind of radical and fringe idea to being very much part of the legislative mix that’s reflected in what Congress is thinking about now.

Second demand is that we need an immediate moratorium on new coal-fired power. No such thing, at least at the moment, as clean coal; it’s dirty where it comes from, and it’s dirty when we burn it. And that — you know, if we build any significant percentage of the 150 coal-fired power plants now on the books, then the discussion about dealing with global warming is moot; we will put so much carbon in the atmosphere that we can’t control it.

Third thing, we need to make sure that the big economic transition that’s coming with global warming, with fighting global warming, the move to a new set of energy sources, doesn’t leave behind the same people that our last economy left behind. So we’re stressing very hard this Green Jobs For All campaign.

What we’re trying to do this time is find out which of our politicians are actually going to become leaders. People who go to the stepitup2007.org website can use the nifty new invite tool devised by my colleagues, all of whom are twenty-two and twenty-three and who actually know how the internet really works, and with this neat tool, they can easily invite their senators, congressmen and the presidential candidates to come appear at one of these hundreds of rallies that will be taking place across the country on November 3rd. They can find out where in their community people will be gathering to make their voices heard.

We need a movement as strong, as willing to sacrifice, as morally urgent, as passionate, as the Civil Rights Movement was a generation ago. If we don’t get it soon — and we have a real time limit here — if we don’t get it soon, then we’re not going to be able to force the changes that we need over the power of the very strong vested interests that would like to keep things the way they are, even though it’s now destabilizing the planet in the most powerful and most tragic ways. Those pictures of that smoke pouring out of those canyons in California should remind us at the deepest level what’s at stake and what we can do to help right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, you mentioned Congress. What about the presidential candidates, the Democratic presidential candidates? What about the Democrat-led Congress, both the House and the Senate? What are they doing to deal with this crisis?

BILL McKIBBEN: They’re getting closer. They’ve started. We haven’t done anything about climate change for the twenty years that we’ve known about it — I mean, literally zip, zilch, nothing in Washington. Finally, this year there’s legislation on the table. There’s very good legislation from Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Henry Waxman. That bill is being watered down at the moment by Senator Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator Warner of Virginia.

It’s a big fight as to what kind of bill will go through. It may not matter, unbelievably, at the moment, because President Bush is going to veto whatever happens. We do need, however, to get the framework for strong legislation, and then we need to make sure that whoever wins the presidency really steps up to this challenge.

AMY GOODMAN: What about before? What about before? This is the chance that constituencies have all over the country to make demands of candidates, and then afterwards — I don’t want to say “hold their feet to the fire,” given what’s happening right now.

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I think that would be, in fact, an appropriate and correct thing to say right now. That’s what we’re trying very hard to do. Look, the presidential candidates, the Democrats, have so far mostly said the right things. After our demonstrations on April 14th, all the leading candidates signed onto this Sanders bill for an 80 percent reduction. However, none of them have yet shown that they’re determined to make this the central organizing principle of their presidency, which it pretty much has got to be.

This is the biggest thing human beings have ever done, and if we don’t get on it right away, none of the other issues will matter. We’ll find out on November 3rd which of these people show up to talk to America about this question, and we’ll find out what they say, whether or not they’re going to go beyond saying the right thing and starting to work and offering solemn assurance.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, we have to leave it there. I want to thank you for being with us. November 3rd, declared a day against global warming. They’re stepping it up.

See more stories tagged with: step it up, bill mckibben, climate change, global warming, wild fire
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!

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